Intro | Pioneers | Division |
Reunited | Celebrate |
Notes | Index
2. The Period of
Looking at St. Andrew's Church we note that during the thirty years of its separate existence it had two pastors. The first was the Rev. Geo. Bell, M.A., (in later years, Dr. Bell) formerly of Cumberland and Buckingham, and afterwards of Niagara, Walkerton, and Queen's College, Kingston, in which for some years he was lecturer in Divinity, and where as Registrar and Librarian he spent the closing days of his scholarly and sanctified life.
When Mr. Bell came to Simcoe in Nov., 1848 he set to work to organize the church more perfectly. The communion roll had but 17 names upon it; but 19 were added at the first communion. The walls of a brick church had been erected soon after Mr. Dyer left; but the congregation were not strong enough to complete it at the time, and they still worshipped in the Grammar School. The work of building was now resumed; and on March 3rd, 1850, Simcoe's first Presbyterian church was dedicated.
In 1853, encouraged by an offer of $600 from the Clergy Reserves Commissioners, on terms acceptable to the congregation, a brick Manse was erected on Dean Street, opposite the church. It was occupied in January, 1854, and was a valuable addition to the church's equipment. It was sold, after Mr. Livingstone's death, 1887; and is now used as a private residence.
In May, 1854, a Ladies' Aid Society was formed, and it rendered valuable service in drawing the members of the church more closely together, and in improving the finances.
Mr. Bell devoted much of his time to mission work in the county, -- preaching at Vittoria, Port Dover, Lynedoch, and Delhi; and sometimes at Silverhill, Walsingham, Middleton, and Jarvis; keeping the knowledge of God alive in these new settlements, and paving the way for new congregations in some of them. After 8 years of earnest and successful work in Simcoe, he was transferred, in 1857, to Niagara.
Mr. Bell's elders at first were John Polley and Abraham Youngs, already mentioned in Mr. Bryning's session. To these were added George Jackson sr., the father of the large family of Jackson's, the McKiee's, McCool's, and others who have played so prominent a part in the history of the congregation and of the town. Mr. Jackson had been an active church worker in Scotland, and on his arrival in this community, he and his wife were, on March 18th, 1849, enrolled as members of Simcoe congregation. His devotism to the church, his sterling character, and his strong business qualities were soon recognized, and on Sept. 22nd, 1850, he was ordained and inducted an elder; and doubtless he took an active part in bringing St. Andrew's church to completion.
After a vacancy of 16 months the second pastor of St. Andrew's church was inducted on May 19th, 1858, namely, the Rev. Martin W. Livingstone, formerly of Musselburgh, Scotland, who continued pastor for nearly eighteen years, when he resigned, on Feb. 9th, 1876, to promote the union of his congregations with other Presbyterian churches beside them. His long pastorate in Simcoe was marked by steady, earnest work. Having a church and manse, a Session and Managers, a Sabbath School, and a Ladies Aid, he developed the life and activities of the church through these. He organized the congregation at Lynedoch and built their church, and he founded the church at Windham Centre. He preached regularly at Simcoe in the morning, and at Lynedoch and Windham alternately in the afternoon. He also held monthly services at Vittoria and occasional services at Dover and Silver Hill. He made the enviable record of having failing to meet his appointments in Lynedoch but four times in 18 years, -- twice from deaths in his family, once from impassible roads, and once from a violent rain storm.
He was a gentleman of the old school, courtly and courteous, with scholarly attainments and fine literary tastes. On March 21st, 1887, at the age of 87 he was gathered to his fathers, with confident expectation of a joyful rest with his Master.
Among the church workers in Mr. Livingstone's day, Geo. Jackson sr., and his large family occupied a prominent place, as they have ever since. Mrs. Geo. Jackson jr., was for 18 years continuously President of the Ladies' Aid Society and their capable leader in church work. For many years a strawberry festival was held on the beautiful grounds at her home, Oak Lodge. It was one of Simcoe's annual events, and the financial results were always gratifying.
In the early day the "raising of the tune" was a matter of some concern. In Mr. Bell's time Geo. Jackson jr. and Wm. Wallace M.P., started the tune with a flute; but in Mr. Livingstone's time a very small melodeon was procured. The first to preside at that melodeon was Marion Livingstone (Mrs. Innes) who was followed by her sister, Mrs. Jackson, and then by Mrs. W. W. Livingstone. The melodeon was replaced by a cabinet organ, and that by the present pipe organ.
We come now to the Free Church branch of the church in Simcoe. Like St. Andrew's it was for some years without a settled pastor and without a church building. Nor did its pastors, except for one year, reside in Simcoe, but at Port Dover.
|The first settled pastor was Andrew Wilson, M.A., -- Port Dover,
Vittoria, and Simcoe being his first charge. He was a man of clear views, evangelical
spirit, and moral force, and was careful and business-like in his work. All his life he
declined to sing anything but the psalms at public worship. He was pastor in Simcoe from
Jan. 29th, 1851, till Nov. 10th, 1853, when he was transferred to Kingston.
After a vacancy of two years Wm. Craigie from Scotland, was, on June 5th, 1856, ordained and inducted as pastor of Port Dover and Simcoe, and continued in the charge for 16 years. The first year he made his home in Simcoe, but afterwards in Port Dover. Mild and sympathetic, earnest and of public spirit, he rendered good service to the church and community. He resigned the Simcoe portion of his work on June 5th, 1872; but continued his work in Dover till his death in 1881.
The Simcoe Free Church people were for 17 years without a church edifice, and worshipped in a succession of buildings, namely, the "Mud Church" (a Congregational church standing where Atkinson's marble works now stand) and made of sun-dried brick; the Baptist brick church (now Hiller's livery stables); St. Andrew's church; and the Music Hall. But the little congregation decided to have a church of its own; and in 1863 its first and only church, on the corner of Norfolk and Stanley Streets, was dedicated and named Norfolk St. Church. It was a commodious brick building and gave an impetus to the work. Later a vestry was added to it, ample sheds erected, and the neat ground surrounded by iron fencing. The enthusiasm evoked at the building of the church was quite extraordinary. Money was subscribed liberally, material was given, and men and women turned in and did largely the work that did not require skilled labor. For example, a boy volunteered $5 and earned it by sawing wood; the vestry was built with an outlay of only $1.50 in cash; and one woman sat in the church two nights keeping the fires to prevent the plaster from freezing. The church never had a paid caretaker, the women attending to such duties.
A Ladies' Aid Society was formed in 1856; and in Oct. 1867 they held a sale that realized $400. At Christmas 1862, just before the opening of the church, the ladies had a sale that yielded them $350; and two years later, when the sheds were built, another sale netted $250. Two of the prominent workers in those days are still active members of the church; namely, Mrs. John Boyd and Mrs. John Scott.
|The elders in Simcoe Free Church were Duncan Clark, Thos. Dick, Alex.
Young, R. Mattheson, and John Scott. At the time of union only one of these remained,
namely Mr. Scott, who for years had been the most prominent member of the congregation.
The Simcoe Free Church had neither organ nor choir, but in singing Psalms and Paraphrases
were led by Precentors.
For the three and a half years from Mr. Craigie's resignation till the union, Norfolk St.
Church had no settled pastor, although they had given three calls which were declined.
They were proceeding with a fourth call, -- to the Rev. Malcolm M. McNeil of Mount Forest,
Ont., who had been with them for some time; but proceedings were suspended and union with
St. Andrew's was decided upon.