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Denominations in the History of the County
Among the early settlers of the Eastern part of the
County, who came in the years 1791 and 1802 were a number of
Roman Catholics who settled in Merigomish and
along the Gulf Shore. The first resident priest was the Rev. James
McDonald, who came as early as 1793. He was succeeded, about 1800,
by the Rev. Alexander McDonald, who remained with the people till
his death, in. 1816. He died in Halifax, and his remains were
carried by his people through the woods all the way to Arisaig where
he had had his home.
The first native priest was Rev. Donald McKinnon. He died when quite
a young man. The first Roman Catholic church in the county was built
at Merigomish, in 1810. In 1834 the first church at Bailey's Brook
was built; and, in 1869, that settlement was formed into a separate
parish with the Rev. D. M. McGregor, D.D., as its first priest.
Stella Mans, in Pictou town, was begun in 1823. The first priest
located there was Rev. Mr. Boland who was settled in 1828. The
present church, which stands on one of the most prominent sites in
Pictou, was erected in 1865. Father McDonald, afterwards Bishop of
Newfoundland, was then in charge. From 1881 to 1892 Rev. Roderick
McDonald was pastor. He was succeeded by Rev. J. J. Chisholm.
The Parishes and Priests of the Roman Catholic Church in the county
at present are: Rev. W. B. Macdonald, Lourdes, who has been
stationed there for 38 years, Rev. J. D. McLeod, New Glasgow, Rev.
J. J. McKinnon, Bailey's Brook, Rev. J. A. Butts, Westville, Rev. J.
McLennan, Thorburn and Merigomish, Rev. Ronald Macdonald, Pictou.
The Church of England was first established
within the county in the town of Pictou. The leading spirits in the
first organization were Dr. Johnsone and Robert Hatton, Sr. Through
the influence of the latter, a lot was secured, and he himself put
up the frame in the year 1826. Three years later the church was
completed, Mr. Hatton's son, Henry, being foremost in the work. The
church was consecrated in 1829 by Bishop Inglis. The first rector of
the parish was the Rev. Chas. Elliott, B. A., who was settled there,
the 3d of April, 1832. He was appointed rector of the parish in
The whole country was then his parish, and he preached once a month
at Albion Mines, River John and other places. He was a man greatly
beloved by his own church and had the respect of the whole
community. He labored in the County for thirty-three years. He was
succeeded by Revs. Messrs. Prior, Wood and Geniver. Rev. D. D. Moore
was Rector until 1873, when he resigned, and the Rev. T. C.
Desbarres was elected. He was followed in the year 1874, by the Rev.
James P. Sheraton, now Principal of Wycliffe College. Rev. Wm.
Cruden was the next Rector, and in 1877 the Rev. John Edgecombe was
The old Church having been enlarged at different times and now
getting pretty old, it was decided to erect a new one. The
cornerstone was laid on the 22d of May, 1879, and the fine large
church in which the congregation now worship, was finally completed
and the first service held on the 15th day of June, 1881. Rev. H. A.
Harley succeeded Rev. Mr. Edgecombe in 1888. In the year 1852, the
southern part of the parish, including Albion Mines, New Glasgow and
adjoining Country, was constituted a separate parish. In 1876, the
settlement of River John was separated from Pictou, and likewise
constituted a parish.
Christ Church, Albion Mines, was built in 1851. The earlier pastors
were Revs. St. Blois, Wilkins, Bowman and Moore. The first curate at
River John was Rev. M. Kaulbach. He was appointed in 1865. The
Rectors and parishes at present are: Rev. A. E. Andrews, St. James
Church, Pictou, Rev. F. Robertson, M. A., St. George's Church, New
Glasgow, Rev. R. B. Patterson, M. A., Christ Church, Stellarton,
Rev. J. F. Tupper, St. Bee's Church, Westville, Rev. A. W. L. Smith,
M. A., St. John's Church, River John, and Rev. W. W. Clarkson,
The first Baptist Society in the County was
organized by James Murray, who came to Pictou in 1811, and afterward
removed to River John in June 18, 1815, where he baptized two
persons and dispensed the communion. The society was formed on the
principles of the Scotch Baptists or Disciples. The first society of
the regular Baptists was formed in the year 1838 at Merigomish. A
congregation was organized at River John in 1844.
In 1874 a church was built at Barney's River and a small
congregation worshipped there. The First Baptist Church, New
Glasgow, is now the largest in the County. It was formed in 1875.
The present pastor, is Rev. J. Clement Wilson. His predecessor was
Rev. W. M. Smallman.
The history of Methodism in Pictou County
virtually begins with the opening up of the coal mines, although
River John had long previously been a regular appointment of the
Wallace Circuit. From 1825 to 1848 irregular visits were paid to
Albion Mines (now Stellarton) by the Methodist ministers stationed
at Wallace, Truro or River John. In 1845, in response to a request
from the General Mining Association, among whose employees were a
number of married Englishmen, Richard Weddal was sent to Albion
Mines. There is no further record of appointments to this place
until it was made a circuit in 1861, when Rev. J. Cassidy was
The Society in River John was organized by Rev. Mr. Snowball, in
1822. They built their first church in 1824. Since that time, River
John has been one of the regular Methodist circuits.
Pictou town did not become a circuit until 1868, although one or two
unsuccessful attempts had been previously made to place a minister
there. This circuit became a mission in 1905.
New Glasgow was, until 1888, a part of the Stellarton Mission. It is
to a young woman from River John that. New Glasgow Methodism owes
its existence today. Miss Ellen Harbourne from that circuit was
married to a Mr. Walker and came to live in New Glasgow. She was a
loyal Methodist, and united with the Church at Stellarton. At her
request the minister from Stellarton frequently preached in a hall
at New Glasgow.
Rev. Douglas Chapman (1864-67) was probably the first to conduct
these services. No serious attempt was made to establish a Methodist
Church in New Glasgow until the time of Rev. Isaac Thurlow
(1880-83). During his pastorate, the old Free Church building and
lot were purchased. It was remodeled and put into its present
condition at a cost of nearly $3,000. From a struggling mission,
raising only $410 for its minister as late as 1899, New Glasgow
became independent under Rev. E. E. England, in. 1901, and is now
one of the most desirable circuits of the Conference.
Trenton has been attached to New Glasgow since the time of Rev. W.
I. Croft (1893-96). Services were first held in the Orange Hall.
Later, the little Methodist Church at Piedmont was donated to the
Trenton Methodists. The Methodist Circuits with their present
ministers are: Pictou, Rev. Robert Williams, Stellarton, Rev. John
Phalen, River John, H. D. Townsend, Trenton, Rev. Thomas Hodgson,
New Glasgow, and Rev. F. E. Barrett.
The census of 1911 gives the number of
Presbyterians in the County 24,000, Roman Catholics 5600,
Anglicans 2600, Methodists 2500, and Baptists 1100. The population
of County is 36,000. Out of this number 26,000 are Scotch, 5200
English, 2400 Irish, 1000 French, 376 Swiss, 240 German, 300 Negro,
and 172 Indian.
The beginnings of the different branches of the Presbyterian Church
in the County of Pictou have now been briefly traced; the
Anti-Burgher Church from 1786; the Kirk from 1817, the Free Church,
from 1844, and likewise, those of the other denominations. The
result of the Presbyterian disruption, of 1844 was a renewed
activity in that denomination. There was a spirit of rivalry between
the churches. If the different branches of the Church did not
provoke one another to love, they certainly did provoke to good
The Home Mission Board which was founded in
1840, prosecuted its work as never before. Foreign Missionary
enterprise was launched in 1845, and Dr. Geddie the first Missionary
of the Church, was sent to the South seas in 1846. That event
started a new era of zeal and liberality in the Church, never
manifested before. It also brought the Churches into closer touch
with one another. In 1848 the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia and
the Free Church established "schools of the prophets," one at West
River, another at Halifax.
From these two schools, came a splendid band of ministers and
missionaries who went far and wide, founding and building up
churches. The Kirk still kept on looking across the sea for a supply
of ministers, and they came. In 1853, two young men came from
Scotland Rev. Alex. Maclean, D. D., a native of the County but
educated in the old country, and Rev. Allan Pollock, D. D., sent
over by the Colonial Committee to Nova Scotia, as a minister of the
Church of Scotland. Dr. Pollock received and accepted a call to St.
Andrew's Church, New Glasgow; and continued to be its pastor till
1875, when he was appointed Professor of Church history in the
Presbyterian College, Halifax, and later Principal. In 1904, he
resigned, and now resides in Halifax, rich in the love and esteem of
the whole Canadian Church.
Mr. Maclean was settled over the Kirk Congregation at Saltsprings,
and held pastorates at Belfast, P. E. I. and Hopewell, N. S. In all
these charges he gave full proof of his ministry. In 1911, his
Diamond Jubilee was celebrated by the Presbytery of Pictou. He now
resides at Eureka, N. S., in his ninety-fourth year, enjoying an
honorable old age. Four young men, all natives of the County;
William McMillan, Simon McGregor, George M. Grant and John Cameron,
were educated in Glasgow and returned to Nova Scotia and were
settled in important charges.
Gradually the ecclesiastical sky was clearing after the storm. It
was found that men were forgetting their old differences and
settling down to a new order of things. There were three branches of
the Presbyterian Church in the Province, where two was one too many.
October 4, 1860 is a memorable day in the history of the
Presbyterian Church. On that day the union of the Presbyterian
Church of Nova Scotia, and of the Free Church took place under the
title of "The Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces."
The Synod of the Presbyterian Church of N. S. was represented by
Revs. John L. Murdoch and P. G. McGregor, Professors Smith and Ross.
The Synod of the Free Church, by Rev. Mr. Forbes, Professor King and
Rev. Dr. Forrester. The Union meeting was held in Pictou. A tent was
erected on Patterson's hill, near the town. Over this tent floated a
bright, blue banner with the legend in white lilies, "For Christ's
Crown and Covenant." The spot selected was where Dr. McGregor
preached his first sermon in the County. Here the two parties were
declared one, amid great rejoicings.
There followed years of growth and prosperity in all branches of the
Church. Congregations multiplied. The supply of ministers increased.
Educational institutions were strengthened. Missionary enterprise
was promoted, both at home and abroad. "Then had the churches rest
and were edified." This prosperity was shared in very largely by the
Kirk brethren as well.
With the coming of young men into the ministry a spirit of Union was
manifest, and grew rapidly. Churches were tired of controversy and
separation; and united cooperatively in educational and missionary,
as well as in devotional services. A Union of cooperation was soon
followed by a Union of Organization. In 1875, all branches of the
Church were merged in the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Pictonians at Home and Abroad, 1914