Top News

A journey of Faith along the Jitney Trail, (Part 1)

By Fred Jeffery

The age of reflection – has it hit you yet?

Do you often reflect on your life’s story or for that matter, have you wondered about the future God may have for you in His service? Did you know that before you left your mother’s womb, God had a plan for your life? That you were known even before the foundation of the world began?

Personally, at times I failed to see the Master’s plan for my own life but unknowingly, God set the stage for His plan to be fulfilled in my life down through the many decades I have lived. My story is a journey of faith along the Jitney trail of Salvation where I first encountered the Lord in my life. It is a journey that has only led me about 30 kilometres from where I was born in Pictou to where I now reside in Hopewell with the love of my life, Shirley.

The Jitney Trail is a well known abandoned railway corridor and now a part of the Trans Canada Trail. We referred to it as the Short Line and it ran from Amherst to Pictou, and then branched off to the upper towns, crossing the Mile Long Bridge, over that great span of water where the mouths of three rivers met. From there it travelled alongside the Middle River, stopping when necessary at the Loch Broom Station, or the Sylvester and Alma stations, then across the Horne’s bridge to Westville CNR Station. It would eventually connect with the line to Antigonish through to Cape Breton.

For many people the Short line was their connection to the world and to their work. Many travelled on the Short Line to Pictou Academy to continue their education in the early years of the 20th century.

The Salvation Army, from the time I can remember at the age of five years, has been my life’s calling. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I reflect, I can see that God was directing me. All these key events would occur along this trail. At the age of five, I can remember my mother taking me to the Salvation Army in Pictou. Mrs. Winnifred Grant was the Young People’s Sergeant-Major and, in reality, she represented the Army’s mission of soup, soap and salvation and the love of God to many Pictou residents in the those early years.

I never knew my own father as he left us after I was born. It was one of the regrets of my life that I would never forget and many times I questioned why. My family then left Pictou and we ended up in Westville for a short time. It was there as a Junior Soldier or a young member of that Sunday school that Mom connected us to the Salvation Army in that coal-mining town where we lived first on Court Street, then down Union Street in a two-room shack.

Our stepfather at the time was very abusive and life was difficult. I believe the shock of terrible events in our home life caused me to lose any memory of attending the Salvation Army in the late 1950s but there was a record left of my attendance which would be used to call me back when I approached my teen years in the early 1960s.

The Jitney Trail went past our Sylvester home following the Middle River. A very kind train engineer, Harding Carter would play a huge role in my life as a Salvationist who showed the love of God through his acts of kindness, dumping off coal to us that he carried on his train, or Hamilton Biscuits (seconds) that he would pick up in Pictou at the factory and drop off the bags at our yard and we would feast on cookies. Imagine that! He didn’t know us personally but God was using him to help this large family of ours not with soup and soap but with coal and cookies.

I remember a fire that started in our Sylvester home. I was a teenager at that time and attending West Pictou District High School. My younger brother John lit a candle and crawled under the bed to find something he was missing. The bed caught on fire. Five minutes later I would have left for school. God intervened and together my brothers and I were able to drag the burning mattress downstairs, through the back room laden with papers, through the front door to the outside.

I remember going down the railway tracks to Mr. and Mrs. Chenell’s home, an older couple who lived right next to the Sylvester Station and asking if I could use their phone to call the Salvation Army in Westville. Lieutenant Betty Barnum responded and by the end of the day we had a brand new bed. To this day, I don’t know how she ever managed to help us the way she did, nor how we were able to drag the new bed up the railway tracks to where we lived in the woods.

These were the early years of my upbringing, but God was preparing me for a closer and deeper walk with Him. Though there were many challenges, I felt God was leading me and my journey of salvation along the Jitney Trail would continue.

Who are the people in your life who, under the Lord’s leading have helped you during those foundational years of your faith?

Fred Jeffery is a retired school administrator and member of the Salvation Army.

Recent Stories