History of Pictou 1800-1899


This chronological list of events was compiled by local historian, Ron Wallis.

Select Period: 1660 - 1799 | 1800 - 1899 | 1900 - 1993

1800: An immigrant ship from Scotland is believed to have brought a noxious weed known as "stinkn willie" into Pictou Harbour. When the weed is eaten by cattle, it may cause illness and sometimes death.

1801: Hugh Denoon's first boat load of settlers arrived on the "Pigeon". Most of these settlers were Catholic and settled in Antigonish and Cape Breton.

1803: Rev. Thomas McCulloch arrives in Pictou as missionary-minister of the First Presbyterian Church and eventual founder-principal of Pictou Academy.

1804: The frame for the First Presbyterian Church in Pictou was erected.

1806: Ferry service between Pictou and Pictou Landing was introduced by John Foster Jr.

1808: Rev. Thomas McCulloch opened a grammar school in his own home, which eventually became the Grammar School for the Pictou District after the government passed the Grammar School Act in 1811.

1811: James Dawson arrived in Pictou from Scotland and became a prominent shipping businessman. James' son, John William Dawson, was appointed as Nova Scotia's first superintendent of education in the 1840s. Sir William was offered the first Principalship of McGill University in 1855, and retired from that position in 1893. Sir William's son, George Dawson, spent his younger years in Pictou prior to moving to Montreal. George was a pioneer geologist of western Canada with the Geological Survey of Canada, where locations like Dawson and Dawson Creek were named after him.

1812: A Post Office was established with Postmaster U.R. Masters.

1812: A battery for defense was built on Battery Point.

1813: The first Court House was built.

1816: An Act granting a charter to the Academy at Pictou was passed in the Assembly.

1816: In this year, mail service from Halifax to Truro was extended to Pictou.

1817: The Pictou Academy opened in a private home with 23 students enrolled.

1818: A grammar school was built in June, in which Patrick Connelly taught for the first six months.

1818: The original Pictou Academy building on the western end of Church Street was completed.

1819: Norway House was built by Edward Mortimer.

1820: A Divinity Hall within Pictou Academy was opened this summer.

1822: A public subscription library was established this year and lasted for thirty years.

1822: Public floggings were suspended.

1823: A wooden church was erected for the St. Andrew's Kirk Church.

1823: Father James Grant encouraged the small group of Catholics living in the Pictou area to build a chapel. Construction began this year, but the following year the chapel was destroyed by fire.

1824: The first flax mill in Nova Scotia was constructed.

1825: The building of St. James Anglican Church began.

1825: A regular packet run between Pictou and Charlottetown began.

1825: D. Fullerton and Son began a planing mill and made sashes and doors for over a century.

1827: The construction of St. James Anglican Church was completed.

1827: "The Colonial Patriot" began publication on December 7th, with William Milne as editor.

1827: The Catholic Church was completed; the first resident Priest was an Irishman named Father Boland. The Pictou Parish was first named St. Patrick's and for a short time was known as St. George's.

1829: St. James Anglican Church was consecrated on August 16th.

1830: In February of this year, there were 1500 residents in Pictou.

1830: The steam boat "Richard Smith" was put on the run between Pictou and Prince Edward Island.

1830: Joseph Howe visited the town on a journey that brought him through parts of eastern Nova Scotia. He would report about his visits in his Halifax newspaper, the "Nova Scotian". His report of his arrival at Pictou stated "The Lord only knows whether we may live to come out, but here we go merrily in- we may be burned by the Antiburghers, or eaten without salt by the Highlanders".

1830: This was the year of "The Big Election" or "Brandy Election" with the main agenda being the collection of customs duties on brandy, interwoven politically with the Academy debate. The Tory supporters were the Highlanders, who came into Pictou armed with sticks and were ready to do battle with the opposition. A group of sailors arrived and more voters arrived. When arguments erupted, there was fighting in the streets and taverns. The violence lasted for several days, during which one man was killed. In the end, the Liberals won the election.

1831: "The Pictou Observer" started publication on May 11th; editor Rev.J.K. McKenzie; published by W. Gossip.

1832: "The Juvenile Entertainer" started publication on August 6th; editor William Milne.

1833: The famous American naturalist, John James Audubon, arrived in Pictou on his way to the U.S. from Labrador. He visited with Rev. Thomas McCulloch and viewed McCulloch's collection of bird and rock specimens. McCulloch gave some specimens to Audubon which Audubon didn't already have in his collection.

1833: A stage coach service began between Pictou and Antigonish.

1833: The "Royal William", the first steam ship to cross the Atlantic under its own steam, bunkered-up in Pictou, before leaving on its historic crossing on August 17th.

1834: A lighthouse was built at the entrance to Pictou Harbour on Cole Point.

1835: The "Pictou Bee" had its first publication on May 27th, by J.Stiles.

1838: "The Mechanic and Farmer" had its first publication on May 23rd, by J.Stiles.

1838: "The Presbyterian Banner" was first published on May 28th, by J. Stiles and Fraser.

1838: A census this year reported that there were 1744 people living in the Town of Pictou.

1840: George Hamilton began a bakery here in this year, and remained until 1955 when it was purchased by Westoms Ltd.

1841: The brig "Lady Gray" brought typhus to the town among her passengers. There wasn't any hospital to receive the sick. In the same year, cholera and smallpox were also brought in by immigrant ships.

1842: An infant school was established.

1843: "The Eastern Chronicle", a merge of "The Mechanic and Farmer" and "The Presbyterian Banner" took place under the ownership of Gelgart and Patterson. It was later moved to New Glasgow.

1843: "The Christian Record" began with Rev. Hugh Dunbar as editor.

1843: "The Little Visitor" began publication.

1844: Pictou Academy was closed in August for two years because of discontent and disagreements between two factions. The government had curtailed the grants for the Academy, after Dr. McCulloch had moved to Halifax as Principal of Dalhousie University; thus his influence as an Academy supporter was sorely missed.

1848: The John Know Free Church opened its doors in May of this year.

1848: Pictou chemist, J.D.B Fraser, produced the first chloroform, which was used in Canada for the first time in a Halifax operation.

1848: The First Presbyterian Church was built.

1848: John Logan began a tannery in Lyons Brook, which remained in operation for 75 years. It was destroyed by fire in 1875, and was immediately rebuilt and enlarged.

1849: The "Lazerette" (infectious diseases hospital), was built this year. It was a sandstone building located in the area of Braeshore, overlooking the entrance of Pictou Harbour. It was built three miles from town because of the contagious diseases that were treated here. Most of the patients came from immigrant ships.

1850: A monthly newspaper, "The Missionary Registry", was begun by E.M. McDonald.

1850: Telegraph service was made available to Pictonians this year, with the completion of the line from Truro.

1856: "The Christian Instructor", by Rev. George Patterson, amalgamated with "The Missionary Registry".

1856: A new Court House was built.

1856: "The Times Magazine" began publication.

1856: The Pictou Iron Foundry began operations.

1857: January 4th, the Evangelical Union Church of Scotland opened its doors.

1858: "The Colonial Standard" first published on November 2nd, by S.H. Holmes.

1860: "The Colonial Prenological Journal" was begun in May by A.B. Parker.

1860: A coal-oil manufactory was built.

1860: A tannery was built at the west end of Pictou; Later, the area became known as "Barktown", bark from trees in the area being one of the main ingredients in the tanning process.

1862: A drill hall was erected for the Pictou volunteers.

1864: The building of Stella Maris Church and rectory was begun on June 15th of this year and was consecrated in the following year.

1867: First Masonic Hall built on Front Street.

1868: The Methodists acquired the Evangelical Church building this year and used it until 1925, when it was sold to the United Church of Canada and used by them until 1937.

1869: A new St. Andrew's Kirk church was opened on January 10th.

1870: The Pictou Gas Works went into operation.

1871: The Pictou Boot and Shoe Company was incorporated.

1871: Canadas first census was taken this year.

1872: The South Pictou school was built.

1873: The Town of Pictou was incorporated.

1873: On August 24th, a gale hit the town and did a great deal of damage. Dozens of vessels were driven ashore and the bridge at the Gut was destroyed.

1876: A new Customs house was completed in April at its present location.

1876: The Stella Maris convent was built.

1879: The new St. James Anglican church building was begun.

1879: A new Y.M.C.A. building was under construction in this year. The ground floor was used as the Post Office until 1895.

1880: The building of the second Pictou Academy commenced on May 24th.

1880: Norway House was purchased by Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona).

1880: Eggs sold for a dime a dozen, butter for seventeen cents a pound, molasses at fifty cents a gallon, roast beef for eight cents a pound and a soup bone sold for five cents.

1880: The Marine Hospital was built for the care of sick mariners and ship passengers. It was located on the site of the later Sutherland Memorial Hospital.

1881: Fire destroyed the St. Lawrence Hotel, the Masonic Hall and other buildings, valued at a $34,000 loss.

1881: The new St. James Anglican Church was opened on June 15th.

1881: The second Pictou Academy was opened on January 9th.

1882: "The Pictou News" first published in September, published by W. Harris and edited by C.D. McDonald.

1883: The High Street School burnt down in January and was replaced by a new building in November.

1885: A small pox epidemic hits Pictou.

1886: The second Masonic Hall was built on Front Street.

1887: The Pictou Railway between Pictou, Westville and Stellarton began construction in 1886 and was officially opened on November 28th.

1887: A telephone system was established in Pictou.

1888: The new St. James Anglican Church was consecrated on May 31st.

1888: The ship "Stanley" began making regular runs between Pictou and PEI.

1890: In November, fire destroyed the jail and twenty businesses.

1890: The "Short Line", which ran between Pictou and Oxford Junction, began construction in 1888 and was opened in this year.

1893: "The Pictou Advocate" first published on December 22nd, with J.D.McDonald as editor.

1893: The first general hospital in Pictou consisted of four rented rooms in the home of Mrs. George Logan on High Street.

1893: St. Andrew's Kirk burned down on November 7th.

1895: The second Pictou Academy was burned down in October.

1895: The new Post Office building at the corner of George and Water Street was completed.

1896: The third Pictou Academy was built this year and completed on December 26th.

1896: St. Andrew's Kirk Church rebuilt this year.

1898: Production hit an all time high, when 50,000 pounds of Pictou Twist was made this year. Raw tobacco leaf was imported from Virginia and Kentucky. John Harris was the original importer and acquired a partner by the name Patterson. The Primrose brothers later operated the plant and gave the roughly plaited tobacco its name. The business lasted for 60 years.

1899: A smelter was built on the shoreline near to where the Straight-MacKay boatyard existed. The plant processed copper and other ores from Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces.


Select Period: 1660 - 1799 | 1800 - 1899 | 1900 - 1993