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The Country Academy Period

In 1885 the "Act to Encourage Academic Education" consolidated the County Academy system of the Province and provided a scale of grants somewhat proportional to the equipment and educational work of each academy. The Pictou Academy was qualified for the highest scale of grant which was an advance upon the previous special Academic grant. In 1885 Mr. McInnes was succeeded by Mr. Humphrey Mellish, B. A., also at present a prominent member of the Halifax Bar. In the same year a fourth teacher became necessary and Mr. Isaac Gammell, B. A., was appointed as instructor in English and History. Three years later, in 1888, Mr. Mellish was succeeded by R. M. Langille, B. A.; and David Soloan, B. A., was appointed to the position vacated by Mr. Gammell, who accepted a position in the Montreal High School which he still holds; and Mr. Fraser was succeeded by J. C. Shaw, B. A.

It may be here mentioned that a great boom was given to the Academy between the years 1880 and 1891 by the Munro Exhibitions and Bursaries offered for competition to students matriculating into the University of Dalhousie. Five Exhibitions of the value of $400 each and ten bursaries of $300 each were presented annually by George Munro, of New York, (an old Pictou Academy student by the way). Pictou Academy was always successful in winning the lion's share of these prizes.

In 1889 Principal MacKay resigned to take the principal-ship of Halifax Academy, which he held for two years and was then appointed Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia. At the same time Mr. Langille and Mr. Shaw resigned; the former to enter upon practice of Law and the latter to take a teaching position in Vancouver, where he shortly afterwards died. Robert Maclellan was appointed principal and instructor in Ancient Classics and modem languages; Mr. V. S. Frazee, B. A., took commercial branches and mathematics and Mr. H. M. MacKay, B. A., mathematics and science.

In 1891 Mr. Frazee and Mr. Soloan resigned, the former to take a teaching position in Providence, and the latter to the Principal-ship of the Presbyterian College in St. John's, Nfd. Mr. Frazee was succeeded by A. O. Macrae, B. A., and Mr. Soloan by A. C. L. Oliver, B. A. H. M. MacKay resigned in 1892 to take a course in engineering in McGill College, in which he won very high standing, distancing all competitors. Mr. C. L. Moore succeeded Mr. MacKay in the mathematical and science department. In 1893 C. B. Robinson, B. A., succeeded Mr. Macrae, who resigned that year to take up the study of theology. He is at present principal of a college in Calgary.

On October 26, 1895, the Academy building was set on fire by lightning, and all the walls destroyed. In addition to the destruction of the building, interesting records and the greater part of a valuable museum were lost. This apparent calamity resulted in good. The building had become inadequate to the advancing requirements of the work.

The people of Pictou responded heroically to the call thus made on them and the present building, double the size of the former, was erected in the summer of 1896 and was ready for occupancy in the beginning of 1897. In the autumn of 1896, A. C. L. Oliver, one of the best loved teachers the Academy has ever had, was cut off by typhoid fever in the flower of his age and usefulness. He was succeeded by H. P. Duchemin, B. A. In 1897 Mr. Robinson resigned to follow a post graduate course in Science in Cambridge, England; and H. M. MacKay, with the degree of B. Sc., from McGill, returned to take his place and remained till Mr. Robinson's return in 1899. In the same year Mr. Moore resigned to take a post graduate course in Science at Johns Hopkins, and was succeeded by J. T. McLeod, who taught for one year and was followed by H. F. Munro, B. A. In 1901 Mr. Duchemin resigned to engage in the practice of law in Sydney in partnership with Mr. C. L. Moore, who had meanwhile dropped science for law. Mr. Duchemin was succeeded by R. S. Boehner, B. A. In 1906, Dr. Robinson accepted an important position under the U. S. Government in connection with botanical work in the Philippines, and W. P. Fraser, B. A., was appointed to succeed him. In December 21, 1913, he was killed by the natives of the Philippine Islands, while on a botanical expedition.

In 1905 Mr. Fraser and Mr. Boehner both resigned, the former to complete his course in Cornell, the latter to take the position of chemical demonstrator in McGill. Angus McLeod, Esq., who had been for a number of years the efficient principal of Kentville Academy was appointed to the mathematical department and Mr. C. L. Moore, who had soon wearied of the quirks of the law, returned to his old love, the teaching of science. He remained, however, only a few years, tempted by a much higher salary to take the supervisorship of the Sydney Schools. He is now Prof. in Biology, University of Dalhousie, Halifax, and Dean of the Rural Science Faculty in the Provincial Normal College at Truro.

In 1907 Mr. McLeod accepted the principal-ship of the Canso High School, and was succeeded by R. H. McLeod, Esq., a graduate of Pictou Academy with an excellent record as a successful teacher, and Mr. W. P. Fraser, B. A., returned to fill the science department vacated by Mr. Moore. Mr. Fraser is now on the staff of the Macdonald College, Quebec. On account of ill health Mr. McLeod resigned in 1909, and as no regularly qualified successor could be obtained the department was conducted by three substitutes in succession, J. L. Tanch, Norman Robson and John G. McLean. The present staff of Pictou Academy includes Robert Maclellan, LL. D., foreign languages; John Crerar McDonald, sciences; Howard Hersey Mussells, B. A., Mathematics; Robert Ebenezer Inglis, B. A., English.

Looking back over the history of the academy we can see how great its influence upon the country has been. It has been an important factor in its religious and political development. Though crushed and oft times defeated, yet out of the struggles have come a great inheritance. It is estimated at least over five or six thousand students have passed through its halls. More than three hundred of these have entered the Gospel ministry, men who have not only done valiant work in the homeland, but have distinguished themselves in Foreign fields. Its lawyers, doctors, politicians, merchants and mechanics, are to be found in every quarter of the globe.

Confining ourselves to the students of the olden time, we find the academy giving the world among others, Sir T. D. Archibald, baron of the English court of Exchequer; Judge Ritchie, of the Supreme court of Canada; Sir A. G. Archibald, Governor of Nova Scotia; Judge Young of Charlottetown; Jotham Blanchard; Geo. R. Young; Sir J. W. Dawson, President of McGill University; Dr. Ross, Dalhousie; D. M. Gordon, D. D., of Queen's University; President Ross Hill, of the State University of Missouri; Dr. Robinson, Chief Superintendent of Education for British Columbia. These are only a few of the more prominent names of the past. There are hosts of men of later days, whose names stand high in business and professional life.

Not only in men but in measures is the Academy notable. From the crushed Pictou Academy sprang the non-sectarian Dalhousie College, now a large provincial University. The little class in theology first started by Dr. McCulloch was the germ of Pine Hill, the Halifax Presbyterian Theological College. The impetus given and the interest awakened in the cause of Education by the Academy, has made Pictou County ever since the banner spot of Nova Scotia educationally. The present Pictou Academy is still doing a noble work. When its centenary is celebrated, from every part of the country, its children will turn to it with warm hearts and sincere appreciation.

Pictonians at Home and Abroad, 1914


Pictou County

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