Chisholms in Canada

Most of the Chisholm and other clan members evicted from their Highland tenancies ended up in Antigonish county in Nova Scotia.  The first vessel with emigrants was the Nova which arrived at Pictou in 1801.  One of the 500 passengers on board that vessel, Margaret Chisholm, lived for another seventy years.  She recalled in later life the horrors of the voyage

"At starting nothing could be heard but for the laughing and the frolic of the children. One by one their bodies were consigned to the angry deep. The laughter and frolic and crying were hushed and the hearts of the mothers were filled with anguish.”

Smallpox had broken out on the ship and sixty five children died during the crossing.

Nova Scotia 

The following is a list of some of the early Chisholm migrants to Nova Scotia and where they settled.

Early Chisholm Settlers in Nova Scotia
Family Head                                                   Settlement
Roderick (and Margaret)                                   Marydale
Chisholm family on the Sarah                             North River
John and Donald                                             Malignant Cove
Duncan                                                         Little Harbour (Pictou)
Colin, Alexander, and Archibald                          Long Point/Lismore
Donald, Finlay, and Alexander                            Gow
Donald (Og)                                                   Tracadie (Prince Edward Is)
Donald (Mor)
Archie and Donald (Mor)                                   South Side Harbour
Alexander (and Mary)                                       Salt Springs
John (and Margaret)                                        Brierly Brook
Donald and Dan                                              South River
John (married to a Miss McPherson)                   Gaspereaux Lake                               
Duncan                                                         Buidhe

Some Chisholms also headed for Prince Edward Island.  This was the destination for the Skye islanders, commencing in 1803.  William Chisholm and his family were onboard that first ship.  They didn’t stay.  But Michael Chisholm, who arrived later in 1829, settled in Uigg, Queen’s county. 

There were hardships in the early years; as log cabins were built, land cleared, and the cattle and sheep raised were prey to attacks from wild animals.  What goods they required in Antigonish had to be laboriously brought from Pictou as there was no road but a track on the route and no bridges across the rivers.

However, these hardships were endured because the new settlers could re-create their own Highland community without too much interference.  They could remain clansmen in their new land.  It was a strange but true fact that, some thirty years later, many of the evicted Chisholms still swore allegiance to the “Chisholm” back in Scotland.  These Highlanders held onto their customs and their music.  They stayed Catholics; and the Catholic priesthood flourished.  They started the Antigonish Highland Games to fund the construction of St. Ninian’s Cathedral.  And this tradition has been handed down through the generations.

Descendants.  Father Daniel Chisholm played a key role in the formation of St. Francis Xavier University in the 1890's.  But perhaps the most prominent Chisholm from this community was Joseph Andrew Chisholm, born in Marydale, who became the Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in 1931.  Today, John Chisholm from Antigonish owns Nova Construction, a company which plans a controversial strip-mining operation on Cape Breton Island.   


The Chisholm migration to Canada in fact predated the clearances.  George Chisholm had left Croy (near Culloden) for America in 1773.  After the Revolutionary War, he ended up in Canada.  He settled in Burlington Bay on the SW corner of Lake Ontario and died there in 1840, a Chisholm loyalist to the last, at the ripe old age of ninety.  His son was William Chisholm, the founder of Oakville township nearby (where the family later created their own Erchless estate), and his great great grandson, Brock Chisholm, the first director of the World Health Organization.

In 1784, Glengarry was formed on the banks of the St. Lawrence as the first-ever Highland community in Canada.  John Chisholm from Strassglass was an early arrival, settling on Indian land along the Black river. Alexander Chisholm, who came in 1817, later represented the district in Parliament.  The Highland tradition here still flourishes.

Later Immigration.  Later arrivals came more from the sense of economic opportunity than from the need to preserve old traditions.  In the 1850’s, William Chisholm arrived in western Ontario from Caithness and set up a lumber mill at Roslin on the banks of the Moira river.   The company that he founded is today the Chisholm Group.

Some sons of these immigrants became prominent industrialists across the border.  Hugh Chisholm, born in Chippewa Ontario (where he was a childhood friend of Thomas Edison), helped found the paper giant now known as International Paper.  It started in the 1890’s with his company, Oxford Paper, and a mill town in Rumford, Maine.  Archibald Mark Chisholm, the son of recent immigrants into Alexandria Ontario, later became known as the “iron man” after he had helped found the iron ore mining town of Chisholm in Minnesota.