HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN WINCHESTER, ONTARIO
Presbyterians in the Winchester area began holding services in a log school house and later in a barn. The first organized Presbyterian service of worship was held in 1857. A wood frame building was started in 1858 and completed in 1860. It was painted white and was known as “The White Church”. The mission was recognized as a congregation in 1864.
In The Beginning:
In 1835, 26 year old Benjamin Bates from Ireland was the first to settle in the area now known as Winchester, Ontario. Other settlers followed from the British Isles as the British Government gave United Empire Loyalists the land in 1784. The settlement was called Bates Corners. In 1855 it was names West Winchester by Federal Government Post Office. It was later named Winchester and was incorporated as a village and independent municipality in 1888.
The first worship was held in Bate’s cabin in 1838 (east of the where the Baptist Church is currently located), near Center Street on Main Street East. In the early days Presbyterians worshipped in a log school built at the corner of Main and St. Lawrence Streets. Later they met in a barn erected by John Christie, an early settler. Travelling missionaries conducted services. In 1857 Mr. James Thom, a missionary, held the first organized Presbyterian service in the Christie Barn. The first church in the settlement was built in 1857 by the Methodist Episcopalian congregation on the south side of Main Street, west of Mill Street. Services were held fortnightly. The same building was occupied in turn by Wesleyans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists.
Mr. A. Kennedy supplied in 1858 and a new church was begun, and in 1860 the Presbyterian’s Church was completed. It was called the White Church being a framed building on the north-east corner of the John Christie farm on the land donated by him, with Mr. Christie being the architect and builder. The pews had doors. The offering was collected in red velvet pouches attached to long poles. Lead tokens were distributed to the faithful at the Preparatory Service. A preceptor directed music with a tuning fork. Later an organ was used with some objections because it was thought to be improper. The mission field of Winchester was created into a regular ordained charge in 1864. In 1864 the White Church was sold to the Wesleyans who continue to worship there at 537 Main Street West – now known as Southgate Church.
In preparation for the construction of the new worship center, “The White Church” was sold in 1894 and was known as the Wesleyan Church for many years. Recently it has become to be recognized as Southgate Church. While the new church was being built the congregation worshiped in the Baptist Church. St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church was dedicated on June 2nd, 1895. The mission was recognized as a congregation in 1864.
In 1864, the cornerstone for the present St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church was laid by Rev. Principle Grant of Queen’s University. On June 2, 1895 the new church was dedicated by Rev. Principal McVicar of Montreal, Quebec. Mr. G.F. Stalker of Ottawa was the architect and Mr. A. Campbell of Ottawa was the contractor. Rev. D.S. Connery was the first minister. The church is surrounded with a warm and polished wainscoting and a ceiling centered with a cross in the sanctuary, vestry and choir room. A Sunday School Auditorium with four rooms, a business centre, an accessible washroom and a kitchen are divided from the Sanctuary by a wall, which may be stowed to provide extra seating. The basement has extra classrooms, meeting rooms, storage, and washrooms.
The edifice was built in Romanesque style and took the form of a double octagon 55 by 106 feet. The walls are red brick supported by iron columns resting on solid masonry in the basement. The turret on the north-west corner rises slightly above the roof but the square tower with round corners is eighty-eight feet high and houses a splendid bell which is rung every Sunday just prior to the ten o’clock service.
A pipe organ was dedicated in 1903 but since has been replaced by an electric organ. Some of the old pipes still remain at the front of the church. The church has always been supported by music and a choir.