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Rev James Waddell
(24 May 1805 – 14 Mar 1870)


Rev James Waddell and his wife Elizabeth Blanchard were first cousins. There was a lot of intermarriage among the Waddell, Blanchard and Archibald families of Nova Scotia because, according to family legend, "no one else was good enough".

There would be little else known about him, were it not for the following appreciation of him delivered by his eldest son William Henry Waddell at the Centennial Celebration on 20 Aug 1908. (But centennial of what? Despite intensive googling, I don't know!)


River John: Its Pastors and People, by G. Lawson Gordon, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, 1911

An Address delivered by William Henry Waddell (1838 – 1913)
Concerning his late father Rev James Waddell (24 May 1805 – 14 Mar 1870)
With mention of his late grandfather Rev John Waddel (10 Apr 1771 – 14 Nov 1842)



By Mr. W. H. Waddell, delivered at the
Centennial Celebration, 20 August 1908

The year 1908 will be long remembered in the annals of our country. The tercentenary of the foundation of Quebec, which has recently been celebrated with unprecedented pomp, and participated in by three of the greatest nations of the world; the semi-tercentenary of the establishment of representative institutions in the British Colonies, which only yesterday was signalized by appropriate ceremonies in the capital city of our province; and today the centenary of the organization of this congregation;- these national, provincial and local events will be ever associated in the minds of those here today, and make the year one to be remembered with pride and gratitude by us all.

It is certainly fitting that we should embrace the opportunities these occasions afford us to bring to mind the heroic deeds and patient toilings of our fathers, and raise our voices in praise and thanksgiving to the All Father for the blessings and privileges which we enjoy as the result of the toils and privations of those who have gone before, and who now rest from their labors.

The part which has been assigned to me in the proceedings of this occasion is one which ought to be very congenial to the feelings of a son whose filial devotion is allowed to express itself without fear of being regarded fulsome or extravagant. Before making any remarks of my own in reference to my father's life and work, I ask your permission to read an estimate of his character and abilities by the Rev. John Sprott whose name, a half century ago, was a household word throughout the length and breadth of the Maritime Provinces. Mr. Sprott assisted at a communion service in River John on Nov. 7th, 1847. In the book of memorials edited by his son, the Rev. George Sprott, D. D., of North Berwick, Scotland, I find these words in a letter written by him in July, 1862, shortly before my father was called to Sheet Harbor, Halifax County:-

"I am glad that the people of the Eastern Shore are making an effort to retain the services of the Rev. James Waddell. I hope that by making a strong pull, a long pull, and a pull all together, they will be able to sustain him... Mr. Waddell is the man for the shore. He is not like a newly fledged divine just from school. He is a man of wisdom and experience, and has many seals of his ministry. Few ministers have made deeper investments of love and affection, toils and labors in Nova Scotia, than Mr. Waddell. He has never had a fat living and whatever may be the cause of this, it is not owing to his want of talents and acquirements. Had he gone into the navy, he would have gained the quarter deck; had he gone into the army, if not killed at the battle of Waterloo, by this time he might have been the head of a regiment; had he gone to the bar, he might now have been upon the bench; but because he made choice of a holy profession, he, with many other excellent men, is compelled to pitch his tent at no great distance from humble poverty. James Waddell ought to be the finest blood of the Church, being the son of the Rev. John Waddell of Truro. I dare not say that he equals his father as a preacher, yet when I hear him in prayer, I think I hear his father's voice. Both excelled in prayer-- a noble gift for a minister."

My grandfather, mentioned in this extract, was sent out from Scotland in 1797, by what was then known as the Associate Synod, afterwards merged in the United Presbyterian Church. He was settled in Truro, as the second minister of the metropolis of Presbyterianism. His wife was Miss Blanchard of Empire Royalist stock from New Hampshire. As a son of the manse, my father had all the advantages which accompanied that privilege. I have heard him say that as a youth he rather enjoyed the companionship of the Church of England minister who lived on the adjoining property, and who taught him to play chess, and that Mr. Burnyeat's woodpile had more attractions for him, than the one in his father's dooryard. I have reason to think that his choice of profession cost him a struggle, as his companions were a rollicking set of fellows, and he was naturally of an ardent and impulsive temperament. He early took his stand as a total abstainer, in days when drinking was more fashionable than it is now, and he afterwards attained some prominence as a temperance lecturer.

Licensed in 1830 and ordained in 1831, he became pastor of Bathurst congregation in the north of New Brunswick. After remaining there a few years, he was appointed to the position in Central Academy, Charlottestown now Prince of Wales College. While engaged as a teacher, I find that he frequently if not habitually occupied the pulpit on Sunday.

In Prince Edward Island he was brought into close touch with the Rev. John Geddie, who was, if I mistake not, his classmate at Pictou Academy. He sympathised heartily with the movement which resulted in the appointment of Mr. Geddie as the pioneer Presbyterian foreign missionary of British North America. On the formation of the Foreign Mission Board in the year 1845, he was appointed its first secretary, and thus was the medium of official communication between the missionaries and the Church for about ten years, during the early struggles of our pioneers in the new Hebrides. I remember well the interest attached to the receipt of letters from Mr. and Mrs. Geddie, which in those days of sailing ships would be from six months to a year old when they were received. Private letters from Mr. and Mrs. Geddie to my father and mother showed that their correspondence with one another was the communion of dear friends whose affection was thus cherished for long years though they were separated by so many thousand miles.

When Mr. Geddie was home on furlough in 1865, it was my privilege to drive him from Halifax to Sheet Harbor to visit my father and his congregation.

Besides being prominent in the missionary work of the Church, my father was most enthusiastic in the cause of general education, and especially in the theological seminary conducted at West River under the Rev. James Ross, afterwards Principal of Dalhousie College. In 1848 during his visit to the old country, he was engaged in making known to the Churches there the educational needs of our Church in Nova Scotia, and succeeded in collecting quite a sum of money for the funds of the institution. In 1852 he visited the United States in the interest of the Seminary.

Of his ministry in this Congregation I am probably not so competent to speak as some of its older members here present, but I think that any such who had the means of knowing will bear me out in saying that he was faithful in the performance of his pastoral duties, in visiting the sick, and in holding prayer-meetings in different sections of the congregation, besides preaching two sermons on Sabbath with a short interval between. The first discourse, if I remember rightly, was mainly expository, and the sermon after the intermission of a more practical character. He had the habit of writing out copious notes of his sermons using a variety of abbreviations known only to himself.

I cannot recall with any clearness the characteristics of his style, but this I know that it was marked by the prominence of scriptural language and quotations, and his illustrations were drawn from Bible scenes and characters. His library was limited, and consisted mainly of theological and missionary works. I remember that, on one occasion, he advised me to study Solomon's Proverbs rather than Shakespeare. I knew Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress almost by heart, but had never heard of Gulliver's Travels. The first poem I read under his direction was Pollok's "Course of Time." Dull as Pollok may seem to modern students, he developed in me a taste for poetry which I trust I have not altogether lost. Cowper, I know, was a favorite with my father, as I remember distinctly that he would often recite long passages from "The Task." Grahame's "Sabbath" was another great favorite. But he was essentially a man of one book; Henry's and Scott's commentaries, and Guyse's Paraphrase were in constant use, but the Bible itself without note or comment was his chief text book.

The religious education of the young of the congregation was his especial care, and the catechising of the children was a very definite and important part of his pastoral visitations. The home training which he practised and inculcated upon his people, included much reading of Scripture on Sabbath evenings, and a thorough mastery of the Shorter Catechism. The Sabbath School conducted in the church was in my time superintended by Mr. Thomas B. Gould and psalms and paraphrases learned there have never been forgotten. Besides the Paraphrases five hymns at the end of the Paraphrases constituted the complete hymnal of the Church at that time.

The communion season was made the occasion of much spiritual interest. The Thursday previous was a fast day, kept most devoutly as a holy day. Services were also conducted on the Saturday before and the Monday after communion. The minister was, on these occasions, almost invariably assisted by a neighboring pastor.

My father was a great pains to enlist the women and children especially in missionary and Bible society work. I think I shall not be guilty of making any invidious distinction in mentioning the name of one lady who was not only a warm personal friend of my father and mother, but an efficient and faithful helper in every good work---the late Mrs. Alexander MacKenzie, whose benevolent countenance I distinctly remember, and whose kind ministrations to the sick and needy endeared her to all who came within her reach. Though she has long since gone to her reward she is still remembered with affection by many who enjoyed her tender interest in their welfare. It is gratifying to know that her descendants are among the active helpers in the congregation.

During my father's incumbency, the glebe of some five or six acres was donated to the church by Mr. William Matheson, the father of Mrs. Robert Patterson whose homestead was on the property now owned by Dr. Collie. This fact may account for the gift of the land to the congregation for the use of the minister. Mr. Matheson was, however, an intimate friend of my father. This congregation is certainly to be congratulated on having so desirable a manse and glebe.

In the social and public life of the community my father took a great interest. His ideals of life were high, and as a puritan of the puritans, hostility to the prevalent evils could always be counted upon. His zeal in the cause of temperance and purity often caused him disfavor, to say the least. Errors which he may have committed in carrying out his views were errors of the head rather than of the heart.

Fond of innovations that tended to improvement, he was not a faddist. The only instance I can recall, as indicating any approach to faddism, was a desire to attach French names to localities within the bounds of the congregation. He was fond of calling the village of River Jean, Belle Vue, and much of his correspondence carried that heading. Louisville is another of the local names, which still survives. Belle Vue though significant and euphonious, did not seem to take, though an effort was made to obtain legislative enactment in its favor.* No doubt, the fact that the great majority of his congregation were of French descent, and that many of them conversed in that language influenced my father in his effort to leave a permanent French impress on the village and its vicinity.

*[The majority of the French speaking repudiated French origin; the English-speaking preferred an English name. The attempt of the compilers of the Atlas of Pictou County to change the name to the barbarism, "Johnville" was happily futile.]

Of the home life at the manse, I shall say but little. The most scrupulous care was taken in the moral and religious instruction of the children of the household. Brown's "Short Catechism" for the younger ones, and the "Shorter Catechism" for the older were dispensed as regularly as our morning meal. "No question, no breakfast" was the motto by which we were kept in line. I do not remember any occasion on which any of us lost our breakfast, and I am not sure that we invariably had the question, but the rule was maintained, and probably its inflexibility ensured its observance. The children were also encouraged to engage in some work to earn money for missions, or to deprive themselves of some so-called luxury, in order to get pennies for the Lord's treasury. Missionary periodicals for the children were placed in our hands, doubtless in the hope that some impression might be made which would be permanent and lead to the addition from the family to the roll of that noble band engaged in the foreign field. The discipline of the home was rigid, but I have never heard one of the family regret that our childhood was unduly taxed. My parents were firm believers in the injunction, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Two of the daughters were virtually missionaries within my father's extensive parish on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia, where they taught school for years in isolated, neglected districts, and where on Sabbath they held religious services in the schoolhouse or in the homes of the people. Another, after taking care of her mother in her last long illness, went with a lady companion to do mission work among the blacks of North Carolina.

It is just fifty years within a few days, since my father preached his farewell sermon in the old church. His text was "Brethren, farewell" and was followed by a faithful and affectionate address.

In 1848 his health became so seriously impaired that he obtained leave of absence to make a sea voyage and visit the old country. He sailed from the harbor in one of Mr. Kitchen's vessels, in which he had been offered a passage. The ship unexpectedly put in to Cork and my father eagerly embraced the opportunity to visit Father Matthew, the great apostle of temperance. In after years he often alluded to the privilege he enjoyed in making the acquaintance of this truly great man. While in England and Scotland he took advantage of every opportunity to solicit sympathy and support for the Theological Seminary at West River. He returned in one of Mr. Carmichael's vessels under the command of Captain Geo. Mackenzie. A fellow passenger was Rev. David Honeyman, who then first came to this country. The latter was best known as a practical geologist and curator of the Provincial museum. Smallpox broke out on board ship and the passengers were detained at quarantine at the beaches of Pictou for some weeks.

William Lawson Grant, in his preface to his father's life quotes a friend as saying that a biography written by a son is only one degree less contemptible than one written by a daughter. I feel confident that if you have not reverence for my father's memory which I have, you will none the less appreciate this simple and unadorned narration of facts as forming a not wholly uninteresting link in the history of Salem congregation, which you have kindly permitted me to forge.



A few facts may be added to what Mr. Waddell has said of his worthy father and the River of his time.

River John was no longer the quiet farming district with a preponderating Swiss manner of thinking and living, as when Mr. Mitchell came. There were at least five stores where general merchandise was for sale. Four ship yards were busy. Squire MacLean built on the east side of the river; Mockler on the west side, at the bridge; Kitchen and MacKenzie further down. Here as elsewhere the general notion of the time was that the men would work better if well supplied with rum. The lumbering camps were treated on the same false business principle. Teetotalism was a perpetual struggle for the teetotaler; he had to withstand the constant jeerings and pleadings of his fellow workmen, besides the temptings of his own appetite. No finer spirit was anywhere developed than under these circumstances. The really effective work was not done by the leaders in the temperance cause: Mr. Waddell, John MacQuarrie, Geo. Patriquin (the blacksmith, who was converted by Mr. Waddell`s ministration), James Lauder, E. Munro, Ch. Sutherland, necessary though their work was, but by those who patiently and manfully sustained in the strength of Christ His principles from hour to hour through years of temptation.

Temperance at River John is as old as the settlement; and so is liquor drinking. We do not know when the River John Temperance Society was formed. If it was not in existence when Mr. Waddell arrived it was quickly by him issued into being. In despite of watchfulness and earnest labor drinking increased with the increase of the population. Early in 1847 the Society found itself compelled to take special steps "to wipe off the stain of drunkeness from our settlement." A respectful letter was addressed to the magistrates (Messrs. Smith, MacLean, and Mackenzie) to do their duty; a petition signed by the better people of the community was sent to the Court of Sessions not to grant tavern license in the district for the petitioners "are of the opinion that a house of entertainment conducted on temperance principles would be sufficient for the settlement;" and a strong committee was appointed "to proceed on and act in accordance with the law in fining those that sell without license, and to keep a watch over those that belong to the Society that break their pledge and to expel them from the Society if they do not confess their fault and promise amendment." These men were not in temperance for fun, and the rum interests set seriously to oppose them, dealing the heaviest blows on the chief inspirer and director of a public moral sentiment. At a meeting of the Society, 22 March 1847, at which the Town Hall "was filled with a respectful company," his friends publicly defended him against some who "thought that he went too far with matters." As for himself, he said he knew not wherein he had gone too far and that his conscience accused him for letting matters go on too long. Later his opponents circulated false stories regarding him, to undermine his influence, and those interested in the liquor business withheld their promised contributions for the support of gospel ordinances.

The Mill Vale Temperance Society existed for many years, and had a large membership. Mr. Waddell attempted establishing a similar organization at the Cape where he had regular prayer services in Joseph Gass`s house; but he failed to obtain sufficient signatures. The Cape lacked then the unity and sobriety of Brookvale.

The reward came in seeing intemperance greatly decrease before the end of 1849.

His zeal for temperance and for education went hand in hand. In much of his field schools had been opened under Mr. Mitchell`s supervision. At the village and at Marshville they are as old as these settlements. A Mr. Taylor taught in Lewis Tattrie`s old house in Louisville in 1833. David Langill (son of John David) taught four years at Forbesville and four at Marshville before he came (about 1840) to teach at the village. Peter De Brodeur, who used to write rhymes, taught school at Bigney. When Mr. Waddell came, Wm. Jack taught in the village on the west side, and David Langill on the east side.

Under Mr. Waddell`s fostering care these schools were strengthened and others instituted. In the Fall of 1846, on his way to Mr. Kirk`s at the Backshore, he and his driver called at a house to warm themselves. The good wife of the house, ignorant of or forgetting his sentiments, in sincere Scottish hospitality, produced a decanter half-full of whiskey to treat them. Besides giving a few friendly hints against drinking and treating, he urged them to open a day-school in some suitable place and promised he would do anything in his power to get them a teacher. He used to hold prayer service in Mr. Henry`s house at Hodson. On such an occasion, as he and a few of the neighbours, after service, sat at supper, the plans were laid for a school in that district.

We have seen that our first Pastor was a Sabbath school worker almost as early as Robert Raikes, and that what he had become apprenticed to in Scotland he continued in Canada. He found one such school at the River when he came and established others in his wide field. At Marshville the school was strong when David Langill (afterwards Elder) began to teach in 1828. In Mr. Waddell`s time five Sabbath schools were conducted in the Congregation with an average attendance of 27 teachers and 180 scholars. The Minister taught three (some years four) Bible-classes each week, with an average attendance of 58. An equal number of prayer-meetings with 39 persons present on an average, were held weekly. The Congregation was reported as being 14 miles in length by 10 in breadth.

River John in his time was supplied with roads, making pastoral work easier; yet how it taxed health and strength---such roads! such conveyances! In 1845 he left Truro at noon (at the close of Synod) and arrived home at eleven at night---horse and carriage crept along at the rate of three miles an hour! James Lauder describes a trip on the third Sabbath of August 1847: Went to Cape John Shore with Rev. J. Waddell. He preached in their meeting house from these words: Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world; and in the afternoon: I seek not my interest but yours. I cannot say that he was very lively. It being a very wet day there were but few in attendance. Coming home our carriage broke; got dinner at Alexr. MacDonald's and came home. It was very wet and uncomfortable. Two matters affected Mr. Waddell`s financial support: his brave and constant advocacy of temperance, and the lack of a business system in congregational affairs. Because of the first, a number of the wealthier contributors withheld the part of the Lord`s treasury that fell into their hands. So crippled, by these and by a Board of Management that neglected to manage, did the finances of the house of God become, and so attached were the people to their minister, that application for aid was made to the Presbytery. In July 1851 it was agreed that Mr. Waddell should continue over the congregation and give his labors in it in proportion to the amount of salary paid by it, The Presbytery to provide employment and remuneration during the remainder of his time. Under this arrangement he spent five weeks in Cape Breton and five in Guysboro and Little Canso. His work in these places was helpful to the Foreign Missions of the Church. In February 1852 a Call was addressed to him from the Mabou congregation, which, after mature consideration, including consultation of his people, he declined.

The action of July 1851 was not satisfactory to either party, and hence we find the Clerk of Presbytery writing of a new arrangement to the Board of Domestic Missions under date 31 Aug. 1852:-

"At the last meeting of the Presbytery of Pictou the state of the congregation of River John was under consideration. The congregation earnestly petitioned to have Mr. Waddell continued over them, and in testimony of their sincerity presented a subscription list which in the state of the congregation the Presbytery considered very liberal. The number of the families connected with the congregation does not exceed eighty, while of these there be at least the usual number of paupers and non-payers, so that the actual burden falls on about forty families and these are not in affluent circumstances, yet they have pledged themselves to pay the sum of ninety pounds {$360}, and have a subscription list from which it is anticipated that they will be able to realize that amount without difficulty. The Presbytery thought this very liberal for them and on examining the subscription list found the individual amounts large. Under these circumstances the Presbytery considered the congregation as having a just claim for aid upon the Mission fund and therefore agreed that on its being certified that the congregation had paid up ninety pounds for the year the Presbytery would apply to the Home Mission Board for the sum of ten pounds. I am instructed by the Presbytery to lay this relation before the Board and request their concurrence in the proposal."

This settlement was satisfactory and the congregation paid $360 per annum until the end of his pastorate. The average stipend for the whole time of his ministry here was $314.84 a year, worth about $700 according to present values. From the congregation the main schemes of the Church received an average annual contribution of $34.15, and other benevolent purposes $76.27. The givings of the later years were in advance of the earlier.

The circulation of the Bible received due attention. At a meeting in the church (1846), a committee of ten prominent citizens was appointed to visit the various sections of the community in its interest. James Lauder and henry Rogers visited the Cape, entered 62 homes, found only one home without a Bible, gave gratis two Bibles and three Testaments, and sold a few. In nine months the River John Bible Society sold 100 Bibles and 200 copies of the New Testament.

His son rightly refers to Mr. Waddell's eminent service for missions. His heart was in the foreign work of the Church from its start; and others around him caught the infection of his zeal. Before Dr. Geddie went to Aneityum he spent some time (1845-46) in arousing the Church at home to her duty in the matter. Early in the spring of 1846 a tea party was held in the Freemason's Hall, Pictou, and some from the River were there. It was a great occasion; people felt the inspiration of having a hand in initiating such a noble work. After tea the gathering was addressed by Revs. David Roy, John Geddie, James Waddell, James Ross, J. MacKinlay, and Messrs. J. W. Dawson, A. Patterson, and Fogo. Sixteen pounds ($64) were taken in aid of the mission. The Missionary Register for 1853 gives an account of the institution at River John of a Juvenile Bible Jubilee and Benevolent Society. Among the gifts to missions acknowledged about this time, our eye caught the following from the River:-

Print dress and thread, Mrs. J. MacQuarrie.
5-1/2 yards home spun, Mrs. George Tattrie.
2 Pounds, Mrs. Andrew Lauder.
1 Pound, Andrew Lauder.

His son makes no reference to Mr. Waddell's generosity; in his giving he did not inform his right hand of his left hand's doings. Had one gone to the homes of the poor, many testimonies would be heard. In a year of great scarcity of grain, he sent Joseph Gass to Prince Edward Island for a boat load of oats, which he sold to those who had not money to buy seed grain. Elder George Langill was of the same spirit, often refusing in time of scarcity to sell hay or grain to such as had ready cash, saying they could buy where the moneyless would be refused. When one looked at Mr. Waddell's marvelously gentle face one knew why the children and the poor loved him; his hand and his heart were as kind as his face.


Mr John Burnyeat BA mentioned above had been rector of the village church of Sackville in New Brunswick, but in 1820 was prevailed upon to become Visiting Missionary in the Diocese of Nova Scotia, based in Truro, a post he held for 15 years. He then became the first Rector of St John's Church, Truro until 1843. He died the following year, aged only 59.

His ministry is the subject of Chapter 1, The First Missionary To Truro, in the volume The History of the Parish of St John's, Truro, Colchester, Nova Scotia, by James Albert Kaulbach DD (Archdeacon of Nova Scotia), 1913/4

(James Albert Kaulbach was my wife's great grandfather)