The Waba Cottage Museum

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The Waba Cottage Museum

In 1835, Archibald McNab, founder of the McNab township, enlisted the construction of a stone cottage near White Lake. While, officially, he reported the cottage to be an office and mill for the public, it was more accurately described as a private residence for himself, his common-law wife, and their two children. By 1845, after Lord Durham bought out Archie’s settlement contract. Archie did what was becoming a theme in his life, and abandoned his wife and kids to move back to Europe. While the original cottage was destroyed in 1936, in 1967 it was faithfully reconstructed.

Today, the Waba Museum is an establishment dedicated to preserving the history of McNab township!

Archibald McNab

Originally from Perthshire Scotland, Archibald McNab, the 13th Laird of Clan McNab, was the first to colonize the McNab township. Inheriting the land of Bovain, along with its debts, from his uncle, Archibald made the understandable decision to simply run away from his financial problems. In 1821, he moved to Canada (abandoning his wife and kids in the process) with plans to settle his clansman and rebuild the McNab fortune. After a fair amount of persistence, McNab managed to secure a contract to settle Wilmot township in 1823, which he promptly renamed to McNab township, after himself. 

Fraudulently presenting himself as the owner of 80,000 acres of prime farming land, he convinced twenty-one families to make the voyage to Canada in 1825. Taking advantage of the families unfamiliarity with both typical settling customs and the English language, McNab had them sign a “bond” that essentially indebted them to the laird for life. The settlers were then faced with McNab’s severe leading style. He demanded a bushel of wheat per cleared acre, which was quickly revealed to be an exorbitant amount, given the poor soil of the Canadian Shield. 

McNab insisted settlers get his permission before leaving the township, perhaps to prevent them from realizing the absurdity of his demands. In one instance, Alexander Miller, desperate for some sort of income, sold pine trees on his lot to a logger. McNab, upon hearing this, forced the logger to pay him instead of Miller. Following this, Miller asked permission to find work in another township, which McNab denied. Miller left anyway, and in retribution, McNab (hypocritically) had Miller arrested for evading his debts. 

Complaints against McNab started to accumulate. Originally, the government handled this by sending the anonymous complaints directly to McNab for him to manage. McNab responded characteristically by having those he believed responsible arrested for defamation and sedition. In 1830, a small investigation, which ended with McNab promising to reduce rent by half (which was not done). No serious investigation occurred until 1840. The Crown Lands Agency deemed McNab negligent and cruel and offered the settlers the option to buy their land over a 9 year term.

No longer welcome in Canada and unable to return to Scotland (due to debts and an undoubtedly angry wife), McNab moved to France in 1845. He died there in 1860, although the exact location of his death or grave is unknown.