Our past…

Union Presbyterian, Thorburn

On October 12th, 1875, the Presbytery of Pictou appointed a committee to look into the matter of forming a congregation in the Vale Colliery. On Oct 24, 1875, the committee met with the people from the Vale and began taking names of persons who were already members of a church, and who would like to form a congregation at the Vale.  At a congregational meeting held on march 13, 1876, it was agreed to issue a call for a resident minister.  In the summer of 1876, a call was issued to the newly Ordained Rev W.T. Bruce, of Musquodoboit.  On October 25, 1876, it was agreed to hold a communion service in Thorburn on the first Sabbath after the opening of the new church, which was almost completed, with the Rev. W.T. Bruce presiding.

Since its founding, the congregation of Union Presbyterian has been served
by the following Ministers of Word and Sacrament:
Rev W.T. Bruce    1876 – 1882    Rev L. Murray    1883 – 1885
Rev A.W. MacLeod    1885 – 1898    Rev J.A. MacKenzie    1899 – 1912
Rev J Harris        1912 – 1914    Rev J.A.S. Burns    1919 – 1925
Rev D MacVicar    1926 – 1931    Rev C. Hayward    1933 – 1937
Rev A. Mills        1938 – 1942    Rev P.F. Rockwood    1943 – 1944
Rev R. MacLeod    1947 – 1951    Rev R. MacDonald    1952 – 1957
Rev C.M. Shaver    1958 – 1968    Rev A.M. Old        1970 – 1973
Rev J.A. Finlayson    1974 – 1984    Rev J.N. Openshaw    1985 – 1989
Rev G.S. MacDonald    1990 – 2005      Rev J.R. Lackie     2006 – present

Sutherland’s River Presbyterian, Sutherland’s River

In the beginning there were three divisions of Presbyterianism in Pictou County, the Kirk, the Anti-burghers, and the Free Church. The people of these congregations who had settled in Merigomish, Egerton, Telford, French River, Wentworth Grant, Sutherland’s River Big Cove, and Pine Tree found the distances involved in attending their respective churches difficult. Though there is no record when the movement began, plans were being made to build a centrally located community church at Sutherland’s River where each congregation could meet.
On February 3rd, 1854 this site was purchased from Daniel Rankin. Signing as Trustees were: James McDonald, Egerton, representing the Anti-burghers, John Munro, Big Cove, the Kirk, and Simon Collins, Telford, the Free Church.

The written record begins on October 3rd what at a meeting held at Sutherland’s River schoolhouse, J. MacRae demands a proper minute book as a condition of his serving as secretary. This was granted out of church funds. Thanks to Mr. MacRae we have a written record of the church building and the first steps toward Union.

According to the minutes, the first occupancy of the church came on June 22nd 1857 when the building committee met there. The building was completed, cleaned, and temporary seating installed by April 7th, 1858. No mention is made in the record as to whether services began at this time or who conducted them. They opened their business meetings with prayer but beyond that they seemed satisfied that they were building the Lord’s house. The contract to supply the permanent seating was let to John Fraser, whose design was to give new meaning to uprightness of Presbyterians.

Through the 1860’s the meetings were less frequent but they are still building, a barn for the minister’s horse, a picket fence, twelve lamps for lighting the sanctuary.  Aside from housing the horse, no mention is made of who is taking charge of the services. Reverend A.P. Miller held prayer meetings during the week and likely would have had Sunday services as well. Mr. Miller, a native of Alboa, Scotland, had served as minister of the Merigomish congregation until his retirement in 1862 and continued to supply pulpits in the area until his death.
On April 11th 1871, members of the congregation from French River put a proposition to the meeting that a subscription list be started to receive names of those who would be willing to sever their connections with their present congregations and unite into one congregation at Sutherland’s River “and thus test our ability for raising stipends to procure a portion of the services of one minister” The motion passed. All was not unanimity though, the Church of Scotland congregation continued to hold separate until the 1880’s.
In 1875 the minister called was Reverend W. T. Bruce. As there was no manse to offer, Mr. Bruce boarded at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel McQueen, and later brought his bride there.
It has been generally accepted that at this point the congregations at Sutherland’s River and the Vale Colliery were joined. It’s true that there was a move in the Vale to form a congregation but that did not come about until 1876, and the Presbyterians at the church in Sutherland’s River had other things on their mind. They were concerned with apportioning of time between the United and the Church of Scotland congregation….”shall occupy the church every alternative Sunday in the forenoon till the first of May inclusive. Whence the United congregation shall have the service in the forenoon till the end of the year. The Church of Scotland in the evening. Each to bear half the expense of the church”. Two years later, in 1881, good sense prevailed: ” a discussion arose as to the desirability of amalgamating the two branches of the church. A motion showed the meeting to be unanimously in favor of such a union.” Having thus disposed of the fine points of doctrine they went to the down to earth discussion of the ever present and ever in arrears “subscription list”.
But there were other plans afoot however, The Presbyterian Witness, of Halifax reports from a July 27th, 1878 meeting of the Pictou Presbytery……”The contemplated union of the Presbyterian congregations of the Vale Colliery and Sutherland’s River was then considered. The resolutions of the two congregation were read, the commissioners from both congregations were heard fully in explanation of these resolutions. And after full consideration of the whole case as thus presented, the Presbytery decided that matters are not yet quite right for the union of these two congregations, and that consequently in the meantime we must wait the leadings of Providence in the hope that ‘ere long every barrier will be removed, that now stand in the way to a harmonious and satisfactory union.” On June 27th, 1882, the barriers harmonious or otherwise seem to have dissolved, and there is in the minutes a reference to “the Vale and Sutherland’s River congregation” and on June 5th 1886, the congregational meeting at Sutherland’s River voted that $200 be paid to the treasurer of the Vale congregation as stipend.