The Scottish people were deeply religious, very strict and devout in their convictions. No doubt it was this faith and reliance on God, that gave our forefathers the strength and courage to endure the dangers and hardships they encountered in their new homeland.
Most every home had their family altar. The father conducted family worship every morning and evening, reading from Holy Scriptures and praying with the family. Usually they sang a psalm or paraphrase together.
Every Sabbath day they made their way to a place of worship, walking many miles in order to do so, walking if they did not have a horse and wagon.
The first settlers for many miles around attended the Log Church, at Loch Broom built in the year 1787. But by the time many of the Rockfield settlers arrived, a church had been built at Durham. The Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia had been formed and organized by the union of the Burgers and Anti-Burgers, and a church was built in 1813. This church was built across the West River near the site of the Cemetery and Rev. Duncan Ross became the first minister. At his death in 1834, his son the Rev. James Ross succeeded him as minister. Then about 1856 a disruption took place in the Church at Durham, a number of members bolted; or left the church, and formed a new congregation and built a new church on the site of the present church. It was opened in 1858, and was named the Central Church, Rev. James Thomson became minister and ministered from 1858 - 1878. In 1871 the Central church was burned, but rebuilt and dedicated in 1872.
A few years later the old church across the river burned and the two Congregations joined forces and united in I879 to form the congregation they now named United Church, West River.
In the old church across the river, Rev. James Watson ministered from 1852-1857 and was followed in I858 by Rev. George Roddick who resigned in 1879 to make way for union. Rev. George Roddick married our grandparents in 1871.
In the Central church later the United Church West River. Rev. A.W. MacLeod was settled as the first minister, Sept.26,1881, followed by Rev. J. F. Forbes in 1886 who rninistered for eight years, during his stay a new manse was built, the building now occupied by John Fraser and family. Other ministers followed, Rev. James Coffin was inducted in 1895 and stayed twelve years. Then Rev. C. J. Crowdis came in 1907, and remained until 1912. He baptized many of this generation in Rockfield. Rev. A. H. Foste came in 1913 and remained until 1918.
Perhaps I'm digressing and leading into church history, but many of these ministers were household names since our early days, they ministered, baptized, married and shared in the Peoples sorrow. They attended their meetings and in every way worked for their spiritual welfare. Most of the Rockfield people attended church at Durham.
In the early days most of the Christian education was centered in the community. George Adamson (1807-1855) organized the first Sabbath School in this district, and for many years into the past classes were conducted in the Rogers Hill Centre School house. In later years when the numbers grew smaller, the classes met every Sunday around the homes during the winter months. Later on around the 1940's when there were very few children to attend, parents then took their children to their Church for regular classes Sunday morning.
For many years Cottage Prayer meetings were held regularly in the homes meeting every Tuesday evenings. A wonderful time of fellowship. Singing the old Gospel hymns from Ira D. Sankeys hymn book, "Sweet hour of Prayer", "Tis the blessed hour of Prayer", "Blessed Assurance", "Simply Trusting" and many other favorites . A leader led the discussion. on a passage of Scripture. The meeting always had a time of short sentence Prayers, when anyone could share in Prayers.
Once a month the Minister visited the group. If any parents had children to be baptized they were brought to the meeting for baptisms. The Minister faithfully visited each home and checked the children's progress in Bible study and the Shorter Catechism.
The Women's Missionary Society dates back many generations, but have been unable to find the date of organization. The W.M.S. is still an active organization, carrying on their Missionary support.
A Mission Band was organized around 1920, with the assistance of Mrs. (Rev) J. A. McKenzie, the Ministers wife at Durham Church. and under the auspices of the W.M..S. The Mission Band met Friday afternoons after the school closed for the day, with the cooperation of the school teacher and a W.M. S. leader or helper.
Another noteworthy custom: In times of bereavement, it was the custom for the neighbors to gather at the home of the bereaved, some evening before the funeral and conduct a little prayer meeting, singing sore of the hymns of comfort, and prayers to comfort and sustain. Someone gave a short message of scriptural comfort, usually Mr. George Carson . It helped pass a lonely evening, perhaps a few would remain for a cup of tea afterwards.
Customs of course change with the years, now most Christian and educational meetings are now held at the Church center.
Pictou County Reminiscences
Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia
Compiled by: John Broderick