Skip to the main content

The Immigration Story of James Rattray (Scottish immigrant and Veteran)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Date of Arrival: 
1830
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2014.541.1

Story Text: 

This is the story of my great-great-grandfather James L. Rattray 1762-1859 who settled on Wolfe Island, Upper Canada in 1830. His arrival was by a long, circuitous and dramatic route.

Born in Forfarshire Scotland, he was a member of the British Army stationed in the East Indies at the outbreak of the war of 1812. The regiment was ordered to Canada where he, a widower, landed at Quebec with his two motherless children and where the boy died.

They were ordered to Queenston Heights, Upper Canada and started up the St. Lawrence River harrassed by the Americans at Morrisburg and Prescott. At Prescott, women and children were left behind so he billetted his daughter with a farmer. The wife had no children of her own and became so attached to the girl that she fled across the border to Ogdensburg and refused to give her up. James tried without success to get a permit to cross the river to find her. The refusal is not surprising because this was a favourite route for deserters and I imagine no time was wasted on the decision.

He returned to Scotland with the army and received his discharge two years later. We know that he did eventually find the child but there is no further record of her or her name. Fifteen years later, having remarried for the third time (to Elizabeth Low) he returned to Canada and settled on what is now Rattray Point, Wolfe Island where he died in 1859.

I have a homily in his own handwriting dated January 11, 1847. It is entitled "Ambition " referring to Napoleon and deploring "if it may not truly be said that ambition has deluged the earth with blood ".

Records of his descendants can be found on Wolfe Island, Grindstone Island and in Clayton, New York. His grandson, Ernest McFadden, was a private in the American Expeditionary Force (306 Inf Co F) stationed in France during World War I.