As seen in photo #1, a very fine new interpretive panel with a lot of information about the site and the pioneers who settled it now stands just off the trail. As it recounts, Neil MacPhee and his brother Archibald arrived in the area from the Isle of Uist in Scotland via a detour to Prince Edward Island sometime between 1812 and 1821; Neil settled here and Archibald at Mabou Mines. Neil built the house, said to be a typical house of the day: a story and a half dwelling with a central chimney built on a full foundation. Neil’s eldest son, Donald, took it over upon his father’s death in 1835; until her death in the early 1870’s, his mother continued to live there with Donald and his wife and five children. It was apparently a pretty productive holding of 200 acres with land reaching the shore; the 1871 census reports they had 30 acres of pasture, 6 acres of hay, 4 acres of wheat, a barn, a fishing boat, two horses and a colt, three cows, two horned cattle, nineteen sheep, and two swine; from these assets, they produced 28 bushels of spring wheat, 20 of barley, 100 of oats, and 100 of potatoes; 12 pounds of flax/hemp; 120 pounds of butter and an equal amount of homemade cheese; 36 pounds of wool; 39 yards of homemade cloth; 18 fathoms of net; 4 gallons of fish oil; and a barrel of mackerel and three of herring along with some cod and haddock. It was inhabited until some time between 1901 and 1911, when it was abandoned, with some of the family moving to Colindale, where descendants live to this day. As the accompanying map (from around 1880) shows, they were not alone in Cape Mabou, where dwellings were by then found all over the Cape Mabou Highlands and even a store was running at MacKinnons Brook.
Photo #2 shows the foundations, all that remains today of the house Neil built overlooking the Gulf and the area south of the mouth of MacKinnons Brook in the far distance. When I was here some years ago with a friend, the site looked very different, overgrown with brush and grasses and very slippery moss. The archæological team did a good job of clearing all that out, allowing one to get a much better idea of the house’s size and site.
Photo #3 looks through a gap in the trees at the Gulf in the far distance; the grey hulks of dead spruce are noticeable on the slopes below the homestead, but do open up the view, which would otherwise be far less open. The boat and the fish oil, mackerel, and herring indicate that the MacPhees were active and successful fishermen as well as farmers. The boat must have been kept at the mouth of MacKinnons Brook (or possibly at MacDonalds Glen), as the cliffs are too high along this coast for there to have been any other close-by safe anchorage.
Photo #4 is a close-up of the northwest corner of the foundations of the house. It has survived the upheavals of frost and the wear of time remarkably well. The piece of metal in the upper right appears to have been part of an iron stove or something similar.
Photo #5 shows additional pieces of metal. The one at the left looks to me to be very like the top plate of a kitchen wood stove, with a cut-out to hold the metal plate that served as one of the stove’s burners. Nothing else strikes a chord in my memory; perhaps they are other parts of the same stove or something else altogether.