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Church in the Western part of the County
In the Western part of the County, a congregation
was organized at Gairloch and Saltsprings. These two districts
contained about four hundred families, nearly .all from the
Highlands of Scotland. There first minister was Rev. Hugh McLeod who
settled there in 1822. He was succeeded by Rev. Donald McIntosh who
remained until the disruption.
Rogers Hill, now Scotsburn, was formed into a congregation about the
same time as Gairloch and Saltsprings. The community was settled by
Highlanders from Sutherlandshire, who nearly all belonged to the
Kirk. The first church (St John's) was built in 1823, and is the
oldest church building in the County. Rev. Roderick Macaulay was the
first minister. In a few years he went to Prince Edward Island,
where he entered into politics and became speaker of House of
Assembly. The next minister was the Rev. Donald McConnichie. He was
a powerful Gaelic preacher, and the Highlanders considered him very
eloquent in the first and best of all tongues. He left for Scotland
In 1827 Barney's River was organized into a congregation, with Rev.
Donald McKichan as its first minister. He was a man of some ability
and a faithful pastor. After a few years he removed to Cape Breton.
At a later date he returned to his first charge, and remained there
till 1844. The people of Barney's River were nearly all Kirk men.
For ten years the people were dependent on Home Mission supply part
of which was given by Rev. Dr. McGillivray of McLennan's Mountain.
The next pastor of the Kirk congregation was Rev. James Mair, in
The Kirk grew and prospered. The grain of mustard seed had grown
into a stately tree. During the period of twenty-six years, the Kirk
had become strong and influential. Then, suddenly, her progress was
arrested by an unfortunate division.
During all those years, a memorable conflict had been going on in
the Kirk, in the Old Land, which resulted in the disruption of 1843
and the formation of the Free Church of Scotland, led by Rev. Dr.
The ecclesiastical disturbance took a year to cross the sea, but it
arrived in due time, and the Free Church in Nova Scotia was formed.
It was a time of excitement and confusion. Old time ties were
severed; venerable associations were broken up. There were painful
misgivings and divisions and hard feelings were engendered. But it
is not necessary to dwell on this unhappy story. It is a thing of
the past; there let it rest. That year, seven of the Kirk ministers
in Pictou returned to Scotland to fill pulpits made vacant by Free
Church ministers. A majority of the people remained in the Kirk but
they were, for most part, as sheep without a shepherd.
Rev. John Stewart, New Glasgow, was of the first to join the Free
Church movement. He became pastor of St. Andrew's Church immediately
after Mr. Fraser's resignation, in 1837. In 1819 a frame church was
built at Fraser's Mountain. It was originally a part of McLennan's
Mountain congregation. but was separated in 1830, when the church
was moved down to New Glasgow and placed on a site near the present
St. Andrew's Church. This was the first church building in New
When Mr. Stewart left the Kirk, about one hundred and forty-five
families, and all the elders, save one, went with him, and they
formed Knox Church, of which he became pastor. Mr. Stewart was born
in Scotland, in 1800, and came to Nova Scotia in 1833. He was a man
of fine natural gifts, enriched by a superior education. He spent
himself most lavishly in the best interests of the Church and
education. He rendered valuable service in establishing the Free
Church College in Halifax and was highly successful in raising funds
for it, and in encouraging young men to enter the ministry. He died,
May 4, 1880, having completed his four score years in April.
In 1844, a delegation from the Free Church in the Old Country
visited the Maritime Provinces. At that time, about one third of the
people of the Kirk at Scotsburn joined the Free Church. They
worshipped in St. John's Church until 1862, when Bethel Church was
built. Rev. Alexander Sutherland became their pastor. He was a
stirring and energetic preacher. In 1859 he became a minister of the
Scotsburn and Saltsprings Churches, and in both charges gave full
and fruitful proof of his ministry. He died in Nebraska, in 1897, in
the 80th year of his age.
Knox Church, Pictou, was organized in Jan. 1846, by a handful of
mechanics and farmers whose sympathies were with the Free Church of
Scotland. The church building was erected in 1848. The first
minister inducted was Rev. Murdoch Sutherland. He was called,
because of his burning zeal and piety, "the Robert Murray McCheyne
of Nova Scotia." On account of ill health he resigned his charge in
1857, and returned to Scotland where he died. The next pastor was
Rev. Alexander Ross who was inducted in 1850, and served the people
for nineteen years.
The people of Blue Mountain and Garden of Eden with Barney's River
joined the movement in 1848, and had for their. leader the Rev. D.
B. Blair, a rare and remarkable man who was, in his day, the best
Gaelic scholar in America. In 1852, Mr. Blair and his people set
about erecting a church which was formally opened for service,
before a board had been nailed on its walls, because the
congregation had no other place in which to worship.
In three years it was completed, without debt. For forty years Mr.
Blair served this congregation and other sections adjoining with
great ability and devotion.
For ten years the Kirk in Pictou County struggled on without
pastors. Rev. Alexander McGillivray, D.D., the only Kirk minister
who did not return to Scotland after the disruption, wrought
manfully and faithfully to repair the breach and to build up the
church on the old foundations.
Dr. McGillivray came to Nova Scotia, from Inverness,
Scotland, in 1833. For five years he labored at Barney's River and
Merigomish. He succeeded Mr. Fraser, in 1838, and continued there to
discharge the duties of a minister with a devotion and earnestness
rarely equaled, until his death, in 1862. He spread his labors over
hundreds of miles of territory, to strengthen and encourage the
pastor less churches. It was said of him, that he often tired out
his horses, but the indefatigable Dr. McGillivray never tired.
In 1848, the Synod opened a seminary at the West River of Pictou.
Professor Ross who was pastor at the West River, had charge of the
literary and classical departments and Professors Keir and Smith the
Divinity Hall. The classes met in the Temperance Hall in an ill
ventilated room above the little country schoolhouse not more
pretentious than the log cabin that gave birth to the renowned
Princeton Seminary. Each of the students acted stoker in turn, and
not only kindled the fire, but also swept the floor. Sometimes the
little upper room looked tidy and sometimes it did not. The old
Temperance Inn where the students boarded is still standing.
In 1853 five men graduated, James McGregor McKay, James Thomson,
Henry Crawford, John M. Macleod and James Maclean. They were the
first graduates who received all their collegiate education at the
West River. They all settled in country congregations, were
successful ministers, and all lived to participate in their
ministerial Jubilee celebration. Revs. Mr. McKay and Mr. Thomson
died at the ripe old age of ninety three years. Mr. Crawford died
after he passed four score years, and Mr. Macleod lived hale and
hearty until he was eighty seven. Mr. Maclean, died in. 1914, in his
eighty eighth year and the sixtieth year of his ministry.
The West River Seminary gave a great impetus to the life and work of
the Presbyterian church both at home and abroad. In 1858 the
Seminary and Theological Hall with its professors and students were
transferred to Truro, Nova Scotia. The Synod of the Free Church of
Nova Scotia, realizing their need of a native ministry, also opened
a college in Halifax in 1848. It continued over a period of nearly
thirty years. In 1860 the Theological department of the College at
Truro was removed to Halifax, and united with the Free Church
In 1878, the Synod purchased the property at Pine Hill and the
Theological Hall was transferred there where it has since remained.
As in the olden times the Ark of the Covenant moved from place to
place till David, in the days of Israel's national unity and
prosperity, found a permanent resting place for it on Mount Zion,
"beautiful for situation," so the Divinity Hall moved from place to
place till the church in her unity and prosperity provided a
beautiful and, we trust, a permanent home for it in Pine Hill. The
present Principal and Professor of Theology is Rev. Clarence
Mackinnon, D. D., a native of Pictou County.
The Presbyterian College, Halifax, is the child of the several
branches of the Presbyterian Church of the Maritime Provinces, once
separated but now happily united. It had its origin in. the humble
theological school in Pictou nearly a century ago, and since its
beginning, has sent out over four hundred ministers, who have gone
to almost every part of the land. The good old fathers of the church
who founded and maintained this school of learning have left us a
splendid educational heritage, and we owe them the debt of a
Pictonians at Home and Abroad, 1914