Category Blog Celebration 150 - Religion Comes to Georgetown
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Celebration 150 - Religion Comes to Georgetown

Georgetown had been settled in 1823, by George Kennedy, and began its existence as
Hungry Hollow, on the banks of Silver Creek in the flats area of Guelph and John Streets, where
George built his first log home and a mill. Around that nucleus, the town started to grow and the
Main Street was established at the top of the hill. By 1860, it was already a thriving village, with
a couple of hotels and dry goods stores on the Main Street four corners.
Early settlers brought their religions with them and slowly they also established their
place in the new village, replacing the dependency of the population on the occasional visitation
of “Saddlebag Preachers.”

• The Congregationalists had organized about 1840, and in 1851, built a wooden church,
complete with a 50 ft. spire and bell on the corner of Church and Market Streets. This
they replaced with a beautiful stone structure in 1877 – presently the library
• In 1841, the Wesleyan Methodists had erected a wooden church at the end of Wesleyan
Street, which they replaced with the present brick structure in 1876 – now a Montessori
School.
• The Episcopal Methodists, formed in 1836, built a wooden church on Guelph Street in
1843, replaced with their present brick structure in 1880 – now St. John’s United Church.
In 1884, the Wesleyan and Episcopal Methodists joined to form the Methodist Church in
Canada, and the Guelph Street Church became their home. In 1910, the
Congregationalists joined with the Methodists, again at the Guelph Street Church,
donating their beautiful stone church next door to Knox, to be used as a public library.
• The Baptists were formed in 1847, but met in the Congregational Church building until
they built their brick chapel in 1869 – now the Rampulla Martial Arts home.
• The Anglicans had been active in the area for a few years, and in 1849, George and Sarah
Kennedy donated an acre of their land to the Church of England, for a church and burial
ground, although the first frame church, dedicated to St. George was not built until 1855.
It was replaced by the present stone church in 1878.
• The Catholics had established in 1852, meeting in homes. A small wooden church, St.
Patrick’s, was built on Main Street in 1858 in 1885 they built a stone church, Holy
Cross, on Guelph Street – presently Sacre Cour Church.,
• And finally, after several years of travelling to Boston or Norval, the Presbyterians under
the guidance of a Dr. Robert Burns, organized themselves into a congregation in 1860.
They held their services in the Town Hall, or Congregational and Wesleyan Methodist
Churches until 1867, when they erected their first brick church, which was the first
church in the county to be built of brick. It was replaced in 1887 with the present stone
structure.
Religious education to children had been of utmost importance early in the life of the
village and in 1843, the town had organized a non denominational Union Sunday School Society
to help improve children’s religions education, and it included a lending library of 120 books.
(In 1837, the village had a population of about 700.)
By the time the Presbyterian’s built their church, the railway had come through the town,
and with it came people and industry. Trafalgar road had been planked north from Lake Ontario,
and the Toronto to Guelph Road had been planked “as firm as a barn floor.” Then came the
railway, and with thanks to lobbying by the Barber Brothers, a route was chosen through
Georgetown. This had a great effect on the town, raising prices, but giving merchants and
growers access to out of town markets. Despite the influx of unwelcome workmen, the building
of the ‘iron bridge’ over the Credit River was a major accomplishment, and looking back, quite
the feat for the time. Up-graded from the originally planned wooden structure, it was built of
locally quarried stone, opened in June 1856, and is still in continuous daily use!
Apparently, extreme drunkenness by the construction people during the building of the
railway encouraged the Temperance society to establish a branch in the town in 1852, and they
built themselves a hall on the corner of Guelph and Chapel Street. In fact, this hall served as an
early Town Hall, complete with a lock up, until it was destroyed by fire 1878.
Since it was first settled by three families, the town has continued to grow and grow and
grow. Some of the original churches no longer house worshipping congregations. They have
either ceased altogether, or joined with other denominations. Other newer or less mainstream
churches or groups of people who worship together, have formed or established themselves. But
we here in Knox, along with St. George’s Anglican Church, hold a special place in the history of
the town. Both of us are still active congregations, worshipping although not in the exact same
buildings, but on the exact same spots as chosen by our pioneer descendants, all those many
years ago.
As we head in to our 150th Anniversary Year, let us work to celebrate the work of our
church and our commitment to spreading the word of God….. sometimes in a very public
fashion, and sometimes by the quiet works and deeds that we do individually as disciples of
Christ, and members of this proud old Scottish congregation.
Let us continue to make our ancestors proud of all their hard work.
Let us work to make our descendants just as proud.

….Dawn Livingstone, Sept 2009

References:
• Georgetown, Reflections of a Small Town, and The Story of Georgetown, both by John Mark Benbow Rowe
• St. George’s Anglican Church, A History, by Richard E. Ruggle
• St. John’s United Church, Georgetown. 100 years of Worship, 1880-1980 Sharon James, Wm. Kinrade

 

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