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Thread: Took the plunge

  1. #11
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    that has always had a strong draw

    I love history and always feel a little tug when I see groups. looks good.

  2. #12
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    No being a re-enactor but having once or twice been invoved in re-enactment events I'm curious as to why so many of those that choose to do Highland (Jacobite) era costume make such an historical faux pas a lot of the time. Go an visit any national re-enactment regiment (Britsh, French, German etc), the drive for historical accuracy is evident and the results generally very good. Not so with many Highland outfits.

    I appreciate that because military clothing was regimented then there is a right and wrong type of this or that, colour of facing etc that means re-enactors have to try and emulate it o be correct. Highland clothes were not regulated in the same way but there are some things that are definitely wrong; plaid brooches, knitted hose etc., and not forgetting of course Jaobite shirts have all been mentioned. Why is it that we some often see rhings that are completely out of place? I guess some people will be following historically incorrect information, modern prints of historical costume/events are a prime source; others will no doubt do so because they use what the have/can afford (nothing wrong with that when starting out) and others I guess just don't care. Or am I being too harsh?

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  4. #13
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    Peter,

    Having been in 18th c. reenacting since '89, I agree with most of what you said. For military units, there is usually some level of documentation available, but that varies. I had a very difficult time discovering the details for the 1757 1st Highland Battalion (later the 77th Foot, or Montgomery's Highlanders). For a unit that was as widely travelled in American as it was, there was precious little concerning the details of its dress. It turned out that there was a fire at Horse Guards in the late 18th c., and Lord Montgomerie told me (at a Scottish games) that any regimental records or artifacts that had been preserved at Eglington Castle had been destroyed in a 19th c. fire. So we had to rely on company order books and educated guesswork. And, we discovered, the uniform had been changed in 1759 by the Board of General Officers to include regimental lace. We had no idea what that looked like. So, we chose a look and stuck with it regardless of the period in the war we were portraying. The same held true for the 42nd RH Regt of the American War of Independence period. Records were scant and we learned that the ships carrying the 42nd between postings sank (on three separate occasions), taking all correspondence down with the ship. Then there was that pesky Horse Guards fire to cope with. So a lot of educated guesswork went into the creation of our uniforms. As to the plaids and philabegs, we were going on information that we could find, and that included a lot of the romantic mythology that came out in the 19th c. It took a long time to get right.

    As to reenactors, my observations showed that there are generally three different types: First, there are the authenticity zealots (we called them "thread counters") who would settle for nothing less than maximum authenticity in dress, conduct, and all other aspects of portraying the unit. Secondly, there were those who did some research but had limited financial resources and whose goal was to get appearance and conduct "good enough." Last, there was the reenactor who was just out to have fun at a weekend and would turn out with minimum authenticity - mostly they would just do what they were told. I fell in between the first and second category. As I got more books and was exposed to research (such as yours), I slowly moved toward the first category.

    As to Jacobite Highlander reenactors, I maintain that all three categories exist, but it's mostly due to younger guys with families not having sufficient financial resources to lay out on such things as custom repros of 18th c. tartan, swords, dirks, and other things. Mostly it's the older guys who can do that, and I have. My group has a very nice library of research material and we use it. For example, we discourage the use of any identifiable clan tartan, post 18th-century weapons, and we research the cut of our clothing pretty closely. Also (unlike military portrayals), we are not locked into a "uniform" appearance. So we can appear as everything from gentlemen of the clan with the full panoply to clan humblies wearing nothing but a ragged shirt and a dirty plaid carrying a "sickle on a stick." The same applies to our ladies. If we have a fault, it is that most of our members tend to attend events dressed too finely, when the opposite was probably true. There are probably some things we do wrong (not enough Gaelic, for example), but we correct things as we learn. Most of our events are at local Scottish games, so one thing we try to do is demolish the romantic myths and educate people (which results in interesting conversations with guys who swear that their clan has worn this tartan since Julius Caesar invaded Britain), so we welcome a variety of "looks" and try to keep things simple for the visiting public.

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  6. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orvis View Post
    Peter,

    Having been in 18th c. reenacting since '89, I agree with most of what you said. For military units, there is usually some level of documentation available, but that varies. I had a very difficult time discovering the details for the 1757 1st Highland Battalion (later the 77th Foot, or Montgomery's Highlanders). For a unit that was as widely travelled in American as it was, there was precious little concerning the details of its dress. It turned out that there was a fire at Horse Guards in the late 18th c., and Lord Montgomerie told me (at a Scottish games) that any regimental records or artifacts that had been preserved at Eglington Castle had been destroyed in a 19th c. fire. So we had to rely on company order books and educated guesswork. And, we discovered, the uniform had been changed in 1759 by the Board of General Officers to include regimental lace. We had no idea what that looked like. So, we chose a look and stuck with it regardless of the period in the war we were portraying. The same held true for the 42nd RH Regt of the American War of Independence period. Records were scant and we learned that the ships carrying the 42nd between postings sank (on three separate occasions), taking all correspondence down with the ship. Then there was that pesky Horse Guards fire to cope with. So a lot of educated guesswork went into the creation of our uniforms. As to the plaids and philabegs, we were going on information that we could find, and that included a lot of the romantic mythology that came out in the 19th c. It took a long time to get right.

    As to reenactors, my observations showed that there are generally three different types: First, there are the authenticity zealots (we called them "thread counters") who would settle for nothing less than maximum authenticity in dress, conduct, and all other aspects of portraying the unit. Secondly, there were those who did some research but had limited financial resources and whose goal was to get appearance and conduct "good enough." Last, there was the reenactor who was just out to have fun at a weekend and would turn out with minimum authenticity - mostly they would just do what they were told. I fell in between the first and second category. As I got more books and was exposed to research (such as yours), I slowly moved toward the first category.

    As to Jacobite Highlander reenactors, I maintain that all three categories exist, but it's mostly due to younger guys with families not having sufficient financial resources to lay out on such things as custom repros of 18th c. tartan, swords, dirks, and other things. Mostly it's the older guys who can do that, and I have. My group has a very nice library of research material and we use it. For example, we discourage the use of any identifiable clan tartan, post 18th-century weapons, and we research the cut of our clothing pretty closely. Also (unlike military portrayals), we are not locked into a "uniform" appearance. So we can appear as everything from gentlemen of the clan with the full panoply to clan humblies wearing nothing but a ragged shirt and a dirty plaid carrying a "sickle on a stick." The same applies to our ladies. If we have a fault, it is that most of our members tend to attend events dressed too finely, when the opposite was probably true. There are probably some things we do wrong (not enough Gaelic, for example), but we correct things as we learn. Most of our events are at local Scottish games, so one thing we try to do is demolish the romantic myths and educate people (which results in interesting conversations with guys who swear that their clan has worn this tartan since Julius Caesar invaded Britain), so we welcome a variety of "looks" and try to keep things simple for the visiting public.
    I hate to disagree with you a little bit, but there are tons of unexploited resources when it comes to the F&I Highland regiments. Montgomerie's actual papers are in the Library of Congress and I was just gifted copies of a couple of those documents that has information regarding the number of yards of tartan per man, what type of selvage that tartan had, what the tartan was, regimental shoe and stock buckles, that the regiment had purpose made garters, not just cut off pieces of wool twill tape and a bunch of other stuff. That information has been sitting right there yards, ok a few miles from where we have lived off an on, and we never knew it :-)

    I still have to get to London to access the Lloyds of London archive to see the 42nd Officers clothing book and the 78th regimental papers, but Im not going to have to travel to Manchester as I found out there is a copy of Murray's correspondence in Montreal.

    The internet, I love it!

  7. #15
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    Great stuff, Luke! Actually, I worked at the Washington (DC) Navy Yard for 15 years and never knew that material was at the Library of Congress. I was friends with an historian at the Early History branch of the U.S. Navy Historical Center and he was working on his masters dissertation about the French & Indian War-era 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. As a professional historian, he had borrowing privileges at the LOC and allowed me lunch-time access to microfilms of historical papers. In this case, the material about Montgomery's Highlanders that I had access to was found in the Forbes Papers (1758) and in Montgomery's letters to the British C-in-C in America concerning his campaign against the Cherokees in South Carolina in 1760. I was amazed that as a Regimental Colonel (and the son of an earl), Montgomery wrote all his letters (hard to decipher). He clearly did not want to be in the South Carolina back country when the major campaign of the war was being carried out in upstate New York and the St. Lawrence Valley. I was also surprised at how sympathetic toward his Native American enemies he seemed to be.

    Anyway, even though I'm no longer reenacting the 77th/Montgomery's Highlanders, I'd love to know what you've found concerning their uniform details. Did you happen to find anything specifying their post-1759 regimental lace? I know that the 78th/Fraser's was ordered by the Board of General Officers to adopt regimental lace, despite Colonel Simon Fraser's reluctance to order it (probably due to a desire to save the regimental money), resulting in censure from the Board until he complied.

  8. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by figheadair View Post
    I'm curious as to why so many of those that choose to do Highland (Jacobite) era costume make such an historical faux pas a lot of the time... there are some things that are definitely wrong; plaid brooches, knitted hose etc., and not forgetting of course Jaobite shirts have all been mentioned. Why is it that we some often see things that are completely out of place? I guess some people will be following historically incorrect information, modern prints of historical costume/events are a prime source; others will no doubt do so because they use what the have/can afford (nothing wrong with that when starting out) and others I guess just don't care. Or am I being too harsh?
    I've often had to bite my tongue in fear of giving offence but yes this sort of thing very common with Highland reenactors of any period, of people doing Highland costume in general.

    As I've said before, it's as if Highland costume, in the minds of many, floats in its own world disconnected from time.

    Countless times I've seen the very people who do their homework and make sure everything in their costume is period-correct throw all that out the window when they do a Highland costume.

    A pet peeve of mine is people incorrectly doing the uniform of the 79th New York State Militia in the American Civil War. For whatever reason they freely mix elements of the 79th NY's post-war uniform with elements of the 79th Foot of Scotland from various periods. Neither uniform corresponds to anything the 79th NY would have worn during the Civil War. There's no excuse for this because clear photos showing the uniform exist, and more than that a near-complete pre-war uniform exists which has been widely photographed (in the Gettysburg museum).

    One will see all sorts of anachronisms such as wearing blue hackles, wearing kilt aprons, spats, the wrong hose, wrong sporrans, wrongly pleated kilts, wrong cap badges, on and on it goes.

    Much of the problem is that the uniform of the 79th NY has been incorrectly illustrated in a number of books on Civil War uniform, and photographs of existing post-war uniforms in museums have been included in such books. (The pre-war and post-war uniforms were different in almost every detail.)

    Getting away from that specific case, one sees anachronisms all the time, people freely mixing Victorian, modern, and quasi-18th century bits in their Scottish costumes.

    BTW I never buy the "I can't afford it" excuse for inaccuracy, because in most cases it can be shown that the inaccurate thing they're wearing cost just as much as an accurate thing.

    Two more reenacting peeves of mine (while I'm on a roll) are 1) wearing modern eyeglasses and 2) musicians playing modern instruments.

    Period-correct eyeglass frames are far cheaper than modern ones. I've picked up a number of original frames from the 1920s and 1930s on Ebay for as little as $6 each. The person wearing $150 modern frames telling you they can't afford historical accuracy is simply not telling the truth.

    About instruments, there was a guy playing modern-style Highland pipes with his otherwise correct early Highland costume. He told me he couldn't afford a period-correct pipe. The pipes he was playing were top-notch vintage pipes, made around 1900 as I recall, worth $5,000 or so. He could have bought a reproduction of mid-18th century pipes by a very good maker for $1,500. Once again the "I can't afford it" plea was bogus.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  9. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orvis View Post
    Great stuff, Luke! Actually, I worked at the Washington (DC) Navy Yard for 15 years and never knew that material was at the Library of Congress. I was friends with an historian at the Early History branch of the U.S. Navy Historical Center and he was working on his masters dissertation about the French & Indian War-era 60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot. As a professional historian, he had borrowing privileges at the LOC and allowed me lunch-time access to microfilms of historical papers. In this case, the material about Montgomery's Highlanders that I had access to was found in the Forbes Papers (1758) and in Montgomery's letters to the British C-in-C in America concerning his campaign against the Cherokees in South Carolina in 1760. I was amazed that as a Regimental Colonel (and the son of an earl), Montgomery wrote all his letters (hard to decipher). He clearly did not want to be in the South Carolina back country when the major campaign of the war was being carried out in upstate New York and the St. Lawrence Valley. I was also surprised at how sympathetic toward his Native American enemies he seemed to be.

    Anyway, even though I'm no longer reenacting the 77th/Montgomery's Highlanders, I'd love to know what you've found concerning their uniform details. Did you happen to find anything specifying their post-1759 regimental lace? I know that the 78th/Fraser's was ordered by the Board of General Officers to adopt regimental lace, despite Colonel Simon Fraser's reluctance to order it (probably due to a desire to save the regimental money), resulting in censure from the Board until he complied.

    Yes I was in NOVA for a couple years working out of one of the State Annexes and never once went to the LOC, doom on me!

    Here is my understanding of the lace and lapel issue:

    December of 59 the Clothing Board censured Fraser and Murray for not having their regiments in uniforms that met the standard, IE no lapels and lace are mentioned. As Montgomery was not on that list, we assume that the 77th was wearing for at least as Early as Campaign season 60 lapelled and laced uniforms. There are 3 powder horns documented to members of the 77th from the 60-61 Cherokee campaigns that have figures on them in Scottish dress, and the coats are lapelled, and in one case you can see that the lapels do in fact have lace.

    Carl Franklin in his book on British Army uniforms, which is pretty much a train wreck to be honest, says the 77th had lace with a red worm, the same as later worn by the 71st Fraser's in the Rev War, but makes that claim with no footnotes. Perhaps in the huge treasure trove of documents relating to the 77th at Kew, there is something he saw and failed to properly document, or he pulled it out of his 4th point of contact........

    With the 42nd, there are 2 paintings/portraits of Officers that show the new style of uniforms, IE Lapelled, and the adoption of Bastion lace. Im going out on a limb here and guessing based off an orderly book entry regarding "new" lace, that it was the single red line vice the 2 red line lace that before had only been used by the Grenadier companies (There being 2 Companies because of the 2d Bn having arrived here in North America after taking Martinique) Perhaps I can find something out when I view the copy of all of Murray's correspondence this spring.

  10. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luke MacGillie View Post
    Yes I was in NOVA for a couple years working out of one of the State Annexes and never once went to the LOC, doom on me!

    Here is my understanding of the lace and lapel issue:

    December of 59 the Clothing Board censured Fraser and Murray for not having their regiments in uniforms that met the standard, IE no lapels and lace are mentioned. As Montgomery was not on that list, we assume that the 77th was wearing for at least as Early as Campaign season 60 lapelled and laced uniforms. There are 3 powder horns documented to members of the 77th from the 60-61 Cherokee campaigns that have figures on them in Scottish dress, and the coats are lapelled, and in one case you can see that the lapels do in fact have lace.

    Carl Franklin in his book on British Army uniforms, which is pretty much a train wreck to be honest, says the 77th had lace with a red worm, the same as later worn by the 71st Fraser's in the Rev War, but makes that claim with no footnotes. Perhaps in the huge treasure trove of documents relating to the 77th at Kew, there is something he saw and failed to properly document, or he pulled it out of his 4th point of contact........

    With the 42nd, there are 2 paintings/portraits of Officers that show the new style of uniforms, IE Lapelled, and the adoption of Bastion lace. Im going out on a limb here and guessing based off an orderly book entry regarding "new" lace, that it was the single red line vice the 2 red line lace that before had only been used by the Grenadier companies (There being 2 Companies because of the 2d Bn having arrived here in North America after taking Martinique) Perhaps I can find something out when I view the copy of all of Murray's correspondence this spring.
    Luke - I agree with your assessment. I have Franklin's book and saw the reference he made to the 77th's lace and was mystified where he got it - have never seen anything else on this topic. As to the uniforms of Highland troops in the 1755-1763 period, I was under the impression that only field officers wore lapels before 1759-60, but that after the 1759 uniform revisions all ranks wore lapels, and regimental lace was specified for the troops. I have no evidence to back this, but my educated guess is that the OR's of the 77th wore no lace before 1760. Company and field officers wore silver lace, and serjeants wore white silk lace. I was aware of the reprimand of Fraser by the Board of General Officers in 1759, but wasn't aware that Lord John Murray (Colonel of the 42nd) had also been censured, or that only his grenadier companies wore laced coats. Of course, under the proprietary colonel system, it was perfectly ethical for colonels to cut corners on costs (to include uniforms) and pocket the money, so that doesn't surprise me. I was aware that the 42nd had transitioned to blue facings when its second battalion arrived in North America and was absorbed into the vastly understrength first battalion. Stewart's Order Book (1759) contains details about the altering of the new uniforms (which evidently went on during the 1759 campaign against Ticonderoga).

    While I'm no longer reenacting the Highland British Army regiments, anything you might find in the Murray papers would be of great interest to me. If you make it to the PRO at Kew, do check out the Board of General Officers papers for possibly more info on the addition of regimental lace to Highland OR uniforms - a historian acquaintance of mine said that he found some information about it there.

  11. #19
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    This is according to Rene Chartrand from a recent work of his:

    "... in December 1759, the Clothing Board of Genera Officers censured Murray's 42nd and Fraser's 78th for having failed to comply with "His Majesty's Orders" and ordered the commanders to produce new patterns of clothing properly laced and lapelled for the Board (WO 7/26)"

    I really do want to get ahold of the actual document to read it in it entirety.

    I think the whole "Lapels only on Field Officers" is something less than a reenactorism, but certainly not a hard and fast rule. I think it had more to do with Highland field officers being closer to the flagpole than anything else. I wonder if this whole issue was caused by the King's interactions with Malcolm Macpherson of Phoness, the man in the "Pinch of Snuff" painting, who was presented HRH right about the same time as the censure went out. Could it be that all the Highland Regiments were operating under the radar so to speak, not having lapels, and the 78th's service at Quebec shined a whole lot of light on the newly raised regiments?

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    I would like to write about my own experiences with Jacobite/period re-enactors when I tried to get information to improve my first time doing my impression. I think it is important to first disclose to you, I am an Historian, well know for my committement and life time research on the American Civil War. For well over 15 years I did Civil War Re-enacting and was nationally known. I started and commanded one of the largest Civil War Units in the United States, the 28th Massachusetts, (Irish Regiment), also part of th 5th NY Zouves, 76th Pennsylvania Keystone Zouves (of which we made EXACT replicas of their entire uniforms, down to thread count of the material), and commanded the 20fth Massachusetts. Beyond participating I managed, organized and commanded both national and international events, such as the 1867 Battle of Ridgway in Canada, asked by the Canadian Government to organize the 125th Anniversary of this event, worked directly with the Toronto National Guard, 2nd Regt afoot to re-enact the entire event, it was a big success. Worked with National Park Service on several major events, plannall the 125th Civil War events, and so on. I am well known for my attention to details, authenticity, correct military drill, and impressions, but especially the amount of time I put into hard research. Point is, I probably have done more in historical interpretation then any Jacobite group that exists, yet when I approach Jacobite re-enactors I was mocked.

    Let me explain, I am interested with the Jacobite impression, as I have learned through intensive research my family ancestors were Jacobites, resulting in expulsion from Knoydart their home, and shipped to Nova Scotia to survive. Doing the best I could do with limited budget, I tried to put together a proper impression, but I know more work is needed, but understanding and learning is my prime goal for now. Unlike the CW, of which I had NO family member involved, the Jacobite impression becomes a personal identify thing, much more personal.

    As I have read every post in this thread, I have found the Jacobite re=enactors to be EXACTLY like Civil War posts, everybody doing the intensive research, striving for perfection. However, when I approached Jacobite and period re-enactors in person, none of you, come close to the Civil War Re-enactors willing to provide you information and assist you. Jacobites were not even close to assisting a person improve their impression.

    After being involved as deep as I am with my historic research, I have conclude ALL re-enactors will never be exact to what it was. For those who think your impressions are spot on, you do not have the physical appearance, disabilities, diseases, physical attributes, poor, limited resources, and a list of other issues that cannot be portrayed by re-enactors. After doing CW for so long it has finally dawned on me there are two classes of re-enactors the Historical and the Costumed. Obviously the Historic goes the extra mile often making your own clothing, or accessories from research. While the costumed uses what is ready available, but they also try too, but are often mocked by Historical Reenactors, behind their backs, instead of helped to improve, from what I have experienced with people doing the Jacobite period impressions. This is my own personal experience that I lived this last December in Alexandria, not one knew my background of Historical researched, and yet I was mocked.

    When I was active in CW, never did I ever bad mouth one who is trying or limited by funds to do a CW impression, I often helped them by giving them advice without insulting them. I did experience such belittlement do the Jacobite impression my very first time. I thought CW was expensive, but no comparison to a correct Jacobite, if you can find a person to do period items. My CW Frock was a direct copy of an original officers from a Massachusetts Regiment, hand sewn with the correct thread count for wool broadcloth, with all ORIGINAL Waterford buttons. Back in 1988 when the frock was made it cost almost $2,500.00 for the COAT. I still have it, and many times it has been mistaken for original, I have labeled the inside so it is never confused. Doing the Jacobite will cost over three times that amount, if you can find the seamstress and material to do it. I want to do a Jacobite, but have found it cost prohibitive at this time, and for me not worth it. So I am now costumed, make no claims of being authentic, but trying to improve.

    I have to say this, Civil War re-enactors, along with Rev war, F&I, WWI and II are much more approachable and helpful then what I have experienced from people doing Scottish or Jacobite impressions. I was at the Alexandria Christmas walked, approached several Scottish Red Coat Re-enactors asking about where I could get the proper dice hose, and they all but laughed at me, not one offered advice, I got, well so and so knit there own and they do it for us only.... So you are elite, I get it. NEVER in all my years doing CW would I ever give such a flip answer to another person who showed interest. This is very disappointing for me, as I truly would like to refine my Jacobite impression and learn more, but with attitudes like that, I think I just might stay costumed so they have something to talk about behind my back.

    I am NO ROOKIE with re-enacting, and I know some of the attitudes of those who look down on others. This is something that is never talked about, but doing the Jacobite thing really brought this to light. So point being is this, I will figure things out by good old research working with others who are learned and are willing to assist me, re-enactors of the Jacobite era, well those at Alexandria that I met, I do not need them. Good luck, my impression is not perfect, but I got one thing NONE of them really have, my seventh removed Grandfather and family were Jacobites and he was a Captain in the MacDonald Clanranald brigade, and to me this if a family thing... Sorry for going on, but it was very disappointing to me about the attitudes of Jacobite Re-enactors, I would like to have joined and learned, but not with those attitudes, life is to short and I have more important things to do, besides I had many years of CW, and did research for Ken Burns, Don Trioni, Don Gallows, James McPherson, Larry Khol and list goes on, been to the top and NEVER did I belittle others who tried. I want to make this clear too, some from this forum have helped me on line, and this is appreciated, but when I approached in person, people from groups were very arrogant and belittling, almost insulting, too because you lost a potential person who is a known historian to help you out.
    Last edited by CollinMacD; 7th February 17 at 11:19 AM.
    Allan Collin MacDonald III
    Grandfather - Clan Donald, MacDonald (Clanranald) /MacBride, Antigonish, NS, 1791
    Grandmother - Clan Chisholm of Strathglass, West River, Antigonish, 1803
    Scottish Roots: Knoidart, Inverness, Scotland, then to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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