Introduction History & Immigration Culture People Multimedia Resources
  Text Size: S | M | L
History & Immigration > Scots in Windsor Essex > Shore of Lake St. Clair

History: Local Settlements

The Scotch Settlement on the Shore of Lake St. Clair:

The Scotch Settlement on the Shore of Lake St. Clair ran from Concession 6 to Concession 7, or what are today Wallace Line and Martindale Line. The community began with four lots, each composed of two hundred acres. Lot 1 was set aside for the Clergy Reserve, while Lot 4 was a Crown Reserve. The land was marshy and the woodland harboured wolves and bears, leaving settlers with little incentive to snatch up the lots. This territory, which would later become Puce, was first settled in 1829 when a young Scots couple, Jacob and Rachel Miller, bought the east half of Lot 3 for £37.10s. The Millers were alone on the settlement for five years before Captain Duncan Grant bought Gore 1 west of Pike Creek in 1834. That same year, Jacob began working as a Collector and Town Clerk for Rochester and Maidstone townships. From then on, the Scotch Settlement grew slowly and steadily.

In 1836, Andrew Patillo bought up the east half of Lot 2 for £150. James Struthers, the village's first teacher, moved onto a farm on the western half of the lot two years later, and in 1841 he purchased fifty acres for £50. In 1846, Andrew's brother James settled near Struthers, buying fifty acres on the west end of the lot for £51.2s.6d. In 1839, Alexander Wallace earned squatter's rights to Lot 1. Dan Holloway bought land in Lot 1 west of Puce River in 1841, while one hundred ten acres in the eastern half were purchased jointly by John and Thomas Martindale in 1849 for £225. Adam Martindale bought the western half of Lot 3 in 1851 for £125, and Matthew Martindale moved onto Dan Holloway's farm in 1857. The north half of Lot 4 went to William Miller for £75 in 1843; Isaac Martindale bought the south half in 1856 for £212.10s.

Henry Liffler bought part of the newly-added Lot 5 in 1849, and a piece of Lot 2 in 1852. Michael Rourke moved onto 177 acres on Lot 6 in 1854. Between 1857 and 1862, Andrew Patillo bought out all of Lot 2, parts of Lots 1 and 3, and all of Lot 4. His land extended west of Puce River and east of Belle River. The south half of Lot 3 sold for $452.50 in 1862 to Robert and William Fleming, who sold half of the land to Hubert Vivier in 1863, and the other half to Thomas Crozier in 1868.

In the 1830s, the inhabitants of the Scotch Settlement lived in small, thatched-roof log houses with dirt floors. Almost all of them came from Scotland. They were uniform in their worldviews as well: they read the Globe, belonged to the Liberal party, and practiced the Presbyterian faith. They had enjoyed a fair degree of education, and settled in Upper Canada because they were ambitious and enterprising, eager to take advantage of the cheap expanses of fertile land. Although there was not yet a school, they educated their children with their private book collections; although there was not yet a church, they gathered with the rest of the community on the Sabbath to read from Scripture and pray. Dinner conversation was filled with the political developments in both Canada and Scotland.

The men who had come from skilled backgrounds worked at their trades in Detroit, which was only a few hours away by canoe. Their families counted on fish, deer, and turkey for meat, all of which were plentiful and easily accessible. The woods provided abundant supplies of wild honey, fruits, and nuts: berriers, grapes, plums, crab-apples, hickory nuts, butternuts, walnuts, and more. The settlers cleared and drained the land gradually, beginning with garden patches in which they could grow potatoes and vegetables. Later they enlarged these patches into fields for oats and corn. Oxen, which were worth 15 per yoke, were their primary draft animals, used for ploughing, logging, and draughting. During the 1840s, the settlers imported horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry.

The early settlement was surprisingly self-contained. Its residents built their own houses and furniture; they carded, wove, and dyed the wool of their sheep and used that to make all of their clothing. They made their own carpets, featherbeds, and bed linens. They braided straw hats to sell at the Detroit market; they made soap, candles, canoes, and yokes. They made their own yeast from hops grown in their garden patches. The earliest pioneers carried pieces of steel, flint, and spunk with them to create fires. Despite this remarkable self-sufficiency, the Scots were, however, dependent on the city for some things. Children's shoes were a luxury item, for example, and the men relied on Detroit or Windsor for harnesses, boots, tools, tobacco, and whisky. There was no grist mill in the Scotch Settlement to grind grain, either, so residents had to travel to the ones in Windsor or Belle River. This became less of an inconvenience, however, when Tecumseh Road opened in 1838.

The settlers built Maidstone township's first school in 1840 on the Lake Shore at the southwest corner of Stage Road and Martindale Line. James Struthers worked as its first teacher until retiring in 1856; he remained as a school trustee until 1869. Depending on the season, Struthers taught between twenty and forty children. His curriculum was drawn from two primers, one for accounting and one for writing. The former included compound addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using pounds, shillings, and troy weights, interest, reduction, the Rule of 3 Direct and Inverse, proportion, practice, Tare and Tret, discount, and present worth, while the latter ensured that students were well-versed in Woodworth, Burns, Byron, Milton, Blair, and Rogers. By 1853, the tiny population had grown enough to split the school in two, one for Puce and one for Pike Creek. Struthers taught at each for six months of the year.

According to the 1850 Assessment Roll, the Scotch Settlement had a population of 761, with 995 hogs, 584 sheep, 369 cattle, 175 oxen, and 140 horses. Its prosperity was also evidenced by the comfortable frame houses that the pioneer farmers were building to replace their original log cabins. When the Great Western Railway connected the settlement with Detroit and Windsor in 1854, its inhabitants enjoyed easier access to their premier markets.

The 1850s also saw the launch of Lake St. Clair's first large trading vessels. Andrew Patillo and his sons built and launched the Elizabeth in 1856, a two-mast scow that could carry as much as 110 cords of hickory up and down the St. Clair shoreline. James Patillo served as its captain, while the settlement's young sons made up its crew. The Elizabeth allowed settlers to sell the cord-wood and building timber they accumulated while clearing their lots to Detroit for profit, effectively embarking on two ventures at once. After the bulk of cargoes going in and out of the local harbour had become too large for single-mast boats, the Patillos built another vessel, the Ontario.

The Presbyterians rotated among each other's homes for Sunday worship until they got their first church in 1868: St. Andrew's was built from the remnants of a dismantled church in Detroit, its furnishings transported by the Elizabeth. For fifty years, St. Andrew's was the community's Protestant centre in the Roman Catholic majority. When the building needed to be replaced in 1924, Wilfred Herbert of Tecumseh bought the church and moved it west on the lake ice. He converted it into Tecumseh's Tasty Lunch restaurant. The new St. Andrew's was built on land donated by Andrew Patillo's grandson, George Patillo.

Donald Coutts opened a grocery store in the Scotch Settlement in 1873. In this capacity he became one of Puce's most respected businessmen, reputed for his energy, genial nature, and intelligence. He served as Puce's Post Master from 1877 until 1893, and owned land stretching from the lake shore to Tecumseh Road, having cleared the swatch between Renaud Line and Pike Creek himself.

By the 1870s, the Scotch Settlement was a flourishing farming community: after the Crimean and Civil Wars drove up the prices for farm produce, there was more money to be made in farming, clearing land, and draining marshes than there was in the Detroit or Windsor trades. So the settlers focused on improving their lots rather than traveling to the cities for work. By the 1880s, the first generation of pioneers had died out, leaving their sons and daughters to carry on the proud traditions they had established in what had once been the wilderness of the Ontario frontier.

For a detailed examination of this settlement, consult:
Wallace, Malcolm W., Pioneers of the Scotch Settlement on the Shore of Lake St. Clair., Ontario History. 41.4 (1949): 173-200
Available from the Windsor Public Library Call No. 971.331 WAL
Please note this link will open in a new window or tab

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and
do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.
Copyright © 2009 Windsor Mosaic Website. All rights reserved