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Prior to the arrival of Irish and Scottish settlers the island was used as a summer camp, and a stopping place on the way to and from Prince Edward Island, by the Mi’kmaq.

August 18, 2002
Kenneth MacCallum
  1809 Pictou Island is granted by the Crown to Admiral Sir Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane (1758-1832).
(In 1809, Admiral Cochrane was appointed Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy, and captured Guadeloupe, St. Martin, St. Eustasche and Suba from the French. The grant was probably a reward for his victories; he was one of the major British naval heroes of the Napoleonic Wars.)
  1814 Admiral Cochrane sends his agent, William Cumming, to settle the Island. Cumming was accompanied or soon followed, by three families named Boyd, Hogan and Morris, all of whom were from Ireland.
[John D. MacCallum, letter to The Pictou Advocate, 22 December, 1978.]
  October 1817 Census of the District of Pictou: nothing indicates where heads of households resided ( The census has the following three consecutive entries, which appear to be Cummings (the agent for Admiral Cochrane), and the Boyd and “Morris” families on Pictou Island:

CUMMINGS William - 1 2 1 1 5
BOYD Robert 1 1 - 1 - 3
CADION Morris - 1 1 1 1 4

Columns represent: Men above 50; men >16 and < 50; boys; women; girls; total number of persons.
  About 1819 The first Scots arrive on the Island. They were John McDonald, Donald McDonald and Charles Campbell. In the following years, Kenneth McKenzie purchased the property of Cumming and acted as agent. All of the Scots were Highlanders and strife soon developed between them and the Irish settlers. The Irish left the Island and just before they did so, a fire broke out which consumed the greater part of the forest on the Island. Tradition has it that the fire was started by Granny Boyd, the wife of one of the Irish settlers.
[Paraphrase of John D. MacCallum, letter to The Pictou Advocate, 22 December, 1978]
  1829 An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova-Scotia: In Two Volumes by Thomas Haliburton shows 59 souls, 116 cultivated acres, 80 bushels grain, 101 bushels wheat, 630 bushels of potatoes, 12 tons of hay, no horses, 26 horned cattle, 26 sheep and 12 swine on Pictou Island.
  1830 Survey of Pictou Island shows 11 homes and Adamson’s shipyard: 2 Campbells, 3 McCallums, 3 McDonalds and 3 McKenzies  
  1830 “The earliest known burials on the Island were those of two small boys who were drowned at the West End of the Island about 1830.” [John D. MacCallum, letter to The Pictou Advocate, 22 December, 1978.]

One of these boys appears to be Donald McCallum who died 9 May, 1830, aged 3, son of Charles McCallum and Helen McNeil. His tombstone in the Pioneer Cemetery was still legible in 2000.
  1832 Admiral Sir Alexander Inglis Cochrane dies.  
  1833  Pictou Island is conveyed to Sir Thomas John Cochrane (1789-1872).  
  1834 Power of Attorney from Sir Thomas John Cochrane to Edward Wallace and Hugh Hartshorn.
[Pictou County Registry Office, Book 16, Page 177.]

Sir Thomas John Cochrane leaves Newfoundland (where he had been Governor General and Commander in Chief from 1825 to 1829) and returns to England.

Advertisement in The Pictou Bee by Edward Wallace and Hugh Hartshorne advertising lots for sale of one hundred acres each.
[Ruth Munro, Pictou Island, Page 7.]

  1838 Pictou County census: 17 households with 118 or 119 residents. No Campbells, 4 McCallums, 4 McDonalds, 6 McKenzies, Hugh McLean, David Rogers and James Walsh.  
  Mid 1800's The first school is built. [Ruth Munro, Pictou Island, page 14.]  
  1840 Deed conveying Lot 4 on the 1830 survey to John McDonald. This is the earliest deed effecting a subdivision of Pictou Island following the survey of 1830.  
  1844 Pictou Island sold by Sir Thomas John Cochrane (by his attorneys) to John McGregor, excepting five acres reserved for purposes of a lighthouse and Lot 4 granted to “John McDonald the Governor so called of said Island… in 1840”.  
  1853 Wreck of the Fairy Queen in Northumberland Strait off Pictou Island.  
  1853/4 A lighthouse is built near the East End on the southern side of the Island, rather than at the extremity of the East End where it could also be seen from PEI.  
  1858 25 households with 158 residents.
[Eric Ross, Pictou Island - The Rise and Fall of an Island Community, page 6; source unknown.]
  1861 Census of Pictou County: 24 households with 161 residents. 1 Campbell, James Hogg, 7 McCallums, 6 McDonalds, Allan McFarlane, 4 McKenzies, Hugh McLean, 2 Pattersons and David Smith.  
  1871 Pictou County census: 26 households with 161 residents.  
  1874 The school is destroyed by fire. Within a year, a new one room school is built on the lands of Charles MacCallum.
[Ruth Munro, Pictou Island, page 14.]
  1878 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Pictou County, Nova Scotia shows 27 homes on Pictou Island, and lists 19 subscribers.  
  1881 Pictou County census: 24+ households.  
  August 1881 A post office is established. Alexander F. Campbell is the first postmaster until his death in 1897.  
  1884 Disaster and rescue on the wreck of the Inverault at the East End.  
  1891 Pictou County census: 31 households.  
  1901 Pictou County census: 33 households. This is the last census that has been released to the public.  
  1910 The Church is built.
[Ruth Munro, Pictou Island, page 22.]

The hearse is bought from the McLaren Bros. Funeral Home in Pictou.
[Ruth Munro, Pictou Island, page 56.]

  1912 Map by John Malcolm MacCallum prepared in the 1970s and given to John D. MacCallum shows 29 households with 164 residents.  
  1921 37 households with 225 residents. [Eric Ross, page 7; source not cited, but may be the following letter.]

Population was 224. [John D. MacCallum, letter to The Pictou Advocate, 22 December, 1978; source of this information is unknown.]

  1924 George Rankin gets a Ford car, the first on the Island.
[Ruth Munro, Pictou Island, page 48.]
  1931 Population was 228. [John D. MacCallum, letter to The Pictou Advocate, 22 December, 1978; source of this information is unknown.]  
  1956 Population is 150.
[Source is unknown.]
  1958 A new school is built, and land is purchased for the new cemetery behind the Church.  
  1984 Ruth Munro publishes her book, Pictou Island.  
  In the early 1970s A group of young people settled on the island. They were joined by others in subsequent years. The full-time population, as of 2008, stands at nineteen, four of whom are directly descended from the early Scots.
In summer, the population rises as descendants of the original Scottish settlers return to their homes for the season, and others from the outside world come to spend time in their summer homes and cottages.

[1] John D. MacCallum refers to him as Cumming; he appears as Cummings in the 1817 census.