Atlantic Canada Virtual Archives

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The McQueen family letters chronicle in often breath-taking detail the activities and relationships of a farming family rooted in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, in the second half of the nineteenth century. All but one of the six daughters and the only surviving son taught school at some point in their lives, moving around Nova Scotia and, in the case of the two youngest daughters, to British Columbia, to teach. A highly mobile family, they kept in touch by writing letters that survive as remarkable documents of social history in the early years of Canada's industrial age.

The McQueens

Rooted in eighteenth-century Scottish and Loyalist migration to Pictou County, Nova Scotia, the members of the McQueen family were devoted Presbyterians and valued formal education.

Historical Context

The seven McQueen children came of age in the early years of the Industrial Revolution that transformed the western world and especially Pictou County which had rich coal resources.

The Letters

The McQueen Family Papers have been imaged and the letters written between 1866 and 1888 have been transcribed and can be searched here.

Learning Resources

Alert to the opportunities open to them in the industrial age, two McQueen children travelled to British Columbia to teach school. We accompany Jessie McQueen across Canada on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1888, only three years after the last spike had been driven on the ribbon of steel spanning the continent.