St. Paul’s United Church of Bancroft

On Sunday, June 9, the United Church across Canada celebrated its 60th Anniversary.  Part of the celebration in Bancroft was the preparation of a history of the Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Churches in Bancroft, by Marguerite McColl.  She read the history to the congregation at St. Paul’s United Church, on Sunday evening, June 9.

{Trivial} Flashbacks of St. Paul’s U.C.   Most people are aware that there was an earlier Church built close to the site of our present day St. Paul’s United Church.  This was a community church and was erected in 1870.  My grandfather and his family attended that church.  Soon afterward other denominational churches appeared – the Anglican (probably at that time called the Church of England) in 1889, the Roman Catholic in 1892, the Presbyterian in 1895.  To accommodate a growing number of adherents, a larger church was built, on this site, in 1897 and was known as a Methodist Church.  My father, W. A. Davy was the contractor, but all the Davy brothers did work on it.  All the furnishings were made here in Bancroft.  Some of the old pews are still up in the balcony.  There was only one pulpit, placed in the centre of the dias.

Where the round windows are on the tower, there were originally pie-shaped windows with the various coloured panes cut in the shape of pieces of pie.  Adam Davy was adept at making frames for this type of window and for many years he received and filled orders for these, some going to various parts of Canada and even to the United States.

I believe the Presbyterians and Methodists worshipped together before official church union in 1925.  I was not old enough to pay a great deal of attention to that, but I do remember that many of the Presbyterians frowned upon getting together because they thought the Methodists were rather ungodly.  Although the latter rather frowned upon dancing and car playing they did accept it in the younger people.  Some Presbyterians refused to attend the united congregation.

I remember Rev. Wilson, who, I think, was the minister at the time of Church union (1925).  The church service, here in Bancroft was held at 7 p.m. I suppose one reason was that the minister would have to travel by horse and buggy or perhaps cutter to the country churches in the charge.  This would be more difficult at night so he spoke here in the evening.

Mrs. Wilson was a forceful woman who took her duties seriously.  Among other things she had a young girls’ choir.  We used to go to the Parsonage (the minister’s home was then called the Parsonage, Manse was the Presbyterian word for the minister’s residence).  When we practised our music, I gathered from her remarks that I was not exactly prima donna material.

At Christmas there was always a Sunday School concert in which everyone took part.  The concert was held in the old Town Hall, the one before the present U.C.  Hall was built.  In the old hall was a high stage and curtains that could be drawn.  There was a piano that was usually out of tune.  The Town Hall suffered a fate common to many early buildings in Bancroft – it burned down!

I remember watching the fire and hearing the old piano go crashing with a jangle of chords, into the basement.

In the back of this old hall was a jail, or “lockup”.  Sometimes there would be a drunken person or a chicken thief locked up there.  We children with a delicious feeling of living dangerously, and completely unknown to our parents, and certainly not in accord with our Sunday School teaching, would creep up behind the hall, say some teasing thing, and then run away, hearts thumping

All the churches had bells that rang often.  Everything that took place in the church was announced by the bell.  The first bell rang one half hour before the service and warned you to hurry and get ready.  There was no Funeral Home with a Chapel for the service here so many funerals took place in the church and the bell was tolled slowly and mournfully.  On a happy occasion, such as a wedding, the bell ran merrily.  There was a period when a church bell rang at 12 noon and again at 6 p.m.   Sometimes an inexperienced person rang the bell.  After pulling the rope he would not allow time for the bell to return to position before he pulled the rope again and the bell would stick upside down or something, and refuse to operate.  One of the young, agile men would then have to climb up into the turret and release the bell.

Down through the years, many changes in architecture and personnel have taken place.  Hopefully the Church will continue to be a place of happy sociability and reverent worship for many years to come.

by Margarite McColl