Published in the Perth Courier, Dec. 15, 1905.
PERTH BAPTIST CHURCH WAS ORGANIZED IN 1842.
Its Continuous Growh Is Set Forth in a Paper Read at
Recent Thankoffering Meeting — Its Pastors, Officers
and Charter Members.
PIONEER BAPTIST CHURCHES OF LANARK SKETCHED.
The following paper, entitled “History of the Perth Baptist Church,” was read by Mrs. Hugh Robertson at a thankoffering meeting of the congregation of the Baptist church on the evening of Friday, November 3rd.
Before giving a sketch of the growth of this church, we might give a few facts concerning the pioneer Baptist churches of this county. About the first one organized was in North Sherbrooke by the Rev. Mr. McAlpine from Scotland, and grandfather of the Mr. McAlpine, who is present pastor of the Baptist church in Brampton, Ont. The services were held at the home of Mr. Francis Davies‘ father, until a meeting house was built. All God’s servants were welcome to this home. Rev. Wm. Bell, first Presbyterian minister of this town, would occasionally go up and preach here. The mother of the family would say. “Our house is both a kirk and a mill,” as the people would come during the week, to have their corn ground, which one of the sons did by hand in a pepper mill.
Other ministers followed Mr. McAlpine. A good work was done; the church increased in numbers, among whom were the MacDougall family and our late sister Mrs. (Col.) MacMillan who was baptized in Dalhousie Lake nearby. The fever for moving westward seems to have taken hold of the people then, as it has now. Many of them moved to Western Canada and the United States; consequently this once prosperous church became extinct.
In 1819, Mr. Duncan MacNab (father of Miss MacNab, sr., of this town) came to this country and, with his family, settled in Beckwith. Anxious to work for his Master, he preached, as he had opportunity, on the Lord’s Day, besides working hard at his trade all through the week. One Sunday, the service would be in his own home, the next, he would walk to Carleton Place or over to the town line in Drummond, to hold service. Then the following Sunday, he would walk to the sixth line of Bathurst, preaching in the home of the McDiarmid‘s, the grandfather of Dr. A.P. McDiarmid, the present principal of Brandon College, Manitoba. In 1833 Mr. MacNab moved to North Elmsley, settling on the farm occupied, until recently, by the MacNab family. That year he organized a church in his own home, the membership numbering five. Before there was a Baptist church in Perth, some of our parents would drive down on Sunday and worship with this little band. The last Sunday our brother MacNab was on earth, this church was transferred from his home to Smith’s Falls, the name changing from North Elmsley church to Smith’s Falls, with the exception of the family of Mr. Duncan McEwen, who united with the Perth church. The Lord richly blessed Mr. MacNab; four churches springing from his labours — Beckwith, Carleton Place, Drummond and Smith’s Falls.
EARLY BECKWITH CHURCH
The church at Beckwith (the home of the McEwen‘s) continued steadfast for years but eventually had to be closed for the same reason as the Sherbrooke one. Sixteen years ago, the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of Eastern Ontario and Quebec was formed and the first work undertaken was to repair the Beckwith church. Since then, this society has helped to maintain services there.
The Carleton Place and Drummond churches were closed for a time, so some of the members of these churches united with the Perth church. It is said that the late Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Cram frequently walked from Carleton Place to Perth to attend service. The Campbell‘s, McLaren‘s, Davidson‘s, Sinclair‘s, Mitchell‘s, etc., of Drummond, were regular attendants, driving over very rough roads and many of them not in very comfortable conveyances. An incident is told of Mr. and Mrs. Davidson (father and mother of the late Dr. T.L. Davidson) who, on returning home one Sunday afternoon in their cart, met with an accident on Stanley’s hill and had to come back to town, where Mrs. Davidson had a dislocated limb set. Arriving at the “Baptist Hotel,” the query was how to get Mrs. Davidson out of the cart, as she was a heavy woman. Dan, one of the little boys in the family, said, “take the pin out of the cart and dump it down easy.” This suggestion was acted upon.
PERTH CHURCH BUILT.
In the year 1841, through the generous efforts of some friends in and around Perth, a church was erected on the site of the present building.. This structure, 30×48, was plain, unpretentious and void of paint. The original subscription list is in the possession of Mr. Wm. Allan, Allan’s Mills. The names of members and adherents of all denominations appear on this list : —
“We, the undersigned, do bind outselves to pay the sums opposite our respective names to the committee appointed under the direction of the members of the Baptist church for erecting a suitable place of worship in the Town of Perth for their accommodation, to be paid as the said building progresses (paid in £ s. d): — Francis Allan, Wm. Lock, Donald Campbell, Hugh McDermid, Neil McFarlane, Hugh McCallum, Peter McLaren, Hugh McTavish, Peter Sinclair, Davidson & Leslie, Mrs. Davidson, Josiah Davies, James Wilson, J.G. Malloch, H. Montgomery, John Moir, Alex. Ferguson, Wm. Matheson, Angus M. Gilling, Peter Gray, W. Closs, Alex. Stewart, John McDougall, Wm. Wordie, John Montgomery, a friend, W. and J. Bell, Robt. Kellock, Duncan Campbell, And. Dickson, John Campbell, Peter McKinley, John Thompson, Alex. Fraser, Robt. Douglas, Charles Miller, Peter McTavish, Alex. Tait, Josias Richey, Alex. Cameron, James Templeton, James Garven, Hendry Rull, Malcolm Cameron, Allan McDougall, John McGregor, John Robertson, Donald Robertson, John Garven, John Hogg, Wm. Ritchie, J. and W. Adams, Robt. Lillie, Elisha Drew, Carr Thompson, James Flintoff, George Miller, W. McGrath, John Doran, Bill Matheson, Pat. Ryan, Stephen Mutten, John Flemming, Alex. Ferguson, — — Cameron, Wm. Buell, Adam McKinley, T. Holliday, Thomas McLean, Malcolm McPherson, David Mitchell, Robt. Grey, George Kerr, David Tait, Wm. Brown, Dawson Kerr, sr., G. Cox, Alex. Cuthbertson, Robt. Wilson, Widow Wilson, Geo. McCulloch, Wm. Thompson, Jas. Laurie, Jas, Condie, Robt. McLean, R. Gemmell, W. Radenhurst, John Haggart, W.J. Muir, John Wilson.
Baptist ministers had visited Perth from time to time and preached in the stone school house which stood where Mr. Jas. Moodie now lives on D’Arcy Street. Meetings were also held at the home of Mr. Donald Campbell, Drummond, father of Mrs. Jas. Gould, town. Mrs. A.C. Sinclair remembers about the first meeting when she was sent around with notes to announce it.
REV. FIFE IN 1842.
The Rev. R.A. Fife began his labors in September, 1842, and the church was fully organized by him October 31st, 1842, with a membership of 25. These were the charter members, under the name of “The First Baptist Church of Perth.” The Rev. R.A. Fife, the first pastor, received a salary of £60 a year, half of which might be paid in country produce or store goods. Three deacons, a clerk or secretary, a treasurer, and five trustees constituted the first office bearers. The names of the first deacons are not recorded but first clerk was John Campbell, treasurer Robert Kellock. First trustees were Hugh McCallum, Donald Campbell, Neil McFarlane, Hugh McTavish and John McDiarmid. These were to continue in office until the last Saturday in December when Murdoch McDonnell was chosen sec’y., Robert Kellock re-elected treasurer and Wm. Ritchie, John McDiarmid, John Campbell, John Ritchie and Francis Allan appointed trustees, Thomas Davidson to be presentor. It is recorded in the minutes of this business meeting, that one of the male members volunteered to attend to the heating of the meetinghouse; the keeping of it, in a decent state of cleanliness, being left to the females in connection with church and congregation, who were expected to attend to it in rotation.
Rev. Mr. Fife continued his ministry for a year when he was called to Montreal to take charge of the Baptist college in that city. He was succeeded by the Rev. Jas. Cooper (afterwards Dr. Cooper), a faithful, earnest pastor whose memory is dear to many. In 1847 Mr. Cooper was succeeded by the Rev. Peter McDonald, but latter left following year, Mr. Fife resuming the pastorate. Owing to Mrs. Fife‘s ill-health, Mr. Fife was compelled to leave Perth after another year’s service. The folowing pastors have been in charge since 1849, namely, Revs. Porterfield, R. Hamilton, John Cameron (father [of?] Rev. Carson Cameron), Mr. Ashton, James Mackie, Thos. Henderson (father of the late Mrs. J.F. Kennedy), Richard Nott, Wm. C. Caldwell, Jos. Forth, J.H. Thorne, D. Laing (now of Kingston), Ernest Grigg (missionary in India) and present pastor G. [C.?] Rock; 16 pastors in 63 years, the shortest pastorate, Rev. Mr. Porterfield‘s was six months, the longest, Mr. Rock‘s, thirteen years. Most of these men were earnest, faithful, godly men, some of them afterwards attaining to high positions in the denomination.
OLD BUILDING IMPROVED.
The old building in its lifetime had undergone repairs and additions as circumstances demanded. In 1851 the addition of a tower gave it a more ecclesiastical appearance.
In 1873 (we read in the minutes) a new well was dug. At the annual meeting that year a hearty vote of thanks was given Mr. Isaac Corry, father Mr. Geo. Corry, town, for his active service in regard to it, and it was resolved to call the well “Isaac’s Well” in his honor.
In 1874 the organ was introduced to aid the singing. Hitherto the Presentor did the singing. The presentors were [?]L. Davidson, John Campbell, D. Campbell, J.W. Adams and Thomas Farmer (father of G.B. and C.A. Farmer, this town, and of Dr. Jones Farmer, McMaster University, Toronto). The organists have always given their service gratuitously.
NEW CHURCH BUILT.
In 1875 a vestry was added at the rear of the main building. But the time came when the old chapel must give place to a new one. In April, 1888, the contract for the edifice having been let the old historical church in which the Baptists had worshipped for two or three generations, where so many had been brought to the knowledge of a better life, the scene of many hallowed memories, was torn down. While the new one was being built the congregation met for worship in the Music Hall. On the 28th June, the corner stone was laid by Mrs. McMillan, the oldest member of the church, assisted by Hattie Kennedy (Mrs. Arthur Jackson) and Margaret Robertson, the two youngest members. Services appropriate to the occasion were held, an eloquent address being delivered by Dr. Castle, principal of McMaster College, Toronto.
The contract for the entire work of construction was given to Mr. W.H. Ireland, then of Perth, who executed the same in a creditable manner. The chair seats were put in by Mr. W.J. Pink, town, coming from the factory of Chas. Rogers & Son, Toronto. The pulpit sofa was very kindly donated by Mr. D. Hogg and the clock by Rudd & Neilson. The entire cost of the church was $7,000. During the year the congregation aided by a few friends raised and paid over to Mr. Leckie, the treasurer of the building fund, $4,900; not one dollar of which had been raised in any questionable way, but all gave willingly as the Lord had prospered them. The building committee were Dr. J.D. Kellock, H.S. Leckie, Robert Ritchie, J.F. Kellock and Wm. Allen. Two of those who took such an interest and active part in the erection of this building — H. S. Leckie and Dr. J.D. Kellock — were in a few years after its completion called to their rest. Only two members who witnessed the erection of the first church survived to see the building of the second — Mrs. (Col.) McMillan, Perth, and Mrs. James McLaren, Drummond.
The opening of the new church took place on Sunday, May 31st, 1889; Rev. Douglas Laing, pastor. At 9:30 a.m. a prayer meeting, presided over by Mr. Leckie, commenced the opening services. The service at eleven was conducted by Rev. J. Denovan of Toronto. At three in the afternoon Rev. J. Ross of Knox church preached; then at the evening service Rev. J. Denovan again occupied the pulpit. The attendance at all services was large, Knox church being closed in the evening. The opening services extended to Monday evening when Mr. Denovan and the resident ministers of the town addressed the meeting and extended their congratulations. Dr. Kellock gave in an interesting and concise form a history of the church since its formation. This was published in the Courier at that time and from it we have taken some extracts. The collections during these services were liberal amounting to $151.
On June 9th the baptistry was used for the first time, the following persons being baptized on profession of their faith : — Fred Adams, C.H. Lyon, J[.]s. Malcolm, Alex. Robertson, Annie Ferguson, Gertrude Lyon and Rocklife Lyon.
It is impossible, owing to imperfect records, now to ascertain the whole number of members on the roll of this church since it was organized in 1842, but we find in some of the early records that have been kept the names of many men and women — poor and humble yet rich in faith. The great majority of these have passed away. From time to time many have gone forth to Western homes, to United States and elsewhere. The Perth church has nurtured sons and daughters, who going from this their first church home have helped to build and maintain the cause of Christ in many places. Last week we received a letter from Mr. Stephen McEathren of Huron, S. Dakota, one, who was a member of this church in the early days. In it he said, he had long wished that he might be privileged to re-visit the home and church of his youth.
THE OLDEST LIVING MEMBER.
The oldest member now living whose name is on the church roll, is Mrs. George Cherrie, sr., of Otty Lake; next to her comes Mrs. A.C. Sinclair and Mrs. Wm. Allan.
The young people of the church and congregation are continually leaving, finding employment elsewhere. This makes it hard to keep up the finances and is sometimes discouraging both to pastor and people. However, we who remain believe the Lord has a work to be done for Him here and He will not fail us if we do our part. You remember when Moses pleaded poverty God asked “What hast thou in thine hand?” “Nothing but a rod” was the reply. What wonders that rod did. When the widow came to Elisha in great trouble about the debt she owed, he asked “What is in thine house?” “Nothing save a pot of oil” she answered. How that oil was increased. The Lord makes use of what we have first then gives the needed blessing.
The following story furnishes us with a lesson; “A poor woman was going along one of the streets of Glasgow and as she went on, would stop and pick up something and put it in her apron. A policeman noticed and followed some distance behind and finally asked what she was doing. She replied, “I am just picking up the broken bits of glass to save the bairns’ feet.” It was a humble act but meant much to the bare-footed bairns who would pass that way. So we may not be able to do much, as we bring our offering, but if we do what we can in His name it will help to save this house for the bairns to come and worship God in, who will be here when we have gone the way of all the earth.
LIST OF OFFICE-BEARERS.
The following is a list of office-bearers since organization of the church — that is as far as records on hand show :
TREASURERS — Robert Kellock, Josiah Davies, J.K. Earskine, H.S. Leckie, and J.F. Kellock (present one).
CLERKS OR SECRETARIES — John Campbell, Murdoch McDonnell, Josiah Davies, H.S. Leckie, H.S. Robertson, Dr. J.D. Kellock, Wm. Allan and J.F. Kennedy (present one).
ORGANISTS — Mrs. J.D. Kellock, with Mrs. Hugh Robertson as assistant, Miss Maggie Allan (now Mrs. A.J. McAdam), Miss Lizzie Kellock (now Mrs. L.J. Gemmell), Miss Lizzie Campbell, Miss Waites (now Mrs. Ireland), Miss Allie Kellock (now Mrs. G. McCarthy) and the present ones, Misses Mary Davies and Laura Robertson.
DEACONS — Robert Kellock, Wm. Ritchie, Neil McFarlane, J.W. Adams, James Robertson, Wiliam Allan, J.D. Kellock, Robert Ritchie, H.G. Hawkins, G.B. Farmer, James Irons, John R. Robinson, John McNab, John Ritchie, James Ewart, James Dennison, John Malcolm, George Farmer. The present deacons are Geo. Farmer, G.B. Farmer, John Ritchie, Wm. Allan, Jas. Ewart, and Jas. Dennison.
TRUSTEES — Hugh McCallum, Donald Campbell, Neil McFarlane, Hugh McTavish, John McDiarmid, Wm. Ritchie, John McDiarmid, John Campbell, John Ritchie, Francis Allan, Robt. Kellock, J.K Erskine, Thos. Farmer, James Robertson, Isaac Korry, Wm. Smith, John Adams, George Corry, H.S Leckie, Duncan Campbell (Elmsley), Sam Farmer, Alex. Campbell, Donald Robertson, J.F. Kennedy, Wm. Allan, Adam McKinley, Geo. Dunnet, James Scott, Thos. Ewart, G.B. Farmer, Geo. Watson, Wm. Allen, Mr. Benjaman, John R. Robinson, Jas. Ewart, Alex. Robertson, Jas. Gould, C.H. Lyon, Findlay McNab, Thos. Sharpe. The present trustees are : — James Gould, J.F. Kennedy, Jas. Ewart, C.H. Lyon, Thos. Sharpe.