Pictou County is on the north-eastern coast of Nova Scotia. The first pioneers arrived in 1767, and in 1773 a ship called the Hector arrived from Glasgow with a number of families, mainly from the Scottish Highlands, many who could not speak English. This same year a ship sailed from Annan and landed at Georgetown, Prince Edward Island, but they soon after moved to Pictou. Their story is contained in the book Pictonians at Home and Abroad, by J.P.McPhail, published in 1914.

The South of Scotland People in Pictou County, Nova Scotia

There were two sailings from the Kirkcudbright area to Prince Edward Island. The Snow class ship "Lovely Nelly" sailed in 1774 and again in 1775. The passenger lists for both these sailing are known. Many of these families came from Kirkcudbrightshire.  View 1774 List -- View 1775 list

A year and a half after the arrival of the "Hector" came the third and last band of those who may properly be called the pioneers of Pictou. These were the south of Scotland people, sometimes erroneously spoken of as the "Dumfries Settlers."

Their party was organized to take up lands in Prince Edward Island. They chartered their own vessel; sailed from the port of Annan, in Dumfriesshire, and arrived at Georgetown in the spring of 1773 [1774?]. Although exceptionally well outfitted, they were immediately overtaken by bad luck.

A great plague of mice destroyed their first season's crop. The following spring they procured seed from Nova Scotia, and re-planted; but the mice ate the very seed in the ground. That autumn, to crown their misfortunes, supplies which they had brought from Scotland and stored at Georgetown Harbor were plundered by riotous New England sailors and fishermen, who were ashore on a drunken orgie on the eve of sailing for their homes. The settlers were left in dire straits for food; and suffered intensely during the succeeding winter. In the following spring, 1775, they removed in a body to Pictou. There were thirteen families and one single man in the party. With one exception they settled permanently in Pictou County.

Seven of the party located at West River. These were Anthony Maclellan, William Clark, David Stewart, William Smith, Joseph Richards, John McLean and Charles Blaikie. Four settled on the Middle River, namely, John Crockett, Robert Marshall, Robert Brydone and John Smith. Two, Thomas Turnbull and Anthony Culton, went to the East River. One, Wellwood Waugh, remained in Pictou for a time, but later removed to Colchester County where he gave his name to Waugh's River. His half brother, William Campbell, the bachelor of the party, settled at the Beaches, a mile below the present Town of Pictou.

The members of this party added a new and specially valuable element to the primitive Pictou settlement. They came from one of the best agricultural districts in Scotland. They had been closely associated with the land all their lives. Several of them were sons of landowners; others had been tenant farmers. They knew how best to deal with the soil, and they had the means to enable them to put their knowledge into practice. They lost no time in getting to work. Most of them prospered from the beginning. This party, more than any of its predecessors, directly and indirectly influenced the future of Pictou. They seem to have been well satisfied with their new home; and at once, by means of letters to those whom they had left behind, became the most effective of immigration agents. Through their representations their relatives and acquaintances in the South of Scotland were directed to Pictou; and continued coming in increasing numbers, for many years.

The original members of the party were mostly from Galloway, that famous, old Principality in the extreme southwest of Scotland, made up of the Shires of Kirkcudbright and Wigton; but a few of them were from Dumfriesshire and Ayr, or had connections in those counties. A glance at the names of those most prominent in the early commercial, industrial and political life of Pictou will show that a large proportion of them were from one or other of the south Scottish counties above mentioned. The monuments in the old Cemetery of Pictou, and the still older Durham Cemetery reveal an overwhelming preponderance of Galloway, Dumfries and Ayrshire names.

These south of Scotland settlers imported live-stock, seeds and fruit-trees from the land of their birth. At West River traces of the famous black cattle of Galloway were distinctly discernible not many years ago; and quite possibly are yet to be found. The sturdy Galloway breed of horses, too, left its mark in the county. But the Galloway people made a far deeper and infinitely more valuable impress on the social life of the county. From them, to mention an outstanding name, came Rev. Thomas McCulloch, the founder of Pictou Academy, who, although himself a native of Renfrewshire, was the descendant of one of the oldest and most honorable of the baronial families of Kirkcudbrightshire, with a history dating back almost to the Norman invasion. The names of Thomas, Michael and William McCulloch, so familiar in Pictou history, are distinctly traceable through hundreds of years of the annals of Galloway. John Dawson, another of Pictou's worthy early settlers, who, following the southern pioneers, came to Pictou in 1791, and whose great grandson Mr. Bonar Law is now leader of the Conservative party in Great Britain, was also a Galloway man, a native of the Parish of Irongray in Kirkcudbrightshire.

Of the members of the south of Scotland party, Wellwood Waugh, as already stated, did not remain long in Pictou. He was of the Waughs, Lairds of Bambarroch, Kirkcudbrightshire. His father had married a daughter of Dr. Wellwood, of London, hence the name "Wellwood." After the death of her first husband, Mrs. Waugh married a Mr. Campbell, and had a son, William Campbell, who came to Pictou with his half-brother Waugh, and settled at the Beaches. His sons, in after years, went to Tatamagouche where they entered into commercial and shipbuilding enterprises, and became prominently identified with the public life of Colchester County. Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. John S. Maclean of Halifax are William Campbell's granddaughters, as was also the late Mrs. Howard Primrose, Pictou.

Of the two members of this party, Thomas Tumbull, and Anthony Culton, who settled on the East River, there are few descendants bearing their names in the County. Dr. Albert Culton of Cumberland County is a great grandson of Anthony Culton.

Of the four who settled on the Middle River, John Smith early lost his life by drowning. His descendants if any are unknown. John Crockett's descendants are still to be found on the Middle River and a number of them in Upper Stewiacke, Colchester County, to which place one of his sons removed. Most of Robert Marshall's descendants bearing his name, have removed to the United States. David Marshall and Robert Brown, merchants of Pictou, are his great grandsons. There are few of the Brydone name now left in the County, but a large number of Robert Brydone's descendants remain; among them have been two clergymen, three lawyers and four physicians.

Of those who went to the West River, Anthony Maclellan settled at Durham where he purchased a large block of land on the west side of the River, In addition, he owned lands purchased from one of the Blaikies on the east-side of the River opposite Durham, which were reconveyed by his son Anthony Maclellan, junior, to James Blaikie by deed dated February 23, 1800. It was out of this lot that Anthony Maclellan set aside the site of the old West River Church and of the older part of the West River Cemetery in which he was the first man buried, in the year 1786. A Mrs. Gerard was interred there a year earlier. With this exception, Anthony Maclellan's is the oldest marked grave in Pictou County.

His eldest son James, was killed in 1793, by falling from a building which was being erected near the Ten Mile bridge. His remaining son, Anthony, succeeded to his property. Of his three daughters, Ann, was married first to William Smith and after his death to Donald McLeod; Catherine, to Joseph Richards, grandfather of the late Rev. John Richards; and Janet to John Collie, whose grandson is Dr. J. R. Collie, of River John and great grandson Dr. J. R. M. Collie of London, England. A somewhat striking incident, in this connection, was the marriage, at the same place and date, of the widowed Mrs. Smith and her daughter to Donald McLeod and his son, who by these marriages became respectively the forefathers of Judge John D. McLeod of Pictou and Rev. John M. McLeod, formerly of Charlottetown, and later of Vancouver, B. C.

Anthony Maclellan was of the Maclellans of Bombie, Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway. He was born in 1720 and was fifty-three years of age when he left Scotland. In the list of his descendants are to be found the names of thirteen clergymen, six barristers, seven physicians, one member of the Dominion Parliament, many successful business men, among them the late John S. Maclean of Halifax, the late Daniel Macdonald, Collector of Customs, Pictou, the late Robert McConnell of the Finance Department, Ottawa, W. E, Maclellan of Halifax, Post Office Inspector for Nova Scotia, and, last but not least, Robert Maclellan, LL.D., the present honored Principal of Pictou Academy.

On the east side of the River, opposite to Anthony Maclellan settled Charles Blaikie. His lands were extensive, including at one time or another all those now or lately occupied by his descendants on Green Hill, and all of the David Matheson farm, opposite Durham, now owned by Mr. Hamblin. Charles Blaikie, too, was in very comfortable circumstances on his arrival. He was a skillful farmer, and the family have always been prosperous. One of his early descendants was the late Rev. Alexander Blaikie, D.D., long a prominent Clergyman in Boston. Another is Mr. Blaikie of Londonderry, a wealthy retired merchant, at one time a business partner of the late A. W. McLelan, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.

Next above Anthony Maclellan, on the west side of the River, settled William Clark on lands all of which have ever since been continuously held by his descendants. No farmers in the County have been more enterprising and successful than they. Among the descendants of William Clark have been three clergymen of the Presbyterian Church.

Next above William Clark settled David Stewart on lands which are now in the possession of his great grandson, Robert Stewart. The Stewart name has at all times been synonymous with integrity. Among Robert Stewart's descendants are the two Drs. Collie above named.

Next above Robert Stewart settled William Smith, where his grandson Wilson Smith, now resides. He was descended from a Dumfriesshire land-owning family, members of which had borne titles of honor. He too was possessed of considerable means. A milling industry was early established at his place, which proved highly successful and was of great benefit to the surrounding country. His son, the late Anthony Smith, father of Wilson Smith and grandfather of James W. Smith of Pictou, head of the Atlantic Milling Company, was long a prominent and active member of the old Court of Sessions for Pictou County. This family too, has contributed most generously to the professional as well as to the business life of the Province. Among William Smith's descendants have been one member of the Dominion Parliament, six clergymen and three prominent barristers.

Next above William Smith settled Joseph Richards, on the lands occupied by his descendants until Robert Richards removed some thirty years ago to Manitoba, where he and his family now reside. A brother of his, Rev. John Richards, a Presbyterian clergyman, was called to Ontario, where he passed his life.

Above Joseph Richards settled John Maclean, the farthest south of the members of this party. He was of Dumfriesshire family. Rev. John Maclean of Richibucto, N. B., the father of the late John S. Maclean of Halifax, was his grandson. John Maclean, arriving in July, 1775, was one of the first-chosen elders of the first Presbyterian congregation organized in Pictou County, to which Rev. Dr. McGregor was called to minister in the autumn of 1786. The family have ever since been prominent in Church work. The late Howard Maclean, of Halifax, one of the most promising young barristers in Nova Scotia when his untimely death occurred was a great grandson of John Maclean, as was also the late J. J. Maclean of Hopewell. Mrs. George Arthur Bayne of Winnipeg is a great granddaughter.

With such settlers on its banks it is not surprising that the West River should so long have been the ecclesiastical and educational centre of the County. To Durham was early moved the first Presbyterian Church, located originally at Loch Broom. Durham did not receive its present name until the time of the late Lord Durham in Canada. The name was the suggestion of the late William Graham, merchant, and was confirmed at a public meeting held for the purpose. The late Miss Margaret Cameron of Durham distinctly remembered the meeting, and that it was on Mr. Graham's motion that the name Durham was chosen. At the West River church all those settled around the Harbor, including the people of the Town, continued to worship until Rev. Thomas McCulloch arrived in 1803 when a separate congregation was organized in Pictou. In Durham Cemetery most of the pioneer settlers of West Pictou are buried. To Durham, at a later date, the Presberterian Theological Seminary for Nova Scotia was removed, and there established and conducted for a number of years.

But Durham, as a village, did not start until 1822. The first lot was sold on March 19, of that year, by Anthony Maclellan, junior, to John Henderson, shoemaker. It was the half-acre lot, at the lower end of the village, on which Waller's blacksmith shop stands. The price paid was 14 pounds, 10 shillings — not a bad price for a beginning. But on April 13, 1824, two years later, Henderson bought the adjacent half-acre lot, for which he paid 25 pounds. Henderson must have been prospering, for on June 14, 1826, he bought 30 acres of land in the rear of his first two purchases for which he paid 100 pounds. Durham seems to have been experiencing a "boom" at this time. On May 16, 1830, Alexander MacDonald blacksmith, bought an acre lot adjoining Henderson's lots, — price 50 pounds. Two years later, on August 15, 1832, a large lot, in the southern angle of the Rogers Hill road was sold for 125 pounds. The following day it was resold to J. R. Ritchie for 175 pounds.

From this time on, during a number of years, Durham grew and prospered greatly, owing to the development of the timber trade of which it was a large purchasing centre. At one time it had four inns — three of them "licensed," and many places of general business. It had mechanical establishments of almost every kind; two churches, and the Presbyterian Seminary. In 1849, Durham Post Office ranked fifth in the Province in revenue collected, being, in this respect, at that time ahead of New Glasgow. The Post Offices, with a larger revenue than that of Durham were Halifax, Yarmouth, Truro and Pictou. With the decay of the timber trade Durham fell into rapid decline. But the surrounding country has lost none of its solid and long-established prosperity.

External Links