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The Second Session

The next year the session was increased by the addition of Donald McKay and Peter Grant of the East River. Robert Marshall and Kenneth Fraser of the Middle River, John McLean and Hugh Fraser of the West River and John Patterson of the Harbor. They were ordained on May 6, 1787.

During the summer, the people built two log churches, the first in the county. The one was situated near the site of the old Duff Cemetery, a short distance above New Glasgow; the other on the Loch Broom side of the West River, beside a brook, on land, owned at that time, by William MacKenzie, who gave the site. Dr. McGregor describes the building of these churches. During the month of July 1787, the men were chiefly engaged in building the two meeting houses. Instead of having contractors, to build them, they agreed to divide the work among themselves. One party cut the logs and hauled them to the site; another hewed and laid them; another provided the shingles; those who had knowledge of carpentering made the doors and the windows; the glass and nails were bought. Moss was stuffed between the logs to keep out the wind and rain. The churches at first had no pulpits, and, when they were provided at a later date, they were not of mahogany, but of the white pine of Pictou. The buildings were some thirty-five or forty feet long, by twenty-five to thirty feet wide. The only seats in them were logs of wood with the upper side hewed. It is unnecessary to state that they were without cushions. There was a gallery, or rather, an upper story, with a floor seated with logs and slabs to which the young went up by ladders.

Such were the first two churches of Pictou. They had no modem improvements. Even the luxury of a fire in winter was unknown. There were no carriages and no roads at that date Our dear mothers in Israel walked to church, or went by boat or horseback, in bonnet and shawl and gingham dress. The music was far from pretentious. The preacher and his sermon would now be considered antiquated. But the writer of this volume is old fashioned enough to think that no sweeter praise and prayers ever ascended to God than these devout pioneers offered in glen and glade and primitive building.

With all our knowledge and progress, we have not got beyond them in essentials.

In 1803, the old log church near New Glasgow was replaced by a frame building at Irishtown, (now called Plymouth). Here Dr. McGregor built a house made of brick, the first of its kind in the Eastern part of the Province. He employed a man from the old country to make the brick. Here he lived till near the close of his life. The fact that Dr. McGregor received no salary until he had been over a year at work did not prevent him from doing his whole duty as a minister. His salary was to be eighty pounds for the first two years, ninety for the third and fourth and one hundred pounds currency per year thereafter, which was a very generous allowance for that time, more particularly in a new and struggling settlement. The salary at first was raised by an assessment on lands and cattle. With certain changes this was continued till 1815, when the method of obtaining the salary was changed to voluntary subscription.

On the 27th day of July, 1788, the first Sacrament was held at Middle River, in the open air. It was dispensed on a beautiful green plot, on the left bank of the river, sheltered by a lofty wood. Here one hundred and thirty sat down in Nature's great cathedral, for the first time in this new land, to own a Savior's dying love. There the sacred Supper was dispensed annually till 1795. At the first communion thirty-eight new communicants joined. Each year there were a few additions till, in 1793, the number had reached two hundred and forty. At the same time five hundred persons were under training with a view to becoming communicants.

In 1793 a census of the County was taken. In 1769, there had been 18 families and a total population of 120. In 1786, there were 90 families and about 500 people. In 1793, there were 178 families, a gain of one hundred per cent in seven years.

For nine years Dr. McGregor labored alone At the end of that time two young ministers arrived from Scotland, Revs. Duncan Ross and John Brown. They reached Pictou in the summer of 1795, and remained there for a little time to rest. Meantime the sacrament of the Supper was dispensed at Middle River. Messrs. Ross and Brown assisted in preaching and serving the tables.

The next step was for those three to organize a Presbytery. Accordingly, at the close of the sacrament, on Monday, July 7, 1795, Messrs. McGregor, Ross and Brown held a meeting in Robert Marshall's barn, and formed themselves into "The Associate Presbytery of Nova Scotia." On this occasion Dr. McGregor preached on Neh. 2:20, "The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build." The meetings of Presbytery were occasions of rich enjoyment. Business was apparently a secondary matter, at all events, for five years; they kept no minutes of their proceedings. But their meetings were scenes of hearty Christian fellowship and conference about the trials or successes of their work; intelligence from friends in the dear homeland, the new movement in Missions, the meaning of some particular text, or sometimes an hour of harmless mirth and merriment, these engaged their attention and made their meetings times of fraternal enjoyment.

Dr. McGregor and Mr. Ross were associate ministers for the county till July 14, 1801, when a division was made. Thereafter West and Middle Rivers formed one congregation, with Mr. Ross as minister. East River, another, with Dr. McGregor in charge; and the Harbor a third, to be supplied by these two till another minister could be secured.

In Nov. 1803, Rev. Dr. Thos. McCulloch, with his wife and three children, arrived at Pictou from Scotland. His coming was a great event in the ecclesiastical and educational history of the County, as well as in that of the Province. He had been assigned to Prince Edward Island, but owing to the lateness of the season, he was unable to secure passage. He was engaged to supply the Harbor congregation till spring. Before winter was over, the people gave him a call, and he was inducted as their minister, June 6, 1804. The town of Pictou, at this time, consisted of something over .a dozen houses, a few barns, a blacksmith shop and the Court House. There was no church, and the people met in private dwellings and other places. Until that time the people of the Harbor had worshipped in the log church at Loch Broom, but they now set about the erection of a church of their own, and a frame building was built on the lot at present occupied by Prince St. Church. That building served the congregation till 1848, when the existing church was erected. Dr. McCulloch resigned in 1824 to give his whole time to educational work. He was succeeded by Rev. John McKinlay who continued in charge till his death, 1850. He in turn was succeeded by Rev. James Bayne, D.D. Mr. McKinlay was a native of Scotland, and came to this country in 1817. For several years he was a teacher in Pictou Academy before he became pastor of the Harbor church.

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Pictonians at Home and Abroad, 1914

 

Pictou County


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