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New Immigrants (1820-1840)

Mary Macpherson's Sewing Stand

Macpherson Sewing Table

Mary Macpherson's Sewing Stand

Mary Fisher was the daughter of Alexander Fisher, later first Judge of the Midland District, who had located to Adolphustown in 1784. Mary married Allan Macpherson, a Scottish immigrant. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

In 1818, Allan Macpherson posted a notice in the Kingston Gazette that he was selling off his goods at cost since he was planning on leaving Kingston. The same year, he advertised flour ground at the Napanee Mills for export to Kingston, Montreal and Quebec.

Allan and Mary Macpherson had seven children. Their oldest son, Donald was born in 1820, followed by a daughter, Henrietta in 1824. Before the birth of their son, Alexander Fisher in 1827, Allan and Mary built a gentleman's house above the falls and moved from their cottage homestead in Clarkville. More children were born: James in 1829 and Richard in 1831, and two more daughters, Mary Hesford in 1833 and Wilhemina in 1836.

Both the Fishers and the Macphersons were Scottish immigrants. Mary's husband, Allan Macpherson, was born in 1785 in the Parish of Laggan, County of Inverness, to Major Donald Macpherson, and his first wife, Elspet. Donald Macpherson raised a corps of Macphersons who served in the 71st Highlanders through the Revolutionary War in America. Promoted to lieutenant at New York in 1779, Donald retired to home to Braie Laggan, Badenoch, on half pay at the end of the war. He remarried Anna Shaw of Dalnavert and three daughter were born by 1805. Donald and his family immigrated to Canada in 1807 with the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion commanded by Lowther Pennington. He was in command at Kingston during the War of 1812, and directed the building of earthworks and blockhouses to protect the entrances to the harbor and town. In 1817, Donald retired on full pay. He remained in Kingston until his death in 1829.

The Fishers had emigrated to America after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. In 1775 Alexander Fisher's family joined an uncle, Donald who had emigrated to America ten years before. His father, John, and siblings Finlay, Anne and Margaret, homesteaded in northern New York, not far from Fort Ticonderoga. They arrived in America shortly after the first shots of the American Revolution had been fired.

In 1777, General John Burgoyne, advanced from St. John's Quebec, and successfully regained Fort Ticonderoga. When Burgoyne arrived in Skenesborough, Alexander and Finlay Fisher, and a cousin, also named Alexander, joined Burgoyne. The battles of Bennington, Freeman's Farm and Saratoga followed. When Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga in September, the new recruits, including the Fishers, made their way to Canada.

In Canada, Finlay taught school in Montreal and his brother Alexander continued in service as a Commissionary at Carleton Island for the remainder of the war. Alexander had married by this time since Mrs. Alexander Fisher was also on the provision list at Carleton Island. In 1784, Alexander and his wife travelled upriver to Adolphustown. They built their cottage in the third concession. Here Alexander was appointed to the Land Board for the District and served as a Justice of the Peace and Commissioner of Roads.

A daughter, Mary was born in 1792. Mary's mother died in 1802, and Alexander remarried Henrietta McDonell. Mary was educated at a Protestant school near St. Gabriel Church, Montreal where her liberal arts education would have included sewing skills which would put her in good stead when she married. After women married, they became responsible for all the day-to-day sewing of clothes, linens. and textiles for their homes.

Mary Fisher Macpherson's sewing stand is made of papier-mache, inlaid with mother of pearl and abalone, japanned and gilded. By the mid-nineteenth century, Birmingham, England was the centre of a major industry producing papier-mâché boxes, trays and furniture. The technique for inlaying papier-mâché with mother of pearl had been patented in 1826 by Aaron Jennens and T.H. Bettridge. In 1847, they patented a process for molding panels. Using a die press, items were stamped out, then decorated and finished with several layers of protective varnish. The resulting smooth glossy finish imitated Japanese lacquerware.

Under Mary's tutelage, her daughters completed samplers which taught basic embroidery techniques, the alphabet and numbers. These skills would be useful later in life, helping keep track of linens, usually in a cross stitch, with the maker's initials and a number.

Submitted courtesy of the Allan Macpherson House & Park, Napanee

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