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History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia
Chapter V - Religion in Inverness County

We regard religion as the greatest and best factor in our civilisation. We may be, ourselves, we are in fact, sometimes erratic in the practice of religion; we cannot deny its elevating influence over the lives of men all around us. Hence it is that we approach this subject with great diffidence, for more reasons than one.

Those who first settled along our shores from the district of Port Hastings to Cheticamp were nearly all Catholics. Although the most of them were quite illiterate, yet all of them had been instructed in the essentials of their faith. This faith, strong, simple and sincere, was their most highly valued possession.
At that time all the Catholics of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishops of Quebec. It goes without saying that, at that period, communication between Quebec and Cape, Breton was most difficult and irregular. Unlike their co-religionists in Prince Edward Island the Catholic immigrants to Inverness County were not accompanied by any clergymen. Our pioneer Catholics were, in this respect, in evil case for years.

Among the early priests who came from Scotland to Prince Edward Island was Reverend Angus Bernard MacEachern, a man of noble character and very liberal education. He was born at Kinloch, Moidart, Scotland, on the 8th of February, 1759. When his father and mother with six other children, emigrated to St. John's Island, the oldest sister who was then married, and this youngest son, Angus Bernard, were left behind, the latter in charge of Bishop Hugh MacDonald, Vicar Apostolic of the Highland District. The next four years were spent by this young man in the Catholic College of Samlaman. In August 1777 he went to Spain where he studied for ten year in the Royal Scots College at Valladolid. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Moreno of Valladolid on the 20th day of August, 1787.

Returning to Scotland, he assumed charge of a mission in the Western Highlands where he labored for three years with much success, under Bishop Alexander MacDonald. He knew the spiritual desolation of his friends in America and yearned to be with them. He asked and received permission to go to his friends in the New World. On the eve of his departure for the field of his choice he was given the following letter of introduction from the Bishop of the Highlands to the Bishop of Quebec:

July 6th, 1790.
-My Lord:
Mr. Angus MacEachern will have the honor to deliver this letter to you, whom I take the liberty to recommend to your kind offices, as a deserving young clergyman full of zeal, piety, and for abilities, both natural and acquired, equal to the due discharge of his respective functions. It is, considering my own situation, with the greatest reluctance I find myself obliged to part with a person of the above description. In the Island of St. John's there are, upwards of six hundred of the Roman Catholic persuasion, half French half emigrants, who went from these parts a long time ago. About seven years past (?) they had the misfortune to be deprived of the truly worthy churchman who had accompanied the latter from Scotland; and have since been without the assistance of a pastor, and have never ceased to make application and importune me for a clergyman. To the above entreaties were lately added the petitions, and I may say the insurmountable supplications of a very numerous emigration from these countries to said Island, so that I find myself unable to resist any longer, notwithstanding my difficulties at home for want of laborers.

I am willing to believe that your Lordship has been all along in the dark with regard to the distressed situation of the worthy Catholics in St. John's Island, otherwise you would have fallen upon some effectual plan, which in time coming must necessarily be the case.

Yours most respectfully,
(Sgd.) X. Alex. MacDonald."

For full thirty years Father McEachern labored assiduously as an ordinary priest. During that time he paid many visits to the Catholics of Pictou, Antigonish and Inverness. He had a brother and three sisters in Judique whom he was wont to visit unawares. The brother was Ewen McEachern of Judique, and the sisters were Mrs. Robert McInnis (Mason), Mrs. Michael MacDonald, and Mrs. Allan MacDonnell (Ban), all familiar figures in the Judique of the long past.

On the 17th of June, 1821 Father McEachern received episcopal consecration at the lands of Bishop Plessis of Quebec, amid imposing ceremonies. There were present, besides the consecrating prelate, Rt. Rev. Bernard Claude Panet, Right Revd. Alexander MacDonnell, and Rev. Father Bruneau. It was the first occasion on which four Bishops were seen together in one Church in Canada. It was the church of St. Roch.

In 1823 Bishop MacEachern made his first episcopal visit to Cape Breton. While on this official visit he wrote from Sydney the following letter to Bishop Plessis, whose suffragan he was:

"My Lord: Sydney, Sept. 8th, 1823.

"Just as I was getting away to Low Point, a Brig with passengers from the Highlands came into this Harbor, and as the vessel proceeds to Quebec, I gladly do myself the pleasure of writing to Your Grace.

I passed over to Broad Cove, about 12 miles S. of Margrie on the 29th of July, where I met by appointment Mr. Fraser and Mr. Mac - Donnell. My intention was to have passed to Mag-de-lenes, and thence to Cheticamp early in July, but owing to the sickly state of our people I was prevented from so doing till then.

Reverend Mr. MacDonald was to the W. and Mr. Fitzgerald, who arrived some days previous to my departure is at Charlottetown. He takes charge of his countrymen about said great capital, also, of the Scots of the W. River and round to Point Prim. Mr. MacDonald has all from Rustico to the N. Cape. I am sorry to say the poor French of Tagnish and Cascompeque are, as yet, uncertain of their situation. The demands of the proprietors are so exorbitant, that the people cannot pay the rents. The Rustico French are generally very much involved in debt for their lands. Five families of them passed to this Island last May. They have choice lands within eight or nine miles of this town, and about five from the head of the Bras D'Or Lake. They also are near Fr. Village. I got a grant of 200 acres of excellent land last winter from Sir James Kempt, at the head of the E. arm 13 miles from this, where a snug church is built. Mr. Dollard wintered at said place. There is another going on at the Narrows, on land which the people l brought for the incumbent. If Mr. Fraser will be left with us, or if we can get another to take his place, I think the best disposition would be to re-annex L'Ardoise and River Bourgeois to Arichat, and let him be stationed between Bradeque, Narrows, East Arm, Red Island, W. Arm and Indians. In that event Mr. McKeagney might take charge of Lewisburg, Manadou, Catalonia, Cow Bay (?) Lingan, Low Point, this town and the French Village.

Mr. Fraser, who is strong and healthy, well used in his new country to mixed missions, much respected, preaches every day, and has made many conversions. He does not mind where he is employed, but will most effectually do his duty wherever he is. People in these places think nothing of any church service without some homily on the gospels.

All the country from Cheticamp by Margrie, and five miles in the interior to a large Lake 13 miles long and six wide, stretching towards Mabou, Just-au-Corps in the rear of Judique to River Inhabitants is taken up and mostly settled with our people. But no one to attend but Mr. Blanchette and Mr. Alexander MacDonnell. Here are no roads fit for horses in the most of said districts, except on the Judique shore. There is a church in Broad Cove, one in Mabou, one in Judique one on River Inhabitant, and the Catholics of Port Hood talk of erecting one with stones. It would be desirable that some person could be got to take some part of Mr. MacDonnell's labors off his hands."

The Mr. Fraser referred to in the above letter was the valiant priest and sturdy Scotsman, Reverend William Fraser, who, on the 24th of June 1827 was consecrated Bishop, and became the second Vicar Apostolic of Nova Scotia, succeeding the venerable Bishop Burke. Later on, and after the new diocese of Arichat had been created, he became the first Bishop of that new See, residing in the town of Antigonish.

We also see by the foregoing letter of Bishop MacEachern that in 1823 there were only two resident priests in the County of Inverness, namely, Father Alexander McDonnell of Judique, and Father Blanchette of Cheticamp.

The condition was not much better in respect of resident priests, when the gallant Bishop Fraser took hold of this Diocese. His first care was to see if there were suitable young men among his people who could be induced to study for the church. A young man by the name of Colin Francis MacKinnon was among the first to be selected by him. This young man afterwards became the succesor of Bishop Fraser, himself, as administrator of the diocese of Arichat. Of good, clever and pious MacKinnon, and of his eminent successor, "the learned Cameron" we shall have something special to say further on.

Bishop Fraser ruled this diocese for several years. He was a powerful man in mind and body. It was a saying among the people that "no man could stand Bishop Fraser's eye." His heart was ever with the poor; but he insisted on giving to Caesar what was Ceasar's. In the presence of evil doing, he did not know the poor from the rich, nor the rich from the poor. With him there was no compromising of offences against God and His laws. It was a spectacle for men and angels to see that dauntless soldier of the cross, single-handed and alone, storming the Vimy Ridges of sin and bad habits.


The above named clergyman was the first regular and permanent Catholic priest in Eastern Nova Scotia. He came from Scotland in 1802, after spending twenty years on the Scottish missions of the homeland. He was born at Glenspean, near Lochaber, and was of the MacDonalds of Keppoch. He was a man of great zeal and engaging personality. Bishop Plessis refers to him as "a large man of fine presence." His jurisdiction extended in territory from Merigomish on the West to Margaree Harbor on the East. No priest could be more beloved of his people. All denominations esteemed him highly. His actual home and residence were at Arisaig in the county of Antigonish, but his care and influence went far beyond that. Besides serving his own flock spiritually, he was "a guide philosopher and friend," for all the pioneer settlers of the East.

Owing to his lofty character, wise counsel, and great weight among the people, his opinion was sought and appreciated by the civil administrators of the province at Halifax. On the occasion of his annual interview with the Government in 1816 he was taken ill at Halifax, and died there on the 15th of April of that year. The Governor and the Admiral offered to send a Frigate with his remains to Arisaig, but it was found that, on account of ice in the Strait of Canso, no ship could pass through. But the devoted men of Arisaig found a way of bringing home the remains of their admired pastor. Alexander MacDonald (Loddy) and Alexander Mor MacDonald both of Arisaig, with Alexander Mor MacPherson of Cape George, rigged up a powerful horse and a rough wood-sled, and proceeded to Halifax to convey back home all that was mortal of the priest they loved. Such was the depth of snow on the roads that these brave trio of Highlanders were obliged to carry the casket on their shoulders for long stretches, but they did not flinch or fail. Up beyond New Glasgow they were met by nearly all the male parishioners of Arisaig - all on foot. Good old people! Their love for their erstwhile leader was great and grand. Obedient to him in life, they were true to him in death. No, human incident could teach a finer lesson. May we all remember that lesson unto Our profit?


The first regular resident priest of Broad Cove was Fr. John Chisholm, son of Donald Chisholm, of North side Antigonish Harbor. Many of our readers have heard of his wonderful brother, Alexander Mor Chisholm, the inventor of a Mathematical Scale which aroused much interest in our early days. Father John was educated for the priesthood in Quebec, and ordained in February 1825. He came to Broad Cove in the summer of 1826, remaining about a year. From Broad Cove he returned to Antigonish where his stay was but short, going thence to St. Andrews. His last charge was at Arichat where, in 1833, he assisted in founding the Arichat Academy. He was after wards lost at sea, with all aboard, in a vessel going from Arichat to Newfoundland.

His successor at Broad Cove and the Margarees was a rugged missionary priest by the name of Reverend Simon Lawlor, a native of Cloren, Ireland, who had been raised to the priesthood on the 12th of July 1824. We think Fr. Lawlor visited Mabou in 1825. Later on he served Broad Cove and the Margarees as well as Mabou. We have read a letter written in 1827 by Fr. John Chisholm to an old gentleman near Margaree Forks, asking the Catholics there to pay to Reverend Simon Lawlor several little bills due to Father Chisholm.

Father Lawlor was an able, active man who was well liked. His difficulty among the Scottish people was that he could not very conveniently understand their language, nor they his. He died in Guysboro in December 1839.


The great majority of the Protestants of Inverness County at the present time, belong to the Presbyterian denomination. There are some good Methodists and Baptists, but their number is not large. In the early days nearly all the non-Catholics of the County were honest, rugged Presbyterians. As a matter of course, their clergymen came from Scotland, and were usually zealous and devoted men of fine lives.

The first resident Presbyterian Minister in the Island of Cape Breton was the Reverend William Miller who labored in Mabou for forty years, and died there in November 1861. He was a native of Ayreshire, Scotland, ordained in Pictou in 1821. He lived in a difficult period, but was a loyal Scot and carried on to the end. He worked hard, and died with his armour on.

The spiritual needs of the Presbyterians here were recognized in Scotland. A lady by the name of Mrs. MacKay of Rockfield, Sutherlandshire, formed a society called "The Edinburgh Ladies' Association," for the purpose of getting ministers for the desolate fields of Cape Breton. Through the instrumentality of this Association, five men were chosen and sent to this Island,- five men still fondly remembered by all creeds and classes in these parts. Their names were as follows: Reverend Alexander Farquharson, late of Middle River in the County of Victoria; Reverend John Stewart who was stationed at St. Georges Channel in the County of Richmond and later at Whycocomagh; Reverend James Fraser late of Boulardarie in the County of Cape Breton; Reverend Peter McLean, who worked for a while in Whycocomagh, and subsequently returned to Scotland; and the Reverend John Gunn, late of Strathlorne in the. County of Inverness.

Mr. Gunn lived and labored in our County for thirty years. He came in 1840, and died in 1870. If any man ever gave himself wholly to his work, Mr. Gunn did. For him there seemed to be nothing in this life except his duty to God and man; and, as he was given to see that duty, he performed it with supreme fidelity. No earthly rewards. for him. He was not only unselfish, he was self-sacrificing to the last degree. No sooner would one member of his congregation pay him his moderate stipend than he would give it away to another member whom he knew to be in need. He lived on a farm with his wife and family of four sons and two daughters. At a certain special meeting it would seem that his congregation felt ashamed of the small remuneration which the pastor was receiving. They resolved unanimously to pay him henceforth a fixed salary of sixty pounds a year. A messenger was sent to apprize the Minister of the Resolution which had just been passed. The reply of the good man was: "I shall not accept 60; and I shall not accept 50; but I will take 40, if they will allow me to go to the region of Cape North for six weeks every summer, to help the poor people who have no one to give them the consolations of the gospel."

Mr. Gunn was a gentleman and a scholar. Like many other old country clergymen, he was reputed to be particularly proficient in mathematics and the classics. Several young men, Catholic and Protestant, who intended to study for the church took private courses in Latin with Mr. Gunn. He took a strong interest in the cause of' education, and was punctual in his attendance at the meetings of School Commissioners. In addition to his other scholastic attainments it is said that he was, what is very rare in this country, a good Gaelic scholar. Some people might find Mr. Gunn peculiar in his social ways. That was because he was a genius. His charity knew no bounds, and the County of Inverness is distinctly the better of his, having lived here.

Another noted Presbyterian Minister in Cape Breton was the Reverend Mr. Stewart who lived at Whycocomagh for fourteen years. The Rev. Murdoch Stewart was born at Contin in Rosshire, Scotland, in 1809, and was a graduate with honours of the University of Aberdeen. He came to Cape Breton as a minister of the Free Church of Scotland. One of the reasons for his coming to Cape Breton was his ability to preach in Gaelic. He was called to the charge of the Presbyterian congregation of West Bay (St. George's Channel) in 1843. He was probably the first Presbyterian minister to be ordained in Cape Breton.

In 1846 he returned to Scotland for a year and while there married Catharine, daughter of James McGregor, Auchallater, Braemar. He returned to West Bay in 1847 and neither Mrs. Stewart nor he was ever able to revisit their native land.

His work was arduous. Few now living can know of the difficulties of travel in the country in those days when there were no carriage roads. Much of his visiting was done on horse back or in boats, and a tour of duty often took him from home for three weeks at a time. He remained in West Bay for twenty four years, and then resigning his charge, went to Cow Bay, now Port Morien, where he organized the present Presbyterian congregation there. In 1868 he was called to Whycocomagh where he labored for fourteen years. In 1882 he demitted his charge, retired "from active service" and removed with his family to Pictou where two of his sons had settled, and there, in July 1884 he entered into rest.

Mr. Stewart was a scholar of unusually high classical and mathematical attainments and kept up his interest in these studies all his life long. Both in Richmond and in Inverness he served on the Board of School Commissioners, and took a deep interest in education. Earnest and untiring in the discharge of his solemn duties as a pastor, he was of a cheerful and lively disposition and always loved the society of young people. His favourite recreation, for which however he had but little time, was angling, at which he was an expert. The late Rev. John Chisholm of Margaree who was his colleague as a school commissioner in Inverness County, was also an enthusiastic angler, and a comrade with rod and line.

Like every cultivated Highlander, Mr. Stewart was, under his own roof, the soul of hospitality. There was a community of Indians on a Reserve near Mr. Stewart's home in Whycocomagh. They were chiefly Catholics, but got acquainted with the Minister who always treated them kindly. When they heard that he was going away, they gathered at the house one day, and cried like little children over the pending separation.


Bishop MacKinnon's father, John MacKinnon, came to America from Eigg, Scotland, in 1791. He settled first in Pictou County, but subsequently moved from there to Parrsboro, in the County of Cumberland, where he spent ten years. While at Parrsboro he was married to Eunice MacLeod, daughter of Neil MacLeod and his wife, Mary Campbell,- the latter a native of the Isle of Skye and a convert to the Catholic faith. Owing to the lack of facilities for the practice of his religion at Parrsboro, Mr. MacKinnon moved thence to the County of Antigonish, and located at William's Point. At William's Point in the County of Antigonish, on the 20th day of July A D., 1810, Colin Francis MacKinnon, a future Bishop of Arichat was born.

In 1824 Rev. William B. MacLeod was sent by Bishop MacEachern to the mission at Grand Narrows, Cape Breton. Father MacLeod took with him from the County of Antigonish four boys whom he wished to study for the church. These boys whom he took with him were Neil MacLeod, Alexander MacLeod, Colin Francis MacKinnon and John Grant. All four were afterwards raised to the priesthood, and became prominent pillars of the Catholic Church. At Grand Narrows those boys were taught at first by good Father William himself. Later on they were placed under the tutorship of Malcolm MacLellan, a Scotland scholar of repute, and a teacher of clear vision whom Providence had sent into "the forest primeval" at the psychological call of time.

Colin Francis MacKinnon made his theological studies in Rome, where he was ordained priest by Cardinal Fransoni on the 1st day of January, 1837. He came back home that year and was immediately designated by Bishop Fraser for the mission of St. Andrew's, on the South River of Antigonish County. He continued to be the live and devoted parish priest of St. Andrew's till he was raised to the episcopal office by Bishop Walsh of Halifax on February 21st, 1853. He even remained in his beloved parish for more than a year after his consecration, and before going to Arichat, the then seat of the Diocese. He resigned his See in 1877 and died on the 23rd of August, 1879.

Bishop MacKinnon did incalculable service for the Eastern counties of Nova Scotia. Everything was in the formative stage when he came upon the scene. Scarcely anything was then organized or developed into a healthy going concern. He drew order out of chaos, established schools and parishes, and did wonders to make his projects effective. His soul was set to the work of getting suitable candidates for the priesthood. In our buoyant boyhood we met him at his own house, and cannot forget how his first salutation nearly knocked us down:- "My dear young man, I hope you'll study for the church." For his sake and our own, we grieve to think that this generous hope of his went sadly awry. But the fault was ours, not, his.

He was full of zeal and piety, and literally consumed with the wish to help the people, as regarded both temporal and spiritual things. That he was a patron of education in, the best sense, his Grammar School at St. Andrew's, his Academy in Arichat, and his old College at Antigonish, have long since proved. He was an achieving leader of the sane sort. His last enduring work was the building and completing of that solid and stately Cathedral which looks down upon the modest town of Antigonish, attesting for all time the love and loyalty of sheep and shepherd.

So long as there is one good man in the diocese of Antigonish, so, long shall the good will and works of Bishop MacKinnon be remembered and revered.


John Cameron was born in 1826 at the South River of Antigonish County. His father was John Cameron (Red), a well-to-do farmer of that district, with a large family of whom this son was the youngest. All the other sons having taken to farming as a life pursuit, this Benjamin of the family was left free to choose his own calling.

His elementary education was received in the Grammar School of St: Andrew's, an institution of high repute at that time in Antigonish. Even at that early period he was noticed for his mental and physical activities. He was a sprightly youth, with all the pluck and ambition of the normal boy, well bred.

While yet in his teens, his father offered to send him for a full course, to any of the Universities of America, or to Rome if he wished. We heard himself, in his old age, telling the answer he made to his father:-"I shall go to Rome or nowhere." To Rome he went; and there he studied for eleven consecutive years in the world-recognized College of the Propaganda. He took the doctorates of Philosophy and Divinity, and was considered "learned" in at least seven languages. In later years, among the heirarchy of Canada, it was a custom to refer to him as "the learned Cameron."

After his return from Rome he was appointed Parish Priest of St. Ninian's, Antigonish, and became Professor of Philosophy in St. Francis Xavier's College. He was always an ardent educationist. Not only did he make an uncommon course in college: he continued all his life to be a hard and regular student. Everything about him, his manner, his taste, his habits, his mode of address, aye, the classic plainness of his apartments, all proclaimed him the serious student of the Propaganda. For that reason, perhaps, some people found him too cold and dignified. All men are liable to be cold and dignified sometimes, to some people.

It required close acquaintance to know Bishop Cameron. He was a man who knew the ways of the world. Therefore, he lived in strict conformity to ecclesiastical rules. These rules he observed at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. He had no two codes. But that does not mean that he lacked the social virtues. He could be as kind and pleasant as a sister of charity to the honest, humble man who knew but little; but probably a very lion to the flippant man who "knew it all." Any man who got well acquainted with him could not help discovering that, underneath that apparently cold exterior, there throbbed a heart ablaze with charity.

After years of excellent work as pastor of St. Ninian and Professor of Saint F. X. College, he was transferred to the then important parish of Arichat, originally the seat of the diocese. While in Arichat he was consecrated coadjutor Bishop in 1869. These coadjutor bishops are appointed with the title in partibus infidelium. Bishop Cameron's title in 1869 was "Bishop of Titopolus." He was raised to full episcopal jurisdiction over the diocese of Arichat in 1877. In 1882 the name of this diocese was changed from Arichat to Antigonish, and in the town of the latter name Bishop Cameron resided for the remaining years of his life. His active aid and long continued interest in the up-building of St. F. X. College and other educational institutions will be long remembered in this diocese.

Bishop Cameron was a good administrator. A great deal of organization and construction work was accomplished in his regime. He had compassion for the people, and never wished to see them, oppressed. At the same time, when he saw that it was necessary to do something which the people were able to do, he would take no excuse for inaction. That thing must be done. Like the careful man that he was, he was slow to decide. He would weigh and sift the pros and cons but his final conclusions were irrevocable. His priests obeyed him proudly; and the people on their part were equally docile in the hands of their local pastors. These conditions were ideal. But, to say that Bishop Cameron had no troubles, were to say what is not true of any Bishop.

We can recall a few snags, which he encountered in different parts of the diocese. They were perplexing, but he found a way out. At this distance after the events, it is easier to see that he, also, found the right way out. He was always well respected, at home and abroad. It is known that his word and worth had special influence, even in the Courts of the Vatican. On several occasions he was formally commissioned by Rome to investigate disputes which had arisen within the jurisdiction of other Canadian Bishops; and, in all such cases, his decision and report were accepted as the last word on the subject by all the parties in interest.

As a rule, he made a confirmation tour through the County of Inverness once every three years of his incumbency. Everybody liked to see him. His first visits were made when he was practically in the prime of life. Those of us who heard him then cannot easily forget that strong, clear and supplicating voice, ringing out from the altar of love and sacrifice. On his last two visits his once erect and commanding form showed evident signs of Time's tragedy. In his own palace in the town of Antigonish, - Death ended a lengthened earthly career which had been fine and fruitful. Immediately followed the spontaneous lamentations of a bowed multitude of priests and people.


The Reverend William Miller was a lowland Scottish Presbyterian Minister, and the first resident Minister of Hillsborough, Mabou. He was the only representative of the Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton, when he came to Hillsborough in 1821. At Hillsborough he remained until his death on the 16th of November 1861. The good man saw and suffered the dark beginning of things in Inverness County. After finishing his course of studies in the homeland, he heard and heeded the urgent appeals for clergymen, sent to Scotland from Nova Scotia. In the autumn of 1821 he was ordained at West River, Pictou County, and forthwith entered upon his work at Mabou. He was a classical scholar, but an exceedingly quiet and unassuming man. His library was small, his associates were unlettered, he never wrote a sermon, and was literally the student of one book. He worked hard and constantly under great difficulties. He resigned his charge in 1851, but continued his labors till the coming of his successor, Reverend James MacLean, D. D., three years later. In fact, he may be said to have died with his armour on. The Sunday preceding his death, though infirm and ill, he preached to his people from the text - "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear." Where indeed?

Mr. Miller was a plain, frugal, careful man who had a holy fear of debt. He was married in Mabou to a lady by the name of Renouf.

The Call to Rev. Mr. Miller.

Mabou and Port Hood, Aug. 24th, 1821.

To the Moderator and other members of the Presbytery:

Reverend Fathers:

The want of the dispensations of the Gospel in this place is very great, and is particularly felt by a number who have long been desirous to enjoy it, and as hope deferred maketh the heart sick so our hearts have long been in a languid state. But now in the good providence of God they begin to revive by having the prospect of a Minister soon placed among us, and we beg and earnestly entreat that you will do what is in your power that our expectations may not be disappointed, and we promise all due Obedience, respect and support, in the Lord, and should it please the Presbytery to send us the Reverend William Miller, who is now with us, they would crown our most Sanguine wishes, and for his support we would pay him yearly according to our annexed subscription list.

That the cause of religion may prosper among us in the Church is the fervent prayer of every one who subscribes this call, and shall be our endeavour, through Grace strengthening us, to promote.

William MacKeen
Benjamin Worth
Lewis L. Smith
John B. Riley (?)
David F. Curtin
David Smith
Samuel MacKeen
James Hawley
John Worth
Peter Renouf
Benjamin Smith
David Brennan
Henry Shier
Reuben Young
George McMaloney
Joseph Worth
William Worth
Robert Brownlee
Eben Leadbetter
Robert Sinclair
Francis Bowen
William Watts
James Bull
Robert Bull
Andrew Moore
John Roper
William Crawford
William Pollock
Isaac Smith
Willard Crowell
William Dien (?)
John Smith
Parker Smith
Giles Corry
Alexander Fraser
Alexander MacQuarry
Alexander MacCallum
Elizabeth Smith
John Adams
James MacKeen
R. MacDonald
Elisha Young
Richard Potter
James MacCallum
Kenneth MacCallum.
John Keith
James Wright
Hugh Fraser
William Bull
Christopher Bull
Andrew Stevenson.


Rev. James McGregor was the first of the Pioneer Presbyterian ministers who helped to lay the foundation of Presbyterianism in the Island of Cape Breton. He made his first visit in 1798. That visit did not include the County of Inverness. There were only about twenty Presbyterian families in all Cape Breton at that time and none of them from the Highlands of Scotland, and none speaking the Gaelic language. Eight or nine of them were at Mabou and Port Hood, eight or nine at Upper North Sydney, and two on the Sydney River Geo. Sutherland and Alex. Cantley. Mrs. Sutherland had sent for Mr. McGregor a distance of two hundred miles to pay them a visit and. to baptize Charles, her third son. The indefatigable McGregor gladly responded, and was soon back in Pictou again.

Four years later, in 1802, "a stream of Presbyterian immigrants from the Scottish Highlands and Islands began to flow into our valleys, settle along our bays and shores and even climb our hillsides. This living" stream of expatriated men, women and children continued to flow into Cape Breton during the next 40 years. In the year 1842 this stream ceased to flow, but by that time, from ten to twelve thousand Presbyterians were landed on the shores of this island."

Rev. James McGregor made his second visit in 1818. This time he spent about six weeks in what is now Inverness County. Having hired a boat at Antigonish, he sailed across St. George's Bay, landed at
Port Hood, and then proceeded to Mabou on horseback. He found five or six Presbyterian families at Port Hood and ten or twelve at Mabou. He spent two weeks between these two places, visiting and holding religious exercises in every family. This was the first Protestant preaching that had ever been enjoyed there; and the young people, even those arrived at the age of manhood had never heard a sermon. His visit made a deep impression upon many.

"From Mabou and Port Hood he came to Plaster Cove on the Strait of Canso; and from there he went to River Inhabitants and West Bay. There were a number of Presbyterians scattered along the Strait at that time. A considerable number at River Inhabitants, and about twenty families at West Bay." Dr. Patterson writes in his Memoir,-"Most of them had come thither by way of Pictou, having resided there for longer or shorter periods, during which they had been under the ministry of Mr. McGregor. From the time of their settlement they had not heard a sermon till he visited them."

Dr. McGregor is a more familiar designation of the man than Mr. McGregor. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by the University of Glasgow in 1822, four years after his second visit to Cape Breton. This visit was no doubt due to the presence of parties, in both Mabou and West Bay, who met him in Pictou and who desired to see and hear him in Cape Breton.

There was Captain Benjamin Worth, who brought the doctor from Charlottetown to Pictou, in his schooner, in the year 1791, some twenty seven years earlier, when Dr. McGregor was returning from his first missionary journey to Prince Edward Island. There was also Mr. William McKeen, who came to Mabou in 1812. Mr. McKeen was born in Truro, but he lived some time in New Glasgow, and met Dr. McGregor there. Some of the settlers of West Bay had actually been parishioners of his during their temporary stay in Pictou County. To quote Dr. Patterson again, - "He spent one Sabbath at River Inhabitants, and preached in a barn belonging to Mr. Adam McPherson, both in English and Gaelic. Some of the people of West Bay came through to hear him. On Tuesday following, he went to West Bay and preached again in both English and Gaelic, in a barn belonging to one McIntosh. This second visit of Dr. McGregor to Cape Breton resulted in the formation of a congregation at Mabou and Port Hood when, three years later, these two places united in a call to the Rev. William Millar, a licentiate of the Associate Church of Scotland, and forwarded the call to the Presbytery of Pictou, for presentation to Mr. Millar on his arrival from the Old Country. This call was in due season presented and accepted, and Mr. Millar was subsequently settled in Mabou, and Port Hood as the first minister of that congregation. No doubt Dr. McGregor was the moving and guiding spirit in this whole transaction.

Dr. McGregor was more than a self-sacrificing missionary. He was a man of good literary attainments and of scholarly tastes. He was also a poet of no mean order as his published English and Gaelic poems abundantly testify. His Gaelic hymns were highly esteemed and very generally sung by a former generation not only in Nova Scotia but in Scotland as well. Mothers sang them at their spinning wheels to drink in of their spirit and at the same time to convey delightful spiritual messages to the little ones round about them, messages which are bearing fruit in our own day.


The Rev. Dugald McKichan was minister of the Presbyterian Church at River Inhabitants and the surrounding country from the end of 1831 to the autumn of 1840. His charge embraced River Dennis, River Inhabitants and the Strait of Canso from Port Malcolm to Troy with all the intervening country. He was minister at Barneys River and Merigomish, N. S., from 1829 to 1831, and again from 1840 to 1844 when he returned to Scotland. He died there as parish minister of Daviot in the year 1859.

Mr. McKichan was born and educated in Scotland, licensed and ordained by the Presbytery of Lorne on the 12th of March 1829, sailed from Greenock in the brig Thetis on the 25th of March, and landed at Arichat, N. S., on the 28th of April, leaving the ship a hopeless wreck on the coast near by. The Thetis had been caught in heavy ice and thrust upon the rocks.

Mr. McKichan made his home at River Inhabitants while he was minister in Cape Breton, and from there as a centre he preached in all the surrounding Presbyterian settlements, including West Bay, River Dennis, Malagawatch, Grand River, Loch Lomond, and the Strait of Canso.

The first Presbyterian Church built at the Strait of Canso was built in the early part of Mr. McKichan's ministry, probably in 1832. It stood by the highway to Port Hood and a little north of Plaster Cove, now Port Hastings. The cemetry on the north west side of the Long Stretch Road marks the site of that first church. All trace of it has now disappeared. This was the church in which the Rev. John Stewart preached his first sermon on this side of the Atlantic on August the 24th, 1834, and the church in which the Rev. Alexander Farquharson preached his first sermon after his ordination by the Presbytery of Miramichi on the 16th of September of the preceding year.

Mr. McKichan was at River Inhabitants when the Presbytery of Cape Breton, the first formed Presbytery on the island, was organized in 1836. This Presbytery took charge of all Presbyterian work in Cape Breton, except St. Anne's. Mr. McKichan's name appears on its roll in 1837. Shortly afterwards he became its clerk, and so continued until he left the island in 1840. His laborious and arduous ministry was greatly appreciated by his parishioners and by the other settlements which he was able to visit. He nobly helped to lay a good foundation for the time to come.


The Rev. Wm. G. Forbes was ordained and inducted by the Free Church Presbytery of Cape Breton as minister of Plaster Cove, River Inhabitants and River Denys in the month of August, 1852. He made his home at Plaster Cove, now Port Hastings, and spent his ministerial life as minister of this extensive parish. He resigned his charge on account of age and infirmity on the 30th of June, 1881, and lived on comfortably and happily in his own home with his son, Henry, his son's wife (Sarah McKeen) and his grandchildren, William, Harry, and Mary (now Mrs. Aubrey Lawrence, Toronto), till the hour of his departure arrived on the 20th day of September 1886, in the 86th year of his age and the thirty fourth year of his ministry.

Mr. Forbes was educated partly in Scotland and partly at the Free Church College, Halifax, N. S. He was one of the first students of the Free Church College to be licensed and ordained. He was licensed by the Free Church Presbytery of Halifax in June 1851. In October 1859 he was chosen Moderator of the Synod of the Free Church, and was Moderator in Oct. 1860 when the Synod met in Pictou, and the Free Church of Nova Scotia and the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia entered into union and formed the Presbyterian Church of the Lower Provinces of British North America.

Mr. Forbes was born at North Ronaldshay, one of the Orkney Islands, in the year 1800. In early life he was for a number of years a school teacher, and taught not only in the Orkneys, but also in Sutherlandshire and Edinburgh. He came to Halifax in 1847, and studied for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church from 1848 until 1851 when he finished his course and was duly licensed to preach the gospel. The following year he became pastor of Plaster Cove, (now Port Hastings), River Inhabitants and River Denys.

The older people of this charge were nearly all from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and the dear, old mellifluous Gaelic was on almost every tongue. Among them Mr. Forbes was perfectly at home.

They had been longing for such a minister, and now they had him - the man of their own choice. Mr. Forbes was a good preacher in English and Gaelic, and a man of broad sympathies. He stood for cordial relationship with all churches in so far as their principles were unmistakably Christian. He was very deeply interested in temperance and the common schools and in all that contributed to the moral, social and spiritual welfare of the people as a whole. In these respects he did much to give a strong healthy tone to the public and private life of all the people within his sphere of influence, and to this day his name is deservedly held in very high esteem.

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