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Pictonians at Home and Abroad
The Story of Pictou Academy

  PICTOU Academy will be one hundred years old, March 26, 1916. It is one of the best known and probably, the most famous academy of learning in Canada. Over it was fought the battle of the nineteenth century against unconstitutional government and religious intolerance. It was largely over the rights and wrongs of the Academy, more than any other question, that the fight was waged and won for responsible government in Nova Scotia. It was a great educator in our provincial politics. Under it and through this great conflict our ablest statesmen were educated. The life of the Presbyterian Church hung upon it, for if it was to be perpetuated and extended, it must have a school to educate and train a native ministry. From the walls of the Academy has gone forth a constant stream of strong men and women into all parts of the world, who have graced almost every profession and walk in life. Its founders of rugged Presbyterian stock, esteemed education of next importance to the Bible, and quickly planted a school, on the lines of Edinburgh University, in their eyes, the ideal of what a college should be. It was to attract students from every clime and send them forth to every land.

The history of the Academy divides itself conveniently into five periods:–

      The College Period, 1816 to 1831
      The Grammar School Period, 1832 to 1844
      The Union Academy Period, 1845 to 1864
      The Special Academy Period, 1864 to 1884
      The County Academy Period, 1885–


  The institution had its origin in the brain of its founder and first President, the Rev. Thomas McCulloch, D. D., – Nova Scotia's greatest pioneer educationist, and the father of higher education in the Atlantic Provinces.

  Born in Scotland in 1766, educated at Glasgow University, where he took a course in Medicine, as well as in Arts, studied theology at Whitburn, ordained as minister in Ayrshire, offered his services as Missionary to the Colonies, arrived in Pictou, N. S., 1803, and inducted in charge of Prince St. Church June 6, 1804–these are the main facts in his life. But it is as the champion of liberal and religious education in Nova Scotia that his fame chiefly rests. In the old Academy he laid deep and strong, in a life of great courage and unremitting toil, the foundation of higher education in Nova Scotia. The country is still reaping the fruits of his intellectual activity and zealous labors.

  Dr. McCulloch was a man of a rare type. He was possessed of fine natural ability, a strong personality, a mind finely disciplined and of extensive literary attainments as his writings show.

  He wielded the pen with ease and felicity, and when needs be, with pungency. He was a born fighter. He lived in a stormy time, and to accomplish his purposes for church and school, he needed to be to some extent a man of war. But amid prejudice and opposition his fearless courage and self-sacrifice shone forth in the higher interests of the people and country. In 1805, two years after his arrival in Pictou, we find him projecting an institution to give promising young men a collegiate education. One day when musing sadly over the ignorance he found among the young, he said to himself, "Why not attempt to train the youth of the Province for better things, and perhaps for the Ministry." It was a difficult task, on account of

the condition of the country and small means at hand, and it required the faith and force of a Livingstone or a Lincoln to attempt it. Though unable to carry out the idea for a time, he never relinquished it, and in due time, it resulted in the establishment of Pictou Academy.

  His idea was to establish a college for higher education open to all classes and creeds alike. For this purpose a society was formed in Pictou and subscriptions collected amounting to a thousand pounds–Dr. McCulloch Dr. McGregor and Mr. Ross each giving fifty pounds. He opened a school in a log building near his own house, but it was soon destroyed by the hand of an incendiary. Another was soon erected in its place.

  In 1811–on the passing of the "Grammar School Act"-Dr. McCulloch received the grant allotted to the Pictou district amounting to a hundred pounds a year. This School attracted students from all over the Province–some coming as far as the West Indies. Dr. Patterson tells us that Messrs. McGregor and Ross tutored boys in Latin and Greek with the idea of matriculating in the contemplated College. Thus the leavening power of Dr. McCulloch's ambitious ideals were producing fruit, and preparing the people throughout the province for the carrying out of his early formed and favorite plans. The time seemed now favorable. Edward Mortimer represented the District of Pictou in the legislature, and Sherbrooke was Governor–a man more liberal-minded than Wentworth, who occupied the position in 1805. An Act of Incorporation was sought and obtained March 26, 1816.

  In the autumn of 1817. the first class comprising 23 students met in a private house, with Dr. McCulloch as Principal. Rev. John McKinlay assisted in teaching classics and mathematics, the rest of the Academic work was done by the Principal. It was not until 1818 that the Academy building was ready to be occupied. The Trustees finding that the thousand pounds subscribed was not enough to build the Academy, petitioned Governor Dalhousie for a grant. This was at first refused, but afterwards he granted the sum of five hundred pounds.

  Pictou Academy has had a very eventful and chequered career. It had to fight its way to recognition and aid. Early in its history it had to contend with opposition and prejudice; notably, the opposition of the "Council of Twelve," and the unfriendly rivalry of King's College, Windsor, founded in 1790. This college was receiving a grant of nearly $2.000 a year from the provincial treasury and $5,000 a year from the British Government. But its doors were barred to all but Episcopalians. Dissenters, as all other Protestants were called and who formed four-fifths of the population of the Province, were destitute of all means for an advanced education. Naturally, the trustees of the Academy applied to the Council for aid. They were refused, for the "Council of Twelve" appointed by the Imperial Government were composed entirely of adherents of the Church of England, with the Bishop as one of its most influential members. They considered money spent on the education of Dissenters as worse than wasted. They could not tolerate the Pictou idea of a nonsectarian College. The House of Assembly, elected by the people, and representing their wishes, was always in hearty sympathy with the Academy, while the Council were deadly opposed-hence the long and bitter struggle.

  In 1819 an application was made to Lord Dalhousie to have Pictou Academy changed into a college, with power to confer degrees, and also asking for the establishment of a professorship of Divinity. These requests were both flatly refused. For the next four years the council granted about $800 a year on application by the trustees. In 1824, application was made for a permanent grant of $2,000 a year, which was passed by the assembly but rejected by the council. Thus year after year the struggle went on. Bill after Bill providing grants for the academy were passed by the House of Assembly but negatived by the council. In this matter the council vetoed the voice of the assembly no less than fifteen times.

  This continued opposition of the council to the will of the people so roused the energy and righteous indignation of such men as Joseph Howe and Jotham Blanchard, who waged such a vigorous contest, that the agitation finally ended in the demolition of the council and in the establishment of Responsible Government in Nova Scotia. The academy greatly suffered from their rivalries. Unfortunately at this time a section of the Presbyterian Church joined forces with the opponents of the Academy. The trustees became discouraged for lack of funds to carry on the work. In 1830 it was on the brink of ruin.

  Finally, in 1831 Jotham Blanchard was sent to England. as the agent of the trustees to lay the whole case before the British Government. His mission to England was successful. Virtually all the claims of the academy were sustained by the Colonial Office.


  In attempting to take advantage of this decision compromise was necessary. Those representing the "Established Church of Scotland" with the Universities and Theological Halls in Scotland were not interested in the higher work of a college which would under local conditions very materially aid the preparation of candidates for the ministry of the dissenting Presbyterians known as antiburghers, while the established Kirk expected to draw their ministers from Scotland or from among Pictonians educated in Scotland. These wanted nothing more than a grammar school; but if there were to be college studies they would have to be conducted in the same building–not in a separate one. The Trustees under the reform Act of 1832 represented the two parties; but the internal friction prevented the successful development of either the college or grammar school grades of the academy.

  In 1838 Dr. McCulloch with $800 of grant, was at last transferred to Dalhousie College and made president, which position he continued to hold until his death in 1843. His remains rest in the old Pictou cemetery where his students erected a monument to his memory. From 1832-1842, the academy was reduced to the level of a Grammar school, with Michael McCulloch, Geo. A. Blanchard, Wm. McDonald and Mr. McNaughton as teachers. In 1842 the grant totally failed. The academy lingered on until August 1844 when its doors were closed. The building was in a state of dilapidation. The library was mouldering on the shelves, the scientific collections were sold abroad.


  This state of affairs, however, soon aroused the people. Public meetings were called by the two great parties of the county. The Act of 1845 carried in its preamble a record of the desire of the people interested in the Pictou Academy to co-operate–"as to unite the two parties existing in that county in the support thereof." It is at this time the motto "Concordia Salus" was probably adopted. It was certainly the first time an effective local effort was made to carry out the principle. This period is therefore well known as one of union in academic development; and united local support has since carried the academy on through subsequent changes with ever growing success. The old board of trustees resigned and a new union hoard was elected. The new board of trustees set to work energetically in repairing the building, organizing the departments, and securing teachers.

  In 1846 the academy re-opened and next year the three departments were in good working order. Basil Bell was Principal and classical master, with Charles H. Hay and

Alexander McPhail in the other two departments. In December 1847 Mr. McPhail resigned and was succeeded by Wm. Jack. who continued in this department until 1865. At this time John William Dawson delivered a course of lectures on natural history. Mr. Hay suddenly died in 1847 and some time elapsed before his place was filled.

  In 1850 William R. Mulholland was appointed mathematical teacher. At the same time W. G. T. Jarvis succeeded Mr. Bell, and three years later, he was succeeded by T. R. Mulholland. In 1855 W. R. Mulholland was transferred to the Normal School, Truro, and T. R. Mulholland resigned. In the same year, John Costley became classical master, and continued in charge until 1865, when a new era was inaugurated throughout the province in educational matters. In that year the Nova Scotia Free School system was enacted, and the academy was organized into a special academy.


The Free School Act of 1865 provided grants of $600 each for county academies, to which students passing the entrance examination from any part of the county would be admitted free. Pictou Academy and about a half a dozen other leading institutions were classed as special academies. It was to function as a county academy; but on account of its superior equipment received a grant of $1000 instead of $600 per annum. Until the Act to encourage Academic education in 1885, the academy and public schools of the town of Pictou was governed by a board of trustees from the Board of the academy and the board of the public schools, thus making the academy the head of the Pictou public school system. This arrangement proved most satisfactory, and under this plan the academy made another forward step. Herbert A. Bayne was appointed first principal arid the organizer of the new order of things, which he did most successfully. In the autumn of 1867 Mr. Bayne left to complete his course in Dalhousie College and Aubrey Lippincott, B. A., one of the first graduates of Dalhousie College, was appointed substitute principal for a year. He also, was very successful in winning the respect and affection of his students and carried forward the work most efficiently. He is now a successful eye specialist in Pittsburgh, Pa.

  In the following year Mr. Bayne returned accompanied by J. J. MacKenzie. Mr. MacKenzie at first taught the preparatory department, but shortly afterwards the two departments were combined, Principal Bayne teaching classics and science and Mr. MacKenzie English and Mathematics. These gentlemen both resigned in 1873 to take a post graduate course in Germany where each won a Doctor's degree. Returning to Canada, Dr. Bayne took a position in the Military College, Kingston, and Dr. MacKenzie the professorship of Physics in Dalhousie College. Both were cut down by death in early manhood.

  In 1873 A. H. MacKay (now Dr. MacKay, Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia) became principal. With him was associated F. W. George, M. A., Principal MacKay teaching, Mathematics and Science and Mr. George, English and Classics. In October 1876, Mr. George resigned to enter upon Church work. In 1876, Robert Maclellan, the present principal, was appointed to the Classical and English department which position he held until 1883, when he resigned to take the position of Inspector of Schools for Pictou and South Colchester.

  Under Principal MacKay's strong administration the Academy made rapid strides. It became celebrated throughout the province and far beyond its limits. Students flocked in from all quarters until there was not room enough to receive. Larger quarters became absolutely necessary, and the citizens of Pictou, with a public spirit worthy of their ancestors, raised about $20,000 for a new building. It was erected in 1880 on the site of the present building. Although it would be entirely inadequate for the present day, it was far in advance of any other high school building in the province. It contained four class rooms, Convocation hall, a small chemical laboratory capable of accommodating five or six students. At the same time a third instructor became necessary and Roderick MacKay, B. A., was appointed teacher of Mathematics. After two years Mr. MacKay resigned to enter the ministry and is now pastor of a congregation in Ontario. Mr. W. R. Fraser, B. A., (now Ph. D., Johns Hopkins) was appointed as his successor. Mr. Fraser taught until 1888 when he resigned to take a post graduate course in Johns Hopkins.

  Meanwhile in 1883 Mr. Maclellan resigned as before stated, and was succeeded by Mr. Hector McInnes, now K. C., and head of one of the most influential law firms in Halifax. Mr. McInnes taught Mathematics while the Classical subjects were divided between Principal MacKay and Mr. Fraser.


   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 principalship 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 Mfr. 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 modern 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 Principalship 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, in 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 principalship 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 of 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 nonsectarian 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.

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