Our History

Ralph Smith
as presented to the Bayfield Historical Society, Feb. 28, 2000

Our History

Let me take you back to the early part of the 19th century. The area where we now live was known as Canada West, a part of Upper Canada. Missionaries from various religions were sent to this area and travelled, usually on horseback to preach the gospel. One of these was The Reverend Robert Campbell who arrived in Goderich in 1834. The story goes that he rode on the same horse that General Brock once owned. Nevertheless, he was sent out from England to become the first Anglican Missionary in the Huron Tract. He became known as Rector Campbell as he travelled throughout the area. One of his jobs was to establish a school in each small community. Until a small log building was erected, these classes, as well as the church services had to be held in the homes of the pioneers.

By 1836 a log school house, also used for church services, had been built on the river bank in Bayfield. This building, constructed on lots 12 and 13, on what is now known as Bayfield Terrace was the first school house in Stanley Township. It became known as "The Hut" and can still be seen as part of the cottage to which your organization placed a plaque that reads: "First school in Bayfield 1836, constructed by the Villagers of cedar logs. Land given by Baron de Tuyll".

For the next thirteen years Rector Campbell continued his work throughout the country, using Goderich as his headquarters. However, he must have been intrigued with Bayfield, or because he was now 51 years old, he decided to move to Bayfield in 1849 and establish an Anglican congregation in the village. This is the date we used as the beginning for our 150th anniversary - for, if you add 150 years to 1849 you arrive at 1999.

A Church of Their Own

Now, we have the Anglican congregation established. Of course, one of the first things they wanted was a church of their own. They wanted to build a brick church but they would have to do the work themselves. In my research I located the following in Rev Campbell's quarterly report from the Bayfield Mission in 1854.

"The Church Members, consisting chiefly of Farmers not very long established upon their farms, consequently are not able to do much in a pecuniary way for the Church, but as their circumstances are generally improving more from year to year, more may be expected from them. Arrangements are making for building a Brick Church at Bayfield next Spring. At present Divine Services at Bayfield and the several stations is performed at the School Houses."

I therefore assume that construction of this building began in 1855. The bricks came from the brick yards that I have read, were located along the river. Probably some of you know more about these brick yards than do I. I'm told there was a brickyard out in the area where the golf course is now located. If anyone has more information about these brickyards I would be happy to hear from you. Anyway, if you look at the bricks on the outside you will see various colours, indicating that the walls were built in stages. Three years later, the church, having been used for services for awhile, was completed in the interior because of a donation of 20 pounds given by Bishop Benjamin Cronyn.

This building itself therefore, will soon be 150 years old. We hope to preserve it and are beginning fund-raising to make sure it has a future as well as a past. One of our major fund-raisers is the Antiques Fair held at the arena each year.

Some of you may have read, or may even have a copy of Harry Baker's booklet where he tells about his memories of growing up in Bayfield. I think you will find his recollections of this church interesting. I quote:

"About this time (about 1915) my mother volunteered to be the caretaker of the church and it was my job to go down to Frank Edwards' store each Saturday to get a gallon of coal oil to fill the ten lamps. Mother and my sister cleaned the lamp chimneys and many a time I gave them a hand, and then swept the church while I brought in wood from the horse shed on my bob sled and piled it just behind the east door in the porch. This horse shed held eight horses and was often filled up as Bill Elliott always drove a team, as did the Snowdens to handle the gang of five or six people. How lovely it was to listen to the bells on the harness and after church, which was always in the evening, the horses would be cold and chomping on the bit to get going and when the drivers jumped on the sleigh they were away on high.

As I grew older I was often called on to drive the new minister to church on the Goshen for 10 o'clock service, then to Varna for 1 o'clock service and to Bayfield for 7 o'clock service. If our regular minister was sick and they often were then, a student from Huron College would catch the Huron and Bruce to Brucefield, come into Bayfield on the stage to the Albion Hotel for the night and be raring to go in the morning. I would hitch up Minnie, Frank Edwards' mare and if in winter, away we would go to the Goshen in the cutter over the hill and dale, much to the delight of the student minister. Now, I was smart enough to wear long johns, but the student ministers had to learn the hard way and when they got out of the cutter at Goshen Church their teeth would chatter and they thought they were in their bathing suits. The men at the church shed realized this and immediately took charge of the horse and blanketed her and put her in the shed. He and I would head for the church and if the old wood stove was in good shape, the draft right on that day and the wood dry, then it would be reasonably comfortable and after thawing out he would get down to serious business."

The Pulpit

Having mentioned the Goshen Church, I must come back to this extra pulpit that you see here beside me. I have to thank Phil Gemeinhardtfor bringing it here. Awhile ago he mentioned that he had located a pulpitthat had come from Bayfield - a pulpit that his great-grandfather had built. We decided that it would be a great idea to bring it here for you to see tonight. We brought it over this afternoon and discovered what you likely have already noticed. It is an exact duplicate of the pulpit you see up in the corner of this church.

Under the boards on top is the signature of John Gemeinhardt with the date 1865. Apparently Phil's great grandfather always put the date and signature somewhere out of sight but in a location where it would be preserved. You can believe that when we realized what we had here, we could hardly contain ourselves from lifting off the boards on top of that pulpit. I expect if we do, we will find the date 1855, or close to it!

Now let me read a quotation that I found while researching material for this book. At one time, as you heard from Harry Baker, there was an Anglican Church on the Goshen Line.

The following is a quote from words found written on an old yellowed piece of paper:

"October, 1926"

"The church undergoing repairs. Mr. Fred Chuter of Varna doing walls and ceiling also the graining.

Harold Stinson, Wm. Heard and Fred Gemeinhardt laying the floor. The pulpit was moved from the Goshen church, being at that time 61 years old, - made by Mr. John Gemeinhardt who built the Goshen church.

I mentioned that the date on this pulpit is 1865. If we go back the 61 years from the date of 1926 when the above note was written we come to 1865.

Stories from the Day

The next excerpt from his book reminded me of a story that I'm sure you have heard. This minister was preaching about the terrible perils of drink, and demanding that everyone take all their whisky, beer and other alcoholic beverages and pour them into the river. Finishing his sermon, he then turned to his notes and announced that the next hymn would be: "Shall we Gather at the River.."/P>

My favourite hymn was "Shall we Gather at the River" as I always thought it would be wonderful for me to see the Bayfield River in all its beauty in the winter time. Another favourite was "Nearer my God to Thee" as I often thought during our trips when we would hit a pitch hole that it was pretty near over anyway. One man I couldn't rock or alarm was the Reverend Pitts. The first time I took him over the trail he revelled in it as he had come from England, his blood was so thick it hadn't thinned out yet and he just didn't feel the cold.

One day we arrived at Tommy Stinsons at Varna for dinner and what a feed, good fat pork, potatoes, etc. etc. and to top it all off, apple pie with two inches of whipped cream for dessert. The Rev. gentleman sure was in agony as he took everything that was offered and I really think he slept all the way home from Varna to Bayfield, but was sure in good shape for the evening service and really poured it to us. Believe it or not, his first hymn was "Nearer my God to Thee"

Harry Baker's twin sister, Mrs. Greta Scotchmer also wrote about this church. I will read a little of her story as it applies to the interior of this building. As I read this I suggest that you imagine this room as it appeared in those days. She wrote this about 1980 - 20 years ago.

"I have seen many changes since I first started to Sunday School and church as a very small child in 1908.

As a child, I remember the original old high backed wooden pews with the impossible kneeling boards. In 1926 more comfortable kneeling boards, new seats and hardwood flooring were provided and the interior beautifully decorated.

I remember a high black iron box stove which burned wood, generally donated by the congregation. (See the black on the floor.) During the service it heated the church, but by sermon time someone tiptoed back and threw in a couple of large blocks. Two rows of pipes ran the length of the church & through the walls on either side and then, in some way connected with a chimney on the east roof of the church.

During the last few years we have had electric heat and it is my opinion that an old church with high ceiling, no insulation and plastered on brick is rather hard to heat with electricity, so we live and learn and on occasion, freeze."

(This winter we have installed an oil furnace and have put in insulation above this ceiling)

The original lighting, as I remember it, consisted of oil lamps in brackets with large hanging lamps up the centre of the church and one in the chancel. Two lamps were placed on the organ and one in a bracket in the choir. The choir was all chairs with the long back seat for the men and in my young days the choir always seemed to be filled with young ladies and men.

Electricity 1934

Electricity was installed in the church in 1934, and in 1950 new lighting fixtures were given by the family of Lloyd Hodgins, whose father was a former rector. (Rev. James Walter Hodgins, 1885-1890)

In 1934 the pulpit and reading desk were moved, two seats being removed to accommodate them. The rood screen was built also as a gift in 1934. (I will comment on the rood screen later.)

Well do I remember Will Elliott and his lady love dashing up to the church gate (The grounds were fenced in those days.) In a rubber-tired buggy pulled by a pair of dancing beautiful horses. The rest of the Elliott family, seven spinsters, their elderly father and an eighth sister who had married, been widowed and moved back home, arrived at church in the family democrat pulled by one lone horse. They usually did not all come each Sunday and as they all looked alike and dressed sedately in black or in summer in a white shirtwaist with long black skirt, we were never sure which sisters were in attendance. Consequently, to be on the safe side, they were usually addressed as Miss Elliott, and fortunately the married one was the tallest so we were safe in calling her Mrs. Mitchell. These family members were faithful members of the church for many years.

The bell has been installed during the last few years, (1961) and was purchased from the old Snowden estate sale, and members of the church built the steeple. This bell was used by the Snowden family on their home to call the men in from the field. The bell is dedicated to Reverend Harrison's parents. (Rev. G Harrison was rector-1957-71.)

I might mention here that the carillon on the roof of the building was installed in 1971. If you happen to be listening at the right time in Bayfield you may hear its beautiful music. As you pass through to the Parish Hall you will see the equipment that runs it. The cover for the carillon is seriously deteriorated by now and we hope to replace it this summer. We have $1,000 donated as a start toward this project.

"The front doors were installed in the early 1970's to replace two large white doors with the original black iron hinges. Many of we older members were sorry to see them replaced, but we have to move along with the times. The inner door to the church at one time was always kept locked with a big brass key. This was kept in the large square lantern box which held the oil lamp which lighted the porch. Unfortunately these have all gone and no one seems to know what happened to them.

The rose window in the door at the back is half of the original window which was behind the altar. Ministers complained that the red and blue lights reflecting down on the altar were annoying and the prayer book was hard to read so when Mrs. Helen Hinde wished to donate a window in memory of her husband, Reverend William Hinde who was minister here from 1906-1908, she gave the beautiful window which is at present in the church."

The Interior

Now, let us take a moment and look around the interior as you see it:. Greta Scotchmer mentioned the beautiful window behind the altar. This church is noted for this beautiful window. It is rated as one of the finest works of art in window design. It is a copy of "The Light of the World", a famous painting by Holman Hunt. You will remember the quotation from the Bible - "Behold I stand at the door and knock". It is interesting that the picture in the window shows spring flowers instead of the autumn foliage that was included in the original painting.

The altar here at the front was like all altars in Anglican churches. It was once up against the wall so that the minister had his back to the congregation. By moving it forward many years ago, the minister is now able to face the congregation.

In the Anglican church, the members of the congregation come to the altar to receive communion. The rail has an opening so that the minister may pass through. At one time there was a gate which had to be opened, but as it began to sag it had to be removed.

I mentioned the Rood Screen earlier. The Rood Screen is the arch here at the front which depicts the gates of heaven. On top of the arch is the Rood, or cross of Christ. In early times in churches there was an actual screen between the pillars. It was intended to separate the nave from the choir.

The Nave is the body of the church where you are seated.

When I first attended this church I was a little worried about the wrong way curve in the ceiling. I have been assured that it is not a problem. The beams that you see cover steel rods that were placed across the ceiling and attached with large steel plates on the outside walls. These rods were installed to keep the walls from buckling. One thing we would like to do soon is paint the ceiling, but that too is a costly project.

As you entered the church you came through the Narthex, or porch of the church. At one time the entrance to the church was at the side where the Baptistry is now. The outside door was closed and a window installed in its place. The Narthex was built to provide more space as an entrance, and a place where coats may be hung. We now have installed the furnace in that area as well.

As you look around, you may see the various plaques indicating the many donations that have been made to the church over 150 years. The beautiful windows also show the great pride that people have taken for this great little church.

The Parish Hall

The entrance to the Parish Hall is through this door at the front. Where there was once a small room outside that door there is now a hall. At one time there was a shed out at the back where horses could be sheltered while church was in progress. I found an item from the vestry minutes of 1943 which shows how far we have come:

"The matter of people storing moving machines, buggies, cutters, trucks, etc. in the church shed was brought up and discussed. Moved by Mrs. Wood, seconded by Lloyd Scotchmer >that henceforth no trucks or heavy equipment be allowed in the shed, and that those desiring to store moving machines, buggies, cutters, etc. must first obtain permission to do so."

The Parish Hall was completed in 1956 due to the hard work and fund-raising of the members of the church. This past year has seen the stage area that was used very little converted into a functional church office. As you go out for coffee you will see the very modern kitchen that has been completely renovated this year. It is our hope that you will spread the word that this beautiful little church has progressed through 150 years and will remain open to welcome anyone for many years to come.