Pioneers and "The Island"
"Again I behold where for
hours I have ponder'd,
Although the French cemetery, situated on the McMillan farm near Halliday's wharf, was used as their first burial-ground a new one was soon established at Mount Buchanan. There Dr. Angus Macaulay set aside a parcel of land from his estate for a cemetery, and there that good man was buried. This burial-ground was called Cleachd an' leighaich (the Doctor's burying-ground).
The first person buried in it was one of the Doctor's infant children. It continued to be used by many families for years after the new churchyard beside the church was opened, and is used by some families today.
On the Macaulay tombstone in the Mount Buchanan burying-ground is the following inscription:
In Memory of
settled Belfast with emigrants from
Also his wife, Mary, died April 9,
The first person interred in the burial-ground about the Belfast church was, according to some, Mr. Beaton of Flat River, while others aver it was John Gillis of Orwell Cove. Almost as early must have been the following, to whose memory existing stones bear witness:
The French cemetery is today in a neglected and ruinous condition. On October 21, 1928, there was one headstone only standing erect in this historic cemetery. Of Wallace freestone, it bore in legible characters the following inscription:
In Memory of
wife Mary Nicholson, who died
And their daughter Isabella, who died
In the same cemetery two months earlier, there stood erect, in good repair, a marble stone inscribed as follows.
In Memory of
And our souls are in eternal rest.
Also his wife Ann, departed this life
In the intervening two months this stone had
been thrown down and broken, leaving as sole watchman to mark the last
resting place of sharers in an experiment noble in its philanthropy, but
one poor slab of stone.
Harriet Campbell, daughter of Hugh Campbell, Killundin, Marvin, Argyleshire, married one Allan Macdougall, and in the early history of Belfast, settled at Flat River. She is said to have been connected with the noble house of Argyle. Her early training unfitted her for the pioneer life of Belfast, and existence there was a sore trial to her. Her proud spirit and dauntless courage surmounted every obstacle, and although suffering great hardships she refused to leave the land of her adoption. She died on November 10, 1863, at Union Road, Lot 51, aged 70, and was buried in Belfast churchyard.
The late Mrs. Donald Ross, of Kinross, lived beside them as a young girl, and recalled late in life how they stood for courtesy and refinement in an age and situation when the outward expression of those virtues was difficult. Mr. MacDougall was not suited to the environment in which he lived. Incapable of earning with his hands, there was no outlet for his talents. "If only there was someone to talk with!" was the plaintive cry uttered by his superior and finely educated consort, pining in the isolated forest of the new land for old friends and the culture of the homeland. When one of her neighbors urged her, in her distress, to write to her brother for aid, she proudly replied "Never, I will die first." And so Harriet Campbell, scion of one of Europe's noblest and most distinguished houses, suffered and endured, and finally met her end with unflinching courage. Old residents even yet recall many interesting stories of this proud and highly educated couple, and the hardship they endured in the rude surroundings in which they were placed.
More tragic still was the case of Lord Selkirk's only daughter Mary. She was placed by the Earl in care of Thomas Halliday, a skilled Scottish stonemason of good education and excellent character. When he and his family arrived in Belfast in 1806, accompanied by their adopted child, then seven years of age, he was given a farm near the present Halliday's Wharf. Mary was also dowered with certain adjoining lands. At an early age she married a son of her foster parents. Descendants of this union, Hallidays, McLennans, McTavishes, and others still live in this district, and are highly respected.
A tombstone in the old Belfast churchyard marks the grave of Mary, daughter of the Earl of Selkirk:
In loving memory of
Blessed are the dead,
In 1904, to mark the centenary of the founding of the Belfast district, the descendants of the pioneers and their friends, at the entrance to the graveyard around Belfast church, erected a monument bearing the following inscription, with one in Gaelic to the same effect:
According to the records of the Belfast congregation, now in the possession of Mr. R. E. Macdonald of Pinette, the following were the ministers of the Congregation:
John Maclennan - September 1823 to September 1849. (Aberdeen).
Mr. Maclennan was born in the Highlands of Scotland in 1797, and is believed to have graduated from Aberdeen University. He was sent by the Church of Scotland to Prince Edward Island to minister to the emigrants from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland who had settled in various parts of the Island, the largest number being in Belfast. He preached in Georgetown, Wood Islands, Murray Harbor, and occasionally in Charlottetown, Cherry Valley and New London. When he arrived in 1823 the first and only Protestant clergyman on the island was Rev. Theophilus DesBrisay.
The manse was not ready, and perhaps it was not even started, when the new minister and his wife [Catherine McNab, died Oct. 24, 1890, aged 86.] arrived. For the first few months at least, they were guests of Hector Mackenzie, Flat River. Mrs. Maclennan brought her piano with her. It may be assumed that for many long years it was the only instrument of the kind in the whole countryside. The house was small and there was difficulty in getting it through the narrow hall to a room. It is hard to imagine today what this piano must have meant to the neighbors.
The few now living who knew her testify to the beauty, charm and happy disposition of Mrs. Maclennan. The moral ascendancy acquired by her husband during the course of his ministry in Belfast, was due in no small measure to the talented and wise companion who brought so much sunshine into the life of the parish.
The stipend was a matter of indifferent speculation to the minister. He never knew what he would get, and cared less. Those who could pay in cash gave what they could afford. Those who had no money, and they were in the majority, contributed freely from their store of potatoes, meat, butter, eggs, fish and such other farm products as they raised.
In sickness he helped the afflicted with simple remedies, and on more than one occasion he nursed patients through their critical illness. He settled differences and promoted harmony. Many a disputed line was rectified according to the just decision of that wise man. He drew their wills and advised in business affairs. His sympathy was so wide and his understanding so deep that he became the trusted friend and beloved companion of the whole community. Over them all his influence was unchallenged and supreme. Finally, after years of arduous toil he felt the need of rest and change. The grief expressed by men and women alike, as in 1849 he passed along the road on his way to visit his native land, never to return, was long remembered by those who shared it. Each family waited at the gate to bid a fond farewell, men, women, and children in tears.
One of their three striking and talented daughters married Daniel Miner Gordon, for many years the Principal of Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.
While yet a mere child, one of the daughters of Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Maclennan met a tragic end. Following her nurse, who had gone to a neighbors, she got mired in attempting to cross the then exposed river flats. The incoming tide engulfed her. When it had receded her body was recovered from the slimy river bottom where she had sunk beyond her frail power to release herself.
"Kilmeny looked up with a lovely grace.
The following inscription is on a monument erected to his memory in the Belfast churchyard:
and within the church is a tablet, placed by a descendant of one of his parishioners, on which is inscribed:
To the Memory of
Mr. Mackay is believed also to have been born and educated in Scotland.
Mr. Maclean was born in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, and died there a few years ago. His first wife was Miss Matheson from Pictou County, N.S. His second wife was Matilda Brown, from Charlottetown, a lady highly esteemed and beloved by the congregation.
Mr. Stewart was born in Tiree, Scotland. This kindly, lovable pastor, after leaving Belfast, ministered in adjoining parishes until a few years ago. He now lives at Montague Bridge, P.E.I., in retirement, enjoying the respect and affection earned by a long life of unselfish labor devoted to helping others.
Mr. Sinclair was a nephew of his predecessor, Mr. Maclean, and came from Nova Scotia, a province which has given Sir William Dawson, Simon Newcomb, and many other illustrious men to our country. Mr. Sinclair in later life lectured on Celtic language and literature, in Pine Hill College, Halifax, and Saint Francois Xavier University, Antigonish, N.S., a subject on which he was regarded by many at the time as the greatest living authority. He died a few years, ago. A son, Donald M. (B. A. Dal.; Ph.D. Edin.), is now minister in Valleyfield, P.E.I.
Mr. Macphee, a son of Donald Macphee, Miller of Heatherdale, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Donald Nicholson, Miller of Orwell, was the first descendant of a pioneer of Belfast to become minister of the parish. He died in Ontario a few years ago.
Mr. Mackenzie lives in retirement in Charlottetown.
Mr. Rodger, the present minister, was born in Kingson, Ontario.
Although Belfast has been notable for the high character of her ministers all the clergy who labored on Prince Edward Island were not saints. Some were very human and exhibited traces of those less amiable qualities that one more often looks for in the laity. One of these gentlemen possessed to an unusual extent the desire, and developed to an artistic degree, the art of teasing, not only his fellow men, but members of the lower animal kingdom as well.
On one occasion, arising from morning prayer with the faithful adherents whom he was visiting, he said to a member of the household gathered around, "Did you notice the dig I gave John in my prayer?" Later, on going from the house to the barn yard, he met the lord of the sheepfold. Mutual antagonism at once declared itself. To meet the oncoming rush the clergyman raised a heel, and as the dazed ram passed beneath the unstable object of his attack, the clergyman wheeled about to receive a second charge in the same spot. Thus the battle raged, until, amazed and confounded, the bellicose guardian of the barnyard had spent his baffled fury in futile rushes and shaking of head. By mutual, if silent, consent a truce was declared, and the woolly champion of his flock withdrew to his seraglio, whilst the shepherd of his flock betook himself to his books.