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Farmers in Canada

In the mid 1820s Lesmahagow folk became aware of Scarborough, Upper Canada, a township of fertile clay soil overlooking Lake Ontario. Emigration from Lesmahagow to Scarborough appears to have peaked in 1833:

I take the opportunity of Robert Tacket's family going out to your neighbourhood to write you... You will soon have a great number of the Lesmahagow people out with you.

The large Gibson, Tacket, McCowan, Muir and Weir families all boarded a ship in Greenock in early April. Seven weeks later, they arrived in Quebec. The journey to Scarborough took another two weeks.

James and Margaret McCowan and their eight children were among these arrivals in 1833. Picking up where the Lowland Clearances had left off, Robert, James, William and Jane McCowan all had successful farming operations -- but this generation actually owned their land in Scarborough. All of their children were born in Scarborough and (with a few exceptions it seems, according to the records) were baptised at the Scots' Kirk, later known as St. Andrew's Presbyterian. The "Residence" shown below is what was written in the St. Andrew's records.  Most of the next generation of McCowans later had farms of their own as well.


Child Born Father Mother Residence
James McCowan 18 May 1841 James McCowan Martha Weir
William McCowan 9 Aug. 1843 James McCowan Martha Weir
Robert  McCowan 27 Nov 1845 James McCowan Martha Weir
Mary McCowan 20 Jan 1848 James McCowan Martha Weir
David McCowan 1 Nov 1849 James McCowan Martha Weir
James Archibald McCowan 19 Mar 1850 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood
George McCowan 9 April 1851 James McCowan Martha Weir
Catherine McCowan 22 Oct 1851 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood
Alexander McCowan 27 May 1853 James McCowan Martha Weir
Margaret McCowan 8 Mar 1854 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood
Robert McCowan Sept 10 1855 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood
Margaret McCowan 30 Dec 1855 James McCowan Martha Weir Conc 1
Mary Bena McCowan 1858 James McCowan Martha Weir
Mary Ann McCowan 1858 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood
Martha Jane McCowan 1859 James McCowan Martha Weir
Jane McCowan 6 April 1860 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood Conc C
John McCowan 29 Oct 1860 James McCowan Martha Weir Conc C
Thomas M. Whiteside 5 Apr 1862 Thomas Whiteside Jane McCowan Conc 2
William McCowan 1862 Robert McCowan Jane Underwood
William James Whiteside 15 Jan 1864 Thomas Whiteside Jane McCowan Conc 2
Margaret Porteous Whiteside 17 Feb 1866 Thomas Whiteside Jane McCowan Conc 2
Janet Graham Whiteside 8 Dec 1867 Thomas Whiteside Jane McCowan
David Whiteside 1870 Thomas Whiteside Jane McCowan
John Henry Whiteside 27 Apr 1872 Thomas Whiteside Jane McCowan Conc 2


To learn more about these Canadian farmers
Please order copies of
The McCowans of Cumnock, Lesmahagow and Scarborough and
James McCowan Family from 1833 and
Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights

Family of Robert McCowan and Jane Underwood

The marriage of Robert McCowan and Jane Underwood of Scarborough on April 27, 1848 is recorded in the registers of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Toronto. On July 17, 1864, tragedy struck the household. Only 34 years old, presumably in childbirth, Jane passed away leaving Robert to care for seven children aged two to fourteen years. Some very moving lines about her death are published in Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights.

A tall youthful James Archibald McCowan was a defender of the Canadian border during the Fenian Raids of 1866. He and his first wife, Isabella Bowes, had two sons and two daughters. He is noted in the census of 1881 as an engine driver (on the railroad).  He later moved to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, where he and his second wife, Emily Cleaver, had four sons and one daughter.

Catherine McCowan married George Chester of Scarborough and had 2 sons and 1 daughter. Only one son, Stan, survived childhood and he did not marry.

Margaret McCowan married William Paton of Scarborough and had one son and one daughter. Some of her great-great-grandchildren still attend H.A. Halbert school on the McCowan farm.

Robert McCowan Jr. married Hannah Ashbridge on Feb. 26, 1879. They had four daughters (three of whom died as infants) and two sons. Robert farmed his father's homestead on Lot 22, Concession C. In 1909 he added to his holdings the south 137 acres of Lot 22, Concessions B and C which had earlier belonged to the Crone and Young families. Part of this farm he later sold to The Sisters of St. Joseph. Several of Robert's descendants still reside in the residential district that was once his farm. Robert served on Scarborough Council for a number of years including terms as Reeve (1923 to 1925).

Janet McCowan married James Neilson, nephew of a successful businessman with Lanarkshire roots, and had one daughter.

Mary Ann McCowan and William_McCowan_1862 were both unmarried. In the closing years of his life "Uncle Billie" drove street cars on the Kingston Road radial.


Family of James Whiteford McCowan and Martha Weir

On January 24 1840, James W. McCowan married Martha Weir, she too a native of Lesmahagow Parish. They came to Canada on the same ship and must have certainly known each other in Scotland.

James McCowan (1841-1931) farmed part of Lot 6 Concession 2, Markham Township until 1882 when he moved to a farm near Milton, Ontario. Following the death of his uncle, William P. McCowan, he returned to Scarborough as owner of the latter's homestead on the north half of Lot 13 Concession 4. He resided in his uncle's log cabin and adjoining frame house until 1914 when he moved to a house on his recently purchased farm on Lot 13 Concession 5. James married MaryAnn Armstrong and had one son and three daughters. One of the daughters died as a child.

William_McCowan_1843_89 (1843-1928) took up farmland north of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba in May, 1877. He and his wife, Margaret Lawrie of Scarborough, had one son and one daughter.

Robert McCowan (1845-1919) married Isabella McLeod and had three sons and five daughters. One of the sons and two of the daughters died as infants. For a number of years, he rented 95 acres of Lot 22 Concession 1, Scarborough. His wife died in 1883 and in 1887 he moved his young family to a farm 7 miles north of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. There he served on the Council of the Rural Municipality. Robert had a summer cottage on Lake Manitoba known as "Auchanbegg". He had obviously heard stories of his grandparents home in Scotland.

David McCowan (1849-1930) followed his brother, William, to the farmland north of Portage La Prairie, arriving in Sept., 1877. In 1893 he was appointed Secretary-Treasurer of the Rural Municipality of Portage La Prairie, a position he held almost until his death in 1930. He and his wife, Janet Lawrie, sister-in-law of William McCowan, had no family.

George McCowan (1851-1903) inherited his father's farm on Lot 33 Concession C and his uncle William's farms on Lots 14 and 15 Concession 5, Scarborough. He and his wife, Margaret Thomson, had three sons and three daughters. However only one son and daughter survived childhood. Hollywood Director, George McCowan, was a grandson.

Alexander McCowan (1853-1931) farmed his father's land on Lots 32 Concessions C and D. He also inherited some of his uncle William's land -- farms on Lot 14 Concession 4 and Lot 13 Concession 1. Alexander served on Scarborough Council from 1901 to 1904. He retired from farming to enter the Provincial Legislature and was the M.P.P. for East York from 1905 to 1913. For the next 21 years he was the Sheriff of York County. Alexander's first wife, Georgeanna Ashbridge, sister-in-law of Alex's first cousin, Robert McCowan, died two weeks after the birth of their first child, a daughter. Alex and his second wife, Mary Marshall of Scarborough, had one son.

Margaret McCowan (1855-1905) married John Young, a farmer on Lot 4 Concession 5, Markham Township. They had two sons.

Mary Bena McCowan (1858-1896) married Thomas Marshall, brother of Alex McCowan's second wife. Following their wedding, they took up residence in Willmar, Minnesota, where they had two sons and one daughter.

John McCowan (1860-1920) was unmarried. He went to Manitoba in 1881 but at the time of his father's death in 1897 was living in St. Paul, Minnesota. He later engaged in the insurance business on the west coast.


Family of Jane McCowan and Thomas Whiteside

Jean (Jane) McCowan, the youngest child of James McCowan and Margaret Porteous, married Thomas Whiteside of Lot 29, Concession 2, Scarborough on April 30, 1861. About 1892 the family purchased and moved to the "Glen Farm" near Innerkip, Ontario.

Thomas M. Whiteside was unmarried. He lived at the family farm until he sold it shortly before his death in Calgary.

William Whiteside established a law practice in New Westminster, B.C., and was later appointed a King's Counsel. He and his wife, Margaret Dalgleish, had three sons and four daughters.

Margaret Whiteside married Joseph Gillespie McLean. They had two daughters and farmed one-half mile north of Innerkip.

Janet Whiteside married George Stephenson, son of a prominent Toronto politician. They took up residence in Buffalo where they had two daughters and one son.

David Whiteside graduated from Osgoode Hall in 1895 and then practised law in Shelburne, Ontario. In 1899 he moved to British Columbia and joined his brother's law firm in 1912. From 1916 until 1924 he held a seat in the British Columbia Legislature. He was appointed a King's Counsel in 1921 and a judge of the New Westminster County Court in 1938. He and his wife, Annie Richmond, had two daughters.

John Whiteside married Lucy McBeath and lived in the Innerkip-Woodstock area. They had no family.

The Scarboro Heights Record V12 #4
The McCowans' Who's Who Vol. 2