On the 25th of December, 1832, Knox Presbyterian Church, Demorestville, was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God by Rev. Robert McDowall, assisted by the Rev. William Smart of Brockville.
These two were the pioneer Presbyterian missionaries laboring in the immense distances bordering on the St. Lawrence, Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario. Mr. McDowall centred his labors around the Bay of Quinte, making Sandhurst church in Fredericksburgh, his home church, where lie his remains. He established five churches.
Confining this article to Knox Church, Demorestville:
The grant of land for the church was given by Captain Demorest, founder of the village.
The first trustees were Benjamin Smith, Griffith Howell.
First Elders - D. B. Way, Jacob Howell, Jonathan Green.
First Clerk - John Howell.
Dates: Building of church begun 1830; dedication of church Dec. 25 1832.
The name “Union Presbyterian Church” appears in the early records.
1838-1855, Rev. James Rogers, Pastor.
1843, the congregation entered Canada Presbyterian Church.
1857-1868, Rev. Mr. Smith, Pastor.
1868-1873, Student Supply.
1873-1880, Rev. James Boyd, Pastor; married Miss Lazier.
1880-1881, James Somerville, student, who married Miss Butler of Gomarrah.
1882, Summer, William Hay, student.
1882-83, Winter, a few services.
1883, Summer, William Hyland, student.
1883-84, Winter, Community Revival, R. J. Craig of Deseronto, at Spring Communion, 1884, received 17 new members into Knox Church.
1884, Rev. Mr. Bennet, supplying. A manifest desire for connection with Picton or Deseronto.
1884-85, a few services during winter.
1885, Summer, Mr. MacKinnon, student.
1885, addition of some dozen of families from Episcopal Methodist Churches who did not enter Canada Methodist Church at union, and whose own churches had been closed. Valuable addition.
1885-86, Winter, occasional services.
1886, Summer, Mr. MacKinnon, student.
1886, Envelope system adopted, and Ladies’ Aid organized.
1886-87, Winter, occasional services.
1887, Summer, Mr. Rattray, student.
1887-88, Rev. J. Snodgrass, Licentiate, ordained and placed in charge.
1888, Mr. Snodgrass resigns.
1888-89-90, Winters, occasional services.
1890, Summer, Mr. Hodge, student.
From 1901 to 1904, Winter services, very few; Summers, student supply, whose names are yet recalled, viz.:
1892, Mr. Menzies
1893 and 1894, Mr. J. Fraser, who married a daughter of Dr. John Cryan, and is now pastor of Gravenhurst United Church of Canada.
1895, Mr. C. Dyde.
1896, Mr. Hunter.
1897, Mr. Currie.
1898, Mr. Fair.
1899-1900, Mr. G. C. Taylor.
1901, Mr. Fowlie.
1902, Mr. F. Taylor.
1903-04, Mr. I. C. McConachie.
1904, Crofton congregation organized.
1904, Dr. John Cryan and James Caughey ordained as Elders.
1905, Rev. C. E. Gordon-Smith inducted.
1907, Individual Communion cups adopted.
1907, Nov. 1, Rev. C. E. Gordon-Smith resigns on account of poor health.
1908, Rev. Peter Nicoll became pastor.
1909, Original church building replaced by present structure.
1910, Jan. 30, first service in new church.
1910, June 10, new church dedicated by Rev. James Fraser of Uxbridge.
1910, Oct. 16, James Crawford ordained as Elder.
1911, Sept. till March 10, 1914, Rev. Mr. Pitcher, Pastor.
1914, June 2, Rev. R. J. Craig inducted.
Between Oct., 1914 and Aug., 1915, three elders passed away - Dr. J. Cryan, James Caughey, George Smith.
1915, July, W. G. Badgley, D. Fraser, R. Monroe, ordained elders.
1919, May, Knox Church separated from Crofton.
1922, Board of Managers, - Messrs. Badgley, Fraser, G. Crawford, D. Walker, C. Peck, W. R. Monroe, Dr. H. Cryan, S. Clement.
1925, Knox Church voted 23 to 4 against union.
1925, March, R. J. Craig retired from active service, but continues as S.S.
1925, Sept., Congregation decided to remain closed on account of impoverishment, in hope of reopening when circumstances permit.
1927, Feb 26, Wellington Boulter, Senior Elder, passed away.
1928, Dec. 21, congregation decides to ask Presbytery to dissolve congregation, as there is no prospect of reopening. This was duly granted, and a committee appointed to dispose of the church buildings and equipment.
Some outstanding statistics:
First communion, Oct. 6, 1833, 36 communicants.
Among these is the name of the Peck family; and for 100 years that name has been represented on the communion roll.
Never a large congregation, yet at 1906 its members numbered 169.
Rev. Mr. Rogers’ field embraced Sophiasburgh and Hillier.
In the 30’s and 40’s of last century, Knox Church members in the neighborhood of Roblin’s Mills were regular attenders, and considered an ox-drawn conveyance an up-to-date means of locomotion.
Generation after generation passed on, and with the usual lights and shadows of church life, Knox Church kept bravely on its way.
Always from earliest years there was a vigorous Sabbath school; and here we name one, who for many years served as deacon, manager, elder, trustee, and superintendent of the Sabbath school - the late Wellington Boulter, who even in his busiest years of developing the canning industry was barely absent from the Sabbath school, directing it, providing largely for it, and at Christmas making every effort for a happy celebration. In the erection of the new church in 1909, Mr. Boulter guaranteed half of the cost. With him as an efficient co-worker was his most estimable wife, who was leader in the Ladies’ Aid, and indeed wherever she could help the church; and with them their devoted children. It was an unfortunate day at Knox when the Boulter family left Demorestville. They had been such energetic, enthusiastic leaders, and such liberal givers - and no one able to take their place.
Thirty years ago the Christian Endeavor Movement with Sabbath school prosperity had vigorous life at Knox. The story is told of one man, yet to the fore, who made it a delightful custom to harness his team to his largest conveyance and convey to the Sabbath school, Christian Endeavor Society, or any meetings of the young people all whom he could gather up between his home and Demorestville. And the same service would Donald gladly give for any social meeting, the annual harvest home and Christmas entertainment.
With such leaders there was a group of responsive helpers who never failed to co-operate and carry on.
BLACK SETTLEMENT CHURCH
Connected with Knox Church was the Union Church (Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Episcopalian) situated on the Back Road, quite near to the home of W. R. Munroe.
It was also called the Black Settlement Church, from the several families named Black, residing near.
The interested visitor may yet see that church. It still stands, but on a different site. The ground for the church was given by Jasper Dingman, Esq., of Picton.
Before me lies a copy of the original subscribers to that church. John Black heads the list with $100, followed by forty-one others, whose subscriptions range from $2 to $30.
Rev. James Boyd supplied this church with afternoon service for some years. I had the privilege of conducting service in it as I exchanged with Rev. Mr. Boyd in the 70’s of last century.
I know not if other denominations held service in that church; and just why it had so brief an active career may be found in the idiosyncracies of human nature. There was certainly intense enthusiasm in its birth.
It is peculiar how the strong, predominant strain of Presbyterianism in the pioneer settlers of Prince Edward County never developed into many such churches. The historic records tell of the large numbers of Presbyterians who came. One explanation is that only properly ordained clergymen of the Presbyterian Church were allowed to officiate; and as these came mostly from Scotland and Ireland, they were few and far between. Meanwhile communities were growing and much needed religious gatherings.
Ready at hand were the class-leaders and earnest laymen of especially the Episcopal Methodist Church of the United States, who could conduct a meeting much after the Christian Endeavor mode; and schoolhouses were used for this. The people, young and old, gathered. And such gatherings were about the only light in the darkness of Pioneer times, pointing the Way of Life.
The descendants of these emigrants may yet be traced by their names which tell of a Scotch or Irish meeting, and of course Presbyterian; and these names, many of them are on the rolls of other churches than Presbyterian - other churches, which were able more quickly to send in ministers and Bible students to supply the spiritual needs of the people.
I think that explanation is adequate. The Kingdom of God did not suffer. Souls were nourished.
The Presbyterian Churches at Consecon and Hillier were closed some ten years ago. Knox Church, Demorestville, closed in 1926. St. Andrew’s, Picton, carries on vigorously and successfully, and is the only Presbyterian church in Prince Edward still waving the Blue Banner. It looks forward to its centennial celebration of 1933.
Meanwhile, Knox Church, Demorestville, the immediate subject of this article quietly awaits the final page in its hundred years of history.
Yes ! sad to say, “Silence reigns, where once arose the hymns of Auld Lang Syne.”
- R. J. C.