In the hope that they may be received as an acceptable contribution to East River Literature, and to comply with the wishes of not a few of the readers of THE EASTERN CHRONICLE, in the columns of which these sketches first appeared, they are now reproduced in this more permanent form.
(Mr. S. M. MacKenzie was Publisher and Proprietor of the Eastern Chronicle when Mr. Grant's book was originally published)
In reprinting "East River Worthies" in book form "THE EVENING NEWS" and "FREE LANCE" do so with the full and free consent of Mr. S. M. MacKenzie, who was in charge of the "Eastern Chronicle" when the book originally appeared in 1895.
Rev. Robert Grant, the author, was a full fledged Presbyterian minister, but was more given to writing than he was to preaching. His grandfather, Robert Grant, came to Pictou County on the "Hector." His nearest surviving relative is Donald M. Grant, Eureka, a grandson of James M. Grant and Janet Fraser, McLellan's Brook. James M. Grant was a brother of Rev. Robert Grant.
The book is reprinted not from any desire to make any money out of it, but simply to see it find a place of honor in the homes of Pictou County, a link with the past, a reminder of the trials, troubles and tribulations of those who made the name of Pictou County known throughout British North America and in the great republic to the South. Pictou County has produced many men who won a high place amongst their fellows, and Rev. Robert Grant, in his "East River Worthies" made a contribution which should endure.
Due credit, of course, is given to the "Eastern Chronicle" in which East River Worthies first appeared.
East River Worthies
REV. ROBERT GRANT
Price 50 Cents
Published and for Sale by
SCOTIA PRINTERS, LIMITED
NEW GLASGOW, N. S.
EAST RIVER WORTHIES
"Even then a wish (I mind its power)
Shall strongly heave my breast
A wish that, to my latest hour,
That I for poor old Scotland's sake
Some useful plan or book might make."-Burns.
The East River has ever been distinguished for grandeur and variety of scenery. In fertility of soil, and untold mineral wealth, It is not surpassed. This part of Nova Scotia has, thus, been much favored by nature. But, in developing its resources, during the last fifty years, nature has been marvellously assisted by Art. This, however, must appear in the sequel. It was also inhabited, especially in early times, by a population whose worth is not appreciated Even their very names are being forgotten. This ought not so to be. In humble life there have been those who, in order to procure a subsistence for their families, and also to have wherewith to contribute towards the support of every good cause, are as much entitled to a niche in the temple of fame, as those who
"At Marathon or Leuctra bled."
The naked summits of Fraser's Mountain, Irish Mountain, the table lands of Fox Brook, the heights of Elgin, with the "everlasting hills" of Springville and Sunny Brae, setting at defiance the puny attempts of man to change their features, will ever speak for themselves, attesting that the "hand that made them is divine." Not so, however, with those venerable men who, at one time occupied their summits, but, now sleep peacefully in the vale below. Life and health, therefore, permitting I, for one, will do my best to rehearse the merits, and preserve from oblivion the names of at least some of them. To those in more favored circumstances who
"Fare on costly piles of wood
Whose life is too luxurious to be good,"
I would say
“Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destinies obscure.
Nor grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile
The short, but simple annals of the poor.
There were some who were eminently men of God. Their piety shone with peculiar lustre. Happily, of these there were not a few. They shall, accordingly be classified as East River Worthies. Others were possessed of amazing muscular power - men who, either in self defense, or for the preservation of human life, performed feats that would attract notice in the days of the Psalmist. At one time it was Alex. McKay, of St. Mary's, chasing cariboos in the woods; and running them down by swiftness of foot. At another time it would be Farquhar Falconer, of Hopewell, holding a full grown bear of monstrous size by the two ears, till big John Falconer's father after many futile attempts ran the brute through with a pitch fork. Even big John Falconer himself shall receive honorable mention on account of one or two performances, before rum and domestic infelicities had effected his ruin. These, and similar exploits performed by others, shall be faithfully stated as the achievements of East River Mighty Men.
Of others, honorable mention shall be made for their mental superiority. Of this stamp were old Deacon Sutherland, of the Narrows, and Deacon Duncan Cameron, of the Upper Settlement. Theirs was truly "the tongue of the learned." Besides, little did the votaries of fashionable life know that, fifty years ago, Springville had its Robert Burns, in the person of John Fraser (Catach), and the Albion Mines its Dougald Buchanan in that of Colin McKay. These and a few more shall be portrayed as East River Gifted Men.
There was once, on the East River, an Institution named the Red Schoolhouse. And even at this date,
"Saints take pleasure in her stones,
Her every dust to them is dear."
Here, especially during the winter months of 1844 and 1845, there met weekly a constellation of celebrities who, in fair debate, would give Jeffrey and Brougham, or even Christopher North himself, something to do. For this, and similar reasons, there will be an honest attempt made to reproduce the days of the Red School House.
A few years ago, on the way to Fisher's Grant, there was an ancient landmark, known to travellers, as the Smelt Brook. On its unfruitful banks, were two human habitations - mere huts. But there is no Smelt Brook now. In its stead, there is the town of Trenton, with its neat and commodious church, and "church going bell," Hall well furnished Reading-Room, and Post Office. Here, also, are the Glass Works, Forge, and Steel Works, where can be seen evidence of man's ingenuity, that would make "Vulcan and all his Cyclopes" stare with astonishment.
Fifty years ago New Glasgow was a scattered village. Today, it is an "exceeding great city of three days' journey." And what of Eureka? Surely it deserves the labor of some truthful pen to depict its virgin growth. The same may be said of Bridgeville, Sunny Brae and Hopewell, famed so long for its "abundant peace."
The East River has also had its martyrs. Of these one shall be mentioned, as a sample. His name was Finlay Cameron. In early life he enlisted in one of the Highland regiments, but ultimately settled at Riverton. Being a tailor by trade, he had to ply his craft for the benefit of his companions in arms. But, on one occasion. he was court-martialled, and publicly whipped, in Halifax, for refusing to work at his trade on the Sabbath day. If this was not being "persecuted for righteousness' sake" it was something very like. The venerable Finlay Cameron, Esq., of Riverton. is the grandson of this victim of oppression, as are also Revs. John and Alex. Cameron. Rev. Mr. Falconer, of Prince Street Church. Pictou, is his great grandson. Others of his descendants are to be found in different parts of Pictou, Hants, Annapolis, and Cape Breton. And, as far as is known to me, they, without exception, are a respected as well as numerous race.
Seventy years ago, the East River was thickly peopled. Their way of living, as well as their social customs were different from those of the present day. This, also, shall receive more than a passing notice.
The above are themes that have long "wild floated in my brain." To do justice to them is a different thing. But I am now committed to the self-imposed task. In executing it, I can only do my best, with this understanding, however, that even East River pugilists can "claim kindred here, and have their claims allowed," and that the rivalry between Kirk and Antiburghers, with the woes that sprung therefrom, will not be passed over in silence. Notwithstanding all that hath been said and sung on this subject, it will then be seen that each side had no unequal right to the honors of that "holy war, "and the causes that led to it.
In all ages there have been men possessed of superior qualifications - qualifications that gave them a marked superiority over all others. To this rule, my native East River affords no exception. It has also been customary, since the days of Abel and Enoch, to take special notice of this fact, to commit it to writing, that it might be handed down to remotest posterity. Neither have there been wanting gifted minds to devote special attention to this department of study. Accordingly, a Cornelius Nepos published his well-known "Lives of Excellent Generals," and Plutarch his "Lives of Illustrious Men." In the inspired productions of Paul and Moses, too, there are specimens not a few of this species of composition; while the dying oration of the martyr Stephen is nearly all made up of historical references attesting the everlasting merits of departed greatness. If it was necessary, further instances could be cited as proof that my present undertaking is not without precedent. But let the above suffice.
I commence with the names of four
clergymen, Rev. Dr. McGregor, Rev. Donald Allan Fraser, Rev. Angus McGillivray
and Rev. John McRae. It is true that none of these could claim the East
River or any part of Nova Scotia for his birthplace. But along its peaceful
vales and fruitful hills, they all - some of them for many years - endured the
summer's heat and winter's cold. On mountain tops, too, very "beautiful,"
in their day "were the feet of those that published salvation." Each of
the four possessed his praiseworthy traits, and they shall be considered in
Already, much has been written in appreciation of the preeminent endowments and services of Dr. McGregor. And for me to attempt to follow up the subject may appear like carrying coal to Newcastle. But then, there is such a thing as acting Hamlet with Hamlet left out, and to leave out the name of Dr. McGregor in these sketches would be doing this. Besides, I am giving my own opinion of men and things, and not the opinion of others. These opinions were logically formed in "life's morning march." They are also correct. But they shall appear in print for what they are worth.
Of Dr. McGregor's early arrival In Pictou, his child-like humility, his self-denying labours and powers of endurance, while promoting the best of causes, much has already been written. It will, however, take centuries to exhaust the theme. For had it not been for the far-reaching influences of his 44 years ministrations, there would be no such East River, as now presents itself to a stranger's eye. "Who called the righteous man from the East," and caused him to plant his habitation amidst the elms of Stellarton? And what about that "fire of coal" in the old red brickhouse on a bleak December day 92 years ago? According to Dr. Patterson's history, it was Dr. McGregor, with the celebrated Michael Wallace, Lawrence Hartshorn, Charles Morris, James Stewart, Cottnam Yonge, Edward Mortimer and James Fulton, as guests. Was that or was it not the first regular fire of native coal in Nova Scotia? And is it likely that these intelligent and influential men, on their return to their homes, would be silent as to what their eyes had seen that day, on the banks of the East River? When starvation stared Jacob in the face, word came to him that there is corn in Egypt. This revived him, and afterwards led to important results. In like manner, some 70 years ago, it was ascertained in England that there was a place called Nova Scotia, that there was an abundance of coal in it, that it was to be found on the margin of a certain river, that it was accessible to ships of light tonnage, and that the "coal" of that land was good. A wealthy firm in London purchased the ground. To this epoch may be traced the history of the coal mining industry in the county of Pictou. And it would be rank infidelity to say that Dr. McGregor's experiments had nothing to do with its origin. A cynic may sneer at my reasoning. What man can today, survey the environs of the East River, or look with grateful admiration on the stately elms by which it is begirt and receive no inspiration from the remembrance of the stern warrior who once lived there? For my part, the mere contemplation of the scene seldom fails to remind me of the "plains of Mamre," and the "oak which was by Shechem."
It was her coal, and not her iron mines that made Pictou, and especially the East River, what it is. 62 years ago there was as good a steamer as the Egerton made her daily trips between New Glasgow and Pictou - her decks crowded with passengers. Her name was the Richard Smith.
The well-known Captain George McKenzie acted as Captain. He was then in the prime of his manly youth. His slight lameness only imparted dignity to his every gesture. It is needless to say that that gesture would be all energy. But to juvenile beholders, it was quite a treat to see him, in those days, issuing orders in a voice that saw that every man was at his post. Through all his life, Capt. McKenzie unconsciously fulfilled the words of Shakespeare:
"He wore a swashing and a martial outside."
But, while Dr. McGregor is entitled to the credit to having done his share in originating the coal industry, and thus contributing to all the consequences resulting therefrom, it is as an evangelist that his name is to be specially remembered. That shall be "through all generations." Scientists have affirmed that any sound once emitted shall continue to reverberate forever, throughout the regions of immensity. If this is true in the kingdom of nature, how much more so in the kingdom of grace. It is, therefore, a mistake to imagine that this devoted man's labours ceased to bring forth fruit at his death. It is 62 years, last March, since he departed this life. But, today, there are those who are not ashamed to venerate the very ground that he is known to have trodden. It is thus the old Irish Mountain road from Churchville to Springville possesses a charm peculiar to itself, while "Drummond's Hill" becomes a very Parnassus. For over its highest peak once went the road from the Mines to what was then, the West Branch, but is now subdivided into Hopewell, Lorne and Elgin. And, as one finds himself on that Alpine height, the rising town of Eureka, with the Cyclopean furnace of Ferrona are lost sight of in the remembrance of him who once used to scale its highest summit on his way to preach in the log church at Grant's Lake, or to address words of triumphant consolation to some afflicted family. The remains of that more than "Roman Road" can be seen there yet, and, if the proprietor would preserve it in its present state, it might, in future ages serve as a memorial of departed worth. I know there are those who will treat this train of reasoning with but meagre respect. What would they say if I affirmed that the Son of Man once frequented these old but now deserted paths. I hereby, assert that He did so, in the person of this believing and faithful messenger, and in the persons of that Messenger's spiritual children. The gabble of all the wordings on earth won't prevent the "Angel of the Lord from encamping round about them that fear him." Neither will it refute the words of the first of English poets:
"Millions of spiritual creatures
walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep."
Houseless and homeless, Jacob returns from his 20 years exile. His twin-brother, with a hilarious crew of "400 men are on their way to meet him." They are "men of men the chief." As they continue their march, they have their jokes, and their fun. The exile feels discouraged. "Within are fears. Without there may be fightings." But the "Angel of the Lord met him. " This would show him that he yet had friends. It would also cheer him on, while the tables were being turned on Esau and his rough associates. It is, therefore, not for mortal man to say how often or how seldom the solitary East River Evangelist, 90 years ago, or even the humblest of his converts may have been benefitted by the ministrations of these celestial inhabitants. Is there any superstition in taking the word of God as we find it? For these, and kindred reasons, not only is
"The chamber where the good man meets
Privileged beyond the common walk
Of virtuous life, quite in the verge of heaven."
But even the very ground on which his feet once stood may be entitled to special veneration. None but a vandal would drive his plowshare through that spot of earth in reference to which a voice from heaven once exclaimed, "Draw not nigh hither, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Others can use their freedom, but, for my part, I shall ever maintain that to revere places once frequented by eminent saints is a part of Bible Christianity. Why do men visit the Mount of Olives, or the Garden of Gethsemane? Along the Lakes of Cape Breton there are sights equally beautiful. But Christ often traversed the one. He passed through a midnight agony in the other. And this invests them both with an interest more endearing and more enduring than that attached to much vaunted Crystal Palaces.
"Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof."
DR. ANGUS McGILLIVRAY
Personally, and in social life, Mr. McGillivray was one of the most estimable of men. The "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" was eminently his. Dr. Chalmers, Dr. McDonald of Ferrintosh, and Mr. McGillivray were men of exactly the same size - the same height, broad shouldered, and deep chested. Dr. McDonald had even the same rotundity of countenance and floridity of complexion.
For a period of about 40 years Mr. McGillivray was the minister of Springville congregation, then including all the West Branch. During all that time, he performed his pastoral duties with a fidelity that may, at the present day, be considered remarkable. At a time when "well earned" vacations were unknown, except when sickness prevented (and that was not often) he never failed to preach his two sermons every Sabbath. And whatever his people had to complain of, they couldn't say they didn't get good measure.
In those days, two sermons, each an hour long, with a few minutes intermission, would be considered a very model for brevity.
When Mr. McGillivray commenced his ministerial labours everything was favourable. In his spiritual charge he found "a people prepared for the Lord. "From Churchville to Sunny Brae, from the Fish Pools to the West Branch Lake, every family, whether Kirk or Antiburgher, was a religious family. Under "smoky rafters" joy and gladness were found therein - thanksgiving and the voice of melody. Both by his teaching and example, Mr. McGillivray did much to foster the hallowed custom. In those days, family worship was no unmeaning form gone through with but scant reference. Not only did the "Saint, the father and the husband pray," but he saw to it that he had the whole family before him, and, with a father's eye, he saw that every ear was attentive. In the psalm sung, the chapter read, and the prayer made, the vicissitudes of the day would be anticipated, and every worshipper would feel as if he himself was specially included. They would all then betake themselves to their work with the conscious assurance that the blessing of heaven accompanied their labours. Today, singing at family worship is getting to be one of the "Lost Arts." But all the organs in the Dominion are but a poor substitute for it. "Sing to the Lord in joyful strains." But can this be done, when singing is dispensed with?
Secret prayer was, especially during the earlier part of Mr. McGillivray's ministry, a favourite recreation. Pious emigrants from Glenurquhart, Kilmorack, Sutherland and Rosshire, imported the precious custom. Very often did
The Midnight air,
Behold the fervour of their prayer."
Such is a reference to the state of religion on the East River 60 years ago. "The wilderness and the solitary place was made glad." Deserts "rejoiced and blossomed," the Sabbath was kept with much strictness. Any one speaking, or attempting, on that day, to speak about world affairs, would find himself a marked man. All this, without the aid of any "Endeavour," except the endeavour to serve the Lord in the "beauties of holiness" sprang from the seraphic preaching of the word, as it would be:
"By McGregor thundered
Or by McCulloch poured in gentle stream.
Fifty-eight years ago, a man, the late John Fraser, Deacon, whose word none would dispute, and who was himself an eye witness of the scene, assured me that when Dr. McCulloch preached there would scarcely be a dry eye. And it was no wonder. For never did Napoleon survey the whole field of battle with a more comprehensive glance than would be depicted in Dr. 'McCulloch's countenance, as, in a way peculiarly his own, he wielded the "sword of the spirit," and caused the keenness of its edge to be felt. Mr. McGillivray's veneration for this "Master of assemblies" knew no limit. And to his well-known attachment, both to him and to Dr. McGregor, he was partly indebted for his own success. Dr. McCulloch often occupied Mr. McGillivray's pulpit. No one would know he was to be there until they saw him hovering about the church Sabbath morning. But every one, when they saw him, would know that he would preach the English sermon. In his habits he was simple and unassuming as any child. The last time I heard him was in the old church at Robertson's mill, now Churchville. His text was "Lazarus is dead; and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there." On Sacramental occasions, Mr. McGillivray would be assisted by a set of splendid men. There would be Dr. McCulloch, Dr. Roy, Rev. Mr. Trotter, Rev. Mr. Patrick of Merigomish, old Mr. Ross, West River, and that prince of preachers, Rev. John C. Sinclair. Their sermons would only have one fault - they would not be long enough. They were masters in the art of preaching, and we would all only wish that they would continue their speech as long as Paul did at Thoas. If they had, they would not want for hearers. This was the "Golden age" for pulpit eloquence on the East River, when each of these accomplished actors either did his best, or "half his strength he put not forth."
May 28, 1892.
P. S. It is Dr. McCulloch of Pictou Academy fame, author of Popery Condemned, William and Melville, etc., etc., that is so frequently quoted in this paper.
By the bye, doesn't it look as if the East River was destined to have a dynasty of Sinclairs?
To thee, loved Nith, thy gladsome
Where late with careless thought I rang'd,
Tho' prest with care, and sunk in woe,
To thee, I bring a heart unchanged. - Burns.
REV. DONALD ALLAN FRASER
About the year 1820, Mr. Fraser preached his first sermon on East River, in an old vacant building belonging to Angus Chisholm (Innkeeper), and situate where New Glasgow now stands. The rush to hear him was immense. Both Kirk and Antiburgher flocked to hear him. For some time he continued his ministrations up and down the river, as well as in other parts of the County. He even lived on the East River, boarding with that most inveterate of Antiburghers - Deacon Duncan Cameron, whose house was within a few rods of where St. Paul's Church now is. He was much detested by the Kirk folk. But he would speak very kindly of Mr. Fraser. On one occasion, he did so to myself. Of Mr. Fraser's status as a preacher, in those days, I know nothing, and, I shall, therefore, limit myself to the following Reminiscences. For these I am indebted to personal knowledge.
1. It was a snowy time in mid-winter, 1838 - the time of Rev. Kenneth John McKenzie's and Dickson's election. The hustings were in Metcalfe's store, somewhere near where Thos. Fraser & Sons Hardware store now stands. This was the second week, and the McCoulls were there in their prime. But they were there as peacemakers. The very sight of them was enough to quell a riot. Anthony wore a suit of gray homespun. He looked like a polar bear and almost as hirsute. Robert - that "Alcides of the field" - was well dressed in English broadcloth, as he was always sure to be. This was prior to the introduction of trashy Canadian tweeds, or its imitations. Some time during the day, while conversing with Rev. Angus McGillivray, just outside the polling place, I noticed Mr. John Cameron, merchant, conversing with a respectable looking gentleman. It was Rev. Donald Fraser. I knew he was, then, settled at Lunenburg, and his appearance in New Glasgow, and in such stormy weather, struck me with surprise. There he was, however; and it was the first time I ever saw him, though I had been hearing about him for 20 years. But even now, I saw him only for a minute and at a distance. In appearance he bore some resemblance to the late Basil Bell, Esq. - A. C. Bell's father. But he was taller and larger boned. Mr. Fraser, postmaster, can tell whether there is any truth in this comparison, as he must have known him well. He had now come of a long journey of about 180 miles. His old friend, Mr. McKenzie, was engaged in an arduous struggle, and he would be naturally desirous to lend him a helping hand, and also, with his own eyes, to see how things stood. On his massive head was a large fur cap that had seen some service. The rest of the dress corresponded with the cap. The day was bitter cold, but he wore no overcoat.
2. In 1835 Mr. Fraser and Dr. McCulloch had a furious controversy. Mr. F’s share of it consisted in reply to a communication of the Doctor's that had appeared in the Acadian Recorder. Any one wishing to see either the communication or the reply, will find both at Mrs. Donald Allan Holmes' in a vol. of the Pictou Observer. Dr. McCulloch told Rev. Angus McGillivray that it was the first time he ever got the worst of it in a controversy. This concession won't be found in either the Recorder or the Observer.
3. It is now September, 1843. At this time I was engaged teaching in the Red Schoolhouse. Such was the number of branches taught, and so thronged was the school, that the Board of Commissioners constituted it into a Grammar school, thus securing for it a double allowance of government money. Among my pupils were Hon. S. H. Holmes, ex-premier of Nova Scotia, Hon. Angus McQueen, of New Brunswick, Rev. Jas. McG. McKay, Rev. Jas. McLean and Rev. J. D. McGillivray. A year ago, with my own money, I had bought, and paid for a horse, saddle and bridle. And one Saturday afternoon (in those days, school teachers had two holidays in the year - Christmas and New Year's day, every Saturday they had to teach till 12), thus accoutred. I rode down to New Glasgow. There it was rumored that "Donald Allan Fraser" was to preach tomorrow at McLellan's Mountain. Having heard so much about Mr. F. - Kirk folk extolling him as a prodigy in the pulpit, Antiburghers putting him down as no preacher at all - I thought I would go tomorrow and hear for myself. With that object in view instead of returning, that night to my home in Springville, I remained In New Glasgow. Sabbath morning found me on my way to McLellan's Mountain. This was a place I had never yet seen As I neared the place of my destination, I was very much captivated by the lovely scenery. It was autumn. But
"Birds sang love on every spray,
Flowers grew wanton to be pressed."
About 11 o'clock the church appeared in sight, I could say with Watts, "O thou transporting rapt'rous scene." It was a two story edifice, with a gallery all round, either on the very spot occupied by the present place of worship, or within a few feet of it. The service had just commenced. But the place was crowded. Inside every seat was full, every inch of standing room taken up. Windows and doors were wide open, but gathered around them was a group of anxious hearers. From the green hills of Sunny Brae, New Glasgow and the Albion Mines they were there.
The service was in Gaelic. Text, "And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." The audience was much affected. There was loud sobbing and weeping. "O ye of McLellan's Mountain, the congregation that I liked the best of any congregation I ever had, (putting much emphasis on ever) you did give me your love. But when you did, it was you that loved the man that was unworthy of your love. It was the person of the man you loved, and not his work, and I could never get you out of my mind. I would be thinking of you by day, I would be thinking of you by night I would be thinking about you by land and by sea, and now, I have come all the way from Newfoundland to see you once more, (Mr. F. died during the following winter) publicly to confess what an unworthy servant I was when going out and in among you."
Of the Gaelic sermon the above was about all I could hear. But the above I did hear distinctly, and I had given it in Mr. Fraser's own words. McLellan's Mountain Church, that lovely Sabbath forenoon, was literally a "place of weeping." The sobbing and weeping could be heard at a distance.
During the intermission, the church was emptied. For the service which was soon to be resumed, I was one of the first to secure a seat. I happily found one. It was in the front of the gallery, on the left of the pulpit, and about 15 feet from it. Mr. Fraser was in his place. For the first time in my life, I could now see him to some advantage, and I made the most of the opportunity. Within, and around the church, there must have been scores with whom he was acquainted. But he did not go flying about them. If he did, I must have seen him, calm and serene, he was sitting down in the pulpit. On the seat, at his right hand, was what, in most other places, would be a tumbler of milk, but, here, it would, no doubt, be one of the best of McLellan's Mountain cream. Beside it was his manuscript. But, he never looked at either during the intermission, or during the delivery of the discourse. In his hand was a pair of gold spectacles. If he had a gold watch chain, he hadn't the bad taste that some ministers have. In the pulpit, he kept it where it ought to be kept - out of sight.
But the time is up. The people are all in, and, as Mr. Fraser stood up to resume and finish the work of that Sabbath day any one could notice
1st. The appearance of the man. The very picture of health. Age about 55. Ruddy complexion. Few gray hairs to be seen. Dress, rich and well fitting. Height 6 feet 2.
"What nervous arms he boasts; how
firm his tread.
His limbs how turned; how broad his shoulders spread."
Text: "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." As he proceeded, he quoted these lines from Burns' "Man was made to mourn." The poet said it beautifully, but falsely.
"O death, the poor man's friend,
The kindest and the best."
"Ah, no, Jesus of Nazareth is the poor man's friend, the 'kindest and the best.' When Joseph made himself known to his brethren it was, "I am Joseph whom ye sold into Egypt." Ah, but this was most unkind. How different from our friend. He won't say, I am Jesus whom ye crucified, etc. It was easy to see how exalted a conception the venerable man had, as to the nature of true friendship. Here is another quotation: "I speak advisedly, I fear the world's favors more than its frowns." He said something to the effect that a true friend would not "shake" hands with a stranger. Perhaps he little thought that, in less than 24 hours he would have an opportunity to reduce the maxim to practice. But it was so. That Sabbath night he put up at Rev. Dr. Alexander McGillivray's. Monday morning Rev. Mr. McRae made his appearance. Of course he came to see Mr. Fraser. But he had seen Mr. Fraser for the last time some years ago. In the winter of 1839-40, Mr. Fraser had, over his own name, published one of his many letters in the Nova Scotian, and, without having the fear of Mr. McRae before his eyes, he spoke favorably of Mr. Howe, the Youngs, etc., and wished them God speed in their exertions to obtain Responsible Government. If he did, there soon appeared in the Halifax Times a bitter anonymous attack on Mr. Fraser. For this he blamed Mr. McRae, and, for this reason, he declined the honor of an interview that Monday morning - he "practised what he preached."
4. About this time there was a public
meeting in St. John's. The object of the meeting was to adopt measures
to found a college, in which the youth of Newfoundland could obtain the benefit
fit of a university education. The Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Harvey,
was chairman. There were addresses by members of the learned professions.
A certain lawyer in his speech, spoke sneeringly of Scottish Universities, Edinburgh,
Glasgow, St. Andrew's, and Aberdeen;
Scottish literati, all over, were an inferior race. To such an address Mr. Fraser felt it his duty to reply. His speech was published In the Halifax Guardian of the day. This is a quotation:
"I come now to speak of the modest proposal which requires that none but a graduate either of Queen's College, Dublin, or the University of Oxford, be eligible to a professorship in this contemplated institution and the still more modest comparison, in which the learned gentleman introduced the name of Dr. Chalmers as "a solitary eagle among the sparrows of Scotland." What! are there no eagles in Scotland? Are there no eagles in the land where Allan Ramsay lived, and Burns the Ayrshire peasant? What! are there no eagles in the land of a Leslie, a Forbes and a Playfair, and a greater than Playfair - Playfair's master, I mean the celebrated Dr. Campbell, of Aberdeen? What! are there no eagles in the land that cradled Brougham's genius, and from which the mighty mind of Sir Walter Scott shed its rays over the length and breadth of the civilized world? There are eagles in Scotland, let me tell the learned gentleman, chirping in the wild and rocky eyries, which it would be dangerous for jackdaws to encounter, even though clothed in all the legislative wisdom and sanctity of Minerva's bird."
It is 48 years last winter since I read that speech. But, on my youthful mind, this passage produced an impression that has, hitherto, been indelible - it seemed such a masterpiece.
5. I am not the only one that was captivated by Mr. Fraser's nobility of look and manner. During his last sickness he was frequently visited by a Methodist clergyman, and the fact that this clergyman occupied a charge in such a place as St. John's is sufficient guarantee for his respectability. The following were words used by him, I read also in the Guardian 48 years ago. "It was an unspeakable privilege to be permitted to approach him. Excruciating as were the sufferings he endured, no traces of mourning were to be seen - no cloud overcast the serenity of that noble countenance. He said, "It matters little now, whether I have been faithful or not. I place all my righteousness together on the one side, and my sins on the other, and walk between them into the arms of my Saviour."
But splendid as was the appearance Mr. Fraser made in the pulpit, his appropriate sphere was the British House of Commons. Had his lot been cast there, Peel would have been a boy in comparison. The redoubtable "Knight of Kerry" would also have found his match.
REV. JOHN McRAE
Mr. McRae came to Pictou in 1827, and from that time till 1844-45, was the laborious pastor of the Kirk congregation of the East and West Branch. He was a man of superior mental powers and great bodily activity. He wielded the pen of a ready writer. I heard him preach twice. He had a clear, shrill voice, spoke with great distinctness, and could be heard at a great distance. He would stop in the middle of his sermon to take a pinch of snuff, and then finish off with an animation and energy unknown before. With this exception, he scarcely used any gesture in the pulpit; but he was allowed to be an edifying preacher, and exceedingly able.
July 23rd., 1892.
EAST RIVER DEBATING SOCIETIES
Ever since public speaking began to be practiced as an Art, and learning began to flourish, there have been debating societies, under one name or another. In Bible times, there were the schools of the prophets. Greece had her lyceums, her Academic groves. And oven in the Olympic games, feats of Oratory and Eloquence constituted part of the programme. In Scotland, these associations assumed the name of Mechanics' Institutes. In Edinburgh was the famous Speculative Society when Brougham, Jeffrey and Horner were striplings, and where they took their first lesson in Oratory. Halifax had once a flourishing Mechanics' Institute. So had Pictou. At the former George R. Young, Joseph Howe, Andrew McKinlay were frequent lecturers, as were J. W. Dawson, J. D. B. Fraser, Mr. Fogo and Rev. Mr. Trotter and Rev. Dr. Smith, Stewiacke, and many others, at the latter. The poet Burns, too, before he was out of his teens, got up his debating society at Tarbolton, at one of the meetings of which the hapless Dr. Hornbook made such an offensive display of his attainments as to draw on himself the immortal castigation contained in "Death and Dr. Hornbook."
The first Debating Society on the East River, that I had any personal knowledge of, was at Bridgeville, 58 years ago. It met weekly in the house of Mr. Peter Grant - uncle to the present young Grants of Bridgeville. My impression is that this was after Mr. Grant had emigrated to Canada, and that the house was unoccupied at the time. It was a two-story house, I think it is standing yet. Senator Holmes took a leading part in conducting the meetings of this Society. He had recently bought the Holmes farm at Springville, and was living there. But, when I think of it, up to this date, there was no Springville. The name had no existence. It was the good old James Fraser - Donald Fraser, Geologist's father - that about this time bestowed on the place the name of Springville. Some of your readers are familiar with that beautiful stream that glides so sweetly by the residence of Mrs. Donald Allan, and James Holmes, Esq. It is a perennial stream. There are other streams in the vicinity, and from these the place derived its name. These waters are exquisitely sweet and refreshing. Even an editor might be benefited by the taste of them.
Of the Bridgeville Debating Society, Senator (the then only squire) Holmes was the main spring. For this his education and natural abilities qualified him. He was then a young man full of activity, physical and mental. During all his life he was distinguished for his social qualities. I was about 15, and one night, went (4) miles to hear a debate. I made a speech, and got myself laughed at for my pains. It was for a homely argument I used to prove that enjoyment is better than hope. Either the next winter or that following they held their debates in the Red Schoolhouse. And here again Mr. Holmes took a leading part, assisted by a native of the place whose originality and intelligence made him the life and soul not only of Springville, but every adjacent settlement. This was John Fraser, Catach. He and Mr. Holmes were often antagonists in debate. This was the first Debating Society in Springville.
During the winter of 1837-38, there was a strong Debating Society in New Glasgow. The following were active members, and took a leading part in the debates, P. G. McGregor, Robt. McGregor, Capt. Thomas Graham, Sr., his brother, Wm. Graham, Kenneth Forbes, Wm. Chisholm, Saddler, Isaac Matheson, Mr. Milne, the Brewer, etc. My impression is that the present J. W. Carmichael was from home that winter. I was a member myself - going to P. G. McGregor's school at the time. They held their meetings weekly in the only school-house then In New Glasgow. It was situated either on the spot where A. C. Bell's Feed Store is, or a few feet to the north of it. Even then, New Glasgow was divided into two parties - aristocratic and plebeian. On the one side were the McGregors', the Carmichaels', and family connections. On the other the Grahams', Forbes', Chisholms', etc. Of course I cast in my lot with the latter. They had wealth and rank. We had independence. We looked up to Thomas Graham as our leader. And an able leader he was. No matter what the topic for debate would be, the McGregors, Mathesons, etc., would be ranged on the one side, and the Grahams, Forbes, Chisholms, etc., on the other. This was invariably adhered to with a tenacity that Kirk and Antiburgher need not have been ashamed of. One of the bye-laws subjected any member to a fine of $1.00 for disobeying the chairman. On one occasion this dignitary ordered me to sit down. Conscious of having right on my side, and that the mandate originated in a disposition not only to put me down, but to keep me down, I simply said I wouldn't. A prominent member on the opposite side moved that Mr. Grant be fined $1.00. Mr. Wm. Graham moved in amendment, that the fine be one penny. The amendment carried.
Debates would occasionally be dispensed with for a lecture by some member. Mr. P. G. McGregor gave one on the Useful Arts, and Mr. Isaac Matheson on Political Economy. The writer gave one on the East River. At the close of this latter performance, Mr. Kenneth Forbes got up and said, "that was the best lecture ever delivered in this house." For this he was instantly brought to task. And, considering who had preceded me, in the same capacity, it was no wonder if he would be made to do penance for his indiscretion. Perhaps some reader would like to know how a greenhorn of 20 would write about the East River fifty-four years ago. If so, here is a sample.
"As the traveller approaches New Glasgow, the incessant rattling of railroad cars with their appendages, produce deafening convictions of the present prosperity and future importance of this interesting place. But he is now at New Glasgow. It is situated on the eastern bank of the river, and connected with the opposite side by a well-constructed wooden bridge. The village, a few years ago, consisted of a few scattered buildings. But, owing to the enterprises of its inhabitants, it has rapidly increased in size and commercial importance. For the most part, the buildings were constructed of wood. A goodly proportion are of stone, and they afford specimens of workmanship that cannot easily be surpassed. For some distance up the river, the country presents the appearance of a long extended vale, intersected by well cultivated farms, and densely settled habitations. Here, the traveller can find two things which to contemplate. Here is the grandeur of mountain scenery to the east, with a vast extent of monotonous forest land terminating the view to the west. If his mind is so constituted as to take pleasure in contemplating the workings of art, he can survey the Albion Mines with all their surroundings. He can see there how the ingenuity of man, by mechanical contrivances, has concerted plans, and erected superstructures by means of which commerce is conducted on a superior scale. A minute description of these appliances would be difficult. The works are there, and any one can see and examine them for himself. He can also notice what vast sums of money were expended (around Mount Rundell) in cultivating small pieces of land. The taste and sumptuousness displayed about some of the private residences, mark this as a place where high life in all its grandeur, is studiously cultivated. (This was written in the days of Turtin, Joseph Smth, Neil McKay and David Dickson, when there was no such place as Mount Rundell on this side of Government House, Halifax.) As the traveller proceeds up the river, he enters a region the scenery of which is considerably diversified by hill and dale, until the emotions of admiration subside into those of peace and tranquility. The region he has now entered differs from that which he has left in its external aspect, while the people inhabiting it differ from the former in many of their manners and customs. He is now in Churchville. The road for 2 miles conducts him along a plain bounded by Irish Mountain on the east, and an upland tract of gentle elevation on the west. The inhabitants live in mutual harmony, and by frugal industry, enjoy all the comforts of life. In the centre of the settlement, and in close proximity to Robertson's Mills, is Churchville Meeting House, more distinguished by simplicity than grandeur. Of the scenery nothing in particular can be said, except that, during summer when the "sun shoots full perfection," it is attractive and beautiful. The rugged summit of Irish Mountain forms an agreeable contrast to that gentle sheet of water that ripples along its base - Forbes' Lake. For about two miles more the road leads through a woodland tract. Here, the works of nature, unalloyed by those of art afford fresh matter for reflection abruptly emerging from this sylvan scene, the hills and vales of Springville appear in view.
Here, landscape wide, in all its
majesty and grace,
Presents itself, in rudeness sweet, before the face,
Here, rugged cliffs and sunny plains, in beauteous foliage clad,
Rejoice the mind, and mingle pleasing thoughts with sad;
Here Springville's pure transparent streams
Or Limebrook's hollow murm'ring roar,
In accents sweet conspire t'impart
A solemn air to the surrounding shore.
These hills, alas, by nature's touch are rudely decked,
And on the stranger's mind no thoughts of interest can reflect,
Yet your lofty steeps have often borne me in my youthful joys
Therefore, I love you; and me your mem'ry ever will rejoice.
In fertility of soil the East River will compare favorably with any part of Nova Scotia. But in mineral resources it is unequalled. During the summer months, its hills are "a place for the herds to lie down, and its valleys are covered with corn." At this season, Pictou Harbor is truly "an haven of ships,'' coming from the ends of the earth to waft cargoes of our coal to supply the furnaces and dwellings of many lands with fuel. Springville and Churchville alone have lime enough to supply British North America*. (*This was written in 1836.) Last summer, at the former of these places, by three Individuals - David McLean, James Fraser and James Grant, there were manufactured and conveyed to the Albion Mines, 3000 bushels of this article of commerce. This they did beside cultivating their extensive farms and raising abundant crops therefrom. Last spring (1836) the quantity of square timber sent down the river, amounted to 2500 tons. And it was quite a sight to see the athletic sons of Sunny Brae - Chisholms, Kennedies, Thomsons, McDonalds, McIntoshes, as they streamed this vast quantity fighting and surmounting the rapids of the "Black Teeth." Around Bridgeville, there have always been found specimens of iron ore of a superior quality. This, at no distant period, will also contribute to the prosperity of this favored place."
Now, reader, the above was written before Graham Fraser was born. "Duncan Penny" was the sole inhabitant of Ferrona. Eureka was then an uncultivated waste. There might be here and there, a tree "where the great owl would make her nest," but that was all.
In the winter of 1824-25, there was another Debating Society at Bridgeville. This time they met in the house of Mr. Robt. Creelman. It was at the end of the bridge, and is there yet. I attended once as a spectator.
I come now to speak of a society the name and fame of which eclipsed all that were either before or after it - the Springville Literary Society. It was late in December, 1843. As previously stated, I then taught school in the "Red School-house." One evening, after school hours, three or four of us happened to be together around the stove. The party consisted of Hector McKenzie, afterwards postmaster at Stellarton, Dr. McKay, John Fraser, Catach, and the teacher. Before we separated, a new era began to dawn. That winter, there was to be a series of fortnightly lectures. Every alternate week we were to have a debate. Mr. McKenzie, especially, entered into the project with all the "perfervidum ingenium' of his nature. Throughout the entire community, the affair took like wild fire. And, during the remainder of that winter, the Red School-house was a lively place. Every night, let it storm or shine, the place was crowded. They would be there from Sunny Brae, the Middle River, Hopewell, Churchville, Big Brook, McLellan's Brook, and places that had no brooks. The course was inaugurated by a lecture on Palestine, by Rev. Hugh Dunbar. This was followed by others on Geography, Education, Astronomy, Atmospheric Air, etc. But the great source of attraction was the debates. There were about half a dozen members whose reading, versatility and gifts of speech would excite admiration. Such were Hector McKenzie, Robert Creelman, Jas. McGregor McKay, James Grant, and others. But the principal attraction centred in a series of finished orations delivered with all the composure of a practiced debater by a young member who had, hitherto, been a perfect stranger to the art of public speaking. He was the youngest of a numerous and well known family, at Upper Hopewell. Neither did "fortune smile deceitful on his birth." Every time he spoke, it sounded as if Edmund Burke or Pitt had risen from the dead.
"He spoke reserv'dly but he spoke
Nor could one word be changed but for a worse."
That young man was the Rev. Alexander McLean, of New Glas-gow. It is an attested fact that Lord Brougham could speak words distinctly when he was eight months old. So one of his biographers remarked that he commenced speaking at the age of eight months, and that he continued to speak all the rest of his life. At the date referred to, Mr. McLean was of a maturer age. But, as far as is known to me, his public utterances have, ever since, been distin-guished for that ornateness, propriety and finish that, then, astonished us all.
"Fit words attended on his weighty
And mild persuasions flow'd in eloquence."
Senator Holmes was the most of this term, absent in Halifax. But the young Holmes' all attended and gave us a helping hand.
EAST RIVER MERCHANDISING
About a hundred years after the death of Noah - that Chris-topher Columbus of the Antediluvians - Abraham buys a piece of land and pays for it in "money current with the merchant." The profession is thus of ancient origin. In the days of Lot "they bought, they sold." And ever since, merchandising and merchants have occupied a conspicuous position in the history of our race. This useful class have alas in all lands been noted for craft and dishonesty, resorting to every petty scheme to increase their store. “He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand, he loveth to oppress." The same fact is often referred to by the ancient classics. Horace, who lived about 50 years before the days of Christ, often speaks of it.
In Bible times, and as an emporium of trade, ancient Tyre must have been unrivalled. Can anything be more splendid than the description given by Ezekiel of her commercial magnificence. When reading it, one feels as if he saw, and heard her mariners with tuneful shouts, handling their ropes, and furling and unfurling sails, and as if his ears were stunned by the barbarous jargon in her crowded markets. "They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs, with horses and horsemen and mules. The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee, and thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas." Such is the glory to which worldly prosperity exalts a people. But in the history of this godless city there was a period when things were on as small a scale as small could be, when her coasts were as destitute of inhabitants as were the shores of the East River on the day that Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador.
As to the history of merchandising on the East River, its commencement was where New Glasgow is, about the beginning of this century, by Mr. Carmichael. As almost every one knows, his store was opposite the Ottawa house. His was the principal store all his life. But about the same period or very soon after, Alex Grant, miller, became a trader. Mr. Carmichael's name as a merchant prince has ever been a household word. But, among all your readers, there is scarcely one that knows the extent to which this Alex Grant "sought goodly pearls," and dispersed them abroad, "unvexed with all the cares of gain." Bearing on this subject, I shall men-tion two incidents.
1. On one occasion, there was
a chest of tea for sale, and Mr. Carmichael wished to be a purchaser.
But he thought it too
much of a risk to buy the whole chest. And he wanted Mr. Grant (who was my father) to go shares with him. I had this from the late Deacon Robertson, of Churchville, who may have been an eyewitness to the transaction. It must have occurred at the very commencement of Mr. Carmichael's commercial career. And, to me, it is sufficient evidence that, by this time, this Alex Grant had already embarked in the same calling.
2. The following incident I had from Mr. Carmichael himself not long before his death. I record it as an instance of Mr. Grant's well-known generosity. It also goes to show that, with him merchandising was no idle form. Mr. Carmichael had chartered a vessel to load her with timber. The vessel was waiting in Pictou harbor for her cargo. Mr. Carmichael said he had not a stick of timber on hand. He had some up the river, but it could not be got down. Said he, "your father had his timber, all down at New Glasgow. There was enough of it to load the vessel. He told me to take it. I did so, and thus got the vessel loaded. Had it not been for this obligement I would have been completely ruined." These were Mr. Carmichael's words.
In New Glasgow, as already stated,
Mr. Carmichael was the principal merchant up to the last. Mr. Grant's
place of business was 10 miles up the river. It was his custom to go on
to Halifax once or twice every year with what spare money he might be possessed
of amounting at times to $2,000. This would be laid out in the purchase
of goods. These would be sent round by water to Pictou. But how
they could be conveyed up the river, when roads were bad, is more than I know.
But conveyed up the river they were. And there they were sold. But,
as his books show, some of his customers belonged to New Glasgow, and even to
the counties of Guysboro and Colchester. The name of Rev. Dr. McGregor
appears among the number. As far back as 1815 the following items
are charged to him: 2 straw bonnets for the servant girls; 56 lbs. sugar; 4
lbs. tea. In 1819, 8 quires writing paper bought at one time. The
account of another rev. gentleman commences thus:
1825-May 19, To 2 gallons rum.
1825-July 7, To 2 gallons rum.
1825-Aug. 9, To 6 quarts rum.
This was no Kirk clergyman.
For a livelihood Mr. Grant did not depend on the sale of his goods, but on the proceeds of the best of grist mills, which he owned cojointly with his brother Robert, and a many acred farm, always kept in the highest state of cultivation. He could thus afford and did afford to be indulgent with his customers. From what I know of his far-reaching philanthropy - which was proverbial - it was not to make money he submitted to the drudgery of storekeeping, but because the goods were needed in a place so recently inhabited. There consisted, besides groceries of all kinds, of hardware, crockery, riding saddles, bridles, leather etc. I find one blacksmith - it was big John Falconer - charged with 2 tons, 16 cwt. Iron. As other stores increased in number, he gradually retired from business. But he kept flour for sale to the last.
The year 1816 was the hardest year Pictou ever saw. The preceding summer there was a plague of mice that completely destroyed the grain crop. Neither did the potato crop escape their ravages. And this summer famine and starvation stared people in the face. At last, in part to ward off the threatened ruin, Mr. Grant mounts his horse and starts for Halifax, and purchased $1,000 worth of flour. On his way home in June the road was frozen so hard as to carry his horse. The "heaven was brass and the earth iron." The flour comes round by water. Late on a Saturday afternoon it is all put into a barn at New Glasgow, belonging to Mr. Carmichael, and Mr. Grant wends his way to his home up the river. The probability is that, Sabbath day, he would travel many a mile to hear Dr. McGregor preach. But very early Monday morning he went down to New Glasgow. When he got there, the barn was surrounded by a crowd of men from many a mile round. The most of flour dealers would ask intending purchasers as to their ability to pay. There were no such inquiries that morning. On the contrary, if any one had been so unwise as to say he had the money, he would be told at once that he could get flour elsewhere. For during a long life, he scarcely ever sold flour to those that had the money to pay for it. When flour was scarce, and the demand urgent, he never did it.
"There was a man, and some did think
The more he gave, the more he had." - John Bunyan.
At last the door is opened, and there is one mighty rush. Everyone seizes a barrel. They threw themselves flat on their faces on the barrel, and held on to it with both bands. There was nothing said about price or pay. Now, reader, I ask you, would every flour dealer be so indulgent? I know the young Downies of New Glasgow have acquired a lasting reputation for their generosity to the indigent. But this is an instance that would test even their liberality. Dr, Patterson, in his history of Pictou, says that it was with difficulty Mr. Grant preserved a barrel for himself. But this was not so. He didn't try to keep one for himself. If he wanted one, he knew he could get it from Mr. Carmichael, or anyone else that kept flour for sale. Not so with the destitute crowd surrounding that barn on a June morning in 1816.
About this time William McDonald, J. Fred McDonald's (custom house) grandfather, engaged in mercantile pursuits. His dwelling house stands yet at the upper end of the town, near the end of the Merigomish Road. Here also was his store, and it was a store that was much frequented. Mr. McDonald traded extensively.
By the summer of 1828, there were, at least, four additional stores in New Glasgow.
1. Hugh Fraser, Drummond - a brother of Squire Frasers. I think the Windsor Hotel covers the site of his store. At all events, it stood between the bank of the river and the Ottawa House.
2. Alexander Fraser (Red Alex). His dwelling house was at the lower end of the wharf, on the River's bank. And here, at this time, he sold his goods.
3. Squire Fraser's. It was about this time he, on a small scale commenced his mercantile career in a little wooden building on the site at present occupied by a structure composed of solid masonry, and here be made a fortune.
4. Either in 1826 or ‘27 James McGregor rented a house belonging to the already mentioned Alex. Grant. It was situated on the site now occupied by the Ottawa House. Mr. McGregor rented the whole building. A room fronting the street he used as a store, and the rest as a dwelling place. Here he did business for years. And if any of his children wish to see the place where their fattier commenced that career of which he was so bright an ornament, they can easily gratify their wish. It is still to the fore, and occupied by Mr. Muir. Mr Grant, when preparing to build the Ottawa House in 1839, moved the old house back to the rear of the lot. Some years after this he sold it to a Mr. William Turnbull. At the death of the latter it, no doubt, belonged to his widow, the present Mrs. Muir who can show the room used by Mr. McGregor as a store.
What convinces me that it was either 1826 or '27 Mr. McGregor commenced merchandising is this. That great fire in London was in 1666. The burning of Moscow was in 1812. But in 1825, and much nearer home, was a fire that, for awful grandeur excelled both that of London and Moscow put together - the "Fire of Miramichi." And well do I remember Mr. McGregor, the following summer, being a night at my father's. He came up to rent the old house just spoken of. It was in the month of July. In the morning, while his horse was grazing peacefully in the field, I, at the age of seven, was all attention, as two of the most intelligent of men discussed one subject after another. Mr. McGregor had been in Miramichi the time of the fire. And his account of the dreadful conflagration, and of the difficulty with which he and others escaped with their lives, when the whole place for 20 or 30 miles round was an ocean of flames, was graphic in the extreme - not unworthy of being placed beside Virgil's description of the burning of Troy.
The palace of Deiphobus in smoking
Hecalegon burns next, and catches on its friends.
I think it was a little earlier than the last date mentioned, that Alex Fraser, D. C. Fraser's father, kept goods for sale. To distinguish him from the other Frasers, he even went by the name of "Alasdair Ceannaiche" - Alexander the Merchant. He kept his goods for sale about 14 miles up the river, about a mile below St. Paul's church. Whether he did business in New Glasgow, I cannot say. One thing I do know, however, he owned a lot, and built a house there. That house was standing in 1834, and for a good many years after that. My impression is that the Windsor hotel now covers the ground it occupied.
In 1828, there was a store opened, which, in magnificence, eclipsed anything that had, hitherto, been on the East River. Whatever was the name by which it was designated In New Glasgow it was known in the surrounding districts by the name of the "Mines Store" or the "Big Store." I think the building is standing yet at the end of the bridge at Stellarton. And it was in reality a big store - big on account of the wealth at the back of it - the mining company - big on account of the immense piles of goods on those shelves -- big on account of the crowds of customers, and the amount sold - big on account of troops of miners that used to congregate around it after 6 o'clock with faces the color of Ethiopians but specially big from the size of fists that would, at times be flourished in fierce pugilistic encounters on the esplanade in front, thus relieving the monotony of life, and furnish abundant material for remark for many a mile up and down the East River. These were the days of Big John Falconer, Joe Calvrey, Tom Mae and Martin Boyle.
It was about this time, too, or not long after, that B. L. Kirkpatrick commenced his mercantile career on the East River, first in the capacity of a peddler selling his goods from house to house. About 1830 be set up regular storekeeping, doing a more extensive business than, perhaps, any merchant in New Glasgow. He erected a store on the confines between Springville and Bridgeville, where he merchandised for years till he moved to New Glasgow. Here he added shipbuilding to merchandising. He was naturally endowed with very superior business talents, and splendid intelligence. He died in New Glasgow.
By 1842, John Cameron, John McKenzie, Roderick McGregor, J. F. McDonald and Hugh Fraser, Miller, flourished as influential merchants. My memory does not serve me as to the exact time Mr. Fraser postmaster, commenced. But he merchandised for years, either on the site now occupied by the post office or in close proximity to it. Other names, such as Adam Carr, Mr. Metcalf, etc., have unintentionally been omitted. All these are entitled to the credit of laying the foundation of New Glasgow, and rendering its name famous. It is also due to them to assert that the goods they kept for sale were of a superior quality - British manufacture. At that time one would not have to pay a dollar or more for a pocket handkerchief that wasn't worth carrying home. Is there a store in New Glasgow where one could get a vest pattern? It was otherwise in the days of the Carmichaels, the John McKenzies and the Squire Frasers.
Of country merchants, in more recent times, the principal were Mr. John Forbes, at Bridgeville, and Squire McDonald, at Springville. About the year 1833, Colin McKay (Colin Fox Brook) purchased a lot in Hopewell, and set up storekeeping. For a year or two, he was the only "Merchant Prince" in that famed locality. And my impression is that he was the first.
The following explanation is due to the memory of two East River Worthies - it is true that up to the commencement of the Temperance Reformation, Alexander Grant kept rum for sale. So did almost every other merchant. James McGregor, did at New Glasgow, and Mr. Matheson at the West River - men "whose praise is in all the churches." As for Mr. Grant, as soon as the use of ardent spirits began to be denounced from the pulpit as an evil, and when, in 1832, the first Temperance Society was formed in Mr. McGillivray's congregation he imported, and he sold no more of it. As to the venerable clergyman that bought 5 1-2 gallons in four months, the probability is that he never tasted a drop of it. He had a small salary, and a large farm that was hard to cultivate, and a great amount of work was done by what was called frolics. On such occasions men would not work without their "glass." That would be the way the rum went. In addition to all this, at that time Jamaica rum was not the poisonous stuff that goes by that name now, is, and it was considered as one of the necessities of life - far more so than either sugar or tea. On a visit from Dr. McGregor or any other gentleman, housekeepers would feel small enough if the decanter wasn't on the table; and none more relished a glass of its contents than the Dr. himself.
1. When about the age of 12, a friend in Springville sent me down to Mr. Jas. McGregor's for half a gallon of rum. Mr. McGregor was in the store. On telling him my errand, there was a roar of laughter by a lot of boys who happened to be present. It was at my bad English For,
"On his lips there hung
The accent of the mountain tongue."
However, Mr. McGregor with his own hands, and with his accustomed accuracy, measured the desired quantity of the precious liquid, and I started for home - the yell of laughter ringing in my ears.
2. About the year 1831, Mr. Carmichael was loading a vessel with live cattle for Miramichi. He bought a cow from my father. The brute was to be delivered at New Glasgow by a certain day. At the appointed time, there was a stout rope tied around her horns. But she became utterly unmanageable. My impression is that she would baffle all the men in Springville. She was got half way to Springville bridge, when things came to a crisis. After a consultation held, my father sent one of the men to bring a favorite horse. This is done. The next step was to tie the rope that held the contrary brute to that horse's tail and to tie it so short that her head - horns and all- was close up to the horse's heels. When let go, she began carrying on as formerly. But a clip or two from the horse's hind foot soon sobered her. The next part of the programme was to put the future historian of the East River, then about 13, on that horse's back. This simply meant a 10 mile ride with a wicked cow attached to the horse's tail - a berth that no compiler of history would relish. But the best of fathers and one of the wisest of men wished it to be done, and that was enough. To pass "thus accoutered," through Churchville and Irish town was no joke.
What a mark for the jeers of all the youngsters. But, horror of horrors, to have to parade the streets of New Glasgow. However, without meeting with any disaster, Prospect Farm appears in sight, and is passed by without danger, and then Potter's bridge is left behind. But Provost street did seem, that day, unmercifully long. The wharf is at last reached, and the unruly animal is hoisted on board. This was the first time I saw Wm. Graham, and "Billy Ogg," dressed in regular sailors' garb, they were conspicuously active among the vessel's crew. After the lapse of sixty years, I often think of this adventure - of the wisdom that contrived it, and the success that accompanied it. Could all the men in Springville tie such a knot today?
3. In 1831, Mr. James McGregor wished to take the eldest of his children to some famous medical spring, either at Shubenacadie or Wilmot. He wrote to my father to ascertain whether be would let him have the use of his gig for the journey. I read that letter. And I have read and written many a letter since. But anything to match that letter, of Mr. McGregor's I never wrote, and I never read. For depth and propriety, and as a piece of composition, it was masterpiece, to be equalled only by an obituary, the same hand penned to commemorate the worth of a lifelong friend - the late Deacon Hugh McKay, of Riverton. It was published in the Missionary Record, and it was also a masterpiece. In a day or two Mr. Roderick McGregor comes up on horseback for the gig. It was a warm day in July. He was in his shirt sleeves, and wore a pair of pants of blue superfine broad cloth. Would any of your readers think that, so late as 1831, a leading merchant of New Glasgow would have to send 10 miles for a conveyance for a two or three days' journey? Or is it likely that Mr. McGregor would do it if he could accommodate himself nearer home.
MORE EAST RIVER WORTHIES
Gigantic mental powers, when associated with corresponding bodily strength, is something that has never failed to excite admiration, and when infinite wisdom has condescended to make mention of some of this class by name, and even to specify some of their achievements, it cannot be amiss for me to make a few observations on such a subject. The Bible gives a minute account of the combat between David and Goliath, and Moses' fight with the Egyptian. It tells also of the man who "slew a lion in the midst of a pit in a time of snow."
But what is it to be a mighty man? Of course there is, as a rule, superior bodily strength - the ability, on an emergency, to perform prodigies of valor There must, however, be something more - there must be a mighty mind.
Were I so tall that I could reach
from pole to pole,
Or grasp creation in a span,
I must be measured by my mind,
The mind's the standard of the man.
To be entitled to the epithet mighty one must be possessed of a soul not to be discouraged by any difficulty, not to be appalled by any danger. "What he greatly thinks he nobly dares." In every age and in every community, men of this stamp have, like poets, orators and philosophers, been few in number. At no period, do they seem to have been as numerous as in the days of David. In addition to the "thirty and seven" specified by name, there were of the Gadites "men of might and men of war fit for the battle, whose faces were like the faces of lions." But at the siege of Troy, there was only one Ajax, and one Hector. Among the millions of Scotland, there was only one Wallace and one Bruce, one Knox and one Burns. In England there was only one Shakespeare, and one Milton. So, in Germany, there was only one Luther. These however, were all "mighty men," "men of renown." But what was it that made them so? It was that invisible, mysterious something within us called mind - that principle of man that thinks, acts, and is the source of his conduct - that principle which, when sanctified by grace, makes some of the sons of men only "a little lower than the angels."
But, kind reader, ' exalt thine head, and lift thine eyes," and overleaping time and space, direct your vision beyond the hill Mizar. Who "is this that cometh from Edom, travelling in the greatness of his strength - mighty to save." There is a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea. The unicorns are coming down, and the bullocks with the bulls, and the whole land is being soaked with blood." But "what mighty man or mighty God" is that that stands undismayed in the midst of the dreadful scene. "Strong bulls of Bashan" have beset him round, and there is none to help. This was he who
Burst the iron gates of death,
And tore the bars away.
A Wallace and a Bruce did nobly "stem tyrannic pride," they saved their country. But their achievements, and the sufferings they endured were nothing when compared with Him who "trod the winepress alone," and accomplished man's deliverance. Let this meek and lowly One ever be our beau ideal of a mighty man. And it is because Alex. McKay, St. Mary's; Deacon McKay, Riverton, and James Fraser, Innkeeper, New Glasgow, in addition to their matchless bodily strength, possessed so many of those traits of childlike humility because they were harmless and peaceful, I have singled them out as East River mighty men. They were men who would be "lamkins in peace, but lions in war." And this has ever been characteristic of true greatness.
"Meek, affable, and mild, Sir Isaac
And such was Boyle and Locke."
But I must specify some of the things that these men did to entitle them to the pre-eminence ascribed to them.
1. Alex McKay. On one occasion when residing at Riverton, he and his brother, the Deacon, then a mere boy of 14, were working quietly in the field planting potatoes. While thus employed there came two men from the West River - a place that has ever been proverbial for able men. They told McKay that they came to give him a beating. The boy got scared and ran home to tell that there were two men in the field going to kill his brother. But there was no harm done. The brother told his visitors that if it was to beat him they came, the sooner they would clear out the better. They took the advice given - they beat a hasty retreat. The Deacon is my authority for this incident.
2. On another occasion, there was to be a muster at the Middle River, and McKay received a challenge to be there to meet the McCoulls and the Blaikies of the Green Hill. He told me of this adventure himself, I asked him if he went. He said he did. I asked him if he wasn't afraid to go alone. He replied, "In those days, I feared no man though he was as big as a mountain." I asked him if these men, the McCoulls and the Blaikies, were there. He said they were. Did they see you? He said they did. Did they meddle with you? He said they did not. I wondered at this, and asked him how he could account for it, if he thought it would be because they were afraid of him. Said he, "I don't know but that they would be a little afraid, too." And there was no more about it. McKay accepted the challenge. He kept his ground for a whole day. In the evening he returns to his peaceful home, with thoughts of peace and good will for all men.
3. Another time, he is in the woods looking for a cow and a calf that had strayed away. He gets a blink of what he thought was the calf. He gave it chase. The race continued among thick woods and over windfalls till he overtook it. When he got hold of it, it raised the most dreadful bawl. He then thought it was a moose calf. And, fearing the old moose would be on the scene, he, with the rapidity of thought, takes the handkerchief off his neck, ties its four feet, and climbs up into the nearest tree. But no moose came. The noisy captive turned out to be a young carribou. This is a true account of the catching of the carribou. I had it from his own lips.
4. Another time McKay and his brother, the Deacon, went to butcher a cow. It was a very ferocious animal. They got her into a building, the walls of which were standing. But it had no roof on. They went in, and shut the door. If they did, the maddened animal made one spring, clear over the wall, and made off for the woods. If she did, McKay made after her, to head her back. But she turned on him to head him back. She made for him with lowered horns. Now, any other man would have got out of the enraged animal's way. But McKay stood his ground. He took hold of her, and, before the Deacon could get to his assistance, he butchered her on the spot. Not many years ago, on mentioning this adventure to the late Mr. Robert McCoull, a very competent judge of such things, and on asking him if it would not take a man out of a hundred to do what McKay did to that cow, he replied that perhaps twelve men could not have done it. But about McKay there was something altogether different from ordinary mortals - something inexplicable. In stature he was not superior to hundreds around him - much smaller sized man than the Deacon. The secret of his matchless superiority consisted in that nobility of mind, that heroism that actuated and animated his whole being. In the words of Homer " what he greatly thought he nobly dared." Of old Alex. McLean (ban) Irish Mountain, it used to be said that such was the swiftness of foot, that, in an open field, he could catch a sheep. Even that was what few could do. But what about catching a carribou - the swiftest of all swiftfooted animals? In McKay's hands, all kinds of horned cattle - from the fiercest of bulls downwards were as helpless as so many pups.
To give the reader anything like a just conception of this extraordinary man is a difficult task. "His ways," were not the ways of other men, nor his thoughts as their thoughts. With a rather large face, and large hands, not tall, but broad-shouldered and stalwart, and somewhat colossal in his build. In the pathless forest, in which he delighted to roam, as if he would shun the abodes of men, he could "dwell in the wilderness, and sleep in the wood." In his own house, he was scarcely ever known to speak a cross word to wife or children.
Among his associates, for his equal did not exist, while all stood in awe of his matchless prowess, his childlike humility and playfulness made him a favorite with all. There was only one thing he could not stand - bragging and boasting. He would not take this even if it came from the son of Thetis. And had he been in the days of Saul, the mouth of a certain gentleman from Gath would have been shut without the aid of David's sling. Dr. McGregor, Dr. McCulloch and Old Mr. Ross of the West River were well acquainted with him, and that they esteemed him is evident from the following incidents.
1. Over 80 years ago, McKay had sold a pair of oxen to an East River man, who was working at Halifax. McKay, knowing that he was working for money, went to Halifax thinking he might get his pay. But he got nothing. Consequently, before he got back to Pictou he had an empty pocket. At Truro he fell in with the three apostles just mentioned. McGregor, Ross and McCulloch. On their way home they put up at an Inn at Salmon River, where they were to have dinner. While this was being got ready, Mr. Ross and McKay happened to meet out about the door, when the following dialogue occurred:
McKay addressing Mr. Ross - "Ah, the like of this never happened me."
Ross - "What is it?"
McKay - "I haven't money to pay for my dinner."
Mr. Ross - "Is that all? I am as bad off as yourself, for I haven't a Penny."
In a little while, Mr. Ross comes along, and back foremost, walks up to McKay, with a silver dollar peeping between his fingers. From this incident the following things are self-evident. 1. If McKay was without money, so was Mr. Ross 2. Mr. Ross must have borrowed that dollar, either from Dr. McCulloch or Dr. McGregor - probably from the latter, for he would always have money. 3. It also indicates not only Mr. Ross's generosity, but that he was above doing anything small. A much smaller sum would have paid for the dinner. 4. It also shows the respect these superior men had for McKay. And there is a charm about the boyish jocular mode in which the favour was conferred. There was something Martin Luther like about it. Sometime after, McKay met Mr. Ross on the intervale between Irish Town and Stellarton and returned the dollar.
When Dr. McGregor went to Halifax to get married, from among the thousands of Pictou, he selected this Alex. McKay for his "best man." Another evidence of the esteem in which the latter was held.
I knew this McKay intimately - having spent days and nights with him in his house at St. Mary's, having sat with him for hours in an Indian wigwam, having walked along the road with him for miles, and conversed with him about men and things having seen him in all kinds of company. I sat at his bedside and conversed with him for hours, two days before his death in September, 1866, but no matter whether in the company of well-dressed, well-educated ministers, or in that of the untutored denizen of the forest, like Shakespeare's Ajax, he always was a man "per se" - he "stood by himself." Among these he ever bore himself with the same reserved but dignified men. If his words would be few, they were the offspring of a colossal thought. In the company of clerical magnates, he maintained the same superiority that Burns did among the literati of Edinburgh. It is very doubtful if mortal man ever heard Alex. McKay, of St. Mary's speak a word out of place or out of taste, and, were I to speak of "men that I have met," I could mention names that would outshine even Mr. Longley's Howe's, Blake's, Henry Ward Beecher's, etc. But I never met with McKay's superior in all that constitutes true greatness. There is one feat of his I omitted mentioning. The late Jas. McGregor, Esq., is my authority. It was this. At the raising of a barn somewhere near the bank of the East River, at a time when there was a big freshet, there was a man got into the river. McKay was fixing the ridge pole into its place. But when he heard the cry, he ran down the ribs, made one spring from the plate, and had the drowning man safe on dry land. Allowing this to have been an ordinary 14 feet post barn, what a leap was that? It would be fifteen or sixteen feet.
He lived to the age of 97. But he was never known to be sick, his eldest daughter told me so. The crowning ornament of his life was his piety. His every gesture, as well as speech and accent, was devout - "was strong in death." The near approach of "the last enemy" disturbed not his equanimity. The day he died, a female friend came to see him. He asked her if she would do him the last favour he would ask in this world. She said she would, well, replied he, I want you to fix up my bed thoroughly. This done, he then lay gently down, stretched himself at full length, and breathed his last. "O Death, where is thy sting."
Squire Fraser, of New Glasgow, and Senator Holmes both knew this McKay - they knew him in "his glorious youthful prime," and were they living, they would more than confirm all that is, in this sketch, said in his praise. Even Dr. McGregor has been known to assert that "his match never walked Pictou ground." That mentioned by Dr. Patterson in History of Pictou, is not the only instance in which ferocious bulls have been known to roar helpless in his grasp. Rev. James McGregor McKay is his youngest son.
2. Deacon McKay, Riverton. Historians relate that a famous Athenian received the name of Plato from the largeness of his shoulders, and that the life of Pythagoras and his pupils was once saved by the strength of an athlete named Milo. When the pillar supporting the roof gave way, the latter supported the whole weight of the building on his shoulders. Tried by this standard, Deacon McKay would, by the size of his shoulders, and his great bodily strength, be at once the Plato and the Milo of the East River. Of a swarthy complexion, and taller and bigger every way than his brother Alex., he was the very personification of muscular power so that it was said of him, that, like a certain Bible hero, "his strength was not known." Of this, the following examples may serve as illustrations.
1. When the Deacon was 22, there came to Pictou town a professed wrestler from the United States. His name was William Allan. He put up at Lorraine's hotel and sent forth his challenge to any bluenose within twenty miles, for a trial of strength and skill. In the prosecution of his calling, the best wrestlers about town and the West River lay prostrate on the floor. In these extremities, after consultation held, the future Deacon is waited on by a delegation, at his house at Riverton. Everyone knew his matchless strength. But would he try the Yankee? All they wanted of him was to go down to Pictou, and see the champion and form his own opinion. If he thought he wouldn't be able for him, they wished him not to try. He consented to go, and on the appointed day he went, and all the East River with him. He found Allan in his room, sitting in front of a blazing fire. Having taken a good look at him there, he went out and told his friends he had his mind made up to try him. It was midwinter. The "sublime was to be got at" in a large building at the rear of the hotel, Mason hall. But it was a sad oversight that they had no Robert Burns on hand
"To witness the fray,
And tell to the ages the feats of the day."
All around the hall was a row of benches. On these stood the spectators of the scene while
Amid the ring, each nervous rival
Embracing rigid with implicit hands;
Close locked above, the head and arms are mixt;
Below, their planted feet at distance fixed;
Like two strong rafters which the builder forms;
Proof to the wintry winds and howling storms.
The highlander gained an easy victory, and the assembled bluenoses, elate with joy, and proud of their youthful hero, for further recreation repaired to the ice on the harbor to skate and play ball. While thus enjoying themselves to their heart's content, a messenger appears in their midst, with a fresh challenge from the hotel - the Yankee wished to wrestle again. Nothing loath, skates and hurtles laid aside, there is another rush for the hall.
The combatants assume their former position and attitude. The benches are more crowded than before. But the Deacon told me that, this time, Allan was a totally different man from what he was in the forenoon - acting entirely on the defensive.
Nor could Ulysses for his art renown'd;
O'erturn the strength of Ajax on the ground;
Nor could the strength of Ajax overthrow
The watchful caution of his artful foe.
After being thus locked in a loving embrace for ever so long and the one making nothing of the other, Allan proposed to drop it. No, replied the Deacon, I have strength enough yet to break every bone in your body. You are the challenger, and I will keep you there till midnight, if you don't acknowledge that I am a better man than you. Allan made the required acknowledgement, and the affair ended in peace and mutual good will.
There have been various versions of this wrestling match. But the above is the true one. I had it from the Deacon and I have used his very words.
2. About 80 years ago, before there was a bridge at New Glasgow, the Deacon came down for a barrel of fish. But the ice not being fit for horses, he left horse and sleigh on the west side of the river, crossed on foot to the wharf where the fish was, got the barrel on his shoulder, and walked off with it, up to A. C. Bell's corner, then along Provost street to where the post office is, then down by the shipyard to the river, and across the river to place of beginning where he left the horse and sleigh. This is also the correct version. I had it from himself. He said that he did not mind the weight of the barrel; but that it bothered him to keep it from rolling off his shoulder. And no wonder, considering the length of the tramp - more than a quarter of a mile.
3. The following anecdote I had also from the Deacon himself ever so long after it took place. It was in the days of Richard Smith. By this time, he had stood high for years, as an influential elder under Dr. McGregor. He was ever esteemed for his blameless life, and fervid piety. But his was not that spurious piety that disqualifies one from either asserting or defending his rights. Accordingly, one day, in company with his brother at Fox Brook, he went to transact some business at the Mines. They were on horseback, and, with wonted carefulness, tied their horses in some sequestered place. When ready to start for home, they made for where the horses were. The horses they found where they had left them. But the saddles were gone. His brother insisted on going to tell Mr. Smith. The Deacon wanted him not to. But he went. In the meantime, while he was gone, the Deacon walked up to a crowd of miners who stood at no great distance off, watching the scene, and, no doubt, having a hearty laugh at the expense of the two countrymen. Said he to them, "come, what have you ones done with these saddles?" They answered "give us a treat, and then we will talk to you about saddles." He told them they would never get a treat from him, that they took the wrong way with him for that. To this they replied that they would burl him into that pit (there was a coal pit handy) if he didn't keep quiet. "No," said the Deacon. "I defy any three of you to do that." Now, reader, if either Joe Calvrey, Tom Mack, or Martin Boyle was among the crowd, that was a great challenge. It used to be said that the Deacon gave them five minutes to get the saddles, But it did not occur to me to ask him about the truth of this. At all events, before his brother came back the saddles were on the horses.
4. Another time he and some men were in the woods with a pair of horses, hauling logs. But, at the foot of a hill, one of the horses refused to pull. After spending some time to no purpose with the stubborn animal, he sings out to them, "Take him out of that." This was done. He then took hold of the double whippletree, and pulled against the other horse till the log was at the top of the hill. Finlay Cameron, Esq., of Riverton, was an eyewitness of this affair.
Such was the Deacon physically. There might be, and there were differences of opinion, as to the athletic powers of McCoulls and McLeans. But Liberals and Tories, McCoulls, McKenzies, and Big Evans, all united in ascribing him the palm of superiority. "At kirk or market, miII or smiddie" his swarthy face, towering stature and jovial company ever made him a favorite. But it was in general society, in the company of his brethren in the ministry, but especially in his own house, that he appeared to advantage. God "knew Abraham that he will command his children, and his household after him. " In this respect he was a perfect model - a model of which a numerous offspring are a living illustration. He had a peculiar tact in "making himself all things to all men." When conversing with that prince of scholars, Rev. Thomas Trotter, his want of a college education did not appear. Rev. Dr. Sedgewick knew him well, and he said that he was a man that made it an honor for any one to be connected with him. As for Rev. Mr. Walker, he next to idolized him. In him was verified the inspired saying,
A good man's footsteps, by the Lord
are ordered aright,
And, in the way wherein he walks,
He greatly doth delight.
He's ever merciful and lends
His seed is blest therefore.
3. Contemporary with the Deacon, and of a kindred spirit; fully as tall, and with the same "Atlantean shoulders" - the very personification of bodily strength - was James Fraser, Inn Keeper. The only occasion on which I knew him to have preeminently distinguished himself was at the big election of 1830. The opposite party took possession of the hustings; and for a whole day would not allow any of Fraser's friends to vote. In this posture of affairs, Mr. Carmichael mastered the able bodied of the East River men from New Glasgow to Bridgeville; got them on board of the steamer Richard Smith, and landed them at the wharf at Pictou. There they were joined by the West River and Green Hill men. Mr. Carmichael, being a Militia Officer, drew his men up in martial array, and marched at their head to the scene of conflict, and a severe one it was. Mr. Fraser and his brother, (Simon Basin) stood side by side in the front rank. The Conservatives fought as Highlanders have ever fought. They never fought better at a Pictou election than they did that day. There were broken sticks, and there were broken heads. But the hustings were cleared. And up and down the river the talk then, and for many a day after, was that Mr. Fraser greatly distinguished himself on the occasion, that to his prowess, assisted by his valiant brother, the success of the outset was indebted. But he did not retire from the field unscathed; one of the opposite party with a stick aimed a deadly blow at him that would have killed any common man. As it was, it inflicted a severe wound on his head, and Mr. Carmichael would have been roughly handled only that he had too many friends in the battle. However, the vengeance that would not be inflicted on his person was wreaked on some portions of his dress, in particular. In those days no gentleman was well dressed unless he sported a "frilled" shirt. This constituted a part of Mr. Carmichael's garb that day. But, in the melee, the offensive appendage disappeared. One Malcolm - up near the West Branch lake - got it into his full grasp. I cannot tell what the said Malcolm himself thought of the feat; but I have heard a friend of his assert that to be able to disengage that frill from its fastenings proved that he had the strength of a horse.
SCOTTISH LIFE, OR
"MEN THAT I HAVE MET."
DR. JOHN BROWN, OF EDINBURGH
Bound for Greenock, Captain McKenzie, Master, William Dand, first mate, the Sesostris weighed anchor in Pictou Harbor on the 12th of July, 1845. There were four cabin passengers, the Captain's wife, the Captain's brother, John McKenzie and his wife, and the writer of these lines. By dark we were opposite Malignant Cove, and by 2 o'clock the next day at the entrance of the Strait of Canso. The Strait was crowded with sailing vessels of all sizes. I counted 45 at one time, but there were many more that I could not see on account of the windings of this famous channel. This was previous to confederation. Thursday morning, August 7th., after a sickening passage of twenty-six days, our hearts were gladdened by the sight of land. It was the mountains of that dreadful Ireland. The northwest coast of that unhappy land, as we approached, appeared bold, rocky and precipitous - nothing to be seen in the distance, but "Hills on hills, and Alps on Alps arise. "Oh, how I shuddered at the thought of being landed among them. From such a contingency:
"My soul with inward horror shrunk
And trembled at the thought."
In the evening, the lighthouse of Tory Island twinkled from afar and this boded no good. Next morning we were opposite Belfast. By this time the hills of dear Scotland could be seen on the left. It is separated from Ireland by a channel of no great breadth. But what a difference between the two. In the former, in every poor man's cottage, and "under smoky rafters," God is worshipped in songs of praise. In every hut in the latter there are “morning, noon and night" schemes laid, and plans contrived to promote rapine, murder and robbery. Never did the religion of Jesus making "lions and beasts of savage name put on the nature of the lamb," appear so precious in my estimation as on that morning, The Scottish Highlands, in the days of John Knox, were inhabited by a race fully as ferocious and lawless as the Irish. But they have been christianised, "but they are washed, but they are sanctified, but they are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God." And all this has actually been done years before Gladstone and his Home Rule were heard of. The blessed work will also go on and prosper, and bring forth fruit when Gladstone who one bright morning, without any divine assistance, undertook to make "the Ethiopians change their skin and the leopards their spots." A nice "guide, philosopher and friend" he is. It took him thirty-nine years to find out that toryism is wrong. He wrote volumes in defence of the connection between church and state. Now he is ready to do away with that connection. Ten years ago he had the Irish leaders in jails. Today these same leaders are his darling pets. If this is not inconsistency I do not know what is. Of course Ireland has its grievances. If so let them be redressed. This can be done any day without home rule. None ought to know better than Gladstone that no human legislation will ever pacify Ireland. Let him christianize it, and then he will find that they can get along without his Home Rule.
I have been led into this disgression by the remembrance of what Ireland was in 1845, and the horrid impressions produced on seeing its gloomy mountains, as we sailed along within a few miles of them. The idea of being landed among the Zulus of Africa would be little less terrible. Daniel O'Connell was busy at his monster meetings, shouting for repeal, and telling his dupes that by such a day they would have their parliament in "College Green." He was then at the height of his fame. That was 47 years ago, and what has been the history of Ireland ever since? With the exception of Ireland, during that time, every other nation in Europe - Italy, Austria and Spain in particular, has made great progress in the march of improvement; so has Egypt and other portions of the Turkish empire. But Ireland has been going from bad to worse, the prey of designing demagogues. And if Gladstone wishes to do it a real favour, like St. Patrick, let him assume his pilgrim's staff, and instead of home rule, let him "preach to men." Let him get the "wicked to forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts." He will then find that his terrible home rule can be dispensed with.
At sunset, August 8th., we had a good view of the Giant's Causeway, and two hours after we sailed by the island of Rathlin on the Irish coast. It is about the size of Pictou Island. With the naked eye I could see a man catching a horse in a field, I took him to be an Irishman. He appeared to have a lock of oats in his hand. This was a welcome sight, it put me in mind of home. That afternoon we entered the mouth of the Clyde - the Cumbrays and Burns' Ailsa Craig on our right, the lovely shores of Bute on our left. The river soon got so narrow that fields, houses and gardens could be seen distinctly. Oh, how beautiful, how superior the cultivation, how rich the verdure, everything as smooth as a velvet lawn. "Sweet fields arrayed in living green.” How rough and coarse anything then to be seen In Nova Scotia appeared in comparison. By sunset, we were at Greenock. Next day I went ashore. I stood on Scottish ground and like Addison in Italy, really felt that
"Every place I trod was classic ground."
This is a land of a Wallace and a Bruce. At no great distance from Greenock, the former had his estate, and the latter "shook his carrick spear." I was much moved at the contemplation of the scenery up and down the Clyde. For it is no exaggeration to say that with the exception of Palestine, there is no country that will compare with Scotland's in the sweetness of its historic reminiscences. And the only thing that gives Palestine the superiority is that David and the Saviour once lived there. In the outskirts of the town I noticed a particular kind of grass growing by the wayside, the very same that was so plentiful about Springville. This, too, produced its agreeable sensations. It satisfied me that, though on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I was not out of the world. When teaching school in Antigonish three years before this, I had a dream one night, in which I found myself landed in Scotland. In that dream the landscape possessed the same features that it now did to the living eye.
Here rivers in the sea were lost;
There, mountains to the sky were tost."
The first "man that I met" in this favored land was a Nova Scotian, George R. Young. That man seemed to have the attribute of omnipresence. This day, he was walking along one of the streets of Greenock, arm in arm with a gentleman whom he introduced to me as Mr. Wallace, member for Greenock. The next day I met Mr. Young In Glasgow, and once more, by his express invitation at McKay's hotel In Edinburgh. Since commencing these sketches, often have I thought of this Geo. R. Young. For me it is a herculean labour to get up one in three weeks. What a prodigy of energy and ability must he have been. From July to November, 1852, and three times every week, there came from his pen a series of letters addressed to the Liberals of Nova Scotia. As a master in the art of composition Mr. Young had few equals In Nova Scotia. In this and some other respects, he was twice the man that ever his brother, Sir William, was.
August 10th being Sunday, I went to hear Rev. Dr. McFarlane, of Greenock. But his preaching did not come up to my expectations. On my way home from church I had the good fortune to "meet" a lady acquaintance all the way from Pictou - a very Mary Queen of Scots for personal charms, and the gift of making fools of the other sex. At this time, with two young ladies from Glasgow, she was spending a few weeks at a neighboring watering place.
She kindly invited me to accompany her to their residence. It is needless to say that I went, and for the next few hours my unfavourable impressions of Dr. McFarlane's preaching were very much confirmed. What struck me as strange was this, the longer I remained with these kind friends, the drier did the Rev. Doctor's oratory appear. Such is the effect of pleasure after pain.
August 12th. Left Greenock for Edinburgh. In order to see more of the beauties of the Clyde, I took a steamer as far as Glasgow. Oh, but the scenery was enchanting. Hitherto Halifax was the largest city I had ever seen. But here was Glasgow with twice the population of Nova Scotia. I went into a store to get a pair of gloves. A gentleman of the name of Wilson waited on me. Some way or other he found out that I was from Nova Scotia. He asked me if I was a native. I said yes. He was surprised at this, as he always understood that all natives of America were copper colored. And he was equally astonished at my not being acquainted with his brother, who was a Presbyterian minister in St. John, N. B. This day, about the middle of the afternoon, I got to Edinburgh. In Glasgow it was all rain, smoke and noise. Here it was beautiful sunshine. I was literally overwhelmed at contemplating the magnificence of "stately Edinburgh throned on craigs." "Its palaces and towers," its monuments of art, its castellated rock, and a thousand other things brought the mind back at once to the days of the Caesars, imperial Rome and classic Athens. I had an intuitive conviction that what this lovely capital was then, something similar must have been 2000 years ago. But while the besom of destruction had swept all that was glorious in these godless cities from the face of the earth, here the religion of Jesus has established its throne. And, in answer to the prayers daily offered by its believing population no "weapon formed against her shall prosper."
"Beautiful for situation, the joy
of the whole earth is Edinburgh,
God is known in her palaces.
Walk about this ancient abode of Royalty,
Tell the towers thereof, Mark well her bulwarks."
If there is a place on earth to which these words of Israel's Psalmist can be applied, it is "Scotia's darling seat."
"This is my rest, here still I'll
For I do like it well."
August 13. Confined to my room
with two sore feet caused by wearing tight boots. Tomorrow afternoon,
feet or no feet, I hunted up Rev. Dr. John Brown. His house was in Gayfield
Square. I met him in his study. I felt myself to be literally a
stranger in a foreign land. The only letter of introduction in my possession
being a small piece of paper with three lines written on it certifying that
I was a student in theology of the third year. Attached to this document
was Rev. Dr. Roy's signature as clerk to the Presbytery of Pictou. On
presenting the said document to Dr. Brown, he read it, and then looking me in
the face, with a pleased smile, addressed me by name, and asked me if I came
all the way from Nova Scotia to attend their Theological Seminary. My
reply was in the affirmative. He took me by the hand, and gave me such
welcome as to make me feel at home. While he was reading Dr. Roy's certificate, I took a good look at him. The shape of his head put me awfully in mind of one of the most venerable of all East River worthies, my uncle Robert. The Doctor had a splendid forehead. I knew well enough that Abraham must have been such another good looking man. But the talk in Edinburgh was that he was the picture of the Apostle Peter. In one of the periodicals of the day I saw him spoken of as "One of the handsomest of the sons of men." His eye was dark and penetrating. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." This was the first time in my life in which I came into personal contact with a good and great man, in whose presence I felt perfectly at home. His age was then 64. As a pulpit orator he had no superior then in Scotland, but Dr. Chalmers. As a scholar and as an accomplished theologian, it was allowed he had no superior, at all events it is so said in Chambers' Encyclopaedia.
The next day I met Dr. brown in the professor's chair in the act of addressing his class from the words "Hope maketh not ashamed." I was anxious to get in without being noticed. With a view to this I took the precaution of being two or three minutes behind the time, knowing well that if the Doctor and his class would be in their places all that would be necessary would be to open the door as easily as possible, and thus slip in unobserved. With every confidence in this plan, I cautiously approached that door, and opened it without making as much noise as would disturb a mouse. But, alas, for "best laid schemes." With all my caution, the Doctor was too many for me. He was evidently watching the door. For it was scarcely half opened when he sung out to me by name to come forward and take a seat. This drew the attention of the students. They were about 100 in number, every one of them seated with his back towards the door. With military precision they all turned their faces to see who was it. It was a gaze that tested all my nerves, less fatal, it is true, but almost as annoying as the "charge of the light Brigade."
Learning on right of them,
Learning on left of them,
Learning In front of them, How stared the one hundred?
With his "ore rotundo."
The Professor vollied and thundered,
But all the more stared the one hundred.
They knew at a glance that there was none of my name about Edinburgh. So they concluded that it must be some minister from the "frozen North," that had strayed away from his orbit in some untutored Highland Glen. Some of themselves told me so afterwards. But when the lecture was over the Dr. told them who I was, where I came from and what I came for, adding that he hoped I would meet with a friend in everyone of them. And it is but due to them for me to certify that for more than two years this hope was verified to the letter, especially on the part of the Doctor himself. It was unknown to me at that time, but they told me again that I was the first that ever went from the continent of America to study in their hall. When the class was dismissed, they gathered round me at the door to take me by the hand, and gave me the most lovely welcome. Ah, reader, it is little you know what a treat this was, and what a load of anxiety was then removed from the mind of the expatriated Nova Scotian. I had had some experience of student life both in Pictou and Halifax, and had often seen how country greenhorns would be made a butt of by town students. Thanks to the fear of getting a pounding they would be civil enough with me. But, "as far as the East is from the West," so far were the ways of these Edinburgh young gentlemen different from the fops that I had been acquainted with. The loving profession of friendship thus volunteered did not evaporate in a few days. Neither was it confined to words. Lots of them would come to see me at my lodgings, and invite me to theirs. Some of them belonged to families residing in the city; and for two years I could, and did, go out and in to see them at their firesides, with less restraint that I could ever do on the East River. And why? Just because they were more the citizens of heaven - more what every Christian ought to be. As a general rule the U. P. ministers were just as frank and free in their friendship as the students. Altogether it was "heaven upon earth" to be among them. Something assured me that these young men "walked with God."
For the first few days the students continued to flock round me at the Hall door. On one occasion, I had to tear myself away from them by main force. And of all the questions they would have to ask about Nova Scotia, one would say "Did you ever walk on snow-shoes?" Another, "How old will the snow have to be before it is fit for snowshoes " For a week or so the "minister from the Highlands" was quite a lion among them. These words of the youthful Moabites literally expressed my feelings while in their society. "Whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God."
Two or three weeks after this there was a party of about thirty students, "the minister from the Highlands" being one of them, invited, by the Doctor to tea. They were all here before me, seated around the room, and "forming a circle wide," with the Doctor in the chair. On taking my place in their midst I noticed Dr. Brown eyeing me with a smile on his countenance. There was no mistake but he wag going to say something. And what do you think it was? It was just this. "Mr. Grant, I suppose Nova Scotians don't think they are the kind of people that Sam Slick says they are." There was an impertinent reply on the tip of my tongue, but presence of mind enabled me to suppress it, and I simply said that "Sam Slick could say what suited himself." Who would have thought that the son of John Brown, of Whitburn, and the grandson of "Brown of Haddington," one too inheriting the piety of all his ancestors, would have Sam Slick at his fingers' ends? But it was the same with Professor Eadie, of Glasgow. The first time I met this accomplished scholar, said he, "So you are from the country of Sam Slick." He then mentioned how and where he fell in with that popular work. It was in Switzerland. One day as he was walking along the streets of one of its cities he stood at a bookstore and noticed the "Clock Maker" in the window, and went in and bought it. I ask your readers who would have thought of finding Sam Slick for sale In Switzerland? This is more than can be said of most bookstores in Nova Scotia. Professor Eadie was shocked at Sam Slick's profanity. He said he wasn't a fit man to be a judge.
Not long after this Dr. Brown invited the "minister from the Highlands" to breakfast, after which, that eminent divine, for two years, breakfasted with the Doctor once every month, but never without being invited. This was an unspeakable privilege -a privilege extended to me only because being from a "far country," I was a "stranger within their gates." "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers." The hour for this meal was 8 o'clock. First he had family worship with his household seated around. He always sung and read the chapter himself. What a lovely singer - as accomplished in this as in everything else, far more so than the famous Dr. Chalmers. The latter didn't sing at family worship, neither did he read a whole chapter, only a few verses in a business-like manner, as if every moment of time was precious. And it was preeminently so with Chalmers. But Dr. Brown would read the whole of the chapter. And that was the reading, perhaps none better in all the world. He was as hard a student as Chalmers. But he did not bother himself with so many things as Chalmers did. In addition to his duties as Principal and Professor in the Free College, the latter wrote for reviews, squabbled every now and then with government, had the care of all the Free Church on his shoulders, and conducted an endless correspondence with persons in every part of the world. He had "too many irons in the fire." Dr. Brown acted a wiser part. He was, consequently, master of his own time. It was a standing rule with him, after breakfast, to devote the time until 10 o'clock to conversation with any person that might be present. It was next to impossible not to feel at home in his company, or for one to rid himself of the impression that he was in the presence of a great man. Breakfast over, if it was winter, he would draw his chair up to the fire and invite the "Highland" divine to do the same. He was ready then to converse about anything, no matter what. He had been personally acquainted with some of our ministers in Nova Scotia – such as Dr. Thomas McCulloch and Mr. Trotter, and would inquire about them. One morning one of his elbows seemed to be itchy, and, though one of the handsomest and accomplished of men, he would scratch himself like any common person. There were positively men on the East River who could scratch themselves just as well as he could. His appearance, manner and delivery in the pulpit were splendid in the extreme, not at all unlike Attorney-General Johnston at his best, about the same in stature, the same flowing locks, the same penetrating eye, and the same classic style, and overwhelming earnestness. All the Browns - his father of Whitburn, his uncle of Inverkeithing, and his grandfather of Haddington, were both orators. Lord Brougham heard Ebenezer Brown, Inverkeithing, preach on one occasion, and he was greatly pleased with him. And he said it was a great treat to him. An aged United Presbyterian minister in Scotland (Rev. James Ellis) told me this in his own house. Next chapter I will tell what Dr. Chalmers said about these Browns, in the last speech he ever delivered. It was in Dr. Brown's pulpit. I was present. That church is seated for 1800. In the aisles there is standing room for 500 more, and the same in the lobby. All these were crammed and there would be, at least, 500 more crowded around the door. I never took down a word of that mighty speech. But there was such a charm in what he said about these Browns that I never forgot it. You know they were Antiburgher ministers, while Chalmers belonged to the Kirk, and was the ablest minister Scotland produced since John Knox's time. I do think it ought to be interesting to your readers to know how such a divine could speak about two ministers of the detested seceders. Well, I will give it in Chalmers' very words. But this, as well as a description of Dr. Chalmers' personal appearance, his eloquence, how he appeared among his own family, in the Professor's chair and on the streets of Edinburgh, as well as a description of the personal appearance, and the oratory of a Lord John Russell, a Right Hon. Thomas Babington, a Christopher North and others, all of whom were "Men that I have met," must be left for another sketch.
Nov. 13, 1892.
P. S. One peculiarity Dr. Brown possessed in common with Lord Brougham, and another, in common with Guthrie, giving proof that, like the former, the fire of genius burned within him, and, that, like the latter he had much self-control. Brougham I never saw or heard. But, in his highest flights in debate, his eyes would look as if they were on fire in a blaze, (or as George Gillfillan, who is my authority in this, as Rev. Alex. McLean, A. M.. of New Glasgow, is about Guthrie) has it, "they looked like a pit of fire" suddenly disclosed. It was often thus with Dr. Brown, when with awful earnestness he would shake old Broughton Place Church to its centre, while with one stamp of his foot, he insisted on it that sinful men would "flee from the wrath to come." At such a time his eyes really did look as if they were two balls of fire, reminding one of the appearance Moses presented as he came down from the mount. This was no optical delusion. And the poor "minister from the Highlands" would then feel as if he could never feel at home with Dr. Brown in private. But no. The next morning the Dr. would be as friendly and agreeable as ever. "And his eyes were as a flame of fire; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." Rev. 1, 14, 16.
In reference to Dr. Guthrie, "his head might be waters, and his eyes a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people." But still, under the influence of emotions that would have utterly unmanned most pulpit orators, he could, if necessary, and without a tremor in his voice, "continue his speech until midnight." It was the same with Dr. Brown.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL
In the parliamentary history of England, this has been an honored name. Nor has it been unknown in the political history of Nova Scotia. Who, without admiration and love, can read about the judicial murder of that Russell who, in the days of the wretched Stuarts, laid down his life rather than betray the liberties of his country - "He stemmed a ruthless tyrant's brutal rage." The subject of the present sketch was a lineal descendant of this martyr-statesman. When therefore, on the 3rd of November, 1845, I heard in the course of the day, that this illustrious sire was, that afternoon, to address a public meeting in the Music Hall of Edinburgh, my expectations were raised to the highest pitch. In order to be able to see as well as hear, I took a front seat in the gallery. At that time Sir Adam Black was Lord Provost. At the appointed hour, that functionary assumes his proper position with a “train attendant.” The platform is crowded with the elite of “no mean city.” But, to my unpracticed eye, there was no Lord John Russell among them. What! The leader of the Whig party, the mover of the Reform Bill of 1832, the rival and antagonist of Sir Robert Peel. This must be a giant the size of Martin Wilkins, at the very least. Fingal was a regular son of Anak, though he never heard a thing about Reform Bills. And, as to his two sons, Ossian and Oscar, the Cape Breton giant would have made but a sorry appearance standing beside them. By parity of reasoning, it was but natural for a greenhorn to conclude that one who had so long stood the battle and the breeze in the field of fair debate - who had so often faced a Sir Robert Peel in that arena, ought to be as large a man physically as he evidently was intellectually. But it was the very reverse. When he stood up to address the assembled audience, I was taken completely by surprise.
1. At his diminutive stature. He was ever so much a smaller man than our own Sir William Young.
2. His youthful appearance. His age was about 50. But one would not take him to be more than thirty. The cares of state, with the wear and tear of party warfare seemed to sit lightly on him.
3. The speech. He spoke for half an hour, and no more, about the "Eminent Men" that had graced and adorned the literary circles of Edinburgh at the commencement of this century. He said some beautiful things about the "eloquence of a Dougald Stewart," and the "worth of a Playfair." He made some reference to his own parliamentary career, trusting that, as a rule, he had ever been enabled to do justice to his opponents, finishing with a fervid eulogium on the British constitution. He said it was the best system of government the world had ever seen. This was a theme on which this veteran had a right to speak. For it was one that he had studied to some purpose. He was even the author of a book entitled "A History of the British Constitution." The British constitution? What food for thought does the very mention of that word present? It is the growth of ages, and, as depicted in the pages of De Lome, it is the palladium of the British Empire. Owing to the stability of the marvellous fabric, the "Mariners of England" can do what those of ancient Tyre never did. As they ply their dangerous calling, as they think of an Anson, a Blake and a Nelson, they can join in the refrain.
Britannia needs no bulwarks,
No towers along the steep,
Her march is o'er the mountain wave,
Her home is on the deep.
If I ever did my best to master a book, it was when, in the winter of 1839-40, I did my best to master "De Lome on the British Constitution." It is a work of sterling merit. The S. G. W. Archibalds, the Howes, the Johnstones, and the Youngs of byegone days were deeply versed in the study of it. Yes, these sons of Nova Scotia consumed some "midnight oil" in the prosecution of this and kindred studies. In addition to this, the "colleges and schools" in Nova Scotia, in those days, turned out scholars. Some of these scholars became statesmen. They graced our legislative halls. Let any one accustomed to witness feats of eloquence in the days of the statesmen spoken of, visit these same legislative halls today, and he may be well excused should he think of the words, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah." But to return to this digression.
Nov. 3, 1845, Lord John Russell was presented, in Edinburgh with the freedom of the city, the day following happening to be in the vicinity of the "Royal institution, whom did I see but the same, distinguished individual descending the steps that led to the entrance of that gorgeous edifice, he was accompanied by some ladies, on landing on the pavement they separated, he then crossed to the other side of the street, and walked along alone at a very slow pace; being separated from him only by the breadth of the street which was not crowded. I made the most of the opportunity to have one more good look at him, as, with short and measured steps, he proceeded along Prince's street. He was plainly, but neatly dressed. On his well-shaped head was an ordinary beaver hat. He wore a top coat, but it was not buttoned, on his small but neatly shaped feet, were a pair of ordinary fine boots. There is one passage in Holy Writ that is descriptive of the appearance he then made. The words referred to were thundered by Moses in the hearing of assembled myriads, and they are these. "The tender and delicate woman among you would not adventure to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and tenderness," etc. Any one could notice that he was absorbed in his thoughts.
Isaac Watts commenced one of his heaven-inspired hymns with the words:
"My thoughts on dreadful subjects
Damnation and the dead."
And there is reason to believe that, on that very day, the thoughts of his rival statesman boded no good for Sir Robert Peel's government. At all events in a few weeks, there was a change of government, and this was owing to the effect produced by the publishing of a small piece of writing that wouldn't more than fill half a column of the Eastern Chronicle. It was the famous "Edinburgh Manifesto," written at this time, and dated at "Douglas Hotel," Edinburgh. Up to that time, the "National Policy" of Sir Robert Peel had been Protection, that Edinburgh Douglas Hotel manifesto made a free trader of him, it broke up his government, it made a liberal of Gladstone, a man of Disraeli, and a statesman of Lord George Bentick, it also restored the Whigs to office. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth." Does it not look as if that word "Douglas" must be invested with something of evil omen for a certain class of politicians. In the history of nations, there are periods in which a manifesto, a bombshell, or a thunderbolt may be synonymous terms, and, if the present Dominion government were wise, they would get that dreadful Methodist minister muzzled, of course I refer to Rev. Dr. Douglas.
Lord John Russell used but few gestures. During the delivery of his speech on that November day, he would sometimes open his mouth as wide as ever he could. This would be at the commencement of a sentence. It was a gesture that was, at that time, new to me. But I was not a year in Edinburgh when I found that it was customary with some of the first orators in England to do the same thing. It was specially so with George Thomson, the celebrated anti-slavery orator. With respect to this George Thomson, it was no trouble for him to speak for hours in the Music Hall, Edinburgh, and it crowded to the door. And, among the students of that favored city, the talk was that Lord Brougham said that he considered this same George Thomson the first orator In England.
Seeing and hearing these two "masters of assemblies" helped to give me an insight into the following passages of Scripture. "Hear, for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things." Prov. 8:6. "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set, his disciples came unto him; and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying." Matt. 5, 1, 1.
DR. CHALMERS - PART I
The year 1845 was a stormy one in the politics of Nova Scotia. This was the time when Mr. Howe, in a speech in the house of assembly, threatened to hire a blackman to horsewhip Lord Falkland on the streets of Halifax. This itself raised a tempest in the house, in the press, and all over the province. With a majority of one, Mr. Johnston was Premier. But with this slender support he conducted the government for four years. Mr. Howe, the Youngs, the Uniackes, Doyles, and Huntingtons were all in their prime, and occupied seats in parliament. But Mr. Johnston fought them all single-handed and kept them at bay until the general election of 1847 left him in a minority. Neither was it fair weather at this time in some of the congregations of the East River. Especially in James Church had there been, for some time, murmurs loud and deep" which ultimately culminated in the formation of Primitive Church congregation in the said year of 1845.
But "the spring came around," and, by the time the "bud was on the tree," my arrangements for visiting Scotland were completed. But there were lions in the "way." One of these was the risk of crossing the Atlantic I knew that it took Paul six months, and Ulysses ten years, to cross the Mediterranean, and that it near cost them their lives. Consequently, for weeks, my imagination conjured every kind of ship wreck and disaster.
How, with affrightened eyes,
I saw the wide extended deep,
In all its horrors rise.
Nor was this all. My home at Springville, with all its vicinity was endeared to me by a thousand ties Scarcely a blade of grass along its hills but I was acquainted with. Even the birds that sang in its woods were favorites. This was the golden age of Springville when it was inhabited by a race of men and women that would be an ornament on the mountains of Israel in the palmiest days of David or Solomon - Abraham would have recognized them as fit associates. In addition to my own name-sakes, there were Frasers, McLeans, McKenzies, Holmes, McPhies and McIntoshs to mention whose names is to pronounce their eulogy. My veneration and love for these worthies were unbounded. And the idea of being separated from them for years, perhaps for ever, was not pleasant. Accordingly, one morning, influenced, in part by devotional feelings, I rose long before day, and repaired to a neighboring wood in front of my father's dwelling. I wanted, perhaps for the last time, to know what it was to hear the birds salute the early dawn. And I was well rewarded. Just at the peep of day, there was a distant note, answered in a few seconds by another. Before sunrise, there was a general chorus. The whole forest was vocal. This was about the month of June. In seven weeks I was in Edinburgh.
In undertaking this trans-Atlantic trip, my principal object was to complete my theological curriculum in the Secession Hall - now the United Presbyterian Hall. But "I had heard of battles." And though I had no desire to mingle in the fray, I did wish to see some of those who had - to get a nearer view of these "warlike lords" whose names figured so conspicuously at that time in the ecclesiastical world - the Candlishes, and the Guthries, but especially Dr. Chalmers. Ever since the days of boyhood my veneration for the latter bordered on superstition, and, for the last few years, his name, as the champion of the Nonintrusionists, and the opponent of voluntaryism was very conspicuous. True, his church was not my church. But that did not blind my eyes to the honor of his fame - a fame as much indebted to his scholarship as it was to his matchless eloquence. My church was the church founded by the Erskines - Ralph and Ebenezer. Much has been said about the Disruption of 1843, and that imposing procession of some 470 ministers from St. Andrew's church to Tanfield Hall. But it was not the first, neither will it be the last great sight. There was a greater on the shores of the Red Sea in the days of Moses, and on those of the Sea of Galilee in the days of the Saviour. To my mind also, it had its equal in a Sabbath morning in 1740 on the heights of the town of Stirling, when Ebenezer Erskine preached in the open air to a vast multitude from the words -"But the men marvelled saying, what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" Moses had the Pillar of Fire to point out his way Dr. Chalmers has the Cunninghams, the Candlishes and the Guthries to hold up his hands, Ebenezer Erskine had no such auxiliaries - no support but a sense of duty. If ever man "walked by faith and not by sight" he did. Like Sir Walter Scott's trooper
"He stayed not for brake, he stayed
not for stone,
He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone."
It is true the surrounding scenery was fitted to inspire. Close at hand were the ramparts of the town of Stirling, where Wallace gained one of his greatest victories. Within five miles could be seen the field of Bannockburn. The very text from which be spoke was a proof of his own intellectual greatness "and the men marvelled saying, What manner of man is this," etc. The stand taken by Chalmers led to a Disruption. That taken, Erskine on this Sabbath morning led only to secession. But it was the "grain of mustard seed" that eventually became the "greatest of all herbs." God also "caused it deep root to take, and it did fill the land." That one congregation had increased into about 600. The stand taken by the Erskines led to important results. It led to the Disruption of 1843. This Disruption ultimately led to the consolidation and improvement of the church of Scotland "as by law established." That church was never so popular, never so powerful for good as it is today. And all this sprang from the stand taken by the Erskines 149 years ago. Had there been no Secession in 1744 there would have been no Disruption in 1843. Now, reader, perhaps you cannot believe this. But it is true. Dr. Andrew Marshall, of Kirkintilloch, is entitled to the credit of much of the success of the voluntary controversy. About the year 1832 (11 years before the Free church disruption) he, one evening, preached a sermon in Glasgow from these words - "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." This sermon in which there was one passage that an Edmund Burke might be proud of, spread all over Scotland like wild fire. What do you think, reader? In that sermon he spoke of the dreadful conditions of Asia, "Darkest Africa" and all the heathen world, blamed the connection between church and state for all of it, you may think was awful uncharitable. I thought so myself. But that was the stand taken that Sabbath evening by Dr. Andrew Marshall of immortal fame. The Inglises, the Chalmers, the Cunninghams, Guthries and Candlishes, etc., took up their cudgels to write down and preach down such outrageous nonsense. They continued at this work for ten years. But Dr. Marshall's sermon remained unanswered. And all that Dr Chalmers and the splendid writers and orators that assisted him, made of it was, that they got themselves into a "tight place," - a place from which there was only one way of escape - the disruption of 1843. It was two years after this that I found myself in Edinburgh. But it was near three before I could set my eyes on Dr. Chalmers. At long last, "in the gloomy month of November," and on a gloomy day of that month, I did have a good look at him. It was at the opening of the Free Church College. I knew I would see him there, and I did. Some one else delivered the inaugural address, I think it was Professor Buchanan. But it was little I cared for himself or his address. I wanted to see Dr. Chalmers, and there he was right before me. What a massive countenance, what a head. He was then only 65. But he looked much older. For a whole hour I scarcely took my eyes off him. That large face, Dr. Guthrie, in his autobiography calls it that "large, German, Martin Luther face." And this is a first-rate description of it.
Well, in about 24 hours, armed with a letter of introduction from Dr. Brown, I found myself in front of Dr. Chalmers' house in Morningside. It was a very plain house externally. He was at home. The girl told me I could see him. Now, reader, just think of it. He to whom I was about to be introduced was, out and out, the first man in the world, and what was I? Ungainly in my very looks, and awkward in my manners; so much so that the U. P. students took me for some half-educated Gaelic minister that had strayed from some savage highland glen. But such as I was the Doctor met me at the door of his study. He bowed and bowed. My impression is that I did not say a word. I handed him Dr. Brown's letter. He probably took me for a Free Church student. If he did, the letter would undeceive him. He told me what hour his class met, and invited me to take breakfast with him on Saturday.
If Dr. Chalmers was the first man in the world, Dr. Brown was the first man among the Dissenters of Scotland. Now, reader, perhaps you would like to know how one great man (Dr. Brown was a great man) would word a letter to another great man. If so, here is a copy of Dr. Brown's letter, word for word:
10 Gayfield Square, 3 Nov., 1845.
"My Dear Sir - Permit me to introduce to your rev'd notice, Mr. Robert Grant, a student of divinity, belonging to the branch of the Secession Church of Nova Scotia, and the adjoining colonies. He has come to this country to add to his stock of theological acquirements before commencing his prelections as a preacher. His circumstances require that his pursuit of knowledge should be as economically conducted as possible. We admitted him without fees to the advantages of our Seminary. If the arrangements of your College permit a similar favour being granted him, he is anxious of attending your prelections, and will, I am sure, highly appreciate such a favour. Mr. Grant is a young man of whose talents, acquirements, and character I think very favourably.
Excuse the freedom I have taken, and believe me, my dear Doctor, with most cordial esteem and affection, ever yours faithfully.
To Rev. Dr. Chalmers
So thought and wrote Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh, 48 years ago. Now, reader, perhaps you never knew that this Mr. Robert Grant ever possessed " talents, acquirements, and character" sufficient to command the respect of such competent judges. If, not, it is to be hoped you know it now.
DR. CHALMERS - PART II
Saturday morning, 6th. Nov., 1845, according to the invitation, found me at Dr. Chalmers’ front door. The doctor's hour for breakfast was 9 o'clock. In the dining-room there were some Free Church students - about 6, and an Episcopalian clergyman from England. We formed a "circle wide" around the room, till the venerable man made his appearance, which he did in about 15 minutes. The students were, of course, strangers to me. During this time, one of the Doctor's daughters was seated in the room keeping the company in face. Of course I had the temerity to address a few words to her. If I did I got pretty well snubbed for my pains. She didn't take the least notice of myself or my "words." By this time in comes the Doctor. I think he held his spectacles in his hand. He walked up to the first student at his left, and spoke a few words to him. He did the same with every one of the rest, till he came to me. He looked out a window that was beside me, as if to collect his thoughts, and then, addressing me, uttered exactly these words: Question: "Did you come in a steamer or a sailing vessel?" Answer: "In a sailing vessel."
Looking out of the window again, the venerable man says, “I have always been of the opinion that the climate of Nova Scotia is foggy, damp and unhealthy." Thinks I, this is pretty good, coming from one living in Edinburgh in the month of November, where there has been nothing seen for weeks but fog and rain, with the Shetland Island almost in sight. Though all this passed through my mind, this was my answer: "Dr. Chalmers, I don't wonder at one forming that opinion of the climate of Nova Scotia from what he may have seen in print. But I can assure you it is not so."
The Doctor then took up a small sized family Bible and reading one of the shortest of the psalms of David, he got the Church of England minister to pray. All hands were then speedily seated at the table. What the edibles were, or if there were any, I have no recollection. But during all the time of breakfast the Doctor conversed rapidly, and not in the best humour, with his reverence from England. He was even cross - he spoke cross, and he looked cross. "I tell you what it is," said he, "you haven't got head pieces in England."
After this, I had two private interviews with him in one of the college rooms. I never happened to see him on the streets but three or four times, and it was always on a cold raw evening. On his feet he would have a pair of ordinary shoes. You would never see a minister in Edinburgh wearing fine boots. This was considered effeminate I once saw the renowned Dr. Guthrie striding along with a pair of awful coarse shoes on. As to Dr. Chalmers, the cold, raw evenings I happened to meet him, he never had a stitch of a topcoat on - nothing but one of those large silk pocket handkerchiefs extemporized into a muffler round his neck. Ah, but he was the man!
In mental science, there is a law that renders it next to impossible to think of Dr. Chalmers, first as a leader in the established church, then, as the life and soul of the Free Church, without, at the game time, thinking of that collateral branch or the church of Christ that grew up beside him - the church of Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine. This church has ever been known in the colonies as the Antiburgher church, but in Scotland as the Seceders. But, dear reader, don't judge of the Seceders of Scotland from what you may have known of the Antiburghers of Pictou. There was, with some exceptions, no comparison. I speak of what I have known and seen With my own eyes. When in Scotland, I preached in very many of the pulpits of these Seceders, all the way from the Tweed to Dunrobin Castle. I associated with the people both in the ministers' manse, and in every lowly dwelling, and this, to me, was literally a heaven on earth. For, witnessing their "chaste conversation," seeing also, with unprejudiced eyes, how their Christ-like faith, amidst poverty and hardship, raised them far aloft above the sufferings, but especially above the fears of this life much did I wish to end my days among them. And more than once, did I shed the bitterest of tears, while thinking about the expatriated and infatuated Highlanders of Pictou. I could see the homes they had left. But where were they themselves, and how employed? The wide Atlantic rolled between them and their ancient homes in Caledonia, while they themselves were struggling in the woods of America. True, many of them had brought their Bibles and their religion with them to the new world, and amidst its unbroken forests not a few of them caused "their light to shine before men.'' Such was Holmes (the Senator's father), Chas. McLean, old Deacon Macdonald, (the Chief Justice's grandfather), Squire McLean, of the West Branch, Andrew Marshall, McPhies, Ross's, Forbes, Fraser, etc. And, at least, some of my own ancestral Grants and McKays. But it was in the summer of '47 while travelling the peaceful straths of Ross-shire and Inverness, that a sad picture burst upon my sight - Kirk and Antiburgher, in my native Pictou, biting and devouring one another. And for what? In many instances for no reason at all, in others, to serve the purpose of some political demagogue, who when he got his ends accomplished, showed but too plainly he cared as much for them as he did for the cattle on their "thousand hills." Reader, I could give names to justify this stricture. And, perhaps, at some future time I may. But for the present, let you and me beware of the lesson contained in Cowper's "Modern Patriot."
"You roaring boys who rave and fight,
On t'other side the Atlantic,
I always thought them in the right,
But most so when most frantic."
These were my reflections at that time when the sun "shot full perfection" in '47. And, then and there, the irrevocable conclusion was arrived at, that no Kirk or Antiburgher, much less any tory or liberal would ever involve me in his squabbles. But, reader, it requires no trans-Atlantic trip to see the justness of that resolve. Among the sequestered haunts of Springville, especially during the summer of 1840, did I go through the same mental process. To borrow again from Cowper -
"He lives, who lives to God alone,
And all are dead beside."
Fifty years ago, Dr. Chalmers originated
the Free Church with a band of 570 ordained ministers, 100 years prior to that
date, Ebenezer Erskine, all alone laid the foundation of the Secession church,
with one congregation. That one congregation has become 600.
Had the church of Dr. Chalmers increased in the same ratio, it would today,
have more than 20,000 congregations, and as many ordained ministers. Dr.
Chalmers' church could count some of the nobility - Lord Panmure, the Marquis
of Breadalbane, etc.- among its staunchest adherents. The church of the
Erskines, with a very few exceptions, has ever had its adherents among the poor
of the land - the heritage bequeathed by Christ as a legacy to all his friends
- that heritage for whose sake he has, more than once, "reproved kings great
and strong," and, to the credit of Chalmers, he was never so much in his element
as when laboring and toiling to do them good. The same can be said of
Dr. Guthrie. Often did he risk life and limb among the haunts of vice
and crime. What a "crown of rejoicing" will be placed on both their heads on
that day, when the whole army of martyrs – martyrs to their own vices and to
man's inhumanity to man, but redeemed by their means, from among the outcasts
of Glasgow and Edinburgh, shall be presented, in the presence of men and angels,
"without spot or wrinkle, arrayed in white robes, palms in their hands, and
ever-lasting Joy upon their heads." There never was a true servant of
Christ but was partial to the poor. Chalmers was so. The same
can be said of Spurgeon, and to some extent of Dr. Norman McLeod.
To mingle freely with the Scottish peasantry was no ordinary privilege. But, as my lot, during a whole summer, was cast among the Seceders, it is their praise that must be recorded. The roof over their heads may be covered with turf, a hole in that roof might serve for a chimney, the cold ground would be a floor, and the storms of heaven might find admittance through many a crevice. But, day and night, a greater than the Queen of England had his habitation among the contented inmates. "Their wilderness was like Eden, their desert like the garden of the Lord." Some years after this, much of the same blissful state of things, did I witness among the woody glens of Cape Breton. The fruits of Rev. Peter McLean's ministry, as also among the old Kirk folk of the Saltsprings, Gairloch and the backwoods of the East River. There, could be seen a fair sample of that piety that shed so rich a lusture over the peasantry of Ross-shire and Inverness the same faith, the same delight in gospel ordinances, and the same divine simplicity of life. What was it to me whether this people would be found among the sheep or the goats at a Pictou election? There was a something about them that assured me they would be found in the right place, when the heavens shall be on fire and the earth and the works that are herein shall be burned up.
O, happy peasants. O, unhappy Laird,
His the mere tinsel, their the rich reward,
The laverock shuns the palace gay,
And o'er the cottage sings,
For nature shines as sweet, I ween,
To shepherds as to Kings.
The church of the Erskines has produced its scholars and authors, Cairns, of Berwick, and, a few years later one Stephen Easton carried everything before them in the University of Edinburgh. The latter was spoken of in the newspapers as "the young man that shot so far ahead of his competitors." When, for two consecutive winters, Sir William Hamilton was laid aside by sickness, a second student, one Robert Selkirk Scott, conducted the logic class. It was this same church that produced Robert Erskine's gospel sonnets, Brown of Haddington's Cathechism for children, the Self Interpreting Bible, and a dictionary of the Bible, Dr. John Dick's System of Theology in four volumes. Dr. Thomas Dick's Philosophy of the Starry Heavens, the Philosophy of a Future State, and the Evil of Covetousness, etc., Pollock's Course of Time, the Bards of the Bible, Martyrs and the Heroes of the Scottish Covenant, and other works of sterling merit by George Gilfillan, the Hind Let Loose by Adam Gibb. The list might be continued. But this must serve for a sample. It was the same church, too, that gave a Trotter to Antigonish, a Kier to P. E. I., a McGregor to the East River, and a McCulloch to Pictou.
Chalmers in the class-room. Here, the principal attraction about his prelections was - himself. He would come in with studied gravity, take his place, bow to the students, and offer up a short prayer, with his eyes wide open, always finishing off with the words "be with us, now and ever." Dr. McCulloch, in his academic prayers, never used the word amen, at the close, at least, he never used it in my hearing, and often have I wondered what this could mean. Could it be that there was a secret understanding with the Hearer of Prayer, that one emphatic amen, at the close, would serve for a whole lifetime. Occasionally, Dr. Chalmers would take his eyes off the manuscript, and attempt to extemporize. But it would only be an attempt, he couldn't extemporize. Still the students, and fellow professors, all but idolized him, and well they might. Even his prayers would be written out before hand.
This sketch, as far as it goes, refers to one of the best of the sons of men. The writer has been benefitted by the writing of it. May the reader be benefitted by the reading of it, and to "one and all of us" (a very common phrase with Chalmers) may this be one of the happiest of New Years.
DR. CHALMERS - PART III
That address, of which the following is the peroration, was delivered by Dr. Chalmers in Broughton Place Church, (Dr. Brown's) Edinburgh, some time in the winter of 1846-47, and, though no one expected it, it was destined to be his last public ap-pearance in modern Athens - that capital that the great "Magician" loved so well, and which so loved him in return. At the date refer-red to, the Evangelican Alliance was in its infancy. Under its auspices, several meetings had been held both in Scotland and Eng-land. These meetings, however, were conducted but little to the satisfaction of Dr. Chalmers. Every glib-tongued spouter would jump at the opportunity thus afforded to air his powers of oratory. But this was a recreation for which neither Dr. Chalmers nor any other man of common sense ever had any patience. He, accordingly gets up an alliance meeting on his own hook, and gives the whole tribe of would-be Burkes and Sheridans a regular scolding. I think he had been invited to address a public meeting in Leith. If so, he declined the honor. "I am not," said he "to be paraded all the way from Edinburgh to Leith, and from Leith to Edinburgh." A man of action himself, he wanted action in others. The plaudits of the "giddy crowd" were little to his taste. And, had he been at the World's Fair last summer, the probability is that all Chicago would be set at defiance, if they wanted him either to speak or to preach. He would let the popularity hunter do that. But, on the night in question, having addressed enraptured thousands for about an hour, he finished in these accents:
"I am exceedingly obliged to Dr. Brown for the use of his church on this occasion. From the place in which I now address you, I can look back on a period of fifty years - fifty years devoted either to the work of the ministry, or to that of training up others for that sacred office. And, in that lengthy review, there are few things that afford me more genuine satisfaction than the remembrance of the intercourse that, once subsisted between me and two of your venerable pastors's ancestors; the one, your venerable pastor's father, John Brown, of Whitburn, under whose hospitable and hallowed roof I often met with a class that were then, I fear, more numerous than they are now, I mean the religious peasantry of Scotland; the other, your venerable pastor's uncle, his father's, brother, and his father's equal, in all that pertains to ministerial efficiency I mean the good old Ebenezer Brown, of Inverkeithing. The last time I parted with him, I left him in his own parlor weeping - weeping with all the simplicity of childhood, and, with more than womanly tears, over perverseness of those who, though they take unto themselves the name of Jesus, refuse to walk even as He walked. May the spirit of these patriarchs of our church continue to descend on the men of the present generation until a Catholic christianity shall, once more, pervade the length and breadth of our land."
The venerable man then resumed his seat, and Dr. Brown addressed the spell-bound audience. My Impression is that this was one of the occasions on which he spoke in ringing tones while the tears streamed down his face. But his voice did not quiver, so great were his powers of self-control.
1. What "manner of persons" must these Browns have been that they would be such favourites with Dr. Chalmers.
2. Dr. Chalmers must have been on terms of endearing intimacy with the Browns.
3. Let no one after this, say that there were not, among the Seceders, ministers worthy of the name.
4. How come Dr. Chalmers to select a Seceder Church to deliver his last public address in? There were plenty Free Churches in Edinburgh, Dr. Begg's, Dr. Guthrie's, Dr. Candlish's, etc. It must have been because he preferred Dr. Brown's - he liked the very name and a heaven-born instinct told him that even among the Seceders there was to be found a something not to be met with in the other churches of the land. In this preference he did not stand alone. Reader, you have only to read the celebrated Dr. Guthrie's autobiography, and you will there see that he, also, thought much of some of the Seceder ministers himself, and that his mother was a constant worshipper in the Seceder church in the town of Brechin, and he adds this - "she was no loser by doing so."
5. No one in Edinburgh, perhaps not even Dr. Chalmers himself, ever dreamt that this was the last popular assemblage he was to address in this world. He was only 67. Gladstone is 84. But so it was, and in a few short weeks, he and his much-loved friends of Whitburn and Inverkeithing were to meet in the golden-streeted city, to be joined in a few years by another of these Browns - Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh, to be "afflicted by no more cruel separations."
"There ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tears,
Together hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear;
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere.”
DR. CHALMERS AT THE CLOSE OF THE
In addition to the staff of Professors, there were present, on this occasion, Drs. Candlish, Guthrie and Begg, with Dr. McDonald, of Ferrintosh. The exercises were concluded by Dr. Chalmers, offering up the valedictory prayer. The last sentence in the prayer was so pithy and uttered with such heroism that it impressed itself indelibly on my memory It was this: - "And grant, Oh Lord, that when we (himself and his brother ministers) lie mouldering in our coffins, they (the students) may be a seed to serve thee; and when, collectively, we have bid farewell to earth and earth's attractions, grant that we may be found standing side by side at thy right hand."
As mentioned in a previous sketch, Chalmers and McDonald of Ferrintosh, were of the same size. And they were both of the same size and make as the late Rev. Angus McGillivray, of Springville. Say, reader, was not I highly favoured that day? What a "band of brothers" was there before me? All Christendom might be searched, but it would be searched in vain, to find their superiors. Had Cairns of Berwick, Dr. John Brown, William Anderson, of Glasgow, and Dr. Norman McLeod been present, the picture, would have been complete. As pulpit or platform orators, and Bible expositors, they could sweep the whole world. Put them into the House of Commons and they would carry it by storm. On any question affecting the eternal destinies of man, Gladstone might cross the path of Candlish once. But he would think, and think till doomsday, before he did it a second time.
Dear reader, did you ever see a lion. Well, as a lion is among beasts, so was Chalmers among men. See that broad and massive face. There it is in a state of repose. But it is marvellously leonine - the same calm consciousness of power, the same disregard for danger, the same mouth, the stubby nose. "Waken not the terrible."
THE CLOSING SCENE
The soul, confined and ill at ease
Expatiates in a world to come.
So wrote Alexander Pope. And, to this peculiarity of our nature, the world is indebted for much that is great in literature, such as Harvey's Meditations - that blessed book - Milton's Paradise Lost, and, a still nicer poem - his Paradise Regained, Pollock's Course of Time, and all the masterpieces of Burns and Cowper, etc. The truth of the axiom was also verified in the subject of this sketch. During his whole life, even in that early part of it when his religious views were as far astray as the "poles asunder," he was devoutly meditative and contemplative in all his habits. This turn of thought, aided by his masterly proficiency in the science of mathematics, directed his attention to the starry heavens as a field for contemplation. At this time, he was in the prime of life, and having, also, "passed from death to life," he was enabled to look on men and things with new eyes. With this regenerated vision, the book of nature was open before him, and there he saw, not only on the earth below with its "fields and floods, and ocean's shores," but in the heavens above.
"How system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns."
Something like this would be the origin of his celebrated astronomical discourses. They were first preached in his own congregation in Glasgow, and then in London. The impression produced by them in the latter place was altogether unparalleled. Wilberforce, on his way to hear one of them, accompanied by a lady friend, was a little late. The church was crammed to the door; but perceiving an open window, he looked round till he got a plank, one end of which he placed on the sill of the window, and on this plank he and his lady friend crawled on their hands and knees till they got safely landed inside. There he saw Canning, one of the first statesmen in Europe, and Rev. Roland Hill, from his place in the front gallery, bawled out in the middle of the sermon, "Well done, Chalmers!" There was one member of the Royal Family present - the Duke of York. That night the Right Hon. Mr. Wilberforce jots this down in his diary - "all the world wild about Chalmers. Saw Canning shed tears. I thought he would be too much hardened by debate to do that."
But the warrior is nearing his rest. On a Sabbath in June, 1847, the patriarch of a certain tenement in Morningshire conducts family worship, and telling his household that they must be up early tomorrow, retires for the night. I believe these were the last words ever heard from Dr. Chalmers' lips. But when tomorrow morning dawned there was something missing in that well-known bedroom - there was no Chalmers there. The "earthly house of this tabernacle" was there. But the immortal soul that had been enshrined therein had fled. "A silver cord had been loosed, and a golden bowl broken." Mourners go about the streets of Scotia's darling seat. In visions of the night, all unknown to the inmates, there bad been visitors in that house - visitors to whom locks and bolted doors are of no account. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him." Ps., 34, 7.
There was, once, an awful night in the Mediterranean. A craft of unique build, and crowded with passengers from stem to stern, was at the mercy of the waves. All hands gave themselves up for lost. Among the hundreds on board, however, there was one good man, and, unperceived by the rest, an angel from heaven stood by his side saying, "fear not, Paul." Acts 27, 24. Such is the privilege conferred on the child of God in the time of life and health. Is it, then reasonable to suppose that the child of God shall be left helpless and unattended in the hour of death? No. It is far otherwise. We are not left then to find our way to the "house of many mansions," as we best ran. For we learn that when "the beggar died he was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom," Acts 16,22. This being a subject that the reader scarcely ever hears mooted from the pulpit, I have given chapter and verse, and, as it is one that the Bible is as pointed on as it is on anything else, I make no apology for doing so. Let the reader only study the history of Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Peter and Paul and he will there see that celestial messengers, in the livery of heaven, did "encamp round about them," and also delivered them, when the emergency required it; but "this honor is to all his saints," and the Bible says so out and out. How does it happen, then, that the pulpit is so silent about it?
On that June Sabbath night in Morningside, the inmates "slumbered and slept;" but there is one bed the occupant of which is, in intellect and personal holiness, only a little lower than the angels. That very Sabbath evening as he walked in his garden, he was overheard conversing with his Heavenly Father in terms of endearing familiarity. As he laid down to rest, all his thoughts would be on "things above." In that mood - a mood that is nothing new to every child of God - he closes his eyes; but ere the rising sun streaked the chambers of the eastern sky, "a watcher and a holy one" (Dan. 4, 13) hovers over him, Yes, reader, and for anything you and I know at the front door, there may have been
"Chariots of brightness,
And horses of whiteness."
ready harnessed to convey all that was immortal of him who was the pride of all churches in Christendom to these "peaceful shores where no tempest rages, and all is calm and tranquil." As constellation after constellation is left behind, in that night's journey heavenward, Chalmers would get an insight into his favourite science that would compensate for the labours of a lifetime - fitting sequel to the "Astronomical Discourses."
John Knox, Dr. McCulloch, of Pictou Academy, and Dr. Chalmers all died at the same age, 67 years.
AN EAST RIVER BEAR STORY
It was about 90 years ago. Hectorean passengers had, by this time, made for themselves farms in the "forest primeval." Among the number was one Alexander Falconer, his house was near the very spot where the Ferrona Iron works now are. Two years ago Mr. Roderick McKay, Fox Brook, pointed out to me the site on which it stood. The waters of the East River then swarmed - yes, literally swarmed with fish, and its woods with game - the moose, the caribou, the fox, the martin, the otter and the bear. At the date referred to one of the latter had his "social union" (bruin's) rudely invaded and disturbed by man's "dominion." This occurred in the following manner. The said Alexander Falconer, (big John's father) had a pair of oxen that strayed away in the woods, there they remained till they got wild. They formed a yard, and moose fashion, they lived by browsing. On discovering their retreat, the owner made repeated attempts to get them home, but he couldn't. They had their own beaten ground, beyond the limits of which all his efforts to drive them were unavailing, even though it was winter. One day, in his abortive attempts to get the oxen home, he came across a bear's den. On the morrow, armed with a gun and a pitchfork, be got his neighbour, Farquhar Falconer, to accompany him. On arriving at the spot, they found the bear comfortably esconsed in his winter quarters. But his habitation was as black and dark as himself, so much so that they could not take a right aim, but one of them fired. The bullet only grazed his back, enraging the bear without disabling him, and with an awful growl, he makes for his assailants, but as the ferocious brute was rushing out of his den, without a moment's hesitation, Farquhar caught him by the ears, and throwing himself on the shaggy monster, pinned his snout to the ground; and never letting go his hold, held him till the owner of the oxen dispatched him with the pitchfork.
It is now near 100 years since the date of this bear story. These were in truth the days of the "forest primeval." Up and down the East River, from India Cross point to Sunny Brae, and the West Branch Lake, every house would be a log house. But even then the "wilderness and the solitary place were made glad." The apostle of Pictou had, for eight years, "done the work of an evangelist." Under the shadow of the "murmuring pines and the hemlocks," there was the voice of melody.
But, Mr. Editor, perhaps neither yourself nor your readers will credit my bear story. All right, Farquhar Falconer's youngest son, aged over 80 years, is still living at Stellarton. His house adjoins Sharon Church manse; he can tell you whether it is true or not. And the probability is that my old friend and schoolfellow, Mr. William McDonald, of Hopewell, knows something about it, So will Finlay Cameron, Esq., at Riverton, and if you won't believe them, you will surely believe Rev. Alexander Falconer of Prince Street church, Pictou; Farquhar Falconer was his grandfather.
Mr. William Smith Fraser's version of this bear story in the Eastern Chronicle is slightly different from mine, but my information was received from Farquhar Falconer's only surviving son, and I went to see him twice about it, once about twenty years ago, and again two years ago.
In Mr. Fraser's very interesting communication there is one statement that must be corrected. "Rev. Robert Grant," never in this world, wrote about big John Falconer as one of the East River worthies: he simply mentioned his name incidentally as a victim of "rum and domestic infelicities." Big John's proper place would be among the East River pugilists. There, he would be a very "Tipton slasher." One reminiscence of him I had from "Big Evan" McLean. Big Evan had it from the "Big Deacon." In the early days of the East River, there was a field day at the West River - a mus-ter, Fair, or something, and all in a peaceful way, the East, West River and Green Hill men had various trials of strength, with feats of agility, as leaping, throwing the stone, etc. In these performances, the East River men had the best of it. Then, when all was over, Big John, without saying a word, began to strip, coat and vest were laid by themselves, stitch by stitch, and rolling up his shirt sleeves to the shoulders, he, with the voice of a stentor, bantered any man within five miles round. But none accepted the challenge. Said Big Evan to the deacon, "Now, deacon, what would you have done if some one had taken John Falconer up, and licked' him?" "I believe I would have taken his place," replied the ruling elder.
Mr. Fraser makes no reference to Peter Ross teaching in Hopewell in the years 1825-26-27, but he did. I attended his school. The school-house was on the corner opposite Gunn's. The floor consisted of round poles laid close together. At this time the late Mr. John Gray met with the following adventure. Mr. Gray, then a young man of much activity, was the owner of a light-footed red mare, a first rate traveller. The bridge at Gray's (then Squire Fraser's) mills, had a gate right in the centre. One day Mr. Gray came along with the same red mare, and to save the labour of dismounting, he pulled the gate towards him with his hand. But in going through, the gate came in contact with the high-spirited animal's ribs. This made it spring forward with a rush, closing the gate and pitching man and horse into the river. Were this to happen today, what a windfall it would be to those in Hopewell who write notices for the Eastern Chronicle.
MORE EAST RIVER WORTHIES
REV. ALEXANDER MacGILLIVRAY, D. D.
With this gem of a man, and model minister, my personal acquaintance was very limited. This meagre sketch, must, therefore, consist of two or three reminiscences, and what I knew of him from common report.
1. Dr. McGillivray came out from Scotland in 1834, and on a lovely day in the summer of that year, the Kirk held their annual communion in St. Andrew's Church, New Glasgow - not the present commodious structure, but the original old-fashioned building that at first had been built, and used as a church somewhere on Fraser's Mountain. Six years before this time, Big John Falconer and Red John Falconer had moved it from its windy eminence on that mountain top to New Glasgow. There it stood - "thither the tribes went up to the hill of God" for years. The Rev. Donald Fraser proclaimed the tidings of salvation. And my impression is that it was in this same church Rev. Dr. Burns, of Paisley, preached in May, 1844. It was his first visit to America. He came in the capacity of a delegate from the Free Church. I came all the way from Springville that day to hear him. His text was "Awake, O sword against my shepherd." But in 1834 I first saw and felt my need of a Saviour. That summer, with me, "old things were passed away, and a new world begun." There was a complete revolution, one of the effects of which was an insatiable desire for knowledge and the treasures of true scholarship. At that time Rev. John Campbell, afterwards of St. Mary's, taught in New Glasgow. I went to his school for two months. Indeed Mr. Campbell had something to do with this. He more than once asked my father to send me. At last the latter gave his consent, boarding me with Mr. Campbell himself at James Fraser's, Innkeeper. This was the way I happened to be in New Glasgow at the time of the communion in St. Andrew's Church. Saturday, not having the fear of some of the antiburgher deacons before my eyes, I went to hear a sermon by a Kirk minister. This was the only time I ever heard Rev. Alexander McGlllivray preach. He was newly arrived in Nova Scotia. But If I heard him then I did not see him. The church was so crowded I stood at the door. The preacher's voice was strong, but mine was the desire to be benefitted, not to criticize. While in this posture, there was a passage of Scripture came home to me with power. The words are these: "Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors." These words did not come from the pulpit. But upon me, they had the effect of a special message from on high. And while reflecting on the blessed promise, and experiencing the good of it,
"I envied not the happiest swain
That ever trod the Arcadian plain."
2. It is now midsummer, 1855. The Kirk Synod meets in Halifax, and happening to be in the capital myself, I looked in one evening to witness their proceedings. There again, was Dr. McGillivray, he was speaking when I went in. The subject of his address was Foreign Missions. He spoke in laudatory terms of that prince of missionaries, Mr. Geddie. He said he had lately read one of his letters, and that it was the most eloquent production he had ever read. Said he, "it brought me to my knees." As a young antiburgher preacher, it was soothing to my feelings to hear a venerable Kirk minister that had himself graduated at a Scottish university, speak so favorably of one who had been educated at the Pictou Academy. Others spoke, but who they were, or what they said, I have no recollection. This was when Sebastopol was being beseiged. The battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman had been fought. And four years later in April, 1859,
3. There was a funeral at the head of McLellan's Brook - that of John McGregor, a member of Dr. Roy's church. McGregor's wife was my niece. So, though the distance was considerable, and the roads, at their worst, I went to that funeral. The service was conducted by Dr. Roy, but Dr. McGillivray also honored the occasion with his presence, and as the deceased did not belong to his church, I thought it in the least degree good of him to be there at all. And I said so to himself as we rode beside one another in the funeral procession. To this he replied that John McGregor was a good neighbor himself. The venerable man did not like some clerical fops attend that funeral as a mere matter of form. No. Like the Master whom he served, he put himself on a level with his neighbor, followed the procession for some miles, till he saw the remains of his neighbor and friend safely consigned to "the house appointed for all living."
4. Some years after this I met Dr. McGillivray In New Glasgow. It was on the platform in front of Squire Fraser's store. The interview lasted but a few minutes. As to his status as a preacher, I can say but little. But according to all accounts, his pulpit performance must have been respectable. To be able to "stamp and stare theatric" and preach a crack sermon is all very good. There are pulpit orators that can do this, but, alas, they do not practice what they preach They show too often, that "whoe'er was edified themselves were not." It was otherwise with the subject of this sketch. For years, he was the sole pastor, not only of his own congregation of McLennan's Mountain, but all the other Kirk congregations in the county of Pictou - New Glasgow, East and West Branch, Barney's River, Gairloch, Roger's Hill. To these, his exposition of Scripture from the sacred desk was as "showers that water the earth." And when the venerable old Kirk was assailed, as assailed she often was by ignorant and narrow-minded men, both lay and clerical, to my knowledge, at least, he was never provoked to retaliate. The more "they cursed the more he blessed with loving voice." Then, how manly was the part acted by him at the Disruption of 1843. The rest of his co-presbyters all relinquished their charges to occupy vacant watchtowers in their native land. But he remained at his post and though his health was by no means robust, he, "nailed his colors to the mast." For about eight years he did "the work of an evangelist" among the green hills of Pictou, where, notwithstanding every effort made to shake their loyalty, the old Kirk had still her thousands of devoted adherents. What had they to do with the bitter controversies about "Intrusion and Non-Intrusion" in the fatherland! No. The Church of John Knox, Andrew Melville, Renwick, Welsh, Henderson and Andrew Thomson was still the Church of Scotland, and in spite of the crusade led on by a Chalmers, a Candlish, and a Cunningham - admirable men though they were - the unsophisticated Highlanders of Pictou stood true to their allegiance. And for doing so they had to be reviled and nicknamed. No doubt, the subject of this sketch knew well that he would have to bear his full share of the reproach. But in his own peaceful way, he endured it all. Neither himself nor his flock were ashamed of the old Church within whose communion they had been born and educated. Nor had they any reason. It would be difficult to mention any enterprise of Christian beneficence for which that Church has not done her part. In literature and theology, she call point to a George Buchanan, a Robertson, the historian, a Thomas Boston, a Guthrie, a Haliburton, and many other eminent men. Besides furnishing the Highlanders with the Bible in their own tongue, she put them in a way to read that Bible, by procuring immense grants of money to found a system of common schools to teach the Gaelic population of Scotland the blessings of education. But there is one work done by that Church that entitles her to the gratitude of mankind to the end of time, I mean the metrical translation of the Psalms of David in Gaelic. While perusing that little Volume, he who is versed in the classics is carried back to the days of Julius Caesar, and feel how superior are the poetic flights of "the son of Jesse" to the loftiest effusions either of Hesiod or Homer. Ask any finished scholars as Rev. Alexander McLean, of New Glasgow, or Rev. A. McL. Sinclair, if this is not so. Who that ever heard John McQuarrie, of St. Pauls, but especially Evan McQuarrie, of Lorne, "giving out the line" can forget the solemn awe produced. At that date St. Columba Church was not. But along the margin on which that structure now rears its head, a limpid stream (Cameron's Brook) glided smoothly by. It was a yearly sacramental time. Sitting down "by hundreds and by fifties" the worshippers, with uncovered heads, joined in the services. That matchless psalmodist, Evan McQuarrie, leads the song. Today "in such society," many of these worshippers "sing the song of Moses and the Lamb." Then, they commemorated the death, they sang the deeds of the Babe that was in Bethlehem; and they fainted not, nor did they grow weary in the service. Recording angels hovered over them, and conveyed to heaven the tidings of the gladsome spectacle.
That sacred hour who can forget?
Who can forget the hallow'd grove,
When, by the winding stream they met,
To live one day of heavenly love!
No, dear reader, and I don't wish to forget it. Neither will you if you ever witnessed the sight. There are, perhaps hundreds living yet who not only beheld but took part in these sacramental solmenities. And if any of them ever see these lines, sure I am that they will join with me in saying:
Still o'er these scenes my mem'ry
And fondly broods with miser care,
Time but the impression deeper makes,
As streams their channels deeper wear.
O that Robert Burns had understood Gaelic, and that, on some great field day, he had heard Evan McQuarrie "giving out the line." Had that been so, both the "line" and the man that sung it would, long ere now, have "gone through all the earth," and its words "to the end of the world."
The writer of these sketches wishes
it to be understood that in writing kindly about the old Kirk he has only written
as he always thought and felt. He believes that the connection between
Church and State is an absurdity. And he has often been amazed that such
a man as Dr. Chalmers could never see this. Still, notwithstanding her
alliance with the State, and all the evils of Patronage, that Church has done
a good work. And when herself and other Presbyterian Churches in Scotland
have become one, as in due time they shall, then, from the rising to the setting
sun, the adthe morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as
an miring cry shall rise to heaven, "Who is she that looketh forth as army with
ANOTHER EAST RIVER BEAR STORY
It was in the month of August, 1834, when going to Rev. Mr. Campbell's school, Mr. William Chisholm, saddler, asked me to go with him to get blueberries. By his mother's side, who was a Grant, Mr. Chisholm and myself were nearly related, and though considerable my superior in years, he treated me as an equal. At this time his shop stood on Provost Street, right opposite Mr. James MeGregor's store - now the Sheffield House. So one Saturday afternoon we started for the blueberry plain, which was about two miles from the west end of New Glasgow bridge, There was an old deserted road that led to it - once the Middle River Road. By following the course of this road for about an hour we got to the place of our destination. There were blueberries in abundance with which we soon crammed ourselves. But until Burns' "glowing west proclaimed the speed of winged day," we were in no hurry to retrace our steps homeward, which when we began to do we made for home. About sunset when nearly out of the woods, we heard a terrible yelling a piece to our left. There was the shouting of men, and the barking of dogs. Knowing that there must be something unusual going on, we made for the place whence the racket proceeded. On getting there we saw, on an old road, a she bear lying dead. That evening, Mr. John Fraser (deacon), with a loaded gun went back to the rear of his farm to see if his sheep were safe, and he did not go a bit too soon. For the first thing he saw was a large bear. There was her shaggy ladyship sporting two cubs. On seeing Mr. Fraser she stood erect on her hind legs looking savagely at Fraser and gnashing her teeth. Mr. Fraser replied to this salutation by firing. He aimed at her breast, and his aim was a good one. She dropped dead on the spot, without time for even a death-bed repentance. When we got to the scene she had just breathed her savage soul away.
But what about the cubs? As quick as lightning they climbed a large hemlock tree, away up among the thick branches of which they hid themselves. It was now so dark that they could not be seen. In this emergency the Fraser brothers - John, Thomas, and others - gathered a monstrous pile of wood and brush around the foot of the tree, and set fire to it. That fire was kept blazing all night. At 8 o'clock one of the Frasers - it was Thomas - went home, and brought something for all hands to eat. The fire was kept agoing all night. Whether that night felt long or short, or whether I slept any, I have no recollection. But one thing I do remember, that morning at sunrise the little fellows in the top of the tree could be seen, their eyes all on fire. By this time there were more men and more guns. And two of them opened fire on the youthful culprits up in the tree. After a few shots one of them came down with a thud. But there was another that gave some trouble, after being riddled with bullets, it held on to a limb with one of its forepaws. Let go its hold it would not. It was a pretty sight to witness it dangling in mid-air for some minutes. At last "some arm more lucky than the rest" aimed, and fired at the little paw and down it began to come, but not far. In its descent it lodged between the trunk of the tree and a limb. It was dead, and there it would remain till it would rot. So they went to work and chopped the tree down.
"Hush a by baby on the tree-top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
But when the wind ceases the cradle will fall,
And down will come the baby, cradle and all."
It was thus with the hapless bear cub. It was now breakfast time, and all hands made for home, the writer for his boarding place at James Fraser's, Innkeeper. But in due time we were all in our places in the old church at Irishtown, to hear Dr. Roy preach two of his best sermons.
1. What fine men these Fraser brothers were! John, Thomas and Hugh (elder) were all that I remember as being present at the slaughter of the bear-cubs.
2. There were marksmen in these days. Could there be a better hit than that aimed at the little paw? William Tell himself couldn't have done better.
3. Is that hemlock stump to the fore yet?
4. Is the writer the only one now living of those who witnessed the killing of those bears?
5. In 1834, sixty years ago. This was the very time that the Asiatic cholera raged with fatal violence in Halifax. Mr. Fraser, Innkeeper's brother, John, fell a victim to it. Well do I remember the day he heard of his brother's death. His sorrow was too great to find relief in tears, but every groan he uttered was like the upheaving of an Etna.
Even at the distance of 60 years, New Glasgow with its seven stores, Mr. Carmichael's, Squire Fraser's and his brother Hugh, Adam Carr's, Alex Fraser's, James McGregor's and William McDonald's - was a stirring place. There was only one church, St. Andrew's, and on all the East River, only three churches from the Loading Ground to Sunny Brae and the West Branch Lake, there were only three ministers - Rev. Angus' McGillivray, Rev. John McRae and Rev. David Roy. At the rate ministers are now flocking into it from all quarters, there will soon be that many in New Glasgow.
Dear reader, it is now three years since the first of these sketches appeared, and, at the rate I am getting on with them the millenium will be on us before they are completed. Some of you know this picturesque Springville is my native place, and there was a time when that well-watered district was really picturesque. But that was in the halcyon days when such men as old Alex Grant, miller, his brother, Robert, James Grant, dyer, Senator Holmes, Duncan McPhie, James Ian Ruaidgh, his son, John, David McLean, and a few more of a kindred spirit were at the head of affairs. In the presence of these master minds, the untutored and ill-bred upstart would hide his "diminished head," and merit would meet with its due reward, while "all iniquity" would have to "stop her mouth." The consequence was that a high tone of morals pervaded the whole community.
Who has not heard or read of "Picturesque Canada?" But I say picturesque Springville.
Did Canada ever produce a man that could tell a story with old Tailor McIntosh? Abraham himself, if he had him in his house tailoring for a week, would be amused at his funny jokes - they would be so harmless and so truthful that, if the "father of the faithful" had a laugh in him, it would come out.
Fifty years ago, there was another gentleman who shall be nameless, but in his own line he passed for something in Springville. It is true that he did not add much to the material wealth of the place. If not, he, "as poor, yet maketh many rich," did much to put others on the pathway both of wealth and fame. Our late premier, Hon. S. H. Holmes, Hon. Angus McQueen, of New Brunswick, Rev. James McGregor McKay, Rev. J. D. McGillivray, and Rev. James McLean, are specimens of his handiwork. It was this same gentleman that originated and did more than his share in keeping agoing the Springville Literary Society of "happy memory." It is true that the Eastern Chronicle held up our Society to ridicule but not with impunity. We gave as good as we got.
One John Fraser, if not the very first, was one of the first settlers in Springville. To distinguish him from others of the same clan, he went by the name of Ian Ruadgh - Red John. He landed in Halifax two years after the arrival of the Ship Hector - 120 years and, and settled on that farm now occupied by the Holmes. He built the first frame house in Springville. It is standing and occupied yet - the same house that Senator Holmes always lived in, after he bought Fraser's farm, about 62 years ago, and in which he ended his days. In my juvenile days it seemed to be a very big house. Now, it looks quite small, reminding me of the low roofed house of Socrates." There is negative proof that this Ian Rualdgh must have been a man of some worth. Though born and brought up in the immediate vicinity, I never heard his name mentioned with disrespect. With his three sons, James, Donald and William, I was well acquainted, and they were men of peace and sobriety, rather above the common standard for intelligence. Of the daughters, one was married to Simon Fraser, Basin; she was the mother of Thomas Fraser, Foreman, and, consequently, the grandmother of your Iron King, Graham Fraser. They were married by Dr. McGregor, and in the doctor's house, in the midst of a tremendous snow storm. Another daughter, the mother of Mr. Fraser, postmaster, was married to a Fraser at McLellan's Mountain. The history of the other two is unknown to me. Of the sons, Donald and William were decent inoffensive men, above the medium size. Donald was sedate and peaceful, William somewhat jovial and off-handed; but James, always called James Ian Ruaidgh, was somewhat of a character. Too timid to be of much prominence in any community, he was, notwithstanding this timidity, a man of some note in the annals of the place of many springs. By no means deficient in mental power, he ranked high for knowledge and intelligence. Neither was he destitute of public spirit. He was a reader, and what he read he remembered. Much of his knowledge was derived from conversation. He met once with a man who had fought at Waterloo; from him he learned how the Belgian regiments turned their backs and fled in the thickest of the fight. He had Dr. McGregor's opinion of Robert Burns, that "God had given him great talents but he made a bad use of them." Of Dr. McGregor he was a devout admirer, and took pleasure in relating his pithy sayings. I think I see him yet. He owned a famous black mare, always very fat and sleek. Mounted on his favourite quadruped, he would jog along through Springville and its environs. In his hand he would have a rod which he would constantly flourish in empty air. But so tender was he that the rod would never be allowed to come in contact with the favourite animal's hide. Consequently, himself and the favourite animal made slow progress.
But what distinguished him most was his honesty and goodness. He was a devout man, and had he been in the days of Simon, none would have rejoiced more than he at the birth of the Saviour, or been more horrified at Herod's cruelty. Some days before the days of Rev. Angus McGillivray, he would, on the Sabbath day, gather the children around Springville together at some central place - first in James Grant, dyer's, house, and afterwards in the schoolhouse, praying with and for them, hearing them read out of their Bibles, and drilling them in their catechism. These services were very impressive - all the more so from the reverential air with which the whole was conducted "The saint, the father, and the husband prayed." Yes, dear reader, when thus met under the training of the venerable man,
"We'd chant our artless notes in
We'd tune our hearts, by far the noblest aim,
Dundee's wild warbling measures rise,
Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name."
James Ian Rualdgh was the Robert Raikes, of Springville, if not of all the upper settlement.
His honesty was proverbial It has been said of him that if he found even a pin, he would scruple about keeping it as his own. But he sometimes found more than pins. One day he picked up a genuine darning needle. It was in an out of the way place in the woods, but he preserved the needle till the owner turned up in the shape of a decent neighbouring woman. Another time he picked up a three shilling piece that someone had lost. He tried in vain to find an owner. But one Sabbath there was a collection taken in the church, so he put the stray coin into that collection, and another three shilling piece of his own with it. He raised a large family, who were all of an intellectual turn. His second son still lives in Springville, and is no mean geologist. His second eldest daughter was the mother of James A. Fraser. This James Ian Rualdgh and his next neighbour, David McLean, had each an inexhaustible lime quarry on his farm, of which they manufactured large quantities into lime. For this they found a ready sale at the Albion Mines. Selling to the company they were sure of their pay. Thus they made a good deal of money. But he was no lover of money. As long as he got what served his purpose he was contented. His eldest son, John, was quite a celebrity. He always went by the name of "Catach." On the East River he would not be known by any other name. To do anything like justice to this "son of the soil," is very difficult. He and the writer grew up in the same community, went to the same school, and went to the same church. I have known many young men on both sides of the Atlantic, but, for originality and versatility, I never met with the superior of this John Fraser. For one in his station, he was remarkably well read. The few books that he perused would be of standard excellence. It is doubtful if he ever saw an entire copy of Shakespeare but he had Shakespeare at his finger's ends. The Colonial Patriot, the Nova Scotian, the Pictou Observer and the Halifax Guardian, all of which he read, kept him well posted up in the politics of the day. What he read he remembered, and he was no niggard with the stories of knowledge thus acquired, but would retail them for the benefit of others. In those days the feud between Kirk and Antiburgher was in full blast. Dr. McCulloch was the champion controversialist with the Antiburghers, and Revs. Donald A. Fraser and John McRae did battle for the Kirk. John watched the varying fortunes of this wordy war with the keenest interest. He could relish every good hit given by the Kirk belligerents. This they were quite able to do, and vice versa when the Antiburgher combatant floored his antagonist, he would be in ecstasies. On one occasion, the Rev. Doctor paid Rev. D. A Fraser this compliment, "I have, in my day, met with an opponent who could shift an argument and grasp at a quibble, but you are the first I ever met with that lied as he wrote." John thought this was sublime.
His prevailing characteristics were seriousness and gravity. The monthly prayer meeting at James Grant, dyer’s, he attended regularly, and took an efficient part in conducting it. For years he superintended the Sabbath School in the red schoolhouse; at church his place was seldom vacant, but at social or convivial gatherings , his drollery knew no bounds. In 1834 there was an excellent circus in New Glasgow. The veritable Jim Crowe was there and acted his part to perfection. But John Fraser was also there, and that was enough. Ever after he could act Jim Crowe as well as Jim himself, and this he sometimes did for the amusement of us youngsters.
He'd turn about, and wheel about,
And jump just so,
And ev'ry time he'd wheel about,
He'd dance Jim Crowe.
It would be a mistake to suppose he would go through such performances to please himself. No, it would be at the request of others. He would exercise his gifts and do much to "drive dull care away," and, let no "holy Willie" censure him for having done so. For he had the esteem of the worthiest men in the community, and by none was he more esteemed than by our minister, Rev. Angus McGillivray. Even Lord Brougham, when addressing the House of Lords, on one occasion, quoted from Jim Crowe. Fraser was also possessed of poetical gifts; he could turn anything into rhyme. This, combined with his unrivalled powers of mimicry, rendered him a general favourite among us rustics of the upper settlement.
When these sketches are completed it will be seen that Springville need not be ashamed of its sons. Had there been no Springville there would be no Thomas Fraser, foreman, and New Glasgow would have no one to build iron steamers. Had there been no Springville there would be no Graham Fraser. Had there been no Graham Fraser there would be no Steel Works. Had there been no Steel Works there would be no Trenton. If there was no Trenton there would be no H. R. Grant. Had there been no Springville, New Glasgow would today be without a Postmaster. Had there been no Springville Literary Society there would be no Rev. Alex. McLean, and just think of it, had there been no Springville, the world would not be benefitted - its literature would not be enriched by these immortal Historical Sketches.
There was a time (when 'twas for
Greece I fought)
When Hector's prowess no such wonders wrought.
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East River Worthies Editor: