Preaching in the Early Days At Leskard and Powers Schoolhouse

Reminiscences by Mr. R. Hutchison, Collector of Customs at Listowel.

Mr. Editor

The Orono News has just fallen into my hands in which Rev. W. H. Adams has been writing up the Hutchison family of which I claim to be a member, being born at the old homestead on the 8th concession of Clarke, in 1836.

As I read the article it brought back to my mind many of the memories of the past and of those early days in the then wilderness. The old cart Rev. Adams speaks of, I can remember seeing it after it was broken, in Jacob Purdy’s woods.

There was no schoolhouses or churches in then neighbourhood at the time. The Wesleyan Methodists preached in my father’s house. There were meetings also held at Kirby or what was then called Power’s School House, and if I remember right the Episcopal Methodists preached there. Thomas Best and wife, the Thorntons and Griffins worshipped with Episcopal Methodists of Power’s Schoolhouse, now Kirby. The Bests and Griffins being close neighbours often attended preaching in our house and would often stay to class meeting, my father being leader. The two societies got along splendidly together and had grand meetings. They would have prayer meeting on Wednesday night in our house then the next in Griffins house, and I believer today they were prayer meetings of the right kind. They had not to be coaxed or asked to pray but sometimes two and three would be engaged praying with all their might at the same time, and sometime one and two conversions. Yes I have seen them laying on the floor clapping their hands and praising the Lord at the top of their voices. I can remember one night they all got so happy and so engaged, I, a little fellow, got scared, commenced to cry, and climbed up a runged ladder right to the top, the way we had of getting up stairs and hung there for dear life till the meeting was over. The preacher that was then on the circuit with the Wesleyan Methodists was removed and Rev. Alva Adams came on, and dark and sad days came as he seemed to be possessed with any amount of bigotry. He commenced right away to find fault with my father for allowing Thomas Best and his wife, and Griffin and his wife, meeting in class only because they were Episcopal Methodists. And allow me to say just here, Thomas Best, especially, was considered, and is till this day one of the best men that ever lived in the township of Clarke. I will venture all the old settlers now in Clarke will say the same thing of him that knew him. You would hardly think it to be true that he told my father that it was a sin to meet with the Episcopal Methodists.

It was some time during the Conference year that he preached in our house, his text was “Confess your faults one to another that you may be healed”. Father was greatly encouraged while he preached, thought he had changed his mind, but after he got through preaching he sat down at the table and commenced to renew their tickets. He had only filled out two or three when he turned and asked my father if he allowed the Episcopals (Bests and Griffins) to meet in class. Father said yes. He thereupon threw down the pen and jumped up and said to my father “I’ll tell you very plainly if you are going to allow Tom, Dick and Harry to meet with you I will be your pastor no longer,” and took his horse and left. I can remember it distinctly although but a very small boy. Some were shedding tears.

Father waited for nine months and no preacher came back to preach. He went then and invited the Episcopal Methodist preachers who preached at Powers Schoolhouse, Rev. William Cope and G.P. Harris to come. At this time they had got a schoolhouse put up in what is now called Leskard, and they preached in it. They were counted two very fine preachers. G. P. Harris being a real Irishman, full of wit and energy, though somewhat eccentric, was named the ‘Wild Irishman’. Frequently while preaching he would get so engaged he would throw off his coat and preach in his shirtsleeves. There was no lamps those days to light up the schoolhouse, but ten brackets were fixed on the walls around, with sockets to place candles in, and those who were best off were expected to fetch a candle with them to help light up with. One night while the Irishman was preaching the house was not very well lit up, a Mrs. Bradley came with a candle and went up and put it on the pulpit. Harris in preaching spoke right out and said the sinner was just like that woman’s candle - there was no light in it. It was immediately lit. Another time he went to preach, but I think this was at Power’s Schoolhouse, and there happened to be no candles brought at all. Harris got up and gave out his text; “ye men love darkness rather than light because your deeds are evil”, and preached a splendid sermon, in the dark. They always had light after that. My father was immediately put in Class Leader in M.E. Church and remained a loyal and devoted leader in that church for some fifteen years, till the time of his death. After father, bringing in the Episcopal preachers, when the schoolhouse was built, the Wesleyan preachers came back and preached in it too. Osborne and Ham I think, were the first two after Adams left, and came and made their stopping place at my father’s house, but their influence did not cause my father to go back to the old Wesleyan Church as he was better suited in the M.E. Church. Any of the Thorntons, Powers or Billings of the old settlers now living down there will remember a great deal of what I have written.

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