Building of Omemee’s First Anglican Church
Work Began 100 Years Ago, But Edifice Was Not Completed Until Seven Years After.
CHRIST CHURCH’S HISTORY
Christ Church, which celebrated its centennial on Sunday has had a most interesting history and from the old records it is possible to trace many of the outstanding events in connection with the carrying on of the Anglican faith here for the past one hundred years.
No better beginning could be made by quoting one of the former rectors, Rev. W.H. Jones, who preaching the last sermon in the old church in 1874 said:
“I have thought it would be both appropriate and beneficial in this last sermon to give a resume of the history of this parish and sacred edifice, as far as I could give it with materials at my disposal. The first services of the Church of England in this settlement were given as early as I can gather by the Rev. Mr. Thomson, rector of Cavan in the year 1827. These of course were only occasional. His successor Rev. Mr. Armour, also visited the settlement. Our present bishop then Dr. Bethune of Cobourg also officiated and some of these services were held in an old log school house, situated to the south of what is now termed Sturgeon street. About the year 1835 the commencement was made of the present building, though no clergyman was in charge. God put it into the hearts of the layman of the infant settlement to build a house to his praise. The following seems to have been the most prominent in pushing the work forward: James Balfour and his son Gabriel, Richard Marmion, John Collum, Robert Dixon, Robert Montgomery, Christopher Knowlson, Charles Corneil and John Toole.
Obtaining the Site
The land was obtained of Mr. Ruttan of Cobourg, but I have not been able to ascertain whether it was given or bought. If the latter it would not be much good as farming land and was not worth more than 8 or 10 dollars per acre. The church commenced in 1835 was not completed until 1840 when the Rev. C.C. Street was appointed the first incumbent of the parish and brought with him workmen from Cobourg to finish the work. The autumn of 1840 saw the commencement of regular services. The first celebration of Holy Communion was on Jan. 17, 1841 with 32 communicants. The first records were made by Mr. Street. His first recorded baptism was on July 5, 1840 when Jacob Harrison, Samuel Corneil and Thomas Beamish all of Ops were baptized. The first Emily children recorded as baptized by him were Annie Stewart Lee and Caroline Dixon, 1840. He baptized 93 persons in 15 months. His first marriage recorded is dated Sept. 3, 1840, Thomas Rea of Ops to Mary Taylor of Cavan by special license. He married ten couples in all. The first recorded burial by Mr. Street was on Oct. 13, 1840, of Jane, wife of James Rea of Ops.
First Vestry Meeting
The first regular vestry meeting was held on Easter Monday, 1841. The first teachers in the Sunday school were John Beatty and Gabriel Balfour and there were around 40 scholars. The first singing in the church was congregational and was considered very good. The first musical instrument introduced into the church was a bass fiddle.
After about 15 months of service, Mr. Street resigned and the Rev. Wm. Shaw was appointed his successor. His first baptism is dated Dec. 5, 1841, Hannah Rea of Ops. On that day also weekly collections were the first established for the poor. The first collection amounted to two shillings and five pence. In 3 years and 8 months Mr. Shaw baptized 234 persons, and married 35 couples. Mr. Shaw records 31 burials and the first recorded confirmation with 84 candidates. The Right Hon. and Right Rev. Bishop Strachan officiated.
The Rev. Robert Harding commenced duties in 1845. In his 12 years he baptized 704 persons, the last being William R. Hamilton of Omemee on Oct. 6, 1857. He solemnized 116 marriages and 3 confirmations totalled 118 candidates. Among the names we find Charles Corneil, Arthur McQuade, John Jones and James Toole.
In 1857 Mr. Harding resigned and the Rev. Hicks took his place. After two years he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Leach. In his records we find the baptizing of Isaac Grandy, Oct. 23, 1859. Through ill health he was forced to leave the parish.
The Rev. Noah Disbrow was next in charge. In 8 years and 6 months he baptized 320 persons and married 23 couples; 1863 saw the death of John Stephenson, son of Thomas Stephenson.
The Rev. Mr. Disbrow ( left the parish early in 1869, and the Rev. W. H. Jones was appointed May 20, 1869. William Curry and Arthur McQuade being the church wardens. In 1871 Mr. Jones was doing duty in St. James as well as Christ Church. Then St. John’s was added. In Nov. 1872 the liberality of the people and the Mission Board made it possible for him to have an assistant and Ennismore was added to his charge.
The Rev. R. H. Harris was successor to Rev. Jones in 1874. There seems to be little of outstanding interest during this time and we pass on to the Rev. W. T. Smithett. This gentleman’s regime began in 1881 and lasted until 1887.
Not Many Marriages
In 1889 the Rev. W. H. French was duly appointed incumbent, and about all we can learn of this period is the recording of 46 baptisms, 28 burials and only 5 marriages. Perhaps the low number of the latter was due to a depression. Mr. French was here about 3 years and was followed by Rev. W. McCann.
From 1892 until 1898 the parish was under the guidance of Rev. Mr. McCann.
It was during this time, in fact in 1892, that the Woman’s Auxiliary was first organized in this parish. Mrs. Thomas Stephenson was first president and Mrs. A.T. Weir is president now.
About 1898, the Rev. Dr. Langfeldt took charge of the parish, which charge proved to be a short one, although he was able to report 50 baptisms, 14 marriages and 30 burials. There is a record of several excellent discourses given by Dr. Langfeldt, also an account of his marriage to Miss Katie Hartley of Orillia.
Church is Moved
In 1901, we find that Sunday, November 3 was a red-letter day in the history of Christ Church. This took place while the Rev. J. H. Teney was rector. We read that the old church has been removed from the old site to the rectory lot and a large basement has been built, new windows of cathedral glass have been put in and the interior of the church has been entirely renovated. In the books which now keep the accounts of the Sunday school we find the following written under the date of May 2, 1901: “That the Sunday school officers proceed to erect a Sunday school building at a cost not to exceed $800.” The Rev. Dr. Langfeldt was invited to preach on the occasion of the opening and he re-dedicated it at the request of the wardens and congregation. It seems that Dr. Langfeldt was largely responsible for the change taking place. The speaker at this occasion chose for his text, “Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you and not one thing hath failed thereof.”
On Monday evening following the re-opening of the church, there was a fowl supper with over 400 on hand. It was on this occasion that a beautiful oak pulpit was presented by the family of the late W. Cottingham in loving memory of his parents.
Girls’ Guild Organized
It was during the Rev. Mr. Teney’s incumbency that the Girls’ Guild was organized and which afterwards developed into the Women’s Guild, which we regard with so much esteem
to-day. Miss Margaret Adams was first president and, like the Woman’s Auxiliary, there is no doubt there is a long account of activities could one but look into them down to the present day work of the society under the able presidency of Mrs. S. Nurse. In 1904, a memorial alms basin was presented by Mrs. E. Stephenson in memory of her husband, Thomas Stephenson, who entered into rest July 7, 1904. On April 3, 1904, the choir of Christ Church appeared for the first time in vestments: it was on an Easter Sunday evening. On May 18, 1904, the pipe organ was used for the first time in this church and it was at a confirmation service. In 1907, Mr.Teney was succeeded by the Rev. H. Earle, and it is worthy of note that in 1906 there is a record of the A.Y.P.A. being started in this parish by Mr.Teney. Miss O. McQuade, now of Toronto, was the first president, Miss E. Curry the vice-president, and Mr. Wm. Gallagher, who gave his life for his country in the Great War, was secretary-treasurer. Again we have a society that has a history all its own, with along list of officers from Miss McQuade down to Mr. William G. Stephenson, who is now president.
The Rev. Henry Earle became the incumbent in 1909. During Mr. Earle’s time we find there were 46 baptisms, 2 confirmations, with a total of 46 candidates and 35 marriages, some of which may concern many present members, and there were 35 burials.
At the vestry meeting in 1912 it was moved, seconded and carried, that a new tower be built on the church at a cost of $750, but no further mention of this can be found, so we still have the old one. Speaking of this tower, it is learned that the bell that rings therein was placed there by a Miss Reed in memory of Mr. McNeally, a former churchwarden and worker in the church.
In 1914, Mr.Earle was succeeded by the Rev. E.R. James. Mr. James was rector of this parish during the Great War and the years following. Again we find little of outstanding interest to record.
The Present Incumbent
Last in a rather imposing list of rectors to date is the name of the Rev. A.T. Weir, our present incumbent. He took up the work here in 1923, moving from Bethany to do so. Part of the time from 1923 to the present date will be looked back upon with considerable interest because in 1931, another great change in the church building was undertaken and successfully accomplished. The addition to the edifice has given us a larger and more beautiful chancel with a larger vestry and dressing rooms, while in the lower part there is a much larger basement, which is necessary owing to the growth of the Sunday school. The beautiful gifts that were donated to the furnishing of the new building were in themselves a proof of the interest of the congregation as a whole took in the work. A great many were engaged and much labour went into the task from the morning of July 13, 1931, until all was completed. The interest and the activity of the rector during the work was very much appreciated by the congregation, who realized that his initiative was largely responsible for the successful culmination of an ideal. During alteration, service was held in the nave of the church without any interruption.
The reopening took place on the morning of December 6, 1931. It paralleled the reopening of November 3, 1901.
Debt Wiped Out
A very interesting note is that the congregation did not know until almost the last moment that adequate financial assistance was at hand to wipe out all existing debt. This good news was due to the munificence of Mrs. Gladys Dangler and Mrs. Joyce Allen, who gave in memory of their father, the late W. H. Cottingham. The cost of the new building and all gifts given towards it amounted to approximately $6,000.
An interesting tablet is to be found on the west wall, placed there in memory of Mr.Thomas Crawford Stephenson by some of his friends. This tablet was unveiled by Mr. R. H. Johnson and dedicated by the Rev. H. Earle in 1926. A tablet commemorating the moving of the church from across the way is to be found on the south wall, while on the east side of the chancel there is a large tablet placed there by the congregation as a token of appreciation to the ladies above mentioned.
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