IN THE BEGINNING…
Woodville United Church was born in the days of the saddle-bag, Wesleyan preachers. Imagine waiting weeks to have your turn at a church service, probably in someone’s home, while your minister went on horseback from Oakwood to Kirkfield, Bolsover…
Before 1872 we have little record of church life in the area except that Oakwood-based preachers gave spiritual guidance and lead worship for residents of the Woodville area.
In 1872 people felt there was enough demand for our own preacher in this area, and so Rev. Robert McCullough was invited to lead the flock. By 1877 Rev. McCullough and an associate had 17 “classes” as they were called; Lytle’s Plews, McNabb’s, Kirkfield, Gardener, McKague’s (Bexley), Palestine, Hartley, Long Point, Black’s, Bolsover and Woodville (which had 13 members). Victoria Road, Sebright, Glenarm, Gellanders, and McIndoos joined by 1877.
BUILDING THE TEMPLE
Prior to 1877 the Methodist “classes” probably met in peoples’ homes. In 1877 however, the congregation rented Spencer Hall, above the McKague’s store for $30 a year, including caretaking duties, fuel, and light.
In 1886 the Woodville charge bought the Baptist church for $400, and then in 1888, they bought present church site from Mrs. Agnes Morrison for $200. Two years late the church building was built by contractor Mr. T. Treleaven (Jean Owen’s grandfather – see the video link on this page.) In the end, church members helped haul lumber and brick so the final cost was $3,500. When the church first opened there were 100 members. To celebrate the new building the congregation served a community supper to 1000 people.
Rev. Martin was the minister at the time the church was built. He heard about a chandelier that was for sale from the former Bible Christian church. He boarded the morning train from Woodville and took up a collection along the way. For $20 he bought the light fixture and returned on the evening train. Later he went to the Massey-Harris company in Toronto in the hope of finding money for the building. Instead of cash, they gave him a new horse rake, which he sold. With that and other similar sales, he was able to raise money for a pulpit, pulpit Bible, pulpit chairs, and mats and carpets for the aisle.
In the early 1900s, the church installed an acetylene gas system. Mrs. McKee, the caretaker’s wife attended the lights one evening and discovered they were dimmer than usual. When she went into the basement to investigate, her lit lantern sparked a major explosion that through the pulpit into the choir loft and damaged the structure of the building. Mrs. McKee was badly burned but otherwise OK. The building needed reinforcement rods, which are still there today.
1955: new pews cost $3100, new chairs for the basement, new wiring, and new floor.
1963: Annex was added onto the north end of the building, adding washrooms and three small classrooms (now the offices).
1968: Sanctuary was renovated with new ceiling, floors and recessed windows.
A PLACE TO LIVE
In 1914 the first parsonage (apparently where the banker lived in 1977…?) was moved to Fred Edwards’ property for $975.
In 1912 All the Woodville Sunday School leaders banded together to ban the sale of cigarettes in the community. They successfully lobbied the local proprietor Mr. P. A. De Guerre to stop selling the cigarettes.
In 1915 financial struggles resulted in increased prayer meetings…
In June 1925 The Congregationalist, Methodist and some Presbyterians in Canada joined to form the United Church. In that year a group of members from the Woodville Presbyterian Church, their minister Rev. Davies and four families from South Eldon Presbyterian united with the Methodists to form the new United Church.
MINISTERS FROM WOODVILLE
• Robert Spencer (son of a lay preacher) born May 5, 1873. He was ordained in Owen Sound in 1899, hoping to go to China but was prevents by the Boxer Rebellion. He retired in Long Branch in 1940.
• Royal Newman made Woodville his base during the first world war. He was ordained in Thessalonica, Greece, and later served in the United Church of Canada.
• George Camura, a Japanese boy and friend of Royal Newman was recommended for ministry in 1914 by the Official Board of Woodville United Church. After his ordination, he returned to Japan to serve his church.
• George Campbell was born in Woodville in 1887, ordained in 1917 and served for 42 years.
• Alfred Poulter lived with his mother and brothers in Woodville before entering the ministry. In the 1950s he became president of Bay of Quinte Conference.
• Fred Reed, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Reed lived in Grasshill. He was ordained in 1920, then went to China for 28 years. He returned to Canada in 1948 and served several charges in Bay of Quinte before retiring to Sunderland. His son Newton and grandson Paul both became ordained ministers in the United Church of Canada.
• Fred G. McTavish was recommended for the ministry from Woodville in 1921. He was secretary of the settlement committee of Toronto Conference and served the church in Bradford for 20 years. He died suddenly while in active ministry in the 1960s.
• Melville Fisher, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Fisher, was ordained in 1931.
WOMEN IN MINISTRY FROM WOODVILLE
Frances Staples, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jos Staples, graduated from the Methodist Training School, went to St John’s Newfoundland as superintendent of the United Church Orphanage there until her marriage to Rev. Cooper in 1930.
Gertie Staples, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Staples, also graduated from the Methodist training school and served her church in five provinces.
Frances Nancekievill also entered the Methodist Training School intending to be a missionary. She changed to nursing and served in Mission Hospitals for 20 years.
(source: 100th Anniversary Woodville United Church, 1872-1972)