Robert Sutherland was born in Borobol, Kildonan, Sutherlandshire, about 1796. In 1813, he sailed on the Prince of Wales for York Factory and the Red River Settlement. (1) Also on the ship were his sister Christiana, his brother William with his wife Margaret Gunn, and his sister Jannet with her husband Andrew McBeath. Owing to an outbreak of typhus on the ship, the passengers were disembarked at Churchill, rather than York Factory. No preparations had been made for them at Churchill and the colonists spent a miserable winter at a makeshift camp about 15 miles up the Churchill River. Christiana died during the winter. In the spring, Archibald McDonald led the fittest of them on snow shoes from their camp to York Factory. Included in this group were Robert, his brother William and wife, and his sister Jannet and husband Andrew McBeath. They arrived at Red River in June 1814.
In January 1815 Robert married Isabella Bannerman, daughter of William Bannerman of Duible. Isabella had also been with the 1813 group of settlers. Her brother John died at the Churchill Creek camp in January 1814.
The settlers were harassed and intimidated by the North West Company men during the winter of 1814-1815. By June 1815, the Nor’Westers had convinced the majority of the colonists to abandon Red River. Transportation to Upper Canada was provided by the NWC canoes. Robert and Isabella, William with his wife Margaret (Gunn) and their year-old daughter Christy, and Jannet and her husband Andrew McBeath, were among those who left Red River. They eventually settled in West Gwillimbury Township, Simcoe County.
Robert Sutherland died in 1854 and Isabella in 1858. They are both buried in the churchyard of the Auld Kirk, West Gwillimbury.
(1) LAC, Miles Macdonell papers, MG19 E4, vol.1, pp.165-168; transcript in Martin, Chester, Red River Settlement, Papers in the Canadian Archives