THE Presbyterian Church
in Nova Scotia was the first of all the British Colonies to establish a
mission in a foreign land; and the Rev. John Geddie was its first
missionary. To Mr. Geddie belongs the honor of originating such a mission.
It was largely through his efforts that the Foreign Mission Board was
organized. He went out from Pictou in 1846 to the New Hebrides, the chosen
field of his labors. He was one year and seven months in reaching his
destination. For twenty-four years he labored there. After his death a
memorial tablet was erected on the island on which were engraved these
significant words: "When he landed, in 1848, there were no Christians
here; and when he left in 1872, there were no heathen." The story of the
first foreign mission enterprise of the Presbyterians of Canada is of deep
The pioneer missionary,
Dr. Geddie, was born in the quiet old Scotch town of Banff, Scotland, on
the 10th day of April, 1815. When about a year old his parents removed
with him to Pictou, N. S. His father being a clockmaker, of small
earnings, the young lad could not get much assistance from him. Like many
of the world's best men, he had to work his own way. At twenty-two he was
licensed to preach. He entertained the hope that the Presbyterian Church
in Nova Scotia, of which he was a member, would found a foreign mission of
her own, and send forth and support her own foreign missionary. But the
Church was not ready. In 1838, be accepted a call to Cavendish and New
London, Prince Edward Island, and was ordained there. Two years before
this he had married Charlotte. daughter of Dr. Alexander McDonald,
Antigonish, who proved a faithful companion and helper. He entered upon
his work with ardor; but he did not forget his darling purpose while
engrossed in his labors at Cavendish. His letters to the local papers and
the Presbyterian Banner attracted attention and were read widely. He
organized a missionary society in his own church, and induced other
congregations to do the same in theirs. He won many of the people; the
Presbytery of Prince Edward Island, and finally, the Synod of Nova Scotia
to his views.
In July, 1843, the year
of the disruption in Scotland, an overture was introduced for the first
time in Synod to undertake foreign mission work. At the next meeting of
Synod, held in Pictou, July 11, 1844, it was resolved by a vote of 20 to
14 to appoint a Board of Foreign Missions. The Board consisted of Revs.
John Keir, R. S. Patterson, Robert Douglass, William McGregor, John Geddie,
John C. Sinclair, James Bayne, James Waddell, John McCurdy and John L
Baxter. Several elders were added. The first meeting was held at the close
of Synod in Pictou, John Keir, convenor, James Waddell, recording
Secretary, and John Geddie, corresponding Secretary. A year later, Revs.
David Roy and George Christie, with John W. Dawson, (afterward Sir John
W., principal of McGill University) were added to the Board. Dr. Dawson
was a life-long friend of Dr. Geddie and his mission.
The Board reported
progress to the Synod of 1845. By a majority of one the Synod authorized
them to select a field and appoint a missionary. The Board met September
24, 1845; and, after prayerful consideration, chose the South Sea Islands
as their field, and Rev. John Geddie as their missionary. Thus, nearly
seventy years ago, the foreign mission work of the Church first took
definite shape. It will be easily seen that the year was a marked one in
the history of Canadian Presbyterianism. With a Synod composed of only
twenty ministers, fifteen elders and five-thousand members; a treasury
which had only
$1000, and a motion to
send a missionary carried with the bare majority of one, they launched the
enterprise! No wonder there was much apprehension as to its future. In all
the succeeding years that historic act has given energy and courage to the
Presbyterians of the Maritime Provinces, and inspired the rest of the
country to imitate their example. That enterprise with its one missionary
has developed into missions in Trinidad, Central India, Formosa, China and
Korea. In 1845, the Church was able to raise a foreign mission fund of
only $1000. Today, the Church is raising about $310,000 to sustain its
missions, and has 146 missionaries in foreign fields.
The designation services
of Mr. and Mrs. Geddie took place in Prince St. Church, Pictou, November
3, 1846. Soon afterwards they started for their field, of labor. Think of
traveling 113 miles by coach to Halifax! Think of 8 days tossing on the
sea from Halifax to Boston! Think of one hundred and seventy days from
Boston to Honolulu, when for three weeks their little brig battled for
life with tremendous storms at the Cape, and then, the voyage from
Honolulu to Samoa occupying 38 days! They had sailed over 19,000 miles. At
Samoa, they were detained for eight months. There Dr. and Mrs. Geddie left
their eldest child as they could not take it to live among cannibals.
Already they had had a taste of trial and hardship in their family. Dr.
Geddie had left behind him an aged and devoted mother. Did these things
quell his ardor or hinder his efforts? On the contrary, they stimulated
him to push forward to reach the place of his chosen life-work. On the
thirteenth day of July, 1848, be sighted Aneityum. On the following day he
first set foot on its soil.
The voyage, it will he
seen, occupied one year and seven months. We can form no conception of the
toil and weariness and danger involved in such a long, stormy, and
dangerous voyage. Now, the New Hebrides can be reached from Pictou, in
less than three months, in the enjoyment of comforts and luxuries, besides
speed and safety, to which our first missionary was a complete stranger.
He was just as truly the "Apostle of the New Hebrides" as Paul was the
"Apostle of the Gentiles." Here Mr. Geddie began his work among a people
of the lowest type. Before many years the entire system of heathenism gave
way. Churches were built, schools established, children trained and godly
homes erected. Aneityum became a centre from which light radiated to the
other islands. It became a crown of glory in the history of missionary
In 1865, Dr. Geddie with
his wife paid a visit to Nova Scotia, their only visit. They were the
first "returned missionaries" ever welcomed by the Presbyterian churches
in Canada. Dr. Geddie told the story of his work with a simplicity and
pathos that could not be surpassed. The people never tired of his
thrilling tale. He returned and continued his labors for six other years,
till, December 14, 1872. when, at Geelong, Australia, he passed to his
reward. at the age of fifty-eight–the pioneer missionary of the
Presbyterian Church in Canada–the founder of the first Canadian Mission to
the heathen in a foreign land.
Nova Scotia has many
heroes and heroines on her roll of honor. Among these, Dr. Geddie and his
devoted wife deserve a foremost place. Mrs. Geddie is still living at
Melbourne, Australia, retaining her faculties and her interest in the
work. She may fittingly be called the mother of the Mission, for she
rocked the cradle of the first-born Nova Scotia Mission. Mrs. Geddie has
two daughters, wives of missionaries in the New Hebrides: Mrs. Neilson,
wife of Rev. Thos. Neilson, of Tanna, whom she had taken with her, a child
in arms, when she left Nova Scotia; and Mrs. MacDonald, wife of Rev. D.
MacDonald of Efate. Her youngest daughter, Mrs. C. G. Harrington of
Halifax, died recently.
J. W. Matheson and his wife settled on Tanna, in 1858. Mr. Matheson was
born at Rogers Hill, Pictou, 1832. He enjoyed the precious privilege of a
pious ancestry. He began attending the grammar school at Durham, taught by
Daniel McDonald, afterwards Inspector of schools for Pictou County, to
prepare himself for the Seminary. After being accepted as a missionary to
the New Hebrides, he was ordained in Prince St. Church, Pictou, November
22, 1856. Rev. James Watson, his pastor preached the sermon; Rev. George
Walker offered the ordination prayer. Rev. James Bayne delivered the
charge, and Rev. A. P. Miller addressed the people. The winter of 1857, he
spent in Philadelphia. prosecuting medical studies.
Before his departure, Mr. Matheson married Mary Geddie Johnston, the
second child of James Johnston of Pictou, and born in that town, October
1837. Her mother was a sister of the Rev. John Geddie. Mrs. Matheson was
one of the loveliest of women, of deep personal piety and admirably fitted
for mission work. Both she and her husband entered upon their work with
great earnestness. They underwent great hardships, and encountered perils
of the gravest character. They only labored four years in the field. Mrs.
Matheson died at the early age of twenty-five, the eleventh of March,
1862, and Mr. Matheson a few months later, at thirty years of age. Dr.
Paton said that Tanna was often described as the hardest Mission field in
the heathen world, but the light which Mr. and Mrs. Matheson kindled there
was never wholly extinguished.
church in the Maritime Provinces, in 1872, sent forth three young men to
fill the blanks made by death and by retirement. These were the Revs.
James D. Murray, J. W. McKenzie and H. A. Robertson. Mr. Murray was born
at Durham, Pictou Co., and took his literary and theological courses at
Truro and Halifax. His first
and only charge was in Antigonish, N. S. His heart was in
mission work, and he was appointed as Dr. Geddie's successor in Aneityum.
On account of his wife's blindness, he resigned in a few years and settled
in Australia. Resigning this charge he went to Tennessee, U. S. A., where
he was settled over a congregation for a time. Subsequently he returned
again to Australia and was called to Moruya, where he labored with great
diligence and success for sixteen years, until his death, July 13, 1913.
Mr. Murray was sixty-eight years of age and leaves a widow and one son. He
was a man of great spirit and beloved both in the home and foreign fields.
Rev. John W. McKenzie,
D. D., and his wife were for a long time. honored missionaries in Efate.
Mr. McKenzie is a native of Green Hill. Pictou Co., the fourth of a family
of ten children. His father. Alexander McKenzie. was for many years an
elder in Salem Church, Green Hill, under the ministry of the Rev. Geo.
Patterson, D. D. From the time he was eight years old, Mr. McKenzie
cherished the thought of becoming a missionary, though he never spoke of
it until he offered himself to the Foreign Board. He was educated at New
Glasgow, Dalhousie College, and the Theological College, Halifax. He also
took a short course in Medicine. Previous to entering on his mission work,
he married Miss Amanda Bruce of Musquodoboit, N. S. In January, 1913, Mr.
McKenzie, retired after forty years of faithful and fruitful service in
the mission field. His tactfulness has meant much to the whole mission and
his saintly character has exercised a unique influence upon Europeans as
well as natives.
Erromanga, where five
missionaries were murdered, two of them devoured by the cannibals, is now
a Christian Island. Rev. H. A. Robertson and his wife were appointed to
Erromanga, the Martyr Isle, where their efforts have been crowned with
abundant success. Mr. Robertson was born at Barney's River, Pictou, in
1841. When a young man, he entered the employ of R. McKenzie, Pictou. His
health not being good, and having a desire to see these beautiful isles
for himself, he took passage to the South Pacific in the Dayspring, 1863.
When in Melbourne, Australia. he was appointed agent for the New Hebrides
Cotton Co., of Glasgow. His work was to buy the material from the natives
and ship it to Scotland. Though accepting the situation for only six
months, he remained over four years. He was familiar with the missionaries
and deeply interested in their work. In 1868 while still on Aneityum, the
Church of Scotland, at home, invited him to be their first missionary. He
accepted the invitation and returned to Nova Scotia where he took a course
of training in Theology and Medicine.
In 1871 he was ordained
as a foreign missionary by the Kirk Presbytery of Halifax, as their second
missionary, Rev. Mr. Goodwill being the first. On the sixth of September
he married Christina McNeill, daughter of John Dawson, Little Harbor,
Pictou. They sailed from Halifax, October 24, and landed at Aneityum, May
1, 1872. He died May, 1914, en route home on a furlough. Rev. John
Goodwill of Antigonish, was sent out by the Kirk to the New Hebrides in
1871. He spent some time on Santo and then resigned.
The second pioneer
Pictonian in the mission field was the Rev. John Morton, D. D. To him
belongs the credit of originating the Trinidad Mission, in the West
Indies, in 1867. Mr. Morton was born at Stellarton, Pictou Co., December
20, 1839. His parents removed to Fraser's Mountain, near New Glasgow when
he was quite young. The family, one of that good, old Scottish type of the
Cotter's Saturday Night, the father an elder, belonged to Knox Free
Church, New Glasgow, and afterwards to United Church. He went to Halifax
in 1855, and entered the Free Church College, where he completed his
course in 1861.
In the summer of that
year he was licensed and ordained to the charge of Bridgewater, N. S.,
where he labored with marked success. Some years after his settlement a
throat trouble compelled a rest. He decided to spend a few months in the
tropics, and went to Trinidad. While there he became greatly impressed
with the destitute spiritual condition of the Coolies. Returning home. he
laid the matter before the Board, and they brought it before the Synod
which met in New Glasgow, in 1867. So moved was the Synod by his appeal
that on motion of Robert Murray. it was unanimously agreed to establish a
mission in Trinidad. Mr. Morton offered his services to the Board. He was
gladly accepted, and so became the first missionary of the Trinidad
Mission. He and his family sailed for the West Indies, December 1, 1867.
Dr. Morton was a man of
singular devotion. He served his Master with his whole heart. Next to his
devotion was his remarkable tact and good judgment which were felt not
only in the Mission, but in all the affairs of the Colony. Shortly after
his ordination he married Sarah E., daughter of the late William Silver,
Halifax. Mrs. Morton entered with her whole heart into the work of her
husband, and was for him a fitting help-meet. She and her four children
survive him. One of the sons, Rev. H. H. Morton is in charge of his
father's field at Tunapuna; Rev. Arthur S. Morton, Ph.D., is substituting
in Toronto University, in Church History; Dr. William C. Morton is
assistant Professor of Anatomy in Leeds Medical University, England, and
the only daughter is married to Rev. A. W. Thomson, Pictou.
Scarcely had Mr. Morton
settled down to his work, when he began appealing for another missionary.
In consequence of Mr. Morton's appeals, steps were taken by the Board to
secure a second missionary. They sent a call addressed to the Rev. K. J.
Grant of Merigomish. This call was gladly accepted, and Mr. (now Dr.)
Grant was designated for the work, March 29, 1870. He reached Trinidad,
with his wife and family, November 22, 1870. From the very commencement
the missionaries gave special attention to the education of the young. In
1875 John A. Macdonald, Hopewell, was sent as a missionary teacher,
serving two years. He was followed by Mr. A. Campbell, McLennan's Brook;
Rev. Dr. Grant is a
native of Pictou, born there in 1839. His first charge was at Merigomish.
N. S. He retired from the Trinidad mission in 1907, after thirty-seven
years of most faithful and devoted service. He is now engaged in mission
work among the Coolies in Vancouver, B. C. Dr. Grant was first married to
Miss Sarah Geddes, Yarmouth. His second wife was Miss Copeland of
Merigomish, N. S. A son of his, Rev. George A. Grant, is pastor at Black
River Bridge, N. B.; another son, G. Geddes Grant, born in Pictou, is a
leading business man in Port of Spain, West Indies.
Rev. William L. Macrae
was born at Abercrombie, Pictou Co., and was educated at Dalhousie College
and Pine Hill. He began his work in Trinidad in 1886, and was located at
Princestown. Here he labored most faithfully and successfully in
missionary and educational work for nearly nineteen years, until his
health failing him, he returned home. Since July 1905 he has been serving
a congregation at Golden, B. C. Mr. Macrae was first married to Miss
Elizabeth Creelman, Stewiacke, N. S.. She died in 1889. His present wife
was Miss Sadie Mitchell, Merigomish, N. S.
Rev. A. W. Thomson was
appointed missionary to Couva in 1890. Mr. Thomson is a son of the late
Rev. James Thomson, and was born at Durham, Pictou Co. Graduating from
Dalhousie University in 1885, he took his theological course at Princeton
Seminary. For twenty years Mr. Thomson labored with great energy and with
conspicuous success in the mission field. III health compelled him to
resign and return to Nova Scotia. He is now pastor of Knox Church, Pictou,
inducted there in 1911. His brother, Rev. William McC. Thomson, is pastor
of Greyfriars Church, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Pictou has sent three of
her sons to do missionary work in far off India. Rev. Charles M. Grant, D.
D., was for three years a missionary in India. He was sent out in
connection with the India Mission Committee of the church of Scotland.
While settled as a pastor in Halifax, he resigned at the request of Dr.
Norman McLeod to preach to the educated natives of Calcutta, where his
lectures were attended by hundreds of English speaking natives. His
promising career was arrested by a severe illness, whereupon he was
ordered home. A year later he accepted a call to Glasgow, Scotland, and
then to Dundee. The Rev. Dr. Grant is a Pictonian, a brother of the late
Principal Grant. He retired from active service a few years ago and makes
his home in Dundee.
Rev. Robert C. Murray
was sent to India in 1885 by the Western section of the Church–St. Paul's
Church, Montreal, undertaking his support. Mr. Murray was a son of Hugh
Murray and was born in Cariboo, Pictou Co., educated in Arts and Theology
at Queen's University, Ontario. He graduated in the spring of 1885. In the
fall of that year he began his work in Ujjain the oldest city in India,
with rare tact and zeal. A year later, Miss Charlotte Wilson, daughter of
the late Charles Wilson, Pictou, joined him and they were married. In less
than a year Mrs. Murray died and four months later Mr. Murray himself died
suddenly of sun stroke. "Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives, and
in death they were not divided." Kenneth G. MacKay, B, S. A., Toronto
Univ., was sent by the Canadian Church, 1906 to Central India to instruct
the natives in agricultural and industrial work. He resigned in 1912, and
returned to Pictou, his native place. Rev. William R. McKay is stationed
Kongmoon, South China. Mr. McKay was first sent to Macao,
in 1902, and was the first missionary located there. He devotes most of
his time to educational work. He was born in Springville, Pictou Co., and
is a son of Mr. Joseph McKay, an elder in the Springville Presbyterian
Church. He graduated from Dalhousie College in 1896, taking a B. D. degree
from Princeton Seminary, in 1901. For three years previous to his
departure for China, he held a pastorate at Noel and Kennetcook. He
married Miss Mary O'Brien, B. Sc., Noel, N. S. Knox Church, Regina,
Rev. George M. Ross, B.
A., son of Alexander Ross, was born at Blue Mountain, Pictou, and studied
theology at Pine Hill, where he graduated in 1901. He married, Minnie
Robertson of Ontario. He was sent as a missionary to North Honan, China,
in 1903, where be is now laboring. He is supported by St. John's Church,
Rev. Luther L. Young is
Pictou's representative in Korea. He went out in 1906 and is settled in
Ham Heung. He was born at Millsville, Pictou Co., graduated from Dalhousie
University in 1903, and three years later from Pine Hill. He is married to
Catherine F. Mair, B. A., Campbelltown, N. B. The first Presbyterian
Church, New Glasgow supports Mr. and Mrs. Young.
Rev. D. G. Cock, a
descendant of Rev. Daniel Cock the first settled minister of Truro, was
appointed missionary to Mhow, Central India. He was born in the West River
Valley, and graduated from Pine Hill in 1899. Soon after, he was sent as
an ordained missionary to Alaska where he spent three years. On the eve of
his departure as missionary to India in 1902, he was married to a college
class-mate, Miss Ella Maxwell, Halifax, N. S.
So far as known, none of
Pictou's fair daughters have entered the ministerial or legal professions
or ventured far into the fields of literature and science. They have
devoted their lives to the humbler yet equally important spheres of the
home and the school-room. The county bas been the home of the very best
type of capable and self-sacrificing mothers and wives. Much of its fame
and influence is due to them. Many families have furnished teachers for
the public schools--some families as many as half a dozen. For that
matter, nearly every man in the professional lists in this book, at one
time or another, taught school; and as the students from the Academy and
College went out into the country districts to teach in the summer, they
had much to do with making Pictou the literary and educational centre
which it is.
A few Pictou women have
studied medicine, and over a dozen have gone to be missionaries and
teachers in foreign lands, and have been faithful and fruitful workers for
the Master. The first to go was Miss Mary B. McKay, a daughter of Mr.
James McKay, elder, Stellarton, N. S. She was sent by the Western section
of the Church to Central India, in 1888. She was only a short time in the
field when she was married to Rev. John Buchanan, M. D., of Ontario. Mrs.
Buchanan is a graduate of Mt. Allison Ladies' College, Sackville, N. B.,
and of the Ladies' Medical College, Toronto. She is now living in Amkhut,
Central India, where she and her husband are successfully engaged in
missionary and medical work among the Bhils.
Mrs. Elizabeth M. Butler
went to India as an officer of the Salvation Army, in 1898, but in a few
years joined the Friend's Foreign Missionary Association of England with
her husband, the late Edward J. Butler. Altogether she has given eighteen
years of active service with Sohagpur as a centre. Mrs. Butler is a
daughter of the late James McLaren, Wentworth Grant, Pictou Co.
Cariboo, Pictou Co., has
sent two missionaries from the same house to labor in India-Misses Jemima
and Mary McKenzie. In 1904, Jemima McKenzie was appointed, under the
Women's Union Missionary Society of America,
to medical work in Cawnpore, India. Two years later she
went to Fatephur where she had charge of a large hospital which she was
largely instrumental in building. and of which she is now in full charge.
In 1905, her sister, Mary McKenzie, was appointed to succeed her in
Cawnpore where for nearly six years she engaged in Medical and Bible work.
In 1911 she was married to Rev. A. A. Smith, Verschoyle, Onto The two
sisters are graduates of Dalhousie University and the Medical School,
Halifax. and are highly esteemed both for their work and their personal
From the MilIsville
district, Pictou Co. three young women have given their lives to the cause
of missions. Miss Annie Young, a sister of Rev. L. L. Young, was settled
at Wan Chi, Central China, in 1897. She was educated at Pictou Academy and
in the Christian Alliance Institute, New York City, under whose auspices
she is now laboring. Miss Jennie Fraser, also of Millsville. sailed for
India in 1898. She has charge of a mission station at Shantipur. Her
sister, Agnes Fraser, (now Mrs. John N. Culver, a missionary from the U.
S. A.), went to India in 1904 and is located in Dholka, India. They were
both trained for missionary work in the Christian Alliance School, at
Nyack, N. Y., and are working under its Board.
Miss Mary S. Herdman,
daughter of the late Rev. Andrew Herdman, Pictou, is doing missionary and
educational work in Dhar, Central India. She was first sent out to
Northern India in 1903 by the Church of England, but for the last dozen
years she has been under the control of the Canadian Church and is
supported by the W. M. F. Society, Toronto. She helps in the Dispensary,
and acts as Bible teacher to women.
daughter, Miss Bessie McCunn, daughter of the late Rev. R. McCunn, River
John, is laboring in Jhansi, India. She was first appointed as teacher to
Princestown, Trinidad in 1900, and spent five years there. Afterwards she
attended the Ewart Missionary Training School Toronto, and while there was
appointed by the Women's Union Missionary Society, N. Y., to go to India.
Her work includes Hospital and Zenana work, and the superintending of day
and Sunday schools.
Maud M. Rogers, daughter of Mr. B. D. Rogers, Stellarton, was sent out, in
1909, by the Canadian Church and is now laboring in Song Jin, Korea. She
took a course in Domestic Science in Boston.
Priscilla McDonald, daughter of Mr. John McL. McDonald, Durham, Pictou,
(now the wife of Rev. Willard S. Tedford) is in the mission field in
Rayagadda, India. Mrs. Bessie A. Robb, wife of Rev. A. F. Robb, Korea, is
a daughter of Rev. Robert Cumming, D. D., Westville, N. S. They were
appointed to Wonsan in 1901, and are supported by St. Paul's Church,
Fredericton, N. B. Miss Jenny Hazel Kirk, daughter of J. H. Kirk, East
River St. Mary's, Pictou Co., was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board
of the Maritime Synod to Wonsan, Korea. She sailed December 5, 1913, from
Vancouver, B. C. A daughter of William Cameron, County Clerk, Pictou,
Christina Cameron, was married to Rev. Fred Paton, son of Rev. John Paton,
D. D., and was engaged in mission work with her husband in Malekula, New
Hebrides. She died April, 1914.
will thus be seen that Pictou County has made notable contributions to the
cause of Missions. Great honor has fallen to her in sending forth such a
noble band of men and women to publish the message of the King.