Of the 500 Scottish migrants who arrived in Pictou in 1801, eight settled in what is now the community of St. Andrews. In addition to clearing the land and building farms, roads, and bridges, these new families also built a chapel, as many as nine schools, one for each district of the community. The largest of these schools, the St. Andrews Grammar School, built in 1838, is considered by many to be the foundation for what is now St. Francis Xavier University.
The period up to Confederation in 1867 was a boom time for the local economy with population steadily increasing due to immigration from Europe. Agriculture and forestry led to development of water powered sawmills, gristmills, and carding mills. A cheese factory, a tannery, and a shingle mill were also established as well as general merchandise, blacksmithing and shoemaking services. The depression between 1873 and 1896 required that most grown children left to find work in the northeastern United States or western Canada.
In the first half of the 20th century those who remained led by Dr. Hugh MacPherson, established a wool co-operative in 1914, and the first co-operative store in eastern Canada in 1917. In 1933, the people of St. Andrews established their own credit union.
In the aftermath of the Second World War Canada was an attractive destination for Dutch farming families. Between 1950 and 1956, 110 Dutch families came to the Antigonish Diocese and 23 of these families settled in St. Andrews.
An expansion to a more service based urban setting occurred in the past 35 years through “Citizen-Driven Development” . The Fire Department outreach with Ground Search & Rescue and the Emergency Measures Organization , the St. Andrews Softball Assoc. ball field, a distinct Community Centre incorporating facilities for the Oak & Owl senior’s club; and ten years later a local Seniors Housing project. The Highlander Curling Club was similarly conceived and volunteer constructed but servicing the broader Antigonish county community.
These successes are built on a set of values that puts a premium on self-sufficiency, community spirit, and care for others. By pooling resources, ideas, and talents, the people of St. Andrews have built tangible community services that are unusual for a community of its size. Success has not only motivated the residents to continue with new projects, but has inspired confidence in local partners and investors, both in government and in the private sector.