We pride ourselves on our history and the Pictou Island Community Association (PICA) has dedicated committees to keeping some of the historic sites in the best repair. They have restored these sites so that their beauty and history can be preserved.
Sutherland Memorial Church
The church is located near the middle of the island and is open for visitors to see its beautiful textured ceiling, WWI and II dedication plaques, beautiful stained-glass window and its historic pump organ. The church also has every window dedicated to past islanders, with these windows adorned in Nova Scotia tartan curtains, showing our proud heritage. The church is used for spiritual, cultural and social activities and can be rented out for events.
In 2013 a committee was formed under the Pictou Island Community Association (PICA) to purchase the church as the small congregation of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, which struggled to maintain the buildings upkeep from the mainland. This committee develop a sustainable plan for its use and its upkeep, raising money and renting it out to gain funds for the renovations. Many structural renovations and repairs have been made, such as replacing windows, support beams, as well as a cosmetic repainting of the inside.
Early spiritual services were held in homes, then at the school after its construction in the mid-1800s. Back then Presbyterian was the main religion of the island.
In 1908, land was donated by Alex Campbell to build a church & it was completed in 1910. During this era there was a young minister, named William Sutherland, who was instrumental in completing the project. In appreciation for his efforts, the church was named after him.
Weekly services were held at the church in the spring, summer and autumn until the 70s, with student ministers being assigned to officiate. It dropped to a yearly service when the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Pictou took over.
The new cemetery is located behind the church. This was purchased in the late 1950s and consists of 24 double lots.
Located near the middle of the island, behind the Community Center and is run by the Pictou Island Heritage Society. The heritage building houses the last ice boat which had been housed in the Northumberland Fisheries Museum since August of 2008.
Ice boats were used on the Island from as early as the 1870’s until 1950 and were designed as mail carriers and in an emergency, would act as transportation for ill or injured Islanders. The ice boat on display was built in 1941 by Vincent Turple Sr. on Pictou Island. Eddie “Spike” MacDonald was the last ice boat operator and ice boat postmaster. The intention of displaying the ice boat on the Island was directly related to context: visitors of the Heritage Site would have traveled the same distance as the ice boat would have across the Northumberland Strait during the ferry ride to the Island.
The Heritage Site also houses several small displays that are intended to reflect aspects of Pictou Island History: industry, infrastructure, and homesteading. Some of the additional artifacts include a handmade model steamer built on Pictou Island in 1935, a first draft petition from Pictou Island fishermen to retain a 2.5-mile radius of private fishing grounds around the Island, as well as a collection of antique farm and home items.
The Hearse is located between the Sutherland Memorial Church and the Community Center and is viewable through the display windows of its housing. The current housing, a building with large windows and a small locked door, was modified out of an old shed in 2012, in which it was previously housed in.
The hearse is one of two of the last horse drawn hearses left in Nova Scotia and a lot of superstition is placed around it. The most well-known legend says that when the hearse is removed from its dwelling, someone on the island will die. Luckily, the current dwelling was built so that it is enclosed and cannot fit out the door. Other legends stem from its days in use, where the horses that pulled the hearse would act skittish. One such, is that if the horses stopped on the way to the cemetery, this forewarned another death.
The island purchased, the then, 50-year-old horse drawn hearse from McLarens Funeral Home in 1910. During its use, black horses would pull the hearse to the cemetery for adults and white would pull it for children. A pallbearer would walk alongside each wheel carrying a lantern and were ready uncase the wheel got stuck on its way to the cemetery. The wheels could be switched out for sleigh runners for the winter months. The road to the cemetery was long and worn and women rarely made the venture. Its use was stopped sometime after the 60s, with the age of it being horse drawn stopping before the mid 1900s.
The pioneer cemetery is located on a quarter mile path off the main road. This distance was due to the Scottish superstition of the dead “walking”, giving it a safe isolated distance from the main road. The one and a half parcel of land has 105 marked graves and an unknown number of unmarked graves. Modern interments do not often happen, but acceptations have been made for pioneer descendants.
Over the years the cemetery became neglected and overgrown. In 1991, fundraising campaigns and government funding brought the community together to restore the cemetery. Now, a student is hired to maintain the grounds in the summer.
The land was original purchased from Joseph A. McInnis for the sum or forty dollars near the end of 1890 to provide an official resting place for deceased island settlers. The first burials predated this purchase and were of 2 small boys who drowned in 1830, with one of their headstones still legible. Since then many original families have been buried there and many of their descendants still reside on the island today.
Located by the wharf, it is the last of 3 original lighthouses remaining on the island, with the other two turned into skeleton structures. It was registered as a heritage building under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act in 2015 and a committee was formed under the Pictou Island Community Association (PICA) to restore the structure to its original condition as a historic building. The Lighthouse was built in 1907, when the island population was increasing relied on by fishing and ferry services. The square tapered wooden tower design was popular with the Department of Marine and Fisheries in the 19th and 20th centuries, as similarities can be seen across Nova Scotia and PEI in that time period.