Providence United Church
PROVIDENCE HISTORY 1890 – 2009
Written by: Betty Knox
The first recorded reference to a group called Knox’s class and later to become Providence was in 1870 with 17 members. The met in Kelly’s School house later known as Red Rock School. They went through several name changes as they grew. This group became associated with Bethel and had 40 members. Then in 1880 we read that Windram’s class had 58 members. These people of faith became the founders and builders of Providence Church. Some of the names of families who attended at the time were Stinson, Junkin, Staples, Johnson, Wilson, Edgar, Thomas and Mc Neil.
The church was located on the corner of County Road 8 and Concession 6. The land was donated by Thomas and Eliza Jane Wilson. First, they had a number of Tea Parties to raise enough money to by lumber and with a lot of free labour, the church was built. It was dedicated on November 3, 1890. Rev. Richard Duke was the first minister. The following night they had a Tea meeting across the road in a grove of pines. This was to raise money to pay off the debt. In a report written by Rev. Duke to the Christian Guardian in 1890, he reported the weather was inclement and the roads were poor. Could you imagine the church being full today, if people had to travel by horse and buggy in the inclement weather and then east supper in a tent!
John Wellington Staples was one of the members eager to have the church in the community as they had seven daughters and four sons. It was suggested that the church be called Providence because as he stated “Wasn’t it providential that we got it built considering all the hardships in churches on the circuit. The church closed its doors in 1926 and didn’t reopen until 1938 when they went with the Bobcaygeon Pastoral Charge. Sunday School was started two years before the church reopened by Mrs. McNeil at the present Horseless Carriage Farm. One of the dedicated teachers was Mary MacKenzie.
When the church reopened Rev. C.C. Miller was inducted and was fondly remembered for his enthusiasm. He had an active young peoples and a Women’s Association Group, called the W.A. In the 40’s like most churches Providence was having financial hardships but they struggled along. They held tea parties and even had a very famous minstrel show with many members donning black faces to raise a goodly amount of money.
When the care became the way of travel the horse shed was not needed and so it became a tearoom. The ladies would put saw dust shavings on the floor and decorate. The men brought in tables and water for the tea in big drums. There was one tea party that is remembered because it was a near disaster. Jack Staples, youngest son of John Wellington brought his wife Harriet to the church to get ready for the tea. When he went to start the car by cranking it, the car had been left in gear and it took off into the building knocking over the lovely decorated tables. When it reached the far wall, it stopped. No one was hurt but the care received a few scratches. Jack loved fun, but this wasn’t any prank. All was righted and the party continued.
During the forties and fifties, the church was the centre of social activities with such events as box socials and crokinole parties. In 1966 Providence became a two-point charge with Dunsford, and the minister was Rev. John Bushby. In 1969 Providence joined with Dunsford and Trinity to become a three-point charge and Rev. Mel Butler was minister.
Then in 1980 a committee recommended that Providence should try to find their own ministers and stay open during the summer months. This plan worked then, and still continues today.
In 1990 the church was one hundred years old and with many ups and downs it was an event to celebrate. A committee was formed the year before with all members and adherents taking an active part. The two most, active members on that committee were Bill Innis and Jack McNeil. Jack had a deep love for Providence but sadly passed away before the Centennial. All was well organized and it was a great day. A big tent was setup in the yard and Rev. John Bushby came back to deliver the message. I remember all the planning for the food. Everything had to be brought in coolers. There was an overflow congregation, many returning to renew friendships and relive their early days at Providence. We have had to make some repairs and improvements through the years. The steeple had to be replaced. It was a centennial gift from Rod and Gladys McAlpine. Another centennial project was the update of the washroom facilities. Oh yes, we have added an awning and a patio to make it more comfortable for the ladies preparing the coffee and snacks after church. This has become a wonderful time for visiting and friendship.
We have an exciting schedule of ministers and music for the whole season. Our Christmas Service has become a very popular event during the Christmas Season.
With God’s grace and many willing workers, may Providence remain a place of worship for many years to come! We continue to have services during the summer to capture a little of our Country spirit at the Little Brown Church in the Vale.