Early Settlers of Augusta and Superior Townships

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:



Winter 2010

Author: Janet (McDougall) Buchanan & Heather (McDougall) Carlson

Augusta Township, Michigan Territory, counted as very early settlers the Muir and McDougall families. The first members arrived from Scotland in 1828 and bought land from the government. Slowly encouraging additional family members to emigrate from Scotland over the next several years, they increased their numbers. Surviving letters between family members from America to the ‘old country’, and back, throughout the years, make for very interesting and informative reading. The Muir children in America (six) had a total of 39 children and at least 63 grandchildren by the late 1800s, most of them staying in the Washtenaw County area.

Andrew and Mary (Donaldson) Muir arrived in New York on the ship Roger Stewart on June 9, 1828, along with their children, Mary, Sarah and Andrew. Andrew later married Huldah Jones; Sarah married Oscar McLouth, and after his death she married James Rambo. Mary married the young apprentice, George S. McDougall, who traveled from Scotland with the Muirs. George and Mary Muir were married on October 31, 1828, in Rochester, New York in Monroe County. By the late fall of 1828, Augusta Township became home to Andrew and Mary Muir and George and Mary (Muir) McDougall.

Mary A. Campbell, in her publication “The Andrew Muir Family of Scotland and Augusta Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan,” related that Andrew Muir's chimney was “the first that smoked in Augusta." She also wrote that, “He built the first fire ever lighted by an American citizen in that portion of the wilderness, and also the first log house ever erected in that section of the county.”

In the book “History of Washtenaw County, Michigan” published by the Biographical Publication Company in 1881, it is noted that “Andrew Muir is said to be the first settler; but there is a faint shadow of probability that James Miller, who made a settlement near Stony Creek in 1829, may be the owner of the honor – he who founded the village of Stony Creek – and to him is accorded the honor of being the father of Andrew Miller, said to be the first white child born in the district.” However, Mary A. Campbell stated, “James Miller’s purchase of land in Section 7 was recorded May 1, 1828, and the patent was recorded on the same day as Andrew Muir’s. These two men made the first recorded purchases in Augusta Township.” Further, Mary A. Campbell notes that “Andrew Miller’s birth date is July 6, 1831. Elizabeth McDougall, daughter of George S. and Mary Muir McDougall, was born in June 1830 and is stated elsewhere to have taken the honor of being the first born in Augusta Township.

Mary Belle (McDougall) Logan described to Thelma (Reddcliffe) McDougall that Andrew Muir’s land was “considerable farm land at Stony Creek, six miles south of Ypsilanti.” Another description of the land (source unknown) is “south of Bemis Road and east of Hitchingham Road (which is east of Stony Creek Road).” And yet another description by Andrew Muir in a letter to relatives in Scotland, gives the land as being “south of Bemis Road and west of Hitchingham Road in Augusta Township.” The Land Office Patent Certificate #626, dated March 6, 1829 and initialed by President Andrew Jackson, described the Andrew Muir land as “for the North West quarter of Section five, in Township four, South, of Range seven, East in the District of lands offered for sale at Monroe, Michigan Territory, containing one hundred and ninety-two acres, and ninety-one hundredths of an acre”).

Muir daughters Margaret and Jane arrived a few years later with their children and respective husbands, Robert Gardner and James Pearson. Robert and Anna (Muir) Campbell and family were the last to arrive from Scotland in October 1842. Their later arrival was probably due to the nineteen year lease on the family Ayrshire farm having nearly expired. The name of the family farm in Ayrshire, Scotland was Lauriston Parish, and was on the Hollybush Estate. A son, Gabriel, had drowned in Scotland in 1826. Daughter Jean’s whereabouts are unknown, but she probably stayed in Scotland.

Andrew and Mary (Donaldson) Muir, their children, and George S. McDougall, were born and raised in Scotland where they attended the same kirk (church) that Robert Burns (1759-1796), the poet, had attended in his lifetime. George McDougall and Mary Muir knew each other from childhood. George was born November 7, 1799, in Moncton Hill, Ayrshire, and Mary was born April 1, 1802, in Glencaird, Dalrymple, Ayrshire. The following was related by Mary B. (McDougall) Logan. “In Scotland the Muirs were wealthy but Andrew’s partner was clever and captured the booty and left them poor so they came to America to begin anew. Mary and her sisters had beautiful linen nightgowns and petticoats and lots of them all trimmed with choice hand embroidery. The bush [of Ypsilanti] offered no place to wear these so they were eventually made into clothing for the babies, nicer than anything that could be obtained otherwise in the new land.”

The following is from a letter dated April 18, 1936, written to Walter McDougall by Delphine (Fowler) McDougall (wife of John A. and mother of Walter): “Yes, Father McDougall’s name was George, but I never heard much about his family. He was bound out to a farmer when he was a boy, and came here with the Muirs. Mother McDougall’s father said he did not want his girls to marry in Scotland for they would never be anything but servants, so Mother and Father McDougall did not get married until they got to New York, then they both got a job and stayed there a year. The rest of the family came on to Michigan. I don’t know how old he was but she was 19. Her father sold everything he had and brought his whole family. George McDougall had four brothers and one sister, Mary McDougall, in Ayrshire, the same place that Robert Burns lived. We heard later that his brothers came here, but don’t know where. There is a large settlement of McDougalls south of Hillsdale.” Note: We now know that Andrew Muir did not bring his whole family with him and Mary Muir was 26, not 19. Father and Mother McDougall refer to George S. and Mary (Muir) McDougall and Mother McDougall’s father was Andrew Muir.

The parentage of Andrew and Mary (Donaldson) Muir: What we know about the parents of Andrew Muir is from his baptism records and those of his siblings, Gabriel and Ann, known children of Andrew and Jean Osburn Muir of Ayrshire. The baptismal dates for these children indicate they are considered “lawful.” In the case of Ann’s baptism record, Jean is mentioned as Andrew’s spouse, this is the only time her name is actually mentioned. These records were transcribed by Heather (McDougall) Carlson from the Scottish Parish Records. The assumption is that Jean’s maiden name is Osburn.

Mary (Donaldson) Muir’s parentage is not clear but Heather has done much research on this, also in the Scottish Parish records. It appears likely that Mary’s father was James Donaldson and James’ father was John. We assume that Mary’s mother’s name was Margaret because of the naming patterns of her children. She did stray from the male naming patterns with second and last son, Gabriel, but one assumes it was because of the early death of her brother, Gabriel.

The following letter is one of many that still remains in the Muir family and was first published by Mary A. Campbell in the Family History Capers article. It was dated October 23, 1830, written by Andrew to his brother, Gabriel, a farmer who still lived in Gorton Parish, Ayrshire, Scotland. The following letter was received January 30, 1831.

“Thanks to the giver of all good we are all in good health. I wrote you last year a long letter and have learned since by a letter from Aunty Ann to Sarah [McLouth] that none of the letters I sent from Scotland ever were received. This is a fine pleasant country though great varieties of soil and of climate prevails. I looked a good deal over the state of New York for a situation. Old settled places are much exhausted by mismanagement and everywhere at a high price to be in this country. They would ask from 15 to 100 dollars per acre for land.

We stopped about 4 months at a place called Clyde on the canal about 146 miles east of Buffalo. I having a strong desire to see the country farther west I started off for Detroit in the territory of Michigan. From there steered my course southward 35 miles here I found a pleasant healthy country, good rich land water pure and abundant. After looking about the country a little I purchased (70 acres of) land of what would in any country be called first-rate land. About 70 acres nearly cleared and the remainder fine timberof hard wood no fir. The price was six dollars per acre I paid the money down and got a handsome allowance for ready money. The situation is very inviting having abundance of pure spring water. One spring brook runs past where we have fixed our house sufficient to drive a threshing machine. Land in its natural state can be had of government at 1 ¼ dollars per acre. I read the newspapers and am sorry to observe the disastrous state of the old country. Two men from Edinburgh are with me when I write this. They are going to purchase land. They say matters are always getting worse in the old country.

I will naturally be asked what is the best way to come among the Yankees. It is answered here temperately …. are firmness and truth the course everyone ought to pursue whether in an old or new country. The potatoes I got from you had a blessing in them. There were a few of them left after we arrived at America. We planted them and have some of them yet.

Blacksmiths charge very high for their work. A single potato hoe costs a dollar and other things in proportion. A tailor charges dollars for making a suit of clothes. The cotton and woolen goods are much inferior in this country to what they are in the old country. We have wheat of excellent quality and as to vegetables we have all kinds that are grown in any country in a similar latitude. It is certainly advisable to such as mean to follow agriculture to come here. There is no method I know of for vesting money equaled to purchasing land in this district. Please give our best respects to all our friends, particularly to Margaret and Anne’s families. My impression is if they can come here have ordinary health and ordinary luck they will soon be independent. In the old country a man with a large family is kept down not so here. A large family is their riches. They soon come to do something and as they grow up the parent is enabled to give each of them 80 acres of land that is equal to a hundred dollars in money. How any children they have there is land enough for at least a thousand years to come. When any of our relations come here please be so good as write us direct to Andrew Muir of Shieldhall by Ypsilanti, County of Washtenaw territory of Michigan, North America.

I shall conclude with the words of the Hebrew poet happy is he who has the God of Jacob for help whose hope is in the Lord his God. I am D Sir yours most truly.” Andrew Muir

Two more letters, with only these remaining excerpts shown below, are retained by the Ypsilanti Historical Society. The first dated January 29, 1832, by son, Andrew Muir, Jr., written to relatives in Scotland.

“The land in our immediate neighborhood is mostly bought, some of it very good and some not … it is about six years since Ypsilanti was founded, there is 600 inhabitants in it, and it is growing fast; there is a grist mill, a turning mill, two carding mills and a filling mill at Ypsi, which is 4 ½ miles from my fathers farm. There is a saw mill a mile above the town, a saw mill ¼ mile below it… there is limestone on the Huron 4 miles above the town, the snow lies in general 3 & 4 months, the river runs toward the lakes. We are said to be about 40 miles east of the ridge where the water turns west, & about 34 west of Lake Erie.

There are six stores, two groceries and 5 Taverns in Ypsilanti & almost everything you can name (except honesty and trust) is to be had for money or produce … most articles are 10 to 25 per cent cheaper than when we came here … “I am nearly broke down. The bears have taken 6 of my hogs last summer… I have been employed nearly two years past for on a farm belonging to Mr. Wilson. This farm is 500 acres. This farm lies on both sides of the River Huron, 2 miles below Ypsilanti. I had 50 [cents] per day summer & winter, & harvest time, haying, 62 ½ cents… I like this country middling well, I don’t much admire some of the people, … there is too much cheating and lying…”

Another quote from the above letter quoted in a newspaper article from 1962 states Andrew, Jr. urged his brother-in-law (Robert Campbell) to come to America where he could easily get land. But he cautioned him not to tell the “poor and idle” about the new country because “a man without money and who will not work, is just as fit to farm the land in America as an old black coach horse would be fit to clerk in the Bank of Scotland.”

The second letter noted above is from the father, Andrew Muir, again to his brother, Gabriel, in Scotland, and is dated January 12, 1832.

“…. This is the third year I have paid taxes. First year I paid 1 ¼ dollars; second year 13 shillings currency, for the last year I paid $1.29 thus it becomes less as settlers come in. This is called the county tax. 6000 settlers came to this county last year….so you are going to have a reform in your election of members of Parliament. The generation which commenced a change in any government very rarely completes it…we are not disturbed by the Indians…greater part of them 100 to 300 miles west…a few straggling Indians came about last year but when they found the country thickly settled they soon cleared out. By a late treaty of Government, they now get the interest of their money when the government takes up their lands. This keeps them in check…when they do not behave this money is withheld. The president has given them to understand that they must give up the practice of going annually to Canada to receive presents from the British government…”

Each letter urged the family to leave Scotland, where it was rare to own land, and move to Washtenaw County where land was there for the settling. The letters even gave specific instructions on how to pack. One letter stated, “Put your baggage in moderate size boxes or barrels like what two men can lift. If too small you are apt to get them stolen. Our press (chest) was rather too large and very unhandy when traveling. But not so now, it is of great use to us."

A letter written in March 1835 by Sarah (Muir) McLouth to relatives in Scotland, explained that “Our father is very frail but mother is in good health and able to do her own work and is brisk and cheerful.” Andrew Muir, Sr. died on April 13, 1837, and was buried on his Augusta Township farm, which he called Shieldhall. His wife, Mary, is buried next to him. Their son, Andrew and his wife, Huldah Jones, are also buried near them. The area has since been developed with homes and condos. The headstones were moved and are now in the storage shed at nearby Stony Creek Cemetery. One headstone reads: "Andrew Muir April 13, 1837 in 68th year," and the two footstones, read A.M. (Andrew Muir) and M.D.M. (Mary Donaldson Muir). A Dalymple Cemetery Transcription website containing records from Ayrshire, Scotland, has this entry: #196 - “In Memory of Andrew Muir 13.4.1837 age 67, wife Mary Donaldson 27.4.1864 age 94, interred Augusta Michigan U.S.A., son Gabriel 26.6.1826 interred here.” Their son Gabriel's stone and his remains also lie in that cemetery. At the bottom of the stone, it says, “…erected by Robert Campbell and Annie Muir his wife, 1882.” Heather Carlson surmises that they must have put up the stone as a memorial to Annie's parents, and young brother long after his death. Mary A. Campbell wrote, “Mary (Donaldson) Muir was blind for many of the last years of her life before her death in 1864. Her daughter, Margaret Gardner, cared for her much of the time.”

(Janet (McDougall) Buchanan edited, compiled and submitted this article. She is a great-great-granddaughter of George S. and Mary (Muir) McDougall, and great-granddaughter of John A. McDougall. Heather (McDougall) Carlson, also a great-great-granddaughter of George S. and Mary (Muir) McDougall, and great-granddaughter of George McDougall (brother of Chet and John A.), has researched the McDougall and Muir families in Scotland for many years. She contributed greatly to this article.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Mr. & Mrs. George McDougall moved to Augusta Township in the fall of 1828.