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Religion In Mount Albert: The Methodist Church (c. 1878)

Religion has been an important facet of life in East Gwillimbury since immigrants started arriving here in the early 1800's. There have been many churches that have existed since that time, both in Holland Landing and Mount Albert. In this week's local history post, we will highlight the Methodist church in Mount Albert, one of the oldest religious structures in that town.

When Mount Albert became a bustling town, there were two Methodist Churches – a Primitive Methodist church on Main Street near where Dike’s mill used to be located, and a Wesleyan Methodist church at the top of the hill. The Primitive Methodist church was likely built sometime in the 1860’s, but there is no written documentation which confirms this. There was no minister that attended the church full-time; itinerant preachers known as “circuit riders” would come and preach the gospel in Mount Albert, on the same circuit as Hartman and Sandford (two little towns close to Mount Albert which no longer exist in East Gwillimbury).

One of the early Methodist Churches was a frame building located near the Sharon sideroad between Alice Street and Centre Street. This church was built in 1857 and the first trustees of this church were Thomas Rear and John Allison. In the 1870s, it was on the same circuit as Eastville (now known as Holt), Boaks, Rayners, Mount Zion, Sharon, Ebenezer, Wesley, and Mount Pleasant. By 1877, the Wesleyan congregation decided to build a new church. However, there was some disagreement as to where the new church should be built; some though it should be near the downtown, and other thought it should be at the top of the hill. The matter was settled when Mr. George Rear offered a building lot that was adjacent to his farm on Alice Street. The generous offer of donation was accepted, and the church was built there. Harman & Maunders, a contracting firm from Uxbridge, built the church for a total cost of 4,500. The bricks from the church were hauled from Uxbridge and cost $6.40 per thousand bricks. Lumber cost 5.00 per thousand planks, and nails were purchased at .04 to .07 cents per pound. The new church opened on the last Sunday of February of 1879. The lot on which the old church had been built was sold to Mr. Ernest Brooks for $200.

Figure 1: Picture of the Methodist Church in Mount Albert. From the Women's Institute History of Mount Albert.

When the Methodist churches united in Canada in 1883, the Primitive Methodist and the Wesleyan Methodists congregation decided to merge into one larger group. Thus, the brick Primitive church was no longer needed, and was sold privately for $450. In those days, pews would be rented out to families for Sunday services for $2 per year, with the minister’s family receiving the added perk of a free pew right at the front of the church. In 1898, the minister’s salary for the entire year was $700. The minister of this church would have to move around in a circuit to preach to the different communities close to Mount Albert. These included Mount Albert, Zephyr, Holt, and Shrubmount. In 1905, the church congregations in Holt and Mount Albert merged, and in 1909 the Holt Church was sold to the Free Methodists for $200. The proceeds from the sale were used to improve the parsonage which was located close to the church on Alice Street.

The building that was erected in 1878 still stands in Mount Albert today, although it is now known as the Mount Albert United Church, when the Methodists, Presbyterian, and Congregational faiths combined into one larger Protestant faith on June 10th, 1925.

Do you have any memories of the minister(s) who served in these churches? Let us know in the comments below!

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