History of Kincardine’s Melville Church

Memorial Service 26 August 2012 at the church
by Cari Grierson

It is an honour for me to be asked to do a short history of the Colony for this the Memorial Service.  I am not a descendant but my husband Roy, who is, and I have  chosen this wonderful community to be our  permanent home and therein lies our interest.

There are so many facets of this compelling colony history to explore.  But this year I have chosen to talk about the “Kirk” The settlers who came from Scotland to this place were of high moral standing with high hopes and had great plans. In order to be accepted for this emigration they had to be of good character and fitness.  They vowed to protect their unity of religion and education according to the word of God.  They made arrangements with the Scottish church before and after their departure from Scotland.

The first contingent of settlers arrived in 1873. No churches and schools were built within the first three years, while they struggled to arrange housing and clear enough land to feed their families.  But the children were taught and religious meetings were held in private houses and vacant buildings fitted up for the purpose.

Sometime before 1876, Rev. Leo Hoyt, a Church of England Clergyman from the Mission of Andover, held an open air service for the settlers.  It was a beautiful sunny day in June.  The people had cleared a spot large enough and had cut stumps all the same height so that planks could be laid across them for seats.  In the center was a large, taller stump used for lectern and pulpit.  There was no instrument played in the old Scots church tradition. People used their voices and followed the lead of a presentor who was a man with a good voice.  Apparently this day in the church in the wildwood, Mr. Low, who was the precentor sang the tunes in the higher key of F instead of the preferred key of D and he was the only one who could reach the high notes so Mr. Low sang high alone in his beautiful tenor voice!

The government of New Brunswick designated 100 acres of woodland to the trustees of the churches of Kincardine and Kintore.  And upon this lot stood an old log church in which the settlers worshipped in their earliest days. Our woodlot still stands and is productive and cared for in a sustainable manner.  But the vestiges of the old log church have disappeared.

The  Presbyterian churches of New Brunswick gave prompt and almost continuous support to the colonists. Five different ministers came from the Presbytery of St. John at different times to perform the sacrament of baptism.  Communion was dispensed for the first time in the colony in the summer of 1874. During this first period of 2 ½ years 40 children were baptized, including the one named Castalia who was born on board that so- named ship that brought the first contingent of settlers.  And the Lord’s Supper was given at least twice.

All was not smooth during those first years.  One of the missionaries was very strict and forbade dancing and card playing. This was not a happy circumstance for the colonists who loved their social life. The land clearing was very hard, the crops were lost to frost year after year, the colonists’ money was running out, their supply of clothing was wearing thin.  They were without  church, schoolhouse and without minister and doctor.  Even their store keeper had left them.  The people were discouraged and poverty was increasing. Anxiety and dissatisfaction created divisions among them and apathy was about to set in.

Then in 1875, Reverend Peter Melville arrived and set to work with a will.  He got the church organized with elders and deacons, had Kirk Session meetings with records of minutes, registered births and baptisms and made registry of members and adherents. He got the church set up with a complete set of records which to this day are used for important historical information.  He was not only a good businessman for the church, but he took pains to encourage and revive the spirits of the colonists.

In the building of this kirk in Kincardine and four schoolhouses this man of God showed his great leadership ability. Rev. Melville even donated his wages for the purpose.  He petitioned other Presbyterians for money and collected used books for the schools and Sunday schools from all over the Maritimes.  In 1877 the church folk considered tenders for the church to be built in Kincardine. Mr James Cocker of Bonaccord, and Mr. James Farquhar of Upper Kintore won with a bid of $1025.  At this time the bell you heard rung before the service today was presented to the church by Captain Butler of the SS Castalia.  Suspending the bell was written into the building contract. Some of the reported jobs in building this church were the making of the pulpit and pews which was done by James Cocker.  Alexander Cocker also of Bonaccord also helped with the erection of the church.

The church was named Melville Church after its ambitious and hard working minister. It was dedicated on January 1, 1878 and by May, 1878 it was completely free of debt. This news came with mixed blessings because in May, Rev. Peter Melville told the congregation that he had received a call to leave and go to Stanley/Nashwaak Parish. Later, around 1885, Andrew Ellis did the sheathing or inside finishing of this beautiful church.

But here they were again with no minister!  The colonists wanted to be self sufficient and pay their own minister.  Money was scarce and in those days Presbytery deemed they had to raise $350 dollars per year to have a minister come and they had to have a manse.  Finally after some dedicated fundraising a manse was built and the money was in the bank for the first year of a minister’s salary. An interesting footnote is that the women of the congregation raised a lot of the money by cooking for basket socials.  Has much changed?  Recently we finished paying off a church debt by bake sales! And this summer our baking has helped St. James in Andover rebuild their hall after a devastating Spring flood. That’s a reversal isn’t it? Remember Rev. Leo from Andover coming to hold service in the old days?  Our baking has also contributed to the fund for new siding for our churches.  Back to the old story: Dr. Gordon C Pringle had served with the folk as a missionary and answered when they called him for permanent work in 1896.  His ministry carried on for 56 years here in the colony.

The Melville Church,  Kincardine sits in the centre of a beautiful graveyard where many of the early folk lie.  Many of you here today have people here.  It is for you to remember this day, the hard work and commitment they gave to this community and  to their world. By caring for the graveyard and seeing that there is money every year for mowing, up- keep and tending graves we thank them for all their dedication. What a peaceful resting place!

When we talk of the church we cannot forget the wonderful musical tradition that continues.  Piper, Darlene Morton, assures with her teaching that the Scottish piping tradition continues in the County. Darlene’s grandmother Ellis, was an organist here. Isabel Morton, our organist today follows in her mother, Ethel Hargrove’s musical path for she played the organ here too for many years. Our pianist Roy Grierson, is son of Carrie Adam who played organ here through her teens and young adulthood.  Music is in the heart and soul of these Scots people.

Tradition and history are close to our hearts as we prepare for the 140th Anniversary celebration that will take place in summer of 2013, on the August 24th weekend.  We are creating a new history book and we are requesting submissions from everyone who has lived in the Colony or is a descendant or relative of anyone living in the colony.  All we need is a short bio, a picture and a favourite recipe.

Today we are going to close our service with a piece of music that sums up how we feel about this wonderful history of ours and the fantastic people who created it.  The hymn 494, in the Voices United book before you, says in the second verse:  They still give hope and comfort, they did not lose the fight, they showed us truth and goodness, they shine into our night.-and it ends with –we’ve learned that grace provides, we’ve learned to be together, we’ve learned that love abides.

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