PHS Research


Township of Puslinch Crest

As part of our ongoing mandate to not only preserve our heritage and history but also to make it accessible to the public we have created this online research portal. Below you will find a wealth of information on the history of Puslinch categorized for easy search. Simply choose a topic below to begin your search.

Rural townships were divided into school sections when public education first began in the mid-nineteenth century. Each area soon became a community of its own and people in Puslinch would say, for example, “We’re from Badenoch.” Immediately other residents would know that they lived in southeast Puslinch. The school sections in the Township were numbered S.S. 1 to 12.

In 2015 the Puslinch Historical Society offered public viewings of their compilation, The Communities in Puslinch. This was presented over 3 evenings, with four of the twelve school districts offered each night.

There have been many requests to see this presentation by people who were unable to attend, so it was decided to post the document on our website. Since the files are mostly pictures – making them large files to download and view – the complete file has been divided into four parts.

The McCaig Family

Narrator: Brenda, nee McCaig, Law
Spirit Walk at Crown Cemetery
September 17, 2012.


Our family left the Kintyre Peninsula of Argyleshire in Western Scotland at a time when the small holdings of Kintyre farmers proved too small to support several sons and their families. Donald McCaig and his wife Mary, nee Cochrane were the first to come to North America, settling at River Denys, Cape Breton, NS c. 1822. I am their direct descendant, so I was asked to tell their story.

On arrival, Donald purchased land for his family as well as his siblings. He and Mary were joined at River Denys by his brother James McCaig and his wife Catherine, nee Taylor, c. 1828. They had worked in Ayrshire, Scotland for several years after leaving their native Argyle. Then their sister Janet and her husband Archibald McPhail joined them overseas. Life was difficult in the small Cape Breton clearings, so the men worked away at lumbering. By 1836 they decided that they would move on to Upper Canada where it was rumoured that the land was more fertile. James and Catherine's son recorded in his autobiography that, "My father, after five years of struggle against an inhospitable climate and untoward circumstances … when he could find no use for the plough and harrow which he had brought out from Ayrshire, and the hoe and axe alone continued to be the only implements of agriculture, he resolved to see further, and if no better country turned up on this continent, he resolved to return to Scotland. … Having collected money sufficient to leave the island by the preparation of hewn timber for the English market, my father and uncle [Donald] left the island in May 1836."

Two years later, in 1838 Donald and Mary purchased Lot 17 in the rear of the 2nd Concession (facing "The Third") in Puslinch and by 1840 James and Catherine had purchased the farm next to them on Lot 18. Their sister Janet and her husband remained at River Denys, raising a family of 8 there.

Like all of the early settlers in Puslinch, the McCaigs' time was taken up clearing their land and developing their farmsteads, with early log houses on each property and small log barns to shelter their stock. In 1842, Donald and Mary's second daughter Catherine [Kate] married Neil Thompson of Conc. 1, a son of "Big John Thomson" of Lots 20 & 21. Neil died 2 years later, leaving Kate to raise their young daughter Mary, b. 1843. Kate's brother Hector married Mary McKenzie from Lot 18, F. Conc. 7 in 1853 and a second log home was built on Lot 17, as he was the one who continued farming the homestead.

James' family replaced their log house with a larger fieldstone one in 1860 [confirmed on 1861 Puslinch census]. Donald and Mary's son Hector, along with his Uncle James, had Preston-area framers – the Baers – build a Pennsylvania-style bank barn on both of their properties in 1859. Then in 1873, Hector and his wife Mary, nee McKenzie, arranged for a fieldstone farmhouse to replace their log home. Hector's mother Mary had died in 1868, and his father Donald continued to live in the original log house until his death in 1882.

An all-too-common-occurrence ended Hector's wife Mary's life when they were in the throes of building their more substantial home. Mary died just two days after giving birth to their ninth child – Murdoch McCaig – in September 1874, and Murdoch died a few weeks later. Hector moved into the fieldstone farmhouse alone with the remaining 8 children the following year when the house was completed.

Hector's older brother Alexander had purchased Lot 17, F. Conc. 3 across the road from the homestead when he married in the 1840s. He and his wife Janet, a daughter of Archibald Cochrane of Puslinch, were in the prime of their lives when Alex met an accidental death from a fall from a wagon at the age of 46 in 1869. This left his widow Janet to continue running the farm and raise a family of six on her own. She eventually sold the farm and moved with her sons and her youngest daughter to Manitoba.

Back in Puslinch, the eldest son of Hector and Mary McCaig on the homestead – Donald – married Mary Jane, daughter of Angus McPherson of Crieff and purchased his Aunt Janet's farm across the road. McCaigs have continued to farm it every since, and this Donald and Mary Jane were my great-grandparents. They had a bank barn erected in 1892. The original log home of Alexander and Janet is part of the current house on the McCaig farm where Neil and Janice, my brother and sister-in-law farm today.

Researching the background of a Scottish family is frustrating to say the least, as sons were named after grandfathers and uncles and daughters after grandmothers and aunts, bringing about a duplication of names that is difficult to untangle. In my direct line the names Donald and James have been interchanged each generation, reflecting the original brothers who pioneered in Puslinch. My great-grandfather was Donald, my grandfather was James and my father was Donald. My grandfather James McCaig followed in his mother's family's footsteps when he entered local politics. Angus McPherson was Reeve of Puslinch in 1903 & 4, and Grandpa Jim was Reeve 50 years later. Jim married Lila McFarlane of Puslinch and their sons Donald and Robert became successful dairy farmers in the Township, followed by their sons Neil and Dave and their families.

As we celebrate the 175th anniversary of Duff's Church, we have told you the story of the McCaig family. Along with other families being honoured at this Spirit Walk, the McCaigs appear on the earliest roll of communicants in existence for Duff's, written in 1844. You will find the Widow McCaig [Kate], Mr. and Mrs. Donald McCaig, and Mr. and Mrs. James McCaig all active participants of the congregation at the time that Puslinch was establishing religious institutions. [Presbyterianism in Puslinch, 1839-1899, pp.19 & 20]


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Membership in the society is open to anyone interested in the history of Puslinch Township giving you access to the archives, assistance with your research from committed voluteers, a newsletter and occasional events of historic interest.

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Contact Us

PHYSICAL ADDRESS:

29 Brock Road South
Aberfoyle, Ontario

MAILING ADDRESS:

Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
R.R. #3, 29 Brock Road South
Guelph (Aberfoyle), Ontario N1H 6H9

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