Chapter 6: John McCutcheon’s son Hugh (1795-1861):

Picture from the family photo album of Barry Stewart

Hugh McCUTCHEON (3) (John-2; Samuel-1) was born in 1795 in Sloanstown, Donaghadee, County Down, Northern Ireland and he died on the 19th February 1861 in Erin Township, Wellington County, ON.  The 1861 Ontario census stated that he and Mary were married in 1828. This date is wrong.  They were married in 1823 in County Down, Northern Ireland.  Mary was born in 1797 in Donaghadee and she died on the 30th August 1893 in Erin Township.   Her parents Thomas David Stewart and Ann Elizabeth Fulton.  ☺☺


HUGH:  means soul mind, spirit.  Hugh, along with brothers Robert and William, was Donaghadee born and raised.  As with all children in their young carefree years, the three brothers were very happy and reckless roaming the wastelands, the peat bogs, and rocky Crags.  Strangford Lough was within exploring and fishing distance.  With cousins in tow and bare foot, many a fine day they spent trolling the shores, digging clams, pelting each other with kelp and mud balls.

Where they called northern “bog-trotters”?  Certainly not by the local inhabitants; but they were disparagingly called that by outsiders.

Sure there were farms with gardens, orchards to be avoided, but the backward, rural parishes of Donaghadee and Greyabbey were still largely un-inhabited. They probably never gave very much thought to where their next meal was coming from.

Not until, as adolescents, they started wooing the lassies next door.  And still, it was probably a wonderful place to be young and in love.  However, reality set in, as newly wedded, and a family brewing, Hugh changed his outlook.  He was ambitious and he turned his thoughts about how he was to feed many mouths under the tyrannical “Concacre-Cottier-Landless Tenant” system he was born into.

He was aware of the brutal existence his grandfather toiled under.

Besides, all of the rest of his family were in Canada and the letters he received from them spoke of more work than one could handle, cheap land in quantities that he could only imagine.  His patrimonial responsibility had just ended with the death of Samuel of Cottown, his grandfather.

Finally in 1826 Hugh and Mary along with 6 of Mary’s siblings, their wives and young children boarded one of the 21 sailing vessels that left Ireland bound for Canada. Mary’s obituary states that they crossed the Atlantic with two children; one of them died on board. A letter dated 193866 confirms this statement:  “After Hugh and Mary were married they must have remained in Ireland for their first child, William James, was born there. Some of the Stewart family came to Canada with the McCutcheons (one brother died of fever crossing the ocean and was buried at sea)”.  It is possible this child’s name was Henry.

By January 1827, Hugh and Mary made is as far as Montreal where they had to stop for their oldest daughter, Ann, to be born before travelling west to Cobourg, Ontario. The next 2 children, Ellen (1828) and Thomas Asa (1830), were born in Cobourg.66

Sketch of Cobourg Ontario 1830 by Colonel James Patterson Cockburn. (Copyright Expired).

Hitching posts are shown in front of the Inns. Church of England in background.

By 1830 Cobourg’s population had swelled to around 800 inhabitants due to its fine harbour on Lake Ontario. Hugh searched for work on the Rideau Canal where work for Irish labour was plenty.  He worked on the canal for 2-3 years to build up his reserve fund prior to making the 670 kilometer trek west to Wellington, Ontario. The living conditions in Cobourg were far better than the shanty towns along the Rideau Canal and the access by boat made it convenient for Hugh to visit his wife and children often.

The book entitled “The McCabe LIST – Early Irish in the Ottawa Valley” by Dr. Bruce Elliott is “without doubt the most important genealogical document on the Ottawa Valley…”

This list provides: the signature or mark, County, Parish and Townland of origin; number of male and female children; names and addresses of relatives in the homeland, for about 700 Irish families who were in the vicinity of BYTOWN (Bytown became Ottawa on the 1st January 1855) on the 5th of February 1829.

On page 34 of this book Hugh McCUTCHEON from Sloanstown, Donaghadee, Down, made his mark (x).  Evidently, Hugh was illiterate.  Hugh’s mark on this petition placed him in BYTOWN in the winter of 1829.




Colonel John BY was given the mandate to complete a 200 kilometer long canal system with 47 locks and over 30 dams.  The canal was built by private contractors under the supervision of the Royal Engineers.  There was almost 40 kilometers of canal to be dug by hand.  Manpower did not exist in Upper Canada so it was brought in from Ireland.  In 1823, 568 Irish immigrants were given government assistance to relocate from Ireland to Upper Canada, along the soon to be Rideau Canal. Then again in 1825 another 182 families were brought in.

The Irish provided the “pick and shovel” labour that was required to dig out the long stretch of canal that couldn’t be accessed any other way.  The labour force on the Canal was 60 % Irish.  An estimated 1000 Irish labourers died, mostly from malaria and were buried, sometimes in mass graves.  One canal overseer summed them up as:  “Poor, ignorant and careless creatures” in reference to some deaths of a few Irish-men that occurred under his tutelage.

Every honest Irish working man
thought he was escaping
when he ran
From the cannon’s roar
From the famine’s horror.
He’s just found a new hell,
On the Rideau Canal.”

— From the Song “Swamp Fever” by James Gordon
(Tamarack — On the Rideau)

The Rideau Canal opened in 1832.  It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in  North America.

Hugh and Mary finally arrived in Erin Township where  they appear on the census for Erin Township of 1832.

The population of white settlers of Wellington was very low.  The area was still inhabited mostly by the aboriginal First Nations; the Huron’s and the Chippewa.  There was very little friction between the First Nations and the homesteaders.

Even though they arrived later than the bulk of the homesteaders, there was still cheap land to procure.  There is no historical evidence that they applied for a land grant, so it is possible that they bought one of the many titles that were not patented.

By 1830, most of the free land grants were gone.  However, available for purchase, where crown lands, tracts left designated for religious reserves and land grants of settlers who failed to meet the criteria in order to receive their Land Patent.

The required regulations in order to receive title to their land, was to clear of a certain amount of land of trees, erect a log cabin to a certain size and improve of the road in front of the property within a specified time frame. These land grants could be purchased simply for the “Patent Fee.”

It was Lot 9, concession 3 that they purchased and then settled in to build their first house, a log one.  For the next 31 years, he searched for water, cleared a few acres by hand at first, then later as he could afford to buy first, oxen and then eventually a horse or two.  Every year, he was now able to clear many more acres, until finally he had most of his land cleared and under cultivation.  And the babies arrived regularly for the next 12 years ending with the birth of “HR” in 1842.

Mary’s obituary states that she and Hugh had nine children, which has been proven through census records.

An eyewitness account describes life during this era in rural Ontario:  “A poor man who can labour agriculturally or mechanically if industrious, will maintain himself and family and while doing so can be erecting and improving his estate for his heirs.”


>From the “Biographical Sketches” Historical Atlas of the County of Wellington, Ontario, compiled, drawn and published from personal examinations and surveys.

Toronto:           Historical Atlas Publishing Company, 1906, reprinted 1972.  Page 44:

McCUTCHEON, HUGH (d.) born County Down, Ireland, in 1793, died in 1859, age 66.  His father was John McCutcheon, and his brothers were Robert and William.  William, set on the 5th line, in 1829.  The late Hugh McCutcheon came to Canada in 1830, settling first in Lower Canada, and in 1833, came to Erin Township where he owned 100 acres, lot 9, Concession 3.  He was of a religious turn of mind, and was a constant attendant of the Congregationalist Church; in politics, he was a Conservative.  He married Mary Stewart, who died in 1893, age 96.  Issue: William, in Kansas; John, in Michigan; Thomas, Robert in Manitoba; Stewart, Mrs. Richard Hamilton and Mrs. Allan Smith, both in Erin Village; Mrs. Robert Little (died).

Thomas, born 1830 – died 1904.  He was born on the old homestead in Erin.  In 1856, he settled on 200 acres, lots 15 and 16, concession 4, and later bought the west half of lot 9, concession 3, and still later, the 50 acres adjoining.  He took pride in raising fine horses, and was very successful.  He was one of the leading men in the township and highly respected.  He was always liberal in his contributions to the Disciples Church, of which he was a member.  He married Mary Smith.  Issue:  Mathew, Hugh R., John, William, Henry, (unmarried); Mrs. Hugh Mitchell, David (unmarried); Thomas, married Mary Weatherstone and settled in North Dakota; Mrs. (Dr.) McCullough and Mrs. William Smith settled in Everton.  Of this branch, Mathew, born 1858, resides on the east half of lot 8, Concession 3 in Erin Township where he is a successful farmer.  He married Ellen Mitchell.

Hugh R., born 1860, married Maggie McCollum and started in business for himself three years his marriage, settling on lot 11, concession 2, which is one of the best farms in the county, with up-to-date improvements, brick house, and good buildings.  He is a consistent member of the Disciples Church.  Issue:  Mabel J., Thomas D., Annie M., and Bertha L.

John, married Annie E. Loree, and settled on lot 22, concession 7, Eramosa.

William, born 1860, is a self-made man.  He is a member of the Disciples Church, and a Conservative.  He married Isabella M. Loree, in 1888.  Issue:  William A, Clara I., Melvin W., Sara E., Thomas S., Roy V.

In the 1832 Census, Hugh McCutcheon had arrived at his homestead on 9, Concession 4.  This homestead consisted of 100 uncultivated acres.

Hugh was living on his homestead with his wife, Mary Stuart, 2 sons William and Thomas Asa, 3 daughters: Ann, Ellen, Mary Jane, and his Mother, Eleanor.              


News appeared in the Acton Free Press, 7 September 1893, page 3, column 3, ERIN.

We are called upon this week to record the death of a respected nonagenarian, in the person of Mrs. Mary McCutcheon, who departed this life last Wednesday, in her ninety-fifth year.  The funeral took place on Saturday afternoon from the residence of her son, Mr. Stewart McCutcheon, Lot 9, Concession 4, Erin, to the Ballinafad Cemetery.

The deceased came to this country with her husband, Hugh McCutcheon, and two children (one of which died on board ship) from the County of Down, Northern Ireland and settled 30 miles from Montreal.  After living there for a few years they came to Erin Township, about 65 years ago, and hewed out a home for themselves in the forest where they since lived and died.

Their family consisted of nine children, six of whom are still living.  Mrs. McCutcheon has been a widow for 32 years and has continued to live on the homestead with her son.  In earlier years, she was a Congregationalist, but latterly was a member of the Disciple Church.  Two sons, Stewart and Thomas, live in Erin Township; Robert [HR] in Manitoba; two daughters, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Richard Hamilton reside in Erin; Mrs. Fieldon, in Seattle, Montana.  [I think this is a mistake.  There is no Seattle, Montana it should be Seattle, Washington].

The funeral services were conducted by Reverends Mr. Baker and Mr. Fowley.


    7 September 1893        Hugh McCutcheon and Mary Stewart:

They came to Canada in 1828, they settled in Lower Canada (about 30 miles from Montreal).  Hugh and Mary McCutcheon came to Canada with two children.  One died on board ship coming over.

In 1933 they settled in Erin Township on Lot 9, Concession 3.  The farm consisted of 100 acres.  Here they hewed out a home for themselves in the forest where they since lived and died.

Mary McCutcheon died and was buried from her son’s residence on Lot 9, Concession 4 in Erin Township.  Her cousin Martha Culvert of Chicago came home for the funeral.  Mary was a widow for 32 years prior to her death.  She remained all that time on the homestead with her son.  Their family consisted of nine children.  At the time of Mary’s death six were still living.  Steward and Thomas McCutcheon in Erin Township.  Robert [HR] McCutcheon in Manitoba.  Mrs. Smith and Mrs. R. Hamilton in Erin.  Mrs. Fieldon [sic] in Seattle Montana. 

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Family records indicate that Mary went back to Ireland for a visit after her family was grown. 

Hugh and Mary are buried at the Ballinafad Cemetery pictured below located about 3 miles west of the village with the same name.

Hugh and Mary’s graves are located at the top of the hill to the left of the cemetery, partially hidden by bushes.

On Hugh’s monument the inscription, below the phrases enclosed by quotes below, are not clearly decipherable:

“In deaths cold arms lies sleeping here

A ‘loving father’, a companion dear

In love he lived, In”_______’” he died

His life was asked, but God denied.

The inscription on Mary (Stewart) McCutcheon’s grave reads:

The inscription on Mary (Stewart) McCutcheon’s grave reads, “Mother, thou have left us and thy loss we deeply feel but in heaven we hope to meet you, where no farewell tear is shed.”

They died intestate, with their estate valued at $700.00.  Probate papers: FHC #555.


Pictured is Ballinafad Cemetery.  We know that High and Mary are buried here.  How many other McCutcheon Pioneers rest here is not known.  Note the Old Headstones.

Homestead – Land Grants and/or Letters Patents were applied for.  Of Hugh’s children, only the youngest applied for a land grant.

☺☺      Lived to be a Nonagenarian or more.  Mary Stewart lived to be 96 years old. Mary had a sibling who lived to be 92 years.

This picture of Mary Stewart is from the family photo album of Barry Stewart, her
Great-Great- Grand son.  

Mary Stewart was born into a family of nine siblings.  Family  folklore suggests that Mary’s family, the Stewarts, arrived in Northern Ireland  as “Landed Gentry” from Scotland, possibly as “undertakers” when Hamilton and  Montgomery received their mandate from the English Crown to settle Ulster.   The time frame was sometime between 1606 and 1650.

Family  folklore also suggests that when Mary married Hugh, she married under her  station in life. 

Who  were “landed gentry?” A brief explanation: 

The hierarchal scale in local society in the mid-15th
century and later was:

1.         Knight:   Originally, a medieval tenant giving  military service as mounted-man-at arms to a feudal landholder.  Then later a medieval gentleman-soldier who  was armigerous.  Associated with the honorific  title “Sir”.   The word Knight is cognate  with the German word “Knecht” meaning servant or bondsman.

2.         Esquire:  is cognate with the word squire, which  originally meant an apprentice or assistant to a Knight.  It implies “gentle birth.”

3.         Gentleman:  Gentleman owned large tracts of lands, were  educated and had a family Coat of Arms.   Most never did any manual labor.

4.         Yeoman:  In the mid-15th century the word  Yeoman meant a Knight’s servant or retainer.  At that period there was a class of “freemen” called Franklins (men of substance and gentle birth) and in later  centuries they gradually became either “gentlemen:” – non armigerous, (which  means not bearing arms),  or yeoman.

Yeoman broadly means cultivators of the soil, either freeholders or  tenants.  They differed from the minor  gentry more by their way of life rather than their economic category.

A yeoman could buy a Coat of Arms and become a Gentleman.

5.     Husbandman:  person whose land-holdings were normally  smaller.

The class to which the  McCutcheons belonged were the bottom end of this medieval system, in Ireland, the  “Concacre-Cottier-Landless Tenant”.


  • Ann E McCUTCHEON (4).                                    See “A” following.
  • Ellen McCUTCHEON (4).                                      See “B” following.
  • Thomas Asa McCUTCHEON (4).                          See “C” following.
  • William James McCUTCHEON (4).                       See “D” following.
  • Margaret McCUTCHEON (4).                                See “E” following.
  • Stewart McCUTCHEON (4).                                  See “F” following.
  • John McCUTCHEON (4).                                      See “G” following.
  • Jane Matilda McCUTCHEON (4).                          See “H” following.
  • Hugh Robert “HR” McCUTCHEON (4).                 See “I” following.   ►

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