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Memoir of the Rev James MacGregor D.D.
Chapter IV. - State of Nova Scotia, before at at the time of his arrival


“A land of brooks of waters, of fountains, and depths that spring out of valleys and hills—a land whose stones are iron and out of -whose hills thou rnayest dig brass.”—Deut. viii. 7, 9.

The province of Nova Scotia, according to its present limits, lies within the latitudes of 48° and 47° north, and the longitudes of 60° and 67° west. It consists of a Peninsula, usually known as Nova Scotia proper, connected with the continent by an isthmus twelve miles wide, and the island of Cape Breton, separated from the mainland by a narrow passage, called the Strait of Canso. In length it extends a distance of about three hundred and fifty miles, and its average breadth is about seventy. But from the extent to which it is out into by inlets of the sea, and the amount of surface in the interior occupied by rivers and lakes, its superficial extent is not so large as might be expected. Its computed area is 18,600 square miles, or about 12,000,000 acres.

Along the southern coast, the shore is generally rugged, but it seldom rises into steep cliffs, so that the general aspect is not romantic or sublime, yet it is generally picturesque, and in many places the scenery is rich and beautiful. In the interior the country is generally traversed by hills, •which however scarcely ever rise to the height of mountains, the highest elevation being estimated at fifteen hundred feet above the level of the sea. From these flow down many small streams, which, though not long in their course, render the country one of the best watered on the face of the earth, and being generally navigable for small vessels, afford great conveniences for trade. The surface also is much broken by innumerable lakes, so that the general aspect of the province is that of a hilly country, agreeably diversified with hill and dale, river and lake, forest and grassy glade.

In respect to soil and fitness for agricultural purposes, Nova Scotia presents a great variety. Along the whole Atlantic coast it is barren and stony, but in the interior the soil is generally capable of cultivation, and much of it, especially on the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is of the very best quality. Many of the hills are fertile to their summits, while the richness and beauty of many of the valleys cannot be surpassed. The province, however, is chiefly remarkable for its immense mineral resources. These, with its valuable fisheries, and its convenient situation for trade, will yet render it one of the most important commercial and manufacturing places of the new world.

The climate of Nova Scotia, like that of America generally, possesses the characteristic of having a higher temperature iu summer and a lower in winter than the same latitudes of the old world. From its position on the coast it has more humidity than places in the interior of the continent, and for the same reason has not the extremes of heat and cold, which prevail in the neighbouring provinces. The most unfavourable impressions have been abroad regarding its climate. It has been represented as enveloped in fog, covered so deeply with snow as to render travelling impracticable, and bound for the most of the year in the chains of frost. Nothing can be more unfounded. The fogs which prevail on the southern coast at certain seasons do not extend inland, so that at the distance of a dozen miles from the shore there will be clear air and brilliant sunshine, at the very time that thick fogs come upon the coast from the sea, while on the northern coast there is not on an average above one day’s fog in the year. Though the winter is more severe than in Britain, yet it is not so much so as in the neighbouring provinces or in portions of the north-eastern States. Of the healthiness of the climate there can be no question. There are no diseases peculiar to the country, and epidemics or other diseases do not rage with peculiar virulence, while those violent and protracted intermittent fevers, prevalent in other parts of America, arc never generated here, and those afflicted with them will on their removal to Nova Scotia entirely recover in a short time.

For some time after its discovery, Nova Scotia received but little attention from Europeans. When it did attract notice, the first attempts at colonization were made by the French. At that time, under the name of Acadia, it embraced not only what is now included under the government of Nova Scotia, but also Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. As early as the year 1606, they sent forth an expedition for the purpose of colonization, and though the settlement of the country was interrupted by the uncertain tenure by which it was held, it being alternately in the possession of the English and French, yet in the early part of the last century their settlements had made considerable progress.

In the year 1713 Nova Scotia was finally ceded to Britain. But the French still retained Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, and claimed a large portion of New Brunswick. From this time efforts were made by the English for the colonization of Nova Scotia, but for some time with but little success, in consequence of the hostility of the French and the deadlier hostility of the Indians, who were leagued with them. The first effectual attempt of importance made by the former was at Chebueto, since called Halifax, by Lord Cornwallis, who, in 1749, landed a body of 3760 persons, chiefly disbanded soldiers and sailors. About the same time invitations were sent to various parts of Europe, inviting Protestants to settle in the British provinces. In consequence, a large number of Germans arrived in this province, who principally settled at Lunenburg. A few of them however reached the eastern part of the province.

We need scarcely remark, that the early settlement of the country was attended with great toil and privation. The majestic primeval forest, which covered the whole surface of the ground, seemed an almost insuperable barrier to the cultivation of the soil. The difficulties of forming a home in such a situation would not now appear very formidable to those brought up in the new States or the frontier settlements of America. But thoso who came from an old country, entirely unacquainted with such a mode of life, and unaccustomed to the use of the gun or the axe, were in very different circumstances. The winter seemed to them terrible. Of a severity of which they had in the old country no conception, ill provided either with clothing or shelter against its inclemency, and with none of the facilities for locomotion, which the inhabitants now possess, we need not wonder that it was at first regarded as truly appalling. More fearful still was the hostility of the Indians. The first settlers could scarcely enter the neighbouring woods without being either shot, scalped, or taken prisoners. When the latter was their fate, torture and death were their lot, or if spared, they were dragged by long marches through trackless forests, suffering intolerable hardships, and were finally sold to the French as merchandise, in exchange for arms and ammunition. The French inhabitants, who remained in the province, had taken an oath of neutrality; but under the continual instigation of their countrymen in Canada and Cape Breton, and especially of their priests, they were excited to acts of hostility, which led the government in the year 1755, to remove them from the province and disperse them over the other colonies.

In the year 175S Louisburg was taken by the British, and Cape Breton and all Prince Edward Island immediately passed under the English sway. In the year 1761 a formal treaty of peace was made with the Indians, and the hatchet buried with due solemnity. These events prepared the way for the peaceable settlement of the country. About the years 1760 and 1761, in consequence of the invitations of Governor Lawrence, a large number of persons removed from the old American colonies, particularly Connecticut and Massachusetts, attracted especially by the fertile lands from -which the French Acadians had been driven. These settled Horton, Cornwallis, Falmouth, Newport, Truro, Onslow, and some other portions of the province. About the same time Colonel Alexander MacNutt brought out a few families of north of Ireland people who settled in Londonderry, giving that township the name of their native place. A few of the same people also settled at Noel, on the opposite side of the bay, and have extended through Colchester and part of Hants and Halifax counties. In the year 1773 came the ship Hector to Pictou, the first emigrant vessel from Scotland to this province. Since that time the emigration from Scotland has been so constant, that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the eastern portion of Nova Scotia are either Scotch or of Scottish descent, and probably more than half of the inhabitants of the whole province are of the same character.

These successive settlements considerably increased the population, yet from the failure of land speculations in subsequent years, and from the American revolutionary war the province rather retrograded, so that in 1781 the English population was estimated at only 12,000. The conclusion of the American war brought a large influx of population. Several regiments which had served in the war were disbanded, and received grants of land in various parts of the province. And large numbers of refugees, or loyalists as they called themselves, preferring the protection of the British Government, removed to Nova Scotia. Of this class it was estimated that 20,000 landed during the years 1783 and 1784. A number of these afterwards removed from the province, and in the latter year, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton were formed into separate governments. So that the population of the province at the time of his arrival would probably not exceed 30,000.

From this account of the early colonization of the province, our readers will have a view of the extent to which it was settled at the time of Dr. MacGregor’s arrival, and the classes by which it was first peopled. There was Halifax—containing a mixed population of three or four thousand—to the westward was Lunenburg settled by Germans. The other leading places in the west, as well as Onslow and Truro, were settled by emigrants from the old colonies, especially New England. Londonderry was settled by north of Ireland people, and a few of the same class had occupied some neighbouring portions of Colchester and Hants counties. Amherst and portions of Cumberland had received a body of emigrants from Yorkshire and other places in the north of England, while Pictou and some portions of Hants had been settled by emigrants from Scotland. Eastward of Pictou, except the remnants of Acadian French in Cape Breton, there was scarcely a settlement worthy of notice. Even the settlements referred to were small, and the ground they occupied appeared but as spots upon the face of the country.

We must, however, give some account of the moral and religious condition of the inhabitants. From what has been said, it will be seen that there was much in the persons by whom the province was settled unfavourable to its social well being. A large proportion of the population consisted of disbanded soldiers and sailors, who were not only unfitted by the idle habits acquired in the army and navy for any employment requiring industry and perseverance, but introduced wide-spread profligacy. Then a portion of the refugees, or loyalists as they were called, were very undeserving the honour they received. Many of them doubtless left their homes in the old colonies from a sincere attachment to British rule, and were men of high principle. But others had joined the British cause from the hope of plunder under British protection. There was no class whom the Americans so detested,—and from what we have heard of some of them in Nova Scotia, we believe that this character was not undeserved.

But “when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Among the emigrants from different quartern, were many who feared God, and loved his ordinances. The settlers from the old colonies, who arrived both before and after the Revolutionary war, brought with them not only the steady habits and the enterprise of New England, but the religious principles of their Puritan forefathers. The Germans carried hither the simple faith from which the churches of the Fatherland had not then departed, while the Scotch and Scotch Irish as thoroughly transplanted to this western wilderness the sturdy Presbyterianism for which their covenanting forefathers had shed their blood.

Already the gospel standard was raised by ministers of different denominations. The Church of England had its ministers in the province from the time that it was first settled, supported partly by the British Government, and partly by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. A few old Methodists who had emigrated from England, began about the year 1779 to hold meetings among themselves for prayer and exhortation. Through these meetings several persons were raised up as exhorters and occasional preachers. Among these was Mr. Wm. Black, who was shortly after accepted as a regular preacher, and was at this time, with several others, labouring in various parts of the province. There were also a few Congregationalist ministers in the Western part of the province. Several Presbyterian clergymen had also arrived. The Rev. Andrew Brown, afterward Professor of Rhetoric in the University of Edinburgh, had arrived the same year, and was preaching in Halifax to a mixed congregation of Scottish Presbyterians and New England Congregationalists and three ministers of the Burgher Synod were already prosecuting their labours.' The Baptist body, though now one of the most numerous and influential in the province, had but few ministers or churches, but that important movement, in which most of the Baptist churches of the province originated, viz., the rise of what were called the New Lights, had just reached its height. Without some account of this, it would be impossible to give any thing like a view of the early state of the province in a religious point of view.

This movement originated with an individual named Henry Alline, who commenced of his own notion, or as he regarded it, by the call of the Spirit of God, to preach, as early as the year 177G. He first preached at Falmouth where he had previously resided, and about Cornwallis and Horton. Having gained adherents in these places, the people took .measures to have him ordained, but difficulties having arisen on the part of the clergymen applied to, he was ordained an itinerant preacher, by some laymen.

Shortly after he published his peculiar views in a book entitled, "Two mites on some of the most important and much disputed points of divinity, east into the treasury for the poor and needy, and committed to the perusal of the unprejudiced and impartial reader, by Henry Alline, servant of the Lord to his churches.” There are but few copies of this work now in existence, and we have never had the perusal of one; but we have seen a considerable volume in reply to it, by the Rev. Jonathan Scott, of Yarmouth, which contains copious extracts from it. It is not easy to give a clear statement of his views, for his notions were so crude, that he could not have defined them clearly himself. At one time he is an Arminian, and at another time professes to confute their views. It may be said, however, that he either denied all the leading doctrines of Christianity, or so misrepresented them that he might as well have denied them. The doctrines of election and the divine decrees he especially assailed, and he has shown more than the usual ignorance on the subject. The doctrine of original sin he professed to hold, but explained it in the following manner: All the souls of the human race were emanations from or parts of the one great Spirit,—and were actually present in Eden at the making and breaking of the covenant, that we all acted for ourselves on that occasion, and thus all the souls that have ever lived or will ever live in the world, were actually in the first transgression. He supposed that our first parents were pure spirits, and that the material world was not then made. But, in order that mankind, in consequence of the fall, might not sink into utter destruction, this world was produced, and men clothed with material bodies, and in them enjoy a state of probation for immortal happiness. Conversion he explained as Christ’s “changing and taking possession of the inmost soul, which is at the time of the change completely sanctified.” The reason why man after conversion is not without sin, he explained thus, “Man in his fallen state consists of body, soul, and spirit, an animal or elemental body, a spiritual and immortal body, and an immortal mind. And at the hour of conversion, the Son of God takes possession of the inmost soul or immortal mind, but leaveth the fallen immortal body in its fallen state still.” he denied the resurrection of the “elemental bodies,” and maintained that they would be dissolved and burnt up. He denied the utility of water baptism, but sometimes practised it when desired.

There were other subjects on which he broached some peculiar views, but the above will be sufficient to show the crudeness of his notions. Indeed the extracts from his writings that we have seen, would almost indicate unsoundness of mind. Yet he was possessed of a lively and earnest mode of address as a preacher, and in private his manner was very attractive to ordinary people, so that he excited great attention wherever he went. Refusing any thing like a pastoral charge, he traversed the then settled parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, preaching his own doctrines, or preaching on the ordinary subjects of Christian doctrine and keeping his peculiar views in the background, depreciating the regular ministers of the gospel or denouncing them in the lowest terms, urging separation from other communions and forming societies after his own model. So successful was he that there was scarcely a place that he visited, in which he did not make a breach in the religious societies already formed, to whatever denomination they might belong. After prosecuting this course for several years, he went to the United States in September 1783, and died on the February following, having established a small scct in that country -who continued for a time under the name of Allinites.

With all his fanaticism we have reason to believe that he was a good man; and as he preached the necessity of regeneration, and that in an earnest and impressive manner, at a time and in places where there was a great want of sound gospel ministrations, we may hope that through his instrumentality souls were added to the Lord. Yet the good he did was accompanied by much evil, if not more than counterbalanced by it. Every where he filled the minds of people with delusive notions— puffing up the most ignorant with extraordinary self-conceit of their spiritual enlightenment, and substituting the fancies of a disordered imagination for the faith and holiness of the gospel, and exciting to every extravagance, that would render their religious proceedings a mockery. Every where he excited division in other Christian societies, so that Mr. Scott, in his work referred to, says, ‘‘Not only is our land overspread with tenets and principles, which by their plain construction and meaning, and their most natural and direct tendency, overthrow and destroy the doctrines of divine revelation, but also this Province is overspread with religious contentions, divisions, and separations, so that there is scarcely a church or religious community in the Province, but what our author has broken in upon, and drawn off a party from it by some means or other.” We need not therefore wonder that he and his followers were, by other denominations, generally regarded as enemies of the church.

It will be seen that the founder of the sect had passed away a short time previous to Dr. MacGregor’s arrival; but under the teachers whom he had commissioned, the -movement was just at its height. If it is difficult to give a clear account of his doctrines, it is more difficult to give an account of the doctrines of his followers, as they not only differed from him, but from one another; and under the claim to superior illumination from which they derived their name, each new teacher proclaimed his own fancies as the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

The Presbytery of Pictou, in a letter some years later, thus describe them: “It is impossible to give any just account of their principles, because like the lips of the strange woman their 'ways are movable' that you cannot know them. Their chief topics are plunging and conversion, concerning the last of which they entertain very extravagant notions. They evidently differ from one another in their sentiments, while they profess to be agreed—yea, the very same persons affect to believe things contradictory, and every new teacher or succeeding day brings a new doctrine.” Dr. MacGregor afterwards describes their sentiments as “a mixture of Calvinism, Antinomianism, and enthusiasm.” This seems to be the most correct account of them that we have seen.

In general it may be said of them that in their teaching they were characterized by the use of Antinomian paradoxes, such as that sin would never hurt a believer—that a believer was not bound by the law—that God loved a believer even when falling into the vilest sins—and that such were sure of salvation however they lived; that in their religious proceedings they were characterized by the wildest extravagance, and that in their outward conduct, many carried out their principles to their legitimate issue. A missionary of the London Missionary Society, who came in contact with them some years later, thus describes them, “They deny the divine rite of infant baptism; they maintain that conviction is conversion—that after they are converted they are freed from the performance of every Christian duty—and that they are sure of salvation though they live in the neglect of every command, and daily practice every vice, so that among them Sabbath breaking, swearing, drinking, and such like sins, are not considered sins against the blessed God.” This picture of their moral principles, if applied to the whole, may be considered overcharged, but it was too true of a large portion of them.

We may add in explanation, that most of the churches founded by them afterward received Baptist teachers, and adopted Baptist views. They thus abandoned the notions of their founder, and since that time the extravagance which marked the origin of the movement has been toned down, and they have become more fixed in their theological principles. From these most of the Baptist churches, particularly those of the Free Will Baptists and Free Christian Baptists, in the Lower Provinces originated. A few, however, continued under the original standard till a very recent period.

But we must give a more particular account of the early settlement of Pictou and its condition at this time. This fine county, which formed the principal sphere of Dr. MacGregor’s labours, and with the material and moral progress of which his name is so intimately associated, lies on the southern shore of the Straits of Northumberland. It is about forty miles long by about twenty in breadth. Its coast is indented by a number of harbours, the principal of which are River John, Carriboo, Pictou, and Merigomish. Into these flow River John, the East, West, and Middle Rivers of Pictou, and Sutherland, French, and Barney’s River of Merigormish, besides smaller streams, so that it is well watered throughout. Along the shore the land is generally level, but in the interior, ranges of hills extend in every direction, presenting scenery of the most varied and beautiful description. A range of higher elevation, being a branch of the Cobequid hills, extends along the western boundary. Another range traverses the southern portions of the county, which, though not rising to as great an elevation, has a broken and rocky appearance.

It has no marsh land, but along its rivers is much valuable intervals, and much of the upland soil even to the summits of the hills is fertile, and every where it is capable of cultivation. It has also abundance of mineral resources, especially coal, iron ore, freestone, gypsum, and limestone.

Although Pictou is now the first agricultural county in the province, and has a larger population than any other, with the exception of the Metropolitan county of Halifax, yet it was one of the latest in being settled. The French had made no permanent settlement there at all. They had visited the place, and, just before the final cession of Nova Scotia to the English, had made preparation fur occupying it, but they never accomplished their purpose.

In the year 17G5, a grant of 200,000 acres of land, embracing the western part of the county and part of the county of Colchester, was made to fourteen persons in the city of Philadelphia, usually known as the Philadelphia Company. Some of the shares were afterward transferred, so that the celebrated Dr. Witherspoon, and John Pagan of Greenock, became proprietors. The condition of their grant was that they should settle so many families upon it within a given time. Before however their grant was actually laid out, Col. MacNutt obtained a grant of a considerable block of land, where the town of Pictou now stands, and extending a considerable distance along the shore of the harbour. This grant was afterward transferred to Governor Patterson, and has been commonly known since as the Cochrane grant.

The Philadelphia company sent the first band of settlers to Pictou. They consisted of six families from the borders of Pennsylvania and Maryland, who sailed from Philadelphia in May 17G7, in a small vessel called the Hope, of Rhode Island, Captain Hull. Having been delayed by calling at Halifax to obtain information regarding the coast around, they reached Pictou Harbour on the 10th of June. The people of Truro having heard of them in Halifax, several persons set out to meet them and arrived at the harbour the same afternoon. They saw the vessel coming up the harbour, and kindled fires on the shore to attract those on board farther up. The latter saw the fires, but concluded that they were made by the savages, and held a consultation whether they should oppose them or submit to them, and resolved upon resistance.

On the following morning they saw the party from Truro coming alone shore, and by examining them with their spyglasses found that they were white people. That afternoon they landed at the point on Mr. Thomas Waller’s farm just above Halliburton stream. The prospect before them was dreary indeed. One unbroken forest extended to the water’s edge, an alder swamp occupied the lower portions of what is now the town of Pictou, and there were no inhabitants, but Indians, whom they feared as savages. Mrs. Patterson used to tell that she leaned her head against a tree, which stood on the point, in despair. She thought that if there was a broken hearted creature in the world, she was the one. It was, however, no time for giving way to despondency, and they commenced erecting their shanties and preparing for a settlement. They had a supply of provisions and each was allotted a farm lot. They discovered however that Governor Patterson had obtained the most eligible site for a town. They did however lay out a town at Waller’s Point already referred to, but it was never built.

Of the six families who came in the Hope, two removed to Truro, the remaining four set to work energetically to provide for their support, but of course little crop could be raised that season. For some time they obtained a large portion of their food by hunting, a work in which they usually had the assistance of the Indians, whose jealousy however it sometimes required all their address to allay; or by catching the fish with which the harbour and rivers abounded. On the following spring they proceeded to Truro for seed potatoes. Though the distance is only forty miles it required three days to perform the journey, there being no path, and they being the first even to make a blaze on their course. They carried home on their backs what they planted that year. The proceeds were not sufficient for their subsistence during the subsequent winter. In the following spring they again proceeded to Truro for a supply of seed, but they only brought the eyes, which they had scooped out of the potatoes. They could carry a large quantity of them, which yielded enough to keep them the following season.

The heads of the families which remained were Robert Patterson, Dr. John Harris, John Rogers, and John MacCabe. About a year after their arrival they were joined by two families from Truro, and two or three from Cumberland, and in the year 1771 a few more families removed from Philadelphia to join their brethren. Some trade also was carried on, but several got discouraged by the long and cold winters, so that little progress was made, till the arrival of the ship Hector, with passengers from Scotland in the year 1773, from which time the actual settlement of the place may be dated.

Some of the proprietors of the Philadelphia company offered liberal terms for the settlement of their grant. They made an agreement with one John Ross, by which they were to give him and every person he might bring to this country a certain quantity of land. These proposals were eagerly embraced by numbers, who knew not the hardships of settling a new country. About thirty families, most of them Highlanders, allured by the prospect of owning a farm, bade adieu to the land of their nativity, and arrived at Pictou on the 15th September following. The Hector had been ill provided, so that eighteen died during the passage and were cast into the sea, and when she arrived there were some either dying or dead. The latter were buried on the beach, while the living were landed at Brown’s point, without provisions, and left to provide shelter and food for themselves as best they might.

It being so late in the season when they arrived, of course no crop could be got into the ground that year. The Hector was immediately despatched to Philadelphia to bring back a supply of provisions. But by the time she returned, the settlers having found that the Philadelphia grant, which they had come to settle, extended far into the interior with only a small frontage on the shore, and that occupied by those who had previously arrived, they refused to occupy it. They were afraid of Indians and wild beasts, and besides, unprovided as they were with compasses, they were liable to be lost in the woods, and they were shut out from what they soon saw must for a time prove their principal dependance for subsistence, the fish in the harbour and rivers. When the Hector returned, and it was found that they had refused to settle the company’s grant, the provisions were refused. A jealousy also arose between them and the American settlers, so that the latter did not so readily render the assistance, which they might have done under other circumstances. A dispute also arose between Ross and the company. They refused his demands, and soon after he abandoned the passengers he had brought out, so that they were left without food, and entirely destitute of means to provide for themselves. And even difficulties were thrown in the way of their getting their grants, and being unaccustomed to hunting they were reduced to great distress. Most of them moved away to Truro, or places adjacent, and some even to Halifax and Windsor, to obtain by their labour the necessary means of support for their families. Some went that season, but others not till afterward. Those who remained had only rude camps to shelter themselves and their families, during the winter, of the inclemency of which they had previously no conception. To obtain food for their families, they had to proceed to Truro through a trackless forest and in deep snow, and there obtaining a bushel or two of potatoes and sometimes a little flour, in exchange for their labour, they had to return carrying their small supply on their backs, or in winter dragging it on hand sleds through snow, sometimes three or four feet deep.

Those who remained got on pretty well the two following seasons. Timber of the best quality abounded, and American vessels came in which supplied them with necessaries in exchange for staves, shingles, &c. And they were beginning to surmount their difficulties, when the American Revolutionary war broke out, and this branch of trade being stopped, they were cut off from all supplies from abroad. Even salt could not be obtained except by boiling down sea water, and in summer the settlers might be seen in fine weather, spending days at the shore preparing their winter’s supply.

The breaking out of the American war increased the jealousy between them and the American settlers. The Scotch were decided loyalists, while those who had come from Philadelphia, as well as most of the inhabitants of Truro and the adjacent settlements, had a very warm sympathy with the Americans. A number of the former, joined by reinforcements from Truro, seized a valuable vessel belonging to Captain Lowden, then loading in the harbour, and started off to join the Americans, who then had possession of the country about Bay Yerte. On one occasion at least they were in danger from the Americans. Two American armed vessels, probably the same which plundered Charlotte Town and carried off the President administering the government, appeared off the entrance of the harbour threatening to plunder the people. But one of the first settlers named Horton went on board, and represented that there were only a few poor Scotch people there just commencing a settlement, and having nothing worth taking away. Through his persuasion they left them unmolested.

We cannot give the names of all the passengers by the ship Hector, but their descendants embrace a large proportion of the inhabitants of Pictou, such as the MacKays and Frasers, of the East River, the MacKenzies, MacLeods, MacDonalds, Ma-thesons, Camerons, and Frasers, of West River and Loch Broom, and the Douglasses, MacDonalds, and Frasers, of Middle River.

These settlers had scarcely surmounted the first difficulties of their settlement, when they were again, plunged into difficulties by the influx of a class in poorer circumstances than themselves. These were a body of emigrants, who had been sent out from Dumfriesshire by one of the proprietors of Prince Edward Island to settle his land. They landed at Three Rivers, part of them in the year 1774, and part of them in the following year, and were left in a state of almost entire destitution. They continued there about eighteen months, and I have heard the most affecting tales of the sufferings they endured. In summer their principal means of subsistence 'was the shell-fish, which they gathered on the shore. They sowed seed, but the crop, even the potatoes planted were devoured by mice. In winter they were reduced to the very verge of starvation. Their principal source of relief was a settlement of French people some miles distant. From them they received supplies, principally of potatoes, in exchange for the clothes they had brought with them from Scotland, until they scarcely retained sufficient to cover themselves decently. From want of food the men became reduced to such a state of weakness, and the snow was so deep, that they were scarcely able to carry back provisions for their families; and when with slow steps and heavy labour they brought them home, such had been the state in which they had left the children, that they trembled to enter their dwellings, lest they should find them dead, and sometimes waited at the door listening for any sound, that might indicate that they were yet alive.

Having heard that there was food in Pictou, they despatched one of their number to enquire into the prospects there. His report was on the whole so favourable, that fifteen families immediately removed over. They arrived in almost entire destitution, and though the Highlanders received them with all the kindness in their power, yet their supplies were quite inadequate to meet such an influx, and were soon consumed. The result was a great aggravation of their hardships. An aged female in my congregation recollects that for two or three months in summer after the seed was committed to the ground, she and other children were obliged to live on berries and nettles. They were sent to the woods during part of the day to gather wild fruits, and the only other meal consisted of nettles boiled to form a sort of greens; and the late Andrew Marshall used to tell that his father had actually beaten him for refusing to eat beech leaves boiled, which he would not do for the simple reason that his stomach refused them. Though these people arrived in such destitution, they were among the most valuable of the early settlers of Pictou, and their descendants to this day, both in the church and in civil society, are among the most respectable members of the community. They embrace the MacLeans, Smiths, MacLellans, Blaikies, Clarks, Marshalls, Cultons, Brydones, Crocketts, Turnbulls, &c.

The circumstances of the settlers however soon improved. By cutting the timber and burning it on the land, which however could only be done with great labour, they were enabled to sow wheat and plant potatoes among the stumps, and covering them with the hoe, they derived from them a plentiful return. They learned too to hunt moose, by which means they had a supply of meat for the winter—to make sugar from the juice of the maple, and to catch the fish which abounded in the harbours and rivers. They were still however at a loss for British goods, but in the year 1779, John Patterson, afterward known as Deacon Patterson, went to Scotland and brought out a supply, and afterward continued to trade, taking wheat from the people in exchange for British merchandise.

The next accession to the settlers was at the peace with the United States in 1783. A large number of disbanded soldiers who had served in the war arrived in the fall of that year, and in the following spring. They had received a large grant of land, still called the 82nd Grant, embracing Fisher’s Grant, and extending eastward to Merigormish, and were to receive rations of food for some time. But the habits of the army ill fitted them for the work of clearing the forest, or for any employment requiring industry and perseverance. A number of them were Highland Catholics from the island of Barra, very ignorant. These, drawn together by the ties of religion and clanship, moved farther east along the gulf shore. There would probably be fifty of them remaining when Dr. MacGregor came. Most of them were idle and profligate, but a few were sober and industrious, and their descendants are among the most respectable members of the community. Among these may be mentioned the Carmichaels, Iveses, Ballantynes of Cape George, Smiths, Simpsons, and MacDonalds of Merigomish, &c.

In the latter summer there arrived a small band of Highlanders, who had also served in the American war. They had just arrived at New York, when the war commenced. Orders had been sent out by the Home Government to raise a regiment among the emigrants from Britain to serve “until the present unnatural rebellion be suppressed,” with the promise, in addition to regular pay, of 200 acres of land at the close of the war, and 50 acres additional for each child. They were induced partly by threats and partly by persuasion to enlist in the regiment thus raised, which was called the 84th Royal Highland Emigrants. Having served during the war, most of them obtained their land on Nine Mile River and Kennetcook, but a few obtained theirs on the upper settlement of the East River of Pictou. These were very steady, industrious settlers, and their descendants embrace the Grants, MacDonalds, Chisholms, MacMillans, MacNaughtons, Camerons, and Forbeses of that quarter.

During that summer (1784) a few families of Highlanders, who with a number of others had arrived at Halifax, removed to Pictou, and settled on the East River. The most noteworthy of these were Thomas Fraser and Simon Fraser, who had been elders in the parish of Kirkhill, and who will be noticed hereafter.

Such were the settlers of Pictou previous to Dr. MacGregor’s arrival, and we must now notice briefly their social and moral condition. We need scarcely say that they were still very poor. The following was the general construction of their huts : The sides and ends were composed of logs, generally in their round state, laid upon one another, with moss stuffed between them, while the roof was formed of the bark of trees, cut in pieces of equal length, disposed in regular tiers, the ends and the edges overlapping, and kept in their places by poles running the whole length of the building, placed on the ends of each range of bark, and fastened at the ends of the building by withs. Except in dimensions they might answer the description given by the Poet of Ellen’s bower:

"It was a Iotlgo of ample size.
But strange of structure and device,
Of such materials as around,
The workman's hand had readiest found.
Lopped of their boughs, their hoar trunks bared
And by the hatchet rudely squared,
To give the walls their destined height
The sturdy oak and ash unite;
While moss, and clay, and leaves combined,
To fence each crevice from the wind;
The lighter pine trees overhead,
Their slender length for rafters spread;
And withered heath and rushes dry,
Supplied a russet canopy.”

Our readers at a distance however must not suppose that in the reality such a building possessed the charms with which it is invested in the imagination of the poet. Their furniture was of the rudest description, frequently a block of wood or a rude bench, made out of a slab, in which four sticks had been inserted as legs, served for chair or table. Their food was commonly served up in wooden dishes or in wooden plates, and eaten with wooden spoons, except when, discarding such interventions, they adopted the more direct method of gathering round the pot of potatoes on the floor. And among the new comers at least, a little straw formed the only bed. Money was scarcely seen, and almost all trade was done by barter; wheat, and maple sugar, being the principal circulating medium.

They were also very ignorant. Few of the Highlanders could read. Of course there were but few books among them. In general they were particularly ignorant in regard to religion.

Of the first settlers, the Harrises and Squire Patterson were Presbyterians, the father of the former being from the north of Ireland, and the latter from Scotland, and they as well as others maintained a respect for the duties of religion. Among the Highlanders some were decidedly pious, of whom Colin Douglass and Kenneth Fraser are especially worthy of notice, but among the rest the state of religion was very low. So little did a number of them know or care about the subject, that we have heard it said, that if a clever priest had come here at the time that Dr. MacGregor did, the one half would have become Roman Catholics. An individual still living, told the writer, that at the first funeral he ever attended, being that of a child, the father, a nominal Protestant and Presbyterian too, as soon as the grave was completed, kneeled down at the foot and commenced praying for the departed. And I have heard of a father and mother kneeling down, the one at the head and the other at the foot of their child’s grave, to pray for it. It is even said that some of them were in the habit of praying to the Virgin Mary. The settlers from Dumfriesshire were however more intelligent and much better instructed in religious matters.

Until Dr. MacGregor’s arrival, they had never enjoyed the regular ministrations of the gospel. They were not however without the means of grace. In the petition from Pictou for a minister it is said, that “the Philadelphia company made provision for and sent a minister, viz., the Rev. James Lyon, at the first settlement, yet he did not continue among us, which very much discouraged the people, and was exceedingly detrimental to the settling of the place.” Mr. Lyon was one of the proprietors of the Philadelphia company. How long he remained in Pictou we have not been able to ascertain. From the records of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, New Jersey, by which he was ordained, it appears that he was in the Province in the year 1772, and that the Presbytery corresponded with him till that date. Wherever he laboured, it was not in Pictou, where the only memorial of his presence is the name Lyon’s Brook, still given to a small stream about three miles from the town of Pictou, on the side of which he had taken up land.

The pious settlers however, in the absence of a minister, put forth their best efforts to maintain religion among themselves, and to impress it upon the rising generation. Among the first settlers was one named James Davidson, who was instrumental in doing much good. Even before the arrival of the Hector’s passengers, he gathered the young for religious instruction on the Sabbath day, at Lyon’s Brook. This was the first Sabbath-school in the county of Pictou, and I think I may safely say in the Province, and was established some time before Haikes commenced that movement, which has rendered these institutions every where a part of the machinery of the Christian Church.

The Scottish settlers, too, were not unmindful of the lessons of their native land. They were accustomed to assemble on the Sabbath day for religious worship, Robert Marshall holding what the Highlanders call “a reading” in English, and Colin Douglass in Gaelic. The exercises at these meetings consisted of praise and prayer, and especially, as their name indicated, reading the Scriptures and religious works. Marshall was a man of great theological information, and good gifts. Douglass had not the same gifts, but he was one of the few among the Highlanders who could read tolerably well. But there were scarcely any books in Gaelic, and as the old people among the Highlanders understood no English, they were under great disadvantages. The books in English were also few. Even those that the Dumfries people had brought out with them had been mostly consumed by the mice in Prince Edward Island. The few they possessed were well used. An imperfect copy of Boston’s Fourfold State did good service. An old man, still living at the age of eighty-eight, dates back some of his earliest religious impressions to the reading of it, and retains such a feeling of veneration for the work as to regard it as next to the Bible the best book ever produced. Of these meetings we cannot help thinking, that they realized the divine word: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”

A larger supply of books was obtained after the late John Patterson visited Scotland in 1779. lie had before leaving Scotland built a number of small cottages on what was called a thirty-nine year tack, at Quarrelltown, in the neighbourhood of Paisley his native town, and during his absence the rents had accumulated to about Ł80. This he invested partly in goods, but principally in books. Returning by way of New York he bought a large supply of the New England Primer. Blessed book ! In how many youthful minds hast thou sowed the seeds of heavenly truth ! Young as we are, we too have tender recollections of thee. Thy very shape and appearance was peculiar. Thy form was square, a figure well chosen to represent perfection. Thy paper was dark in colour and somewhat dingy in appearance, as well beseemed the modest humility of thy character. We have seen thee since in perfectly white paper, in shape like an ordinary catechism, with bright red cover— Pah! thou art not the Primer of our youth. As well present to us John Knox in the picture of a modern dandy, with Joinville necktie, or his renowned daughter Mrs. Welsh, in hoops and crinoline. Then thy frontispiece with the picture of John Rogers perishing in the flames, while his wife and ten children were standing by. Did ever work in gallery of Fine Arts excite more attention and study, and influence a greater number of minds for good, impressing upon them the principles of religious liberty, and instilling into them the martyr spirit of Christianity, than did that same old wood cut ? Then its contents, how did we go through its alphabet with two lines of rhyme and an illustrative picture for each letter, beginning at that foundation truth of theology.

And then the Shorter Catechism,—But we must stop. O New England! where hast thou been drifting in thy morals and theology, since that primer has gone from thy schools and thy households, even as the glory from Israel.

But to our narrative. These were distributed gratuitously among the young; all that was required of them being that they should learn the contents, which they did very rapidly.

They also received occasional ministerial service. As early as the year 1780, and probably before, they were visited by the Rev. Daniel Cock and the Rev. David Smith. For several summers previous to Dr. MacGregor’s arrival, one of them, but most frequently Mr. Cock, visited them, preaching for a week or two in private houses or in the open air, and baptizing children. The people deemed it absolutely necessary to attend to this last service. Hence even the Highlanders got their children baptized, although sometimes they scarcely understood a single word that the minister said. Indeed the people considered themselves under Mr. Cock’s charge, and a number of them used to travel to Truro to attend his sacraments, and in some instances parents carried their children over to be baptized.

They also received some visits from stragglers. The renowned Henry Alline visited them. In his journal he says, under date July 25th, 1782, “Got to a place called Plcto, where I had no thought of making any stay, but finding the Spirit to attend my preaching I staid there thirteen days, and preached in all the different parts of the settlement. I found four Christians in this place, who were greatly revived and rejoiced that the gospel was sent among them.” He preached at Alexander Fraser’s at the lower end of the Middle River, in William Mac-Kay’s barn on the East River, and his last sermon was preached at the head of the harbour. On that occasion he got some of the most intelligent of the Highlanders to translate into Gaelic. There were also some Indians present whom he addressed in French. He had a very free and sociable turn with him in private, his conversation being distinguished by readiness in quoting Scripture, and his manner was very engaging. A number of the people were taken with him, and two or three particularly so. He did not broach any of his peculiar views. Some of the old people however were dubious about him. Colin Douglass, at parting from him, said, “I am not very sure about you; I like what you say very well, but you did not come in by the door,” alluding to the irregular mode of his entering the ministry. “Oh,” replied Alline, “I had no opportunity of coming iu any other way than by the window. But you just follow me as far as I follow Christ.” Robert Marshall, on bidding him farewell, said, “If you are a true minister of Christ, may the Lord prosper you, and if you are not, I hope that we may never see your face again.” After his departure Mr. Cock visited them to warn them against him. He asked Colin Douglass what he thought of Mr. A’s preaching. He replied, that what he understood, he liked very well, but some of what he said he did not understand, which he attributed to his own ignorance (an exhibition of wisdom not common among hearers of the gospel in our day). “ Oh,” said Mr. Cock, “ that is just the way he would act with you. If he wanted to drown you he would not take you into a deep place at first. He would take you in where the water was only to the knees, and afterward take you in deeper until finally he would souse you overhead.” As an example of the poverty of some of the first settlers at that time, it may be mentioned that Robert Marshall borrowed Colin Douglass’s coat to hear him one day, while Colin wore it himself on the next. Alline, hearing of his circumstances, took off his own coat, and gave him his vest.

They were also visited by the Rev. James Fraser, who had been a chaplain in the army during the American war, and who had laboured for some time at Onslow. He was but an indifferent character, and afterward moved to Miramichi.

But there was a strong desire to have the services of a settled minister. A meeting was accordingly held in the summer of 1784, at which it was resolved to endeavour to obtain the services of a minister for themselves. For this purpose they engaged to pay annually the sum of Ł80, for the first two years, Ł90 for the two succeeding years, and Ł100 afterward, which they agreed to increase as their means enabled them, besides paying his passage out. A committee was appointed to send to Scotland a petition for a minister. Their petition, which was drawn up by Mr. Cock, is given in the Appendix, and the result, as already described, was the securing the services of Dr. MacGregor.

This account of the early social and moral condition of Pictou, though it may be deemed by some unnecessary to our work, will, we believe, assist in giving the reader some idea of the scene of the Doctor’s labours at the time of his entering upon it. We shall return to his own narrative in our next chapter.


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