Cobourg Presbyterians

Historical Sketch of Presbyterianism in Pioneer Days

Old Stone Kirk Supplemented by a Commodious Edifice

The Present Active Autonomy

Pastor Hay Presented With An Appreciative Address and Purse of 865

Although Northumberland County and its pretty capital town of Cobourg forms part of a comparatively new country, so many years have elapsed since the necleus of the little society from which has grown the strong Presbyterian congregations of town and local county, that data concerning it is almost legendary. It is said that the first Presbyterian meeting held in this vicinity took place at the late Mr. Oliver Stanton’s father’s residence, probably in the years 1824 or 5. It is also told that a clergyman by the name of Jenkins, a minister of the United Synod of Upper Canada, preached and dispensed the sacrament of the Lords’ Supper in the old Court House, before the present goal-building in 1830 was erected. In 1827 Mr. Jenkins ordained the late Hon. A. Jeffrey and the late Mr. John Wallace to the office of elders in an inn at Port Hope. Contemporary with these were Mr. Lyat, Mr. Quay and Mr. Jameson, elders, who lived near Port and Mr. John Lindsay, who resided near Cobourg.

It was a happy day for local Presbyterianism, when in the summer of 1834, the "old-stone kirk" the ruins of which were a few years ago removed from the site on William St, was dedicated to the service of God. At that time the tract of territory now known as Northumberland county reached from the Trent river on the east to the present western boundary and from the lake front as far north as there were any settlers. This included east and west Peterboro and it is presumable that on the occasion of this notable dedication that the congregation gathered from nearly all points of the county, for churches were few and far between and our forefathers did not think a 20 or 30 mile drive a hardship. On that memorable summer Sabbath morning in July, when the "old kirk" was dedicated the preacher was the late Rev. James Ketchum of Belleville, and he took for his subject, "The bush burning not consumed," Exodus 3, 2-3.

It may be of interest to some to note in passing that the stonework on this building was done by Mr. John Fraser while Messrs. Burnett had charge of the carpentry. At first the "old kirk" had only seating capacity on the ground floor, but this proved inadequate to accommodate the increasing congregation and in the winter of 1844 a gallery was erected by Messrs Kelly and Stewart. On the 15th day of the following March the late Rev. Dr. Burns, then of Paisley, Scotland, on the occasion of his first visit to America as deputy of the free church of "Auld Scotia" conducted re-opening services. His text was the memorable words of St. Paul to the church at Rome, "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" – words that have comforted many a Christian before and since the day that Dr. Burns made them the subject of his brilliant discourse.

Within the precipice of this "old kirk" sometime during 1836-7 was held another memorable gathering when representatives from nearly all Presbyterian congregations in the province assembelled to consider what steps should be taken to maintain the Presbyterian church share in the "Clergy Reserves." Hon. Wm. Morris, Perth, presided and Hugh Noble at this time editor of the "British Colonist," published at Toronto, was secretary. This meeting sent Hon. Mr. Morris to Britain to lay the church’s claim before the Government, which he did with successful results.

There was also held in 1845 the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada there having on its roll-call the names of 33 ministers and 31 elders.

The "old kirk" had three ministers, Rev. Thos. Alexander, who was both ordained and inducted into the work of the church and Revs. D. McLeod and John Laing. Among the older residents are some few who remember the inspiring words of comfort, faith and hope that fell from their lips as they expounded the word of God.

The first communion was held on the 29th of February, 1835.

In the year 1861, the needs of a yearly increasing congregation, coupled with the fact that the Presbytery of Toronto upheld by the Court of Chancery, claimed the edifice, made another place of worship a necessity, and on Dec 14, 1862, the present Presbyterian church, situated on west King St., was opened for Divine services. It is a capacious white brick structure with large galleries running round three sides, kept in good repair externally and internally, comfortably seated, appropriately upholstered and decorated, and at present has seating capacity for 875. The cost of the building was about $25,000. The first trustees of this property were the late Messrs. John Pratt, Thos. Morrow, Peter McCallum, Sr., Wm. Jeffery and Alex. Frazer.

At a congregational meeting held Feb 9th, 1866, the Deacons’ Court, which up to that time had managed the temporalities of the congregation, was superceded by the formation of a board of twelve managers, elected by members and adherents of the congregation. Four of the members of the board retire each year, but are eligible for re-election and the temporal affairs of the congregation are at present managed in that way.

In the year 1890 the prosperous congregation of this church decided to erect a school room and put a pipe organ in the church. This was done, at a total cost of $8000. The school room is a fine addition to the church property, - large and appropriately divided, it provides all facilities for holding Sabbath school, week night services, lectures, musical and literary entertainments, etc. Every convenience is at hand to serve refreshment, and entertainments held in this building are justly notable for the expeditious and satisfactory manner in which guests are served by the efficient ladies of the congregation who have these events in charge. This building contains school room, vestry, lecture room, infant class room, ladies parlor, Bible class room and the organ alcove.

The first session of the church was composed of Rev. M. Miller, M.A. Moderator, Hon. A. Jeffrey, John Lindsay, and Samuel Campbell. The members of the present session are Rev. J. Hay, B.D., Moderator; Messrs. Walter Riddell, Jas. Russell, Alex. Russell, N.F. MacNachtan, A. Pratt, H. Carrothers, James Kerr, Thomas Spear and T. A. Harvey.

The present Board of Managers is as follows: - Mr. J. S. Skeaff, chairman; Mr. W. Burnet, treasurer; Mr. G. Spence, secretary; and Messrs. Ferguson, J McCaughey, J.G. Orr, R. Cowan, W.J. Hamilton, J. Sanders, John Brown, H. L. McNachtan, Geo. Thompson.

As reasonably might be expected there are several important and flourishing societies in connection with this congregation which have for their subject the extension of the Kingdom of Christ and furtherance of all schemes of the church. Chief among these is the Women’s Foreign Missionary society, efficiently officered by Mrs. N.F. MacNachtan, president, Mrs. Wm Burnett, secretary, and Miss Whitlaw, treasurer.

There is also the Ladies Aid Society with Mrs. H.L. MacNachtan as the esteemed president and Miss Vair, the competent secretary-treasurer. Each of these societies have a good membership and their meetings are well attended and full of interest.

The Sunday School is an organization of which any church might be proud. It is excellently officered and its teachers are earnest, faithful workers. The pastor’s Bible Class is well attended and its sessions deeply interesting and profitable to all. The officers of the school are as follows: - Superintendent, Mr. T. A. Harvey; librarian and treasurer, Mr. W. J. Hamilton; assistant, Mr. Jas. Boulton, secretary, Mr. H. Trebilcock; musical committee, Mr. Geo. Archer, Miss Kerr, Miss Sidey and Mr. J. Wilkie.

The Young People’s Society is an important factor in the work of the church as a means of deepening and strengthening the spiritual life of the young and in providing social pleasures for young and old. During the past year its regular weekly meetings have been particularly interesting and its open sessions have been looked forward to and attended to by members of all denominations.

At the present its officers are, Mr. J. Mathieson, president; Miss Scrimger, 1st Vice President; Mr. Geo. Anderson, 2nd Vice Pres. and Miss Poe, Secretart treas.

Last but not least among Presbyterian church societies is the Daisy Mission Band with Mrs. W. J Hamilton the much esteemed president, Mrs. N.F. MacNachtan, Vice-Pres. and Miss Mina Jaminson, secretary, Miss Marion MacDonold, treasurer.

Since the Presbyterian congregation have occupied their present handsome church edifice five ministers have been in charge, the last of whom is still their much appreciated pastor. At the time of the church’s erection Rev. John Lang, D.D. was pastor, he having been inducted in November, 1859. For 13 years he labored among this people until, 1872, Rev. Dr. Jas. Douglas was inducted into the pastorate. After four years faithful service he was succeeded by Rev. Jas. Ballantyne, M.A. in 1876 and six years latter, Rev. D. L. McCrae, Ph. D., now of Collingwood, came here as pastor of the Presbyterian church. He remained in Cobourg for seven years and then the present genial pastor, popular educationist and much esteemed citizen, Rev. J. Hay, B.D. and his estimable wife came to make their home in Cobourg. The induction service was held on July 31xt 1889.

Mr. Hay has Queen’s University for his Alma Mater and his college career in that celebrated educational institution in the "Limestone City" was a remarkably brilliant one. In the year 1882, Mr. Hay graduated in Arts, receiving besides the Governor General’s medal for general proficiency the gold prize in Mental and Moral Philosophy. In 1883 first honors were his for then he won the medal in Political Economy. In the spring of 1885 Mr. Hay graduated in Divinity taking the degree of B.D. In the year 1886 he was ordained and inducted into the pastorate of St. Andrew’s Church, Campbellford, where he labored efficiently until called to the work of the Presbyterian church, Cobourg, in 1889. In 1887 Mr. Hay married Miss Catherine Colquohoun of Colquohoun.

The excellent choir of the Presbyterian church has Mr. A.J. Warner, who enjoys a provincial reputation as an efficient conductor for leader. Miss Helen Minaker is a competent organist. Following are the members of the choir: Sopranos, Misses Scrimger, Bowman, Stott, Sanders, Johnson, Morrison, Mann, McIntosh. Altos, Mrs. Hamilton, Misses Howie, webster, Mann, K. Warner. Tenors, MessrsGowan, Thompson, Dew_ar, Hamilton. _____Messers Anders, E.A. McNachtan, J.S. Skeaff, Wm Ma__ia, Mann, Warner. This choir under Mr. Warners direction have given Gaul’s Canata, "Roth", the following choruses and anthems: - "Hallelujah". (Messiah) Handel; "Inflamatus:, Sta___ Mater, Rossint; Marvelous Work (Creation), Ilayda, Gloria from Mossarts 12th Mass; Te Deum (Festival) Fa__, "Te Deum (Festival Meitake; Hark, Hark My Soul" Shelley and a host of other well known and popular selections.


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