Asbury Methodist Church
1821 – 1921

By Rev. Thomas Brown, B.D.

This is a transcription of an 8-page booklet produced for the centennial of Asbury Methodist Church.


The very interesting historic subject matter, contained in this booklet, was gleaned from many sources, by Rev. Thomas Brown, B.D., while he was stationed in Perth, 1916-20 as pastor of Asbury church. A great amount of time, energy and research must have been involved in the accomplishment of this labor of love for which the congregation of Asbury church will ever feel deeply grateful to Mr. Brown.


Rev. Richard Jones gives the following account: —

In the year 1816 the townships north of the Rideau Lake known as Perth Settlement were settled principally by discharged soldiers (officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, and privates), some of whom had been with Abercrombie in Egypt, with Wellington and Sir John Moore in Spain, and some even with Cornwallis in his unsuccessful attempt to put down the Revolution in America; but the greater part of them had seen service in the un-natural war of 1812 which raged between Great Britain and the United States of which Canada was the great battlefield.

At a very great expense the British government tried to make these old soldiers and their families as comfortable as possible at the close of the war. They were not only allowed to choose their own location free of all expense; but each man received according to his rank, from one to five hundred acres of land. They were also supplied with all necessary implements and husbandry and tools for building purposes; also cooking utensils and blankets according to the number in each family with one year’s provisions for each man, woman and child. At this time there was but one minister in the settlement, the Rev. William Bell, of the Old Kirk of Scotland, who had been sent out by the authorities of the Church for the especial benefit of some settlers from Scotland and he was at least partly paid by the Government. A year or two after this the Rev. Mr. Harris, who had been an officer in the army, came for the benefit of such as adhered to the Church of England which, at that time, claimed to be the established Church of Canada as well as of England.

The first Methodist preacher who really itinerated through the settlements was the heroic and indefatigable Peale. Occasionally one or two from the front had visited the town; but Peale was the first to scour the woods and establish regular preaching places, which he had to do on foot. Such was the character of what were called roads as to render it impossible to use the horse in summer, and in the winter the great difficulty was to get provender. On foot, therefore, both summer and winter, this man of God made his way from concession to concession, faithfully filling his appointments and gladdening the hearts of the backwoodsmen with the tidings of salvation. His work was truly pioneering — preparing the way for those who were to come after him and who were to be more successful in forming societies.

He, however, gathered in some, most of whom probably had been members in the old country and other parts of Canada, such as the Pooles, and Jones and Boltons and Richeys and Boyds, and Bradens and Mansells and Greenleys and McGraths and Stedmans. He was useful to some of his own companions in arms whom he was pleased to meet again following the arts of peace. He returned thirty at the end of his year of pioneering which he prosecuted with sometimes a hungry stomach and in rags.

Leaving Perth, Mr. Peale was stationed on the Bay of Quinte circuit. Endeavoring to cross the Bay on the newly formed ice to reach his appointment Sunday morning, he took off his boats to walk the slippery ice. Before the service was over it was evident that he had taken a violent cold. He reached a resting place with Mr. C. Switzer, took to his bed and was never able to leave it. He died peacefully on Christmas Day, 1822 — a stranger in a strange land.

Rev. Richard Jones, continuing his narrative says:

Peale was followed by Philander Smith, who remained, however, only a few weeks as a substitute for Franklin Metcalf, who had been prevented by lameness from entering upon the work for a time. Metcalf came, and God was with him — opening new doors of usefulness to him in all directions. He soon became a general favorite. The seed that had been sown by the self-denying Peale had begun to produce fruit, and Metcalf was admirably qualified to take care of it and at the same time go on sowing like precious seed.

The Holy Spirit was poured out so that conversions, both in town and country, were frequently taking place; and many who had been Methodists in the Old Country and in the older settled parts of Canada, but who, from having been deprived of Christian fellowship had become miserably back-slidden were now reclaimed and became shouting happy! for we were not ashamed in those days to shout when we were blessed.

In 1823, Elder Ryan who was then presiding elder of a district, which embraced the whole of Upper Canada east of what is now the city of Toronto, and which took in the Perth Settlement, was so encouraged by the success with which God had crowned the labours of Metcalf as to consent to give the circuit a quarterly meeting in the middle of the week, in a small log chapel in the town of Perth. The church was fitted up in true backwoods style. There was no painting or planing — both pulpit and seats were made of lumber fresh and green from under the saw. On the second day of the meeting there might have been about one hundred and fifty persons present; some of whom had come ten or twelve miles on foot. At the close of the love-feast between twenty and thirty gave in their names for membership.

“That meeting,” said Rev. Richard Jones, “was the turning point of my life. It was there I decided to be a Methodist, thus following the example of my good father, who had dared to be a Methodist in the midst of all the drinking, swearing and debauchery of military life. No one was more thankful to God for sending itinerants to us than he was. He at once united with the class, which Mr. Metcalf formed at Bolton’s Mills on the 10th Concession of Bathurst, and he lived to see most of his own family converted and a large number of his neighbours made happy in God. In the 73rd year of his age he passed away. Col. Playfair (one of the fruits of that revival) preaching his funeral sermon.” Mr. Metcalf gathered into the fold no less than one hundred and one immortal souls.

Solomon Waldron was sent as Mr. Metcalf‘s assistant and he preserves an interesting sidelight on conditions of travel. He says “That on February 8th, 1824, Elder H. Ryan attended our quarterly meeting — good time — took me with him to the Rideau quarterly meeting. On the way he drew some refreshments from his old portmanteau which consisted of raw pork and dry bread washed down with cold water. In the Long Woods his jumper broke down. I dismounted, took his battle axe, which he carried, twisted some switches, and soon put his pung in running order.”

In a letter from Rev. Franklin Metcalf, dated Perth, Upper Canada, January 28th, 1824, he says: — “At the last Genessee conference I was appointed as a missionary to this new settlement of which Perth is the principal village. With the assistance of Brother Waldron, my worthy colleague, I have formed a four weeks’ circuit; and notwithstanding our difficulties have been many and even discouraging, we have succeeded in establishing a society of upwards of 100 in this place, and of forming societies in other parts of the circuit. In one neighborhood a gracious and powerful work has been wrought and a society of about forty has been formed, several of whom had been Roman Catholics.”

The following will be of interest, dated November 11th, 1824, and, therefore, during the pastorate of Mr. Metcalf: — “The members of the Methodist society in Perth met at the chapel on Thursday, the 11th of November, 1824, for the purpose of taking into consideration the best measures to be adopted for procuring hay for the preacher’s horse; to appoint a person to keep the chapel clean and attend to the keeping a fire in the stove at proper times, and to procure wood for the same; and in order to defray the expenses thereof, it was resolved that such members as were able and willing should pay one shilling per quarter for the purposes aforesaid. “Resolved, also, that a treasurer be appointed, whose duty shall be to receive all subscriptions, to lay out the same to the best advantage and to keep a regular and proper account of all monies paid in as well as all disbursements. “Brother Glassford having offered to keep the chapel clean, light the candles, and attend the stove, resolved that he be paid for the same one dollar per quarter. Benjamin Tett, Treasurer.”

In 1825 Revs. Ryerson and Samuel Bolton were appointed, the former to Perth, the latter to a mission, comprising “the newly settled townships between the Mississippi and Ottawa Rivers.” Though distinct in name, these fields were worked in conjunction. The “newly settled townships” were Lanark, Ramsay and Pakenham.

The new ministers were experienced and capable men and made their headquarters with Capt. Adams on the Tay, three miles west of Perth. Mr. Ryerson was counted an eloquent preacher and among the half-pay officers in the military settlement had the reputation of being a gentleman in his connections and well educated. Mr. Ryerson being very studious was regarded as too taciturn. A very excellent Christian lady, the leader of a class, whose husband was settled in the township of Ramsay, a Mrs. Mansell, greatly desired to draw out Mr. Ryerson in conversation. She devised a project to do it. She contrived to be out of candles the next time that he lodged at her house. Unable to read successfully, the silent preacher was fain to respond to the good lady’s overtures for conversation. Six years after that event, she spoke of the pleasure of that evening’s converse with this well read servant of God.

John Ryerson was succeeded by Rev. W. H. Williams. The Conference afforded him no colleague, but the presiding elder employed a gentleman who lived on the circuit to labour as his assistant. This was Andrew W. Playfair, born in Paris, but of Scottish extraction of good connections and good education, nephew of Prof. John Playfair, of Edinburgh University. He had borne a lieutenant’s commission in the British Army, 104th Regiment, settled in the Perth settlement at the close of the war and erected mills on the Mississippi River, afterwards Playfairville. He heard Mr. Metcalf preach and a new light dawned upon his soul. He became very zealous and useful at once, and made a local preacher, and was later engaged by the presiding elder, to fill the place of second preacher on the circuit on which he lived 1826-27 and continued as a local preacher over forty years.

He was very useful in a local capacity for many years. He was promoted in the militia, being known as Col. Playfair; and then entered the arena of politics being elected a member of the Old Parliament of Canada in 1857. He was born in 1790 of Scotch ancestry and passed away in Sept. 1868 in the 79th year of his age.

Captain Adams was of Puritan stock and born in New England but coming to Canada in boyhood, he became thoroughly imbued with British principles and feeling, and had commanded a militia company on the frontier during the war of 1812-15, often having been entrusted by his old Colonel to perform certain hazardous enterprises, in which said Colonel did not choose to risk his own venerable head. Captain Adams was converted in the wilds of Canada in his youthful days. He threw open his door to the first who crossed the border between the old and new settlements. He first lived in Perth and then removed to Glen Tay. He was a born steward and did much for the temporal interests of God throughout the new settlements. His house was a complete “Methodist Inn” and the headquarters for the preachers for a wide region round.

The wilds around were full of game, and Capt. Adams knew how to secure it, which earned for him the title of “Mighty Hunter.” His leaving home at any time, rifle in hand with his hounds and a spare horse, beside the one he rode, was the unfailing earnest [sic] of the former being laden on his return with deer; and Mrs. Adams, a famous and diligent housekeeper, like Rebecca of old, knew how “to make savory meat of the venison,” both fresh and dried, as all the preachers knew well, and scores of others besides.

William Magrath, or Father Magraw as he was called, was born in London, England, and had served in the army as a non-commissioned officer. His religious character had been moulded by the ministry of Bunting, Clarke, Dixon and Watson, then in the zenith of their power. He had preserved his religious life in the barrack room. Father Magrath became a model class leader. He had ready speech, a prevailing gift in prayer, a good singer with a good memory stored with intensely beautiful and profoundly spiritual hymns of the Wesleys.

There are several names that deserve fullest recognition for faithful and continuous service. It would be interesting to enter more fully into particulars, if we had more time at our disposal.

In the original list of subscribers to the church building appears the name of William Poole; then in 1833 presumably his son, Thomas Poole, is named as recording steward to he followed by many years of earnest and successful work as a local preacher doing much to build, up Methodism in those pioneer days.

Among those to whom the church is much indebted is the brother, who served for so many years in the most important lay office of the Church, recording steward. I refer to George Kerr who was appointed after faithful service in other capacities in 1840. His records are a model of neatness and upon him was laid much responsibility, which he most efficiently discharged.

About the same time Robert Elliott was appointed a member of the board in the capacity of a steward, giving diligent and faithful attention for many years to the gathering together of funds needed to maintain the work, no easy task in those days when ready money was not easily procurable. All honour to these and many other faithful men and women who were in labours abundant!

Before closing mention should be made of Mr. John Deacon, who served the church as one of its most representative laymen from about 1845. In the midst of a. busy legal practice he found time to render efficient service in its local and conference enterprises. He was appointed Judge and removed from Perth, taking up his residence in Pembroke.

Another honoured name is that of Thomas Cairns, Perth’s postmaster for many years, who from 1870 took up the work of recording steward and honoured by his brethren by continuance in that office for a quarter of a century. The records show how faithfully he discharged the duties of his office, and how much the church is indebted to him for his painstaking and diligent service.

Men who have entered the Christian Ministry from Perth: George Poole, Richard Jones, Alva Adams, Barris Pierce, Solomon Edmunds, Ephraim Harper, Alexander Hardy, Rev. W. T. G. Brown and others. It would be interesting to have a complete list.

It was on January 16th, 1878, during the pastorate of Rev. Jacob Freshman, and at a meeting of the whole membership, that it was unanimously decided that a larger church was necessary to meet the requirements of the growing congregation. A lapse of five years occurred, however, before definite steps were taken to this end when, under the pastorate of Rev. G. H. Davis, at a meeting of the Quarterly Official Board held February 26th, 1883, the subject was revived and introduced by Mr. Robert Lillie, who then and there offered to give one thousand dollars towards the erection of a new church. This generous offer was followed up by others and about four thousand dollars were speedily subscribed. In accordance with the resolution adopted on this occasion, a general meeting of the congregation was called, March 5th, and the scheme was heartily endorsed by all present. A Building Committee was nominated and approved as follows: — Rev. G. H. Davis (Chairman), Mr. George Kerr (Secretary), Mr. Henry Moorehouse (Treasurer), and Messrs. Cairns, Lillie, Bower, Elliott, Rudd, Jamieson and Rugg. Much credit is due to these men for the manner in which they carried to a successful completion, the task entrusted to their care. All have passed to the Great Beyond with the exception of three namely Robert Lillie, Robert Jamieson and Dr. Rugg. The contract was awarded in October and in the following Spring of 1884, the old church building having been removed, work was begun on the same site for the erection of the new edifice, which was completed, and dedicated to the Worship of Almighty God, in December, 1884, the pastor at that time being the late Rev. Richard Whiting, and the preacher on that occasion being the late eloquent Rev. Dr. Douglas. In the following year the S. S. Hall was erected at the rear of the church, and a year later, during the pastoral term of Rev. Dr. S. G. Bland, the pipe organ was installed. When Rev. W. G. Henderson was in charge, and at his suggestion, the name of “Asbury” was given to this church, which is at the present time, the place of worship of the Methodist people of Perth.

Many more items of interest might be referred to, did space permit, but there is one outstanding event, which may not be omitted. At the time of The Great War, 1914-18, there were thirty young men of Asbury church, who heard the call to “Go Forward” and bravely they served in defence of the Empire. Eight never returned, their lives were given in the cause of righteousness and liberty. The record will ever be preserved by a Roll Of Honor containing all the names, which has been placed in the auditorium of the Church and near to it is a handsome tablet to the memory of the fallen. That great struggle is ended, but there is still a call to the young people of this church that they “Take up the torch” and “Go Forward” in the service of the King of Kings, carrying on the good work, which was begun by the pioneers amid such hardships and difficulty one hundred years ago.

Year  Ministers.
1821James Griggs Peale.
1822-24Franklin Metcalfe; Solomon Waldron.
1825John Ryerson.
1826William H. Williams.
1827Richard Jones, George Farr.
1828John Black.
1829Alvan Adams.
1830-31John Carroll.
1832-33William Patrick.
1834-35James Brock, Hugh Montgomery.
1836Thomas Harmon, Reuben Tupper.
1837George F. Playter, Wm. Willoughby.
1838-39John McIntyre.
1840-41James Currie.
1842-43George B. Butcher.
1844-45George Goodson, James Greener.
1846David Madden, Erastus Hurlburt.
1847-48Francis Coleman.
1849-50Jonathan Scott, James Armstrong.
1851-52James Gray.
1853-66David C. McDowell.
1857-58Henry Lanton.
1859-61George McRitchie.
1862Amos E. Russ, John B. Keagy, B.A.
1863Amos E. Russ, W. Watson, B.A.
1864Amos E. Russ, George Rogers.
1865Wm. Hansford, Alexander Lester.
1866Wm. Hansford, Ebeneezer Leskey.
1867Wm. Hansford.
1868-70Joseph E. Sanderson, M.A.
1871-73Thomas Brock.
1874-76William S. Dyre.
1877-78Jacob Freshman.
1879-80George McRitchie,
1881-82George H. H. Davis.
1882-85Richard Whiting, Salem Bland.
1885-88H. F. Bland, Salem Bland.
1888-92W. G. Henderson.
1892-95Wm. Jackson.
1895-97G. G. Huxtable.
1897-00S. J. Hughes.
1900-02F. McAmmond.
1902-04Wm. Timberlake.
1904-08Manly Benson.
1908-12J. Douglas Richardson.
1912-16Wm. E. Reynolds.
1916-20Thomas Brown.
1921A. J. H. Strike.
Expenses Laid Out On The Chapel.
Paid to James Richey
          on the lot
          To 5000 shingles326
          To window glass
          for the Chapel..
Contributions Collected For Building
The Methodist Chapel Begin-
ning 1st June, 1821.
Samuel Woods …….1  5
James O’Hara …….20
John Jackson ……..50
William Richey …….10
John Greenley …….20
Arthur Clendennan……….10
William McGraith ………20
Alex. Matheson ……20
James Richey ……..21
Archibald Scott …….20
James Leach ……..10
James Cannon …….10
William Stedman ………10
John Gibbons ……..10
Thomas Burk ……..10
Benj. Radwell …….15
John Willis ……….5
Sanders Goodall ……20
Richard Rudsdale . .1
Joshua Adams …….2
Lieut. Consitt ……..13
Col. McMullen …….26
Dr. Thomas ………10
Mr. Cox ………….26
Collection on past Sunday ..110½
John Thompson ………2
Mr. Dobson ……….10
James Deacon …….10
Moses Englis ……..10
John Watson ……..5
John Adamson ………5
Dr. Reed …………5
John Tetlock ……..10
John Thompson ……126
William Poole …….1
James McCracken ………10
James McKay ……..10
Hannah Frost …….10
William Hales …….10
John Ferguson ……10
John Holliday ……..5
David Hogg ………5
Charles Charbonneau. .5
Thomas McAdam ………76
Col. Taylor ……….5
Col. Marshall ……..5
Dr. Wilson ……….13
David Bogg ………5
Benj. Dolisle ……..2
Mrs. Matheson …….26
Mr. Graham ………10
Richard Rudsdale ………10