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History of the Murrays, Bedeque, P.E.I.
By Rev. H. Arthur Murray


The Scots are nothing if not comsumate oportunists, accountable at least in part by the fact that for much of their modern history most were impovrished. Emigration afforded the opportunity of relief from circmstances at home and emigration from Britain to North America in the 1th and 19th centuries amounted to one of the greatest human migrations in recorded history.

Emigration to America began in eartnest when the 1763 Treaty of Paris concluded hostilities in North America which had been raging between the British and French since the late 17th century. Eighteenth century British emigration to America followed established trade routes to the major ports of the thirteen colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. These was not much emigration to what would become Canada if only because there were not the same trade patterns and emigrants were reluctant to settle in such a harsh climate. Not until the Napoleonic wars cut off vital lumber supplies from the Baltic states did the British turn their attention to their remaining North American territories, opening trade routes to the former cpatal of Nouvelle France, Quebec City. Ships bound for Quebecfor loads of lumber found a ready supply of emigrants to fill their holds for the journey over, as had British ships travelling to America in the 18th century.

The road for the British emigrants to Canada had been paved in 1783 by the United Empire Loyalists, some 40,000 refugees of the American Revolution who were forced from the nerwly formed Republic by the obstreperous patriot forces not content from victory alone. Many Loyalists had been part of the British fighting forces, but the majority were civilian refugees caught up in events beyond their control. Two of the latter type were John and Mary Murray, natives of Eskdale, Dumfriesshire, who were part of the great migration to America before being forced to their final home on Saint John's Island (Prince Edward Island). They are my wife's ancestors and some years of research have finally yielded the last clues about their journey from Eskdale to Prince Edward Island over the course of some fifteen years.

John Murray was born ca. 1735, probably the son of William and Christian Murray of Glenzierhead, Eskdale, who had a son baptized John on 31 August 1735. Ca. 1755 he married Mary Kennedy, of whom not much is known, and this union produced seven children in Scotland, recxorded as follows: Jean (bap. 16 Dec. 1756); Janet (Bap. 11 Feb 1759); John (bap. 5 April 1761); David (bap. 29 May 1763); David (bap. 3 Feb. 1765); Helen (bap. 2 Aug 1767); and William (born 21 Sept. 1770); All seven were born at Over Mumbiehirst (Upper Mumbie), Canonbie Parish, Eskdale, Dumfries-shire, where John Murray and a friend, Andrew Graham, were co-tenants.

As early as 1758, records show that Murray and Graham fell into arrears with their landlord, the Duke f Buccleuch, to the amount of L1.11 5s 8d. However, it appears that most of the Duke's tenants were in arrears at one time or another. By 1763 they owed L2 13s 4d, and the account for 1765 shows that it had not then been paid off, no doubt owing in part to Murray's decision to emigrate to America as so many of his compatriots were doing. Thankfully, it was the knoweldge of receipts recording Murray's indebtedness to the Duke (handed down as a famioy traditio) which ultimately provided the postive identification of the family at their address in Mumbiehirst Over. Another oral tradition in the family suggested that the Murray's emigrated in the summer of 1772, and the alignment of other benchmark dates in their lives would seem to substanciate the story.

At the time, the callous attitude of the British government to the poorest of its subjects extended into the often scurrilous emigrant trade where passengers were forced to edure appalling conditions with no legal recourse or remedy. They were housed in freight ships ill-suited for human occupation, conditions were overcrowded and unsanitary. Passengers endured makeshift accommodations and were forced to provide their own rations at sea. The resuts were fatal for the thousands of would-be emigrants who died each year at sea while the ship's operators worked with impunity in a trade  which would proceed unregulated for the next 75 years. Aside from the obvious perils of disease and dehydration which would affect those suffering the overcrowded conditions, starvation became a real danger for impoverished families scarecely able to raise their fare for the journey. A family only able to supply itself for twnety days at sea might suffer a voyage of 60 to 80 days. No one knew and there wasn't much to warn them of what was in store.

By all estimates the Murray's landed in New York in the summer of 1777, but it is not entirely clear when they travelled inland to their new home of Harperfield, about 60 km. west of Albany. There is no official record of their residence there until the Spring of 1777 when an indictment was issued against John Murray by the Patriots. But judging from the pattern of the day for Scots of Marrya's circumstances it is logical to assume that they went directly to the winderness area of upsate New York where so many of them settled together, unable to afford anything in a more settled area.

In the spring of 1775 when hostiities erupted between the British army and the Patriot forces it must have seemed like a land far to the east to the Scots in upstate New York who wanted nothing more than to farm and prosper in their new home. But early on in the conflict any such hope was extinguished and the lines were deeply drwan, everyone was either for or against the Americans. The bulk of British reserves were built around veterans of the French and Indian Wars, somne, expatriot Scots who drew around them other loyal Scots to fisht for the British. Many came from the area of New York where the Murray's had settled and it wasn't long before all Scots in the area were suspect in the eyes of the Patriots, intently despised by those who could not understand their unwavering sense of loyalty to a government which was, after all, no less a friend of theirs than the Americans. But it hadn't been that long since the debacle at Culloden and this time, as in 1746, they fully expected the British to quash Patriot ambitions with similar ruthlessness.

The Patriots were quick to move on suspected enemies. In the Spring of 1775 a band of Patriots moved on the Scots at Harpersfield, seizing some two dozen able-bodied men and delivering them to the Albany gaol 60 km. to the northeast, where they would languish for the next six months. One of these was John Murray Sr. In time, some of the men escaped while others, like Murray, were eventually released back to their farms in time to save their families from wintering alone on the frontier. Most had to sign oaths of neutrality as the price for their freedom, in addition to posting of substantial bonds held against their good behaviour. From then on Murray was under close scrutiny, kept, in his terms, a virtual prisoner on his own farm for the next six years. On May 3, 1777, he was officially indicted as a Loyalist making the whole of his estate subject to confiscation at the discretion of the Patriot authorities.

Whilst in Harpersfield the Murray family continued to expand., daughter Mary was born in 1773, Ellen (or Helen) in 1777, perhaps others of which nothing is known. Sadly, there are no records to tell these latter birthdates calculated from headstone inscriptions, but it seems from later evidence that the family is accounted for as names. It would also appear that two children, David b. 1763 and Helen b. 1767, did not survive infancy as their names were passed on to later children. Neither is it apparent what became of the two eldest daughters, Jean and Jaet, but one might suspect that they married while in New York and came to Canada with the rest of the Loyalists. Unfortunately, many Loyalist wives are anonymous and it is impossible to identify many of them.

Throughout turbulent times, John Murray Sr. remained a pacifist whose only committment appeared to have been the carving out of a better existence for his family, while the northern battlefront literally rages across his farm. Murray was one of a very few who attempted to carry on under the conditions, his neighbour John Park perhaps the only other who who continued to farm in the area. In spite of it all, Murray managed to build up a substancial small-holding throughout the 1770's. According to his Loyalist claim of 1783, he had purchased a total of 300 acres from John Harper in 1778 (presumably he had been leasing it before), an estate which included 3 horses, 6 cows, 2 oxen, 25 sheep and 6 dozen poultry. Minutes of the Tryon County Committee of Safety for the 3rd of March 1778 lists John Murray of Harpersfield along with neighbours Alexander Leal, Hugh Fraser, William Montague, David Nicholson and Christopher Servos as being requitred to appear before the Committee the first Monday of the April following. These men were part of that group imprisoned in 1775 and no doubt the Patriots intended keeping a close watch on them. Fraser, a neighbour of Murray's, was an active Loyalist, native of Inverness-shire, as were other neighbours Alexander Cameron and Neil McKay. All four families fled to Shelburne via New York in 1783 and hence to St. John's Island the next year. Most of Murray's other neighbours fled west to the British stronghold oat Niagra in Upper Canada. Only one, Alexander Leal, native of Forres, Morayshire, was able to stay on in New York after the War.

No doubt some of Murray's difficulties with the Patriots must have been caused by the activities of his sons during the war. It appears that David Murray enlisted with the British at some point during the War, a David Murray appears in Captain Wm. Johnston's company of the New York Volunteers serving in Savannah, Ga. in a muster dated 29th Nov. 1779. There is also the record of a David Murray who was promoted to lieutenant in the King's Men in 1783, either or both could refer to the son of John Murray but this is difficult to prove. John Murray Jr.'s activities during the War remain obscure but for the fact tat he was a resident of New York City when the Loyalists were evacuating in 1783, but it is not known how long he had been living there. No doubt the persecution of his father prompted his seeking shelter with the British in New York at some time during the hostilities. Whatever the case, there can be little doubt that John Murray Sr.'s decision to flee via New York City in 1782 was prompted by the fact that two of his sons were on the East Voast at the time. Other Loyalists from the Head of the Delaware fled west to Niagra, a few north to the Montreal area, all of them along the same routes the British army had followed in its three-pronged offesnive into New Yrk at the beginning of the War.

The name John Murray of Breakabeen appears in the minutes of the Commissioners for Conspiacies for 26 January 1781 and indicate that he had posted a bond of L100, held against his good behaviour. The address of this John Murray varies by a few miles from the farm at Harpersfield, it may be a generalization, it may refer to a different John Murray. What it does is to underline the pressing problem of this type of research - positive identifcation. In all, there appears to have been no less that seven John Murray's, all Loyalists, whose paths crossed at one time or another during this saga, and sorting them out is often a complex task. While Murray continued to farm it must have been apparent that the end of their stay in New York was at hand. As the bettle-field moved back and forth through the territory around Harpersfield, so did the respective armies which provisioned themselves freely from the local farmers. Being one fo the more prosperous of such, Murray suffers grave losses before finally losing it all to the Patriots in 1782. In all, his losses claimed totalled L211. 15. 8 when filed at his new home of Shelburne, Nova Scotia in December of 1783. The Murray family probably joined John Jr. at New York City in the summer or fall of 1782, in company with thousands f others who fled to the last British stronghold on the East Coast at the end of the War. The idictment whic seized his farm and other possessions was signed in Albany on 29 December 1783, but Murray was long gone. Having been in Shelburne some six months by this time where he and his son John Jr. had received grants of land.

Shelburne, however, held little promise for many of the Loyalists and Murray began to look elsewhere. That same year he read the proclamation written by the Governor of St. John's Island, Walter Patterson, offering substancial grants of land to Loyalists who would take up residence there. The Murray family and a significant group of other Loyalists went to the Island of St. John in the summer of 1784, arriving in Charlottetown on the 26th of July. The Muster Roll for that arrival suggests that John Murray Sr. arrived with his wife, daughters Mary and Ellen and son William. John Jr. is listed separately on the same roll. David Murray, presumablystill in the army, did not arrive on the Island until later, neither does it appear that he was with the family in Shelnurne. He did however, receive a grant of land in the Loyalist plot on the north side of Dunk Bay near his brother John, but the grant appears only on a map and not in any deeds. Presumably the families of daughters Jean and Janet were also part of this migration as Scottish families tended to situate together, but there is no proof of this unless new information surfaces.

In Bedeque, John Murray's troubles were not over. Gov Patterson was shrewd and his successor, Gov. William Fabbing, was not much better. The deeds Patterson had written for the Loyalists did not give them clear title to their land and further allowed for the Goverbor to take back the land without notice. The size of the land grants was honoured, 500 acres for married men, 300 acres for single men, but the arrangement of the land was ludicrous. John Sr.'s grant on Lot 19 was typical - a fifty acre strip fronting on the water, the balance 450 acres several miles inland behind all the other grants, visrtually inaccessible. It would be missing the point to suggest the Loyalists were naive in their dealings with the Governor, most, like John Murrayt Jr. were simply illiterate and did not know what their deeds said. Similary, while some have suggested that many Loyalists did not file cleaims for losses because of the cost involved, it would be closer to the point to realise that illiteracy was their principal deterrent. Thus, the one clear advantage John Murray Sr. held throughout his life was his ability to read and write English. It enabled him to file his 1783 claim for losses, it enabled him to find the hidden clauses in Giv. Patterson's phony deeds. In fact, having seen the terms of the deed for his 1786 land grants on Lot 19, Murray refused to sign and essentially squatted on and near his sons John and David on the north shore of Dunk or Bedeque Bay. Murray Sr. remained a tough customer in his dealings with the Governor throughout his residency on the island, John Jr. was relatively powerless because he had signed his deed. In September of 1792 an agreement was drawn up to give John Sr. an equivalant amount of land to his original 500 acre grant upon surrender of his claim to the latter, but it did not appear that he accepted this agreement, apparetly because the terms were too vague yet again. Clear title to the land upon which he was living finally came his way on 4 July 1794, the title to his original grant was never settled in his lifetime. John Jr. had no such luck, and fed up with the whole situation , moved to the western part of the island ca. 1795, having married ca. 1790. In time, his farm was assumed by his brother David who carried on the Loyalist fight for clear title for many years afterwards. David had begun buying up his eighbours land after his marriage to Elizabeth Penman of Richmond Bay on 25 March 1789. By 1797 David had bought up most of his neighbours original grants along the north shore of Dunk Bay. The next year John and Mary Murray bequeathed their farm to son Willian, who by that time had effectively taken over its operations and was there raising his own family. This arrangement left David and William occupying neighbouring farms substancially larger than the original waterfront sections of the Loyalist grants.

In September of 1799, John urray Jr. and his friend and onetime neighbour, John MacDonald, petitioned the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick for land in the Burnt CHurch area of the Miramichi but apparently did not pursue this and the land was not granted. A famiy tradition suggests that the Sr. Murray's went with him, but this appears to be a confusion of identities between John Jr. and his own son, John. John Jr. died in Tabusintac in 1810 and was survived by five children. His wife's identity is not known, nor whether he was predeceased by her. In 1798 Mary Murray married James Anderson of Burnt Church, New Brunswick and moved there along with her sister Ellen the following Spring, no doubt being their brother John's reason for seeking land there. Ellen later married Alexander Loggie, son of prominent pioneers in the area, Robert Loggie and Margery Hay who had emigrated to the Miramichi from Speyside, Morayshire in 1784. The widowed Mary died sometime after the 1851 census of New Brunswick at Oak Point and was survived by eight children. Her sister Ellen died at Burnt Church in 1852. She was survived by thirteen children.

John and Mary Murray probably stayed on at their farm in Bedeque until they died, which seems to have been around the year 1805 according to our best estimates. Because there were no cemeteries until a few years later, and no stone masons in the area at the time, it mght be assumed that they were buried on a corner of their farm at Dunk Bay and that the wooden marker recording the location and date of burial has long since decayed.

Even by 1853, when David Murray appeared before the Prince Edward island Legislature to testify about his father's 500 acre land grant of 1786, the matter of the Loyalist land grants was still not settled. By and large, it never was, resulting in the large proportion of Loyalists who simply got tired fighting the matter and left the island. David Murray lived to be an old man, dying in 1853 leaving behind thirteen children. It is through William Murray, DEavid's brother, that my wife traces her ancestry. David Murray was the great grandfather of Lucy Maud Montgomery. William Murray and his wife Hannah Wright, whom he married ca. 1792, had ten children. Hannah died in 1814 and in 1815 he married Ruth Gould by whom six more children were born. William did not register his parents gift of land until 1843 when he sold much of it. He died in Bedeque in 1860, known appropriately through his latter years as "Old William Murray".

From Eskdale to Harpersfield to New York to Shelburne to Bedeque, the story of the migration of the family of John and Mary Murray is one of hardship, toil and determination, but not one without its high points. Yet it remains a story characteristic of the iron-willed Scots, a nation whose greatest export remains the genius of its people able to turn their hands to any task, almost anywhere in the world. It is characteristic of how a small race of people has influenced much of modern Western society; and it is the story writen here in my den in the town of Hudson, Quenec where my wife and I and our four children now live, of how came we here.

James Lawson
Hudson, Quebec
04 September 1990


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