Pictou County

Coordinates: 45°30′N 62°36′W / 45.5°N 62.6°W / 45.5; -62.6
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Pictou County, Nova Scotia)

Pictou County
Gaelic: Siorramachd Phiogto
Official seal of Pictou County
Location of Pictou County, Nova Scotia
Location of Pictou County, Nova Scotia
Coordinates: 45°30′N 62°36′W / 45.5°N 62.6°W / 45.5; -62.6
ProvinceNova Scotia
TownsNew Glasgow / Pictou / Stellarton / Trenton / Westville
IncorporatedApril 17, 1879
Electoral Districts      

Central Nova
ProvincialPictou Centre / Pictou East / Pictou West
 • TypeFive town councils and one rural municipality
 • Land2,844.10 km2 (1,098.11 sq mi)
 • Total43,657
 • Density15.4/km2 (40/sq mi)
 • Change 2011-16
Time zoneUTC−4 (AST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−3 (ADT)
Area code(s)902, 782
Median Earnings*$43,475 CDN
  • Median household income, 2005 (all households)

Pictou County is a county in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. It was established in 1835, and was formerly a part of Halifax County from 1759 to 1835. It had a population of 43,657 people in 2021, a decline of 0.2 percent from 2016. Furthermore, its 2016 population is only 88.11% of the census population in 1991. It is the sixth most populous county in Nova Scotia.


The origin of the name "Pictou" is obscure. Possible Mi'kmaq derivations include "Piktook" meaning an explosion of gas, and "Bucto" meaning fire, possibly related to the coal fields in the area. It might also be a corruption of Poictou (Poitou), a former province of France. Nicolas Denys named the harbour La rivière de Pictou in the 1660s.[3][4][5]


The area of the modern Pictou County was a part of the Miꞌkmaq nation of Mi'kma'ki (mi'gama'gi) at the time of European contact.[6]

Hector Pioneer by renowned sculptor John Wilson, Pictou, Nova Scotia

In the early 1600s France claimed the area as a part of Acadia. By the 1760s, small French settlements existed along the coast in the eastern part of the county near the mouth of the French River. The largest of these was on the Big Island at Merigomish. By the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, and the Expulsion of the Acadians, these had been abandoned.[7]: 38 

Pictou came under the control of Britain in 1763 after the French and Indian War. In 1765 the first British land grants were issued, including a grant to the Philadelphia Company. A number of families from that company left Philadelphia aboard the Hope in May 1767, and arrived at Pictou Harbour in June.[7]: 46–78  In 1770 there were 120 settlers living in Pictou, of which 93 were American, 18 were Irish, five were Acadian, and two each were Scottish and English.[7]: 67 

Pictou was a receiving point for many Scottish immigrants moving to a new home in northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island following the Highland Clearances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Consequently, the town's slogan is "The Birthplace of New Scotland"; the first wave of immigrants from Scotland is acknowledged to have arrived on September 15, 1773, on the Hector.[7]: 81 

Coal was first discovered in Pictou County in 1798. A number of different individuals and companies were involved in the nascent coal industry; however, in 1825 the majority of mining rights in Nova Scotia was obtained by the General Mining Association. After surveying mines in Nova Scotia, they chose to start at the East River of Pictou and in the summer of 1827 they began operations there. By the end of the year the first steam engine in Nova Scotia was operating at Albion Mines.[7]: 398–401 

In 1839 the first locomotive in Canada to run on iron rails, the Samson, was put into service at Albion Mines. It is the oldest surviving locomotive in Canada.


18th century replica of a wooden Dutch flute ship named Hector floating in harbour
Ship Hector replica floating in Pictou Harbour

Pictou County includes the towns of New Glasgow, Stellarton, Pictou, Westville and Trenton. It is bounded by the Northumberland Strait, Antigonish County, Guysborough County and Colchester County. Pictou Harbour and its three rivers played a vital role in the early days of settlement, as a port of entry, a means of transport and for the export of lumber and coal.


As a census division in the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Pictou County had a population of 43,657 living in 19,735 of its 22,410 total private dwellings, a change of −0.2% from its 2016 population of 43,748. With a land area of 2,844.1 km2 (1,098.1 sq mi), it had a population density of 15.4/km2 (39.8/sq mi) in 2021.[8]

Forming the majority of the Pictou County census division, the Municipality of the County of Pictou, including its Subdivisions A, B, and C, had a population of 20,676 living in 9,146 of its 11,026 total private dwellings, a change of −0.1% from its 2016 population of 20,692. With a land area of 2,795.08 km2 (1,079.19 sq mi), it had a population density of 7.4/km2 (19.2/sq mi) in 2021.[9]


Pictou County is wholly within the federal electoral district of Central Nova. Since the electoral district was reformed in 2004, only two MPs have held the office. Currently, the county is represented federally by the Liberal Party. The seat is held by Liberal MP Sean Fraser, who was elected in 2015.

Pictou County is divided into three provincial electoral districts, namely Pictou Centre, Pictou East and Pictou West. All three are currently held by PC MLAs in the Nova Scotia Legislature.

The towns of New Glasgow, Stellarton, Pictou, Westville and Trenton each have their own town councils. The Municipality of Pictou County serves the remaining rural areas, including Pictou Island. Amalgamation of these six municipal units is occasionally considered.[14][15] Pictou County District Planning Commission provides planning, development and waste disposal services to all the communities in the county.

Pictou Landing First Nation has reserves at Pictou Landing, Fisher's Grant and Merigomish Harbour.


The former Pictou County pulp mill employed roughly 300 employees directly, with hundreds more indirect jobs in related industries.[16]

Resource based industries include coal mining, forestry, fishing, and agriculture. Manufacturing industries include Michelin Tire, Northern Pulp and Scotsburn Dairy. Web.Com operate a call center in New Glasgow. One of the largest employers in the area is Sobeys. The company started in Stellarton, where its headquarters is still located today.[17] Tourism is an important part of the economy during the summer. In 2006 employed 1,200 people and brought 45 million dollars to the economy.[18] Two provincially-owned museums operate within the county, Stellarton's Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, and the McCulloch House Museum in Pictou. Rail car manufacturer Trenton Works was closed in 2007 when owners Greenbrier moved production to Mexico. There are 2,400 small and medium-sized businesses that collectively generate more than 15,000 jobs.[19]

The Pictou County Chamber of Commerce is a business advocacy group that speaks as a united voice on behalf of the business community.


Two highways designated as part of the national Trans-Canada Highway system provide the only controlled-access roads in the county. They are Highway 104, which traverses the county from west to east, and Highway 106 the short north–south spur to the Northumberland Ferries Limited terminal at Caribou.

The Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway is a freight line connecting Truro to Sydney, with spurs at Stellarton and Trenton serving local industries such as Trenton Generating Station. Via Rail Canada abandoned passenger rail service in the county on January 15, 1990, following nationwide budget cuts.

Maritime Bus provide motor coach service to New Glasgow.

Northumberland Ferries Limited operates a seasonal passenger-vehicle ferry service from Caribou, Nova Scotia, to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island. A separate passenger-only ferry service is also operated seasonally from Caribou to Pictou Island.[20]

Trenton Aerodrome is a private commercial airport owned and operated by Sobeys.

Access routes[edit]

Highways and numbered routes that run through the county, including external routes that start or finish at the county limits:[21]


Pictou County is served by the weekly newspapers The News and The Advocate. Pictou County has two locally based radio station is CKEC-FM & CKEZ-FM. A sports and recreation paper is distributed monthly through the mail at no charge.[22]


There are two performance spaces in the county: the deCoste Centre in Pictou and Glasgow Square in New Glasgow. Both host local musicians and events, including summer sounds series at the deCoste and the New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee in August at the Glasgow Square.

Many of the towns and villages host their own parades and events throughout the year. Read By The Sea is an annual one-day literary festival held in the village of River John. The New Scotland Days Festival in Pictou each September is a celebration of the county's Scottish heritage. Pictou also hosts the Lobster Carnival every July since 1934. It was voted the best festival in Canada.[23] New Glasgow's Art at Night is an annual one night art event in downtown New Glasgow. Eventide Art Hub in New Glasgow hosts an Art Gallery, Artist Studios, and a retail space for artists and musicians to sell their work.

The Nova Scotia Museum of Industry

Museums include the Northumberland Fisheries Museum, the Hector Heritage Quay, and the McCulloch House Museum in Pictou, the Pictou County Military Museum in Westville, the Carmichael House in New Glasgow, and the Museum of Industry in Stellarton.

Pictou County is also known for the regional pizza variant known as Pictou County Pizza, which can be shipped to former residents living across Canada through UPS.[24][25]

Notable people[edit]

Politics / Government[edit]

Music / Arts[edit]


Business / Commercial[edit]


There are claims by a Johnston family of Pictou, Nova Scotia, that the Mad Trapper of Rat River was Owen Albert Johnston from Pictou County.[26]




County municipality and county subdivisions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Respondents who reported multiple ethnic origins are counted more than once in this table.


  1. ^ a b "Profile table, Census Profile, 2021 Census of Population - Pictou, County (CTY) [Census division], Nova Scotia". 9 February 2022.
  2. ^ https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&SearchText=Pictou&DGUIDlist=2021A00031212&GENDERlist=1,2,3&STATISTIClist=1&HEADERlist=0 Population and dwelling counts, for Canada and census subdivisions (municipalities), 2006 and 2001 censuses - 100% data
  3. ^ "History of Pictou". Town of Pictou website. Archived from the original on 28 December 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Placenames of Pictou & Antigonish County". Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library website. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  5. ^ "Pictou County Place Names and Origins". www.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  6. ^ "Info Sheet – The Mi'kmaq" (PDF). museum.novascotia.ca. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Patterson, George (1877). A History of the County of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Montreal: Dawson Brothers.
  8. ^ "Population and dwelling counts: Canada and census divisions". Statistics Canada. 9 February 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  9. ^ "Population and dwelling counts: Canada, provinces and territories, census divisions and census subdivisions (municipalities), Nova Scotia". Statistics Canada. 9 February 2022. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  10. ^ Censuses 1871–1941
  11. ^ Statistics Canada: 1996, 2001, 2006 census
  12. ^ Statistics Canada: 2011 census
  13. ^ 2006 Statistics Canada Census Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada: Pictou County, Nova Scotia
  14. ^ "Research Articles". pictoucountyamalgamation.com. Retrieved 21 October 2008.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Pictou Town Council Minutes, October 24, 2005" (PDF). Town of Pictou website. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2008.
  16. ^ Joan Baxter (2017), The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest, Pottersfield Press, e-edition, p. 319
  17. ^ Judith Hoegg Ryan (1995), "The Birthplace of New Scotland: An Illustrated History of Pictou County, Canada's Cradle of Industry", Formac Publishing, p. 177
  18. ^ "About PCTA". The Pictou County Tourism Association website. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
  19. ^ "Planning vital for small businesses". The News website. Archived from the original on 24 May 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2008.
  20. ^ Lucas Technology. "Pictou Island Ferry Service : Home Page". Archived from the original on 18 October 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  21. ^ Atlantic Canada Back Road Atlas ISBN 978-1-55368-618-7 Pages 53–54, 69–71
  22. ^ "www.sports-report.ca | Reporting and Promoting Pictou County Sports & Recreation". Archived from the original on 15 January 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  23. ^ "2016 Lobster Carnival". Town of Pictou. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  24. ^ Graham, Monica (27 April 2014). "Pizza party pays off in Pictou County". The Chronicle-Herald. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  25. ^ "Pictou County's 'brown sauce' pizza shipped to Fort McMurray". CBC. 23 December 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  26. ^ Interview, Information Morning, CBC Radio 1, Halifax Nova Scotia, 6:20am 15 January 2009

External links[edit]