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McDONELL, JOHN, Le Prêtre (1768-1850) – Volume VII (1836-1850)

d. 17 April 1850 in Pointe-Fortune, Upper Canada


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WAUGH, WELLWOOD (Welwood), joiner, miller, farmer, estate manager, and jp; b. 15 Feb. 1741 in Lockerbie, Scotland, son of Alexander Waugh and Catherine Colven; m. 28 March 1760 Helen Henderson in Wallastown (probably in the Annandale valley), Scotland, and they had nine children; d. 3 June 1824 at Waughs River, N.S.

Wellwood Waugh’s career is obscure until 1774, when he and his family emigrated with a group of fellow Lowland Scots on the Lovely Nelly, bound for Georgetown, St John’s (Prince Edward) Island. Although the failure to “earn bread sufficient to support . . . his family” was cited as the reason for leaving, tradition claims that Waugh received a considerable inheritance upon his father’s death and, with one John Smith, was largely responsible for financially underwriting the venture. Whatever the case, the lures of property ownership and religious independence, rather than simple poverty, were the likely determinants in prompting these persecuted, rent-weary Covenanters to leave their homeland for the New World.

The sojourn at Georgetown was brief and unhappy. In 1775 American raiders carried off all the supplies and the settlers were left starving. Desperation drove them in the spring of 1776 to Pictou, N.S., where they were welcomed into a struggling community of fellow Scots. Waugh was soon well established as a stavemaker and grist-mill operator, but his strict covenanter conscience prevented him from taking the oath of allegiance, and in a community endeavouring to maintain neutrality his loyalty was questioned. According to tradition, William Lowden, captain of the ship Molly, was detained at Waugh’s home in November 1776, and afterwards both master and vessel were taken to Baie Verte (N.B.) by a gang of pro-Americans. Documentary evidence has since absolved Waugh, but in Pictou at the time his sympathies remained suspect.

In the summer of 1781, after fire had destroyed his home and belongings, Waugh was invited by Mary Cannon, agent and attorney for Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres, to assume the short-term lease of the manor-farm on DesBarres’s Tatamagouche property. She no doubt saw in Waugh the conscientious, hard-working individual needed to oversee the troublesome estate. Waugh, in turn, temporarily submerged his innate distaste for leasehold property in anticipation of a responsible position for himself and an atmosphere of religious tolerance among DesBarres’s Montbéliard-French tenants. He was soon appointed local estate agent and in 1785 DesBarres granted him power of attorney to arrange leases, inducing the Scotsman to remain with what Waugh later termed “repeated assurances . . . that he [Waugh] should be liberally rewarded for his trouble.”

The Tatamagouche estate was attached for debt three times in 1787, and to secure the property Waugh collected all outstanding rent and removed DesBarres’s livestock to safety. Many tenants, fearing eviction by new landlords, bought security by also paying rent to the creditors, and then harangued Waugh for his earlier collection. There was an unfortunate incident in which Waugh’s cattle, as well as some belonging to tenants, were seized and sold at ruinously low prices to satisfy the creditors. Confusion reigned, and Mary Cannon, desperate to raise funds, eventually offered Waugh, in return for £250, a lucrative 999-year lease on the manor-farm at £15 annual rent. The agent leapt at what amounted to outright ownership and, when he subsequently informed DesBarres of his actions, the latter “appeared much pleased and fully satisfied with and made no Objections whatever to the same. “

At DesBarres’s request Captain John MacDonald* of Glenaladale, a St John’s Island landholder, toured the property in 1795. Afterwards MacDonald expressed regret over Waugh’s management of affairs in 1787, fearing that the agent had seriously endangered the estate by alienating both tenants and prospective settlers. He did, however, support Waugh over the complaints of several disgruntled tenants, and reported that the agent and his family were “very active[,] industrious, and as fit for any business by sea or Land as any. . . . [They] excite all the life or stirr that appears to be in the place . . . [and] without them it would be dead to all intents.”

MacDonald’s fears were groundless, and Tatamagouche prospered under the direction of Waugh and his sons. They did their own ironwork, raised surplus cattle for sale, and, with DesBarres’s financial aid, built a grist-mill and sawmill, the latter cutting 200,000 board feet annually. Two additional sawmills were built as well and the export of lumber became an important local industry. Waugh served as estate manager, as local magistrate, and also as government courier, carrying dispatches from Tatamagouche to Truro. Some time after his wife’s death in 1795, he returned to Scotland and studied watchmaking for several years, writing to Tatamagouche in 1802 that he was “the oldest tradesman and the youngest apprentice.” While overseas, he persuaded several of his countrymen to come out to Tatamagouche, thus augmenting the strong Scottish principles and new ethnic balance of the area.

The exact date of Waugh’s return to Tatamagouche is not known, but he was certainly back in the settlement by 1806. As the immigrant families settled in, Waugh became a guiding force in local religious life, offering financial assistance and the use of his barn for summer services to the Reverend John Mitchell, who had arrived at River John in 1808. The planned construction of a meeting-house in Tatamagouche split the community, and Waugh lamented that by “incoherently dividing in their opinions, concerning matters of small importance, [they] soon desisted from their imaginary ideas [of having a church?], – ideas which seemed rather to frustrate, than to propagate the gospel among them.” When a second attempt ended in failure, Waugh and his sons built the meeting-house themselves and Willow Church was opened in August 1820.

Waugh’s last years were marred by conflict with DesBarres who, bitter over the failure of his colonial property ventures, took both Waugh and Mary Cannon to the Court of Chancery in 1809. Waugh was charged with collusion in accepting the 1787 farm lease, which DesBarres now denied knowledge of, calling it “not less remarkable for its preposterous illegality and subdolous futility, than for its glaring Depravity and arrogant Impudence.” DesBarres also accused Waugh of granting to settlers long leases, at low rents, of prime Tatamagouche land without his permission, and contended that the family had been removing timber from his personal property. Waugh, with Samuel George William Archibald* acting as his counsel, made his innocence abundantly clear in reply; during some 25 years of local management, his actions had never been seriously questioned and, although he had fully advised DesBarres of his work, he had rarely received acknowledgement or instructions in return. Other than an order to cease cutting timber, no legal judgement was issued in the case, which dragged on until DesBarres’s death in October 1824. Waugh had died four months previously, upset at the stain on an otherwise spotless career. He had worked long and hard in Tatamagouche, imbuing it with his Scottish vigour and moral probity, but receiving no recompense other than his sense of duty done. Sir John Wentworth* had called him “an upright, active, loyal subject . . . deriving therefrom a good property, [and] considerable influence in that Country.” After his death Tatamagouche was never the same.

Lois Kernaghan

PAC, MG 11, [CO 229] Prince Edward Island B, 1: 150–68 (transcripts); MG 23, F1, ser.2: 4–5, 28–38, 45–46; ser.5: 4580–87. PANS, Biog., Waugh family papers (mfm.); MG 5, 2, no. 10: 87–88; RG 1, 174–76; RG 20A, 32; RG 36, no. 179, DesBarres v. Cannon, Waugh et al. Emigrants from Scotland to America, 1774–1775; copied from a loose bundle of Treasury papers in the Public Record Office, London, England, comp. V. R. Cameron ([New York?], 1930; repr. Baltimore, Md., 1965). D. C. Mackay, Silversmiths and related craftsmen of the Atlantic provinces (Halifax, 1973). F. H. Patterson, The days of the ships, Tatamagouche, N.S. (Truro, N.S., 1970); History of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1917; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973); Tatamagouche, N.S., 17711824 (Truro, 1971). George Patterson, A history of the county of Pictou, Nova Scotia (Montreal, 1877).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Lois Kernaghan, “WAUGH, WELLWOOD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 17, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/waugh_wellwood_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/waugh_wellwood_6E.html
Author of Article:   Lois Kernaghan
Title of Article:   WAUGH, WELLWOOD
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   April 17, 2024