History of Gospel Preaching in New Brunswick - 1 - New Brunswick

Chapter 1 - New Brunswick
 New Brunswick

New Brunswick is the least known of all the Maritime Provinces. If anyone travels away from this area, and people inquire where your home is and you answer "New Brunswick" - if you were in Florida, they think maybe you are from New Jersey. If you were in California, they may ask, "Is it near Vancouver"?. The farther away you travel, you have to mention Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island as more people are familiar with these provinces than New Brunswick. And then there are some places where you have to give the geographical location which is: New Brunswick is situated on the East coast of Canada. It is bordered on the West by the State of Maine, USA, on the South by Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy, on the East by the Northumberland Strait and on the North by the Province of Quebec.

The province was named for the German duchy of Brunswick-Luneburg better known as the electorate of Hanover of which King George III of England was the ruler when New Brunswick became a colony in 1784.

New Brunswick had a great fishing fleet and many people were employed in the fishing industry. In later years, the government has closed down a lot of the fishing areas because of a depletion of fish putting many residents out of work. New Brunswick employs many people in the forests as well as in mines but these industries have slowed down in recent years also.

Because approximately 40% of the population is French-speaking, the pupils in the French school districts are instructed in French, but from grade 4 on,

some districts learn English as a second language and are therefore bilingual. In the late 1960's, total immersion in French was made available in English schools and now in the 90's, many more English speaking children are growing up bilingual.



Early History of New Brunswick Assemblies

Mr. John Knox McEwen and Mr. John Dickson have written about the early work among the assemblies in Nova Scotia; Mr. Albert Ramsay wrote about the work in Prince Edward Island; Douglas and Muriel Howard wrote about the work in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and Shelley Beck wrote about L. K. McIlwaine’s work in Nova Scotia, so it must be time for us to learn about the early work done in New Brunswick and those who were involved in carrying on that work from the early days to the present time.

While researching at Gospel Folio Press, in Grand Rapids, MI, I discovered a report written in 1886 by John Grimason from the Barley Cake Magazine as follows:

Baie Verte, New Brunswick

A whole province here to myself, all strangers to me, but they are the kind God saves - the poor. Your tracts and papers received - God is working.

The following report is from John Martin printed in the Barley Cake Magazine in 1887:

The Trumpet of August 13 came duly to hand (via Boston). Brother Mitchell and I left Nova Scotia on July 1st for Tidnish, New Brunswick where Brother Grimason had labored a year ago and a few souls got saved and gathered out according to Matthew 18:20. We had two weeks meetings in Timber River 8 miles north of Tidnish. Before we left, we had the pleasure of baptizing two brethren.

Then we went to Buctouche, 62 miles north on the coast (quite a French settlement) with several Scotch settlements in that neighbourhood - both Highland and Lowland - but mostly of the former from the Isle of Mull. We would have managed better on the part of some if we could have talked the Gaelic. The people came out well, some from far distances. We had a schoolhouse at Mill Creek (6 miles from Buctouche). We also had some meetings in Buctouche but they did not answer apparently so well as at Mill Creek. A young man professed to be saved and got baptized and also his wife and one or two more professed.

About this time I was corresponding with a Baptist from Prince Edward Island, who gave us a hearty invitation to come over, so we found a schooner at Buctouche and set sail. It is over three weeks since we commenced the meetings. Large numbers come in. Sometimes 30 and

40 have to remain outside. The people are mostly Highland Scotch from the Isle of Skye and mostly Presbyterians by profession. The truth is taking hold of quite a number of younger people.

Yours in Christ,

John Martin


and the following is from Our Record of November, 1888:

I arrived in Buctouche from Prince Edward Island in the beginning of September. Have convened meetings for the Gospel in various parts of Kent County such as Coatesville, Mill Creek, McLaughlin Road, MacLean Settlement, Little River and East and West Galloway. Conversions to God have taken place in several of the above-mentioned places and some were baptized. There were a number of French settlements in this county under the sway of Romanism. They report me as one of Chiniquy’s students.

Most of them understand a little English and I have sought to communicate the Gospel to not a few of these blinded people. I generally begin with them by telling that I am saved now and sure of Heaven. My authority and proof I take from Saint Peter, such as in Acts 10:43 & 44, 1 Peter 2:24 and 3:18. I make more headway with them by quoting from Peter than from Paul’s writings.

I have just met with two saved French people in Kent County. They are in the Baptist circle. The most of the other settlers are Scotch and English who by profession are either Presbyterian, Baptist or Methodist.

Through the Gospel, some have been led out and into the joy and liberty of the Grace of Christ. Galatians 1:6. A few Methodists have got undeceived and saved by grace. The Methodist minister, in consequence, has been wrathy calling me an imposter. He said, "Jesus

paid it all is not enough" and that Jesus only atoned for original sin so that we could work our way to heaven!

Yours by Grace,

John Martin

Following are some excerpts from later magazines.

From Our Record

December 1901 David Scott is in Garden of Eden, Nova Scotia. He finds the serpent has been there ahead of him. God is moving some.

March 1906 David Scott is having interesting meetings in Pugwash Junction. Some in soul trouble. Brother Ansley Goodwin is having meetings near his home in Timber River, NB with some interest.

August 1906 Dr. E. A. Martin (Boston) reports a good conference in Amherst, NS at which Brethren Scott, Goodwin, Martin, Brennan, Bears, Milnes and himself took part. Scott and Milnes have pitched a tent in Avondale, NS. Dr. Martin and Mr. Goodwin pitched one in Amherst, NS. Dr. Martin is

finding the change beneficial to his health.

September 1914 Bass River, NB W. N. Brennan and Mr. R. Milnes preached in a tent here with encouraging interest.

January 1915 Brethren W. N. Brennan and R. B. Milnes are laboring together in a canvas tent in a country place in New Brunswick.

March 1915 After having meetings in Baie Verte, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Milnes were going to South Branch, NB for meetings.

August 1915 Brethren Brennan and Milnes spent five weeks in Northern NB where they had the tent last year and where they purpose pitching the tent again this summer.

July 1917 Mr. W. N. Brennan took a trip of 75 miles on foot going from house to house with tracts and speaking a word as opportunity afforded. He also had six cottage meetings and one in the schoolhouse. Mr. Milnes and he had pitched their tent at

Bryants Corner and had a fair number in to start with.

September 1917 Bryants Corner - Mr. Brennan and Milnes are still in the tent here. 30 to 35 come in on week nights and 60 to 75 on Sunday evenings. One young man has professed and gives real joy.

October 1917 Bryants Corner - Brennan and Milnes were encouraged in the tent work this summer. They had the joy of baptizing 13 before leaving.

January 1918 R. Milnes is having encouraging meetings in New Brunswick.

September 1920 Moncton, NB - Mr. Brennan and Mr. Milnes have the tent here. The first meetings gave promise of good attendance.

March 1921 Bro. R. Milnes has gone to join Bro. I. McMullen at Moncton.

June 1921 Bryants Corner, NB - After 11 weeks of Gospel meetings Bro. Isaac McMullen saw a break and over 20 have professed.

August 1925 Attending the Pugwash Junction Conference in July, 1925 were John Knox McEwen, W. J. McClure, James Waugh, W. Cullough, Isaac McMullen and Mr. W. N. Brennan.

The men listed in the above reports were the workers who followed Mr. John Knox McEwen, Mr. Robert Milnes, Mr. John Grimason, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. John Martin, Mr. George Simpson, Mr. David Scott preaching the Gospel in New Brunswick.

The following excerpt was taken from Our Record in 1936.

Mr. T. D. W. Muir told of a widow who had read in the Bible of the widow who had given two "mites" and she wanted to do the same so she gave Mr. Muir a pair of woollen "mitts" that she had knit. The colours were brilliant red and green but they were thick wool and during many a cold Canadian winter had kept his hands and wrists comfortably warm. The intelligence in reading the Scriptures was somewhat defective but her heart was all right, proving that she was a disciple indeed and "She hath done what she could".



George Simpson

George Simpson was a son of Mr. & Mrs. George Simpson of Galt, Ontario. George Junior was saved when young and was a quiet studious young man. He was baptized and took his place in the Galt Assembly.

George had a passion to win souls and labored to this end among his relatives and neighbours.


Mr. John Knox McEwen was well known among the saints in Galt and his ministry was esteemed. His godly life and zeal for the perishing had a deep influence over young George Simpson. George became much exercised about the Lord’s work especially of the need in Nova Scotia. In this, he was encouraged by Mr. McEwen. When he was fully persuaded in his own mind, he left home with the prayers and fellowship of fellow saints to join Mr. McEwen in Nova Scotia.

The Maritime Provinces were fallow ground. Only one assembly, Port Howe, had been established and Mr. McEwen was countering bitter opposition. However, Mr. Simpson was prepared to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ with his beloved brother in Christ Mr. McEwen. George Simpson remained in Nova Scotia preaching the Gospel for several years. In October of 1891, he and Miss Ada MacPherson were married in the bride’s home in Pugwash River. A few years after their marriage, the Simpson’s returned to Ontario and later moved to St. Louis, Missouri. His health broke down and he was called home to be with the Lord at 39 years of age. He was survived by two daughters, Miss Isabelle Simpson and Mrs. Gertrude Simpson Johanningmeyer.

The above information was taken from Pioneer Work in the Maritimes by John T. Dickson.

Mr. McEwen tells of George Simpson in his Reminisces of Early Pioneer Work:

The preaching of God’s word night after night caused great opposition. Dear George Simpson was a true helper. We used to sing ‘Would You Know Why I Love


Jesus’ and I think the folks thought we were most wonderful singers. The meetings grew larger and larger each evening and people came from miles around.


In 1929, I visited Sackville, Sussex, Dorchester, Salisbury, Moncton and went North as far as Shediac scattering the Good Seed, then I came to Baie Verte and Port Elgin and joined three dear brethren at a place called Timber River. Two of them are now with Christ, Henry Goodwin and Byron Strange. The third, Ansley Goodwin, is still alive, but is getting old, faint and yet pursuing. He holds the fort at Pugwash Junction. Then a brother-in-law of David Scott, brother Milnes, an Englishman, settled in Pugwash Junction, a good solid man who stayed in the country and was a true labourer. The only other labourers are brother Brennan and brother McMullen. The former had a good position with a farm equipment company and a prospect of even a better one but he left it all and went forth with the Gospel. The latter had a shoe business in Toronto, which he sold and he also went out preaching the Gospel.

Mr. Simpson seems to have worked alone in Dalhousie Junction and Jacquet River in northern New Brunswick in the late 1880's.

In January, 1889, Ada King wrote that she had been at the opening of the hall at Bayside, New Brunswick. She wrote also of Mr. Simpson preaching in Dalhousie at that time. It was to Dalhousie that David Scott went in 1891 to help Mr. Simpson. Mr. Scott also went to Coates Mills in that year and visited the Sherwoods at that time.

Helen Morton spoke to me of Mr. MacNeil of Black River stopping at Reuben and Mary Morton’s home in McQuades on his way from Buctouche to the train station

in Moncton to pick up David Scott when he visited in New Brunswick.

Frances McMullen Heidman shared the memories of her mother, Mrs. Isaac McMullen, telling her that they had meetings in their home when she was a child in Black River (Mill Creek Area) north of Buctouche whenever the preachers came to their area. Her grandmother was saved in 1886 when Mr. George Hynmers of Boston was reading John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life.

Donald Howard of New Bedford, Mass. whose mother was Flora MacNeil Howard, also told me that meetings were held in their farmhouse in Lakeville after they moved from Black River (Mill Creek area) Kent County in 1902.



Robert Milnes

On page 90 of Mr. Dickson’s book, another worker in the early days of New Brunswick was Mr. Robert Milnes. He was a brother-in-law of David Scott and he went to New Brunswick with Mr. Brennan at the invitation of Miss Margaret Betts of Boston. He and Mr. Brennan had meetings in many different parts of Kent County and also in the early 1900's in the Moncton area. Miss Betts who was then residing in the Boston area, later married Mr. Silver Allen of Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

I visited the cemetery in Pugwash Junction and discovered that Mr. Milnes was buried there. He was born in 1879 and died in 1926. He was only 47 years of age.

On a trip to Grand Rapids, in the spring of 1999, I had a conversation with a Mrs. Margaret Betts, who was visiting the assembly there. She was the wife of Burton Betts. Burton was the son of Howard Betts who was a son of Andrew Betts and Andrew Betts was a brother of the Margaret Betts who asked the preachers to go to Bass River in Kent County to preach the Gospel. Andrew was saved when Mr. Milnes and Mr. Brennan went to Bass River, New Brunswick in 1914 or 1915.



Mr. Ansley Goodwin

Mr. Ansley Goodwin, a native of Timber River, New Brunswick later lived in Pugwash Junction. He preached with Mr. Milnes, Mr. Brennan and Mr. McMullen in Kent County, New Brunswick and also in Moncton. He was saved in 1886 when Mr. Grimason and Mr. McEwen visited there, and an Assembly was started in Tidnish, New Brunswick.

Being a carpenter by trade, he helped frame up the Gospel Hall in River Hebert, Nova Scotia at the age of 83. He and Mr. Brennan worked with William Darling on the construction of the building and were there for the opening conference, October 11 and 12, 1936.

Mr. Goodwin is also buried in the Pugwash Junction cemetery. He was born in 1853 and died in 1944 at the age of 91.


Mrs. Goodwin used to walk up the road from her home to the cemetery, which was quite a distance. One hot summer’s day, when she got to the gravesite, she was very warm and tired and decided to lay down on the grass. Just when she was rising up, some children on the road saw her and ran home to tell their mother that somebody was coming up out of Mr. Goodwin’s grave!

I have copies of letters written to Mr. Ansley Goodwin from Eva Hayward of Port Elgin. In the 1920's, she wrote sixteen to eighteen page letters about different Bible subjects she had studied. One of these letters ended with the following poem:

I’ve been five weeks in writing this

And why so long, perhaps you’ll quiz

And so I’ll write a rhyme to you

And try and tell you how I do.

I am so feeble, languid, weak,

I can’t do much but eat and sleep

Also to make the way more rough

Day after day, I "must needs" cough

Oft when I write, my head will drop

And so I am compelled to stop.

With aching head and dizzy brain

How oft I must lie down again.

I know not why that it is thus

But tis no good to make a fuss

For God for me, this life did plan

Before the days of time began.




And to it all I must submit

For I cannot alter it one bit

I know not why that He with me

Thus deals - but some day I shall see

So let me not to Him be rude

When all things work out for my good

Love to yourself and those with you,

July 30, 1921 As ever, Eva

Mr. McMullen mentioned in his diary of 1923 of visiting Eva Hayward in Baie Verte, New Brunswick and that she was happy in His unchanging love. She seems to have been a very spiritual woman and a student of the Word of God.


William Brennan

Mr. William Brennan was born in Parkhurst, Quebec in 1870, the oldest of ten children. He left home at sixteen to work in Quebec City and got work in a shoe factory. The first week, while learning the trade, he naturally made mistakes which had to be taken out of his pay. By the time the week was over, all he received was 58¢.

The following history was written by his daughter Ethel Brennan.

When mother and father married in 1892, his boss would not give him time off. They worked long hours six days

a week so they married at 7:00 p.m. and of course, had no time for a honeymoon.

Father got a good job with Frost & Wood Farm Implements. One and a half years after their marriage, he was transferred to Truro, Nova Scotia in 1893 as manager for the Maritime provinces. He was only 23 years old. Soon the business went so well under his management, that they had to hire managers for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

My oldest brother Willie was born in Quebec City, Pearse and Harold were born in Truro and also Mary but she only lived eight months. Margaret and I were born in Brookside, just outside Truro. This was a large house in the country which father bought for a good price when the two builders ran out of money and then left the country. There was a brook running through the property for fishing and a pond for swimming and skating.

In 1894, a servant of the Lord visited Truro and through his ministry, mother and father learned the truth of believers’ baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the great privileges of believers as a Holy priesthood, separation from sectarianism and also gathering alone in the Lord’s Name. These truths became so precious to them that there was a clean cut from their former associations. Their hearts and home were open to the Lord’s servants and an assembly in Truro was begun in their home, and father counted it a great honour to take care of the little company and to preach the Gospel around Truro in his spare time.

In 1902, Mr. David Scott and his family arrived in Truro from Ireland and were received in the Brennan home.

Father began to take special interest in the Lord’s work and became exercised in regard to going forth to preach the Gospel among the people in the towns and villages of the Maritime Provinces.

In 1906, my father resigned from his good position with Frost & Wood. Pressure was put on him to remain but to no avail.

The following article was taken from Letters of Interest March 1944 written by J. T. Dickson:

In 1907, after deep heart exercise, Mr. Brennan resigned his position with Frost & Wood and went forth depending on the Lord for guidance and support for himself, his wife and family. Many relatives and friends tried to discourage him and his wife on this path, but his answer was, ‘What is my little family to God?. Look at the large family He sustained in the wilderness long ago with food and clothing.’ He often quoted Nehemiah 9:21, Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old and their feet swelled not. Mr. Brennan proved God.

Continuing with Ethel’s history:

He moved his family of five children to Pugwash. I was two and Margaret six weeks when we moved in the winter time. I don’t remember much about Pugwash, only that we had a dog named Toby.

The house was cold and there was only wood stoves to heat it. Mother had been used to a furnace-heated house in Truro and didn’t know how to work with wood stoves and besides this, she found the house infested with bedbugs. Everything seemed to be getting harder for her, as her husband had left for Gospel meetings and she was

alone with all the responsibility of a cold house, five children and two of them sick.

She said the cold got into her heart as well as into the house and she got far away from the Lord. About this time, some preachers came to Pugwash to have meetings and mother got quite concerned and tried to give up her profession. Then when she seemed to be at the end of herself, the verse came to her, "To whom shall we go Lord, Thou hast the words of eternal life". She thought, "I have gone to Christ and if I’m not saved now, I’ll never be." She never had any more doubts about her salvation.

After about two and a half years in Pugwash, we moved to New Glasgow. When we moved Margaret and I both had whooping cough which was near fatal to Margaret. There were better prospects for the older ones in the family, in a larger town. The boys got work and Pearse my older sister took a stenographer’s course.

We lived a couple of years on Brookside Avenue but the lady who owned the house didn’t want children, so mother was able to find another house much nicer and we lived at 174 Carlton Street in New Glasgow for 45 years.

When we lived in that house, Margaret kept asking her older brother Willie to buy her a pony. Instead, he got a dog, a lovely brown spaniel we named "Browny". When we would have family reading and prayer, Browny would get under the stove and be very quiet until he heard "Amen". Then he would let out a great big A-W-AW, as much as if to say, "Well, that’s over with". One time on a Sunday night, he got out and followed grandfather Broome (who was living with us) to the Gospel meeting. Grandfather made Browny lie down under his seat at the back. Sure enough, when the meeting was over and he heard "Amen", he jumped up with his "A-W-AW".

My association with Mr. Brennan

by J. T. Dickson


Mr. Brennan preached with J. T. Dickson in January, 1911 in Sydney where they were unknown to all but God. They preached in the open air when the temperature was below zero. Crowds listened and they then hired the Orange Hall for meetings and that was the beginning of the work in Sydney.

One Saturday morning, they arrived in Leitches Creek, seventeen miles from Sydney and secured the country schoolhouse for meetings. All winter, tramping through deep snow, they visited every home for miles around with tracts, and had personal talks with many people.

The meetings increased in numbers and precious souls were saved, our host being the first, also his wife and some of his family.

All through 1911, they preached in many places in Cape Breton, in the open air, in schools and in halls as well as giving out tracts, and at times walking twenty miles in one day.

In this way, parts of New Brunswick were also opened up by Mr. Brennan and his fellow preachers. He very seldom left these provinces to visit other parts.

He was a true shepherd, taking heart interest in the Lord’s people. He rejoiced when he saw the Christians going on for God and grieved more than most would when they

turned aside or dishonoured the Lord’s name. Gentle and


sincere, a man of sound judgment, he was never heard to utter words in haste.

He spoke at the River Hebert Conference in October, 1943 on the text, "My Son give me thine ear". He spoke with much feeling and entreating the saints and exhorting them to vital Godliness.

Mr. Brennan was not feeling well when he was having meetings with Mr. McIlwaine and with some difficulty travelled home to New Glasgow on Saturday, November 27th. He told his wife on his arrival home "My preaching days are over. I believe the Lord is going to take me Home." He lingered a few days and he passed into the presence of his Lord.

Mrs. Brennan and Ethel moved to Moncton in 1953 where Mrs. Brennan’s daughter Margaret Brennan MacNeil lived. Ethel went to work at the Moncton Hospital. Her mother died in Moncton in 1968. When Margaret MacNeil died in 1986, Ethel’s niece, Carolyn MacNeil Allen took her to live with her in Halifax. Both Mrs. Brennan and Ethel had severe hearing problems and later on, Ethel lost all her hearing and she lived in a silent world. To communicate, people had to write everything they wanted to say to her, and she continued to keep in touch with her friends by mail until her eyesight was such that she couldn’t see to write. She passed away at Carolyn’s in 1996 just a few weeks short of her 90th birthday.

In Mr. Oswald MacLeod’s book, The History of The Pugwash Junction Assembly, he writes the following about Mr. Brennan:


Mr. Brennan and his wife always, as long as his health permitted came to the Junction several days before the conference to help with the preparations. He seemed an integral part of it. He had the notices printed and mailed them (when they were used). He placed the people, prepared the breakfast, ushered the people into the meeting, started the hymns (most of the time), and did the baptizing, when such was needed, which was common in those days.

Mr. Brennan was a prolific letter writer with beautiful penmanship. He wrote letters of comfort, correction, guidance, instruction and encouragement. He had a true shepherd’s heart and in this way, he sought to keep in touch with and to help the flock of God. He was one of the most guileless, sincere, and conscientious men I have ever met. His example left an imprint on some of us younger men that the years have not erased.

His last series of Gospel meetings was with Mr. L. McIlwaine. He preached his last very touching sermon in a portable hall with Robert McIlwaine helping him since Mr. McIlwaune was ill. The next day being Saturday, he was feeling very unwell and went home by train. The following Thursday, December 18, 1943, the Lord took his faithful servant home at age 73. The memory of the just is blessed. Mrs. Brennan survived him by a number of years to the age of 97.


Preachers in the later years

In 1921, Isaac McMullen came to New Brunswick from Toronto, and in 1938, Robert McCracken moved to Moncton from Ireland to preach the Gospel. Reginald Jordan from Ireland lived in New Brunswick from 1948 to 1951 Many, many other itinerant preachers preached the Gospel in New Brunswick in many cities, towns and country places.

Following these men were George Heidman, Wade LeBlanc, David Kember, Murray McCandless, Gerard Roy, Leslie Wells and Jonathan Procoppio.

Mr. McEwen, Mr. John Grimason and Mr. John Martin

would have been the first preachers to visit and preach the Gospel in New Brunswick from the Assemblies of Christians gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.