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Puslinch Historical Society Spirit Walk
June 23, 2014
William Graham was born in Dornoch, Sutherland County, Scotland in 1801. His father was also William, and his mother was Catharine Ross according to baptismal records. Dornoch is located on the east coast of Highland Scotland, and today is still a small town of a few thousand. In the 1800's Gaelic was the dominant language of Sutherland County.
In the 19th century, tenant farmers were removed from their holdings throughout Scotland, especially in Sutherland County, under the Highland Clearances policies and forced to live in coastal villages or to emigrate. The Graham family may have been one of the crofters so affected, but we can only speculate, we have no records of the Graham family prior to our William.
We do know that William was a millwright, this appears in several genealogical records. He would have served an apprenticeship of perhaps four years in his early manhood, and would then qualify as a specialist carpenter trained to build watermills and windmills. Thus it appears that his father may have had some means, as there were costs associated with taking up an apprenticeship. This training served him well after he arrived in Puslinch township.
In 1830 William emigrated from Scotland. He was 29 years old. He sailed on the John Molson, landing at Montreal. It's been told that he was travelling with family members, but no record of this has been found as yet. However immigrants often travelled together, so it's quite likely that he was travelling with a relative or neighbour from Dornoch. He may have even known someone from back home who was already here before he left Scotland. Some accounts mention William McKenzie, a blacksmith, with whom he arrived in Puslinch in 1833*.
Like many other immigrants, he was probably low on funds when he arrived in Canada, and would have needed to earn some money for the next stage of his journey to Puslinch because he spent about a year in Montreal before moving on.
A year later, he had got as far as Dundas. He spent two years there, working and saving up for land. It was also in Dundas that he met Margaret Taylor, his future wife. In 1834 William and Margaret got married in St Johns Anglican Church in Ancaster . He was 33, and she was 17 years old.
It looks like William bought and sold land in Puslinch several times, no doubt making a profit from whatever improvements he made and from rising land prices each time. We have several records of land transactions in which William was involved . He was one of the first settlers in Puslinch, in 1833 there were only 538 people here. About 1831-2, he took up Lot 19, Rear of the 7th. in Aberfoyle. ** In the next several years he continued working as a millwright while acquiring land to clear and farm. In 1839 he took up Lot 21, Concession 2, on which 88 acres had been cleared. and in 1840, Lot 22, Front Concession 2, 90 acres of bush, 10 acres cleared.
He helped build the first three sawmills in Puslinch, working as a millwright. One of them was near the residence of "Springfield" owned by James Anderson, the second was the Linderman Mill at Arkell, and in 1834, the third was property he owned in Aberfoyle at Lot 24, Front Concession 8.*** Mill Creek had been dammed by then and provided the power for a mill. He had a sawmill there in the years 1833-5. This is the Aberfoyle Mill operated as a restaurant today.
*p.28 "Settlers of Puslinch" by W.F.McKenzie, columnist for the Guelph Mercury, 1907
**Map of Settlers along Brock. Rd.
*** "Settlers of Puslinch"
*McPhatter letters, Duff's history, etc, Annals, p.38.
Additional Information from the files of Puslinch Historical Society and Eileen Graham and "West Puslinch Genealogies" by Betty R. Ferguson..
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.
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
R.R. #3, 29 Brock Road South
Guelph (Aberfoyle), Ontario N1H 6H9