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Family Stories: Canada: PEI

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1788: James Nowlan : Indian River, PEI

1797: Edward Nowlan : Prince Edward Island

1843: Edward Nowlan : Charlottetown, PEI

1861: Matthew Nowlan : Summerside, PEI

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1788 : Indian River, PEI
[146] James Nowlan (???? - ????) - from Ireland
[147] unknown McLellan (???? - ????) - from Scotland
Children: Angus (c1789)

According to family tradition handed down to a grandson (Dougald) who settled in the St. Louis area of New Brunswick James came to the New Brunswick /Prince Edward Island area via the St. Pierre and Miquelon islands. In the late 1700s, it was common for Irish "servants" from the Newfoundland fishery to escape to the nearby islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon where they could practice their religion. It is believed that some also went further afield to the Magdalen islands and to Prince Edward island.

James married twice once around 1788 and again in the early 1800s but both times to Scottish lasses . This explains why some census records show PEI Nowlan/Nolan descendants as being of scottish origin.

Around 1787, James' first wife, two brothers, John and Angus McLellan, their families, and two sisters left South Uist, one of Scotland's werstern islands, bound for Upper Canada. However, upon arriving in Charlottetown in what was then known as St. John's Isle (Île St. Jean), the captain of the ship, hearing of disease in the port of Quebec city, decided to let off his passengers without going any further. It was in Charlottetown that the McLellans met Lt. Colonel Robert Stewart, part proprietor of Lot 18. Upon learning of their situation, he advised them to settle upon his estate, telling them that, at the mouth of Indian River, they would find a deserted French house.

In the late 1700s, there was no Catholic church in Indian River but the faithful did attend Sunday mass at a French missionary chapel serving the Acadian and native population some 6 miles across Malpeque Bay on present-day Lennox island. The priests serving the mission were a Father Beaubien from Quebec and an Abbée de Colonade from Charlottetown. This is likely where James first met and married the McLellan sister. It is also likely where their son, Angus, was baptized around 1789. By the late 1700s, the mission chapel across the bay was abandoned and a new church built in Indian River.

In 1798, James and his first wife were living on Lot 19, on the south side of the Indian river. Most neighbours were of Acadian descent but there were also a few English-speaking settlers such as Dugald Steele who eventually became James' brother-in-law, marrying another McLellan sister.

Children of JAMES NOWLAN and McLELLAN sister:

  • Angus (c1789) married Isabella McIsaac in 1822 and, in the 1841 census, we find them on Lot 46, at the eastern end of the Island, with 6 boys and 2 girls all under the age of 16. It is believed that these were not all their children but that some were nephews and nieces, such as Daniel (c1833) and possibly John (1826) and Jacob (c1833), sons and daughters of his step-brother John Nowlan (c1807) who worked in the woods of New Brunswick and whose first wife had died sometime around 1837.

    • Dugald (1835-1904) m1. Marie Gallant, 13 children; m2. Marie-Anne Butler, 5 children. Dugald initially moved to the Richibucto area of New Brunswick sometime before 1860 and probably worked in the forestry industry. Sometime around his second marriage in 1886 he seems to have relocated to the St. Louis, St. Charles and St. Ignace areas.

    • Christina (1836)

    • Daniel (1838)

    • Peter (1841) seems to have accompanied Dugald to the Richibucto area as we find him there in 1866 as godfather to one of Dugald's sons; his name also appears on an 1873 land grant map for a lot upriver from St. Louis-de-Kent.

    • John (1844)

[148] Margaret Campbell (???? - ????) - from Scotland
Children: John (c1807), William (bef 1810), Peter (1811),Donald (1814), Christy (c1817) and Simon (bef 1820)

According to family tradition handed down to a grandson (Dougald) who settled in the St. Louis area of New Brunswick James came to the New Brunswick /Prince Edward Island area via the St. Pierre and Miquelon islands. In the late 1700s, it was common for Irish "servants" from the Newfoundland fishery to escape to the nearby islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon where they could practice their religion. It is believed that some also went further afield to the Magdalen islands and to Prince Edward island.

James married twice once around 1788 and again in the early 1800s but both times to Scottish lasses . This explains why some census records show PEI Nowlan/Nolan descendants as being of scottish origin.

Around 1787, James' first wife, two brothers, John and Angus McLellan, their families, and two sisters left South Uist, one of Scotland's werstern islands, bound for Upper Canada. However, upon arriving in Charlottetown in what was then known as St. John's Isle (Île St. Jean), the captain of the ship, hearing of disease in the port of Quebec city, decided to let off his passengers without going any further. It was in Charlottetown that the McLellans met Lt. Colonel Robert Stewart, part proprietor of Lot 18. Upon learning of their situation, he advised them to settle upon his estate, telling them that, at the mouth of Indian River, they would find a deserted French house.

In the late 1700s, there was no Catholic church in Indian River but the faithful did attend Sunday mass at a French missionary chapel serving the Acadian and native population some 6 miles across Malpeque Bay on present-day Lennox island. The priests serving the mission were a Father Beaubien from Quebec and an Abbée de Colonade from Charlottetown. This is likely where James first met and married the McLellan sister. It is also likely where their son, Angus, was baptized around 1789. By the late 1700s, the mission chapel across the bay was abandoned and a new church built in Indian River.

In 1798, James and his first wife were living on Lot 19, on the south side of the Indian river. Most neighbours were of Acadian descent but there were also a few English-speaking settlers such as Dugald Steele who eventually became James' brother-in-law, marrying another McLellan sister.

Children of JAMES NOWLAN and McLELLAN sister:

Children of JAMES NOWLAN and MARGARET CAMPBELL:


1797 : Prince Edward Island
[34] Edward Nowlan (????-????) - from Ireland
[35] Margaret Devereux (???? - ????) - from Ireland
Children: Moses (1797), Peter (????) and possibly others

Edward Nowlan, like the better known James Nowlan of Bedeque Bay (1798 census) and later Malpeque Bay (Indian River), is believed to have been a fisherman who left the Newfoundland area in the late 1700s to escape being embroiled in the territorial wars between France and England. In 1794/96, the French fleet under Amiral Richerie had detroyed Saint-Pierre in 1794 in retalliation to the deportation of the local population by the British and, in 1796, had razed the community of Bay Bulls on the Newfoundland on the Newfoundland Southshore.**** A documented case of a fisherman leaving Newfoundland for that exact reason relates to a Michael Finn who, around 1800, resettled to the fishing community of Pokemouche located in nearby northern New Brunswick.

Although the only documented Nowlan household on PEI in 1798 was that of a James Nowlan who was living on Lot 19 in the Bedeque Bay area, based upon New Brunswick records, it is now believed that there was another Nowlan family living on the island at the time, that of Edward Nowlan living on Lot 9 somewhere near Brae Harbour on Egmont Bay. The 1798 census records for Lot 9 no longer exist but it is possible to ascertain from later records that Nowlans did indeed at one time live on Lot 9. In particular, a Daniel Nowlan, farmer, is listed in Lovell's 1871 Directory as living in Brae, Prince county, PEI. He also appears with his family in the 1881 census.

There being only a few Catholic churches/chapels on PEI in the late 1700s and New Brunswick with its Acadian communities being so close, it is likely that Edward and his family went to New Brunswick to have their religious needs met. This would explain why Edward and his wife, Margaret Devereux, had their son Moses baptized in New Brunswick in the Pokemouche/Inkerman area in 1797. The link between PEI and the Pokemouche/Inkerman area seems to have been maintained while Edward and Margaret's children were growing up such that, by the early 1820s, we find Moses marrying a girl from that area and his two brothers, William and Peter, applying for land grants in the area.

Edward Nowlan and Margaret Devereux, both born in Ireland, likely worked in the Newfoundland or St-Pierre-et-Miquelon fishery before moving on to PEI where they settled, most likely in the mid-to-late 1790s. In 1797, either prior to settling on PEI or while living there, they had their child Moses baptized in Pokemouche/Inkerman area of New Brunswick, a short sailing distance from the Egmont Bay area of PEI (Brae Harbour) where they are assumed to have settled.

Children of EDWARD NOWLAN and MARGARET DEVEREUX:

  • Moses (Mo├»se) Nowlan (1797- after 1861)
    m. Margaret (Marguerite) Finn on 26 February 1824, in Inkerman
    Children: Michel (1829), Hélène (1833), James (1839), Mary-Ann (1843- young), Thomas (1846), Mary-Ann (1847) and John (1852)

  • William (bef. 1805) seems to have worked in the woods acquiring in 1821 a 200 acre lot on the eastern side of north branch of the Pokemouche river. However, by 1861, he seems to have vanished from the scene either having died or moved away.

  • Peter Nowlan (c1809), remained a bachelor and, like William, also petitioned for a piece of land, in 1841, but was unsuccessful, the lot in question having already been allocated to someone else. He nonetheless seems to have stayed in the Pokemouche/Inkerman area and , sometime between 1851 and 1861, when his brother Moses became incapacitated, either through illness or injury, he assumed the running of his brother's farm. When Moses finally died, sometime between 1861 and 1871, Peter continued to run the farm and took care of Moses' family.


1843 : Charlottetown, PEI
[124] Edward Nowlan (1807-1872) - from New Ross, Co. Wexford, IE
[125] Mary Ann Collins (???? - 1901) - from Ireland
Children: Anne, Bridget, Margaret and Mary

In 1842, a Captain Edward Nowlan from New Ross, Co. Wexford, Ireland, attended a Repeal of the Union meeting held in Charlottetown, PEI. It is believed that he was the same one listed in cross-Atlantic shipping records for the 1840s and 1850s. By the mid 1850s, however, he seems to have fallen into disfavour with shipping merchants, losing a ship supposedly due to disorderly conduct on the part of the crew.

In the late 1850s, however, the New Zealand Government was offering free land to settlers provided they pay their own way to get there. It was in this context that Captain Nowlan accepted to sail a ship, especially built for the trip, from PEI to New Zealand.

The ship left Charlottetown in December 1858 and arrived in Auckland on May 13, 1859, carrying 100 or so souls from Prince Edward Island, then a British Colony in North America. The new arrivals settled in various parts of New Zealand i.e. Mangonui East, Oruru,Waiwera, Kaiwaka, Mangapai, Maungakaramea and Omaha. Captain Nowlan and his family settled in the Oruru area.


1861 : Summerside, PEI
[80] Matthew Nowlan (c1837- ????) - from Ireland
[81] Mary (???? - ????) - from Unknown
Children: Francis (1869), Caroline (1870) and John (1872)

In the 1881 census for PEI, we find a Matthew Nowlan living in Summerside with his wife Mary and three young children, Francis, Caroline and John.

Given that John's firstborn son was named Francis, if Irish naming conventions were applied, John's grandfather would have been named Francis. This would be consistent with him being a son of the Matthew Nowlan from Co. Westmeath, Ireland, who settled in Chatham, NB, in 1831, and who is believed to have been a brother to the James Nowlan who settled around the same time in nearby Nelson South (Nowlanville), NB.

Children of MATTHEW NOWLAN and MARY:

  • Francis Nowlan (c1869, PEI) ...

  • Caroline Nowlan (c1870, PEI) ...

  • John Nowlan (c1872) m. Lottie-C (1877) and, in 1901, they lived in Summerside, PEI;
    although John was a Catholic, the children were raised in their mother's faith, that is as Methodists.

    Children of JOHN NOWLAN and LOTTIE-C:

    • Winnie-O (c1896) seems to have been given up for adoption as we find her, in the 1911 census, listed as adopted, aged 16, living with the family of Thomas Reeves, a Methodist of Freeport, PEI

    • May (1900)

    • Vera (1902)

    • Francis (1904)

    • Lulu-Pauline (1907) m. Harvey-A. SHADDICK in Newcastle, NB, in 1941

    • Harry (1911)


In the 1881 census for PEI, we find a Matthew Nowlan living in Summerside with his wife Mary and three young children, Francis, Caroline and John.

Given that John's firstborn son was named Francis, if Irish naming conventions were applied, John's grandfather would have been named Francis. This would be consistent with him being a son of the Matthew Nowlan from Co. Westmeath, Ireland, who settled in Chatham, NB, in 1831, and who is believed to have been a brother to the James Nowlan who settled around the same time in nearby Nelson South (Nowlanville), NB.

Children of MATTHEW NOWLAN and MARY:

  • Francis Nowlan (c1869, PEI) ...

  • Caroline Nowlan (c1870, PEI) ...

  • John Nowlan (c1872) m. Lottie-C (1877) and, in 1901, they lived in Summerside, PEI;
    although John was a Catholic, the children were raised in their mother's faith, that is as Methodists.

    Children of JOHN NOWLAN and LOTTIE-C:

    • Winnie-O (c1896) seems to have been given up for adoption as we find her, in the 1911 census, listed as adopted, aged 16, living with the family of Thomas Reeves, a Methodist of Freeport, PEI

    • May (1900)

    • Vera (1902)

    • Francis (1904)

    • Lulu-Pauline (1907) m. Harvey-A. SHADDICK in Newcastle, NB, in 1941

    • Harry (1911)

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