Sixty Years Old

The Congregation of Duff’s Church

Celebrates Its Diamond Jubilee

from the Guelph Mercury newspaper for June 29th 1899.


          Friday was a red-letter day in the history of Duff’s Church, East Puslinch.  It was the 60th anniversary - the diamond jubilee - of the congregation as such.


          The church was comfortably filled in the afternoon and would no doubt have been crowded had it not been for the fact that farmers are busy with work just now and few of the young men were present; but there were quite a number of their elders and the women folks and a few - only a few now remaining - of those who worshipped in the first log church, across the road from the present neat stone structure.  Among those few was Mrs. Meldrum, the widow of the first minister, who took charge of the congregation in November 1839; Mr. Malcolm McBeath, who came in 1830; Mr. R. Watson, Mr. H. Cockburn, Mr. Donald Clark, Mr. John Hammersley and a few others.


          The pulpit platform and windows of the church were beautifully decorated for the occasion.  The services were opened by singing “All people that on earth do dwell”, in which the congregation heartily joined.  Afterwards the pastor read the 90th Psalm, which was followed by earnest and encouraging prayer by Rev. Dr. Wardrope, full of thanksgiving for the blessings of the past and of earnest petitions for a continuance of the blessings in the future on pastor and people.


           Rev. W. Robertson, pastor, was pleased to see such a large gathering and congratulated them on the diamond jubilee of the church.  This was a day of sacred memory, when the eldest looked back over sixty years of joys and sorrows and things of sacred delight.  The influence of such a time should promote a sacred ambition to follow worthily the example of the pioneers who laid the foundations of the religious life of Puslinch.  He urged on the rising generation to do all that possibly could be done to advance the cause of Christianity and uphold the Presbyterian church.  He thought that it might be of interest to read to them extracts from the session records.  He regretted that prior to 1844, the time of the disruption, the session records were not complete.  He then gave a short history of the church:


The History of the Church


          People began to settle in Puslinch in 1830.  Rev. Thomas Wardrope, father of Dr. Wardrope, a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, settled on what is now known as the Elliot farm in 1834.  He and others conducted services in log houses, barns and the open air.  A petition was soon after presented to the Crown Lands Department, Toronto, for land to build a church upon.  This was graciously granted and a small log church was erected.  The charge was known as the congregations of East Puslinch and West Puslinch.  There were 81 members at the organization.  Through Rev. Mr. Bayne of Galt, afterwards Dr. Bayne, the congregation sent to Scotland for Rev. William Meldrum, then a licentiate of the Church of Scotland.  He arrived in November of 1839 and was ordained on the 11th of March 1840.  Mr. Meldrum remained here for about fifteen years.  In 1855, the Rev. Alexander McLean was ordained pastor and the two congregations became separate charges.  Mr. McLean continued pastor for about eight years, when his sudden death, under peculiar circumstances, caused a sad termination of promising life.  In 1865, the congregation called the Rev. Kenneth McDonald, who continued as minister for about six years.  In 1873, the Rev. Dr. Alex McKay was inducted and continued pastor of this congregation until 1889, being pastor longer than any other minister here.  The present pastor, Rev. W. Robertson, was inducted in 1890.


          From 1839 to 1844, the average yearly increase of members was 18.  Rev. James Smith, a minister of St. Andrew’s Church, with Rev. Mr. Ferguson of Esquesing, conducted the first communion service in the summer of 1839.  His son, Mr. John Smith, collector, was now with them.     At a subsequent stage of the proceedings, Mr. Robertson took great pleasure in announcing the fact that twelve ministers had gone out from the congregation, viz.:  Revs. Dr. Wardrope, Guelph; James Little, London; G. G. McRobbie, Ph.D., Shelburne; Prof F. R. Beattie, D.D., Louisville, KY; D. M. Beattie, deceased; W. E. Beattie, Woodlawn, Alabama; Donald C. McKenzie, deceased; P. J. McLaren, Belwood; John Little, Chatsworth; R. T. Cockburn, Kimball; C. M. Wyse, near Brandon.



The Members of the Congregation


          In this connection, it will be interesting to give the names of the members of the congregation that appeared on the records of the united congregations of East and West Puslinch in June 1844:


          Rev. William Meldrum, Moderator; Peter McNaughton, Neil McPhatter, John McDiarmid. Lauchlan Kennedy, Alexander McKenzie, Roderick Cameron and Gillies McBain, elders; Rev. Thomas Wardrope, father of Dr. Wardrope; Mrs. Wardrope, Mr. and Mrs. John Idington, Widow Logan, Mr. John McFarlane, carpenter, and Mrs. McFarlane, Mr. and Mrs. John Marshall, Mr. and Mrs. James Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Donald McShannock, Mr. and Mrs. William Reid, Mrs. and Mrs. William Graham, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm McPhatter, John McRobbie, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Neil Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Edmunston, Mr. and Mrs. George Taylor, James Gow, Mr. and Mrs. Peter McLean, Mr. and Mrs. Dugald Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Idington, Eliza Idington, Widow McRobbie, Grace Douglass, John McLean, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McNaughton, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm McNaughton, Mr. and Mrs. John McCallum, James McRobbie, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McRobbie, Lewis McRobbie, Mrs. Huton Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Borthwick, Anne Cameron, Widow McNeilage, Adam Darling, Mrs. Duncan McEdward, Catharine Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald McMaster, Peter McLaren, Alex McKenzie, B.; Agnes Idington, John Black, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Smith, Widow Patrick, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Campbell, Widow Fraser, William Stephenson, Neil Currie, Widow McLennan, , Mr. and Mrs. James Thompson, Widow McCaig, Mr. and Mrs. Lauchlan McBain, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Cameron, Mrs. Donald McLean, John McLean, Anne McLean, John Thompson, Duncan McFarlane, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Little, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Cochrane, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander McDonald, Widow Winters, Mrs. John Cameron, John Campbell, Mrs. Duncan McColl, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Ramsey, Alexander Ramsey, Widow John McAllister, Mr. and Mrs. Neil Wilkinson, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Stewart, Widow Stewart, Widow McCormick, Alexander Wilkinson, Mr. and Mrs. John McColl, John McPherson, Mr. and Mrs. Duncan Cameron, Mr. and Mrs. Donald McCaig, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick McPherson, Mr. and Mrs. John Thompson, Hugh McDonald, Mr. and Mrs. James McCaig, William McKenzie, John Martin, Roderick Cameron, John McBain, James Wardrope, Mary Fraser, Christina Cameron, Isabella Cameron, Widow McMillan, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Blair, Mrs. Daniel Currie, James Reid, Mrs. Malcolm McIntyre, James McMeekin, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Currie, Mr. and Mrs. William McCormick, Mrs. Lauchlan McDonald, Flora McMaster, Mary McLennan, Mrs. Peter McNaughton, Mrs. Roderick Cameron, Mrs. Alex McKenzie, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Black, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Furries, Widow Paterson, Matthew Elliott, Mrs. Matthew Elliott, Marjory Stewart, Agnes Paton, Mr. and Mrs. John Fraser, David Wardrope.




Interesting Reminiscences


          Rev. Dr. Wardrope, one of the first members of the congregation, was called upon by the chairman.  The doctor congratulated pastor and people on the event and the awakening of the many hallowed memories, which it would ring in its train.  He spoke of the word “remember”.  The word came up here and there in the scriptures and the likening was as to a journey.  “And thou shalt remember all the way the Lord thy God has led thee these 40 years in the wilderness, to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, to know whether thou wouldst keep my commandments or not.”   He drew an interesting comparison between the pilgrimage of the children of Israel and themselves.


Along with them, he looked back on the way the Lord has led them, sympathized with them in their struggles, and rejoiced with them in their rejoicing.  He made mention of Mr. McBeath and one or two others of the early settlers who worshipped in the old log church on the other side of the road from the present neat edifice.  It was in that old log church that he had commemorated the dying love of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It was of special joy to find that the family of the first pastor, Mr. Meldrum, were in such full sympathy with the present pastor in his work.  He mentioned the case of John Grant, one of the early settlers, who was afflicted with blindness and to whom he went for a long time and read every Sabbath afternoon.  He always gave him a hearty welcome.  He also referred to his brother, Peter Grant, who was an influential man in the early days of the settlement and to Donald McLean whose influence had been especially good over the young men in Badenoch.  He would never forget what Donald McLean was to the young men of those days.


          Among his early recollections of the church was that of Dr. Bayne having come from Galt to speak to the settlers about the organization of a college for the training of the ministers of the Presbyterian church.  That was Queen’s College.  The doctor's visit was on a weekday but there was a large congregation and, after the sermon, the doctor remained to take subscriptions for the proposed college.  The people came forward willingly and subscribed, many of the amounts being 10 shillings, payable in five years.  Dr. Bayne was well pleased with the result of his visit.  In the course of time, Dr. Wardrope said, he had gone down as a student to the opening of the college, the late Peter Idington having driven him and two others to Kingston.  With the college then it was the day of small things.  The students referred to had some difficulty in obtaining any information regarding it.  But on being directed to the late Alexander Pringle, at the court-house, they were told by him all that was necessary for their guidance and they were at the college on the first day of the first session, held in a small frame house.  That building would not be much more than 30 feet in length.  The contrast between it and the present university buildings was very striking.  The journey from here to Kingston occupied all the time from Saturday afternoon until the following Friday night, with the exception of the Sabbath, which was spent at the home of one of the students in Esquesing.  The journey was accomplished in a wagon without springs and they sat on their trunks nearly the whole of the way.  The only two professors at Queen’s - Prof. Liddell and Rev. P. C. Campbell, afterwards professor in Aberdeen, Scotland.  In comparing the present state of the country with its state in those days, it might be said, “the wilderness and the solitary place had been made glad and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose”.  He concluded by expressing his interest in the work of the present pastor and those associated with him and the hope that they might all be found heartily co-operating in whatever might tend to advance the cause and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Mr. James Laidlaw expressed his pleasure at being with them on this occasion of jubilee.  He remembered the hamlet well and knew the Meldrums, McLeans, Clarks and McKenzies, whose history was identified with the church.  They should be proud of their memory and he would say peace to their ashes.  It was also pleasing to know that their places were filled by worthy men.  He made reference to the noble work of the early pastors of the church and was pleased to see Mrs. Meldrum, the widow of the first pastor, present.


The Laird of Puslinch, Mr. James Anderson, was called upon.  He could not go back to the early days of the church, but it was a great pleasure for him to be present and rejoice with them.  With reference to the pastor, he said that he had met him at Puslinch Lake at one time and he could assure them that he could put up a prayer or crack a joke with any of them.  He hoped that Mr. Robertson would be long spared to go in and out.


Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae was then called upon.  He said that he was present representing the presbytery of Guelph and on its behalf and his own he extended to the church in East Puslinch congratulations on their diamond jubilee.  In 1863, his father and mother were connected with the church.  He knew something of its early history and when it was customary to pass the snuff mull all around the church.  He remembered Mr. McLean well.  He was a grand man.  His loss was much felt in the community and his tragic death cast a gloom over the whole neighbourhood.  He remembered the funeral, about the Queen’s birthday, 1864.  Referring to the McLeans, he said there were at that time the good McLean, Strabane; the kind McLean, Crieff; and the fearless McLean (Rev. Alexander), whose daughter was expected here shortly from Scotland.  Mr. McCrae then dwelt on the record that the Presbyterian church had secured for itself.  They had reason to be proud of their church.  If there was one church more than another that had laid down its blood for its principles and independence, it was the Presbyterian church - a grand old church, which was going ahead year by year.  There was no protestant church the world over that was making such rapid progress in every branch.  To illustrate this Mr. McCrae read statistics.  In conclusion, he said that they had just reason to be proud of the old Presbyterian church and hoped that Duff’s Church would continue to grow.


Rev. P. J. McLaren, Belwood, though never having had any official connection with the church, had some vivid recollections of the congregation.  It was a Mr. McLean who had baptized him, he understood.  He remembered Mr. McDonald.  He could scold well.  He had a vivid recollection of Dr. McKay.  He remembered his first visit and how faithful he was in catechizing.  They had to stand up to give the answers.  He thought the method was a little hard.  However, the doctor was faithful in his work of teaching and preaching and faithful in his prayers.  Since then there had been a great change; a new generation had risen up.  He was proud to have connection with the church and proud that so many ministers had gone out from it -some twelve in all - which was a great record.  He paid a fitting tribute to Rev. Mr. McLean and Rev. Dr. Wardrope for their work in the ministry.  Presbyterians should be loyal and true to their church and should feel proud of it and he hoped that the people of that church, while being loyal to their religion, would also be loyal to their pastor.


Mr. P. McLaren, Guelph, came to Puslinch in 1860, so he was not able to say much about the old days.  He was one of the moderates at the call of Dr. Hogg, at the union of the churches.  He referred to the tragic death of Mr. McLean and to his teachings in the pulpit.  His sermons were always pointed and, when the speaker taught Sunday school on the York Road, he would use Mr. McLaren’s ideas and illustrations.


Rev. Mr. Couch, Methodist minister, was in sympathy with the work of the church and was pleased to be present on this occasion.  Of course, they had their sectarian differences, but they were all working for one God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour and the Holy Spirit, our comforter.  He was in sympathy with Brother Robertson in his work.



A History to be Published


          After the meeting closed, Mr. Robertson announced that a committee, of which he was chairman, had been at work for some time past gleaning information to publish a history of the church.  The work had been very difficult, as it was hard to gather facts, the more so that the early records were not obtainable.  However, they had gained material for a book of about 120 pages, which would be illustrated with pictures of the old log church, the present church, the present officers, etc.  Quite a few subscribed for the work.  Outsiders can have a copy by applying to Mr. Robertson or to Mr. D. McNaughton.


An adjournment was then made outside, where a photograph of the congregation was taken by Mr. Charles Burgess.


The following musical programme was rendered in the afternoon by the choir, under the leadership of Prof. Frey:  “As the Heart Panteth”, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”, “To God in Heaven”, “Hallelujah! God the Highest”.




Lawn Social in the Evening


          The early evening hours were then devoted to a social tea on the manse grounds, and in all, some five hundred must have gathered, from far and near, to enjoy the happy occasion.  The ladies had provided an ample supply of choice provisions and a refreshment booth had steady patronage.  Mrs. Clark’s jubilee cake was a special feature of the tea.  The social spirit was so evident that it was with difficulty the programme of the evening could be got under way.  More delightful weather for an outdoor gathering could not be asked.  Finally, the seats were arranged in front of the manse, the audience got partially seated and the following programme was kept up until after 11 o'clock, Rev. Mr. Robertson presiding:


          Anthem, choir of Duff’s church

          Prayer, Rev. P. J. McLaren, Belwood

          Instrumental, Miss McKenzie, Messrs. D. McKenzie, Hume and O’Nesto

          Solo, Mrs. McGregor, Waterdown

          Address, Lt.-Col. McCrae

          Chorus, choir

          Solo, Miss Misener, Waterdown

          Address, Rev. James McLaren

          Instrumental, Mr. Hector McCaig and Master McPherson

          Duet, Messrs. Meldrum and McKay

          Quartette, Miss McNaughton, Miss Nicoll, Mr. Alex Nicoll and Mr. John Frey

          Address, Rev. R. J. M. Glassford

          Reading, Miss Anderson, Guelph

          Solo, Mrs. McGregor

          Quartette, Miss McKenzie, Miss Robertson, Messrs. Meldrum and McKay

          Address, Mr. Hugh Guthrie

          Instrumental, Miss McKenzie, Messrs. D. McKenzie, Hume and O'Nesto

          Chorus, choir

          Solo, Miss Maggie McBeath

          Reading, Mr. McIntosh, Guelph

          Address, Dr. Stirton, Guelph

          Duet, Messrs. Meldrum and McKay

          Chorus, choir

          God Save the Queen


The reputation of the choir, under Mr. Frey’s leadership, with Miss Kerr as organist is so well established that it is needless to say the audience was delighted with their solos, duets, quartettes and choruses; they had evidently practised faithfully for this event.  The instrumental music, organ, violin, harmonica, etc. was also very attractive.  The readings by the Guelph friends were well received.  The speeches were most suitable for the occasion; Mr. Guthrie's especially being a fine effort.  The chairman, as usual, kept things bright and cheery; he is one of the best in the district.  God Save the Queen closed the eventful day.


Last Sunday Rev. R. Atkinson, East Church, Toronto, conducted the services and preached two able and eloquent sermons, referring in appropriate terms to the jubilee, congratulating the congregation on the event and speaking words of encouragement to the young people, to put forth efforts in the future for the church, as their fathers had done in the past.


          Next Sunday morning the pastor will preach a sermon to the children, which will conclude the diamond jubilee services of Duff’s Church.


The meetings all through have been a great success and much credit is due to Rev. Mr. Robertson and the able committees associated with him in the work.






          The names of the diamond jubilee committee are Rev. W. Robertson, convener, D. McNaughton, secretary and George Meldrum, D. McFarlane, Hugh Cockburn and James E. McLean.

          The committee of ladies for management of their department were Mrs. John D. Clark and Mrs. Day, joint conveners, with Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. George Meldrum, Mrs. McBeath and Mrs. D. McKenzie.

          Table committee - Conveners Mrs. J. D. Clark and Mrs. McKenzie.  Waiters, Mrs. D. McNaughton, Mrs. D. McFarlane, Misses Clark, Black, Haidy, Reid, Jeffrey, Stevenson, A. McKenzie and McIntyre.

          Reception committee - Mrs. Day, Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. George Meldrum.







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