Welcome to River John



















St. George's Presbyterian Church - River John

Churches - St. George's Presbyterian Church

Since 1860, the congregation of St. George’s Presbyterian Church has been meeting on the lovely Northumberland Strait in River John, Nova Scotia. We welcome you and invite you to come take a look at our beautiful building and also learn something about us as we serve God in this place.

After 150 years of faith-filled worship, we are well experienced and enthusiastic about what God has in store for the next 150 years!

Sunday service is at 11:00 each week.

Music Director and Choir Leader is Marion Haliburton and Ann Heighton is in charge of the Sunday School.

St. David's Presbyterian Church - Toney River

Churches - St. David's Presbyterian Church

St. David’s forms part of a two-point pastoral charge and shares its minister with St. George’s Presbyterian Church, River John. The Ladies’ Aid group has a long and vibrant list of annual events and a long-standing chapter of the AMS is very much present throughout the year.

Organist:  Myrna Phillips

Elders:   James Fraser, Marjorie Fraser, Darlene Henderson, Bob MacKenzie, Linda Otter (Clerk), Beverly Patterson,  Doug White.

St. David’s Congregation had its beginning in the homes of the early settlers.  In 1817, Rev. Donald Allan Fraser from Scotland arrived in Pictou to establish Kirk Congregations in the County and in 1822, his ministry was extended to include Toney River where the Cape John Congregation was organized.

From its beginning, this Congregation was associated with St. John’s Kirk, Scotsburn and lasted until 1907.

The first Church was built around 1934 with Rev. Roderick MacAulay as its minister and was destroyed in a forest fire in 1852.  The present church was begun in 1853, completed in 1854 and continues to serve the people here.

Rev. John Goodwin ministered here from 1864 until he resigned in 1868 to sail with his wife and three children to the Hebrides as the first Foreign Missionary to be sent out by the Kirk Synod to the Lower Provinces (a trip which lasted 6 months).  This was the same place that the Presbyterian Church of Canada had sent Dr. John Geddie 22 years earlier.  The climate proved unfavourable to Rev. Goodwin’s health so they returned in 1878 and settled on P.E.I. to carry on his ministry there.

Among other ministers who served was Rev. James William Fraser from 1870-1907 for 37 years.  In Rev. John Murray’s book “The Scotsburn Congregation, It’s History, Professional Men, Etc.”, he wrote that Rev. Fraser was a good preacher, a diligent pastor, a wise counselor and his long pastorate was one of harmony and peace.

In 1908, Cape John church entered the Presbyterian Church of Canada and joined with Melville Church, Caribou River and this union lasted till 1925.  In 1913, our church name was changed to St. David’s, Cape John.  In 1925, St. David’s, Cape John joined with St. George’s, River John.  In 1929, our church became St. David’s Toney River.

Many improvements have been made through the years at St. David’s, making it possible to have various events.

A small cemetery, no longer used, is located at the back of the church and maintained by St. David’s.  The earliest known burial is 1929.

So you can see there is a long tradition of Scottish Presbyterianism at St.David’s.  As the community grew on the strength of newcomers to Canada, so did it also grow in spiritual strength in the service of God.

Welcome to our humble, simple church.  We hope you will enjoy your encounter with God every time you come to visit.

Sunday morning worship is in the traditional style, but often includes a time for the young people to lead and participate.

West Branch United Church

Churches - West Branch United Church

Location: West Branch Road
Services: Sunday 9:30 a.m.
Minister: Rev. Christine Johnson

The present church building was erected in 1888. Work began in the Spring and was completed in the Fall under contractor John MacDonald of Truro. The Rev. Donald MacLean of Earltown and Rev. Robert MacCunn of River John conducted opening services. At that service there was a choir of 24 and a congregation that overflowed the church which has a seating capacity of 700. The cost of the building was $4,400.00 which was raised by the sale of seats. This enabled the church to open debt free. In 1931 the church was renovated at a cost of $1,500.00 and divided the church into Sanctuary and Hall.

In 1896 the established church in West Branch was Presbyterian and joined with St. George's in River John under the ministry of R.J. Grant until 1898.

In 1925 this congregation entered the United Church of Canada and affiliated with the Salem United Church in River John. Rev. J.A. Forbes was the first of 21 ministers to serve this congregation, which is presently under the direction of Rev. Dr. Kenneth MacLeod

Dates of recognition:
1889 - First baptism in the church. Grace Ann Murray
1908 - Organ first used in church
1909 - Envelope system implemented
1922 - Dedication service for Rev. George Murray who sailed to Trinidad
1923 - Last Gaelic service held
1960 - Service to dedicate new Wurlitzer organ in memory of George A. MacKay
1962 - Carillon dedication by Mrs. Margaret Baillie in memory of her parents
1995 - Cantor organ bought. Made in Holland it is computerized.
During the years 1925 to the present there have only been three dedicated church organists. Mrs. Thomas Gunn, Mrs. Clifford MacKay and the present organist, Murdock Sutherland.

Church Officers:

Minister: Rev. Christine Johnson
Members of session: John Bigney, Warren Jollimore
Treasurer: Linda E. Sutherland
Envelope Steward: Ruth Baillie


Sunday school - The average attendance is 10 children. Teachers are, Linda Sutherland, Linda MacLean, Marilyn Bigney (treasurer) and Debbie Harder.

U.C.W. - We have an active group which raises money to help with church expenses and gives donations to charity groups and organizations.

President: Elinor O'Brien
Vice President: Marilyn Bigney
Treasurer: Gina Bain
Secretary: Jean Holt


There are nine churches in the River John area, representing four different denominations. Follow the links to learn more about the history and current activities of our churches.

Church of the Holy Trinity / St. John the Baptist Anglican Church

Burn's Memorial Presbyterian Church / St. David's Presbyterian Church - Toney River / St. George's Presbyterian Church - River John

Roman Catholic
St. Michael's Catholic Church

Middleton Union Church

Salem United Church / West Branch United Church

Library Resources
Our local library has material that may be of interest. Here are a few suggestions. Click on the title to view the library catalog and request a book:

River John: its pastors and people by G. Lawson Gordon.

Salem United Church, River John, Nova Scotia: an historical account of the congregation, 1808-1990 by Dr. Ella (Watt) Sangster.

Where two or three are gathered: the churches of Pictou County by Norman Munroe. Also nearby is the Historic Log Church at Loch Broom

Salem United Church

Churches - Salem United Church

Location: River John - Sunrise Trail
Services: Sunday 11:00 a.m.
Manse Telephone: (902) 351 - 2629
Church Hall Telephone: (902) 351-2833
Contact: Florence Craib (902) 351-2048 or Elsie Langille (902) 351 - 2824


Rev. John Mitchell founded Salem United Church, River John, in 1808. The first building that belonged to the congregation of Salem, was located on the crest of the hill, leading to the Mitchell Cemetery. It was built in 1823. The present church was built in 1870, at a cost of $4800.00. In order to cover the building costs, funds were raised by selling church pews. The design of the church was the Gothic style of architecture. The church measures 70 ft. in length and 45 ft. wide. It can accommodate approximately 600 people. The steeple is 90 ft. high, and the bell from the ‘Old Established Bell Foundry’, Troy, New York, weighs over 750 lbs. The new church opened on July 10th, 1870, and officially adopted the name Salem.

From 1808 until 1924, the church was known as Salem Presbyterian and held to the traditions of the church of Scotland. In 1925, Salem Presbyterian voted to enter the newly formed United Church of Canada. Rev. John A. Forbes became the first minister of Salem United Church in 1926. Since 1926, there has been a total of 21 ministers and two major renovations to the interior of the church, one in 1930 and again in 1959.

Source: "Salem United Church. An Historical Account of the Congregation 1808 – 1990" by Dr. Ella (Watt) Sangster

Church Officers:

Members of session

Lynn MacLeod, Clerk of Session
Gayle Heighton
Blaine Brown
Mr. Brian MacLean
Mrs. Della Jefferson
Harry Redmond

Clubs: U.C.W. We are a small group that meets the second Wednesday of each month. We have devotions at each meeting and discuss fund raising and items to purchase for the church or manse.