A Red Letter Day in the First Church, Picton
A Class That Has Been in Continuous Existence
With Leadership almost in One Family -
Kingston Sent Out the Clergyman Who Started the Work -
Many Admirable Addresses
The Picton papers have extended reports of the celebration of the centennial of Methodism in that town on Jan. 27th. On Jan 27th, 1793, a class of thirteen was formed composed of Andrew and Mary Johnson, Henry and Elizabeth Johnson, Alexander and Mary Peterson, David and Sally Yeomans, John and Susannah Low, Martha Johnson, Nicholas Peterson and Samuel Wright. They were the fruit of a grand revival at the church on the south side of Hay Bay in the township of Adolphustown. Andrew Johnson, the first leader, was the grandfather of William Henry Johnson, the present leader. He was a man eminently well fitted both by natural endowments and by the gifts and graces of the spirit for the important post assigned. Quiet and unostentatious, he was nevertheless fervent, faithful, zealous and whole-hearted. Rev. Darius Dunham was pastor, a pioneer minister of zeal, perseverance and courage.
On Jan. 27th, last, the services began by Rev. Dr. McDiarmid, who announced the hymn, “All hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” After prayer he spoke of the past and of the present. “We have in this church (First Church) a membership of 500 and 300 in Main street church and eighty per cent of the church membership in Prince Edward county is Methodist.” This was an occasion for thankfulness and consecration. The covenant service was then conducted. Following came a reunion of Mr. Johnson’s class, at which the leader, Mr. Corke, aged 76; Mr. Levitt, German Williams, A. Williams, Mr. Cohoon, Mr. Ross, David VanDusen, Mr. Brown, A. Doxsee, Mrs. Rawson, aged 80; George Johns spoke. Appropriate songs were also sung.
In the afternoon, W.H. Johnson read a paper on the class. The records, covering sixty years, contained the names of 430 persons, of whom he knew 135 were dead. Andrew Johnston, the first leader, was born in 1759. He lived seventy-eight years. His wife was born in 1761, and lived eighty-one years. These were the speakers’ grand-parents. His grandmother had the honor of being the mother of the first white child born in what is now Picton. How long Mr. Johnson held office is not known, but his successor was Henry Johnson, a younger brother, and grandfather of J.S. Johnson,. He was a very successful leader, probably the most so of any of the name. The class meetings were held for some length of time in his house, in the eastern part of the town. He was succeeded by his son, John, father of Robert Johnson and grandfather of W. F. Johnson, both of Picton. Then came P.V. Elmore for a short time, possibly because he was a surveyor and away considerable of this time. He was succeeded by William Johnson, father of the speaker. then came William Vance and in 1853 W.H. Johnston took charge. He said”: “This month seems to have been a very eventful month in my history; as I was born in January, converted and joined this class in January, was married in January, and made a leader of this class in January, and last of all permitted to take part in this celebration in January. It is forty years this month since I was appointed leader by pastor Wm. McFadden.” There are six members of the class now in it when he took charge. the class now numbers eighty members.
George Johnson, of Belleville, followed with reminiscences. He said: “When a small child, my mother, whose ashes lie out here in God’s acre, was called home to the God she loved. I was placed in charge of my grandparents, Andrew and Mary Johnson, known as Andreas and Maricha. They had seen turbulent times, and were then quietly living their lives over, having retired from life’s scenes; they lived over the past, their mind and conversation were of the past. For hours I have knelt at my grandmother’s knee, with my head on her lap, and listened to the thrilling adventures of their lives until my hair almost stood on end.” He related, lengthily, the story of the American revolution and of the removal of his grandparents to Picton from New York state. The hardships were great but the courage and bravery was indomitable. Of the conversion of his grand-parents, he said:
“In the fall of 1792, a stranger passing through stopped at their home over night, and had a stirring tale to tell. A crazy or wild man was holding some kind of a pow-wow down at Adolphustown, where men and women sang, screamed, fainted and rolled over the floor, possessed of the Evil One. He called himself a Methodist, but was believed to be an agent of Satan. Grandmother was horrified, but as her good man had known something of Methodists in New Jersey, he prevailed on her to go and see. They paddled a log canoe down one evening. They came, they saw, and were conquered. They both went home that night happy in the Saviour. The next day they prevailed on the brother and sister-in-law to go, and four were saved, and these four were the seed of Methodism in Prince Edward. They held prayer together, a few came in, and on the 27th day of January, 1793, the first class was formed.”
Rev. S. J. Shorey, Napanee, a former pastor, preached a magnetic sermon from Ecclesiasties VII, -10, declaring that the former days were not better than the present, either in the history of the church or of Christian life: “We are gathered together to-day in the history of other days, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Methodist church in this place. Then there was indeed but one Methodist church, and that was the old Adolphustown church, but one Methodist church in this dominion; now we have 4,000. There were, perhaps, two ministers in this country; now there are 1,800. There were then from four to six leaders, where now we have 7,000 class leaders; from 50 to 100 members, now 240,000. There were no Sabbath school officers and teachers, and there are now about 24,000 officers and teachers and 232,000 Sunday school scholars. Then, perhaps, in 1793, from $500 to $1,000 possibly was raised for church purposes, and now we are raising $2,000,000 a year for the purposes of Methodism in this land. Then perhaps the value of all our church property was five or six hundred dollars, and now, we have property valued at twelve millions of dollars. All this has been accomplished in 100 years, and yet there are some who may feel like saying that “the former days were better than these.” I don’t mean to say but that there might have been some things in the past that we might have kept with advantage till to-day. I do sometimes long for a revival of the old heavenly piety that marked the lives of the old fathers. But we have become refined and thoughtful and I suppose more intelligent in our piety; I would not find fault with that, but I do believe that the old heavenly fire, if you please, that burned in the hearts of those zealous people has placed Methodism on its present footing. May the fire never die out.
“One hundred years from to-day, if some one recalls, the past, if some one heaps up before him the statistics that mark the progress of the church for the last 100 years, I wonder what they will be. I could tell if I knew what kind of lives men and women were going to live. In our church to-day if I knew that the young people who are taking the places of their fathers, had the same spirit the same trust in God, the same valor in His service, then I know that the history of the church in the next 100 years would be one of increasing and mightier prosperity than in the past. All the earth, it seems to me, would be won for God.”
W. H. R. Allison, Q.C., made a few remarks. He said Methodism was introduced into this country by this means: British soldiers who were Methodist local preachers, Capts. Webb and Tupper and Major Neale, preached from 1781 to 1786. In 1788, a local preacher, by the name of Lyons, from the states, taught school in Adolphustown and preached to the people. After this came Losee, and others from the states.
At this service letters were read from Rev. G.R. Sanderson, D.D., London, a former pastor, who cherished many precious memories of Picton friends; Rev. George Young, Toronto, aged seventy-one, could not undertake a journey in such weather, but, if spared, he would try, next summer, to visit his native country; from Mrs. Letitia Youmans, Toronto, who, forty-three years ago, entered Picton a stranger, to teach in McMullen’s academy. For forty-nine years, she had been a member of the Methodist church. “As I recount the seventeen ministers who have, during these years, been pastors of the church, I am reminded that five of them have gone home to heaven. And those who used to worship with us, a great company, are, to-day, before the throne. Doubtless their spirits mingle with you as you worship together.” John N. Lake, New York, recalled old days. In 1855, he preached his first sermon in Picton. In 1856-7 300 souls were converted, among them, many pillars in the present church.
A dinner was served in the evening, and afterwards the church was crowded. Ex-Mayor Porte presided. He said the original church, built on the site of the present church, was moved off its foundation thirty-eight or nine years ago and was burned last year. R. B. Mastin gave a welcoming address to the congregation on behalf of Mr. Johnson’s class. He believed the same fire of a hundred years ago was still burning in the hearts of his classmates. H.C. McMullen delivered an address, on “One Hundred Years of Methodism in Picton.” It was a stirring review. In 1791, William Losee was appointed to the Kingston circuit, covering fifty miles east and west of this city. In the next two years he formed many classes, and in 1793 Losee and Darius Dunham were appointed to take charge of the Canadian work, divided into two circuits, Oswegatchie and Cataraqui, instead of Kingston. Mr. Dunham had charge of the Cataraqui circuit, and Losee of the lower, located in the vicinity of Ogdensburg. Mr. Dunham, having received full ordination, ranked as the senior minister. Revivals seemed almost constant in those days, as the membership on the Cataraqui circuit had increased to 255 and on the lower circuit to ninety by May 1793. During this year the first class was organized at Hallowell bridge, now Picton, as the original list of members, now in W. H. Johnston’s possession, bears date, January 27th, 1893 and is signed by Darius Dunham. In 1817, the Hallowell circuit was formed and in 1818 it had 372 members. now there are 4,000 members in the same bounds as the original circuit.
Following the address came vigorous remarks from Revs. W. Tomblin, A. D. Miller and O.R. Lambly. At a fellowship meeting Messrs, James Ross, Richard Williamson, J. B. McMullen, W. H. Austin, (Trenton), and G. W. McMullen spoke.
Among the ministers present who took part in the services were: Rev. W. Tomblin, Centreton; Rev. O. R. Lambly, Wellington; Rev. W. Briden, Bloomfield; Rev. S. J. Shorey, Napanee; Rev. G. Horton, Adolphustown; and Rev. A. D Miller, Picton.
The committee appointed at the last meeting of the quarterly official board to take charge of the centennial celebration was composed of the following members: Rev. Dr. McDairmid, C. S. Wilson, W. J. Porte, W. H. Johnston, G. D. Platt, R.B. Mastin, H. W. Branscombe and H. C. McMullen.