Locals recall livelier times, hope the area may peak again with trail development
© JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
Andrew Fraser, left and Duncan Green stand in front of the historic Knox Presbyterian Church, built in 1906 and still in use today.
BLUE MOUNTAIN – A scenic drive over rolling hills, forests and blueberry fields will get you to Blue Mountain. The original Scottish settlers who established themselves here must have felt right at home.
The first settlers of the Blue Mountain area were from Glen Urquhart in Inverness-shire, Scotland who came to the area beginning in the year 1815.
Families with surnames such as Urquhart, Ross, McDougall, Austen, Campbell, Munroe, Fraser, McDonald, Livingston, Meikle and Chisholm established themselves in the area. Many of the decendents these orginal settlers still live in the Blue Mountain and Pictou County area.
Blue Mountain was named by one of the first settlers of the area William “Deacon” Ross who described the region in his native Gaelic language “A’Bheinne Ghorm” or Blue Mountain.
Duncan Green and Andrew Fraser, originally from Garden of Eden, grew up and have lived in the area most of their lives.
They can’t help but talk about Blue Mountain with a hint of nostalgia.
“The growth in around the towns was when people started to move away,” noted Fraser. “Our last little country store closed in the 1990s because of the bigger businesses.”
Back in the day however, the area was a beehive of activity. The community had a cheese factory, several blacksmiths shops, an undertaker, a carriage factory, several merchants, a post office, ice house and a public school.
Many community organizations existed in the Blue Mtn area such as a Temperence Society, Woman’s Mission Societies, A Shooting Club, Agriculture Society , Red Cross, Young Peoples, 4-H , Cubs and Scouts, Women’s Institute, Gardern Club, Recreation and Sports teams.
Like most communities in the 1800s, the church was the centre of community life.
The first church was erected in the year 1834 and was made of logs, a monument in the Blue Mtn. Pioneer Cemetery marks the spot. The second framed church was constructed and officially opened in the year 1856. The third and present church, Knox Presbyterian was built in the year 1906 and is still in use today.
“Like all other churches, our membership is down,” said Green. “The younger people aren’t going and it’s mainly for us older folk.”
The congregation in Blue Mountain has combined with Garden of Eden’s church and East River St. Mary’s. They rotate services each month in each of the churches.
“At most we have about 40 people in for a Sunday service,” said Fraser.
Nowadays, the Blue Mountain Fire Hall has taken the mantle of community centre. Suppers and breakfasts are often held and a community members are offered use of fitness equipment, with a donation suggested, year round.
Fraser said the wheels are in motion to try and get new things to the area while taking advantage of the natural beauty of the area. Locals in the community feel that Blue Mountain may yet rise again.
“They’re in the process of trying to develop some trails for hiking and skiing in the wintertime. It’s an opportunity for some new beginnings here. Who knows what can happen.”
*Special thanks to John Ashton for the historical research gathered and used in this article*