Interesting Facts About Pictou


There are different stories relating to how "Pictou" got its name. It is said Pictou is named after an old province in France called Poitou. The credit of locating the site of Poitou is generally attributed to a gentleman named John Patterson. Another story relates to the original people living in the area now known as Pictou, who were the Mi'kmaq that had been living in the area for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. The early name that they had for the area was Pictook, meaning exploding gas, probably related to the coal fields in the area.


Brown's Point is the exact spot where the Scots landed the Ship Hector in 1773. Pictou is known as the Birthplace of New Scotland.


Christie MacDonald (1875-1962) was one of the most famous Broadway singers of all time. When she died, her body was cremated and part of her ashes were brought to her hometown of Pictou and scattered over the harbour.


Edward Mortimer (1767-1819) owned the first wheeled vehicle in Pictou. Although he was probably the richest man in Nova Scotia at this time, he died penniless.


Ship Hector passenger Roderick MacKay constructed a steel boom which was placed across the Halifax Harbour to protect the capital from enemy ships during the American Revolution.


Adams Archibald MacKay was the only student awarded Pictou Academy's Gold Medal twice. The first time, in 1879, he was only 13 years old.


John Patterson was the founder of Pictou Town. His home (now gone) was at the top of Deacon's Hill. It was the first frame house built in Pictou.


Pictou Academy was the first school in Nova Scotia, where any student could attend, regardless of their religion.


Pictou's Town Hall was used for many purposes in the past, from a jail to a place of Presbyterian worship. In one era, it hosted balls. It was remodelled in 1895 as a marketplace.


There was a public pillory at the foot of Market Square in which, it has been claimed, a man was confined for three hours for kissing his wife on a Sunday. Today, a replica of the pillory stands at the foot of Hector Square.


Born in Pictou in 1829, Sir William Dawson was the first superintendent of education in Nova Scotia. He was also instrumental in starting a training school for teachers, the Normal College, established in Truro in 1854. Dawson City was named after his son and renowned geologist, George Dawson. Find out more <HERE>

David Matheson became the first Mayor of the town of Pictou. He held the position for only one year, at a salary of $400 per year.


Each year, a group of cormorants return to Pictou from the south to mate and nest beside the Harvey A. Veniot Causeway, regardless of the noisy traffic. Their arrival can be predicted within a day or two of their first sightings.


The Ship Hector arrived in Pictou Harbour from Scotland on September 15, 1773. The piper on board played his pipes as the ship neared the shore. This frightened the native Mi'kmaq away, whom were not seen for some time.


Around the year 1867, shipbuilding was a major activity in the town of Pictou. At that time, in one year, there were forty registered vessels built in the town.


Sir W.J. Ritchie was the first graduate of Pictou Academy to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.


Dr. Frank Parker Day was the first graduate of Pictou Academy to become a Rhodes Scholar.


Dr. Norman A.M. MacKenzie was the first Pictonian to be accepted President of two Universities - University of New Brunswick and later, University of British Columbia. He was appointed to the Senate in 1966.


Former Prime Minister of Canada Sir John Thompson's mother lived in Pictou. Thompson died at Buckingham Palace while having dinner with Queen Victoria.


Pictonian Dr. Thomas McCulloch was the founder of Pictou Academy and the first President of Dalhousie University in Halifax.


Pictou's George Urquhart Hill was an exceptional squadron leader in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was the first Canadian to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times.


The first newspaper in the province outside Halifax was "The Colonial Patriot". Originally the "Pictou Patriot", the first issue was printed in Pictou on December 7th, 1827.


The first locally built vessel in Pictou was constructed in 1778 by Thomas Copeland. The vessel, called a scow, was captained by Jerry Palmer.


There is only one other "Pictou" in all of North America. It is a former coal village in Colorado. Thomas Lowther of Pictou County gave it the name while he was a foreman there in a mine.


Before the town of Pictou received its modern name, it was known at different times as Coleraine, Alexandria, Donegal, Teignmouth, Southhampton, Wamsley, New Edinburgh and New Paisley.


Water Street Studios- Built in 1825, this building is a good example of Scottish stone houses. Since it was built, it has been a combined storefront and residence. From the 1920's to the 60's, it housed the Sheriff's offices.


Old YMCA - Built in 1879, this building was the centre of community events. The top levels were used for sports and as a meeting place, while the first floor once housed a telegraph and post office.


Stone House - Built in 1832 for Alex Campbell and Andrew Miller, who ran a baking business there until 1864. It was once the location of the Public Health Offices.


The Bank of Nova Scotia building was constructed in 1878 for the Pictou Bank. In the 1880's, it became the Bank of Nova Scotia. It is the third oldest branch in the province.


Davies Foundry - Built in 1855, the buildings were the centre of an iron foundry.


Grohmann Knives - Founded in 1957 by Rudolph Grohmann, his daughter Berta, and son-in-law Mike Babinec, Grohmann Knives has been producing handcrafted quality products for more than 35 years. It remains a family owned enterprise who share their founders' pride of excellence and tradition. www.grohmannknives.com


The Palace - The original structure was built as a theatre "The Palace" c1905, where townfolk and visitors were entertained with live theatre and silent film. It ceased operations in the early 1920's when it was sold to the Logan family. The top floor has been completely restored to its original appearance.


Black Battalion - Recruited from across Canada and the U.S., Canada's first and only Black Battalion (1916-1920) was based in Pictou and Truro, before going to Europe in 1917. The Battalion was disbanded in 1920.


Advocate Printing & Publishing Company Limited was founded in 1891.


The Pictou Advocate, housed here since 1914, has continuously published Pictou County's community news voice since 1893 (Pictures included on plaque).


The Pictou Lobster Carnival is the oldest and the largest lobster carnival in the world. Some say it is also the best.


"The Royal William", built in Quebec in 1831, cleared from Pictou Harbour on August 17th, 1833. Twenty-five (25) days later, she arrived in London, England. This marked the first Atlantic crossing using steam power all the way.


Chloroform was produced for the first time in North America right here in Pictou in 1848. It was produced by J.D.B. Fraser, in the building that is now 37 Water Street.


The old post office in Pictou is the only building in the world with a window in its chimney. The building, which was built in 1895, is located on Water Street.


The Consulate Inn on Water Street, built in 1837, was formerly used as the offices of the American Consulate in Pictou in 1865.


The First Branch of the Merchants' Bank of Halifax was incorporated by an act of Parliament on June 22nd, 1869, and opened the Pictou Branch in 1870. It became the Royal Bank of Canada in 1901.


Pictou was the first community in Canada to set up a Quality Council and use the "Total Quality Management Concept" in 1993.