Erin Methodist Church History
The Canada Methodist Church is a brick building seating 300 It was erected 10 years ago at a cost of $1,700 – Services at 10:30 am and 6:30 pm Sunday School at 2:30 pm prayer meeting on Thursday There are 50 members Rev. Isaac Crane….1883-1884 Wellington County Directory – Erin
Although 1839 was the date when the New Connection Methodist Church established a congregation in Erin, the roots of religious teaching go back much farther. The first settlers came to Erin Township in 1820 to a virtual wilderness, but soon trees were cut down, log houses were built and land gradually cleared.
Saddle bag preachers or circuit riders, travelling from place to place on horseback, supplied the spiritual need of these early settlers who sometimes walked miles to get to the place of worship.
The first service was held in a log school house on the 9th line, and the Presbyterian preachers were the first to minister to the Christian spiritual needs of the people. Soon, however, the Methodist Church sent their ministers, and for some time they alternated with the Presbyterians in the school house.
In the 1830’s the settlers decided to erect a United Church jointly with the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Anglicans, to provide a place to worship. A twelve foot square room was built in the centre of Erin Village, and all the settlers looked to this place as their spiritual home for a few years.
When the New Connection Methodists organized in 1839, Erin was an appointment on the Caledon Circuit, with the Rev. John Shilton as minister.
The Wesleyan Methodists first mention Erin in the report of the Guelph circuit in 1844, when the minister’s report states,
“The fields of labour in which we were stationed last conference, is very extensive and highly interesting, viz: the townships of Guelph, Eramosa, Erin, Nichol, Garafraxa, Woolwich, Waterloo, Wesley and Peel.”
A Union Church was built on Main Street in 1849, and was used by the two branches of Methodism and the Associate Church of Scotland until 1858.
Erin became a circuit in 1850, with a senior and junior minister, namely Rev. William Steer and John L. Kerr. In his report in 1851, Mr. Steer stated
“This field of labour includes the Township of Erin, Garafraxa, and the rear of Chinguacousy. In several places we have made new appointments, also have been invited to reach into other places which we have not yet visited, but intend to do so shortly.”
In 1858 the Wesleyans built an eight-sided church on the present site of the United Church.
The New Connection Methodists erected their church at the corner of Main and Water Street. This church was burned, and the congregation then worshipped in the Wesleyan building.
In July 1870 the concrete octagonal Wesleyan church was burned, and was rebuilt and opened in January 1871. It was all paid for except $150.00 including a debt of $320.00 that had been on the previous building, which, according to records, had cost upwards of 400 pounds.
When the fourteen divisions of Methodism united in 1884, this church became the Methodist Church of Canada, and Erin was put on a circuit consisting of Erin, Ballinafad, Coningsby, Caledon, Credit Forks and Belfountain. The minister lived in Erin, and had a student to assist him.
In 1925, the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches merged to form the United Church of Canada. Some of the Presbyterians chose to remain with their own denomination, but many were welcomed into the union, and the Methodist building became the United Church.
This church building was erected in 1871. It has been said there is a very simple, but effective, bit of engineering in the attic that supports the ceiling without having any posts below. The basement has had numerous changes made to it. Originally, a basement was not considered necessary, but some time later it was deepened below the level of the foundation, the sides re-inforced with wood, and wooden floor put in right on the ground. This has been replaced with concrete since Union. What is now the kitchen, had only enough dirt removed to allow the wood for fuel to be thrown in from the back. The church had box seats. Everyone had their own seat, and had stools to keep their feet off the floor on account of the draft.
In 1901 there were 100 members on the Erin roll, with seven official board members representing the six charges on the circuit. By 1906 reports showed the Cataract congregation did not average 12, so by 1910, Cataract, Credit Forks and Belfountain were dropped from the circuit, leaving Erin, Ballinafad and Coningsby.
Originally, there was a basement stairway inside in the west corner later, this was covered over and an outside stairway put in under the window next to the driveway. At that time there was a large wooden platform outside of the front entrance, with continuous steps on three sides. This shows up in numerous school class pictures, as the different levels made a good setting for this, also, it was convenient, as the school at that time was just on the other side of the Presbyterian Church.
Immediately after union the platform was removed and the new entrance and vestibule was built, enlarging the interior of the church, with the basement stairway inside, where it now is. Heating systems and chimneys have undergone a number of changes. Originally, there were two chimneys and two wood stoves, with their lines of stove pipes connecting them to the chimneys. After the basement came into use a furnace was installed, and a new chimney built on the outside of the wall.
At the time of union, a new church was built in Hillsburgh, with Erin, Hillsburgh and Coningsby forming the circuit, dropping Ballinafad. At least, from the year 1937, summer services have been combined with the Presbyterians, so each minister would have four weeks holidays.
I acknowledge here with grateful thanks, all those who have contributed information and loaned pictures for reproduction, and helped in any way with this history. Without their help it would have been impossible to write. Also, deep appreciation is extended to the Sesquicentennial Committee, those people who have worked so hard in making the 150th year of Christian commitment in Erin, a memorable one, and for standing behind me in all aspects of the production of this book. This is not a complete history. Many contributions have been made by numerous people who have done so much for the good of the church, that it is impossible to mention them all in this brief history. I offer my apologies if I have omitted something you think should have been included, and also apologize for any mistakes that have been made….DORIS FINES – Erin United Church
1871 – 1872 Rev. Benjamin Sherlock
1914 – 1918 Rev. Melvin Smith
1925 – 1928 Rev. E.R. Hall
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