Narrated by Doug MacRobbie
Spirit Walk at Crown Cemetery
September 17, 2012.
I am a fourth generation McRobbie to live in Puslinch. There are eight generations of McRobbies here
today, and some of the family are out west (and in Michigan.)
Andrew McRobbie was my great grandfather. He was one of the earliest settlers in Puslinch. He arrived in
Puslinch with his three brothers about 1835, only six years after the very first settler.
Andrew was the third of the four sons of Margaret Douglas and John McRobbie. We believe that
Andrew's mother was at one time Lady in Waiting to Lady Dufferin whose husband, Lord Dufferin, was
Governor General of Canada from 1872-78.
Andrew was born at Auchterarder, Crieff in Perthshire, Scotland on Aug 18, 1814. Auchterarder is where
the reknown Glen Eagles Golf Course is situated today. There were big cattle markets held in Crieff in
the mid 17th century, and the town was where open-air courts were held and it was famous for hanging
lawless Highlanders. When the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, cotton mills and distilleries were
built here. We can assume that the economic changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution were
factors in the McRobbie brother’s decision to immigrate to Canada. People were leaving the countryside
for jobs in the cities and to emigrate.
Andrew's father, John McRobbie died in 1832. The same year, the four young men decided to emigrate
from where prospects for their future looked better. Andrew was 18, his brother John was 24, James was
20, and Lodwick was only 15.
When the McRobbies arrived at Quebec, the Lachine Canal was under construction in Montreal. The
canal was being cut through Montreal Island in order to bypass the Lachine rapids in the St. Lawrence
River. Andrew got a job on the Canal and was there for two years. He became acquainted with James
Black, whose son was in Puslinch during that time, and most likely that's where he first heard about land
available for settlement in Puslinch.
Two years later, the McRobbies made their way from Montreal to Upper Canada. There were not many
roads in the 1830's in Upper Canada, so they would have travelled up the St. Lawrence, going on flatboats
towed by oxen walking along the shore to get by all the rapids.
Andrew went to Dundas. He took a job as foreman on a new road being built between Dundas and Galt.
This is Highway 8 now. The work was hard. There were huge pine trees that had to be cut down and
bogs and swamps to be filled in with stone to make a roadbed. In fact, it was known as a "stone road".
Why did the McRobbies choose Puslinch? Andrew already knew a little about Puslinch from James
Black at the Lachine Canal. They most likely chose to settle in Puslinch because they could get land
beside each other here... In 1835, there was still plenty of unopened land in Puslinch, whereas surrounding
townships were filling up. The Act of Union of 1791 had set aside one seventh of unopened lands to
support the established church and much of Puslinch was clergy reserve land. It could only be leased, not
bought, so people were more likely to settle elsewhere if they could. When Andrew arrived here, there
were still plenty of lots to choose from. The clergy reserve system was abolished in 1854.
There was no road between Aberfoyle and Corwhin when Andrew arrived. Maybe he was on his way to
find his lot when he passed through on horseback on his way to Corwhin. At any rate, he is today known
for being the first white man to cross through the Aberfoyle swamp.
The McRobbie brothers chose four adjoining 100 acre lots. On Conc. 10, in the Corwhin district. James
took Lot 22, Rear of the 10th, Andrew took Lot 23 Rear of the 10th, John took Lot 22 Front of the 10th,
and Lodwick took Lot 23, Front of the 10th. When they built their first log houses, they built them near
the intersection of the four lots so they could be close to each other. It meant that their houses were all
built at the back of their lots, a long way from their frontages and where the roads would later go.
There are copies of the Crown deeds for Andrew's lands in the Puslinch Historical Society archives. He
was granted 100 acres at the Rear of lot 23 in Concession 10, "together with all the woods and waters
thereon" on July 1st, 1846 for 75 pounds sterling.
In 1849, he acquired another 100 acre lot. He was granted the Front half of Lot 26, 9th Concession for 63
pounds sterling, and a further 100 acre lot, the rear half of the same lot in September 1854 for 75 pounds
Margaret, the McRobbie brothers’ mother, followed her sons to Canada about 1835, likely as soon as they
had chosen their lots. She was about 50 years old at the time. The boys started a house for her right at
the intersection of their four lots so she would have them close by on all four sides. Sadly, she never lived
there; she died in 1856 before it was finished. She too is buried here in Crown cemetery. Today, her
unfinished stone house lies in ruins.
Andrew married Margaret Grey in 1832. Margaret had been born in Leaven, Fifeshire of Scotland in
1814. They had nine children. The first, a little girl, died as a baby in 1840. The following year there
was another little girl, Margaret (Mary, who married Wm. Kerr) then along came Isabella, later she
became Mrs. James Stevenson.
John, my grandfather, was next. John married Jane Boyne and bought a lot at Lot 25, Rear of the Gore.
He was a trustee of SS6, Crieff for 12 years. In 1875 his nose was horribly injured in an explosion at
Henry Baker's Store in Crieff, when a spark from Mr. Baker's pipe fell into a canister containing 8 pounds
of gun powder.
Between 1846 and 1852, Andrew and Margaret had 5 more children: twins Catharine & Gilbert, Andrew,
James and Elizabeth (who married John Harbottle) In other words, a baby almost every year, but that
was not uncommon then.
Neither James nor Catharine were married, and eventually James took over the farm from his father and
Catharine was his housekeeper. According to some records, Catharine may have married a Mr. Sheaves
The baptismal records for the children show the name McRobbie as McRobie with one “b”. McRobbie
with 2 b’s evolved into MacRobbie with an “a” some years later.
Sometime after 1850, Andrew built a fieldstone house to replace the log cabin they had lived in for about
fifteen years. It burned in 1914, and when it was renovated, the roof was raised 18" and a central gable
was added. The house has been plaqued by the Puslinch Heritage Committee.
Andrew took an active interest in local affairs. He was on Puslinch Council from 1853-55. He was a
school trustee at SS#10 (Corwhin) for fifteen years. He voted Reform as the Liberal party was then
called, as did pretty well all of Corwhin as David Stirton, their neighbour and MP at the time, was a
In 1855, Andrew had a bad fall that laid him up for several weeks. He was pitching sheaves in his barn
when he lost his balance and fell twelve feet onto the barn floor below. He fractured his arm, knocked
out several teeth and banged his head quite severely. He recovered eventually from this unlucky accident.
Before Duff's Church was built, the need for spiritual guidance was sorely felt by the settlers. Their lives
were hard and they had little consolation for their sorrows. Andrew McRobbie was sensitive to this need,
and started a Bible school in his first log home. Both adults and children attended, and it survived under
various leaderships until 1925.
Andrew and his wife were staunch supporters of Duff's Church. In those days, both men and women took
snuff, and it was the custom to pass the snuff box all around the congregation at Duff's.
He was connected to Duff's for over fifty years. He often walked five miles to church when the roads
were bad He was an elder at Duff's Church for twenty nine years. When he died, he was a member of all
three church bodies, the presbytery, the synod and the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church. His
son Gilbert entered the ministry as well.
The census tells us that in 1884, the year before he died, he harvested 310 bushels of wheat, 750 bushels
of oats, and 175 bushels of peas. By that time, his son James had most likely taken over operating the
farm, as Andrew would have been 70 years old.
Plowing matches are important in Puslinch agricultural history. They were first held as a way to
encourage good farming methods. The Puslinch Agricultural Society's first plowing match was in 1851.
There were two categories, one for men and one for boys under 18. Different plowing clubs sprang up
and competed against each other. The match would be held on someone or other's farm, and the wife
would have to provide the meal for perhaps 25 hungry plowmen afterwards.
The MacRobbie family has been involved in plowing matches almost from the first. In 1865, Andrew
MacRobbie was a member of the executive of the Union Ploughing Match. The MacRobbies taught
their children how to plow, both male and female, and their children taught the grandchildren. In 1995 at
the International Plowing Match in Waterloo, six MacRobbies from three generations plowed with horses.
My brother Andrew, the great grandson of the Andrew we are discussing, was recognized at the
International Plowing Match banquet in 2009 in Earlton because he had competed in sixty consecutive
matches. Another brother Archie won the Warden's category at the Wellington County Plowing Match
every year he competed and had a fine team of matched Belgian draft horses. This year at the
International Plowing Match at Roseville there will be five MacRobbie’s from three generations
competing including my niece Kathleen who plows with horses.
Andrew's wife (Margaret Grey) died in 1876 at the age of 50. We have not been able to locate where she
Andrew died in 1885, his obituary says it was after a long and painful illness. He was 71 years of age.
He had worked hard, raised a big family, and had done his part for the church and community. He started
a family tradition of community and church service that has endured through the years.
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