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Memoir of the Rev James MacGregor D.D.
Appendix F. History of Parish of St. James, N. B.


(From the Colonial Presbyterian.)

On the 16th May, 1803, we bade adieu to nil that was dear to us in Assynt and Ederachilis,—two parishes in Sutherlandshire, Scotland. We sailed for Wilmington, North Carolina, with clear sky and fair wind, which soon made the land of birth look small to us. The godly Niel Morrison, whose praise was in the churches at home, being one of us, before sunset, called the passengers below to worship God. We sung a portion of the 45th psalm:

O daughter, hearken and regard,
And do thine car incline;
Likewise- forget thy father’s house
And people that are thine.

Then read a chapter and prayed: this practice was continued invariably during a passage of twelve weeks. The different heads of families prayed in their (urn. Every Sabbath a sermon was read on deck. Beating against head winds on half allowance, we were at last getting tired—spoke a ship and learned that the yellow fever was raging in New York and Southern States. We protested against going any farther South, and arrived in Boston 16th of August. The wharf was thronged by gentlemen and ladies from morning till night, eager to employ the young of both sexes. Men with families were kindly treated by gentlemen looking out dwellings for them. Five families went to Carolina, expecting their friends there would help them, but found them no more than able to help themselves. The rest heard of a large tract of land in Kennebcck, State of Maine. They embarked for Thomaston, but on arrival found terms did not suit. Had to winter there, being late in the season. Being informed of vacant crown land on the Schoodic river, they embarked in Spring and soon found themselves once more on British ground. At that time no land was thought worth 'accepting save hard-wood land, and as they were deter mined if possible to settle together, a sufficient quantity of land could not be found nearer than the Chiputnetieook Ridges. The land was examined by the assistance of a guide and pleased well, but on returning from it, it was ascertained that there were three claimants for it. Sadly disappointed and bordering on despair, they were told of a large tract of land back of Digby, N. S. Embarked for Digby—making the third passage since landing in Boston. Again they were disappointed ; the land was taken up in blocks by rich men, and with their purses empty they could not locate themselves together in that place. Three families settled at Bread Cove. The rest were faint yet pursuing. They paused at Annapolis Bay, not knowing what was in the wheel of Providence for them. Most of the men of wealth in St. Andrews were Scotch. When they heard of the immigrants’ departure from N. B. they were very angry; hired a schooner and sent her after them at their own expense, and brought them back to St. Stephen. They built quite a little village of log houses on the bank of the river until they could do better. A remonstrance accompanied by Petition, was sent to Fredericton. No decisive answer had been given to the Petition until the House of Assembly met. The late Ninian Lindsay, Esq., was one of the members from Charlotte at that time. Arriving in Fredericton his first push was towards Government House, and laying the case plainly before the Governor, he said the immigrants must have the land petitioned for. There were three claimants to the land. The late Joseph Porter was one of them, and his first act of kindness to the settlers was the surrender of his claim for their sukes. The others adhered to the claim. However, the late Donald MacDonald, Esq., being a real Highlander, a Lawyer, and a Crown Land Surveyor, obtained an order of survey. Heading his Highland crew to the spot, he built a camp outside of Mark’s grant. The two claimants appeared and forbade his proceeding any further. He told them to mind their own business, and he would mind his. He had his orders and he would execute them. The survey was made, and lots east who should be served first. They then proceeded with the distribution. In laying out the Scotch Ridge a quantity of 200 acres was allowed to husband and wife, and 50 acres for every child. The late Benjamin Pomroy, who had four sons married, and two sons in law, natives, obtained an order of survey on a ridge one mile West of it—the present Pomroy Ridge. The immigrants wrote to their friends who stayed behind, (in the States and Nova Scotia,) how they fared at last. This intelligence brought them along, and they got land on the Basswood Ridge, two miles East, and on the Little Ridge, three miles West, bounded by the St. Croix. But then they were discontented as they could not be together. Three miles through thick woods was too great a distance to admit of their being neighbours, and so the men of the Scotch Ridge changed with them one hundred acres on the Scotch Ridge for one hundred acres on the Little Ridge. Now they were happy. They then spotted a line of road, shunning every swamp, cutting under-brush only, built a large camp to eat and sleep together until each would have a spot clear to build a house and plant potatoes. They worked together in crews, doing equal justice to caeh individual. One week they worked at St. Stephen and Calais, earning supplies for the following one. Having obtained these they would start on Monday morning with their heavy packs carrying them full 12 miles. They continued this plan during the Fall of 1804, and Spring and Summer of 1805. It was at this time that the late Joseph Porter and Colin Campbell, Esqrs., endeared themselves to the immigrants by many acts of kindness. They both had stores, and whatever the settlers wanted they could have for labour, or otherwise whenever they got able. And seldom would they employ any other than the immigrants. In the Fall of 1805 they moved into the wilderness, carrying their children on their backs, and their various necessaries, such as they had, in the same way as they had long done. They found an excellent crop of their own planting for digging. But they could nut forget that the Israelites were guided in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so when the Sabbath came they all met in one house. The master of the house commenced the worship of God by singing, reading a chapter and prayer. Then sung and read a sermon ; and concluded by singing and prayer by one of the hearers. Then they agreed to keep one day in a fortnight as a question day. These questions would be similar to the following. After singing, reading a chapter and prayer, the leader would ask if any one had a word working in his mind that he would like to hear the brethren upon. One would answer, The apostle says, “ I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” I would wish to hear some distinguishing marks between the man whose zeal is according to knowledge, and whose zeal is not, as God may reveal it to your own souls. The leader would call on them one after another, and some would have such utterance given them, that all could not speak in one day. There would be at least three prayers. This was continued so long as we were as sheep without a shepherd. The godly Niel Morrison heard of the success of his follow passengers, and soon rejoined them. Also five of the families that went to Carolina made their appearance. Mr. Morrison used to take every alternate day in leading worship.

In the year 1810, I found myself on the Scotch Ridge, when a portion of the foregoing history of the wanderings of the settlers was given to me. From that time I can write from observation, and participation in all the struggles, joys, and sorrows of St. James. At the time of my arrival I learned that there were twenty persons who observed the worship of Goa in their families.

The grant of land was issued in 1812, and parish officers found it inconvenient to have St. Stephen so extensive. It was divided next winter, and the parish of St. James formed from a part of it. About this time the lamented McDonald died, and his intimate friend Colin Campbell. Esq., succeeded him, as Crown Land Surveyor; and laid out Oak-hill for natives of St. Stephen. In 1813-14, the crops failed, and nothing could be got from Calais on account of the war. In a general election which occurred, it was said that Joseph Porter, Esq., did not miss a Scotchman’s vote iii the county. When he was declared elected, a man called him the Scotch member. Mr. Porter thanked him and said. “I am proud of that title.” The year 1815 bordered upon famine : many herbs and roots seldom used as food were sought after and obtained. Mr. Porter managed to get 200 bushels of corn into his grist mill; would not sell a bushel of it to lumbermen. He said that oxen and horses could eat hay, but poor men’s children could not.

By this time the road to St. Stephen was straightened and made shorter and more passable. Horses could now carry a load on their backs. Rev. D. MacCaul, whose ministry the immigrants attended at St. Stephen, was therefore able occasionally to visit St. James on week-days and preach. Rev. Dr. MacGregor, of Pictou, visited us, and administered the Lord’s Sup. per. Some years after, Rev. Mr. Sprott visited us; next Rev. Mr. MacCallum came twice, and administered the sacrament each time. Having but two elders, Rev. Mr. Wilson, who came to this province from the North of Ireland, ordained five additional elders and administered the sacrament. In 1825 the Report of the Glasgow Colonial Society reached us, holding out inducements of supply to settlers in the Colonies. We thanked God and took courage. Held a meeting to consider what could be done about building a church. One thought it could be done: another, that it was visionary. One thought that He who sent the fish with a piece of money in his mouth to Peter’s hook would send us help; another, that we might build a small church, but not a large one; a third, that we could build a large church easier than a small one; that friends would be more liberal in aiding us, and we could have a bolder face to beg for a respectable building than for a mean one. It might be said of St. James in those days:

Behold how good a thing it is
And how becoming well,
Together, such as brethren are In unity to dwell. —Ps. 133.

All longed to see the one object accomplished. It was finally agreed to erect a building, 42x36, 17 feet post, with end gallery, and a tower. A subscription list was opened—the old men signing from £5 to £10 in labour and materials. We had a goodly number of young men who had no wives to make them drag heavily, and they went into it like the 42d going to battle. A man was sent to St. Stephen with a paper, and the third day came home with £75 subscribed. Another man was sent to St. John, St. Andrews, &c. People were astonished at our courage and success, for to many the object seemed visionary. Being late in the season we postponed building till next summer.

In January 1826 our brightest star, Niel Morrison, was called to his everlasting rest That was a day of mourning and weeping in St. James. Believing that death was near, he said to a brother elder, “You must take my place in the Sabbath services.” I watched with him the night before his death; in the morning had family worship with him. At the close of it, he stretched out his hand, drew me near, and said, “My dear-, never continue praying as long as you get words to utter. Many a time I have been splitting on that rock. Long prayers are a weariness to the carnal mind.” I mention this for the instruction of young converts. Aged experienced Christians generally make short comprehensive prayers.

Summer came, and every man and ox was up and doing. A frame was raised, underpinned, boarded, and the roof shingled and painted ; the tower boarded to the bell dock, and covered to keep the rain out until we could do better. Funds getting exhausted we were brought to a halt. We were reminded of the words of Dr. Watt:

We may expect some danger nigh
When we possess delight.

A Gaelic preacher, who laboured a few years in Pictou, appeared amongst us, saying that he had heard of us and felt anxious to give us a few weeks preaching. We received him with joy. Weeks passed—months—attachment growing stronger in some, suspicion springing up in the mind of others. The general attachment was so great that a call was spoken of. Our elders wished to see credentials before signing a call. He stated that these were in Pictou, but he would go and get them. He left and was gone about six weeks. Here I find a difficult task, viz., to deal with the inconsistency of the dead, and yet I cannot explain the case without doing so, more or less. We received a letter from a friend in St. John that he was in and about that city all the time under the influence of -.

He returned, but no credentials; they were lost. How hard to root out prejudice even in good people! A Gaelic minister in St. James it was impossible to part with. Here a division took place—the congregation and two elders, majority; four elders and their families, minority. Our school-house erected on an acre of land purchased in 1811 was large. It was intended for holding meetings. It was left with the majority for six months, on the condition that the minority should have it next six months. The latter knew that the former had godly men and women among them. They had the aged elder of Sutherlandshire with them, who seemed to have the Bible by heart, although he knew no letters, nor English. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and prayer were deemed the best recourse, in order to overcome the trouble. No application to the Presbytery was made, no violent language, nor public discussion. One party did indeed say that the other neither knew their Bibles, nor the principles of the Church of Scotland; that if the minister preached the truth on the Lord’s day, his failings during the week were nobody’s business. Loving brethren and sisters going to worship the same God, through the same Saviour, began to avoid each other. A third elder was ordained and added to the other two to strengthen—one more lamb-like could not be found. The dissenting elders, as they might be called, attended the ordination, said nothing, and after benediction walked off, followed by several men and women expressing sorrow that we should differ. By the expiration of six months the minister moved his quarters to the Basswood Ridge. The school-house was left, and occupied as proposed. The minority increased. This state of things continued nearly three years. At last the word of God came so forcibly to the aged elder that he could not resist. lie confessed his error of his own accord. After this the majority got to be a small minority. Mark here what a great injury one gifted man can do to a congregation. At last the minister took his leave. We then wrote to Rev. Dr. MacLean of St. Andrews to give us a day’s preaching. He was a good Gaelic scholar, came well prepared for the occasion and found us all in one house. Thus ended our first division, January, 1830.

Resolved to go forward with the building, a man was sent to Fredericton to solicit aid. He set off on horseback about January 20. On his arrival in Fredericton he met the late Colonel Wyre, and James Brown, Esq. They took him into the Assembly sleigh: drove to Government house, and introduced him to Sir Archibald Campbell who gave him .£10. He returned by way of St. John. There he found that his never failing friend Colin Campbell, then Editor of the Courant, published in St. Andrews, had in a conspicuous column given notice of his tour, the dimensions of the church, the weakness of the congregation, and wished him all success in his praise-worthy undertaking. The feeling of attachment between Messrs. Porter, Campbell, and the emigrants never was disturbed, it exists in their children, and I doubt not will go down to the third or fourth generation. The delegate from St. James brought home £54 in his pocket. Next Summer the walls were finished inside and out, lathed, floors laid, pulpit built. The church was seated with benches, and when prepared was opened by Dr. MacLean. But our young men were not pleased with the look of the church which as yet had no steeple. Although most of them wrought double their first subscriptions, they subscribed again the sum of £25 without consulting the old men, and beautified the church with a handsome spire. This made it a pleasant object to look from a distance, and it enlivened the neighbourhood in which it was placed. Meanwhile we sent a bond to Scotland, well signed, with a view to get a minister, and anxiously awaited the result.


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