As part of Pembroke’s Sesquicentennial, the Pembroke Observer featured news items from the files of years gone by. This particular one was from 1876. The church building was located at the corner of Main Street and Gore Line in the Village of Westmeath. It served as a Presbyterian Church until union with the Methodists to form the United Church in 1925.
Not all Presbyterian families favoured the Union and some stayed using the building as members of the Pentecostal congregation. The former Presbyterian Church building was purchased and on December 22, 1925, became the home of Elim Pentecostal Tabernacle, for their regular place of worship.
On Christmas Day the new Presbyterian Church at Westmeath Front was opened for divine worship by the Rev. Robert Campbell, M.A. of Montreal. Preaching in the morning at ten o’clock. As soon as the service was over the ladies had a good dinner provided in the schoolroom opposite the church; and after justice was done to the goods things provided, the crowd returned to the church, where they received able addresses from the Rev. Messrs. Grant, Gandier, Fowler, Craig and R. Campbell. The pastor Rev. A. Campbell B.A. presided. The speeches were interspersed by appropriate music by the Westmeath Choir. After the speeches a social was held in the evening and then all dispersed for home.
On the Sabbath following the opening; services were conducted by Rev. Fowler, Chairman of the Pembroke District of the Canada Methodist Church, preaching in the afternoon and the Rev. R. Campbell at 6:30p.m. Collections were taken up at each service in aid of the building fund. The proceeds of dinner, social and collections left $150 after paying expenses.
The church which is a frame building veneered with brick, is a credit to the congregation and will seat about one hundred and fifty people. The cost of the building will be about $1,500. When completed. The vestry and painting will be postponed until spring. A very large amount of work was done by the people themselves.
Initially the congregation had met in the Westmeath Township Hall, Beachburg. Then later, the first Presbyterian church was built in 1864 in an elevated area of the Beachburg Union Cemetery. Worship services were held there until 1892, when a new church and driving sheds were built on Main Street.
Early Presbyterian history in Beachburg is set out in the booklet published in 1963 entitled: “Centenary: A History of St. Andrew’s United Church” celebrating 100 years of service in the community. Centenary St. Andrew’s Beachburg. This booklet is very comprehensive and well worth a read. In it is described a first Presbyterian church built at the present-day cemetery:
It is regrettable that there are few records of the building of the first church available. It was constructed on a hill with a cemetery behind it. The cemetery is still used today though the site of the old church has been left vacant.
The pulpit chair, a plain wooden arm chair with a round seat is now on the platform of the present Sunday School Room and it is in perfect condition. A few of the pews were equipped with doors. Light was furnished by coal oil lamps and it was a great task to keep them cleaned and filled.
From Beachburg Celebrates 175 Years: 1835 – 2010:
“In 1862, Rev. Hugh Cameron, a Presbyterian minister was inducted to the charges of Westmeath and Ross Townships. He resided in Beachburg but often traveled by foot or horseback to visit the lumber camps along the Coulonge and Black Rivers.
“Services were held in the Town Hall. In 1864, the first Presbyterian church was built on a small hill, on the west side of Union cemetery. It was a white clapboard building with a small porch. A chair was kept in the porch to assist the elderly to get out of high buggies. The pulpit was high with several steps up to it. It was heated by two box stoves and light was from coal oil lamps. This area in the cemetery still stands vacant today as consecrated gound. The manse was located on the corner lot of Morris and Elliott Streets, at one time the home of Mr. & Mrs. Randolph Dunlop.
“As the congregation increased it was decided to build a larger church. Three quarters of an acre of land was purchased from Peter Barr for $225. A brick church with basement, sanctuary and gallery was built. Sheds were built for horses and buggies along the sides of the property with a picket fence across the front. The cost of building the church and sheds was approximately $7000. In 1901, a manse was purchased from Mr. Little at the corner of Main and Little Streets. This was sold and a new manse built in 1966 on Cameron Street, behind the church. In 1990, it was decided to sell the manse as many repairs and renovations were needed.
“In 1925 the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches united to become the United Church of Canada.
The former Presbyterian Church became St. Andrew’s United Church. Those who wished to remain Presbyterian members worshiped in the Town Hall for a time and in 1926, the former school across the street from the church was purchased by Presbyterian Church and continued as such until 1952, when it was sold to the Pentecostal Church.
“In 1929, the original Methodist church members sold their building and donated the money to build an extension to the back part of the church. This addition provided a vestry and choir room on the main floor and an extended kitchen and wash rooms in the basement. When hydro electric power came to the village, the building was wired for electricity, an oil furnace was eventually installed for heating and when the water works system was established, plumbing and a septic system were also installed. Music has always been part of the church service. The choir, made up of members of the congregation, has changed over the years, but has always taken an active part in any church activity. Since union, the organists have been Clara Hazelton, Viola Johnson, Betty Fynn and Lorna Stevenson at present, with Barry Stephen as choir director and Heather Campbell as supply pianist. An orchestra of several men “The Beachburg Connection” takes part in church services at times and also play for other churches and organizations.”
Further information: See Page 46, of Beachburg a Rich History, Celebrating 175 years 1835 – 2010.
For further historical reference regarding Churches in Historic Westmeath Township click here.
Presbyterian Marriages for Ross and Westmeath Townships and Surrounding Area, 1863 – 1938
Presbyterian Baptisms for Beachburg and Westmeath Township, 1877-1927
The Presbyterian Marriages Registry and the Baptism Registry are from the library of the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogy Group in Pembroke with thanks to Librarian Diane Burnett. Both Registries were originally transcribed by Louise Hope and donated by David Ireton, with thanks to Fay Bennett.