In view of the changes on the Bay front, whereby the new highway cuts a small section from the McDowall Memorial cemetery, we are reprinting an account of the McDowall Memorial Church, written by Mr. T.W. Casey and published in The Beaver on May 28th, 1898.
Since this article was written, the old historic church was burned, but the tower was preserved and made into a memorial tower standing now about twenty feet from the north edge of the new highway.
Rev. Robert McDowall after whom the church was named, was the first Presbyterian missionary sent to Upper Canada. He reached this country in 1798. At first there were no churches and the farmers' log houses were used as preaching places. Later on school houses were erected and nearly every school house was used as a preaching place. In the summer the barns were used when large congregations were expected. Before Mr. McDowall's death, however, several very comfortable Presbyterian churches had been erected in this county, including those at Sandhurst, McIntyre's Corners, Wilton and possibly one or two other points.
"So far as we can now learn the Fredericksburgh church was not built until about 1834 or 1835. John Murdoch, one of the early settlers, is said to have drawed the first stick of timber with his oxen. No doubt many of the others in the locality also supplied their share towards it, as timber and other building materials were much more plentiful in those days than money, and such as each one had was generously given. All the members turned in and helped so far as their labor and skill would go. The late Nicholas Murdoch, a son of John, was a carpenter, and besides doing his share of work from time to time, he generously supplied free of charge the pulpit, purchasing the lumber for a fat steer and doing the work with his own hands. The same pulpit is yet used, having since been cut down some feet to adapt it to more modern ideas. It is still a good specimen of skill and good taste in carpentry of over sixty years ago. The Murdochs, father and son, and many members of their families, lie buried in that church yard. Among the early Presbyterian families in that locality were the Clutes, Youngs, Murphies, Armstrongs, Sloans, Murdochs, and others whose names we have not got. Nearly all of the, no doubt, and many others cheerfully lent a hand in the erection of the then much needed Presbyterian Church, probably the second one erected in the county. It was for years the gathering place of......................It was a plain substantial frame building about thirty by forty feet, with a gallery in one end. Years after the death of Mr. McDowall it became less used and got quite dilapidated, the old stand-bys dying out or moving elsewhere.
THE MEMORIAL CHURCH
About 1886 the Rev. Jas. Cumberland, of Amherst Island, and some of the old members made a strong effort to renovate and enlarge the old church and transform it into a "McDowall Memorial" edifice. All the defective material was removed and replaced by new. The former building was veneered with brick. A neat and substantial square tower was erected in front, and a small vestry room in the rear, giving to the whole a neat and modern appearance. The former windows were taken out and in their places eight foot colored glass memorial windows were put in. These were all the gifts of well known men who were interested in the Pioneer Missionary. Among those contributors were Sir John Macdonald, Sir Oliver Mowat, Sir Richard Cartwright, John D. Murphy, Mr. Sloan and others. The gallery was also removed. On the front of the tower is a white marble tablet with the inscription,
referring to the date of the Missionary's arrival and of the transformation of the building.
Inside, on the wall just east of the pulpit, is a very neat brass memorial tablet inscribed;
Rev. ROBERT McDOWALL
Ordained by the Dutch Reformed Church at Albany.
Came to Upper Canada, 1798 to minister to the U.E. Loyalists.
As pioneer Missionary his labors were of pre-eminent importance
in establishing the church in this province.
He was elected first Moderator of the Canadas in 1820.
He was a founder of Queen's University. He organized this
congregation in 1800 and remained its faithful pastor till his death.
His remains were interred in this church yard.
who as 43 years Minister of the Presbyterian church,
who died August 3d, 1841, aged 73 years."
who departed this life Dec 1st, 1852,
aged 69 years."
who was born Dec. 28th 1817,
and died March 4th 1842."
Napanee May 28th 1898.