DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

GRAHAM, HUGH, Presbyterian minister; b. 16 Oct. 1758 in West Calder, Scotland, son of Hugh Graham and Agnes Allan; m. first c. 1785 Elizabeth – in Scotland; m. secondly 1792 Elizabeth Whidden of Cornwallis, N.S., and they had five children who survived to adulthood; d. 7 April 1829 in Upper Stewiacke, N.S.

Since his father was a prosperous farmer, Hugh Graham was able to attend the University of Edinburgh. Upon graduating he studied theology under the Reverend John Brown of Theological Hall, Haddington, and in 1781 he received his licence from the Presbytery of Edinburgh as a minister in the Secession Church, the church in which his father had been an elder. His first call came from the congregation of South Shields, England, in 1785, but a second soon followed from the people of Cornwallis, N.S. The synod appointed him to the Nova Scotian post.

Graham arrived at Halifax in the summer of 1785. He stayed briefly there before joining his congregation in Cornwallis, where he delivered his first sermon on 29 August. Cornwallis had been initially settled by Acadians, who were replaced after the expulsion of 1755 by New Englanders [see Charles Lawrence*]. The first English-speaking minister in the settlement was the New England Congregational pastor Benajah Phelps, who served from 1765 to 1776. The evangelical New Lights followed Phelps, erecting a church in 1778 and maintaining a ministry under John Payzant from 1786 to 1793. The success of the New Lights, who opposed compulsory contributions from their congregations, was a source of continual frustration to Graham. His congregation was small, and he was not able to afford his own house until 1791. For a time he considered returning to Scotland, but decided against it.

On 2 Aug. 1786 Graham assisted three other Presbyterian clergymen, Daniel Cock of Truro, David Smith of Londonderry, and George Gillmore* of Windsor, in organizing the Associate Presbytery of Truro, the first such body in the colony. However, the 1747 division of the Secession Church in Scotland into burgher and anti-burgher factions carried over into Nova Scotia: in 1795 three anti-burgher ministers, James Drummond MacGregor, Duncan Ross, and John Brown, established the Associate Presbytery of Pictou in opposition to the Truro presbytery, whose ministers adhered to the church’s burgher wing. Some years later, because of his position in the Truro presbytery (he had been chosen its clerk in 1795), Graham figured prominently in discussions aiming at a merger of the two presbyteries. Union was finally achieved on 3 July 1817, when the synod of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia assembled in Truro. This was the first synod in British North America of the Presbyterian Church. The only ministers who remained separated from the new body were Archibald Gray, the Church of Scotland minister at St Matthew’s, Halifax, and Bruin Romkes Comingo*, the German Reformed pastor at Lunenburg.

Graham was never content at Cornwallis and, when in 1799 a call came from the united congregation of Stewiacke and Musquodoboit, he accepted. This area, split between Colchester and Halifax counties, had been settled in the 1780s by Irish and New England Presbyterians. Graham was attracted to it because of the religious homogeneity of its inhabitants and the promise of an annual stipend of £110. He was inducted on 27 Aug. 1800 and settled in Upper Stewiacke. As a result of rapid population growth, Stewiacke and Musquodoboit were divided into separate congregations in March 1815, with John Laidlaw assuming responsibility for Musquodoboit and Graham retaining Stewiacke.

Graham’s lot in Nova Scotia was not an easy one. He had a tragic personal life, losing two wives (the first in 1786 after scarcely a year of marriage and the second in 1816) and several children. Travel was always a problem – on one occasion he walked upwards of 30 miles to preach at an isolated settlement – and contact with his fellow clergy was rare, something he had hoped would change with the move from Cornwallis to Upper Stewiacke. After taking charge of Stewiacke and Musquodoboit he had to contend with hostility from the anti-burghers of the area, and a few years passed before he gained the respect and support of his entire flock. Still, life was better at Stewiacke, since he had land and the sons to work, it.

Graham was called by Thomas Chandler Haliburton* one of the founders of Presbyterianism in Nova Scotia. His career is also important, however, because it typifies the struggle that confronted all ministers in pioneer Nova Scotia.

James E. Candow

A sermon by Hugh Graham, “A warning to youth; or an address to the rising generation,” is available in the Christian Instructor, and Missionary Reg. of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia (Pictou, N.S.), 5 (1860): 5–13. References to another published work, possibly called Two sermons entitled the relation and relative duties of the pastor and people, delivered at the admission of the Reverend John Waddel to the charge of the united congregations of Truro and Onslow (Halifax, 1799), appear in a number of secondary sources, including Robertson’s history of the Secession Church, cited below, and Tremaine, Biblio. of Canadian imprints. The sermons are also recorded under two different titles, along with an unpublished history of religion in Nova Scotia by Graham, in H. J. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis. No copies of any of these works have been located.

PANS, MG 1, 332B; 742; RG 20A, 38, Hugh Graham, 1811. Univ. of King’s College Library (Halifax), Israel Longworth, “A history of the county of Colchester” (2 pts., Truro, N.S., 1866–78; typescript at PANS). T. C. Haliburton, An historical and statistical account of Nova-Scotia (2v., Halifax, 1829; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1973). Weekly Chronicle, 21 June 1816. J. M. Bumsted, Henry Alline, 1748–1784 (Toronto, 1971). Gregg, Hist. of Presbyterian Church (1885; 1905). Alexander Maclean, The story of the Kirk in Nova Scotia (Pictou, N.S., 1911). Thomas Miller, Historical and genealogical record of the first settlers of Colchester County . . . (Halifax, 1873; repr. Belleville, 1972). J. S. Moir, Enduring witness: a history of the Presbyterian Church in Canada ([Hamilton, Ont., 1974?]). George Patterson, Memoir of the RevJames MacGregor, D.D. . . . (Philadelphia, 1859). James Robertson, History of the mission of the Secession Church to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, from its commencement in 1765 (Edinburgh, 1847). Stewiacke . . . (Truro, 1902; repr. Belleville, 1973). C. B. Fergusson, “The sesquicentennial of the first synod of the Presbyterian Church in Canada,” Dalhousie Rev., 48 (1968–69): 215–21.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

James E. Candow, “GRAHAM, HUGH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/graham_hugh_1758_1829_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/graham_hugh_1758_1829_6E.html
Author of Article:   James E. Candow
Title of Article:   GRAHAM, HUGH
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   May 21, 2024