South Gloucester United Church
130 Plus Years of History.

  Our history begins with the influx of immigrants to Bytown (many from Northern Ireland and Scotland) attracted to this area by the building of the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Bytown in 1826. After workers began arriving in 1826 for this construction, little communities appeared here and there throughout the Township some even adventured into the thick forest and dense undergrowth of Gloucester. The first settlement in this area was known as “Hard Scrabble”. James Johnston from Northern Ireland, passed through in a covered wagon on the hacked out trail, looking for his Lot 25 Concession 4 (at Johnston's Corners near Rideau Carleton Raceway). When asked later about his struggle to get there, James replied it had been a hard scrabble. The Johnston settlement became known as "Hard Scrabble", and the name remained until shortly before the turn of the century.

These early settlers longed for the spiritual inspiration of a minister and the customs of the Old Land. Some of them travelled to Bytown for the Sabbath service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Wellington Street, founded in 1828. The first minister there, the Rev. John Cruikshank, realized their situation and in 1834 made plans to travel to the settlement. The service, conducted in the stone house owned by James Johnston and more recently by Mr. & Mrs. Lloyd Goth, was the beginning of this congregation.

The Rev. Cruikshank encouraged the little group to set aside land and go ahead with the building of a church. Accordingly, John Johnston gave one half acre of land for a Presbyterian Church and graveyard at the corner of his property. Some of the gravestones still stand at the Albion Road and Rideau Carleton Raceway. The neighbours worked on the log church (36 x26) during the summers from 1840 to 1845. They had little time to give to any project except their own clearings, felling trees and pushing back the bush in order to plant crops to feed their families.

In 1844 the Rev. William Lochead, a Presbyterian minister from Scotland while visiting his friend, the Rev. Thomas Frazer of Lanark, was invited to preach to the congregations of South Gloucester and Osgoode. In October he accepted the invitation to become the first minister of the pastoral charge and arrived with his family in June of the following year. It was at this time that a resolution was passed to retire from the Presbytery of Bathurst, which had adhered in the late division of the Synod to the old established Church of Scotland, and to unite with the Presbytery of Kingston in the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the Free Church of Scotland. A few years later, a preaching station on the Rideau River at Long Island in Manotick, for Presbyterians living in the area was added to his pastoral charge. In 1856, he resigned the Osgoode point and South Gloucester and Manotick became one charge. The manse was located in Manotick as this had become the local centre of activity and population due to the construction of flour and saw mills.

The Rev. Lochead ministered faithfully for thirty years. By 1880 the South Gloucester log church was too small for the expanding congregation. At the southeast corner of what is now the junction of the Rideau and Albion roads a new brick building with a pointed tower was dedicated in October of that year. Today, 130 years later, worship still takes place in the same church, our church.

The first little church was abandoned and finally fell down or was torn down. Miss Phoebe Spratt who lived in the house next to the log church remembered playing around the remains of the foundation walls (about 1895). The last burial in the adjoining cemetery was about 1900.

The new church was much larger (32 x 44) and built of solid brick with a pointed steeple (its mate can be seen in Vernon). The building committee consisted of James Brown, David Gamble, John Lennox, Wm. Lees, Andrew Spratt Jr. and Wm. Gamble. The building was completed and the dedication ceremony held in October 1880.

In 1913 during a terrific thunderstorm, the roof and tower of the church were struck by lightning. A huge hole on the east side was patched up and re-shingled. The tower which had been split at the four corners was re-plastered on the inside and re-painted. In 1929 electric lighting was installed, the building redecorated and a new roof put on. Just 4 years earlier, in 1925, the church entered Union when there was a merger of four Protestant denominations: the Methodist Church of Canada, the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, two-thirds of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Association of Local Union Churches. Although this Church had “Presbyterian” origins, with the Union it became a “United Church”. About 1934, Leitrim United Church (formerly Methodist) closed and many of the congregation joined South Gloucester United. Interesting to note that in the Treasurer’s books for 1934, the total Sunday collections amounted to $122.05 and the expenses were $74.00. Special envelopes were distributed for contributions to the minister’s stipend which were to be placed in little metal slots at the end of the old pews. Envelopes for regular weekly contributions were introduced in 1955.

By 1949, the pointed tower had become unsafe and was replaced by a square one. Money bequeathed to the church by William Lennox and Andrew Gamble was used to buy a new oak communion table in 1950. When Bowesville was expropriated in 1951 by the Department of Transport to build the Ottawa Airport, the members of that United Church gave South Gloucester their hymnaries, hymn-board and Sunday School materials. The relocation of many families from Bowesville, resulted in a drop in attendance, but soon improved as families from Greely and Blossom Park began attending the church.

By 1953, the two old wood stoves were replaced by oil space heaters. Marks made by the piles of wood used to feed the wood stoves during the services are still visible on the north inside wall of the church. The old drive shed used to shelter horses and buggies was sold and moved to a farm close by.

Further improvements in 1959 included the insulation of the ceiling, a cement block furnace room and furnace installed, as well as the addition of outside aluminum windows. Cherrywood pews, a gift from Glebe United Church, were installed in 1962. Two years later, the front of the church saw a number of improvements with new front steps complete with iron hand rail, a name board, shrubs and flowers planted and the grass was cut regularly. A further transformation took place in 1969-70 when the sanctuary was redecorated with the lattice work of western cedar. The memorial font (designed and crafted by Mr. Rowbotham in 1948) was altered to match the lattice work. A tall wooden cross made and given by Verne Ridgeway was raised in the centre arch on the wall above the Communion table and a custom-made pulpit (a gift in memory of Mrs. Emily McLaughlin) was added. The choir and organ area were also redesigned and carpeting installed.

This work was designed by Ed Boyce and cost under $2,000 to complete. A few years later, in April 1975, the Church Hall was completed by Ivan Kincade using plans also created by Ed Boyce. This Church Hall has been key to the ongoing success of our Sunday School as well as many social and fund raising activities.

After more than 150 years the congregation of South Gloucester established the church as a single point charge in Jan. 2000 and in 2004 a full time minister was appointed.

More recent improvements include new front doors which were dedicated in memory of Mr. Stan Johnston who, for many years, single-handedly took on the responsibility of the building maintenance and improvements. New church celing lights for the sanctuary, donated by a member of the congregation, were installed in 2008 along with a new dish washer. The windows in the hall were replaced in 2009.

The South Gloucester United Church remains a vibrant focal point for the community. Routine fundraising events are widely attended and much anticipated by the Church members, their friends and members of the Community at large. Activities such as yard sales, chicken barbeques, craft and baking sales, book sales, are well attended and assist the Church in meeting its financial obligations. The congregation holds many non-profitable Fun and Fellowship activities including after church brunches, pot luck suppers, weekend and day trips and a very popular coffee time after church service.

We are very happy and proud to welcome you to South Gloucester United (formerly Presbyterian) Church, where we celebrated 130 years of service in 2010.