HISTORY of VICTORIA COUNTY - PART 20 - Presbyterian History in Lindsay

The Presbyterian Church comes third in Lindsay in point of seniority.

About 1835 itinerant Presbyterian ministers began to visit the hamlet and preach in one log home or another. Prominent among thes missionaries was a Rev. Mr. Moore from the Presbyterian Church in Ulster. The number of Presbyterian families increased during the next decade, and in 1845, four years after Father Fitzpatrick had built his log chapel and the Rev. John Sanderson his tiny frame Methodist Church, the Calvinists determined that they too would have a place of worship. A lot was secured from the Government on the south side of Francis Street, about midway between Cambridge Street and Victoria Avenue, and a log cabin thirty feet long by twenty feet wide put up on the northwest corner of the propertyby a congrgational bee. Everything was very primitive. No ceiling extended below the rafters. The walls were logs, rough-hewn and plastered. Unlike the Catholics, who had provided a rude altar but no pews, the Presbyterians had, at first, no pulpit - not even a platform, in fact - while the congrgation sat comfortably on rough planks supported on cedar blocks. Some time later Thomas Ray and Hugh Moore added a low platform and a pulpit, and substituted bench legs for the cedar blocks. The Crown Patent for the church lot was not secured until November 7, 1848. It was issued by the Earl of Elgin, the Governor-General of Canada, to a board of trustees consisting of Samuel Smith, Andrew Hall, Duncan Fisher, John Diment, and Thomas Ray.

For three years after the building of the church, the congrgation was entirely independent, and tended only by occasional missionaries. In 1848 it was taken in charge by the United Presbyterian church and connected with the Presbytery of Durham. The presbytery gave such supply as they could for the next three or four years but it was not until 1853 that the Reverend Gilbert Tweedie, a licentiate of the United presbyterian church, was ordained and inducted as the first regular pastor in the log church. His field labour covered Verulam, Ops, Lindsay, and Mariposa. Duncan Fisher, formerly an elder at Mount Pleasant, and Thomas ray, ordained by mr. tweedie, were the first elders.


The congrgation was, in its simple way, peaceful and prosperous, and if matters had been allowed according to the best wishes of the people the Presbyterian church in Lindsay would have had a very different history for the next few decades. However, the Caledonian disruption of 1843 ultimately reached Lindsay and rent the church asunder. Had it not been for the ecclesiastical interference from without, it is extremely doubtful whether any local differences would have produced the wide estrangement that afterwards existed. As it was, Mr. Tweedie resigned in 1855 and several families withdrew from the log church to form the nuleus of a Free Church body which six years later became identified with the Canada Presbyterian church. The remainder of the original congregation continued in connection with the Church of Scotland. Thus, in Lindsay, instead of one united and prosperous Presbyterian congrgation, two small parties struggles along through overwhelming difficulties.

For three or four years the Church of Scotland had no regular services in the log church. In 1859 the Rev. William Johnston was inducted as their first minister. In 1863, during his pastorate, a brick church was put up on the Francis Street lot. Mr. Johnston was succeeded in 1865 by the Rev. J.B. Muir, and on Sunday, November 25, Messrs. Neil McDougall, Thomas robertson, and Godfrey McPherson were ordained as elders. Mr. Muir was followed by the Rev. Robert Dobie, and he in turn, in 1870, by the Rev. J. Allister Murray of Mount Forest.

The Canada Presbyterians were likewise without services for some time after separation. In 1856, Mr. Sharpe, a colporteur, was sent in by the Canada Presbyterian church to inquire into their state and prospects. He held some services in the old town hall on Cambridge Street (later Sinclair's Carriage Works) and in the Episcopal Methodist church building on Peel Street. In 1863 the congrgation bought the northeast corner of Lot 8 on the south side of Peel Street, just west of William Street, and on it built a church. Services were given by student missionaries and by members of the presbytery from time to time. Such famous divines as the Rev. Mungo Fraser and Dr. Gibson preached here in their student days. Up to 1869 Thomas Ray was the only elder, but in that year C. Blackett Robinson, editor of "The Canadian Post," and Dr. Tweedie, then practising medicine in Lindsay, were added to form a session. In 1868 the Rev. Mr. Binny was inducted as the first regular pastor. He remained for five years. Then, in 1873, the Rev. Mr. Hoskins was called and inducted, but remained only a few months. He was succeeded in the

latter part of the same year by the Rev. E.W. Panton, who continued as pastor for nearly two years.


In 1875 a notable event took place in the history of Canadian Presbyterianism when on June 15th the two sections of the church were happily reunited. In accordance with the recommendation of assembly that whenever there were two weak congregations they should if possible unite, St. Andrew's church on Francis Street and the Peel Street church at once proceeded to amalgamate. Both pastors resigned, and the united congregation became St. Andrew's church, Lindsay.

All now worshipped in the Francis Street building. On June 22, 1876, the Rev. James Hastie of Prescott became the first pastor of the unified church. He was succeeded on June 17, 1884, by the Rev. Daniel McTavish, D.Sc., who was chosen by the congregation even before his academic course was finished.

The church edifice on Francis street was now found to be far too small and new accomodation was sought. In December, 1885, Mr. William Needler offered to donate a site on the southeast corner of William and Peel Streets and to make cash subscriptions that would bring his total contribution up to $3000. A canvas was made throughout the congregation, who then totalled 266, and funds were raised to build an $18,000 church. On June 7, 1886, the corner-stone was laid by Dr. McTavish. A commemorative scroll was read by Mr. J.R. McNeillie, and an address delivered by Rev. G.M. Milligan of Old St. Andrew's, Toronto. A hurricane which raged throughout the ceremony helped to make the occasion a memorable one. The church was formally opened on January 2, 1887, by Principal Grant, of Queen's University. It was seventy-five feet long by sixty feet wide and was designed in the style known as "decorated Gothic." The architect was William Duffus of Lindsay who also planned the convent, the Anglican Church, and the Collegiate Institute.

The elders at this time were Thomas Ray, James Watson, John Matthie, John McLennan, James Hamilton, Andrew Robertson, and James R. McNeillie. The Francis Street building was now occupied for many years by public school classes and was demolished in more recent times to make way for dwelling houses.

In November, 1887 a manse was built on the southwest corner of York and Peel streets, just behind the church, and was taken over by Dr. McTavish. On July 11, 1889 he was succeeded by the Rev. Robert Johnston, B.A., a gold medallist in general proficiency in Arts at McGill University and a gold medallist also at the Presbyterian theological college at Montreal. In 1895 the Rev. J.W. McMillan, B.A., of Vancouver, was inducted. During his ministry, on January 21, 1900, a new Sunday School building of white brick was opened just north of the church. It was built by John Thorburn of Lindsay and had a seating capacity of 750.

The Rev. James Wallace, M.A., B.D., M.D., C.M., now of Renfrew, succeeded the Rev. Mr. McMillan in 1903. The present pastor, the Rev. F.H. McIntosh, has been in charge since 1915.

There are 1297 Presbyterians in Lindsay.

Next - History of the County of Victoria Part 21

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