Cairns Family

Thomas Cairns and Mary Willison

Son of Thomas Cairns and Mary Willison.

1. JAMES CAIRNS Sr: Son of Thomas Cairns and Mary Willison.

Born 19 Mar 1788, Wiltonbourne, Wilton Parish, Berwickshire, Scotland, died 21 Aug 1867,

Plympton Twp., Lambton Co., Ont. On the 13 Oct 1810 in Swinton-Simprin Berwickshire,

Scotland, he married Elizabeth Patterson, born Sep 1785, Antonhill, Eccles Parish,

Berwickshire, Scotland, baptized 19 Nov 1785, Eccles Parish, died 14 Apr 1873, Invercairn,

Plympton Twp., Lambton Co., Ont. (d/o George Paterson and Ann Dodds).

Both buried Knox Church Cemetery, Camlachie, Ont. (#21).

They had 10 children. Thomas, George, James, Ann, Alexander, Peter, Catherine, Katharine,

John and Eliza.

Emigrated to Plympton Township, Lambton County, Ontario in 1842. It is believed that the 4

youngest children were with them when they emigrated.

It is known that son George was single and emigrated before the rest of the family.

Ann married David Lunam/Lunham and came in 1843 with 3 children.

Settled on 50 acres on Lot 14, Concession 9, Plympton Township.




Died  at  the residence of his son-in-law William  Symington,  Esq., Plympton,  on the 21st inst., James Cairns, a native of  Berwickshire, Scotland, aged 80 years and 8 months.




Died  at  the residence of her son-in-law William  Symington,  Esq., Plympton  on the 14th of April, Mrs. Elizabeth Cairns, relict  of  the late Mr. James Cairns Sr., formerly of Berwickshire, Scotland aged  86 years,  8 months. She leaves a large number of relatives including  49 great grandchildren to respect her memory.







James Cairns, was a farm laborer in Roxburghshire Scotland and there married Miss Elizabeth Paterson, of the same region.

There were seven children in their family. (1) George was the  first of the family to come to Canada. He went at first to California during the  gold  excitement, but later made his home in Lambton  County,  in Plympton  township. His last years were spent in Michigan. (2)  Thomas was a landowner in Forest and there died. (3) Ann married David Lunam, of Plympton, and there died. (4) Catherine married William  Symington, of Plympton, and there died 28 June 1905. (5) Peter became the  father of  James K. (6) John is deceased. (7) Eliza married Richard  Richardson, one of the California "forty-niners," and settled in Minnesota.

James  Cairns and his wife came to Canada in the latter part of  the forties,  settled  in Lot 14, Concession 9, Plympton  township,  on  a fifty-acre tract of land, and began their pioneer life in a log cabin. The  rest of their lives was spent there engaged in farming, and  they died  within a short time of each other, their remains being  laid  in the Knox Church cemetery at Camlachie. They were devout members of the Presbyterian  Church, which they helped to organize in Camlachie.  Mr. Cairns reached the age of eighty years, and was all his life a  strong Liberal.

( Not listed in this Record are children James Jr and Alexander ) (FLB)




In the lowlands of Scotland along the border country, still  running today, are the rivers Teviot and Tweed. The area is hilly and sparsely settled,  except  by sheep and a few cattle, and has  a serene  quiet beauty, the cotters being cleared from the land over 100 years ago and dispersed to many other countries, Australia,  New  Zealand,  United States and Canada.

On  the 13th October 1810, James Cairns and Elizabeth Paterson  were married  in Swinton-Simprin Parish, Berwick County,  Scotland.  Their family  consisted  of Thomas, George, James,  Ann,  Alexander,  Peter, John,  Eliza  and  Catherine all born in  Swinton-Simprin  or Eccles, Berwick  County,  Scotland. In the early 1800's James was  a  Hind  (a domestic  servant) and  living in Loanknow,  Eccles  Parish,  Berwick County,  and the births of George, 1812; James, 1814; Ann,  1816;  and Peter, 1818 are listed in the census.

Thomas and George Cairns were the first to arrive in Canada.  George went  at  first  to California during the gold  excitement,  later  he settled  in  what  was then called Upper  Canada, Plympton  Township, Lambton  County,  Ontario. George came in the 1830's as  he  witnessed land transactions during that time. Thomas came in about 1844 and also settled  in  Plympton Township. The rest of the family  was  soon  to follow about 1847 except John who came in 1849.


The  following is a history of early Pioneer days in Lambton  County as  related  by  Williams Cairns, son of James  and  Betsy  (Anderson) Cairns:

At that time Western Ontario was almost a winderness of forest.  The Township  of Plympton in the County of Lambton as the crow  flies  was about  twenty miles from the City of Sarnia (or rather, a village,  at that time). Their family settled within a few miles of each other  and hewed out  homes for themselves out of solid bush  of  heavy  timber. Their only roads in those days were blazed trails through the bush and distances are not shortened by trails even in the prairie county.
Sarnia, being their only market, it was necessary many times to make the journey on foot. I have heard my grandmother and her daughter  Ann say  they have carried their butter and eggs to market over  the  same trail, and more than once, and they were not the only ones.

Oxen  and sleigh were their chief mode of conveyance for some  years until  they could grow feed for horses. And as oxen were  much  better for clearing the land, few indeed were the happy owners of horse teams and  what  was known then as a lumber wagon. Although  the  wagon  has changed  little  in  appearance, it is seldom known now  as  a  lumber wagon.

It  was a slow tedious work clearing land in those times and as  the timber  (before the event of the Grand Trunk running from  Toronto  to Point Edwards and the Great Western running from London to Sarnia) was of no value, the choicest of oak, elm, basswood, and other more  valuable varieties were logged together in great piles and burned.  Great and  strenuous times were often witnessed at logging bees, when  sides would  be  chosen  for every team and who could be across  the  field first.  Even the oxen were onto their jobs and apparently as  keen  as the  men. There was also a great knack in being able to handle a  team of horses to good advantage.

After the railroad was in working order, oak became in great demand, made into staves and into square timber. And some valuable as well  as large  square timber was shipped to the older countries.  Staves  were about seven feet long and were made out of good oak timber, hewed from logs  two  and a half to four or five inches in width. I am  not  just certain  what these staves were manufactured into. Cordwood  of  Maple and  Beech was very plentiful and afforded employment for  those  near the  railway lines. Although prices were not high, it helped to  clear the land.

Softer  timbers were not in demand and millions of feet of  Elm  and other  soft varieties were logged together and burned and ashes  carefully gathered to make potash. After, when it began to get scarce,  it was  manufactured into lumber and some years ago it was in  great  demand. Buyers were offering ten to fifteen dollars per thousand and  on the stump.

Thomas,  James  and John Cairns settled in North  Plympton  Township about  two  to four miles from a village known then  as  Hillsborough. This place was named after the first settlers named Hills. Hills had a flour mill, and it was small but served a great and useful purpose  to the settlers of North Plympton and the east half of  Bosanquet  Township.

James Cairns Sr., Alexander, Peter and Ann, who was married to David Lunam,  Katey  who was married to William Symington,  and  Eliza  who married  Richard Richardson, all settled a few miles east of what  was then  Erroll. A government road having been opened out from London  to Sarnia,  branched  off at Warwick Village and angled  in  a  northwest direction  to Lake Huron. Erroll Village was on the  lakeshore.  Those villages  served as port office until the railroad came through,  then Erroll moved to Camlachie and Hillsborough later to Forest.

Later  Peter Cairns moved to Lakeshore and James Jr., and my  father to Arberarder.

The Township of Plympton was settled chielfy by Scotch, English  and Irish.  They  were all a sturdy, hard working, honest lot of  men  who made good although slow progross for many years. It took some time  to clear enough land for gardens and small wheat fields to grow fodder to winter the stock. Every farmer kept from three to ten cows. And a good number of hens and without these it would have been a scant living for many.  Some seasons when fodder was scarce cattle were driven  to  the bush to live on boughs, that is Elm and Basswood limbs and from brush. And  as it was, the early settlers experienced a great deal  of  hardships and privations. Schools were scarce and hard to reach on account of  road conditions. Still it is wonderful to look back and think  how children received an education in those primitive times.

The  same can be said about the Churches. But the sturdy Scot  never forgot  the  Church and Churches were erected  whenever  a  settlement started.  Knox  Church at Camlachie was amongst the first  and  Bethel Methodist near the Lakeshore and various others were erected and well attended in those days.

The Cairns families were all Presbyterians and all supporters of the same  cause  in religion and politics being reformers.  The  following generations, have mostly broken away from their first love and  joined the  United  Church. A few no doubt still retain a membership  in  the continuing body. In politisc, I think they are nearly a unit and still adhere to the Liberal Party with a very few exceptions.

Hillsborough, Erroll, Shepherds, and Hamiltons Corners of which  the writer is the more familiar with, underwent a transformation with  the advent of the railway.

As  I said before, Camlachie killed Erroll and Forest robbed  Hillsborough  of her business interests. A Post Office opened at  Hamiltons Corners  and was afterwards known as Arberarder while  Uttoxeter  Post Office  was  opened at Shepherds corner and was  afterwards  known  as Uttoxeter.

Between  1850 and 1875 a wonderful transformation was made. Many  of the  farmers  had good clearances and a fair acreage  under  crop  and frame houses and better barns were looming up here and there. Many  of the  older generations were retiring and leaving their farms to  their sons.  Some of them were in the real evening of their life,  and  with others the sun had gone down.

James Cairns 1786-1867 and wife Elizabeth Paterson 1786-1873  farmed on Concession 9, Lot 14 in Plympton Township.

James had a nephew who was a Baptist Minister in the States and used to  visit  his relatives in Canada. Nothing is known of  him  at  this time.

I  remember well of the old couple, and used to love to go to  their place which was only three miles from my fathers home. My grandmother, a  strong stout old lady, always had a cake for us and my  grandfather was  a  very quiet good old man who was always highly spoken of  as  a good  neighbor and devoted follower of his master. Grandmother  was  a strong  robust woman who must have turned the scale at about two  hundre.  She,  with  her oldest daughter, Anne, frequently  walked  into Sarnia  carrying  their eggs and butter. Sarnia in those days,  was  a long way.