Category Blog Celebration 150 - The Earliest Ministers of Knox
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Celebration 150 - The Earliest Ministers of Knox

150 Years of Enduring Faith

In October 2010, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the official formation of the congregation of Knox Presbyterian church in Georgetown, and during those150 years, we have had a total of only 18 ministers. The first three were the leaders directly involved in the early formation of our church, and oversaw the actual building of our ‘foundations.’ We remember their contributions, given at a time when life was extremely difficult, especially in terms of personal everyday living.

1860-1862: Rev. Robert Burns:
Born and ordained in Scotland, Robert Burns came to Canada in 1844, where he served at Knox College in Toronto. It was his guidance that led to the formation of our congregation although he was never an officially inducted minister to Knox. He lived only nine years after establishing our congregation, dying in Toronto in 1869, at the age of 81. It was his gift of his personal pulpit bible, brought from Scotland, and presented to the congregation of Knox on October 13, 1860, that establishes our anniversary date.


1862-1875: Rev. Robert Ewing:

Our first called minister was Robert Ewing, who began in 1862, while still a student minister, and although his time

here was fairly short and tragic, he led the congregation through exciting times. He was ordained in 1865, and

married in 1866, the same year the congregation decided that they needed their own physical church. In 1867, under

the guidance of Rev. Ewing, they built an attractive brick church, and the congregation began to grow. However, Rev.

Ewing’s personal happiness was short lived. He and his wife Barbara had their first son born in 1869, and a second son was born in 1870. Tragically Barbara died the day of the second son’s birth, from a heart condition, aggravated during the birth. In 1874, the congregation decided they needed to purchase a manse for their ministers, and purchased a large red brick home on Ewing Street, just off Main Street. It is obvious that when streets were named, this was called after this minister. Rev. Ewing and his children stayed there only until 1876, when he moved on, but tragedy hit him again in 1879, when his firstborn son accidentally drowned. Rev. Ewing died in Collingwood, January 1890, at the age of 56. He, his wife Barbara, and their two children are buried in the cemetery at Limehouse Church.



Photo shows Ewing Street Manse as it is today (2009)

 1878-1883; Rev. John Pringle:
Knox was also a starting point for our second minister, Rev. John Pringle, a native of Prince Edward Island, who was ordained and inducted in Knox 1878. In 1879 he married a Jessie Bignell, and together they ministered to the congregation of Knox, they and their family living in the church manse on Ewing Street. He stayed here until Sept 1882, when he left to serve in Manitoba. Knox was just one of the many congregations throughout Canada that were served by Rev. Pringle throughout his lifetime. He even accepted a commission from the church to conduct a mission in Bermuda when he was 82. He served as
Moderator of the General Assembly in 1919, and had been an army chaplain in the First World War. He had been honoured with a Doctorate Degree and an L.LO.D. When he died in Nova Scotia in 1935, it is said that nearly 10,000 (yes, 10,000) people gathered at the church and on the streets to pay their last respects to “The old doctor” as he was affectionately called.

1883-1888: Rev. William George Wallace:
Rev. Wallace was born not far from here at Galt, Ontario, the son of a minister. He attended
University of Toronto where he received his M.A. in 1882, and went on to Knox College to
receive his B.D. in 1884, while already serving the congregation of Knox. Rev. Wallace had
been ordained and inducted here in May 1883 and in June the same year he was married. Like
our first two ministers before him, Rev. Wallace started here directly from college, where he got
his start, and he and his family also lived in the Ewing Street Manse. It was under his ministry
that the decision was made to tear down the original brick church, and to build this beautiful
stone church. He and a committee of four had inspected churches in Toronto, Guelph and other
places before choosing this design. It was Rev. Wallace who in June 1887 laid the cornerstone
of the new building. However, after five years here, and just before the new church was
completed, he was called to become the first minister of the new Bloor Street Church in Toronto,
where he served for 30 years. He did, however, return to Georgetown to take part in the official
dedication services in October 1888, and he also came back to preach at the 50th Anniversary
service on 24 October 1910. He went on to receive his Doctor of Divinity and served as
chairman of the Board of Examiners and Secretary to the Church and Manse Board for five
years, 1920-1925. Rev. Wallace had retired, and died in Toronto in December of 1949.


Old Knox Postcard

(Early postcard showing Congregational Church behind (now library) and carriage step at street)

These three early ministers certainly did build us a solid foundation, on which we have
built over the past 149 years. With strength and enthusiasm, through adverse conditions
unimaginable to us today, they persevered and left us a legacy which we strive to carry on.
Let’s try to re-capture some of their keenness and passion. Let’s make them proud, so that
in turn, future generations can look back with admiration and respect at what we are
accomplishing today.


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