History of Kedron United Church

The introduction to a book entitled "The Life of a Church" by Jean C. Bishop  

Free copies of the book are available from Kedron United Church


Kedron United Church was dedicated at special services on three successive Sundays in June of 1952. In celebration of its fiftieth anniversary it is fitting to recall the years of dedication and enterprise that led up to its construction. For this was the fourth church built to serve the spiritual and social needs of this community over a period of 164 years.

For the 150th Anniversary of a church in the Kedron community in 1988 the artist Allan McGillvray painted pictures of his conception of the four buildings where services were held in those years. His paintings hang in the addition to the church.

This is how Allan McGillvray thought Kedron's first church, built in 1838, may have looked --rough log construction with tree stumps in the clearing around it. People walking to church, and an itinerant "saddle bag" preacher approaching on horseback.

We need to use our imaginations to try to picture how this area looked when the settlers first arrived.  Trees! Trees! And more trees! Woods were everywhere. The roads would be dirt and often impassable mud.  Along the roads were small clearings around log cabins and small barns.  There would be a few cows and oxen, chickens, horses, pigs and dogs.

Also  let  us  think about  who  these  first settlers  were  and where  they  came  from.  Most of them were from southern England.  In England wealthy people  owned  large  tracts  of  land which were  worked by  hundreds  of  tenant  farmer  fami­lies.  When  all  the  jobs must  be  done by hand  the whole  family  had  to  work, even  the  children. Very little time was spent in school.

One  reason  for  social  change was  that  the price  of  wool  went  up,  and many  of  the  landowners decided  to  raise  sheep  instead  of  field  crops. You  only  need  a  few  shepherds  to  tend  flocks  of sheep,  which  resulted  in  these  farming  families losing  their  jobs  and  their homes.  They had nowhere to go.

However,  these  displaced people were  fortu­nate  that  an  almost  empty North American  conti­nent  was  opening  up  at  that  time,  where  land could be  owned  for very  little  money.

But  it  wasn't  easy  for  these  settlers  to decide  to  leave  their  homes  and  families,  which they  might  never  see  again.  It  was  hard  to pack  a few belongings  in  a  small  trunk  and take passage for  Canada  on  a  small,  crowded  sailing  ship.

The first year was terribly difficult. Setting  sail  in  the  spring,  it  would  take  six weeks  to  two months  to  travel  across  the Atlantic Ocean  and up  the  St.  Lawrence River to Quebec City, then by smaller boats on up to Whitby Harbour.  They would make  their way  to  the Registry  office  to  choose  a  farm  lot  from a map, and  then  find  the  right  piece  of  land out  in  the forest.

It  was  probably  late  August  by  this  time and  a  Canadian winter was  not  far  off.  A simple cabin would be their most urgent need.  Trees would have  to  be  cut  to build  it,  and neighbours would  help  out  with  food and  shelter  and the building  of  the  cabin.  Then more trees would be cut down around the house so that grain could be planted among the stumps.

These families couldn't bring many possessions in their small trunks, but almost all of them brought a bible, and perhaps a hymn book.

In England a farm family wouldn't have been able to travel to worship in a great Cathedral in a City, nor even in a smaller stone church in the village. But a preacher named John Wesley had begun taking church services out into the country throughout England. He held camp meetings under the trees and his brother Charles wrote hymns. (We still sing some of his hymns to-day.) Great religious excitement was felt at these meetings as people experienced a vivid relationship with Jesus and his teachings about the Kingdom of God. John Wesley's followers became known as Methodists.

Most of the Methodist families who settled in the Kedron community would read their bibles and pray together every day. Families would get together in one of the homes every Sunday for bible study, and sometimes a travelling minister would preach a sermon. These men were called "saddle bag preachers" because they travelled around the country on horseback, and carried all their possessions in their saddle bags.

About seven years after the settlement began, the Methodists and Presbyterians decided to build this first church. A farmer donated the lot which was on the east side of Harmony Road just north of Conlin Road. Farmers on both sides of the road gave permission to cut logs from their woods, and everyone pitched in. Trees had to be cut and cleared of their branches with hand saws and axes, and then drawn to the church site by oxen. The most skilled builders put them together to form this first church. The women probably produced food to feed the workers. This log church was used for ten years by both Methodists and Presbyterians. Methodists held services on Wednesday nights and the Presbyterians on Sunday.

The people of Kedron showed two qualities in building this first log church. First, like the children of Israel they felt gratitude to God for bringing them safely to this promised land, and they felt it was very important to have a special place where they could worship God. They had very little money, but as country people they had the skills and co-operative spirit to work together to build a church with their own hands. This same spirit is shown in the building and maintaining of all four of Kedron's churches.

The Second Church

Ten years after the first log church was built, the Presbyterians built a church at Columbus and our Methodists built their second church a short distance north of the corner of Ritson Road and Conlin Road somewhere in the field south of Ron Werry's house.

We're not sure what this church looked like but our artist thinks it may have looked

something like this picture. They could improve on the old log construction because by this time logs could be sawed into boards in the saw mill which Richard Luke and Thomas Pascoe had built on Oshawa Creek.

The only object we have from that church is a metal candle holder designed to be hung on thewall. Allan McGillivray included the candle holder in his painting so that it would be remembered. Then at the time of the 150th Anniversary Mrs. Gussie Mountjoy, who was a granddaughter of Richard Luke, and the mother of Marion Starkoski and Eleanor Hannah gave the candle holder to the church, and we were able to hang the real candle holder beside the painting of the church.

Kedron's Third Church

Fifteen years later, in 1863, our third church was built on the corner across the road,

a very fine red brick building for that time. We know the size and shape of this church building because it is still there. Allan McGillivray's painting of the church shows it with all the buildings that were added later. Also in the entry of the present Kedron Church you can see scale models of the third and fourth churches which were carefully crafted by Ross Brown.

There was another important change at this time. Until the third church was built the area was known as the Luke Settlement because two Luke brothers were among the first settlers, and all seven of Richard Luke's sons settled on farms in the area. When the new church was built it was decided to call it Kedron Church because a small brook ran near the church. This brook reminded those keen students of the bible of "the brook Kidron" which the bible mentions as near the Garden of Gethsemane.

What did the inside of this church look like?  It had only one room, with a wood burning stove as you entered at the south end. Stove pipes stretched along the ceiling to a chimney at the other end of the church, throwing out heat all the way. At the north end was a raised platform for the pulpit, an organ that was pumped with the feet, and seating for the choir. Pews for the congregation were arranged in three sec­tions with two aisles. The middle seats had dividers in the middle. At first some of the church funds were raised by pew rentals. The rate was set at two dollars a year for the centre sec­tion and one dollar a year for the side seats. This practice was discontinued in 1881.

You can imagine the difficulties in serving lunches because there was no well at the church. Water had to be brought to the church from home and heated on the stove for making tea and wash­ing up. Dishes and cutlery were kept under the hinged seat of one of the choir pews.

Kedron was always a two or three point charge while services were held in the third church. As Methodists they shared a minister with Brooklin. After it became part of the United Church of Canada, Kedron became part of the Columbus-Kedron-Raglan charge. Services were held in the afternoon with Sunday School at 1:30 and the church service at 2:30.  The whole family attended both sessions as there was a bible class for adults. Curtains could be pulled on wires to separate the various Sunday School classes.

Now let us consider the other structures in the picture and in the model. Along the north side of the churchyard was an open shed where horses could be stabled. The enclosed shed built at right angles to this shed was a major improve­ment added in 1919. This addition made possible a great many more activities. The highlight of the year was the annual church anniversary in June with special afternoon and evening services on Sunday, and the anniversary supper on Tuesday.

For this occasion tables and chairs stored in the shed were scrubbed and arranged for the supper. For many years Mrs. Fletcher Werry's wood-burning kitchen range was disconnected and set up in the shed for these suppers. When the Werry’s bought a new stove the old range was given to the church. Water was brought from home in milk cans and heated in copper boilers. There would be several seatings for a supper of cold meats, salads, pies and tea. One year Doris Lee organized a hot chicken pie supper with women cooking chicken pies at home and bringing them to the church just in time for serving.

After dinner everyone would gather at the south end of the shed where there was a portable stage and two dressing rooms for putting on plays or concerts. There was a tradition for churches in the area to attend and perform at each other's anniversary suppers. Kedron's Adult Bible Class produced a play each year from 1915 to 1931. They would put it on at Kedron, and then at neighbouring churches. One play was performed fourteen times. Proceeds from these plays, as well as from other fund raising activities, like the sale of quilts made by members of the Women's Association, were set aside in a "Building Fund" to enlarge the church at some future date.

There was a great need for such expansion. The enclosed shed could be used for social gatherings in the summer time but that wasn't very satisfactory because farmers had more time to get together in the winter. But events kept getting in the way. First there was the Depression when farmers had barely enough income to survive. Then from 1939 to 1945, during the Second World War, all building materials were used for war production. General Motors produced tanks and armoured vehicles instead of cars. All efforts were focused on winning the war.

Kedron's Present Church

After the war ended a great many young couples started building houses in the Glover and Brown subdivisions across the corner from the church, greatly increasing the size of the con­gregation. At the annual meeting in 1951 a

committee was appointed to look into what it would cost to enlarge the red brick church and also what it would cost to build a new one on the other side of the road.

When they heard the report the Board voted for a new church. The Committee especially liked the new church that had just been built at Orono, and they had plans drawn up for a modified ver­sion of that church.

For one dollar Frank Lee sold a piece of land for a church to be built across the road from the old church. Since there was very little money in the Building Fund it was decided to build the basement of the new church and roof it over to use as a church for a few years.

The Finance Committee began collecting dona­tions, and they were surprised by the way the money rolled in. By the next meeting a month later almost $11,000 had been promised. Six families loaned $5,000 apiece, interest free, to cover the cost of building materials until donations came in. Within a few weeks they could see that the whole church could be built at once.

Unfortunately the minister, Rev. D.C. Osborn, resigned in June. Rev. Roy Rickard took over as minister in late September, and he guided the congregation through all the decisions and problems of a large building project with patience and good humour.

The first sod was turned on July 17th, 1951, and there began a year like no other in the life of this church. George James got the project off to a good start by excavating the basement and doing the backfilling without charge. When the contractor, Percy Chapman of Orono, became ill in December Howard Hoskin

supervised the urgent job of getting the roof on before winter closed in. After Percy Chapman died in January, the remainder of the work was supervised by Horace Searle, working with Bruce Searle and John Hislop. Walter Schleiss contracted to lay the bricks, and Lew York, of Manilla was the steeple­jack who put on the roof.

Many of the other jobs were done by volun­teers. Bees were organized and trucks were loaned to transport the bricks for the walls to the Elliott's yard across Ritson Road from the church, and later to move them to the church site. Volunteers raised the arches, shingled the roof, laid the floors, put ten test on the walls of the Lower Hall and did the painting.

A great deal of ingenuity was shown in assembling materials. Two of the supports for the ceiling of the Lower Hall were made of timbers from an unused footbridge in Columbus. The ash steps and risers at the entrance to the church and leading to the platform were made from old seats from the Presbyterian church in Enniskillen. The undamaged furnace from the Orono church that burned was given to Kedron to keep the interior warm for working during the winter and to burn scraps of lumber. Converted to oil it heated the church until an electric furnace was installed in 1984.

One special second-hand item was planned very deliberately. The distinctive window over the front door of the old church was taken out and placed in the same position in the new building as a symbol of continuity.

Most of the church furnishings were donated by families or by individuals, including items like the pulpit, the communion table, the cross, offering plates, the boards to show numbers of the hymns, the front inside and outside doors, and the gravel for the parking lot.

There is a list of gifts and their donors in the Memorial book at the back of the church, and a list of more recent gifts is printed at the end of this book.

This beautiful, gracefully proportioned building was completed in one year. A farewell service was held in the old church in May of 1952, and on three successive Sundays in June, fifty years ago, large crowds gathered to dedi­cate the new church.

The first Sunday the church building was dedicated to the glory of God with appropriate ceremonies and special music. The next Sunday they dedicated the new Hammond organ, which the Young People bought with money raised by putting on plays. That first organ was built into the right hand side of the choir loft facing the pul­pit. The third Sunday the stained glass chancel window, "The Light of the World", given by the Lee family was dedicated. And the new church began its life as the heart of the Kedron Community.