Pictonians at Home and Abroad Chapter 6 PICTONIANS AT HOME AND ABROAD


Perchance some scoffing passer-by may smile
In wonder at thy frame, so quaint and crude,
Considering not, through ignorance, the brood
That found thee wondrous kind and wise, the while
Outstretched, thy wings protected them from guile:
Upbrought and nurtured them to war with rude
Strong error, rooted in the multitude
And for the heraldings that reconcile.

Commerce and Culture felt thy fine foresight;
Altar and Court-room, Science, Arts of Skill,
Drew from thy sons safe leaders, and the State
Enlisted many a stalwart potentate,
Made fit in thee to sense the people's will
Yet strong to boldly dare and do the right.

Peter M. MacDonald



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

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

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

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

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 anti-burghers, 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 irk 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 board 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 and 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 Doctor's degree.  Returning to Canada, Dr. Bayne took 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 Mr. 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 mode 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. 0. 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, 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 oftimes 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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*Pictonians at Home and Abroad Electronic Edition Editors:
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Richard MacNeil

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