Church Building   1871 - 1971
Congregation       1827 - 1971

On the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Church Building

Sunday, March 28, 1971

Sermon preached by
Reverend Thomas Stewart, D.D.,
on a Monday evening, June, 1921 -
50th Anniversary of Dedication
of Present Church Building.

Short History
Church of St. James
Dartmouth Nova Scotia
1827 - 1971

The first Presbyterian minister settled in Dartmouth was James Morrison, and the earliest information I have been able to find concerning the cause here is in a report made by him to the Synod
of N. S. in connection with the Church of Scotland at its meeting in
New Glasgow in August 1827. In that report Mr. Morrison says:
"To the united charge of Dartmouth Preston, Lake Porter and Lawrencetown Townships on the eastern side of Halifax Harbour, I was appointed in May 1827, by the Glasgow Colonial Society. Soon after my appointment I was ordained by the Presbytery of Glasgow.... and on August 22nd Mrs. Morrison and I, along with the Rev. George Struthers....as the first missionaries from that Society, sailed on the "Mercator" for Nova Scotia, and landed in safety on the 25th September at Halifax. I must say that on my arrival here I found very little preparation made for the immediate and successful prosecution of pastoral duties, but there appeared a willingness on the part of many to cooperate in bringing things to something like an organized form. The Presbyterian population is but small in and round about Dartmouth, and although this township is in the close vicinity of the capital, it was deemed expedient to erect a new church, and by the prompt and liberal pecuniary aid of the people of Halifax, it was speedily raised and rendered fit to accommodate comfortably between four and five hundred persons."

In the year 1828 the Nova Scotia legislature passed an act "concerning Religious Congregations and Societies", conferring certain "powers and privileges" upon all..... who shall think proper to avail themselves thereof". Under that Act certain persons in Dartmouth, "desirous", as they said, "....to form themselves into a Society or Congregation pursuant to the terms and provisions of the same", drew up and signed a Deed of Constitution, the first signatures to which are dated Friday, Jan. 2nd 1829. This was done, they said, "as well for the advancement of Religion and Piety among ourselves and our families, and the community wherein we reside, as for the more convenient tenure, management and disposition of the lands, monies, Estate and property to us for Religious purposes now or from time to time belonging, and for the conduct of all the Civil affairs of our congregation of the Church of St. James in Dartmouth", and "do recognize, adopt and stand connected with, and do principally observe the doctrines, rites, ceremonies, belief and religious observances of the Church, connection or persuasion of Christians, known and dominated, the Church or Kirk, established by law in that part of Great Britain called Scotland".

They appointed trustees who wore, "John Farquharson the Elder, Farmer; Andrew Shiels, Blacksmith; Alexander McNab, Farmer; and John Farquharson the Younger, all of Dartmouth." They describe the property then in possession, consisting of two lots of land, one being that on which the Church stood, now the fire station, and the other adjoining it on the east and running to Wentworth Street. The former had been "deeded by Andrew Malcolm of Dartmouth, Blacksmith, and the latter by Peter Donaldson of Halifax, Gentlemen," both to John Farquharson and Andrew Shiels, trustees for the Presbyterian Congregation at Dartmouth.

The names signed to that constitution on the second of January 1829, are John Farquharson, Andrew Shiels, Alex. McNab., John Farquharson Jr., Robert Ormiston, Andrew Malcolm, Wm. Donaldson, Peter McNab, Robert Wilson, Alex Farquharson, Robert Johnston, John Wilson, Thomas McMillan, James Marr, Thomas Elliot, Wm. Russell, Thomas Laidlaw, James McNab, Alex. Gemmell, Hector Elliot, John Flockhart, John Beattic, John Mackie, John Craik, John Scott, Hector Elliot Jr., Alex Lyle, H. Y. Mott, and John Jamieson, 29 names, and the witnesses are Nathanie1 Russell and Peter McNab. No more names were signed until January 1838.

In 1870 the constitution was revised and rewritten and continued so until the rules were amended at the congregational meeting in January l902.

Mr. Morrison gave his whole time to his scattered field until February 1829, when he took charge of the Royal Acadian School in Halifax. After that he continued to preach at one or other of the "stations every Sabbath, and to visit the people as time and circumstances would allow." At a meeting of the congregation held January 2nd, 1830 a committee was appointed "to draw up a memorial requesting the Rev. James Morrison to preach on the Sabbath afternoon in Dartmouth and to adapt a plan of visitation amongst his congregation." We do not know how Mr. M. answered this request, but at the end of September of the same year, 1830, Dartmouth was separated from the other districts, how or by what authority or by what means does not appear. Mr. Morrison continued in charge of Preston, Lawrencetown, and Porter's Lake, giving to each place a sermon twice a month. In 1839 he removed to Warwick, Bermuda, where ten years later, he died. (He was the father of Mrs. James S. Carruthers).

History, so far as I have been able to discover, is silent about this congregation from the end of September 1830, when the separation took place until September 1835.

The Presbytery of Halifax, in connection with the Church of Scotland, was not organized until August 30th, 1833, and for some years the meetings were few and far between. At the third regular meeting, held September 5th, 1835, at seven o'clock in the morning, it was resolved to ordain Mr. Alexander Romans, provided the Bond from the congregation at Dartmouth was satisfactory. That Bond, securing to Mr. Romans the annual stipend of £50, was signed by Alexander Keith, Daniel Grant and Thomas Bolton Jr. It was considered sufficient. Rev. Donald Mackintosh, minister of West River, Pictou, was appointed to preach at Dartmouth on Sabbath and serve the edict, and on Tuesday forenoon Sept. 9th, 1835, Mr. Romans was ordained "to the sacred office of the ministry and to the charge of the Presbyterian Congregation at Dartmouth." Rev. John Martin, of St. Andrew’s Church, Moderator of the Presbytery, presided and preached from I Corinthians 3:6, and Rev. John Stewart, then of Cape Breton and afterwards of New Glasgow, addressed the minister and the people. Mr. Romans retained the charge until August 23rd 1848, within a month of 13 years, his pastorate being the longest but one in the history of the congregation. He also made a report to the Synod at New Glasgow in 1837, in which a good deal of information is given concerning Dartmouth as well as the congregation. He says that when he entered on his charge the congregation was small and in a disorganized state, due to the long period during which "the people had been deprived of religious ordinances." "At present," he says, "the number of souls in connection with this congregation may be estimated at 250, being about double the number since 1835. Even then the building was "without pews", and in other respects in an unfinished state."

From March 1830 no meeting of the congregation was held until Apri1 1838, when Henry Y. Mott and Alex Lyle were appointed trustees, and in Nov. 1839 steps were taken to put pews in the Church, about 11 years after it was built. We learn from Mr. Romans’ report that there was still a debt of £130 on the unfinished building. A collection was taken every Lord's Days, the average amount being about £9 annually and the payment of interest required nearly the whole of it. Mr. Romans declares that he received "by far the smallest stipend of any clergyman in British North America", and hopes that "renewed exertions" would be made by the Glasgow Colonial Society to assist the people "in the cause for which they have so long and so ardently struggled." He justifies his plea by saying, "having devoted my almost undivided attention to this interesting flock, and having, during the space of five years, lived in the hearts and affections of the people, I cannot but feel the deepest interest in their welfare."

In 1844 a majority of the presbytery, including Mr. Romans, decided to cast in their lot with the Free Church, formed in Scotland by the Disruption of 1843.

The first mention of a representative elder from the session of the congregation appearing at Presbytery is in October 1844, when the name of Alexander Fergusson is so recorded; no doubt an error for Alex. Farquharson, whose name frequently appears afterwards in the same capacity, and who was, for many years, clerk of session and secretary of the congregation’s business meetings.

In August 1847, owing to the delicate state of Mr. Romans’ health, and the additional labour required because of St. John's Church, Halifax being vacant, the Presbytery recommended the Rev. Wm. Duff of Lunenburg and Mr. Romans should exchange pulpits for a few Sabbaths. At the same time the Presbytery expressed deep sympathy for "their brother Mr. Romans in his present affliction, and also on account of the difficulties with which he has had to contend in his ministerial charge of Dartmouth. As Mr. Romans was much occupied with the vacant charge of St. John’s Church, then the only Church of the denomination in Halifax, and also superintending the missionary work of students at Goodwood, others were from time to time appointed to supply his pulpit at Dartmouth.

On August 11, 1848, he asked the Presbytery to accept his resignation, and, after asking the advice of the Synod, the Presbytery did, on the 23rd of August, 1848, dissolve the pastoral tie. Mr. Duff of Lunenburg preached on Sabbath the 13th, and called a meeting of the congregation for Monday. On Sabbath the 27th he preached again and announced the action of the Presbytery. The congregation expressed great regret at losing the services of their pastor for whom they expressed "profound respect and esteem and affection", but considering the very small remuneration they were able to offer, made no objection to his resignation. In January following they resolved to present an address to him for his for his long faithful services among then, and expressive of their esteem, best wishes, and prayers for the welfare of himself and family. They also voted that all pew rents due up to the end of the year 1848 be handed over to him.

On the first of November the same year, 1848, Mr. Romans applied to the Presbytery for supply of religious ordinances at Dartmouth, the matter was deferred to next meeting, held on the 16th of the same month. Then, on motion of Rev. Alexander Forrester, that day inducted into the charge of St. John's Church, Halifax, Rev. Professor King was appointed moderator of the Dartmouth Session, and supply was appointed for the pulpit, Mr. Forrester and Professor King being the preachers for the first two Sabbaths.

Here appear the names of two men after and for many years notable in the records of the Church in Nova Scotia, and rightly holding high places in the esteem of all who know the story of the Church. Professor King continued to teach in the Free Church College and afterward in that of the United Church, until 1871, when he retired to Scotland. To Alexander Forrester education in this province owes obligations that must never be forgotten. He continued pastor in Halifax until the 28th of March, 1855, when he was released from his charge to become Superintendent of Education for the Province and Principal of the Normal School in Truro.

Another appointed at the same meeting to supply the pulpit, was David Honeyman, afterward for a time Hebrew tutor in the Theological College, but better known as geologist and curator of the Provincial Museum.

On the 31st of January 1849 Messrs. Farquharson and McNab appeared before the Presbytery asking for as regular supply of religious ordinances as possible, expressing the intention of the congregation to devote all the pew rents to the Home Mission Fund of the Presbytery. The request was granted, Professors King and MacKenzie being appointed to supply the pulpit on alternate Sabbaths for the next month. From Feb. lst 1850 there seems to have been continuous supply provided, chiefly by Prof. King, who preached apparently every Sabbath, summer and winter for years in one or other of vacant pulpits. Other preachers were Messrs. Honeyman, Duff and Romans, with an occasional student, or a visitor from Scotland. The name of Professor Lyall appears for the first time as appointed to preach in November 1820.

In that year the pew rents amounted to about $130, the Sabbath collections to $40, and the givings for the Schemes of the Church to about $15. Mr. Peter McNab appears for the first time as representative elder in February 1849, and Mr. Edward Taylor in the same office in September following.

At a meeting held by the Presbytery with the congregation in August 1852, it was stated that though without a stated pastor for about four years it was upon the whole making progress. The pews were nearly all let at rents yielding about $120.00 a year, and this was given to the Presbytery's Home Mission Fund. The debt of £130 ($520) still rested on the building.

On March 1st 1854 Mr. Forrester was appointed to meet with the congregation and ascertain what they would be inclined to do for the support of a catechist or probationer. He reported that the congregation had readily entered into the proposal and had agreed to raise at least £20 for the summer months. The first catechist so employed was Mr. William Murray, afterwards agent of the church, later of Cornwallis and Jamaica. He was a brother of Dr. Robert Murray of the Presbyterian Witness. This was in April 1854. By the Synod of the following year, 1855, he was appointed Agent for the Church, to travel throughout the Synod in the interest of the Schemes, and on the 5th of July the Presbytery appointed to succeed him in Dartmouth Mr. Alexander W. McKay. While he was in charge a missionary association was formed which for years did excellent work. In the minutes of the Association appear, as active workers, the names of some who were active up to recent years. The Monthly Record for October 1855 notices "with pleasure the success which has attended the efforts of the congregation at Dartmouth in carrying out the new arrangement of our Church with regard to the Home and Foreign Mission Funds." The amount handed in by the collectors at the monthly meeting was £4/3/9, (about $17.00). The Record says, "This is highly creditable to that small congregation, and more especially to the young ladies, the collectors...... If every congregation belonging to our Church in N. S. and P. E. I. can show in the same length of time a sum equally large in proportion to its numbers, we shall have no fear for the success of the missions of our Church at home and abroad as far as human efforts can avail for their advancement."

On the second day of August 1855, Mr. McKay was licensed at a meeting of Presbytery held on the 31st of October. He was authorized in response to a letter from Mr. Thorburn, minister at Warwick, Bermuda, to go to St. George’s, Bermuda, to take charge of the congregation there and also act as chaplain to the 26th regiment, and Dartmouth was again left without pastoral care. The pulpit was, however, supplied by such men as Dr. King and Professor Lyall. But the congregation was wisely resolved not to be satisfied with even such preaching and no pastoral care, and a meeting was held on the 15th December 1856 "to consider what steps it might be advisable to take in order to secure the services of a staffed pastor". Professor King presided and Alexander Farquharson was clerk. "After mature deliberation" the following resolutions were moved seconded, unanimously agreed to: First, that this congregation, having had good opportunity of satisfying themselves as to the suitableness of the gifts of Mr. Alexander McKnight, Hebrew Tutor, for their edification, do apply to the Free Presbytery of Halifax for the moderation of a call to him to be their pastor. Second, that in the event of Mr. McKnight's acceptance of their call, and of his being settled among them, this congregation engage to make over to him the proceeds of the pew rents, which amount at present to nearly £50 per annum. Third, that although this is not proposed as an adequate stipend for Mr. McKnight, and although there is no other station or congregation near with which he could be united so as to form a full ministerial charge, with adequate ministerial support, yet as it is understood that Mr. McKnight is not at present fully employed nor sufficiently supported a teacher of Hebrew in the College, this congregation do hereby submit to the Presbytery whether the general interests of the Church, as well as the individual interests of this congregation, may not be promoted by this settlement over us as pastor, notwithstanding the smallness of the sum which we at present propose, it being understood that in the event of this settlement taking place, Mr. McKnight shall continue to discharge the duties of Hebrew teacher, and to receive the emoluments belonging to that office.

Professor King was authorized to lay these resolutions before the Presbytery of Halifax at its first meeting and to ask for moderation. He did so, and the request was granted. The Presbytery met at Dartmouth on Thursday, January 15th, 1857, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon to moderate in the calls which was unanimous and largely signed. Mr. McKnight accepted the call, and on Thursday the 26th of February 1857, he was ordained and inducted. The service began at 6:30 in the evening, and the church was filled with an attentive audience. Professor King preached and addressed both pastor and people on their duties and responsibilities. There was also an address by Rev. John Hunter, then pastor of Chalmers Church Halifax, on the distinctive principles of Presbyterianism and their foundation in Scripture. Thus another link was formed binding the congregate on to the college.

Mr. McKnight had appeared for the first time before the Presbytery of Halifax at a meeting held February 28, 1855, having been appointed by the Colonial Committee of the Free Church in Scotland as teacher of Hebrew in the College in Halifax. It was at the same meeting that Dr. Forrester intimated to the Presbytery his appointment as Superintendent of Education for the province and Principal of the Normal and Model Schools and resigned his charge of Chalmers Church.

As the induction of Dr. McKnight is one of the landmarks in this survey, it may be of interest to note the state of the congregation in the year of his settlement here. The families numbered 28, and communicants 31. The average attendance at public worship was 60. The Sunday School enrolled 30 scholars. There was only one service on Sunday. The stipend promised the minister was simply the pew rents, which amounted that year not to the £50 estimated when the call was riven, but to £34/16/3, or about $l40.00, and the debt of £130 still lay on the Church. The givings for the Schemes of the Church were, Home Missions $12.15, Foreign Missions $6.00, Synod Fund $4.00. There were miscellaneous contributions amounting to about $44.00, and the total revenue for all purposes was about $210. The income and the stipend were the smallest reported by any congregation in the Free Church Synod that year. If there were any smaller they were not reported.

We have complete records of the congregational meetings from 1829 when the congregation was regularly formed. The session records in possession begin, probably 20 years later. I say "probably", because the first entry is not dated but the second is dated June 23rd, 1849.

With Dr. McKnight's pastorate begin the first records now procurable of baptisms, marriages, and deaths, kept in his delightfully clear penmanship; also we have the Communion Roll, carefully kept.

Rapid progress in several respects followed Dr. McNnight's induction. The year following, while the number of families remained the same, the pew rents had gone up from $140 to about $230, and the total revenue from $210 to about $317, and there were two periods of worship on Sunday. In 1860 the families had increased by eight, and four communicants had been added. $42 were given for missionary purposes, and the total revenue was about $650 or more than three times what it was in 1857. In March 1864 the Presbytery visited the congregation and enquired into the state of its affairs. The Record says, "The Gratifying fact appeared that the congregation had gradually increased in numbers and had contributed to religious objects with increasing liberality since Professor McKnight’s settlement over them." By this time the number of families had increased to 40, the attendance at Church had doubled in the seven years, reaching 120; seven had been added to the roll of communicants in the year, and the stipend was $200.

A Special meeting of the congregation was held on the 3rd of January 1867. We have no minutes of that meeting, but find that on the 20th of February a committee which had been appointed on January 3rd reported that "they had closed with Mr. Ferrell for the lot opposite the school house for $1600 as a site for a new Church." It was agreed that the Trustees, with the committees, be empowered to dispose of the Church and land either in lots or otherwise they might think expedient, only providing that the congregation be not deprived of the use of the old church while the new one was being erected.

On the 15th July, 1868, at a meeting of Presbytery held at Cornwallis, Professor McKnight tendered his resignation of the charge, and Rev. John Forrest, then minister of St. Johns Church, Halifax, was appointed to notify the congregation on the last Sabbath of July. On the 12th of August the Presbytery met in Dartmouth and the resignation was accepted.

Sometime during the Autumn of that year the congregation to which Prof. McKnight had ministered for 11 years and 6 months, showed their regard and appreciation for him by presenting him with an address and a purse of $120. He continued to act as Moderator of the Session, and at a meeting of the congregation held 12 days after his pastorate ceased, he suggested 3 possib1e ways of securing pulpit supply. First, to get the students to preach; second, to secure the services of a probationer; third, to call a regular pastor. The congregation preferred the last, and on motion of Dr. Campbell, a subscription list was opened to see what amount, in addition to pew rents, could be raised for the support of a permanent minister. It was agreed that subscriptions and pew rents should be paid monthly, and Dr. J. D. Ross, and Mr. Peter McNab Jr. and Mr. John Widden were appointed a committee to carry out the decisions. In September the committee reported subscriptions amounting to $600, payable monthly, and it was resolved that $600 be the stipend offered. At this time the families had increased to 50, the communicants to 60, the attendance at church to 150, and the total revenue for 1868 was $1,260, a rate of $25.25 per family.

At a congregation meeting held October 26, 1868, it was agreed to call Mr. Archibald Glendenning. Mr. Maxwell, then of Chalmers Church moderated in a call on November 19. It was unanimous, but Mr. Glendenning declined to a accept it, accepting instead a call to the scattered and isolated field of Gore and Kennetcook.

Discouraged in this attempt to secure a pastor, the congregation lost no time in choosing another. On January 28th, 1869, Mr. Allan Simpson moderated and at the next meeting of Presbytery reported a harmonious call, signed by 40 communicants and 21 adherents in favour of Mr. J. H. Chase. Again the people were disappointed. Mr. Chase declined the call, accepting instead a call to Onslow. The congregation met again in July, and decided to call Mr. Alexander Falconer, then of Charlottetown, offering a stipend of $700 "to be increased as soon as the congregation are able." Mr. John Forrest acted as Moderator in the call, which was unanimous. This call was accepted, and on Thursday evening, Oct. 21st, 1869, when the pulpit had been vacant for fourteen months, the Presbytery met in Dartmouth for the induction. Mr. Glendenning preached; Prof. McKnight offered the induction prayer; Mr. Forrest addressed the minister, and Mr. J. M. McLeod the people. It was at the meeting which decided to call Mr. Falconer that Messrs. A1ex James, Wm. J. Fraser, Ebenezer Moseley and Wm. Elliot were appointed a committee to "enquire and get specifications of a building for a new church".

About this time the congregation received valuable additions to its working and financial strength in the coming of Messrs. Alex. James, Charles Robson, Wm. J. Fraser, and in the following Spring Mr. George J. Troop. (Record, 1870, page 23)

Mr. Falconer was the first regularly settled pastor to give his whole time to the congregation, and the work prospered greatly in his hands. Before he came, as we have just noted, the congregation had been considering the erection of a new church, and had, nearly three years earlier, secured a lot of land for the purpose. Within a month of Mr. F’s. induction a committee consisting of Messrs. Troop, Elliot, Robson, Moseley, and Joseph Allen, reported that they were "about unanimously agreed that no extensive alterations should be made" on the old building, "but that it will be absolutely necessary to erect a new Church on a new site"..."to be chosen, if possible, by a unanimous vote of the congregation". This was Nov. 9, 1869, and at this meeting we find the first mention of the lot on which the present church stands. The same committee was reappointed, and at an adjourned meeting on the 24th reported unanimously in favour of purchasing this site from Mr. Waddell and building a church on it, and the report was unanimously approved by the congregation. The committee was again reappointed, with the addition of Messrs. James, Josesph H. Weeks and W.J. Fraser, authorized to raise subscriptions for the new building, and to negotiate for the sale of the old building and the lot on which it stood, as also the lot which had been purchased from Mr. Farrel near where the Baptist Church stands.

At the third meeting of Session held after Mr. Falconer's induction it was decided to call for the election of three elders, and on Sabbath, Nov. 19, 1869, the votes were cast. This was the first election of elders in at least 20 years, and resulted in the choice of Messrs. Charles Robson, Alex. James and Wm. J. Fraser. The last name declined to accept the office, and the other two, having been former elders in Poplar Grove Church, were inducted on the 16th Jan. 1870. On the 11th of April 1870, the new deed of Constitution was adopted and the number of trustees increased to 7.

When Mr. Falconer was inducted the congregation consisted of 70 families, with 83 communicants, 23 having been added during the year, and the whole income was $867.53. The next year 101 families and 121 communicants, with the stipend increased to $850. Steady and rapid growth is noted in everything except the number of families. In 1874 the communicants numbered 158, and the stipend was $l,200.

In view of the fact that for several years the congregation, or several members thereof, were interested financially in the support of the ordained missionary at Digby, it is interesting to note that so far back as Sept. 1870 the session resolved that "the next sacremental collection after deducting the expenses and usual Sabbath collection be contributed towards the erection of a Church at Digby, pursuant to the recommendation of the Presbytery."

This building in which we now are, was opened for worship on the last Sabbath of January l871. Dr. McKnight preached in the forenoon from the Text "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth". In the afternoon Dr. Robert Sedgewick preached on "The Cross of Christ and power of God", and in the evening Principal Ross preached in the basement, a number having to go away for want of room. The collections for the day amounted to $125. On Monday evening the Ladies had a sale and tea in the basement at which nearly $250 were raised, and on Tuesday evening the congregation met for the allotment of the pews. To everybody's surprise all the 84 pews on the main floor were taken; "the congregation", as the Record reports, "having been at least doubled among other causes, by the abundant and excellent accommodation provided, and the liberal system of church finance, viz., weekly voluntary collection which the congregation have resolved for the present, and if the experiment shall prove successful, permanently, to adopt". It is needless to say that the experiment so bravely made has proved abundantly successful.

At the same time the Record reports evidences of growth "not only in number and influence, but in faith and godliness. The communicant roll has been largely increased; the prayer meeting, Bible class and Sabbath school, efficiently conducted and well attended. Several young men are bringing their faith and zeal as an offering to the Lord....and last but not least, the congregation in the midst of the heavy pecuniary sacrifices incident to the erection of a new and handsome Church edifice, have at the last annual meeting added $150 to the pastor's stipend". After describing the building and furniture the Record concludes by saying, "Altogether, the Dartmouth Church reflects the highest credit an the architects, the builder and all concerned."

The number of families did not go much above 100 for a long time. In 1876, the last year of Mr. F's. pastorate, they numbered 100, with 144 communicants, an increase of 21 in the year. The amount paid for congregational expenses was $2,126; for the schemes of the church $290.78, and for all purposes $2,466.81. The dept on the Church at the time was $7,940.

During Mr. F’s. pastorate the families increased from 70 to 100; communicants from 85 to 144. 169 had been added, 82 of them on confession of faith. The stipend had increased from $700 to $1,200, giving for religious and benevolent purposes from $140.79 to $340.78, and the total revenue from $867 to $2,466. Up to the beginning of 1871 the Lord’s Supper had been observed twice a year as from time to time appointed. In April 1871 the session decided to celebrate it quarterly, in January, April, July and October. In a few months, however, it was decided to suspend that arrangement and appoint the dates as before.

On Oct. 25, 1876, Mr. Falconer informed the session that he had received an appointment from the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland to be minister of the Church in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which he had resolved to accept, with the consent of the Presbytery, and that in a short time he would resign his charge in Dartmouth. The resignation took effect on Christmas Day, after a happy, prosperous and fruitful pastorate of seven years and two months. The congregation presented to the retiring pastor an address expressive of esteem and affection, and the session recorded especially "his care for the poor; his unwearied attention to the sick; and his loving solicitude for the erring among our members".

Professor McKnight, to whose loyal and thoughtful support I remember Dr. Falconer testifying gratefully many years afterward, was again appointed moderator of the session, and in less than six months the congregation was again happy in securing as its pastor Mr. P. M. Morrison, unanimously called from Bridgewater. For a considerable number of this congregation, even yet, it would be altogether unnecessary for me, even were I able, to tell what a session of gracious and faithful guidance and teaching his pastorate was.

The Synod at Truro in Oct. 1886 appointed Mr. Morrison to be the agent of the Church in the eastern section in succession to Dr. P. G. MacGregor, and his pastorate ceased on the 8th of Nov, in that year, having continued for nine years and five months. Under his ministry the congregation has prospered in every respect. The number of families did not increase much, being reported for 1877 as 110, but for 1881 as only 90; and for the last few years of Mr. M’s ministry standing at 98, and continuing to be so reported during the whole of his successor’s pastorate. But there was decided increase in the financial and spiritual strength of the congregation.

In 1885 the Sabbath school at Woodside was organized. The number of communicants increased from 144 to 225, the whole number added during the pastorate being 239, of whom 147, or about 16 per annum, were added on confession of faith. 57 of these were added in the last year of his pastorate. Nine elders were added to the session, of whom one, Mr. William Fraser, afterward became a minister of the Gospel.

One of the many reasons for thanksgiving which this congregation and his immediate successors have had is, that like Dr. McKnight, Dr. Morrison remained a member of the congregation after he ceased to be its pastor. In the year 1887 he was elected to the session, and showed in the eldership the same diligence and loving zeal as he had exercised as pastor. He never lost interest in the congregation or its activities, was a frequent and welcome visitor to the sick, took an active part in the business meetings, and in attendance at the weekly prayer meetings was a pattern of faithfulness. What he was to me personally no tongue can tell. Considering the high rank of his own ability s a preacher, one might expect him to be an exacting critic of other men and a hearer hard to please. But, while no member of the congregation could have been more conscious of the imperfections of the sermons to which he had to listen none could be more attentive or more appreciative, or more encouraging to lesser men. When, during the earlier years of my own ministry here, he sitting regularly in one corner of the Church, and Dr. McKnight in the corner diagonally opposite, listened so patiently and attentively, my first dread soon became an almost incredulous wonder, which never wholly passed away but yet was overwhelmed in gratitude and love that life and death and time’s destroying sway can never kill.

Throughout his ministry here and elsewhere Dr. Morrison's rare abilities had been recognized in the usual way of the Church, by the giving of additional work. In his first pastorate of St. Stephen, N. B., he was clerk of the Presbytery. He held the same office in the Pres. of Lunenburg and Yarmouth for eight years, and during the whole of his Dartmouth pastorate he was clerk of the Maritime Synod, in which office, as in the pastorate here, he succeeded Dr. Falconer. He was Moderator of the Synod in 1894-5, and in the Spring of 1895 received the degree of D.D. from the Presbyterian College, Halifax. When his pastorate ended, Dr. M. was, at the request of the session, appointed Moderator in charge.

On the 17th of Feb. 1887, the Presbytery sustained a call to Mr. J. L. George, then of Sherbrooke in the Pres. of Pictou. He was inducted on the evening of April 12th, thus ending a vacancy of six months.

During the summer following the Sabbath school at the north end was taken under the care of the session. The records do not show its origin. In the same year the little church building, formerly owned by the Messrs. Stairs, was by them transferred to the Church of St. James, and removed to Dawson Street. The building is now very appropriately known as "Stairs Memorial".

In April 1891 Mr. George informed the session that he intended resigning his charge at the next meeting of the Pres. This was rendered necessary by the state of Mrs. George’s health, and his resignation took effect on the 25th of the same month, April 1891, closing a pastorate of four years and two weeks. Dr. McKnight was again made moderator in charge, and the congregation remained true to its 34 year record of short vacancies. Within two months a successor to Mr. George, Dr. Thomas Stewart, was called from Sussex N. B., and within four months of the vacancy’s beginning it was ended by his induction, on Tuesday, August 18, 1891. This was, and continues to be, the shortest vacancy in the history of the congregation, and it was followed by the longest pastorate to date. The events and conditions of years since my coming to the church, are they not written in the annual reports of the congregation, the appendices to the Assembly minutes, and to a very large extent, in the memories of some present?

In April 1894 Dr. McKnight was promoted to the fellowship for which his saintly character made him so eminently meet. He came to Dartmouth as pastor in 1857, at the age of 31 or 32, and died at the comparatively early age of 68 or 69, spending here the most effective years of a great life and giving to this church not a little of the treasures, intellectual and spiritual, which he so largely possessed. In the same year the Church was repaired and reseated at a cost of over $3,000, and the manse was built being occupied for the first time on the day after Christmas 1894.

The Summer of 1899 was saddened for many, far beyond the bounds of this congregation, by the passing of Dr. Morrison. He died at Chatham, in the hospitable home of Mr. Duncan Henderson, who has recently gone after his beloved guest. Dr. M. was on his way home from the meeting of the General Assembly, and turned aside, very feeble and spent, to rest a little while, but he soon entered on the rest that remaineth for such as he.

On the appointment of Dr. E. A. McCurdy as his successor the congregation obtained from the Head of the Church another blessing, in the coming of that big, big hearted, big souled splendid man to be a member of the congregation, soon of the session, delightful leader of the Bible Class, and genuine friend of the pastor and of all who knew him. Of the later years I shall at this time say nothing. The gathering of material for this sketch has required time and some trouble, but it has been greatly enjoyed by the compiler. It is, I think, a shame to let the story of past days of struggle and courage be forgotten and lost, and I am glad to be the agent for recording in some permanent form a few fragments of the old story.

The record is far from complete, especially in the earlier years, and the whole has been hastily thrown together, it at least suggests some salutary thoughts.

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Notes from report, dated October 1927, of the late W. P. Morrison, Elder, prepared for the 100th anniversary of the formation of the congregation.


Dr. Stewart's pastorate of 17 years was the longest in the history of the congregation, only approached by that of Mr. Nicholson who ministered here for l6 years.

During Dr. Stewart's time the Church was reseated, a pipe organ installed and the building enlarged at a cost of $1700.00. A manse for the minister was also built during the early part of his pastorate. During the latter part of Dr. Stewart's ministry the congregation supported its own Missionary, Rev. W. R. Foote, in Korea.

At the close of his ministry there were 339 names on the Communion Roll. Dr. Stewart left us in 1908 to assume a professorship at Pine Hill College, and six years later was called to be Agent of the Church in the Maritime Provinces. In this connection it is interesting to note how many men of our congregation have been called to the larger work of the Church: viz., Rev. Wm. Murray, Dr. P. M. Morrison, Dr. McCurdy, Dr. Stewart, Dr. Dix and Dr, Carson.

On December 15th, 1908. the pastorate of Dr. D. S. Dix commenced. His was the shortest pastorate, being of only fifteen months duration. It was during his time that the individual Communion Service was adopted.

Rev. J. W. A. Nicholson was inducted March 31st, 1911, remaining until June, 1927.

During his time with us many incidents are worthy of note. Dawson St. Church, now Stairs Memorial was organized into a congregation in 1913. Prior to this it received aid from this congregation.

The December 6, 1917, Halifax Explosion, which killed 1600 people and left much of the City of Halifax in ruins, had its effect also in Dartmouth although it was only in the north end of the town that houses were completely destroyed. St. James, two miles removed from the blast, had all its windows broken. The first Sunday after the explosion a community service was held with the congregation standing in the roadway in front of the Christ Church Parish Hall and the ministers using the entrance platform as a pulpit.

On December 16, 1917, the Session agreed to having the whole basement area used as a dormitory and living quarters for reconstruction workers. The writer can recall seeing one of the teenaged boys of the Church, who always knew how to turn an honest dollar, industriously peeling potatoes as he himself climbed the stairs to perform the less lucrative but more enjoyable activity of singing in the choir. The potato peeler went on to become the Dean of an American haw School.

St. James Church, its windows repaired, reopened for worship on December 23rd and issued an invitation to other congregations which were still without a place of worship to join them.)I.K.F.

In 1918 the Woodside Church was separated from St. James. This congregation of St. James voted in 1927 to become a part of the United Church of Canada. Extensive alterations to this building mere made and our Jubilee of Dedication of the Church took place in the year 1921. During this time we sustained six great losses by the death of Mrs. S. E. Howe, whose interest and generosity will long be remembered, Mr. T. Abbot Cumming who was our beloved choirmaster for 16 years, and four elders who were staunch pillars of the Church, viz., Messrs. D. W. B. Reid, D. Redmond, John Forsyth and C. F. Lydiard.

At the close of Mr. Nicholson's labours here the families in the congregation numbered 215 and Communicants 415.

This brings us up to the time or our present Minister, Rev. John McDonald, who was inducted August 12th, 1927, and under his leadership we look forward to the future with continued hope and confidence.

. . . . .

The following notes, bringing the story up to 1971, have been prepared by Ian K. Forsyth.


On October 2, 3 and 4, 1927 a three day Centenary Celebration was held. It recalled that May day church service in 1827 when Rev. James Morrison of Glasgow, Scotland assembled for their first service the nucleus of what was to be St. James’ Congregation.

During Mr. MacDonald’s pastorate and directed by Mr. MacDonald and Mrs. R. H. Murray an outstanding dramatic Society existed. This group engaged the efforts of over thirty young people. The works of dramatists from Shakespeare to A. A. Milne and J. N. Surrie [?] were presented to the public in Dartmouth and other provincial centres.

The Ladies Guild of the Church of St. James was formed in October 1928. This was an organization separate from the Woman’s Missionary Society and designed to assist in the local work of the Church.

In 1938 the Rev. John MacDonald resigned to accept a call to Glace Bay, N. S. and in July of the same year the Rev. Charles W. Anderson became the minister at St. James.

The disturbances associated with the Second World War years led to a series of short pastorates. In 1941 Rev. Mr. Anderson was given leave of absence to serve as a padre in the Armed Services and the Rev. R. D. Macintosh lately returned missionary from Trinidad was appointed interim minister of St. James. In September 1943 Rev. Mr. Macintosh resigned to accept a permanent appointment in Stellarton, N. S. It was then that Dr. A. L. Huddleston retired minister of the First Baptist Church in Halifax, graciously agreed to occupy the pulpit for a temporary period. In 1946 Rev. Mr. Anderson returned to St. James for but a few months before accepting a call to St. John, New Brunswick.

In July 1946 Rev. W. Grant MacDonald was inducted as minister of St. James and thus began the longest pastorate in the history of the congregation.

In 1950 a $4000 job was done on the Church organ at which time the console was rebuilt in a new position facing the choir. 1950 was Dartmouth’s Bicentennial year so as one phase of the celebration, Mr. George Little, who had been St. James Choirmaster and who later gained fame for his Bach choir in Montreal, was invited to return to Dartmouth and give a Bach concert on the rebuilt organ.

In 1951, with a view to building a Church Hall, the Noonan property adjacent to the Church on Portland Street was purchased. The possession of this land helped to give strength to a long talked of project and led to one of the biggest achievements in the history of the congregation.

It was a blitz effort. In 1953 the Wells Corporation, a fund raising organization, was called upon to give us leadership. They took three weeks organizing the campaign and convincing the canvassers that St. James could raise $95000. It was a bit staggering but this is what we were to believe. Mr. John Paterson’s subtle suggestion that we employ a bulldozer to dig an excavation in the newly acquired piece of land also helped to put us on our mettle. Another three weeks full of preparation, meetings, cups of coffee, and finally the precedent breaking and enthusiastic Campaign Banquet at the Lord Nelson Hotel at Noon on the Sunday preceding the canvass. Then came the surprisingly receptive visits to members of the congregation. The result--gifts and three year pledges climbing to a total just a few thousand dollars under their projected by our fund-raising directors.

The land, the excavation, the money, could lead, of course, to one result only. The building of the hall commenced in 1954 and was completed and formally opened on May 18, 1955. The cost of the hall, plus the rehabilitation of the old hall and the installation of a new heating system came to approximately $130,000. In a comparatively few years the mortgage was paid off.

In 1964 the church organ, installed in the year 1908, was completely rebuilt at a cost of $17,000.

1970 marked the completion of the stained glass window project began in 1963.

And then came the fire, a work of incendiaries. The alarm was raised after midnight on September 18, 1970. Set in the northeast corner of the church near the manse it raced up the flue like corner structure and across the roof toward the tower. The firemen were quickly on the scene and with valiant efforts prevented what could have been a completely ruined church. The following morning as church members gathered about they saw a sorry spectacle--the work of fire and water. Many there were who felt that the loss was complete, but this was not to be the case. Appraisers, architects, and others, armed just with common sense, probed, estimated, conferred, and at length came up with the recommendation that the Church could and should be rebuilt in approximately its original form. A tremendous amount of work was done by the building committee headed by Murdoch McDonald and the result of all these efforts you see about you today on this the one hundredth anniversary of the building of St. James Church and the one hundred and forty-fourth anniversary of the foundation of St. James Congregation.

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A short description of the original King Street Church building as written by the late Mrs. George Roome, mother of Mr. C. G. Roome, one of our honorary elders. This is taken from W. F. Morrison's 1927 record.


Mrs. Roome's recollection of the old church building goes back to a short time before this Church was built. It reads as follows:

Looking back to early childhood we have been searching memory for our first church going -- a very little girl is crossing Ochterloney Street from King Street, dressed in a white dimity dress dotted with blue corn flowers, gathered in at the waist with a cord girdle with tassels, she is on her way to Church with her Father.

The building, now our fire engine house, was square-looking both from without and within. The roof was much the same as it is now, but no belfry. The door a the main entrance was in two sections, above it was a frame work of wood, peaked in the centre, and we think the glass was set in diamond shape.

We entered under the balcony or gallery where the choir was stationed. The pews were very straight and stiff, each having a little door which was carefully buttoned on entering. We used to think it was to keep out the church mice. There were two not very wide aisles on either side of the centre pews. The side pews were small, except for a few long ones at the end of the aisle extending across the front toward the pulpit.

The front centre pew extended from aisle to aisle, and seemed to be reserved for the strangers or visitors. But it always had one occupant, a quite elderly man, who seemed to know more about the church than any one else. We were told he was Deacon Taylor, and we can remember him for many years after.

A broad shelf hung down from the front pew. We don’t remember ever seeing it raised, but somehow it could be done and was used during Communion Service.

The Pulpit was so eclipsed by the colored glass and furnishings in the new Church, that it seems more hazy, but we think Professor McKnight went up five or six steps to a crescent shaped box and closed a door. Something hung over his head above the pulpit, they called it a sounding board, it was not very beautiful, but a pretty white dove with a sprig of green in its bill was attached to it, and was always there to greet us. The wings never fluttered, the body never moved, in fact it reminded us of something on a tombstone.

One thing that impressed us as children, was the fact that the good old Professor not only gave out the number of the Psalm, but by striking a piece of metal on the pulpit he started the choir singing. We afterwards learned this was a tuning fork.

The interior of the building was all light and dark oak, grained and varnished as almost all wood was at that time. Our pennies were dropped in a box attached to a long pole, making it easy to reach every one in the pew.

However, with all the stiffness and lack of beauty, it was our Church, and we rarely pass that old building without thinking reverently of the hours spent there in Sunday School and Church. The members of Choir were: Jane Farquharson; Isabella Robb; Annie Elliott; Minnie Allen; Bessie Allen; Mary I. MacNab and Alex. Farquharson.

. . .

A few highlights to span the gap between our 1971 Hundredth Anniversary Celebration and the present - 1979

In 1975 after twenty-nine years service Rev. W. Grant MacDonald tendered his resignation. A service of twenty-nine years - nearly a generation - is very rare and it was indeed the longest period of service of any minister in the history of St. James. A huge goodwill banquet was held to mark the occasion and suitable presentations were made to Rev. Grant and Margaret MacDonald.

Now comes the business of selecting a new minister and it was in this act that we blazed a new trail. The selection committee chaired by Mr. J. Maund brought in a recommendation that Rev. K. Ruth Stuart be the new minister. In spite of some trepidation as to the wisdom of the recommendation a majority vote gave the necessary assent. Had a confirming vote been held after a year the writer is confident that a high of 99 44/100% would have been achieved.

One of our new ministers earliest recommendations was that Rev. W. Grant MacDonald be made Minister Emeritus of St. James congregation. The session eagerly accepted the idea and a motion was unanimously passed to that effect. Rev. Grant graciously accepted the invitation and our church bulletin heading was modified accordingly.

In addition to the general oiling of all the congregational machinery and the determination of "Ruth," as our new minister wishes to be called, that our church be indeed a friendly church, perhaps the most innovative act in the last years has been the formation of a Carillon Choir. A very generous donation of money by Mrs. Josephine Hamilton in memory of her sister Mrs. Dorothea Bannerman made this plan possible.

After a long wait the bells arrived, a senior and a junior choir were formed and Mr. Stuart Belson, a very competent director set about training the choirs. With every performance improvement was noted and now after two years we have two choirs to be proud of, choirs whose services are sought after both locally and farther afield.

The autumn of 1978 saw another departure from old ways in the selection of a feminine assistant minister in the person of Miss Holly Gilfoy one of our own girls. Holly was completing her last year at St. Marys University and she in her spare time gave effective assistance to the minister. This year 1979-1980 Holly goes to the Atlantic School of Theology and she carries with her our best wishes for her success.