by Ian Lawrence
Pre-eminent among the Mi’kmaq of southwestern Nova Scotia in the early 20th century was Chief Benjamin Pictou. He was born 7 September 1830 at the Eel Wier near Lake Kejimkujik to Mathew Pictou and his French wife Henriette Guillot (Gehue). Henriette was a daughter or granddaughter of Emanuel Guillot or Juilléhaut, an Acadian grantee at Saint Mary’s Bay in the 1790s. Like other area Mi’Kmaq of the period, the family lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving inland in the harsh winter months and returning to the coast for the summer. A second child, Christine, was born to the couple and was christened 18 July 1841 in the Acadian church of Ste. Croix at Plympton on Saint Mary’s Bay. Christine Pictou married 22 September 1864 Stephen Comeau, an Acadian. During the summer of 1842 Joseph Howe, Nova Scotia’s first Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Toured the province’s recently created reserves. The census he took at the Bear River reservation (L’sitkuk) noted the presence of Mathew Pictou with his French wife and two children. In his early years Benjamin Pictou joined with his father in their new life tilling the soil on reservation land. At the age of 19 Benjamin left home and sailed with a Captain Morehouse on his Barquentine from Bear River to Boston. After two years he returned home and settled on reserve land at Lequille. He also maintained the old family camping ground on the west side of the Digby Gut and from here, paddled the Bay of Fundy in his canoe, scooping salmon in the spring and shooting porpoises. The rendered porpoise oil he sold in Annapolis Royal, Digby and Saint John for $1.25 per gallon. Later in life he worked as a cooper, a trade that employed many Mi’Kmaq men in the area in the last half of the 19th century.
Madeline, the wife of Benjamin Pictou, died at Lequille 4 February 1914. Benjamin had given up hunting and fishing around his 80th year, and turned to basket-making which he carried on for the remainder of his life. The Chief voted for the first time at the age of 96 in the general election on 29 October 1925. He gave an address and led the dance at his 100th birthday party at Lequille on 7 September 1930. Benjamin Pictou died on 30 March 1931 in his 101st year. A three-gun salute informed residents of Lequille of his passing.
Benjamin Pictou was married twice. His first wife, Mary Ellen Gloade, whom he married 21 January 1855, died in childbirth with their son Joseph. Benjamin married secondly 11 February 1857 Madeline Paul, born 10 February 1839. The couple had eight children that survived infancy.
Eldest son Silvi or Silbye Pictou, born 7 September 1859, died 14 November 1943, chief after the death of his father, married Rachel Jeremy, born 15 April 1864, died 7 March 1936, daughter of Francis and Mary Ann (Siloam) Jeremy. They had children:
Daughter Rosa Pictou, born 3 February 1862, died 21 June 1939, married Abram Paul, born 7 February 1854, died 28 June 1928, son of Francis Xavier and Elizabeth (Jeremy) Paul. They had children:
Daughter Margaret Pictou, born 16 October 1866, died as a young woman, married Freeman Peters 1878.
Son John Pictou, baptized 11 February 1870, died 26 January 1943, married Mary Elizabeth Charles, born 16 February 1885, died 27 March 1930, daughter of Stephen and Margaret (Hammond) Charles.
Daughter Eliza Pictou, born 10 August 1871, died 13 November 1933, married John Paul, born 5 August 1870, died 8 March 1926, son of Joseph and Madeline (Barthelmy) Paul. John and Eliza Paul raised two adopted children:
Son James Pictou, born July 1875, died 17 October 1946, married Mary Lucy Gloade, born 10 February 1877, died 3 February 1942, daughter of John and Christina (Comeau) Gloade. James and Mary Lucy Pictou raised an adopted son:
Daughter Mary Christine Pictou, born 11 April 1878, married 25 October 1905 Joseph Penall, born 11 January 1872, died 16 March 1950, son of James and Mary Ann (Paul) Penall. They had children:
Benjamin and Madeline Pictou also raised an adopted daughter Elizabeth Pictou, born 7 June 1885, married 16 August 1915 John Martin Pictou, son of Malti and Ann Pictou.