The Mercury Job Department,
At the annual congregational meetings of East and West Puslinch Churches, held in January 1899, the observance, in some formal way, of the 60th anniversary of the organization of the congregations was recommended. Committees were appointed, consisting of the pastor, the Rev. W. Robertson, with Messrs. Jas. E. McLean, Geo. J. Meldrum, Daniel McFarlane, and Daniel McNaughton, from Duff's Church, and Messrs. Wm. McCormick, jr., Allan Stewart, and Angus Stewart, from Knox Church. The committees, on meeting, appointed the pastor chairman, and Mr. McNaughton secretary. Their plan of observance, when submitted, was approved by the congregations. The preparation of a souvenir volume was considered expedient. The pastor, on being requested to prepare the volume, agreed to do so, if the joint committee would assist in providing and selecting the material; and, approving of the contents, would share the responsibility of what was published. This they agreed to do, and in issuing it, they believe it will help to preserve in sacred memory the worthy pioneers who laid the foundations of Presbyterianism in Puslinch, and hope it may stimulate their successors to noble efforts in promoting the prosperity of the spiritual heritage with which the Master has entrusted them.
Table of Contents
DUFF’S AND KNOX CHURCHES.
Presbyterianism in Puslinch
Until about the year 1830, the Township of Puslinch was almost an unbroken forest. Then a few settlers established primitive homes and began laying the foundations of future prosperity. In 1834, Mr. Thomas Wardrope, a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, who had for many years been parish schoolmaster at Lady Kirk, in Berwickshire, settled with his family on lot 35, concession 9. It was not long till the people began to have religious services in houses, barns, and in the open air; conducted chiefly by Mr. Wardrope, and by others, as occasion offered. Soon the number of settlers had so greatly increased that hopes were entertained of having a church property. Accordingly, a large petition was presented by the Presbyterians to the Crown Lands Department, for a grant of land to be set apart for religious and educational purposes. This petition was graciously granted, and the front half of lot 28, concession 8, was reserved as the property of the Presbyterians of Puslinch.
These pioneers, who had enjoyed great religious privileges in their native land, and were inspired by religious ambition to worship the God of their Fathers, now entered enthusiastically upon the work of erecting a church. Without the counsel of an architect, the wisdom of the times decided upon the erection of a log church.
Messrs. Malcolm McNaughton and Alexander McLean, who are still with us, built two of the corners. The unpretentious church was soon completed, and, though rude in structure, was in perfect harmony with primitive surroundings, and was indeed a temple of the Lord, where, for years, God's faithful ones worshipped Him in sincerity and in truth. With similarly concerted action, an acre of ground was cleared around the church, to be the sacred resting place of their departed dead. Having now a church property and church building, with a considerable population nearly all Presbyterian, the desire for regular church organization and a permanent ministry became general. Application was made to the Presbytery of Hamilton, then extending from Lake Erie to the Georgian Bay, for organization as a congregation, with the view of obtaining a minister of the Gospel. This request was granted, and organization effected in the regular way; but we have found no one who can remember the circumstances connected with this important event. The congregation now earnestly looked for a pastor to be settled over them; but ministers were few and the fields many and needy. A Mr. Gordon, living in the lower end of Badenoch, being acquainted in Scotland with Mr. Wm. Meldrum, who had just completed his college course, recommended him; and through the willing assistance of the Rev. John Bayne, afterwards Dr. Bayne, minister in Galt, the elders, Messrs. Peter McNaughton and Neil McPhatter, sent him a petition to come to be their minister.
Erected in 1835, enlarged in 1840.
EAST AND WEST CHURCH
Mr. Meldrum was not unmindful of their urgent invitation, and hailed the opportunity of crossing the ocean to begin his ministerial labors among a people possessing those sterling qualities so prophetic of great and glorious possibilities. Mrs. Kenneth McKenzie, then Miss Christina Cameron, being present at the first service conducted by Mr. Meldrum in Puslinch church, remembers that his text was I Cor. 2 : 2, “Oir chuir mi romhan gun eolas a ghabhail air ni sam bith 'nur measg, ach air Iosa Criosd, agus esan air a cheusadh.”
The Session Records until after the Disruption are not preserved, so, for the history of the first five years we are dependent upon a short historical sketch, which, by resolution of Session, was incorporated in the permanent records of 1845, in the following terms: “The Kirk Session of the Puslinch congregation in connexion with the Presbyterian Church of Canada, being met was constituted with prayer. Sederunt. ---The Rev. Wm. Meldrum, Moderator, and Messrs. Peter McNaughton, Neil McPhatter, Roderick Cameron, Gillies McBean, John McDiarmid, Alexander McKenzie, and Lauchlan Kennedy, elders. Inter alia,---- It was moved and unanimously agreed to, that, as it may appear satisfactory and interesting to the congregation in time to come, it is expedient to record: “That the congregation was organized in the year 1839, when one elder was inducted and another ordained. That the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was dispensed that year by Mr. Smith, then minister of the gospel in Guelph, and Mr. Ferguson, of Esquesing, when as appeareth from the Communion Roll, the number of communicants was 81.
That during the summer and harvest of that year, the congregation was principally supplied with the means of grace by the Rev. Thomas Wardrope, a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, residing in the neighborhood, and by others occasionally; till, in the month of November, in accordance with the request of the congregation and in obedience to their call, their present pastor came from Scotland, then a licentiate of the Church of Scotland, who, at the unanimous call of the congregation and in their presence, was ordained to be their minister by the Presbytery of Hamilton, on the 11th day of March, in the year 1840. That previous to the dispensation of the Lord's Supper to the congregation in 1840, it was agreed to by the Session that, in as far as possible, that solemn ordinance should be dispensed in future among the congregation annually on the third Sabbath of June, which, it may be remarked, has been observed hitherto. That before the celebration of the Lord's Supper in 1841, two additional elders were ordained, and other four before its celebration in 1842 ; and that from June, 1840, to June, 1844, inclusive, the average yearly increase of the communicants was eighteen, of whom ten were received by the Session into church fellowship by certificate and eight by examination. Resolved, also, that the Session do continue to hold their monthly prayer meeting, as formerly, on the first Wednesday of every month; and that as formerly, all Sessional business shall be transacted after the prayer meeting is closed, that in as far as possible Sessional business may not interfere with the sanctity and other solemn duties of the Lord's day.”
From other incidental references in the Session records, and through information received from those still living, it is believed that Mr. Peter McNaughton, of East Puslinch, who was an elder in Scotland, was the one inducted at the organization of the congregation, and that Mr. Neil McPhatter, of the west part of the township, was the one ordained and inducted then. The order in which the other members of Session were called to the office cannot be ascertained. In addition to the seven whose names are mentioned, Mr. Archibald Watson was ordained, and served in that capacity until, realizing a preference for the doctrines of another denomination, his official relationship to the congregation necessarily terminated. Tradition declares that exception was taken to the ordination of Mr. Lauchlan Kennedy, as he was then unmarried ; and it was quoted: “an elder must be the husband of one wife”. The pastor is reported to have suggested that another interpretation of this passage was possible. Mr. Kennedy was, however, ordained, and the doubts vanished, as he soon entered the more blessed state, and became duly qualified.
Soon after the organization of the congregation, many of the extreme west thought a church might be built in their neighborhood for convenience. The proposal seemed feasible, and willing efforts were put forth. Mr. Neil McPhatter gave the site on the front half of lot 15, concession l. The strong men met to erect the log church and Messrs. Matthew McPhatter, his brother James, Archibald McCormick, and Neil Thompson built the four corners. Whatever lumber was used was cut by a whip-saw, the logs being rolled over a pit ; then with one man above and one below, a drag-saw was operated from end to end of the log. The church was completed and dedicated to the worship of God in the year 1840. These were not the days of luxury and convenience, but were times of courage and conquering hope, and for fourteen years in this holy temple, made of rude material, God met His true worshippers and blessed them with His presence.
The Presbyterians of Canada early realized the necessity of having a college for the training of a native ministry. As early as 1832, the Church of Scotland Synod appointed a committee "to prepare an humble memorial to His Majesty, craving His Majesty's Government to endow, without delay, an Institution or Professorships, for the education and training of young men for the ministry in connection with the Synod." For several years in succession similar resolutions were adopted ; but as the Government was influenced in the Legislative and Executive Councils very largely by an exclusive Episcopalian oligarchy, no assistance could be obtained. Becoming resolute through continuous disappointments, and encouraged by promises of assistance from the parent church, the Synod determined to establish a college independent of Government aid. An appeal was made to the Presbyterians of the two Provinces, and great enthusiasm was awakened. The Rev. Dr. Bayne visited the congregation in the interests of the proposed college on a week day. A large congregation was present, who were deeply moved by the claims of college interests as presented in the forceful eloquence of the speaker. At the close of the service a subscription list was opened, and many went forward and subscribed, in truly primitive liberality, the sum of ten shillings each, payable in five annual instalments. Others, in lesser amounts, contributed according to their ability. Dr. Bayne expressed himself as greatly pleased with their interest and liberality.
PIONEERS OF EAST PUSLINCH.
1. Miss Catherine Stewart. 2. Mrs. John McPherson. 3. Mrs. Donald McLean.
4. Mrs. Kenneth McKenzie. 5. Lachlan Kennedy. 6. James McLean.
7. Richard Nicklin. 8. Peter McLean.
All were delighted with the address of Dr. Bayne, but especially one young man, Thomas Wardrope, now the Rev. Dr. Wardrope, felt that, as the possibilities of a college were presented, there was a message to him different from and more than to any other one present. As he listened with breathless interest, he beheld in mental vision the probability of an educational training within its walls; and the inspiring peroration of the speaker was accompanied with the young man's resolution that, by the grace and help of the Lord, he would be at that college on the day of its opening. To Mr. Wardrope's great delight, he was enabled to carry out his resolution.
The college was opened at an abnormal season, in the month of March, when there was no navigation and no sleighing. He, with two fellow students, secured the services of Mr. Peter Idington, who drove them all the way to Kingston in a farm wagon. Their trunks were their only seats, and if tired they were unconscious of it. The college, ever since designated " Queen's College, "was formally opened for the reception of students on the 7th of March, 1842, and Puslinch congregation has the honor of contributing one of her members to the first classes for the academical training of Presbyterian ministers in this country. Others followed Dr. Wardrope in the holy ambition to be ministers of the Gospel, and East and West Puslinch have an honored roll of worthies, upon whom they look with pardonable pride.
In the year 1843, the Disruption took place in the Church of Scotland, and the influence of that terrible convulsion crossed the seas and reached Presbyterianism in other lands. Representatives of both parties visited Canada and created intense excitement through the eloquent and vehement defences of the principles and actions they respectively represented.
The public press joined vigorously in the discussions, and Presbyterianism became so inflamed that when the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the Church of Scotland met in 1844 at Kingston, all were fully aroused to participate in a remarkable conflict in defence of principles and sympathies of supreme importance. The momentous questions were debated at great length, with great ability, with language most vigorous, and with interest most intense. A series of resolutions, on motion of Rev. Dr. Cook, of Quebec, seconded by Mr. George, with an amendment of resolutions by the Rev. John Bayne, of Galt, seconded by the Rev. Mr. Gale, of Hamilton, brought the Synod to a decisive vote. The motion of Dr. Cook prevailed by a vote of fifty-six to forty. On the following day, Mr. Bayne, on behalf of himself and others, among whom was Mr. Meldrum, laid on the table their reasons of dissent from the decision of the Synod, and their protest declaring they could no longer hold office in the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the Church of Scotland. After fruitless attempts at reconciliation, the dissenting party organized themselves as a Synod, assuming the name of "The Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Canada," but which was usually called "The Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Canada." We must ever revere the memory of those who seceded from the parent church for their zeal for the glory of Christ, the Head of His church, and the Spiritual independence of the members, and for their courageous fidelity to their convictions; but looking back over half a century in the union spirit of Christian sympathy, we cannot fully realize, as they did, the necessity of such division; and we rejoice that many who were then prominent in effecting a separation lived to be helpful in effecting a union of the divided Presbyterians in 1875, and to participate in the wonderful blessings of peace the united church has since enjoyed.
The ministers and representative elders who had organized themselves as the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, now presented the matter to their congregations ; and in regard to Puslinch, the results of conference are embodied in the minutes of Session with the date of the 14th of July, 1844. Mr. Meldrum was Session Clerk, as well as Moderator, and has recorded in unmistakable language the uncompromising spirit of himself, the elders, and members, who were enthusiastically united in separation from the Church of Scotland, and in the reorganization of the congregation in connection with the new Synod. The minute of Session in regard to this important event is of great historic interest, and is as follows:
“The Session, having considered that the congregation on the 17th day of June last, being the Thanksgiving Day after the dispensation of the Lord's Supper in this place, had expressed their anxiety of being no longer identified with the Established Church of Scotland by the continuance of the unnecessary and unmeaning appendage to the designation of the Presbyterian Church of Canada “in connexion with the Established Church of Scotland,” because she, the Established Church of Scotland, hath sold her birthright, and become so low and despicable as not to hold Christ as her Head, as her actions do clearly prove, though her language, at times, denies it.
The Session, having also considered that the congregation, after hearing, as they have done this day, of the steps which have been taken, and the measures adopted by the Protesting Party of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, in connexion with the Established Church of Scotland, now designated " The Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada " did cordially approve of the same, and expressed their willingness to become part and parcel of said church. It was moved, and unanimously agreed to, that the Session should express and record, as they hereby do, their gratitude to God for the united and harmonious testimony which the congregation, without any exception, have been led to bear against the sins of the Established Church of Scotland, and the agreeable and cheerful manner in which they have expressed their willingness to be identified with the Presbyterian Church of Canada, but more especially for their expressed attachment to the crown rights of the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, the alone Sovereign and sole Head of His church."
PIONEERS OF WEST PUSLINCH.
J. McGeachy. Mrs. P. Gilchrist. Mrs. J. Scott. T. McDonald.
C. Blair. P. Gilchrist. J. Scott. G. McDonald.
Mrs. D. Stewart. J. McPherson. Mrs. A. McDonald. Mrs. A. McPherson.
Mrs. A. McCormick. Mrs. D. Cameron. Mrs. J. McPherson. Mrs. K. Cameron.
Although there was no apparent change in the membership of the congregation through the Disruption, yet it was deemed necessary to make up a new roll of communicants, and the following constituted the roll in 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) and Mrs.Wardrope, Mr. and Mrs. John Idington, Mr. and Mrs. Alex. Nicoll, Widow Logan, Mr. John McFarlane, cooper, and Mrs. McFarlane, Mr. John McFarlane, tailor, and Mrs. McFarlane, Mr. and Mrs. John Marshall, Mr. and Mrs. James Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Donald McShennack, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander McShennack, Mr. and Mrs. William Reid, Mr. 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 Low, Mr. and Mrs. Peter McLean, Mr. and Mrs. Dugald Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Idington, Eliza Idington, Widow McRobbie, Grace Douglas, John McLean, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McNaughton, Malcolm McNaughton, Mr. and Mrs. John McCallum, James McRobbie, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McRobbie, Lewis McRobbie, Mrs. Hector Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Borthwick, Anne Cameron, Widow McNeilage, Adam Darling, Mrs. Duncan McEdward, Catherine Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald McMaster, Peter McLaren, Alexander McKenzie, Agnes Idington, John Black, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Smith, Widow Patrick, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander 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, Alexander McLean, John McLean„ Anne McLean, John Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Duncan McFarlane, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Little, Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Cochrane, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander McDonald, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McColl, Widow Winters, Mrs. John Cameron, John Campbell, Mrs. Duncan McColl, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Ramsay, Alexander Ramsay, Widow McAllister, continued…
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 McMeeken, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Currie, Mr. and Mrs. William McCormick, Mrs. Lauchlan McDonald, Flora McMaster, Mary McLennan, Mrs. Peter McNaughton, Mrs. Roderick Cameron, Mrs. Alexander McKenzie, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Black, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Farries, Widow Paterson, Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Elliott, Margery Stewart, Agnes Paton, Mr. and Mrs. John Fraser, David Wardrope.
The congregation by their secession had voluntarily forfeited their right to the church property; but as there was no one to take exception, so complete was the unanimity of sentiment, they continued to use the church and property without interruption for a number of years.
W. Kerr, J. Hammersley, Mrs. J. Hammersley, Mrs. A. McDonald, Mrs. W. Meldrum,
Mrs. J. McEdward, M. Clark,
J. Clark, Mrs. J. Wood, M. McNaughton, Mrs. A. McLean, Mrs. R. Watson, Mrs. D. Clark, Mrs. W. Black, Mrs. A. McCormick, Mrs. A. Stewart, Mrs. R. Marshall, M. McBeath,
A. McLean, R. Watson, D. Clark.
The Free Church Synod, having forfeited Government aid by renouncing all connection with the Church of Scotland, and her claim to a share of the proceeds of the Clergy Reserves not being honored, proceeded to consider means of supporting her own ministry. Resolutions were framed by the Synod in reference to a Sustentation Fund, and proper attention to financial affairs through the institution of a Deacons' Court in every congregation. These were brought before the congregation on the 1st of January, 1845, and the Session records their action in the following sentences:
“The Session having heard and considered the conflicting views of the congregation anent the Sustentation Fund scheme and some of its accompaniments; such as the power conferred on the Deacons' Court over the congregations, and the individuals proposed to hold some prominence and to have special influence in its sederunts, as the minister and elders of every congregation, &c., deem it inadvisable, for the present, to press the adoption of said scheme any further on the congregation, fearing it might be the means of sowing discord among them, and thus weaken the cause that requires to be strengthened and nourished. But when the Session regret that any of the provisions of said scheme are such as to meet the disapprobation of any congregation, they do hope that it, may be so altered or amended as to meet the cordial approval not only of the congregations that now belong to our infant church but of all the congregations that will in time to come rally round the standard of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. Resolved also, that the Session do record their approbation of the readiness with which the congregation, though opposed to the presently proposed Sustentation Fund scheme, have expressed their willingness to contribute for the support of weak congregations, and the unanimity with which they have renewed their former declaration of adherence to the Presbyterian Church of Canada.”
The action of this congregation was similar to most of the congregations of the Synod, for we find in 1849 “the Synod was constrained to record its deep regret that the resolutions adopted had not been carried into effect, except by a few congregations, and that it was evident that the church as a whole was not prepared to sustain a general scheme for providing for the support of the ministry.” Each congregation was thus left to assume the responsibility of supporting ordinances from its own resources.
Christmas Day, 1845, was an eventful day, as it records the happy marriage of Mr. Meldrum to Miss Anna McLean, youngest daughter of the late Peter McLean, Badenoch, which relationship has been crowned with very many great family blessings, and brought the pastor into very intimate and enduring association with a large and prominent portion of the congregation.
The Session desiring to utilize the services of Messrs. Angus McPherson and Hugh Rutherford, who had been ordained elders of the Free Church of Scotland, recommended them to a congregational meeting, and no objection being made, they were regularly inducted into the office of the eldership, in the presence of the congregation, on the 23rd day of February, 1847.
The Session Records were first examined by the Presbytery eleven years after the organization of the congregation, while now, and for many years, the Presbytery regulations call for such examination every year. The finding of the Presbytery's Committee was, " At Hamilton, the 9th day of May, 1850, the Presbytery of Hamilton being met and constituted, Inter alia,-- The committee appointed to examine this Record reported that they found it orderly and correct."
JOHN G. MACGREGOR, Moderator.
Reverend William Meldrum
Mrs. Meldrum (Anna McLean)
The question of having a Deacons’ Court was again considered by the Session, and the records of the 7th of May, 1851, contain the following minute: “It was then moved and agreed to, that, for the better regulation of the congregation, in so far as temporalities are concerned, the minister shall take an opportunity of once more addressing the congregation respecting the desirableness and necessity of choosing from among themselves seven men at least, that may be ordained as deacons, to take charge of the temporalities of the congregation instead of the former managers.” The Moderator, according to appointment, presented the proposition to the congregation, and the treatment it received is recorded in characteristic language: “Notwithstanding the earnest appeal of the Moderator, and the cordial sanction of the elders, the congregation, with very few exceptions, would not agree to have such a Court ordained among them, being afraid that they would have too much power and authority over themselves, and that they would not yield to their requests, nor be responsible to them in particular – for the transaction of their business in their Deacons’ capacity. Whereupon, the Session agreed to urge the case no further for the present, trusting that, by and by, the congregation may be led to see their error, in having a Board of Managers, the invention of men, serving in the Church of Christ, instead of a Court of ordained Deacons, the institution of the Holy Ghost.”
Whatever may be the Scripture authority for a Deacons’ Court in contradistinction to a Board of Management, and the relative merits of these instrumentalities for financial prosperity, these congregations have never approved of ordaining men to serve a life-term upon a financial Board; but have ever entrusted their financial affairs to collectors, special committees, trustees, or managers elected by the members at the annual congregational meetings to hold office only for a specified time.
It is of historic interest to notice the extreme caution and conscientious suspicion of the Session towards applicants from the Church of Scotland desiring to unite with the Free Church of Canada. At the meeting of Session in October, 1851, “Mr. McPhatter stated that Archibald ______, lately from Scotland, was anxious to be received into congregational fellowship, and appearing before the Session presented a certificate of church fellowship with the Established Church of Scotland; and having been interrogated, as is invariably done by the Session in such cases, why he was now forsaking the fellowship to which he adhered so long after the Disruption, he simply replied that it was from the fear of man which bringeth a snare, more than from choice, he continued there, and that he was now glad to be relieved of the bondage. Having been strictly examined respecting his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the alone Head of His Church, and His spiritual Head in particular, his answers were such as to induce the Session with cordiality to grant him his request, and ordered his name, and that of his wife, who fully acquiesced in his confession, to be added to the Communion Roll."
The sacred reverence for the proper observance of the Sabbath and the entire unconsciousness of modern temperance views are presented in the following incident: "The Moderator stated that Donald _________ had been applying for baptism to his child and that during his (the Moderator's) conversation with him respecting his application, he came to understand that the applicant was a professed transgressor of the Lord's day, inasmuch as he was a professed maltmaker. For, according to his own declaration, malt, to the extent in which he was engaged, cannot be made without violating the Lord’s Day. Therefore, it became the duty of the Session to consider whether they would sanction the continuance of either of the sacraments of the New Testament to such a presumptuous violator of the law of God. Whereupon, he was called to appear before the Session, and after much reasoning with him respecting the inconsistency of his profession as a Christian, and his practice as a breaker of the fourth commandment, he was told in very solemn manner, that until he should at least confess his guilt, and condemn his former practice, and promise for the future to forsake his wicked ways, and to attend upon the private and public means of grace with his family, they could not consider him but as an enemy to Christianity, and consequently must refuse him the precious privileges of Christ's followers."
The Session records in September, 1852, that in considering the roll “no known change had taken place among the communicants since the roll was purged in last June, with the exception of the lamented death of Mr. Peter McNaughton, the oldest member of Session." Mr. McNaughton was born in Perthshire, Scotland. He, and his family can indeed be regarded among the pioneers who endured the trials and privations of the new settlement in the early thirties. He was reared amid the strong religious influences of his native land; and, early manifesting an earnest, active interest in the religious life of the congregation with which he was connected, he was called, ordained, and inducted to the office of the eldership. Coming to this country, his pronounced Christian character soon became known; he gladly opened his house for public worship when opportunity offered; he took so prominent a part in religious work, that at the organization of the congregation he was inducted its first elder. He was a kind, humble, courageous servant of the Lord ; and, after serving as an elder here for thirteen years, was called to higher service above on the 18th of June, 1852, at the advanced age of 74 years.
The following kindly reference to one, who, notwithstanding his great age and physical infirmities of many years, is still with us, should be noted. In April, 1853, the Session records: " The Moderator mentioned that Charles Blair had been applying for a certificate of character, having in view to visit his native land for the benefit of his delicate health. The Session, in agreeing to grant his request, expressed their regret, that the health of a member so devoted to the cause of the Redeemer, and so useful as a Sabbath School teacher, as Mr. Blair has been, should require him to leave them for a season, but at the same time, hoped and wished, that He alone who can wound and heal will accompany him, and having soon restored his health, restore him again to them refreshed and strengthened in soul and body to fight the good fight of faith."
The last meeting of Session, with Mr. Meldrum as Moderator and Session Clerk, was held on the 5th of November, 1853. Soon afterwards he resigned, having been the pioneer pastor for fourteen years. He entered sympathetically into the struggles of the early settlers, and took a conspicuous part in laying the foundations of Presbyterianism in their midst. With the courage of a brave heart, and by an uncompromising fidelity to what he believed to be right, he, as a true captain of the Lord's hosts, led the people on to many a victory during the early years of their critical history.
Soon after the retirement of Mr. Meldrum, the East Puslinch congregation was forced to face a very grave difficulty. At the time of the secession from the Church of Scotland, no one in connection with the congregation remained connected with the parent church, so no one could take exception to the occupancy of the church and property by the new organization; but, in the course of a few years, among the settlers came a small number who were connected with the Church of Scotland, and who had no sympathy with the principles and actions of the Free Church party. These, who were called the Residuaries, though few, were determined to preserve the interests of the church to which they belonged. So, by encouragement from the Rev. Dr. Hogg, minister of St. Andrew's Church, Guelph, who gave them occasional service, the few were able to claim Church organization and appropriate the property, the right to which the congregation had forfeited by their secession from the Church of Scotland. The congregation felt very keenly their ejection from the church and property, not only because of the value of the property, which had become considerable, but because they had become sacredly attached to their church home, and the burying ground where rested from their labours many of their loved ones.
When the congregation realized the necessity of vacating the church and property they had used so many years, several propositions were made and considered. Many, in both East and West, were of the opinion that erecting a church somewhere near the centre of the Presbyterian portion of the township would be the best solution of the problem, and would form a congregation of almost unparalleled strength, avoiding a separation into two charges, and consolidating the Presbyterianism of the community. Several meetings were held to consider the proposition of building a church on lot 26, rear of the 1st concession. It was found, however, that the majority were not favorable to this proposed arrangement, the territory being regarded as too extensive to be profitably centralized. The advisability of dividing into two separate charges became apparent, the necessary arrangements were completed and an amicable dissolution of the tie that had united them for sixteen years was affected.
The East Puslinch congregation realizing the inevitable, now with commendable resolution, negotiated with Mr. John Haist and purchased an acre on the north-west corner of lot 28, rear of the 7th concession, opposite the old church. A religious ambition to erect a church worthy of their numerical and financial strength inspired them to a noble effort. A committee consisting of Messrs. John Marshall and R. B. Morison was sent to see the Christie Church, then near Dundas, and found it to be just what was desired. The necessary architectural work was soon done, the contract let, and the well-built, and for the time, elegant structure, with a seating capacity of 500, was dedicated in 1854 to the worship of the Lord amid the devout gratitude and holy expectations of a deeply impressed congregation of worshippers.
Duff’s Church, erected in 1854
About the same time, the congregation, being anxious to provide a permanent home for their minister and family, purchased, also from Mr. John Haist, a part of lot 27, rear of the 7th concession, consisting of 30 acres. A large price was paid for this property, although the house and barn were log buildings, and not at all comfortable. Further reference will be made to necessary improvements in later years. Much good wood was found on the lot, which has made many a cozy fire in the manse; but now when it is gone, the rear half, with hills and glens and romantic ruggedness, may well be compared with the romantic wildness of the Highlands of Scotland. The front half being level, and having excellent soil, has been profitable in the production of good crops, and in cultivating in the pastor a spirit of congenial sympathy towards those engaged in husbandry, of whom his congregation is so largely, composed.
During these perplexing experiences, Mr. Alexander McLean, a student of Knox College, conducted services, and ministered to the people during the vacation months with such efficiency and acceptability that the congregation desired to have him as their permanent pastor. Accordingly, when he had completed his college course on the following year, they extended to him a unanimous and hearty call. This call was as heartily accepted, and his ordination and induction took place on Wednesday, the 14th day of November, 1855, by the Presbytery of Hamilton.
The congregation, having worshipped in two churches, being now two independent charges, has no longer a single roll of communicants and a single Session, but each charge has necessarily its own independent existence. The Session of East Puslinch is composed of the Rev. Alexander McLean, Moderator and Session Clerk, with Messrs. John McDiarmid, Lauchlan Kennedy, and Alexander McKenzie, elders.
Up to this time, precedence had always been given to the Gaelic language with a service in English following, but the relative importance of the two languages having been greatly modified as social life had rapidly changed, the majority favored a reversal of the order giving precedence to the English service. So radical a change, though no dishonor to the Gaelic language was contemplated, could not be made without intense regret on the part of those who, with characteristic fondness, were attached to their parent language, consequently a murmur of dissatisfaction was heard which continued for many years.
In April 1856, we have the following minute: “The Session, taking into consideration the fewness of elders in the congregation, agreed to take the lawful and Scriptural way of making an addition to the eldership without delay.” So we find that Messrs. John Cockburn, Andrew McRobbie, and Duncan Cameron were regularly ordained as elders of this congregation on Sabbath, the 1st of June.
It is worthy of note that at the first communion after Mr. McLean's ordination, held in June 1856, the membership was increased by the remarkable addition of 58 by certificate and 20 by profession of their faith.
Foreign mission interest was greatly increased in Canada by a visit, in 1854, from the Rev. Dr. Alexander Duff, the pioneer missionary of the Free Church of Scotland, in Calcutta. He delivered addresses of burning eloquence in the chief cities of Canada, and not only the vast multitudes who had the privilege of hearing him, but the whole Canadian church seemed roused with a holy ambition to take part in the evangelization of the heathen. This congregation felt the new missionary pulsation so keenly, so wished to preserve the memory of the great missionary, and were so anxious to inspire coming generations with a sense of the glorious privilege of having a part in the universal extension of the Redeemer's Kingdom, that at a congregational meeting held in 1857, it was unanimously agreed that henceforth they should be designated “Duff's Church”. The church has ever since borne that honoured name, and, no doubt, this permanent memorial of burning missionary zeal has been powerful, in preserving somewhat vividly, its responsibility to the heathen world.
In August 1857, “The Moderator submitted to the consideration of the Session whether it was not desirable to have the sacrament of the Lord's Supper dispensed half-yearly in the congregation instead of once in the year as hitherto. Various difficulties being in the way of accomplishing the object, from the fact of there being two languages to preach on that occasion as usual, the further consideration of the matter was put off till a future meeting of Session.”
The Session and congregation have ever been conservative in their religious life, and have been slow to appreciate innovations; but Mr. McLean was fearless in proposing what he regarded as profitable changes, and was not discouraged by a pronounced unwillingness to adopt his suggestions when first proposed, so the Session was obliged to re-consider this question, and the result is preserved in the records of September, 1862.” As hitherto the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was dispensed only once in the year in the congregation, and as the Session considered it very desirable to have a half-yearly communion, it was unanimously agreed that the Lord's Supper would be dispensed in this church on the third Sabbath of October.” The difficulties which were feared when this change was first suggested were not realized, or were overcome, and the half-yearly communion was observed for a great many years.
At a meeting of Session in May 1859, “The Moderator expressed his desire to have Mr. Robert Kennedy, lately an elder in the Free Church congregation, Badenoch, Scotland, added to the eldership, in which the Session unanimously agreed. Mr. Kennedy, who was present, acquiesced in the proposal. It was further resolved that, after the usual forms are gone through, Mr. Kennedy shall be received or inducted as in elder in the East Puslinch congregation.”
In the year 1845, one year after the secession, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada entered into negotiations for union with the Missionary Synod, which in 1847 assumed the name of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church of Canada. Committees were appointed to confer with each other on points of agreement and difference.
The results of their labours were brought year after year before the Synods, Presbyteries, and congregations, of the two churches. Discussions full, earnest and keen, took place; literature controversial, explanatory, and conciliatory was circulated; difficulties in course of time were removed, and on the 6th of June, 1861, in the City of Montreal, the long looked for union was very happily consummated. The Session has preserved their deliverance on this question in the following terms: “The Session, having taken into consideration the Basis of Union with the Presbyterian Church of Canada, adopted by the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church in Canada, it was moved by Mr. John Cockburn, seconded by Mr. Alexander McKenzie, and unanimously agreed to, that the Session approve of the basis of union as upon the whole satisfactory, and one upon which the two churches may safely and honourably unite.” The Synod formed by this union had on its roll the names of 226 ministers, of whom 68 represented the United Presbyterian Church of Canada, and 158 the Free Presbyterian Church of Canada.
At the October meeting of Session in 1862, it was recorded that the number on the communion roll was 201, and the following obituary minute was recorded “The Session feel called upon to record the loss they have lately sustained in the removal by death of Alexander McKenzie, who was over twenty years an elder in the congregation. Mr. McKenzie always maintained a walk and conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ, and was endowed with more than ordinary gifts and graces, which he humbly and cheerfully devoted to the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the church of which he was an office bearer.
The Session further have pleasure in recording the deep interest their departed brother always took in the affairs of the church in general, but more particularly in the welfare of this congregation, which he served so long and so faithfully, and that during an eventful period in its history, a period full of trials and changes, and which proved him to be its unflinching and constant friend. His premature death is much lamented by the Session and congregation, and has caused a vacancy among us which is not likely to be filled in a hurry.”
Rev. Alexander McLean
In May, 1863, “The Session, having the mind of the congregation, expressed their desire to receive Mr. James Wardrope, who was for many years an elder in Nairn Church, Flamboro, into the eldership of this congregation, and resolved, after the usual forms are gone through, to receive him as a member of Session.” “Mr. James Wardrope, having been duly and regularly inducted to the eldership of this congregation, it was agreed to add his name to the roll of Session, and minute his induction in the Session records, which is hereby done.” The last meeting of Session, with Mr. McLean as Moderator and Session Clerk, was held on the 12th of April 1864.
The congregation had become very strong, the work was greatly prospering, and exalted hopes were entertained of continuous success, when Mr. McLean's tragic death put a sudden termination to his short and very promising life. Was it a premonition that directed him to select as the text of his last sermon, " In my Father's house are many mansions "? Was it only a coincidence that he took a similar subject for the weekly prayer meeting following, closing with the hymn,
"The hour of my departure's come;
I hear the voice that calls me home."
Should we note Divine preparation for his departure, leading him to call, after the prayer meeting, to inform a sympathetic Christian friend, with whom he had often conversed on the mysteries of the resurrection, that a new-found light had dispelled the darkness, and something of the eternal glory had filled his heart, with unspeakable gladness? Good night was spoken, the door was closed, into the darkness he went, and some time after he was found, helpless, on the ground, near the high platform leading from the door of the house. Loving hands removed him to the manse, the physician's skill was employed without effect, brother clergymen ministered in holy consolation, and the next evening, May 25, 1864, the unfettered spirit soared on high, to do the will of God with ecstasy, and experience the fullness of joy given to all in His presence.
Mr. McLean was possessed of strong endowments, was an extensive reader, having a remarkable library for a few years' collection; was fearless and alarming in denunciation, almost prodigal in hospitality, zealous and masterful in all his relationships. He seemed to have a great future here, but the Master, Who doeth all things wisely, took him in the vigor of his powers, when 38 years of age. The funeral services were very solemn.
All the neighboring ministers, and some from a distance, were present, and loving tributes of regard were spoken by his brethren; while a very large congregation, deeply impressed, followed the remains to their resting place in the Crown cemetery. Upon the monument, erected by his sorrowing widow and congregation, are inscribed the significant words, “I have declared unto them Thy name,” John 17: 26. After a few months, Mrs. McLean, with her three young children, returned to Scotland and made their home in the land of her nativity.
After a vacancy of several months, the congregation moderated in a call in favor of the Rev. John McTavish, of Woodville, on December 6, 1864. The call was signed by 195 members in full communion and 279 adherents, and forwarded to Mr. McTavish in the regular way. On July 11, 1865, Mr. McTavish conducted service in the church, and “intimated in respectful terms that circumstances beyond his control prevented him from accepting the cordial call which the congregation had given him to become their pastor.”
On the 27th of September 1865, a unanimous call was moderated in to Mr. Kenneth McDonald, a licentiate, who accepted the call, and was ordained and inducted by the Presbytery of Guelph on October 25, 1865. This call was signed by 163 members and 340 adherents. The stipend promised was seven hundred dollars per annum, with use of manse and glebe.
At the communion of June 1866, it is recorded that 49 were added to the communion roll, seven by certificate and forty-two by examination, the largest number by profession of faith that ever united at one time in the history of the church. Mr. McDonald was evangelical in his public and private ministrations, and was the first minister to introduce special evangelistic services and although these methods did not meet with general approval, being regarded with suspicion by some and as unpresbyterian by others, yet, much permanent good seems to have been accomplished, and many still delight to refer to those seasons of true revival.
The financial interests of the congregation are now brought before our notice in a complaint of Mr. James McLean, treasurer of the congregation, to the Session on September 4, 1866, in reference to “remissness on the part of managers in collecting pew rents, which was the cause of delay in the payment of stipend for so long a time after it has become due. The Session agreed to instruct Mr. McLean to write to defaulting directors, urging them to an immediate attention to the matter.”
It is noticeable that this financial embarrassment accompanies the indications of remarkable spiritual revival, teaching that neglect on the part of those entrusted with this important department of church work can only imperil the church's truest spiritual prosperity.
At a meeting of Session held in December 1866, after the introductory business, it is recorded “The Session entered upon the consideration of the questions submitted by the convener of the committee on the state of religion in this Presbytery, to which questions the Session agreed to give the following answers:
Q. l. Do the members and adherents of the congregation regularly attend the stated ordinances of Divine worship ? They do, with a few exceptions.
Q. 2. Have you anything interesting to report regarding the gathering in of the careless, and the edification of believers during the present year? A considerable number of heads of households applied for and received the rite of baptism for their families, who for various reasons and from different causes had not attended to the matter when their children were in infancy. Also, some sixteen or seventeen adults applied for and received the same rite to themselves, who through prejudice or neglect on the part of their parents were not baptized in childhood. About fifty-three came forward to apply for admission into full communion with the church, and were admitted. This number included persons of different ages from fifteen years to nearly eighty.
Q. 3. Are there hopeful indications in connection with prayer meetings, bible classes, and Sabbath schools in your congregation? These are, on the whole, well attended, and considerable attention paid to the instructions imparted.
Q. 4. Is your congregation divided into districts for the convenience of the elders in visiting, and are the elders faithful in discharging this department of their duty? Yes.
Q. 5. What is the state of family religion, as ascertained through the official labors of pastor and elders? Ordinary.
Q. 6. Are there any forms of vice specially apparent and prevalent in the neighborhood? None, except it be over indulgence in ardent spirits.
Q. 7. Have you any remarks to offer on the state of religion generally in your locality ? No.
The Session next entered upon the consideration of the questions submitted to them by the convener of the Synod’s committee on Psalmody, to which they agreed to return the following answers:
Q. 1. What psalmody is now in use in your congregation---the Psalms of David; the Psalms with the Paraphrases and Hymns usually bound up with the Psalms, or, if any other hymn book, give its title? Only the Psalms of David, with the Paraphrases and Hymns usually bound together.
Q. 2. Do you, as a Session, conscientiously object to the use of any songs of praise in public worship except those contained in the Book of Psalms ? We, as a Session, object to the use of any songs of praise in public worship except the Psalms and Paraphrases.
Q. 3. Do you, as a Session, approve of and desire a revisal of the Paraphrases and Hymns now usually bound up with the Psalms, together with a limited number of hymns, to be used in public worship? We do not.
O. 4. Will you kindly transmit to the Committee any suggestions in reference to the selection of hymns, or in regard to the whole subject of Psalmody of the Church ? We have none to transmit.
Up to this time, the Session had recorded the names of members in full communion in the Session Minute book, but by resolution the Session now agreed to have them preserved in a separate book.
On the 19th of February 1868, at the call of the Trustees, a congregational meeting was held, when it was “moved by Mr. Robert Forbes, and seconded by Mr. William Simpson, that in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable and necessary that a new Manse be built.” This motion was carried unanimously. On motion of Messrs. George McLean and D. Cameron, Messrs. Hugh Cockburn, John Smith, James McLaren and the mover were appointed a building committee. At a subsequent meeting, Mr. Malcolm McNaughton was appointed a member of the committee, in place of Mr. John Smith, who declined to act. The committee reported having engaged Mr. Hugh Melvin to canvas the congregation for subscriptions to the new Manse, and $1,590.00 had been promised. Mr. John Howe presented a plan, prepared at the suggestion of the committee, which was adopted, and the committee was “empowered to proceed with the erection of a manse according to their discretion and the means at their disposal.” Messrs. Andrew Kennedy and William Stratton were chosen contractors, and the work was completed with very little alteration from the original plan.
The Session records in September, 1868, the following minute : “As the number of elders composing the Session was found to be too small to overtake the duties of elders in the congregation, the Session decided to take the necessary steps forthwith towards the enlargement of the Session by the appointment of more elders.” Messrs. Walter Cowan, Alexander McLean, Hugh McNaughton, and James McLean, were found to be elected by the congregation. Mr. Alexander McLean could not see his way clear to accept the office, and the others, having signified their acceptance of the call to the office, were regularly ordained and inducted to the eldership on the 14th of February, 1869, and their names added to the roll of elders.
The Manse, erected 1868, with representatives of five ministers.
Mrs. J. Smith. J. Smith G. J. Meldrum. Miss K. A. McLean. Rev. W. Robertson.
Mrs. W. Meldrum. Mrs. W. Robertson.
Mrs. G. J. Meldrum Miss J. F. Robertson. Miss H. M. O. Robertson
Miss E. M. Meldrum W. G. Robertson.
In many Sessions, that the records may be properly kept, the Minister must be Session Clerk, as well as Moderator; but, when an efficient elder can be found to undertake the duties of Clerk, there are important reasons why he should be appointed. Such an efficient elder is now found in the Session, and in the minutes of May 1869, it is recorded that “On the request of the Moderator, Mr. James McLean was elected Session Clerk.” Mr. McLean continued to act in this capacity for many years; and his beautiful penmanship, accuracy in detail, judicious use of language, and his reverential conception of his high duties, ever reveal a pleasing justification of his appointment.
In January 1870, “The Session divided the congregational bounds into eight wards, in order that his own ward may he assigned to each elder.” Such a division gives a definiteness to the work of the elders, and when properly done cannot fail to be attended with good results.
At the May meeting, 1870, “A motion made by Mr. James McLean, seconded by Mr. Walter Cowan, to alter the hour and order of holding Divine service on Communion Sabbaths was ordered to lie over as a notice of motion.” At the October meeting of the same year, we find recorded “The motion introduced into the Session on May 3rd, anent altering the time and order of holding Divine service on Communion Sabbaths, was, after mature deliberation, dropped for the present.” Thus we notice that changes proposed by even the most conservative were not readily agreed to.
At the same meeting, the Session also records an expression of feeling towards two of its members recently removed by death: “The Session, in entering upon their records a minute in reference to their brother, the late Mr. Duncan Cameron, of East Flamboro, who has been called to exchange the communion of the church below for the solemn realities of eternity; while expressing their sorrow at his removal, would also express their respect for his exemplary piety and Christian liberality, as well as his integrity and urbanity as a member of this Session. In the removal of their lamented friend and brother, the members of the Session feel that there comes home to them, with a special force and meaning, the solemn admonition, “Watch, for in such hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh”. Under this dispensation the Session feel called upon to record the loss they have lately sustained in the removal by death of Mr. John Cockburn, who was over twelve years an elder in the congregation. Mr. Cockburn was endowed with more than ordinary gifts and graces, which he devoted to the advancement of Christ's cause and kingdom in the church of which he was an office-bearer. He took a deep interest in the affairs of the church in general, but especially in the welfare of this congregation, during an eventful period, which proved him to be its constant, faithful, and unflinching friend.” The minutes of Session for October 1871, were the last signed by Mr. McDonald as Moderator.
In the winter of 1872, a call was presented to Mr. McDonald from the Thamesford congregation. The Presbytery fully considered the question in the light of remarks made by the representatives of Thamesford and Duff's church, and as Mr. McDonald could not see his way clear to accept the call received, the Presbytery declined to transfer him. Soon after, a second call from Thamesford was presented to Mr. McDonald in the probability of his acceptance, considering the new circumstances that had arisen. This call, presented at the meeting of Presbytery on March 19, 1872, was accepted, and the transference soon took place. The Presbytery, by resolution, fittingly recorded their great regard for their brother, bore willing testimony to his zeal in the Master's service, and the gratifying success that had attended his labours, and expressed the hope that he would be abundantly blessed in his new field of labour.
In October 1872, a forward movement was made by the Session in the consideration of the Missionary schemes of the Church. “The members of Session severally agreed to attend to the matter in their respective divisions, to maintain the organization, and to see that collectors are appointed.” Attention was also given to a circular from the Presbytery in reference to supporting weak congregations, and raising the minimum stipend of ministers to $600. As individual congregations have more and more appreciated their relationship to the united kingdom of Christ, these questions have received increasing attention, and the Divine principle of the strong helping the weak by bearing one another's burdens, and so fulfilling the law of Christ, has been correspondingly honoured.
Rev. Alexander McKay D.D.
The congregation having now been without a pastor for eight months, a meeting was held on December 3, 1872, for moderation in a call to a minister, with the result that the Rev. Alexander Urquhart, probationer, received the highest number of votes cast. A motion put to the meeting to make the call unanimous was but feebly responded to. The call was prepared, signed, and commissioners to the Presbytery appointed to prosecute the call. A special meeting of the congregation was called, when an earnest attempt was made to secure unanimity, but the probability of harmonious action in the call was not obtained, and this unsatisfactory condition of affairs prevented the settlement of Mr. Urquhart as minister of the congregation.
A second moderation was proceeded with on the 1st of July 1873, the Rev. Robert Torrance presiding. Now with perfect unanimity, a call was moderated in to the Rev. Alexander McKay, M.A., of Elmira, Illinois. The call was signed by 198 members and 175 adherents. The regular mode of procedure was observed, and Mr. McKay, having signified his acceptance of the call, was inducted on the 30th of October, 1873. The Rev. Robert Torrance, interim moderator, presided, inducted and addressed the minister; the Rev. D. McLennan, of South Luther, preached, and the Rev. Thomas Wardrope addressed the people.
At a meeting held on January 1, 1874, “The Session agreed to hold the union prayer meeting during the first week of the New Year in the church, commencing every evening at seven o’clock.” This is the first notice of the observance of the Week of Prayer, as arranged by the Evangelical Alliance. This method of consecration by continuous services during the first week of the year has been productive of great good in cultivating the spirit of kindly sympathy among Christian denominations, and in consecrating individual life to the duties and responsibilities of social and religious relationships.
On New Year's Day, 1874, the Session had the privilege of considering a subject of very great interest and importance, which had been remitted to Sessions and congregations by the superior courts.
In 1870 the Rev. Dr. Ormiston addressed a letter to the Rev. Dr. Jenkins, Moderator of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Canada in connection with the Church of Scotland, stating that “after much earnest thought and private consultation with brethren, he deemed it proper to address him with reference to the incorporation of all the Presbyterian churches in the Dominion under one General Assembly.” He suggested that the Synod might appoint a committee to confer with committees that might be appointed by the other Synods. Before this time, there had been six unions effected between different branches of the Presbyterian Church in British North America, which resulted in the formation of four Synods---the Synod of the Lower Provinces, the Synod of the Maritime Provinces in connection with the Church of Scotland, the Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church, and the Synod of the Canada Presbyterian Church in connection with the Church of Scotland.
Delegates from the four Synods met in Montreal in September 1870, as a joint committee, and after earnest and prayerful consideration, reached the conclusion that a General Union was both desirable and practicable. A Basis of Union was formulated, and in the regular way, transmitted to Sessions and congregations for their consideration. This Session and congregation, by a large majority, approved of the Basis of Union as on the whole satisfactory. The spirit of union seemed to have powerfully influenced Presbyterianism throughout the Dominion, and on the 15th of June 1875, in the City of Montreal, the Supreme Courts of the four negotiating churches met in Victoria Hall and happily consummated the union which for five years they had been considering.
This was a scene of impressiveness, unparalleled in the history of Presbyterianism in this or any other country. This was completing a union which reveals a spirit that leads the Presbyterianism of the world, and is a religious object lesson which leads and edifies all the Christian denominations that have felt the destructive power of internal strife. Memories of sad struggles were that day recalled; venerated fathers who had fought manful battles and had reached the land of united hearts, were remembered; God's goodness in the past was gratefully acknowledged; and the future appeared a vision of surpassing glory, as thousands, in hopeful anticipation, appropriated the promises made to those who seek the peace and prosperity of Zion, and delight to dwell together in Christian unity. The high anticipations of that memorable day have been abundantly realized in the continued progress of an undivided Church.
In April 1874, the Session noted: “The number of elders composing the Session being few, and inadequate to overtake the duties of elders over the extensive bounds of the congregation, the Session decided to take the necessary steps to increase the number.” These having been observed, it was found that the congregation had called Messrs. Alexander McCormick, Peter Stewart, John Clark, jr., Robert Beattie, Hugh Cockburn, and Malcolm McNaughton to this sacred office, and on invitation appearing before the Session, the call was formally presented to them and accepted by them. “The Session being satisfied in regard to their religious knowledge, piety, and prudence, and their knowledge of the government and discipline of the Church, and the duties of their office, ordered an edict to be read to the congregation appointing Sabbath day, the 25th of July, for their ordination.” On the day appointed, they were regularly ordained and inducted, and their names added to the elders' roll.
On June 9, 1875, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on the pastor by the Senate of Trinity University, U. S. In the Annual Calendar of the University for that year, the following reference is made to conferring this degree: “The Degree of D. D. has been conferred upon the Rev. Alexander McKay, of Canada, a graduate of a Canadian University, a bright theologian, and an admirable proficient in the Gaelic language. Testimonials of a high order received from Canada have perfectly satisfied the faculty that this learned reverend gentleman richly deserves the honour which they have conferred.”
This was a signal mark of distinction, as Mr. McKay was the first Gaelic preaching minister in the western section of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, upon whom this highest academic degree had been conferred. No notice of this exceptional honour is found in the Session records, and it would seem that the Session with surprising modesty had failed to mark a recognition of the supreme distinction associated with the honour conferred on their Moderator. It is profitable, as well as courteous, for a Session and congregation to manifest appreciation of the honourable recognition of their ministers.
In April 1876, Dr. McKay informed the Session that for a long time he had been anxious to go on a visit to Scotland, and if proper arrangements could be made for pulpit supply in his absence, and the consent of Session and Presbytery obtained, he would go that summer. The Session expressed their cordial assent to the pastor's proposition, and their desire to do everything possible to facilitate the necessary arrangements for his temporary absence. Satisfactory arrangements were made, and the pastor enjoyed a delightful visit to the land of his nativity.
The Rev. Mr. Meldrum, who had retired from the active duties of the ministry, returned to reside at Morriston, and became permanently associated with the Session as a corresponding member in 1876. Though now advanced in life, he still manifested a deep and active interest in the congregation. He was a congenial friend of the pastor, and delighted to render him assistance. So long as he was able, he addressed the communicants after the elements were served at the communion table.
For about a year before his decease, he was unable to attend the sanctuary regularly. He suffered a stroke of paralysis, from which he never fully recovered, and the once strong frame yielded rapidly. On the night preceding his translation he, unable to join his family, called them all into his room for worship. They sang a psalm, his son George read the chapter, and the voice of the aged saint was heard for the last time in prayer at the family altar to which he had been so lovingly attached by a holy, pure devotion. In a few hours that voice was silenced, and the next day his spirit rose from the noon-day glory of earth to the glory that excelleth in heaven. His departure was on the 19th of November 1889, in the 84th year of his age. His funeral was attended by a very large number, who sympathetically manifested their regard for him who had been so intimately connected with the religious life of Puslinch for half a century. The services were conducted by the Rev. Alexander McKay, D. D., assisted by the Rev. Thomas Wardrope, D. D., the Rev. G. Smellie, D. D., and the Rev. R. Torrance, D. D. His remains were interred in the Crown Cemetery, not far from the place where stood the primitive church in which, as the pioneer minister, he so long and so faithfully proclaimed the gospel. The prominent monument, erected near the entrance to the cemetery, recalls the more enduring monument of consecration and noble purpose, which his courageous life and untiring activity had formed in Puslinch, Zorra, and other places.
About this time, a sect, commonly called “The Brethren” became a factor in the religious life of Puslinch. By characteristic energy, they made known their distinctive doctrines and religious practices, and so commended themselves that a considerable number who had been regarded as excellent members of the Presbyterian Church, united with them, and the Session had the unpleasant duty of removing their names from the communion roll.
The following obituary minute was adopted by the Session on October 26, 1878: “The Session desire to put on record the loss they sustained since their last meeting in the removal by death of one of their number, namely, Mr. Alexander McCormick, who died on the 15th of this month. Mr. McCormick had been ordained and inducted as an elder of this congregation, 25th July 1875. Owing to severe and protracted illness, he was not able to attend Session meetings for over two years. Though suffering intensely at times, he very seldom complained; those who visited him came away feeling that he was receiving consolation and support from the true source. While health permitted, he was very attentive and regular in his attendance at public worship; though he was six miles from church he was very seldom absent. He was very affable in his manner, and always took a deep interest in the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the congregation of which he was so long a member. He was a solid, faithful and reliable man, a wise counsellor, whose advice was always taken with much respect. He made the Bible his daily study, and found much pleasure in the company of God’s people. In the removal of their beloved friend and brother, at the age of fifty-six, the members of Session feel more than ever the force of the admonition, “Prepare to meet thy God, 0 Israel”.”
“Application having been made by the Presbytery of Hamilton to the Presbytery of Guelph for leave to establish a new congregation at “McCrae”, a station on the line of the Credit Valley Railway, the congregation was duly cited to appear before the Presbytery of Guelph to defend their interests in the matter. The Session took the matter into consideration, and the Moderator, in a carefully prepared paper, embodied the suggestions made. The paper was read and adopted and the representatives of the congregation were authorized to present it to the Presbytery and to sustain it before that venerable body.” After considering all the interests concerned, the Presbytery of Guelph declined to approve of the organization of a new congregation at the proposed station.
At its meeting of October 16, 1885, the following minute is noted: “The Session feel called upon to record the loss they have sustained in the removal by death of Mr. Hugh McNaughton, a ruling elder of the church for the last sixteen years. For over five years Mr. McNaughton suffered from a severe stroke of paralysis until on Sabbath, the 26th July, the messenger of peace released him from the wrecked earthly tabernacle at the age of 70 years. Mr. McNaughton was one of the original pioneers of Puslinch and a member of Duff’s Church from its inception. He always maintained a walk and conversation becoming the Gospel of Christ and was endowed with more than ordinary gifts and graces, which he humbly and cheerfully devoted to the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the church of which he was an office bearer. He was beloved by all who knew him on account of his gentle and amiable character.
With pleasure, the Session record their sense of the deep interest taken by their brother in the affairs of the church in general, but more especially in the welfare of the congregation with which he has been identified from its genesis. Through all the vicissitudes, trials and changes of the eventful history of the congregation, Mr. McNaughton proved himself to be a faithful servant, and an unflinching friend. His departure caused a vacancy in the Session and congregation not easily filled.”
At the same meeting, “The Moderator was appointed to consult with Mr. Allan McDiarmid, an elder from another congregation, now resident within our bounds, with a view to have his name submitted to the congregation for re-election to the office of elder in Duff's church.” At the following meeting, Mr. McDiarmid was present, and “signified his acceptance of the office of elder, to which he was recently elected by the Session and congregation,” and on the first day of January, 1886, his induction took place.
The Session is again called upon to chronicle the death of one of its members: “The Session would record with regret the death of Mr. Andrew McRobbie, which took place at his residence, at Puslinch, on November 28th, 1885, after a long and painful illness, at the age of 71 years. He was a ruling elder in this congregation for nearly thirty years. At the time of his death, he was a member of Session, Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly, an incident that seldom happens at the decease of a ruling elder. Mr. McRobbie took an active and warm interest in all the affairs of the church. He was very regular and conscientious in his attendance at the services of Duff's church.
Often, in the days of his activity, he walked there, a distance of five miles from church, when the roads were bad, or not convenient for him to take out his conveyance. He was in connection with the congregation since its organization more than half a century ago. The Session will miss very much his wise and judicious counsel in their deliberations as a Session, but their loss is his eternal gain."
In the month that the Session adopted the minute in regard to the death of the late Mr. McRobbie, they sustained another loss in the removal by death of Mr. Walter Cowan, and the obituary record is as follows “The Session is called upon to mourn the loss of one of its most prominent members in the person of Mr. Walter Cowan, who died at his residence on Sabbath day, June 20th, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. Mr. Cowan suffered for a long time acutely from cancer, which resulted in his death. He bore his affliction with great patience, fortitude, and Christian resignation, and yielded up his spirit in the faith and hope of a glorious immortality. He was connected with the congregation of Duff's Church for about forty years, for seventeen of which he filled the office of ruling elder. Mr. Cowan was of a quiet, unassuming disposition, genial, affable, and kind, always ready to take his share of congregational duties, and to co-operate with his brethren in every good work. Mr. Cowan is the third member of Session translated within twelve months, thus repeating to us the solemn injunction, “Be ye also ready, for in such hour as ye know not, the Son of man cometh.””
The Session, in October, 1886, “agreed to invite Mr. William McEachern, an elder from Harriston, now resident within the bounds of Duff’s church, to become a member of Session.” The election took place on the 18th of November, and his induction on the 1st day of January, 1887.
In the records of June 1887, we find a reference to the Gaelic services: “Hitherto, on sacramental occasions, the Gaelic service was held in the Town Hall, Morriston. It was submitted to the Session that members attending the Gaelic service were so few that the Session house would afford them sufficient accommodation, the service in both languages to proceed simultaneously in the church and Session house, at the close of the English service, the Gaelic communicants to enter the church and occupy the vacated seats at the communion table. The Session agreed that the proposed arrangement should be carried into effect, and the result proved to be quite satisfactory.” This arrangement has been observed until the present time.
The congregation, for a number of years, had suffered severely from removals, deaths, and other causes, and the reduction of families had caused much perplexity and financial embarrassment. Many conflicting opinions existed concerning the causes of congregational decline, and much unwholesome discussion led up to an unsatisfactory condition of affairs, which culminated in the retirement of Dr. McKay from the pastorate on August 11, 1889. Dr. McKay was minister of the congregation for sixteen years, his pastorate being the longest in the congregation’s history. He has frequently visited the congregation since on communion seasons, and many are ever pleased to see him.
Rev. Wm. Robertson, B.A.
After the retirement of Dr. McKay, the proposition of union with Knox Church, West Puslinch, was considered. Much opposition was manifested for a time, but after mature consideration, the interests of both congregations seemed to require it, and a basis of union was agreed upon, and the conditions ratified by the interested parties. After various unsuccessful attempts at the harmonious selection of a pastor, the congregation met on the 9th day of September 1890, and moderated in a unanimous call to the Rev. William Robertson, B. A., who had been minister of the Waterdown charge. The regular mode of procedure was observed, and Mr. Robertson accepting the call was inducted on October 21, 1890. The Rev. Robert Torrance, D. D., Moderator of Session, pro. tem., presided and addressed the congregation, the Rev. A. B. Winchester, B.A., of Berlin, preached, and the Rev. J. C. Smith, B. D., addressed the minister. On the same day, the Session read an address to the Rev. Dr. Torrance, expressing their appreciation of his sympathetic, kind, and courteous care over them during the long vacancy, and assuring him that “his composure and patience under irritating circumstances had contributed not a little to harmonize and heal conflicting opinion, and to enlist the co-operation of all to accelerate the auspicious settlement culminating to-day in the induction of the Rev. William Roberson, B. A., to the pastoral oversight of the congregation.”
The pastor, in a few weeks, asked the Session to consider the advisability of organizing a Y. P. S. C. E. The Session approved of the suggestion, and a strong society of young people was organized. Much good work was accomplished for a few years, but local circumstances changed, similar Societies were formed in Morriston and Aberfoyle, some of the workers devoted their energies to the church Sabbath School, which had been organized, and similar work in the other sections of the church called for the concentrated attention of some of the best workers, so the discontinuance of the Society was with regret agreed upon.
For a number of years there had been a pronounced desire on the part of many to modernize the church life, but in a congregation so conservative and unaccustomed to changes, innovations cannot be affected speedily, or without friction and intense regret on the part of those who cling to the old paths so dear to them. The present seemed, however, an opportune time to move, so at the meeting of Session held on the 3rd of January 1891, “a communication from the President and Secretary of the Y. P. S. C. E. was read, expressing a desire to have the Presbyterian Hymnal introduced into the service of the church and of the society and requesting the Session to bring the subject before the congregation at the annual meeting. The Session agreed to lay the communication before the annual meeting, with the understanding that the introduction of the Hymnal should not have precedence of the Psalms and Paraphrases, but be used in addition thereto.” At the annual meeting, on motion of Messrs. George Meldrum and Alexander McCaig, it was greed that “in addition to the Psalms and Paraphrases, the Presbyterian Hymnal be introduced into the services of the Church and the Christian Endeavor Society.”
As several members of Session, on account of the infirmities of age, were no longer able to take an active part in the Session work, it was deemed advisable to have an increased number of elders. The Session made the necessary arrangements for an election, and an examination of the votes cast found that Messrs. John D. Clark, John A. Cockburn, Wellwood Cowan, Andrew Munro, Alexander McCaig, James E. McLean, Duncan McKenzie, and William Stratton, jr., were the choice of the congregation. On appearing before the Session by request, the elders elect were formally notified of their call to the office. Mr. John D. Clark could not be prevailed upon to accept the office, but the other seven consented to the call of the congregation, and were ordained and inducted on Sabbath, the 10th day of May 1891.
At the first meeting after the addition to their number, “The Session took into consideration the most feasible and best way of dividing the congregation into visiting districts, and giving the oversight of the families in each district to the resident elders. It was mutually agreed to adopt the limits of the School Sections within the bounds of the congregation for dividing lines, and to appoint the resident families to the oversight of the resident elders.”
At the March meeting of Session, 1892, “The Moderator read a communication from Mr. Hugh McDiarmid and the choir, praying the Session to submit the introduction of the organ into the church service to a vote of the congregation. Mr. Hugh Cockburn, seconded by Mr. Stratton, moved that the introduction of the organ into the church service be submitted to a vote of the congregation. Mr. James McLean, seconded by Mr. Stewart, moved in amendment that the motion be postponed for the present. The amendment was carried.” The element of opposition to the use of instrumental music, so pronounced in former years, seemed still to be strong in the Session, and as the convulsions of revolution, in connection with innovations, are always injurious, those in favor of the proposed change submitted to the decision of the Session, believing that the quiet force of natural evolution would bring about, in a few years, the desired result.
Although no Sabbath School had ever been held in the church, many of the members had fully appreciated the importance of this department of church activity, and had been engaged in the work in connection with the Union Sabbath School in Morriston, and district schools in different parts of the congregation, but, in June 1892, the Session noted, “A proposition being submitted in regard to opening a Sabbath School in the church, the following members of Session were appointed to ascertain the views of parents and other interested parties in the matter, viz.: Messrs. J. A. Cockburn, Munro, McCaig, McDiarmid, McEachern, J. E. McLean, and Stratton.” This committee seems not to have reported formally, but the question again comes before the Session on January 31, 1893. “A proposal to open a Sabbath School in the church was submitted by Mr. Stratton.
After some consideration and discussion, Mr. Hugh Cockburn, seconded by Mr. McDiarmid, moved that the opening of the School be deferred for further consideration. Mr. John Cockburn, seconded by Mr. James E. McLean, moved in amendment, that the Session do now give consent to have the Sabbath School opened in the church in connection with the congregation, but that no steps be taken to organize the School until the latter part of March. The amendment carried.” It will ever remain a mystery that exception should be taken to the organization of a Sabbath School in the church. The Church has an inalienable right to instruct her own youth under her own immediate superintendence. The attendance at a Union Sabbath School and the Sabbath Schools of other denominations should not preclude the Church from the privilege and duty of making Sabbath School provision for her own children. The Sabbath School was organized, notwithstanding strong opposition from some members of Session and others, the attendance has fully justified its existence, and much good has been accomplished.
At the meeting when the question of Sabbath School organization was decided, Mr. James McLean tendered his resignation of the office of Session Clerk, which resignation was ordered to lie on the table. At a subsequent meeting his resignation was considered, the Session expressing deep regret at the prospect of losing the services of so valued an officer, and asking him to reconsider his decision.
Mr. McLean, however, adhered to his resignation, which was consequently accepted, the sincere thanks of the Session were tendered him for his long and faithful service, and a committee appointed to prepare a minute expressive of the mind of the Session, to be engrossed in the Session records. At the next meeting the committee submitted the following, which was adopted by the Session: “In accepting the resignation of Mr. James McLean, the Session resolves to put on record their gratitude to the great Head of the Church for sparing the life of His servant for so many years, and would sincerely thank Mr. McLean for his careful, painstaking, and efficient service during the long period of twenty-five years, when he acted in the capacity of Clerk of the Session; and their prayer to God is that he may yet be spared many years to labour for his Saviour in the Session and in the church he loves so well."
On May 23, 1893, Mr. John A. Cockburn was elected by the unanimous vote of the Session to the office of Session Clerk, and has continued to perform the duties faithfully until the present time.
For many years temperance principles, more or less advanced, have been advocated, and not a few have had pronounced views against the use of fermented wine at the communion services; so the Session, in January 1894, reasonably decided that, as no injury was likely to be connected with the discontinuance of fermented wine, and the substitution of unfermented, the latter should henceforth he used in the sacred ordinance. This change seems to have given entire satisfaction.
After waiting somewhat impatiently for more than two years, the choir again communicates with the Session in September 1894: “A communication was read from Mr. George Meldrum, secretary of the choir, praying the Session to reconsider the petition sent by the choir some years ago, in reference to submitting the organ question to a vote of the congregation. After due consideration, it was moved by Mr. McNaughton, seconded by Mr. J. A. Cockburn, and unanimously resolved, that we submit to a vote of the congregation the question of introducing the use of the organ into the church services; the Moderator and Clerk to prepare ballots for the same.” Soon after the vote was taken, the Session met to consider the question in the light of the ballots cast for and against the use of the organ. It was found that 84 members had voted for the use of the organ, and 17 against, with 59 adherents for and 7 against. The total number for was found to be 143, and the full number against 24. “The following resolution was then moved by Mr. John A. Cockburn, seconded by Mr. J. E. McLean: That, after carefully considering the ballots cast for and against the organ, and all circumstances connected therewith, we unanimously agree that it would not be in the best interests of the congregation to introduce the organ into the church services at present.” The question of instrumental music in the church service was thus again disposed of, only to be revived at some future time, as the feeling in the congregation was now known to be so strong in favour of the use of the organ that the majority must be recognized. Two years later, Mr. Hugh McDiarmid sent the Session his resignation as leader of the choir. The Session, anxious to retain his services, appointed a committee to confer with him, with the view of having him continue leader of the service of praise.
This committee reported that, having had a conference with Mr. McDiarmid, they had failed to get him to withdraw his resignation. The Moderator and Mr. James E. McLean then agreed to wait on him. They assured him of the earnest desire of the Session and congregation to have him continue as leader of the praise service, and sought to remove any difficulties that he had experienced. After some consideration, Mr. McDiarmid said he would continue as leader of the choir, if the Session would give their consent to the use of the organ in the church service, although the absence of the organ had not been the cause of his resignation. This was reported to the Session in March 1896, and, “after due consideration, it was moved by Mr. Jas. E. McLean, seconded by Mr. J. A. Cockburn, that we defer the consideration of introducing the organ until the first of June.” This motion was carried.
On the first of June, “the question of introducing the organ into the public worship of the sanctuary was taken up and considered, and after due deliberation, the following conclusion was arrived at: Whereas the congregation have recorded a majority vote in favor of instrumental music, we, as a Session, are agreed to give our consent to the introduction of the same, and hand the matter over to the Board of Managers to make further provision therefor.” When the question came before the Managers they agreed to canvass the congregation for subscriptions to purchase an organ, but stipulated that unless the amount promised be sufficient for the purchase they would not proceed. The financial response of the congregation was found to be inadequate to meet the stipulations of the Managers, who declined to incur any financial obligation; so, by resolution, they left the matter over till the annual meeting of the congregation, in January.
At that meeting, the chairman, Mr. Hugh Cockburn, found this question on the docket of business, and gave the opportunity for its consideration; but no one seemed desirous of dealing with it, so no action was taken. At the close of this meeting, Mr. Hugh McDiarmid again resigned the leadership of' the choir to two of the elders, who reported it to a meeting of Session in February 1897, “when, on motion of Mr. A. Munro, seconded by Mr. James E. McLean, his resignation was accepted.
An application for the position of choir leader was then read from Mr. John. M. Frey. After due consideration it was moved by Mr. A. Munro, seconded by Mr. John A. Cockburn, that the application be accepted for the ensuing year. This motion carried unanimously.”
There was a re-organization of the choir under the leadership of Mr. Frey, and the organ question was again considered. Mr. George J. Meldrum, the Secretary, interviewed the Board of Management and requested them to permit the choir to assume all responsibility in the purchase of a suitable instrument. As the Managers’ proposition had failed, and the congregation showed no disposition to exert itself, the request was willingly granted. The choir, with commendable energy, sought subscriptions, received encouraging response, and, although obliged to assume, for a short time, a small indebtedness, purchased an excellent organ, and set at rest a question that had caused a good deal of irritation for a considerable time.
J. A. Cockburn
J. E. McLean
The question “To whom is Baptism to be administered?” has always been a perplexing one in practical administration. Some years ago, the General Assembly took action regarding what may be termed special cases, and the nature of their action as contained in the words of the Rev. Principal Caven, was as follows, “The Assembly declared that Christian parents should not neglect the observance of the Lord’s Supper, nor suppose that the spiritual attainments required in order to discharge the vows laid on them in receiving baptism for their children were lower than those required of communicants; and the pastors of persons who had not attained clear views on this subject were exhorted to do all in their power to remove the misconception referred to. Nevertheless, Sessions should be at liberty, in the mean time, to allow baptism in the case of parents who seem to be followers of Christ, and who could be trusted to bring up their children as Christian parents should do, though they were not actually communicants.”
Action similar to the General Assembly’s deliverance has been observed throughout the Session’s history in dealing with special cases. Although a narrower interpretation of the answer in the Shorter Catechism has caused perplexing differences of opinion, yet individual members have not the privilege of taking action, in their official capacity, contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Church. To avoid recurring difficulties, the Session has sought to make specific regulations concerning the Sacrament of Baptism in harmony with the deliverance of the General Assembly, which are here presented in the following extracts of Session minutes of January 30, 1894,
“The question of baptism was taken up and considered, when it was agreed that when the Ordinance of Baptism was to be administered outside of the public sanctuary, notice of the same is to be given from the pulpit and in cases where neither parent is a member of the church in full communion, at least one of the parents must come before the Session to make personal application for baptism for their children.”
On December 20, 1898, “It was moved by Mr. Hugh Cockburn, seconded by Mr. James E. McLean, and resolved, that any person or persons applying to this Session for himself or herself, or for their children, for the sacrament of Baptism, be required to stand the same examination as persons uniting with the Church in full communion; and that the questions found in the Book of Forms be put by the Moderator, before the Session, or a deputation of the Session.
If then, the Session is satisfied that they are proper persons to receive baptism, for themselves or for their children, the Moderator may proceed to administer the sacrament, and the names of the parties shall be placed on a roll kept for the purpose, the Session then to have the same oversight over them as persons in full communion. Should such persons have any scruples, doubts, or fears, in coming to the Lord’s table, to commemorate His dying love, they shall be left to the freedom of their own will and be kindly spoken to, from time to time, by the Moderator, or any member of Session.”
An important feature of the congregation, and regarded with peculiar interest, is the large number who, born in the congregation or for a time prominently connected with its activity, have entered the ministry of the church. The following are their names and date of ordination. Their pictures follow. :
3. Daniel M. Beattie, M. A., B. D., '80, deceased;
4. James Little, '66, Birr;
5. Gilbert G. McRobbie, Ph. D., '74, Kemble;
6. John Morrison,'66, Cedarville;
7. Thomas Wardrope, D. D., '45, ex-Moderator of the General Assembly, Guelph;
8. Donald C. McKenzie, M. A., deceased;
9. Peter J. McLaren, B. A.,'91, Belwood;
10. James M. McLaren, B. A., '90, Blenheim;
11. John Little, '93, Chatsworth;
12. Robert T. Cockburn, ’98, Kimball;
13. William E. Beattie, B. A., '97, Woodlawn, Ala.,
14. Charles M. Wyse,'99, Petrel.
Men from the congregation who have entered the ministry
Men from the congregation who have entered the ministry
On the 1st of January 1845, the congregation considered a proposition for the establishment of a Deacons’ Court whose functions over the financial affairs of the congregation would be similar to that of the Session over the spiritual interests. The members of the Deacons’ Court would be ordained to the office and be entrusted with a life service. The proposition met so much opposition that it was deemed advisable to urge it no further. In 1851, the Moderator, with the cordial sanction of the Session, again called upon the congregation to consider this question, and after fully explaining the powers and duties of the proposed court, and the advantages expected, the congregation almost unanimously decided against the introduction of such a court. From the inception of the congregation, managers chosen by the members had been entrusted with the financial matters. Their duties seem not to have been defined, and they had little administrative power besides collecting stipend funds from a system of pew rents determined by the congregation. Their authority terminated when they handed over the collected amounts to the treasurer of the congregation.
This system seems to have been operated with dissatisfaction, more and more pronounced, until at a congregational meeting held in January 1867, on motion of Messrs. Robert Forbes and D. Cameron it was decided “that the system of collecting pew rents by managers be abolished and that three trustees be annually elected, on the principle of and vested with the same powers as school trustees have, to manage the temporal affairs of this congregation.” Messrs. Robert Forbes, Hugh Cockburn, and John Smith were then elected the first trustees of the church. The plan of operating the financial affairs by three trustees, with well defined powers, seems to have been capable of improvement as the finances are again in an unsatisfactory state.
So, at the annual congregational meeting held in January 1887, a Board of Managers composed of Messrs Wm. Beattie, John A. Cockburn, John D. Clark, Archibald Marshall, Alexander McLean, Jr., James McLean, Daniel McFarlane, Daniel McNaughton, and Wm. Stratton, Jr. was appointed to act conjointly with the Board of Trustees, then composed of Messrs. Alexander McLean, Senior, Wm. Stratton, Senior, and Andrew Munro. This united Board of three trustees and nine managers constitutes the system of financial management that has obtained till the present time. It took several years to clothe the Board of Managers with the authority and responsibility recommended for guidance in the Book of Forms. The best of regulations are not appreciated by those who feel disturbed by new modes of procedure, yet gradually the true position of the managers was recognized.
Present Board of Management, 1899
C. McBeath, Dan. McKenzie, M. Kennedy, G. J. Meldrum, D. McKenzie, J. W. Kerr, H. Ross.
J. D. Clark, D. McNaughton, Sec.-Treas, D. McFarlane, Chairman, T. D. Day.
The Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer are appointed annually from among the members of the Board. The congregation is divided into districts and managers have charge of the financial interests of the separate districts. Receipts are given to all who contribute to the support of ordinances, the Sabbath offerings are counted and marked by a committee before being handed to the treasurer, and a detailed financial statement with the total receipts and expenditures is printed annually and distributed, giving satisfactory information concerning all the financial affairs of the congregation.
In addition to the ordinary revenue for the support of ordinances, the congregation came into possession of over $1,000 accruing from the sale of 80 acres of the church lot a few years ago. By petition through the Presbytery to the Legislature a special enactment was obtained for the sale of this property, the receipts of which were to be applied only for permanent improvements in connection with the Presbyterian congregations of Puslinch. With this money the church was repaired, horse sheds built, fencing done, and a platform erected. The manse was also made more comfortable, a barn, stables, driving shed, etc., were built, the glebe fences improved, and much general improvement made on the church property.
Mr. David McFarlane was appointed Treasurer in 1843, and continued to hold the office for several years. His house was burned while he was in office, and as very little was saved, it is likely that all church records held by him at the time were destroyed. Mr. James McLean was appointed Secretary-Treasurer in 1863, and continued in the office 30 years, and on resigning in 1893 the thanks of the congregation were tendered him for the faithful and efficient manner in which he had discharged his duties for so many years.
Mr. T. D. Day was appointed his successor, and Mr. Daniel McNaughton became his successor in 1897, and is the present occupant of the position. The present members of the Board of Management are Messrs. Daniel McFarlane, chairman ; Daniel McNaughton, secretary-treasurer ; John D. Clark, Christopher McBeath, Daniel McKenzie, Malcolm Kennedy, Geo. J. Meldrum, Duncan McKenzie, John W. Kerr, Hugh Ross, Thomas D. Day, and Peter McKenzie, who has removed to British Columbia.
1.----Badenoch Sabbath School.
When Mr. Meldrum was pastor of the congregation, and had his home in Badenoch at the residence of Mr. Peter McLean, senior, he was accustomed to invite the people for Sabbath instruction after the regular service of the sanctuary. Although there was no formal organization, yet these Sabbath classes may be regarded as the origin of the Sabbath School, which has now existed for more than half a century. When the old log school house stood on the 9th concession, it was too far from the centre of the section, so a summer Sabbath School was held near the Badenoch blacksmith’s shop, in the open air beside a large pile of logs, arranged for seating accommodation. Mr. Angus Clark, an earnest Christian, usually opened and closed the meetings with prayer. With him, as co-workers, were Messrs. Peter Grant, Dutton, and James McLean, then public school teacher, who taught a class of boys in the Gaelic language.
The first superintendent, so far as can be learned from authentic sources, was Mr. Lauchlan Kennedy, who is now nearly a centenarian, in his 96th year, the oldest person in the township. He was faithful in his duties as superintendent of the school, and long continued to have a willing interest in the instruction of the young. Although he had excellent command of the English language, he always used the Gaelic in prayer and it will not soon be forgotten how strangely reverential were the prayers in this venerable language, when all the other services were in English. Many, particularly in Badenoch, have feelings of very great regard for this aged servant of the Lord.
The next superintendent was Mr. Robert Goudy, an earnest evangelical man, who introduced the singing of hymns in the Sabbath School. His term was short, as the Master called him to a higher service above.
The next to hold this important office was Mr. James E. McLean, who continued for a number of years to discharge the duties with great earnestness and efficiency until business engagements prevented his regular attendance. He, however, has been able to do a great deal as Bible Class teacher, which position he still holds. He also takes a leading part, as circumstances permit, in conducting Sabbath evening meetings during the winter season, and in promoting all other religious interests in the neighborhood.
Mr. McLean was succeeded by Mr. Dugald McDonald, who was an active, painstaking officer, but remained in the neighborhood only a short time after his appointment, so his relationship to the Sabbath School soon terminated.
The next superintendent was Mr. William Stratton, an efficient officer, whose mild, pleasing manner won him much favour, and it was with much regret the school learned that Sabbath School interests in his own section necessitated a discontinuance of the happy relationship.
His successor was the present superintendent, Mr. Wm. F. Patterson, who, with pronounced energy and with an excellent staff of teachers and officers, has brought the school to the present high standard.
The present staff are
Superintendent .........Mr. William F. Patterson
Assistant .........Mr. John W. Kerr
Secretary-Treas......... Mr. D. Hanning
Assistant ........Mr. John Gilmour
Librarian .................Mr. John Bickley
Organist .................... Miss Lizzie Kerr
Names of Teachers-Mr. James E. McLean, Mr. John W. Kerr, Mrs. J. R. Clark, Mrs. Geo. Hanning, Miss Jessie McLean, and Miss Lizzie Kerr.
Number of scholars on the roll at present ........ 75
Average attendance of scholars this year ........ 60
Average attendance of teachers this year......... 5
2.-----Sabbath School in School Section No. 5.
The Sabbath School in School Section No. 5 dates back to the year 1857. The Rev. Alex. McLean was accustomed to hold a service occasionally on Sabbath afternoons in the school house. Mr. John Morrison, now the Rev. John Morrison of Cedarville, was the
teacher of the public school then, and suggested the organization of a Sabbath School. He acted as Superintendent until the autumn of 1858, when he returned to Knox College to continue his studies for the ministry.
He was succeeded by Mr. Francis W. Farries, afterwards well-known as the Rev. F. W. Farries, of Knox Church, Ottawa, who continued to keep up the interest in the Sabbath School. Then we find that Mr. Arthur Oliver, a tinsmith of Morriston, taught the Sabbath School in the year 1861. He was succeeded by Mr. James Little, now the Rev. James Little, of Bethel and Bryanston.
We find also that Mr. Alexander Warren was public and Sabbath school teacher in 1864, but how long before or after is not remembered. During Mr. Warren’s vacations, Mr. Alexander McCaig took charge of the Sabbath School, and when he left the section Mr. McCaig continued in charge, assisted by Mr. Peter Stewart. This arrangement continued for many years and a pleasing and profitable interest was maintained. Increasing infirmities prevented Mr. Peter Stewart's regular attendance, but other earnest workers willingly assisted. After many years of faithful service, Mr. McCaig felt constrained to retire from the school in the year in 1895.
Mr. Andrew Munro then, in 1896, at the unanimous request of the section, accepted their invitation to be Superintendent. He continued to conduct the school with encouraging success for two seasons; then removing from the neighborhood, his connection necessarily terminated.
Mr. William Stratton, Jr., then received an urgent request to become Superintendent, and although Superintendent of another Sabbath School, was prevailed upon to accept the position in 1898, and continues the excellent work of his predecessors with harmony and success.
An organ has been purchased this year and its use is accompanied with a marked improvement in the praise service.
The school is kept open six months of the year, but Sabbath evening services are held monthly by the pastor, with a gratifying attendance.
The present staff are
Superintendent ........................ Mr. Wm. Stratton
Secretary-Treasurer.....….......... Mr. James McCaig
Librarian….................. .…..........Mr. Neil Stewart
Organist.....................……......... Miss Mary Jane Smith
Teachers----Mr. Wm. Stratton, Miss Mary Stewart, Miss Katie McCaig, and Miss Jennie Patterson.
Number of scholars on the roll this year .......... 45
Average attendance of scholars this year ........ 27
3.-----Sabbath School at No. 10.
The Sabbath School in Section No. 10 had its origin in the old stone school house, in the year 1860. Mr. Peter McLaren, who had just begun his work as public school teacher, realized the importance of Sabbath School instruction, and without any formal organization, gathered the people together for a Sabbath class. For several years there was no division of classes, and Mr. McLaren was the only teacher, keeping the school open during the summer months.
Present Officers and Teachers of Sabbath Schools.
The increasing attendance necessitated division into classes, Mr. McLaren taking the older class of boys, and was assisted by the late Andrew McRobbie, F. R. Beattie, Miss Catharine McRobbie, the late Miss Ann McFarlane, and Miss Maggie McKeracher (now Mrs. John Douglas), who may be regarded as the first staff of teachers in the school. Mr. McLaren continued to work faithfully as Superintendent and teacher until severing his connection with the Section, in 1880.
It is of special interest to note that several voting men who have entered the ministry of the Church received their early training in classics from Mr. McLaren, and look back upon his pronounced religious influence with enduring gratitude. Few sections in Canada have a record for religious and educational results to be compared with that of No. 10, and Mr. McLaren has with propriety been designated the “Professor of Puslinch”.
During the summer of 1881, without any regularly appointed superintendent, the school was led by Mr. (now Rev.) John Little, and Mr. John A. Cockburn, alternately. In the spring of 1882, Mr. Cockburn was asked to lead the school, and has been elected superintendent every year since that time. During all these years, the best of harmony has prevailed. The energetic superintendent and a willing staff of teachers and officers have had much encouragement, and their efforts have been crowned with marked success.
It is worthy of special mention that from this school have gone forth to enter the ministry the following: G. G. McRobbie (Ph.D.), F. R. Beattie (D.D.), D. M. Beattie, (B.A., deceased), W. E. Beattie (B.A.), D. C. McKenzie (M.A., deceased), R. Watt, P. J. McLaren (B.A.), J. M. McLaren (B.A.), J. Little, and R. T. Cockburn.
The present staff are:
Superintendent ............... Mr. John A. Cockburn
Sec.-Treasurer................. Miss Mary Jane Hardie
Organist .......................... Miss Christina McKenzie
Asst. Organist ................. Miss Grace Murray
Librarians....................... Mr. M. O’Nesto and Miss Janet Hardie
The present teachers are: Mr. John A. Cockburn, Miss Christina. McKenzie, Miss Janet Gilchrist, Miss Cassie Stephenson, Mr. Duncan McKenzie, and Mr. Neil McEachern.
Number of scholars on the roll at present ............ 60
Average attendance of scholars this year .............. 40
Average attendance of teachers this year............ 5
A few years ago, a Bible class for the winter months was formed and the meetings held on Sabbath evenings. As the Sabbath School is always closed for the winter, these meetings have been well attended, and partake largely of a Young People's Society, when the Sabbath School lessons for the day are regularly studied.
This school, which for many years held the foremost place in the township has, on account of heavy losses through removals and social changes, been considerably reduced in numbers, but its high standard is well maintained.
4.---The Church Sabbath School.
The Sabbath School, which meets in the church, was organized on the 27th of March, 1893. In response to an invitation from the pulpit, a considerable number who were interested met, and after full consideration decided to organize a Sabbath School in the church. Mr.Wm. Stratton was elected superintendent, Mr. John McDonald, secretary-treasurer; and Mrs. T. D. Day, organist. The following were the first teachers: Mrs. W. Robertson, Mrs. John D. Clark, Miss Elizabeth Meldrum, Miss Penelope McLean, Miss Hannah McLean, Miss Nicklin, and Mr. John A. Cockburn.
The school met for the first time on the 9th of April, at 9:30 a. m., with a hopeful attendance. In the winter months the attendance is somewhat reduced ; but it is considered profitable to continue without interruption during the whole year.
A special feature of this school is the Home Department, which was organized three years ago. Miss Elizabeth Meldrum, as delegate to the Provincial Convention held in Toronto, heard of the work of Dr. W. A. Duncan, of Syracuse, the originator of the Home Department of the Sabbath School. As his plans were presented, his success noted, and the great possibilities portrayed, she became so impressed with the practicability of the scheme for increased Sabbath School usefulness, that, with a zeal worthy of a good cause, she recommended its introduction.
She and two others were appointed a committee to consider the question, and prepare a plan, if deemed advisable. Recommendations were made to the school and adopted; Miss Meldrum was appointed Superintendent of this Home Department. She, and the Superintendent of the main school, were empowered to divide the territory of the Sabbath School into districts, appoint a visitor over each district, and complete the organization.
Miss Meldrum, with the visitors appointed for each district, then called upon all the families, explained the plan and purpose, and met with much encouragement. Some of the aged, heads of families, and very young children, who cannot attend the Sabbath School, have the privilege of studying the Sabbath School lessons regularly at home. In some homes the daily readings of the International Bible Reading Association are regularly read, giving a profitable course of Bible reading, and bringing the whole family into vital sympathy with Sabbath School work. Great possibilities will yet be realized by this new department of Sabbath School extension. A very strong devotion and abiding interest have characterized the workers in this school. The first secretary, although in British Columbia for years, continues to show his interest by sending liberal contributions for special improvements.
The present staff are:
Superintendent ........................ Mr. William Stratton
Assistant Supt. ........................ Mr. Daniel McKenzie
Secretary-Treasurer................. Mr. T. D. Day
Organist ................................... Mrs. Day.
Assistant Organist ..................Miss Gretta Robertson
Librarian ................................. Miss Bella Moffat
Supt. Of Home Department..... Miss Elizabeth Meldrum
The Teachers are Mr. William Stratton, Mrs. W. Robertson, Mrs. John D. Clark, Mrs. T. D. Day, Mrs. D. McKenzie, Miss Nicklin, Miss Gretta Robertson, and Mr. Daniel McKenzie.
The Visitors of the Home Department are Mrs. W. Robertson, Mrs. John D. Clark, Miss Nicklin, and Miss Gretta Robertson.
Number of scholars on the roll............................. 54
Average attendance of scholars ........................... 33
Average attendance of teachers.......................…. 7
Number of members of the Home Department..... 55
This school, although recently organized, is a strong factor in bringing the Sabbath School work into intimate connection with the congregation, and in cultivating that practical interest which members of the church should have towards this important department of Christian activity.
The first Precentor was Mr. Lachlan Kennedy, who led the praises of the people in both Gaelic and English services during the whole of Mr. Meldrum’s pastorate. He continued to lead in the Gaelic services until they were discontinued, and even a few years ago, when nearly 90 years of age, at the communion seasons, he led the praises in that venerable language.
Mr. Robert Stewart led in English praise for a short time, and Mr. Adam Darling officiated occasionally. Mr. Wm. Hyslop then led as the regular Precentor for a number of years. When he was suffering from the misfortune of losing an arm, Mr. David McFarlane relieved him, but when he recovered, he resumed, and continued to lead with much acceptance until his accidental death in December 1864, caused a mournful termination of usefulness.
Mr. David McFarlane was then regularly appointed, but at this time continued only for one year, while his brother Robert was an occasional precentor. Mr. James Wardrobe and a Mr. Smith each held the position for a short time, and then Mr. David McFarlane was again called to the position and continued faithfully to discharge the duties for about four years.
On his retirement, Lieut.-Colonel Wm. Nicoll was appointed, and continued until leaving for the Military School in 1872, when his resignation was reluctantly accepted. Mr. McFarlane and Lieut.-Col. Nicoll had excellent choirs, and took a great interest in seeking a high standard of efficiency.
Mr. Charles Cockburn was then appointed choir leader, and continued a worthy conductor of praise until January 1875, when Mr. W. G. Stephenson carried on the good work successfully for three years, and was succeeded by Mr. Archibald Marshall, whose fine voice and fondness for music and social life led to an efficiency which was much appreciated, and his retirement in 1891 was much regretted.
Mr. Hugh McDiarmid was then recommended by the choir, and his appointment was ratified. A strong choir was formed, and the introduction of the Church Hymnal into the service of the sanctuary led to a new interest in the service of praise. The work was enthusiastically undertaken and continued for a number of years, when Mr. McDiarmid felt constrained to resign. Being urged to continue he yielded to persuasion for a time, but on declining to continue any longer, his resignation was accepted in February 1897. Mr. John M. Frey, whose musical ability was well known, on applying for the position, was appointed by the Session.
Leaders of Praise
1. Lachlan Kennedy. 2. Wm. Hyslop. 3. Capt. David. McFarlane.
4. Lieut.-Col. Wm. Nicoll. 5. Charles Cockburn. 6. W. G. Stephenson.
7. Archibald Marshall. 8. Hugh McDiarmid. 9. John M. Frey.
The choir leader and the pastor, after consultation, invited all the members of the choir to a meeting, and after mature consideration, the following choir constitution was adopted:
1. The Choir shall be an organization of the church, to lead the service of praise, under the direction of the Session, and subject to its control.
2. There shall be a Cabinet, composed of the leader, the pastor, ex-officio, a member of the choir chosen by the leader, and a member of the choir chosen by the choir themselves.
3. The officers shall be:
(a) The Leader, whose appointment shall be made or approved by the Session, to whose authority he is subject, and whose orders he is bound to obey.
(b) The Secretary-Treasurer, who must be a member of the Cabinet, and appointed by them.
4. All matters of choir business must be referred to the Cabinet before being brought to the choir for consideration.
5. The Leader shall have complete control of the choir during practice, but he may confer with members of the Cabinet whenever he desires, and the members of the Cabinet can make suggestions to him at any time, but, in presence of the choir, only privately.
6. Meetings shall be called by the leader, the pastor, or on requisition by three or more members of the choir.
7. A re-organization of the choir must be held at the beginning of each year.
8. At each annual re-organization, the Cabinet shall not invite any one into the chair again to whose voice the leader has any objection, or that, in his opinion, is unsuitable for choir singing.
9. Immediately after the annual meeting of the congregation, at the first regular practice, the members of the choir, so far as they have been chosen, shall complete the new Cabinet, according to Section 2 of this Constitution.
The Cabinet, at leisure, can consider matters of business that arise from their own motion, or suggested by members of the choir, and, having only advisory power, can take recommendations to the choir, who have final authority, thus economizing time in consideration and preventing needless discussion. The introduction of the organ was a great assistance to the choir, and its benefit has been quite noticeable. The many earnest members, with excellent voices well trained, have enabled the choir to attain a proficiency worthy of very high commendation. The present members are:
Sopranos.- Mr. John M. Frey, with the Misses Katie McFarlane, Maggie Nicoll, Christina McKenzie, Maggie Clark, Mary Nicoll, and Maggie McNaughton.
Altos.- The Misses Minnie McNaughton, Gretta Robertson, Hannah McLean, Emma Russell, and Elizabeth Meldrum.
Tenors.- Messrs. Stewart Nicoll, Daniel McNaughton, and Alexander McKay.
Bass.-Messrs. George J. Meldrum, Alexander Nicoll, and David McNaughton.
Organist-Miss Elizabeth Kerr.
The members of the Cabinet are: Mr. John M. Frey, chairman; the Pastor, Mr. Daniel McNaughton and Mr. George J. Meldrum, Sec.-Treasurer.
The present choir
IV.-The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society
The Auxiliary of the W. F. M. S. was organized in the pastorate of the Rev. Alexander McKay, D. D., with Mrs. McKay, the pastor's wife, as President. Mrs. Hugh Clark was Secretary and Treasurer. The work was carried on quietly and faithfully by a small number of ladies, but specific information is not now obtainable, and when Mrs. McKay retired from the congregation the work was discontinued. A meeting was called from the pulpit for reorganization in September 1891. Mrs. D. McCrae, “Janefield”, President of the Guelph Presbyterial, and Miss McWilliams, a returned missionary, were present on invitation, and addressed the meeting, giving much useful information concerning the work. There was but a small number present, but sufficient interest was awakened to undertake reorganization. Mrs. Robertson, the pastor's wife, was appointed President, to which position, by the desire of the members, she has been re-elected every year since; Mrs. C. Morison was elected Vice-President; Miss Hannah McLean, Secretary; and Miss Emma Morison, Treasurer.
It was agreed that monthly meetings should be held, and that the membership fee would be 25 cents per annum. A difficulty was soon experienced in regard to attendance, as few ladies cared to drive alone, and many lived too far away from the Session room where the meetings were held, to walk. This difficulty was overcome by having a series of meetings held every year in the different sections, which was accompanied by increased interest and activity.
An effort was made to increase missionary information, and many were induced to subscribe for the “Missionary Leaflet”. Other literature has also been circulated. Annual quilting bees have been held in the different districts, when the Vice-Presidents resident there have assisted in making the necessary arrangements. Quilts, clothing, yarn, &c., have thus been sent, chiefly to the Indians of Manitoba and the Northwest.
Annual public meetings have been held, when profitable addresses have been delivered by the Revs. R. P. McKay, Secretary of the Foreign Missionary Committee; Dr. Wardrope, J. W. Rae, J. B. Mullan, and the following who have been presidents of the Guelph Presbyterial Society: Mrs. Dickson, Mrs. Thomas Goldie, Mrs. Kenneth MacLean and Mrs. James Watt.
The interest has been steadily increasing as the membership has increased, the last year being the most successful in its history. The amount realized in money and clothing was $106.
In March 1894, the members showed their appreciation of the President's interest and labours, by presenting her with a certificate of Life Membership in the W. F. M. S. of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, which token of regard was necessarily accompanied with the membership fee of $25, devoted to the General Society. In June 1898, the Society again revealed itself in an address to the president and the pastor, beautifully expressive of love, and appreciation of their hearty co-operation in the work, accompanied by a valuable silver tea service and study chair.
Much Christian sympathy has been cultivated by this Society, and the Church at home as well as abroad has benefited by its labours. Mrs. John D. Clark, the Secretary-Treasurer, has been unfailing in her interest and untiring in her activity, and has contributed much to the success that has been achieved.
The membership is now thirty-four, but many more have assisted in the work.
The present officers are:
President--Mrs. Wm. Robertson.
Vice Presidents--Miss C. McRobbie and Miss Annie McKenzie; Mrs. T. D. Day and Mrs. A. Ord; Mrs. Malcolm Kennedy and Miss C. McLean; Mrs. James Steele and Miss J. Patterson; Mrs. J. D. Clark and Miss A. Munro; Mrs. R. Watson and Mrs. Geo. W. Marshall.
Secretary-Treasurer--Mrs. John D. Clark.
The present Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society
and the Pastorate of Rev. Andrew McLean
When Mr. Meldrum retired from the charge, so large had become the congregations that many believed the arrangement for services, which had obtained from the organization, might be improved. The charge had been regarded as one congregation, worshipping two Sabbaths in the East Church and every third Sabbath in the West Church.
There was only one Session presiding over the religious interests of the people who worshipped in two churches. Many of the East never worshipped in the West Church, and many of the West never went to worship in the East Church. Regular service was thus not observed by a considerable number, while not a few attended regularly wherever the service was held.
As the proposition to erect a church near the centre, convenient for both East and West, to meet together every Sabbath, was not adopted, after mature consideration the organization of two separate and independent congregations was affected.
The first church in the West, which had been used for 14 years, seemed inadequate for the requirements of the congregation, and the question of building a new church was agitated. The selection of a church site was most perplexing. Some recommended the site of the first church; some advocated the offer of Mr. Donald Stewart, lot 20, rear of the gore; and others were in favour of the offered lot of Mr. Alexander Fraser on lot 26, 1st concession. The final meeting held to decide this important question found most to favour building on lot 26, 1st concession.
A building committee was in course of time appointed, arrangements made to obtain subscriptions, plans adopted for the erection of a frame building, Mr. Robert Stewart was chosen contractor, the people assisted in preparing and drawing material and the building was completed in 1854. Then, in a new location, in a large church with a seating capacity of 400, with increased congregational comforts, and with exalted hopes for the future, the new church, filled with devout worshippers, was dedicated to the glory of God and the spiritual well-being of the community.
There was, however, a note of discord heard. A considerable number of excellent families on the west never felt favourably disposed to the new location; and in course of years found their way to worship in Galt and Hespeler, and not a few became sadly irregular in attendance upon the public means of grace. Mr. Meldrum was invited to return and conduct the first communion in the new church, and it is still remembered that on the Thanksgiving Monday, he baptized 24 children.
About this time there were connected with the congregation, more or less directly, about 140 families, of whom about 70 were from Argyleshire, Scotland; the rest were from Perthshire, Ross-shire, and Inverness. The Gaelic-speaking people were largely in the majority.
At one of the regular English services, 16 years after the organization, curiosity prompted one to count the number, and consider the relative proportion of worshippers representative of the two languages, when it was found that, of 120 present, only 20 were unable to speak the Gaelic language.
Precedence was always given to the Gaelic services, but kindly consideration was also shown to the few unfortunates who did not understand the language most appropriate for worship, so an English service followed the main service of the day.
After the retirement of the first pastor, Mr. Alexander McLean, then a student of Knox College, conducted the services in both East and West during his vacation. When he completed his college course on the following year, he received a call from each of these congregations now separated into two charges. The calls were both unanimous and hearty, but on his acceptance of the call from East Puslinch, the larger congregation, the west congregation began to look elsewhere for a pastor.
Being unable to decide upon a minister, Mr. John McMillan, a student of Knox College, afterwards the Rev. John McMillan, of Mount Forest, took charge of the congregation during part of his college vacation, and conducted the work with encouraging success.
After two or three years of unrest, and through the kind interest of the Rev. Dr. Bayne, then on a visit to Scotland, the Rev. Andrew McLean was induced to accompany him on his return; and, on appearing as their probable minister, made so favorable an impression, that they extended him a unanimous call, which he willingly accepted, and became the first pastor of the separate charge of West Puslinch in the year 1857.
Rev. Andrew McLean
The Session is now composed of the Rev. Andrew McLean, Moderator and Session Clerk, with Messrs. Neil McPhatter, Aligns McPherson and Gillies McBean, elders. The first change in connection with the services noted by the Session is that, “It was agreed that hereafter the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper should be dispensed twice a year instead of once as formerly, the next dispensation to take place on some day to be fixed upon at next meeting of Session.”
We notice also that the Session made provision for the collections appointed by the Presbytery in aid of Home and Foreign Mission Funds; and it would be interesting to know the amounts then contributed, but the data for this and many other things that now seem of historic interest are not preserved.
In the Session records of May 1858, we note: “The Session, having been for some time back impressed with the necessity of being strengthened by the addition of a few members to their number, authorized the Moderator to give intimation to that effect on Sabbath next from the pulpit, calling upon the members to proceed in the usual way to nominate three men for the office of the eldership in the congregation.”
At a meeting, soon after held, it was found that “the largest number of votes was in favour of Messrs. Donald Currie, Alexander Frazer, and Archibald Gilchrist. The Moderator was instructed to serve the edict on Sabbath, the 30th inst., the Session to meet on Tuesday, the lst day of June, for the ordination of the parties nominated, if no impediment would occur.”
On the first of June, the Session met. “The Rev. Alexander McLean, of Nairn and Cumminsville, having been present, was asked to sit with the Session and take part in the proceedings. The Moderator having called for objections against the life and doctrine of the parties nominated as elders, and none having been produced they were declared duly elected and solemnly set apart in the usual form, Mr. McLean, of Nairn and Cumininsville, conducting the services throughout. The other members of Session having given them the right hand of fellowship, it was moved by Mr. McLean, and seconded by Mr. McPherson, that their names be added to the Session roll.”
The presence of the Rev. Alexander McLean, of Strabane, as noted here, suggests the interesting fact that there were then three ministerial McLeans in close proximity, who, were popularly designated according to their characteristics: Kind McLean, of West Puslinch; Good McLean, of Strabane, and Fearless McLean, of East Puslinch.
Early in the pastorate of Mr. Andrew McLean the congregation felt the necessity of providing a permanent home for their minister. A convenient lot of four acres near the church was purchased from Mr. Allan Stewart. The house and other buildings on the lot were old and unsuitable, so the people exerted themselves to build a new manse. Mr. Neil McPhatter was especially energetic in soliciting subscriptions and urging on the work. Mr. Wm. Stratton, Sen., was contractor, and in the year 1862, the congregation rejoiced with their minister in the increased comforts of the fine new house.
Soon afterwards, Mr. McLean induced Miss Catherine C. Cameron, sister of the Rev. James Cameron, of Chatsworth, to become his life partner in the joys and sorrows of ministerial life; and Mrs. McLean received a true Highland welcome from the people among whom her husband was labouring.
At the meeting of Session held in July 1858, “The Moderator stated that it would be desirable to appoint an elder to attend the meetings of Presbytery and Synod. Mr. Gillies McBean was elected as a suitable person to represent the Session in the higher courts of the church, and the Moderator was accordingly instructed to grant him a commission.” Mr. McBean thus became the first representative elder of the separate charge of West Puslinch.
At a meeting held in March 1860, “Mr. Currie drew the attention of the Session to the propriety of calling Mr. Charles Blair to the office of the eldership as he has recently settled within the bounds of the congregation and would be likely to strengthen the hands of the Session and prove useful to the cause of true religion in the congregation.” Notice of the Session’s desire was given to the congregation, no objection was offered, the edict for ordination was read and he was ordained to the office of the eldership on the 15th day of April 1860.
The Session and congregation suffered a great loss in the death of Mr. Neil McPhatter, which took place on the 21st of May 1867. He was a man of conspicuous piety when the congregation was organized, and was ordained, at that time, one of the two first Elders. He entered enthusiastically upon the duties of his high office, was characterized by conscientious fidelity to what he believed to be right, had good executive ability and strong powers of management, was fearless in correcting abuses, a zealous defender of the faith, and a strong upholder of the principles of godliness. He reached the advanced age of 85, having served as an elder for 28 years. His remains lie buried in the Killean Cemetery.
In June 1870, the Session having under consideration “the desirableness of adding additional members to the Session, resolved to take steps towards the attainment of that object and accordingly appointed Thursday, the 23rd of this month Communion Fast---for the nomination of persons suitable to act as elders.” Messrs. William McCormick, Sr., Duncan McDonald and Lachlan McMillan were nominated and duly elected, and no objection being offered, they were regularly ordained to the high office, on the 17th of July, 1870, and their names added to the Session Roll.
The last Session records, signed by Mr. McLean as Moderator and Clerk, were those of the meeting held in June, 1872. During the latter part of that year his health began to decline rapidly, and with great difficulty he laboured on until the following February, when he was compelled to cease from his labours. He passed away somewhat suddenly on the 20th of April 1873, at the age of 53 years. His funeral was attended by a very large number who mourned the premature death of one so earnest in the Lord's work. The service of sorrow was conducted by the Revs. Dr. Torrance, Dr. Wardrope, Mr. Ball, Mr. Acheson, U. P. minister of Galt, and other clergymen.
The remains were interred on the face of the hill, near the corner of the church and
as the many look upon the sacred mound, and read the inscription on the monument, they recall in loving memory the faithful servant of the Lord, and by faith behold Him Who is the Resurrection and the Life. Mrs. McLean and her two young sons soon removed to reside in Durham and continue to be affectionately remembered.
The long pastorate of Mr. McLean, extending over 16 years, made a great impression upon the congregation, and it is pleasing to remember still his kindliness of manner, his saintliness of character, his fidelity in pulpit ministrations, and his accuracy and method in all business relationships. During his pastorate, the Session was called upon to deal with many irregularities in social and congregational life, and some of these caused intense feeling among the membership, language vigorous and unwarranted was often employed, and the most extreme bitterness was often manifested, but amidst it all, the truly kind and spiritual dignity of the moderator was preserved. His memory is still regarded with very great interest and reverence.
After the death of Mr. McLean, service was conducted by Mr. Alexander Fraser, student of Knox College, during the vacation months. Mr. Fraser, who was many years minister at Orono, is still affectionately remembered. Probationers and other candidates continued the work, until in 1875 the Rev. Neil McDiarmid, of Wallacetown, was called to be their pastor. Mr. McDiarmid accepted the call and was inducted by the Presbytery of Guelph.
On June 5, 1876, the following were ordained elders, viz.: James Wight, Kenneth Cameron, and James Rae. ‘All preliminary meetings in connection with the above were conducted in strict accordance with the Book of Forms, which meetings and intimation extended over the time of five weeks. No objection being offered, the ordination was proceeded with, everything being agreeable.”
The question of employing evangelists for special services in connection with congregational work was submitted to the Session by the Presbytery for their consideration, and after free and full discussion, the following minute, under date of December 4, 1878, records the mind of the Session:
“Whereas, the qualifications for the discharge of the duties of elders, as defined in the Apostolic writings, are one and the same, this Session is of opinion, that all have the right to teach and to rule, and is also of opinion that the employment in evangelical work of men not set apart by the church is contrary to both the letter and spirit of Apostolic teaching, therefore this Session resolves that the employment of such men is a usurpation of the elder's office and tends directly to bring it into contempt.” Special evangelistic services can be held with very great profit; but great care should always be exercised in the employment of accredited helpers, and the whole management should be under the supervision, direction, and control of the Session.
The pastorate of Mr. McDiarmid was not long a comfortable one. Families, estranged on account of the church location and other causes, withdrew their support, and financial embarrassment greatly disturbed the peace and prosperity of the congregation. Mr. McDiarmid, in a moment of sensitive discouragement, without the counsel of friends, and regardless of consequences, presented his resignation to the Presbytery, in the hope that the perplexing difficulties would be adjusted, but this expectation not being realized, his resignation was accepted in March 1879.
The pastorate of Mr. McDiarmid terminated in little more than three years. There was not much eventful or of historic interest in so short a time, and his influence could be only proportionately enduring; but many still testify to the fidelity with which he laboured in the exercise of the gifts and graces that the Creator had bestowed upon him.
During a somewhat prolonged vacancy, the Rev. Donald Strachan, of Rockwood, was Interim Moderator of Session. Probationers and other candidates supplied the pulpit according to the regular arrangements during vacancies, until the congregation felt constrained to unite in extending a call to the Rev. Evan MacAulay, B. A.. Mr. MacAulay accepted the call and was inducted by the Presbytery of Guelph, on the 3rd of August 1880. The Rev. J. K. Smith, D. D., preached at the Induction Service, the Rev. R. Torrance, D. D., presided and addressed the minister, and the Rev. Alexander McKay, D. D., addressed the people.
The frame church, built in 1854, never seemed to be satisfactory. It was much larger than was required, and being difficult to heat, was often uncomfortable.
The congregation became convinced that if the building were torn down, the timber and lumber in it might be used in the construction of a church on a better model. A special effort was made to raise the necessary funds, which was liberally responded to. Mr. Duncan McPherson was chosen contractor, the work of re-construction was begun and the new brick church, completed in 1882, being beautiful and comfortable, stands a permanent monument of wisdom and congregational enterprise. The new church was designated “Knox Church,” and the religious principles of the great Reformer will long be honoured by the congregation that worships there.
As years rolled by the Gaelic language had more and more fallen into disuse, the number attending the Gaelic services had been gradually reduced, the relative importance of the two languages seemed to be reversed; so the pastor and others favoured a change in the order of service, giving precedence to the English service with the Gaelic following. This arrangement gave great offence to a large number, who were jealously guarding the interests of their parent language, which was sacred by the heroic memories of centuries, and through which the truth, as it is in Jesus, had been most profitably communicated to them for many years.
This congregation, like many others in rural communities in Ontario, had suffered greatly from removals to the western provinces and elsewhere; and as it had been declining for several years, the former strength could not be maintained. The Augmentation Fund rendered assistance for a time, but an unnecessary misunderstanding having arisen concerning the terms of such assistance, what seems a mutual unwillingness to know the true state of affairs, and consequent resentment, caused an unpleasant termination of that relationship. The pastor and congregation realizing now their financial inability to maintain ordinances as an independent charge regretfully faced the inevitable condition of affairs.
Mr. MacAulay resigned the charge he had laboured in for nearly eight years, and the resignation was necessarily accepted on the 17th of January 1888. Mr. MacAulay is remembered as an attractive preacher of remarkable fluency, with keen social instincts, which made him a sympathetic and companionable friend; and the circumstances necessitating the discontinuance of all independent charge were deeply regretted.
Knox Church, erected in 1882
After the retirement of Mr. MacAulay, the Home Mission Committee, at the request of the Presbytery, appointed Mr. James M. McLaren, a student of Knox College, to supply during his summer vacation. Mr. McLaren entered enthusiastically upon the work which was the beginning of his ministerial career, and through singing classes and other meetings did much to interest the young in the services of the Sanctuary. When he departed to prosecute his studies, the Rev. D. B. Cameron, for many years minister of the Presbyterian Church in Acton, gave continuous supply with much acceptance, for a considerable time.
The congregation, with an unprofitable discouragement, began to see before them reduction to the status of a mission station, when Duff’s Church, experiencing a similar decline, began to make informal overtures for union. After a good deal of informal consideration, the union sentiment seemed to increase and being ripe for formal consideration, a joint meeting of the elders and managers of West and East Puslinch convened in the Session house of Duff's Church, on the 17th day of December 1889, to consider the necessity and propriety of uniting the congregations under one pastoral oversight.
A series of resolutions was passed and a committee appointed to formulate a basis of union to be submitted to both congregations for their approval and adoption and finally to the Presbytery for its approval and sanction. The committee consisting of Messrs. James McDonald and Angus Stewart with Messrs. James McLean and Daniel McNaughton, met and agreed upon the following basis of Union:
1. That under present circumstances, a union of the congregations of East and West Puslinch under the pastoral oversight of one pastor is desirable.
2. That the united congregation shall offer and pay to their Pastor annually the sum of one thousand dollars with manse and glebe, Duff's Church shall pay six hundred dollars with manse and glebe, and Knox Church shall pay four hundred dollars. Each congregation shall be held responsible to the pastor and Presbytery for the payment of their allotted portion, without one having recourse on the other.
3. That in regard to members and adherents of either congregation contributing to pay the pastor’s stipend, the present status quo shall be strictly maintained and conserved; and that the church East and West shall be open to members and adherents of either congregation for public worship.
4. That except at communion services in West Puslinch, the morning service shall be held in Duff's Church, and the afternoon service in Knox Church, the evening service to be at the disposal of the pastor, as may seem to him good.
The basis of union was adopted by both congregations, but subsequently the stipend obligation for West Puslinch was reduced from $400 to $350 per annum.
The terms of the proposed union were next submitted to the Presbytery for ratification. The representatives of the congregations were heard, the circumstances fully explained, the propriety of such a union was recognized; then the necessary arrangements being completed, the proposed union was affected in the early part of 1890. Candidates for the united charge were heard, and on the 9th day of September 1890, the congregation moderated in a call to the Rev. W. Robertson, B.A., who was also the choice of the East Puslinch congregation. Mr. Robertson accepted the call addressed to him, and was inducted in Duff’s Church on the 21st of October 1890.
Soon after the induction, the congregation sustained a loss in the death of one of their elders, Mr. Duncan McDonald, who passed to his reward in the autumn of 1890. He had for many years been a member of the church, had been an elder for twenty years; was a kind, peace loving, intelligent and decided Christian, whose influence had been powerful for righteousness; and while his memory remains sacred and his blessedness eternal, his departure was a serious loss to the congregation and community.
The congregation, under the hopeful inspiration of the union with the East Puslinch congregation, began to realize that something should be done to remove the cloud of discouragement and indifference which had overwhelmed them for years. A radical re-organization seemed necessary. A meeting of the congregation was called, when Mr. James McDonald was appointed secretary, Mr. John McAninch, treasurer, and the following were chosen Managers: Messrs. Angus Stewart, John Martin, John McGeachy, Wm. McCormick Jr., John Cameron, and Donald McGeachy.
Negotiations were soon entered into with the East church for a share of the proceeds arising from the sale of part of the church property; and when the necessary legal and Presbyterial requirements were fulfilled the sum of $800 was handed over to the congregation for permanent improvements, in recognition of their claim upon the property. With part of this money horse sheds were built, some assisting with skilled and others with unskilled labour, thus supplying a long-felt want. A vestry, also considered almost indispensable, was erected; and its correct proportions, beautiful finish, and pleasing comfort, reflect great credit upon the committee and Mr. John McMillan, the contractor. In course of time, the church was greatly improved in comfort and appearance by upholstering, &c.
After the death of Mr. McDonald, there were only two elders, Mr. Wm. McCormick and Mr. Lachlan McMillan, both reaching advanced age, so it was considered advisable to have an additional number to overtake the duties of the Session. The necessary congregational meeting was held in May 1891, a list prepared, ballot papers distributed; and when the Session met to count the ballots returned, it was found that Messrs. John Martin, William McAllister, John McAninch, Hugh McIntyre and Henry Reid were the choice of the congregation. The Session, having conference with the members elected, found Messrs. John Martin, William McAllister and John McAninch constrained to accept ordination to the sacred office, looking to the Lord to make them useful in His service; but Messrs. Hugh McIntyre and Henry Reid could not see their way clear to accept the call of the congregation.
Present elders (circa 1890)
The edict for the ordination of Messrs. Martin, McAllister and McAninch was read the following Sabbath, and as no valid objection had been given to the Moderator, he, after preaching a sermon bearing directly upon the subject, ordained and inducted them to the holy office of the eldership in the regular way, and addressed the new elders and the congregation upon their respective duties in their relationship to each other.
Due respect was always manifested towards the senior members of Session, and their experienced counsel was greatly appreciated by the new members, but their increasing infirmities, on account of advanced age, precluded the activity that formerly characterized their fidelity to the sacred office. So, the new members were soon called upon to enter into the full responsibility of the eldership, and have ever manifested an active, prudent, and wise fidelity to their high trust.
The importance of collecting regularly for the schemes of the church was realized by the Session, and after full consideration the congregation was divided into districts, and lady collectors appointed, whose willingness to undertake the duties, and whose fidelity in performance, have been greatly appreciated.
It is worthy of historical reference that at the communion of October 2, 1892, the two congregations had a visit from the Rev. Murdoch McKenzie, of the city of Inverness, Scotland, who is designated the “Gaelic Spurgeon”, and who at this time was a delegate to the Pan-Presbyterian Council then convened in Toronto. Large congregations were present, who will not soon forget the vigorous and profitable sermons and addresses of this distinguished visitor.
On the 9th of September 1893, Mr. Lachlan McMillan passed peacefully away from the seen to the unseen world. He came from Scotland in the year 1847, and at once became associated with the congregation. He was elected to the eldership in the year 1870, and for twenty-three years acted in that capacity. He reached the ripe age of seventy-seven, and after an illness of a few months was taken to his eternal reward. He was interred in the Killean burying ground, and his remains were followed by a large number of people, which marked the estimation in which he was held by the congregation and community.
According to the terms of union between East and West Puslinch, on the Sabbath that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would be observed, the service might be intermitted in one church, and a union service held in the other; but the present pastor, realizing the necessity of having the assistance of a minister who could conduct the Gaelic services at the communion, seeing the small number that embraced the opportunity of a union service, and believing that with little inconvenience, the communion could be held in both churches on the same day, suggested it to the Sessions, who saw no difficulty in the proposed arrangement, except over-taxation of the pastor and the assisting ministers. Informal assent was thus given by each Session, and each congregation had instead of two communion seasons at their own church with the privilege of attending two others in the other church, the convenience of having four communions during the year.
This arrangement continued for three years, and seemed to be practicable and satisfactory, when a suspicion arose that a return to the former order was desired. A joint meeting of the two Sessions was held in December 1893, to consider the question, and after a free interchange of opinion, it was found that the number who favoured a return to the old order was inconsiderable, and no difficulties seemed to exist; so it was mutually agreed to continue the order of services without any change, and to have three communion seasons in the year instead of four, viz., on the second Sabbath of February, and the last Sabbaths of May and September respectively. This arrangement has since been faithfully adhered to and has been regarded as the best possible under present circumstances.
As, according to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Church, only one representative elder is permitted for one charge, though two or more congregations compose that charge, it was agreed by both Sessions, that every third year the representative elder should be from the West Puslinch Session. It was the privilege of Mr. John Martin, their representative elder, to receive the Presbytery appointment of Commissioner to the General Assembly, which met in the city of St. John, N. B., in 1894.
As the pastor was also a commissioner that year, they travelled together, were billeted together, and enjoyed such delightful fellowship amid scenes of very great interest, that that Assembly became an event in their experience never to be forgotten.
In February 1896, and in February 1898, the Session arranged to hold special evangelistic services. On the first occasion, the pastor was assisted by the Rev. P. M. McEachern, of Waterdown, and the meetings continued a little more than a week. On the second occasion, the assistance of the Rev. John McInnis, of Elora, and the Rev. Hugh A. McPherson, of Acton, was obtained, and the service continued for a fortnight. The meetings were well attended, were characterized by much earnestness, deep solemnity, and manifest appreciation; and although there was no noticeable addition to the membership, it is believed much spiritual benefit was derived from them.
At the May and September Communions, Gaelic services are held, which are greatly appreciated, about thirty being the average attendance of worshippers. Among the ministers who have recently assisted are the Revs. Gustavus Munro, so long of Embro, now of Ridgetown, Lachlan Cameron, of Thamesford, deceased, John McMillan, of Mount Forest, P. M. McEachern, Waterdown, Alexander McKay, D. D., now of Toronto, John Anderson, Tiverton, and D. Strachan, Rockwood.
The following, who were born in the congregation or as members were actively engaged in the work of the church, have become ministers of the Gospel and are regarded with a very great degree of interest.
(1) William C. Armstrong, Ph. D., Thessalon, ordained 1877.
(2) John Currie, Belmont, ordained 1882.
(3) Neil Currie, Trout River, ordained 1879.
(4) Wm. M. Kannawin, B. A., Omemee, ordained 1899.
(5) Archibald Blair, B. A., Nassagaweya, ordained 1885.
(6) Donald Currie, Wallaceburg, ordained 1875.
Men from the congregation who have entered the ministry
Mr. Duncan McDonald was the first treasurer and succeeding him in order were Mr. John Scott, then Mr. Donald McCormick, while his father, Mr. Wm. McCormick senior, was treasurer of the Sabbath collections. Mr. John McAninch was appointed in 1890, and after serving for a few years Mr. Angus Stewart, the present officer, was appointed.
The first managers were Mr. John Thompson, called “Little John”, Mr. John Thomson, known as “Big John”, and Mr. Matthew McPhatter, son of elder Neil McPhatter.
In later days the collection of funds was chiefly in the hands of Messrs. Donald Stewart and Wm. McCormick senior, west of the church, and Mr. John McGeachy, on the east side. For a time nearly the whole responsibility of the financial affairs rested upon Mr. McGeachy, who, with surprising energy, and often at great inconvenience, called upon the people for the payment of their subscriptions towards the support of the church ordinances.
The present Board of Management is composed of Messrs. Walter S. Cowan, chairman, Donald McMillan, John Martin, Archibald McMillan, Wm. Easton, and James Tennant. Mr. Donald Stewart is secretary of the congregation.
Present Board of Management
J. Tennant. A. McMillan.
W. S. Cowan. J. Martin. W. Easton.
The first precentor, who led the praises of the sanctuary by appointment, was Mr. John Thomson, who led in both Gaelic and English during the occupancy of the first church, and for a time in the second. His successor was Mr. John McGregor, who also led in both languages; then Mr. Robert Stewart, who could lead only in the English services, while Mr. Neil Currie officiated as leader of praise in the ancient language.
Mr. Wm. McCormick senior, began to lead in both languages in the year 1864, and after a few years he was relieved of the English by Mr. Alexander Easton, who had an excellent voice, by Mr. Alexander Murchison, who was assisted by a choir, and by others occasionally. Mr. McCormick continued to lead in Gaelic until a few years ago, and when nearly ninety years of age his voice of remarkable sweetness and power was often heard in leading the praises of the aged worshippers with solemn and patriarchal impressiveness. Such a sight is seldom witnessed, and when once seen, can never be forgotten.
Mr. Wm. McCormick, jr., began to lead in the English service about the year 1870. He organized a choir, and his passion for music made it a pleasure to train them with great proficiency. They obtained considerable prominence, and often received invitations to provide music for neighbouring church entertainments. He still continues to lead in both languages, having been precentor for nearly 30 years, and his recently organized choir gives promise of a good degree of proficiency.
The present choir members are:
Alto- Miss Maggie Cowan
Tenors- Messrs. James Armstrong, Alex. Cowan, R. D. McRobbie.
Bass- Messrs. Donald Stewart, Archibald McMillan, Duncan McAllister, and Charles Martin.
The Sabbath School in the West Church was organized many years ago in the old log church, when Mr. Meldrum was the pastor. Mrs. Neil McPhatter, who took a great interest in the school, was the chief worker and was Superintendent. She is remembered still as a remarkable woman, well qualified for the position, and for years efficiently conducted the Sabbath School services. Her husband, unaccustomed to yield to any man in religious activity, was quite satisfied to take a second place with becoming meekness in the Sabbath School, in presence of this mother in Israel. The perplexing question of “Woman's place in the Church” seems not to have caused any trouble then. Perhaps they had not then reached, as we have now, the conception that the Sabbath School is a fundamental department of church organization with important opportunities for Christian activity.
Many ladies have been very efficient and successful Sabbath School teachers and officers, and no doubt, many of them would be efficient Superintendents if appointed to this high and responsible position. During Mr. McLean's pastorate, he conducted the exercises of the School and taught the Bible Classes.
In the year 1866, Mr. Wm. C. Armstrong, now the Rev. W. C. Armstrong, Ph. D., of Thessalon, when teaching the Crieff Public School, took an active interest in the Sabbath School and added much to its prosperity. Mr. John Currie, now the Rev. John Currie, of Belmont, was also a prominent worker in the Sabbath School and contributed much to its success.
The subsequent pastors continued to take an active supervision of the School, until during the protracted vacancy preceding the present pastorate, when Mr. W. M. Kannawin, who was the teacher in the Public School, manifested a great interest in the spiritual welfare of the young people, and kept the Sabbath School in operation, while other departments of church work had almost ceased to exist. Mr. Kannawin continued Superintendent and Bible Class teacher, until he left the section to pursue his studies for the ministry of the church.
His successor was Mr. John McAninch, with the new Public School teacher, Mr. J. M. McDonald, in charge of the Bible Class. Mr. McAninch and others urged Mr. McDonald to be Superintendent as well as Bible Class teacher on the following year. He yielded to their persuasion and continued to act until the termination of his relationship to the section, when he retired to prosecute advanced studies.
Then Mr. John Martin was called to superintend the School and Mr. James Armstrong, the present teacher of the Public School, on manifesting, like his predecessors, an interest in religious life, was invited to be Bible Class teacher. At the re-organization on the following year, Mr. Armstrong was urged by Mr. Martin and others to accept the Superintendency of the School, and also continue to be Bible Class teacher.
Present officers, teachers, and scholars of the Sabbath School
Mr. Armstrong could not see his way clear to occupy both positions, as he believed that the best interests of the School would be conserved by a more equal division of responsibility, but was willing to take either position, though not both. The Bible Class expressed their strong desire to retain him and their request was granted. Mr. Martin was then asked to continue as Superintendent, which arrangement still exists, while a gratifying prosperity and very pleasing harmony prevails.
The School is open about eight months of the year, and for the winter months, all the younger ones who can, attend the Bible Class.
The present staff are: Mr. John Martin, Superintendent; Mr. Duncan McAllister, Secretary-Treasurer; the teachers are Messrs. James Armstrong, John McAninch, Walter Cowan, Misses Aggie Grey, Maggie McPherson and Lizzie McAllister; Organist, Miss Maggie Cowan, and Leader of Singing, Miss Aggie Martin. The number of scholars on the roll this year is 85 ; the average attendance of scholars is 48, and the average attendance of teachers and officers is 9.
The congregation appreciates very highly the pronounced Christian influence of the recent Public School teachers, who have been so active in the work of the Sabbath school, and have done so much, by precept and example, in the formation of true character among the young.
The services in connection with the observance of the 60th Anniversary of the organization began on Sabbath, the 18th of June. The Rev. J. K. Smith, D. D., whose name is permanently associated with Knox Church, Galt, conducted the morning service in Duff’s Church and the afternoon service in Knox Church. The evening service in Duff’s Church was conducted by the Rev. Thomas Wardrope, D. D., who was one of the first members of the congregation. It was peculiarly appropriate that these two venerable Fathers, enjoying the quiet evening of a successful day and endeared by many years of intimate relationship with the congregations, should conduct these memorable services.
There were very large congregations present, many from a distance visited again the places of hallowed memories; and many words, read, spoken, and sung, were expressive of God’s great goodness for the extended period of mercies. It was indeed a day of sacred interest to the aged who still survive. Fond memory seemed to call back into loving fellowship the sainted dead, whose heroic labours their grateful successors will continue to remember. Many realized, in special power, the ties that distance never can sever, and thought of loved ones absent, some in other lands; and as the imagination crossed over lands and seas, hearts separated seemed again to be united, fellowship pure and sweet was felt, and the spirits of the dead and living, the far and near, blended together around one common throne of blessing.
The next Sabbath, the Rev. R. Atkinson, of East Church, Toronto, conducted the services, and in able and eloquent sermons referred in appropriate terms to the jubilee, congratulating the congregation on the event; and in words of encouragement he exhorted the young people to put forth efforts for the church, in the future, as their fathers had done in the past.
The committee of arrangement recommended the observance of a “Children's Day”, that the young people might have a prominent part in commemorating so great an event; so the representatives of the Sabbath Schools requested the pastor to conduct a special service for the young. This request he gladly honoured on the third Sabbath; and the many young people who attended will not soon forget the part they had in services so special, so interesting, and so profitable.
On Friday afternoon, the 23rd of June, a platform service was held in Duff's church. The church was beautifully decorated for the occasion. The pastor presided; devotional exercises, full of thankfulness for the blessings of the past, and of earnest petitions for a continuance of blessings for the future, were conducted.
A short history of the congregation was then given by the chairman, and kindly addresses of interesting reminiscences were delivered by the Rev. Dr. Wardrope, Mr. James Laidlaw, ex-M.P.P., Mr. James Anderson, the Laird of Puslinch, Lt.-Col. D. McCrae, once a member of the congregation, representing the Presbytery, Rev. P. J. McLaren, one of Puslinch’s worthy sons, Mr. Peter McLaren, the honoured teacher, and the Rev. Mr. Couch, Methodist minister of Aberfoyle.
Loving tributes were spoken of all the ministers connected with the congregation for 60 years. The presence of Mrs. Meldrum, widow of the first minister, was referred to with sympathetic tenderness. It was stated that Miss Kate A. McLean, daughter of the second minister, had come to Canada on a visit, and though unable to be present that day, would visit Puslinch in a short time. It may here be recorded that the anticipated visit was soon realized, and a considerable number, accepting a pulpit invitation to attend a reception at the Manse, had the privilege of spending a few hours with the interesting visitor. Miss McLean's portrait appears in the group at the Manse, which is representative of five ministers.
The names of many who have passed away and of some who still survive were also mentioned with reverential remembrance. An excellent programme of appropriate music was well rendered by the choir. Reasons for absence were received from the Revs. Dr. McKay, Dr. Torrance, Mr. Strachan, Major Mutrie, M.P.P., Lt.-Col. Nicoll, and others, and congratulatory messages from many friends at a distance.
At the conclusion of this impressive service, the people were arranged outside, where a photograph of the church and congregation was taken by Mr. Charles Burgess, for incorporation in the volume. An adjournment was then made to the Manse grounds, which were beautifully attractive. The early evening hours were devoted to a social tea. The ladies contributed an ample supply of choice provisions, and with perfect arrangement royally entertained the great numbers that gathered from far and near.
Mrs. Robertson’s Jubilee cake was a special feature, and by means of it many of the aged, unable to be present, realized they were not forgotten. The programme of the evening was all that could be desired. The pastor was chairman; the choir, in solos, duets, quartettes and choruses, delighted the audience; soloists from Waterdown, and a local orchestra, were much appreciated; elocutionists from Guelph increased the interest; and addresses, eloquent, instructive, humorous, pathetic, all appropriate, were given by the Revs. Jas. M. McLaren, R. J. M. Glassford, representing the Presbytery; Lt.-Col. D. McCrae, Mr. Hugh Guthrie, and Dr. Jas. Stirton ; and thus concluded the exercises of an eventful day.
On Tuesday, the 4th of July, the concluding services in connection with the Jubilee, were observed at Knox Church, West Puslinch. In the afternoon, a picnic was held in the grove near the, church and arrangements made, chiefly for the entertainment of the young, whose interests were specially considered; and their large attendance and apparent enjoyment revealed an appreciation of such thoughtfulness.
The ladies as usual contributed an abundance of good things, and all partaking revealed a state of normal healthfulness. Just before sunset, all repaired to the church, where Mr. Burgess, on invitation, was ready to take the happy expressions of “fair women and brave men”. They were arranged in proper order beside their place of worship and the picture of the church and people is preserved on an interesting page, as a memento of the occasion.
The evening meeting in the church, which was charmingly decorated, was a most important one. Although there had been no special advertisement, yet the church was filled to its utmost capacity and young and old soon felt the solemn impressiveness of the hour.
The Pastor presided, and after devotional exercises, the Rev. Dr. Wardrope gave an address. He, who had known Puslinch for 65 years, took the audience in retrospective vision to the earliest days, and they could almost hear the wolves and other denizens of primeval forest; they almost suffered the hardships of pioneer life, or got lost with him amid the uncertain blazes that sometimes bewildered travellers. The religious life of more than half a century was also traced, and memories of other days acknowledged the Good Shepherd's constant care. He exhorted all to renewed consecration, and hoped the services now closing would cement the two congregations in increasing fellowship, progressive activity and abiding prosperity.
The Rev. A. Blair spoke of his relationship to them. He was born in the congregation, baptized there, and though leaving in early life had retained an interest in them. He referred sympathetically to the ministers of the congregation and recalled profitable reminiscences. He then spoke of the strong theology and vigorous religion of a former generation; and while acknowledging the glory of the progressive age, which is closing the century, and inspiring the young to efforts worthy of their privileges, he reminded them that they should revere the memory of their fathers and that they could learn much from their wholesome Christianity.
Wm. McCormick Jr.
Mr. Allan Stewart, Warden of the County of Wellington, of whom the congregation is justly proud, was next called upon. He spoke as a worthy representative of the conservative school of religious life, and made some happy local references, which were much appreciated.
The chairman called on Mr. Wm. McCormick Junior to lead the congregation in singing the two first verses of the 103rd Psalm, in Gaelic, as follows:
an Dia Iehobhah mor:
‘ainm naomha mar is coir.
Iehobhah mor do Dhia:
a dheonuich dhuit an Triath.
With his rich, sympathetic voice Mr. McCormick sang this majestic Psalm, lining it, in the Gaelic fashion approved by centuries. Many visitors had never before heard praise in Gaelic, but the aged present, and several of the young, were able to join in the once general form of praise.
Messages, explanatory of unavoidable absence, were received from Revs. John Currie, Dr. Dickson, R. E. Knowles, Hugh A. McPherson, and others.
The choir of Duff's church rendered an excellent programme of music.
The audience, deeply impressed by the evening’s service, sang, devoutly, “Praise God, from Whom all Blessings flow”, and retired with the benediction, pronounced by Rev. Dr. Wardrope.
Acknowledgement should be made of the full and excellent reports of the jubilee services in the “Guelph Mercury”, whose representatives attended several of the meetings, thus gratifying local interest and carrying jubilee news to eager readers far removed from the associations of earlier years.
The committee of arrangements would also gratefully acknowledge the encouraging interest and willing assistance of both congregations in making possible such successful services.
of their succeeding race.”
“O may we stand before the Lamb,
When earth and seas are fled,
And hear the Judge pronounce our name,