A brief history of Methodism in General and Simcoe St. Church in particular.
The first record we find of a Methodist Church building in or near Oshawa is in 1837, but Methodism as a society dates much farther back, almost with the first settler came the itinerant preacher who with his horse and saddle bags traversed the forest searching out the sparse settlements, preaching to them the Word of Life.
In the year of 1818, one of these devoted pioneers, Rev. Wm. Jackson, passed through the almost wilderness township of Whitby holding service wherever he could gather the people together, and a class, nine in number was organized and this was the neuclus of the present church.
In 1835 a union school house was built on Simcoe St. South, and was used not only for educational purposes but was used by all dominations as a place of worship. About this time a union Sunday School was started, presided over first by Mr. John Ritson, followed by Hon. T. N. Gibbs. It was at this period that Oshawa became an appointment in a circuit that comprised nine townships, extending to Yonge St., Toronto. Among the itinerants of that day who served this circuit appear the honored names ‘of Rev. Wm. Case and Dr. Egerton Ryerson.
The first Methodist Church building was commenced about this time in Westmount, at the head of Nasseau St., North of King St., but owing to rebellion of 1837-8 it was not ready for occupation until 1841. In 1885 under the Pastorate of Rev’s. Thomas Madden and Robert Fowler a great revival took place and 150 souls were added to the church rolls. In 1861 the church building was enlarged and a basement was built for the Sunday School The town extending eastward led the Methodist leaders to see the necessity of a more central location, and the present site already in the hands of the Ladies’ Aid was selected, and the corner stone of the present edifice was laid in June, 1867, and the following May was dedicated by Rev. William Morley Punshon, of peerless fame as a pulpit orator. One year after opening Oshawa was set apart as a station, Dr. Wellington Jeffers in charge. During Rev. William Laird’s term, 1873, galleries and a pipe organ were introduced. During the pastorate of Rev. B. J. Greatrix the church was completely renovated. On August 15th, 1912, the corner stone of our new and beautiful Sunday School was laid, and the general improvement scheme was carried forward. The church was reseated, choir gallery remodelled, organ enlarged, a new heating system was introduced, spire repainted, at an expenditure of nearly $28,000. On the 15th of November, 1919, the interior of the edifice was destroyed by fire, but under the courageous pastorate of Capt. Rev. John Garbutt it was restored at a cost of $75,000. Today Simcoe St. Methodists have by universal consent one of the best up-to-date equipments in the Bay of Quinte Conference, the parsonage in 1921 having been overhauled at a cost of $8,000.
King St. Methodist Church 1915
The nucleus of the present King St. Methodist Church was first formed about 1857, when services were held and a society organized in the Sons of Temperance Hall, on Simcoe St., under the direction of Rev. John Pinch, a minister of the Bible Christian Church, with which domination the congregation was identified until the Union of 1883-4. For some four or five years the work was carried on in this temporary place of worship, amid many difficulties and discouragements, and with varying degrees of success, but always in the finest spirit of Christian courage and optimism.
In 1862 the little band of devoted workers resolved to provide a permanent church-home for themselves and their families, the result being the erection of the main body of the old church on Medcalf St. It was a day of small beginnings and limited resources, but of large promise and abounding possibilities. The history of the congregation has ever since been one of steady and gradual growth and development, until, in a little over half a century, it has reached a membership of over 600 with a Sunday School enrolment of nearly 900 and with every department of modern church work fully organized, and in a healthy and prosperous condition.
The erection of the old Metcalf St. Church began in 1863, under the leadership of Rev. John Harris, who enjoys the unique distinction of having preached with great acceptance at the closing services of the church on March 23rd, 1913, just fifty years later.
The original building was twice outgrown and twice enlarged, first during the pastorate of Rev. John Kenner in the early seventies, and again under the direction of Rev. Newton Hill in 1885. In 1905 the enlarged building had again become altogether inadequate to meet the growing demands of the growing congregation and Sunday School. Finally, after some years of careful, prayerful planning and preparation, on the part of faithful Pastors and people, in 1912 the congregation unanimously resolved to dispose of the old church property on Medcalf St., and erect and equip the present commodious and modern church edifice and parsonage on King St. East. The corner stone was laid on August 5th, 1912, and the church dedicated on April 6th, 1913, by Senior General Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Carman, with whom were associated as preachers at the opening services, on March 30th and April 6th, Rev. J. S. Williamson, D.D., Rev. T. Albert Moore, D.D., and Rev. Chancellor Bowles, M.A., L.L.D., of Victoria University.
Through the self-sacrificing labors and offerings of a loyal and devoted people the work has already been placed on a perfectly safe and sound financial basis.
South Oshawa Methodist Church
The South Oshawa Methodist Church, on Albert Street, grew from the efforts of private citizens, in Simcoe St. Methodist Church, under the direction of Rev. Harry Lewis in 1908. Mr. Norman Wood, a probationer, was sent by Conference to take charge of the work among the new corners to Oshawa who had settled in this neighborhood. Rev. H. M. Manning in 1912 donated the site for a Church Edifice, which was constructed at a cost of $3,500. Rev. W. H. Truscott took charge of the work in 1913, and under his pastorate a church membership of 90 and a Sunday School of 210 members was secured in 1915, and in 1921 these had grown to 179, and 300 respectively.
The Anglican Church
The early historic facts in regard to the Anglican Church of Oshawa, are made reasonably clear in the short biographic sketch of the Pioneer Rector, Rev. John Pentland, and the report of the Wardens to the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church, Columbus, in 1906, upon the occasion of their efforts to repair the old edifice which stands upon the historic site of the first Anglican Church in the County of Ontario.
Rev. John Pentland, B.A.
The Rev. John Pentland was born in the County of Louth, near Dundalk, Ireland, in 1802, died in Whitby, May 18, 1871, in his 69th year. He was the Pioneer Clergyman of the Anglican Church in South Ontario, having received his appointment in 1831. For six years, while residing at Columbus, he evidently did his missionary work without any recognized edifice. The first Anglican Church erected in South Ontario was St. Paul’s, at Columbus, in 1837. John Hyland and Joseph Hodgson were the first wardens of this church.
In 1842, Mr. Pentland, directed his efforts to establish his second church, and the place selected was that still occupied by the Anglican Church in the neighborhood of Whitby Harbor. At a date a little later, 1843, a third church demanded his attention. Up to this time Oshawa was regarded as a mere outpost for an Anglican Mission. The first Church, St. George’s, was built at the North East corner of King St. and Park Road.
When this edifice was abandoned in 1852 for a more stately structure down town, it was converted into a private dwelling, now occupied by the family of the late C. A. Jones. While the frame edifice on Centre Street, built during the incumbency of Rev. John Pentland in 1852, is still being used as the place of worship by the Anglicans, on June 22, 1919, the Duke of Devonshire, Governor General of Canada, turned the first sod of the contemplated new stone edifice at the corner of Centre and Bagot Streets.
Report of the Wardens of Saint Paul’s Church, Columbus
Columbus, Oct. 16, 1906
Saint Paul’s adjacent to the village of Columbus, in the Township of Whitby, and embracing in the Rural Deanery of East York, was orginally erected in the year 1835, and constructed of logs. Within two years subsequent to its erection, the building was destroyed by fire, and replaced during that period upon the same site, by the present house of worship, a substantial frame structure.
The existence of the two buildings referred to, at a date, coeval with the settlement of the Township and representing the first Episcopal Churches, in what is known as the County of Ontario, may be justly attributed to the piety and self-denial of men since passed away, who amid the hardships incident to pioneer life manifested their attachment to the faith of their forefathers by providing these humble temples, within whose walls Divine Service might be regularly and decently celebrated. In the early days most of the settlements in Upper Canada, prior to the erection of churches, the visits of Ministers were of infrequent as well as irregular occurrences.
Dwellings under the circumstances being of course inadequate to meet the requirements, the school house or the barn afforded the only accommodation, such as it was, available for the exercise of sacred functions.
At the beginning of the settlement of Whitby Township, and for some years subsequent, no church services were regularly held in our neighborhood. A Mr. Ellitt, and a Mr. Taylor, English Church Missionaries, passed through the country occasionally and officiated in barns. The Rev. Mr. Pentland was the first regularly appointed Minister to Saint Paul’s, Columbus. Additional to his duties there, he had oversight at Oshawa, and Whitby town, stations at first subsidiary to Columbus.
Signed by S. Robt. Stork, Ministers Warden. Signed by William Hodgson, People’s Warden. When built 1835.
Missionaries Ellitt, and Taylorprevious to 1831. Rectors since 1831, Rev. John Pentland and Rev. Messrs. Viner, World, Belt, Forester, Bell, Bert, Harris, Seeley, Anderson, Allen, Tyner, Muirhead.
Complete List of Rectors for Oshawa
Rev. John Pentland, B.A., inducted Dec. 16, 1841.
Rev. John B. Worrell, M.A., inducted April 18, 1865.
Rev. William Belt, M.A., inducted May 17, 1869. Rev. H. B. Owen, inducted July 1, 1875.
Rev. J. W. Rolf, M.D., inducted April, 1878. Rev. C. C. Johnson, inducted December, 1878. Rev. J. Middleton, B.A., inducted April 1, 1879. Rev. J. H. Talbot, inducted December 7, 1890. Rev. C. R. de Pencier, M.A., inducted February 1st, 1910.