Sherbrooke Cottage

Sherbrooke Cottage & the Families Who Called Her Home

Simple and elegant, Sherbrooke Cottage sat among 12 acres on a grassy knoll  overlooking Pictou Harbour.  At completion, the McCulloch homestead was a story and a half high, boasted distinctive Scottish gables and offered a beautiful view of the harbour and the three rivers that flow into it.

Built circa 1806 and constructed primarily of brick, the free stone facings surrounding the doors and windows give the cottage a solid but charming appearance.  A few years after its construction, Thomas enlarged the home by adding a large wooden room onto the back to be used as dining, study and sleeping quarters for the pupils he housed.  By 1817, the cottage sheltered 29 people, 16 of which were boarding students. 

Sherbrooke Cottage was christened by Thomas McCulloch in honour of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, a great supporter of Pictou Academy.   The home remained in the McCulloch family for over 80 years. 

In 1891 William Edward Maclellan and his wife, Margaret Jane purchased the property from the heirs of Rev. Thomas McCulloch, namely his surviving children, who were then living in Truro, Halifax, Ontario, and Newfoundland.  

William E Maclellan, born at Durham in 1855, was the son of John Maclellan, J P and Helen Hogg Maclellan.  William E Maclellan was educated at Pictou Academy and Dalhousie and received a law degree from the University of Halifax.  His brother Robert Maclellan was a beloved principal of Pictou Academy for over 30 years.  William’s wife, Margaret Jane MacKenzie born in 1854, was the daughter of William MacKenzie and Eleanor Cameron MacKenzie of Loch Broom, Pictou County.  Credit for the painting of the cottage shown above and the beautiful florals surrounding the two parlour fireboxes is given to Margaret Jane Maclellan.  A notable journalist, William also displayed a poetic side when he wrote "The Hector Voyage" celebrating the Hector landing in Pictou. 

William, Margaret Jane and their two sons, Edward Kirkpatrick and Robert William, lived in the McCulloch house for almost 10 years. The Maclellan family removed to Halifax in 1900 where William became the editor of the Halifax Chronical (then known as the Morning Chronicle).  In 1905 he accepted the appointment of Post Office Inspector for Nova Scotia.   

The Armstrong family moved into Sherbrooke Cottage in 1900 and lived there for the next 8 years.  Edward and Annie Armstrong had a family of six children: William, Harry, Edna, Marion, Mary and Lilly. Their large family was most likely was a major factor in the decision to alter the roofline.  It was during their time at the cottage the dormers were added and the roof was raised to the gambrel style it is today.

Edward Lawson Armstrong was born at Kempt Shore, Hants County, NS in 1854.  His wife, Annie Rebecca Armstrong was born at Mosherville, Hants County, NS in 1861 to William and Mary Ann Murphy.  E L Armstrong taught school in Hants County before moving to Pictou to become the principal of the West End School.  He resigned his position as principal to accept the position of inspector of schools which he held for 20 some years.

Edward and Annie’s daughter Marion was an accomplished soprano who studied at the Damrosch School in New York (Juilliard). Marion had a very sucessful career touring North America and Europe. She returned to Pictou during the 150th celebration of the Hector landing to preform for her hometown.

Rev. James W Fraser, his wife Catherine along with their four children made Sherbrooke Cottage their home in 1908.  James William Fraser was born at St Paul’s East River, Pictou County in 1841.  When he was 18, he went to Glasgow, Scotland to pursue a theology degree.  He returned to NS where he ministered for four years in both English and Gaelic in River Inhabitants, Cape Breton.  In 1870 he received the call to Scotsburn and Cape John.  Nine years later he married Isabella McKay, the daughter of David and Catherine McKay of Rogers Hill.  Rev Fraser retired in 1907 after seeing his St John’s Kirk congregation merge with the Bethel and unite with the Presbyterian Church of Canada.  Rev Fraser played a large part in facilitating this union and was most likely very satisfied in his retirement and his new home in Pictou. 

Robert Hockin Pope, the son of William Henry Pope and Christy Grant Pope was born in 1884 at Pictou. A widower, Robert H married again in 1918.  His second wife, Ellen Iza Rena Young, born in 1881, was the daughter of Thomas Joseph Young and Margaret MacGillivray Young of Millsville.  Robert, a customs officer, purchased the cottage from the daughters of Rev Fraser in 1920 and moved in with his wife Rena and baby daughter, Margaret Elaine.  Over the next six years, two sons, William and Thomas Russell joined their family.  The Pope’s lived at Sherbrooke cottage until 1934 when the family moved to Halifax where Robert accepted the appointment of Inspector of Customs for the port of Halifax.

Murdock McCuish, a mason and carpenter, was born in 1889 at Hantsport, NS to Daniel and Jane Congdon McCuish.  In 1914 he married 23 year old Emma, the daughter of Colin and Elizabeth McDonald of Toney River, NS.  The McCuish family spent their early years together traveling throughout the New England states while Murdock worked for an engineering company.  Tired of moving so often, the young family decided to return to Pictou county and set down permanent roots. 

Sherbrooke Cottage was in disrepair by the time Emma and Murdock McCuish crossed her threshold in 1934.   The grounds at this time consisted of seven acres and included an apple orchard and grapevines.  The McCuish family immediately began restoration of their new property, doing the majority of the work themselves.  It was during these renovations, the historical importance of their house became very clear. From then on, Emma and Murdock made it their mission to preserve and promote the home and history of Rev. Thomas McCulloch.  This led to their decision of eventually selling the house and property to the province of Nova Scotia in 1972.  It is mainly due to the work of Emma and Murdock McCuish that Sherbrooke Cottage stands today for all of us to enjoy.