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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part III - Scots in the Settlement and Development of Canada and Newfoundland
The Makers of New Scotland by Rev. George Stephen Carson, D.D.


THERE are perhaps few, if any, bits of British overseas Dominions where the influence of the Scottish race has been more marked than in Nova Scotia (New Scotland). In speaking of the Scotch as the "Makers of New Scotland", however, I do not wish to imply that this beautiful province on the Atlantic seaboard of the Dominion of Canada does not owe much to other nationalities for any progress which it has made since it came under British rule. Englishmen took a very prominent part in the early government and development of this province; and among the best colonists were many loyalists other than Scotch, who emigrated from the United States at the time of the American revolution. The men, however, who have stamped their character most deeply upon the life of Nova Scotia and given it a name and fame throughout the English-speaking world have come from north of the Tweed. The northern part of the province, especially Pictou County and the Island of Cape Breton, to the northeast, which embraces four counties, were settled almost entirely by Highlanders from Scotland, who carried with them their language, their customs and even the names of many of the places in the home land dear to them—thus transplanting in the new land to which they had come something of the life and the associations of the motherland.

The only true and enduring basis of national as of personal greatness is religion; and in no land has this been more conclusively demonstrated than in Scotland, the motto of whose greatest commercial city is, "Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word." Even the briefest sketch of the makers of New Scotland would be incomplete without some reference to the faith by which they were sustained in their lonely pioneer lives, and inspired to noble attainments. Very early in its history the religious faith from which "old Scotia’s grandeur springs" found a worthy and zealous apostle in the pioneer of Presbyterianism in Pictou County, Rev. James MacGregor, a native of Perthshire, Scotland, who landed in Halifax in July, 1786, and proceeded to Pictou, which afterwards became the centre of his great parish, where for nearly half a century, with great zeal, ability and faithfulness, he laboured for the spiritual, intellectual and material welfare of his countrymen. He was a fine Gaelic scholar and the author of many Gaelic poems and hymns; his worth and work were recognized by the Senate of the University of Glasgow, in the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, conferred upon him in 1822. Dr. MacGregor ‘s influence extended far beyond Pictou County. In his preaching tours he visited many sections of the northern part of the province, travelling even as far as Cape Breton and the neighbouring province of New Brunswick, and crossing over to Prince Edward Island. As a result of his labours Pictou County became almost exclusively Presbyterian and remains so to the present day, though other denominations have a few churches, especially in the towns. There is a tradition that once upon a time a Baptist conference in Nova Scotia sent one of its members to reconnoitre as to the prospect of establishing a church in the town of Pictou, and that this brother returned with the report that there was not room enough in Pictou for a Baptist to say his prayers. In this expressive way the good Baptist brother indicated how thoroughly the land in this part of the province had been occupied by the fathers of Presbyterianism.

The depth and genuineness of the religious life which sprang up from the seed thus early sown are evidenced by the number of young men from this section who have entered the ministry of the church. No other county of any province of the Dominion, I believe, has given so many men to the Church and to the learned professions as Pictou. Among these are worthy of mention the late Rev. George Munro Grant, D.D., LL.D., C.M.G., for many years Principal of Queen’s University, one of Pictou’s most distinguished sons, whose name is known all over the English-speaking world; Sir J. W. Dawson, LL.D., F.R.S., late Principal of McGill University and widely known by his scientific and other writings; Rev. Daniel M. Gordon, D.D., LL.D., who succeeded Dr. Grant as Principal of Queen’s University; Rev. James Ross, D.D., the first Principal of Dalhousie University after its reorganization; Rev. John Forrest, D.D., LL.D., who succeeded Principal Ross as President of Dalhousie University and under whose vigorous administration the institution was placed on a solid basis and entered upon a career of prosperity and expansion; A. Stanley MacKenzie, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., the present President of Dalhousie University; Rev. Clarence Mackinnon, M.A., D.D., Principal of the Presbyterian College, Halifax; Rev. Donald Macrae, M.A., D.D., for many years a prominent minister in St. John, N. B., and subsequently Principal of Morrin College, Quebec; besides many others who have held high positions in the Church, in other learned professions and in the public life of Canada. Pictou County has given two governors of Highland descent to .the province— the late Hon. Duncan C. Fraser, of New Glasgow, for many years a prominent lawyer and member of Parliament; and Hon. James D. MacGregor, a grandson of the late Rev. Dr. James MacGregor, and a leading business man of New Glasgow.

Nova Scotia has, almost from its first settlement, occupied a high place in the educational life and progress of the Dominion; and the credit of this is largely due to its Scottish pioneers. The far-famed Pictou Academy, which is celebrating its centenary this year (1916), was founded by the Rev. Thomas McCulloch, D.D., who may be said to be Nova Scotia’s greatest pioneer educator, as Dr. MacGregor was its greatest pioneer evangelist. Dr. McCulloch was born in Scotland in 1766, educated in Glasgow University, where he took a course in Arts and Medicine, studied Theology in Whitburn, and emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1803. The following year he became the minister of the Prince Street Presbyterian Church, of Pictou, and a year later projected his great undertaking for the founding of an institution to furnish higher education for the youth of the province, and to train men for the ministry of the gospel. The story of the growth of Pictou Academy and of the noted men who began their educational career within its walls, would form a goodly volume in itself, and I cannot enter upon it here. Suffice it to say that most of the men already mentioned as filling high educational and professi˘nal positions were at one time students of Pictou Academy.

Another educational institution of Nova Scotia which has had a large influence on the intellectual life of the province, the Provincial Normal College, of Truro, owed its early efficiency largely to a Scotchman, the Rev. Alex. Forrester, D.D., a graduate of Edinburgh University, who came to this province in 1848, as a deputy from the Free Church of Scotland, and remaining here became the minister of St. John’s Church, Halifax. In view of his deep interest in, and services for education, he was, in 1855, appointed principal of the Normal School, where he made an abiding impression upon the minds of a large number of the youth of Nova Scotia.

I have already referred to the Provincial University (Dalhousie). This institution, which now ranks with the great universities of the Dominion, and is favorably known throughout the United States and Great Britain, owes its existence to the broadminded foresight and educational interest of a Scotchman, the Earl of Dalhousie, who, when Governor of the province, established it by charter in the year 1818. The predominating influence in this institution has always been and yet is Scotch. The present President, Dr. MacKenzie, is of Scottish descent; Dr. Forrest, recently retired, under whom the University achieved its greatest development and progress, is the son of a Scotchman, the late Dr. Alex. Forrest, of New Glasgow. Nearly all the professors since the founding of Daihousie have been either Scotch or North of Ireland men.

Scottish influence still dominates the educational life of the province. The Superintendent of Education, Alex. H. MacKay, B. Sc., LL.D., F.RS.C., Hon. Colonel, one of the most distinguished graduates of Dalhousie, is a Pictou County man of Scottish parentage, who began his educational training in Pictou Academy, of which he subsequently became Principal. He is now one of the Governors of the University, and is known far beyond the bounds of Canada as a scientist and educator. Nova Scotia has also furnished leaders in education, of Scottish descent, to other provinces of the Dominion and to institutions in the United States and Great Britain. President Falconer, of Toronto University, though born in a neighbouring province, is the son of a prominent Pictou County minister, the late Rev. Alex. Falconer, D.D., at one time Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The late Principal of McGill University, Sir William Dawson, and the present Principal of Queen’s University, Dr. Gordon, as already stated, were Pictou County men; the President of the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Walter C. Murray, a native of New Brunswick, was called to that institution while professor in Dalhousie University. Another distinguished New Brunswicker, Dr. Alexander Robinson, Superintendent of Education in the province of British Columbia, is the son of a Scotchman, who was educated in Pictou Academy and Dalhousie University. President Ross Hill, of the State University Missouri, is a Nova Scotian who was educated in the institutions of his native province. The late J. Gordon MacGregor, Ph.D., a son of the late Rev.

P. G. MacGregor, D.D., a prominent minister of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, was one of the most brilliant of Nova Scotia’s sons of Scottish descent. He was educated in the institutions of his native province and the universities of Scotland and Germany. He was called from the professorship of Physics in Dalhousie to the chair of Natural Philosophy in Edinburgh University, as the successor of the distinguished Professor Tait. Other distinguished graduates of our Nova Scotia institutions have held, and many still hold, prominent positions in the United States and other countries. Even the briefest sketch of the educational life of Nova Scotia ought not to omit mention of such men as the Rev. Dr. Pollok, Honorary Principal of the Presbyterian College, Halifax, who has helped to mold the character and form the ideals of more than one generation of students; the late Robert Murray, LL.D., for over half a century Editor of the Presbyterian Witness, and acknowledged to be one of the ablest journalists of Canada; David Allison, LL.D., a North of Ireland man, who for fourteen years was Superintendent of Education in Nova Scotia, and subsequently Principal of Mount Allison University, Sackville, N. B.; Sir Frederick Fraser, to whose great ability and indefatigable labours we owe our School for the Blind, recognized as one of the finest institutions of the kind on this continent; and Hon. George H. Murray, the present Premier of Nova Scotia, one of the crowning works of whose twenty years’ administration is the system of Technical Schools in this province and the Technical College, Halifax.

When we come to review the industrial development and the commercial progress of the province we find the predominating element to be Scotch. One of the greatest industries of Canada, the Nova Scotia Steel Works, New Glasgow, is the outgrowth of a small forge started by two enterprising young men of New Glasgow, Graham Fraser and G. Forrest MacKay. Mr. Fraser, who recently passed away, was for many years the manager of the larger establishment, and it was to his industry and genius that its great success was largely due. He was one of the most modest and retiring of men, who shrank from publicity, and whose name is not so widely known as others who have done less for the progress of their native province.

In other parts of the province Scotchmen have formed an important element of the population, and the characteristic thrift and industry of their race became manifest in the. prosperity of firms with Scotch names all over the province. In the city of Halifax, the capital, many, if not most, of the large business houses were founded by Scotchmen, who began in a small way, and by their application, integrity and shrewd commercial instincts built up large and wealthy establishments. Such names as Murdoch, McLeod, Bauld, Gibson, Campbell, McLean and scores of others I might mention, indicate the nationality of the pioneers and leaders in the business life of Nova Scotia’s chief city. The North British Society is the oldest of our national associations. It was formed in 1768, shortly after the founding of the city. Its records have been very carefully preserved for nearly a hundred and fifty years. They show that all through the history of our city the Scottish element was largely represented, forming a very large proportion of its leading men in every department of public life.

No profession has had in its membership more distinguished representatives of the legal profession in a period of our history some of the leading judges and barristers of our province have been men of Scotch extraction. Among the Chief Justices of Nova Scotia were Strange, Haliburton, Young, Macdonald, Graham and Hon. Sir John S. D. Thompson, who subsequently became Minister of Justice and later Premier of Canada. It is certainly remarkable that ever since 1833, except for a period of nine years, every Chief Justice of Nova Scotia has been of Scottish descent.

No profession has had in its membership more distinguished representatives of the Scottish race in Nova Scotia than the medical profession. One of the most eminent of these is John Stewart, M.B.C.M. (Edinburgh), LL.D. (Edinburgh), of Halifax, Lieutenant-Colonel in charge of a Stationary Hospital in connection with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in France. He is the son of one of the pioneer Presbyterian ministers of this province, Rev. Murdoch Stewart, a Scotsman of great ability and fine scholarship. Dr. Stewart was born in Cape Breton, N. S., and studied in Dalhousie University and the University of Edinburgh where he took his medical degree. He spent some years in the hospitals of Edinburgh and London, as a student and assistant of the famous surgeon, Lord Lister, and out of this association there grew a lifelong friendship. Dr. Stewart is recognized as one of the leading surgeons of Canada, and is well known in medical circles in Great Britain. In the year 1905 he was chosen as President of the Canadian Medical Association, a position which he filled with distinguished ability. In 1913, the University of Edinburgh honoured him with the degree of Doctor of Laws.

It would be impossible in our limited space to give even the names of the men of Scottish descent who have adorned the medical profession in this province. Among the most eminent who have recently passed away I might mention W. S. Muir, of Truro; R. A. H. MacKeen and Senator, MacKay, of Cape Breton; and of those now living Norman MacKay, D. A. Campbell, J. G. MacDougall, of Halifax; and J. W. MacKay, of New Glasgow. But these names by no means exhaust the list. They only serve to show that in one of the noblest professions, as in other spheres, the sons of Scotland occupy places at the top.

GEORGE S. CARSON.

Halifax, Nova Scotia.


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