Historical Essay on the Scots
of the Upper St. Francis District of Quebec

[Part 1 of essay] [Part 2 of essay] [Part 3 of essay]

French-speakers gain control of the Eastern Townships.

In 1867 the Canadian provinces were unified under the government of Great Britatin and the area previously called "Lower Canada" received the name "The Province of Quebec."

As the Scots moved out, more French moved in to take the jobs and farm land the Scots were leaving behind. The French were in even more desperate economic straits than the Scots and were eager to take any job they could find. The movement of French into all areas of Compton County was encouraged by the Quebec government, which itself was now dominated by French speakers, and there was even an organized appeal from 1870 to 1875 to French Canadians who had gone to New England in the United States to return to live in Quebec.

Many of the French had by now become disenchanted with the United States were encouraged by the respect given French speakers in Quebec and many of them decided to return.

However, the townships in which most of the Gaelic-speakers lived were still relatively undeveloped, so the French were not attracted to them as much as to the English-speaking areas which had been around longer and had more diversified and stable economies.

By 1875 about 400 French families arrived in the areas near the Scots such as Ditton, Emberton, Chesham, and Hampden (Baril 1991, p. 21). In French, they referred to the areas as "Les Townships de l'Est" and later as "Les Cantons de l'Est" (Boisvert, 1997, p. 3).

The Scottish farmers become lumberjacks.

Scotstown developed around a lumber enterprise started there in 1873 by the Glasgow and Canadian Land Company, which employed 200 men to cut the timber (Baril 1991, p. 23). The first manager of the site was John Scott, after whom the town was named (he had come to the area from Glasgow, Scotland with several families in 1873). By 1874 a sawmill was built on the Salmon River in Scotstown. However, not until 1877, when the old International Railway reached the area, did the area really begin to grow.

The Scots would cut down trees on their land and stack them the railroad tracks where the train would eventually stop and pick them up as it passed. Soon several more saw mills were established along the Salmon River, which ran right through Hampden and Lingwick townships.

This involvement of the Hebridean Scots in lumbering was quite ironic because on the Isle of Lewis, from which the Scots had come, there were few trees.

The coming of the railway through Scotstown in 1877 seemed to be a good omen for the economic future of the town. In 1861 there had been only 11 sawmills in greater Compton County--by 1891 there were 55.

Although the mills were very successful for a time, indiscriminate timbering eventually stripped large tracks of land of its trees and as a result the good topsoil was soon washed away. This resulted in the need to downscale the lumbering enterprises, which nearly destroyed the local economies until more diversity was introduced, mainly dairy farming.

More French immigration

By 1875, the provincial government of Quebec was making an all-out effort to lure more French speakers to the Eastern Township--going so far as to provide land grants to French speakers coming from the United States. The government was selling land in 1875 for 50 to 60 cents per acre (even on the open market it was only about one dollar per acre).2 In order to provide this land so cheaply the government had expropriated land once set aside for more British immigrants, but the waning of British emigration since the 1840's caused it to go unclaimed and undeveloped. In reaction to this action of giving land to repatriated Frenchmen, the local Scots formed the Protestant Defense Alliance (see Little, 1977, p. 72) and the Eastern Townships Colonization (estab. In 1882), which tried to induce greater British immigration to the region.

By 1881 there were 3,999 Scots in Compton County, but they were still only 29% of the population, 30% were English and Irish, and 29% were French. The number of Scots in the Upper St. Francis district reached its all-time high of 3,406 in 1881. From 1881 on, the Scottish population dropped steadily.

The population statistics from the 1891 census showed that the Scots were the dominant population in only the township of Lingwick. In the other townships where Scots had settled the French either outnumbered the Scots or were soon to do so.

            TOTAL     SCOTTISH        FRENCH
            POP.      POP.            POP.
Lingwick    1,022     844 (83%)        76 (7%)
Marston     1,117     559 (50%)       529 (47%)
Whitton       983     454 (46%)       486 (49%)
Hampden     1,066     467 (44%)       422 (40%)
Winslow     1,499     471 (31%)     1,024 (68%)
TOTAL       ?,???    2,795          ?,???

1891 Census Figures

The Scots begin to leave the area.

When not enough good work was available in and around their home communities, the Scots often did seasonal labor in other communities--some even went to New England to find work (e.g., lumbering and quarry labor for the young men, and domestic work for the women). Some took up residency elsewhere and sent back money to help support their parents back home.

The Scots were becoming very accustomed to working outside the original boundaries of the Hebridean community. The availability of more suitable work elsewhere resulted in many whole families moving to offices in Montreal or to communities near the granite mines of Vermont and New Hampshire.


There were nine elementary schools in the district (usually one-room school houses), one of which was in Dell. There was one high school, called the "Model School," which was built in Gould in 1915-16 (McLeod, 1977:58).

Scotstown finally recognized and incorporated

Until 1892 Scotstown had been part of Hampden Township. In that year, with a population of 1,040 persons, it was incorporated and became a municipality all its own. [Of these 1,040 inhabitants 38% were French speakers.] At this time, the Scots and French coexisted without any friction. The social reality was that the Scots were still the bosses and the French-speakers the employees (Baril 1991, p. 23).

As the twentieth century approached, many Scots left for the States partly because of uneasiness with the French-dominated community--but mostly for personal, economic reasons. The discontent many of the Scots were feeling with life in the Eastern Townships was no doubt magnified by the events surrounding the DONALD MORRISON affair.