Early Settlers and the Log Church
According to Euphrasia: Glimpses Past and Present – History of the Township, by Marjorie Alderdice, Ron Hindle and Gerald White, published in 1989 by Euphrasia Historical Society, the early settlers arrived to the Euphrasia County (now part of the Municipality of Grey Highlands) around 1849. They were Presbyterians from Northern Ireland. Many of these settlers began meeting for worship at the home of Robert Breadner on Lot 22, Concession 9, Euphrasia, Grey Highlands. Some walked as far as six miles through the bush to worship together.
In 1851, Robert Breadner was killed by felling a tree. He was buried on his farm. The Breadner’s donated a section of their farm for a cemetery. This is where the Temple Hill Cemetery is still located today.
Around 1860, a log church was built next to the cemetery. The pews in the church were backless benches, and the church did not even have a stove for heating. The church was named Temple Hill, in remembrance of the settlers’ home church in Keady, Northern Ireland, called the Temple. This, original Temple, continues to this day and is known as 1st Keady – The Temple Presbyterian Church, located in Keady, Northern Ireland.
The 1861 Census is the first record of the log church, listed as Canada’s Presbyterian Church on the 9th Line toward the north end of the township. The first regular minister to Temple Hill, Rev. James McDowell came in 1862. He also ministered at the Knox Presbyterian church in St. Vincent Township and the St. Paul’s church, south of Bognor.
During the 1870s, Temple Hill became a mission appointment with summer student supply. The membership increased and the log church was enlarged during the term of the first student supply, Mr. McKinley.
Reverend James Fraser McLaren and the Brick Church
James Fraser McLaren came as a student in 1879 and after graduating in 1880, he was called as the minister of the Temple Hill and the Knox Holland churches. The Temple Hill Manse was built in 1881 on the south-east corner of the William Breadner property. It is the large brick house located across the corner from the Temple Hill Church today. The Manse was used as the home of the ministers until the 1950s, when it was sold.
In 1885, Rev. James Fraser McLaren married a local girl, Margaret Breadner. Around 1900, he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree. The membership increased under the wise and learned leadership of Rev. McLaren, until the log church could no longer accommodate the congregation.
In 1886 William Boyd donated the property where the present Church is located. The deed of ownership is dated December 1886 and includes the land located on the corner of Lot 21, Concession 8, Euphrasia. The present large brick church building was constructed in 1887 at a cost of $2,105.00. The building was contracted to Mr. Johnston with labour and some of the materials supplied by the members of the Church. Mr. James Greenaway did the masonry work. The Church opened in the fall of 1887. Principal William McLaren of Knox College was the special speaker for the morning and evening services. Elders at the time of the opening were Hugh Smith, William Boyd, John McArthur, James Breadern, James Patterson and Edward Manning. At that time, the sanctuary was accessed by steps outside the Church. The vestry was added at a later date.
Since the only means of transportation was by foot or horse, a large shed was built on the north end of the church property to provide shelter during church functions for the horses, buggies, cutters and sleights. This building was no longer needed as the motorcar became the mode of transportation. It was removed in the early 1950s.
The Church Union and Charges with Other Local Churches
Temple Hill retained its Presbyterian roots until the time of the Church Union in 1925 when it joined the United Church of Canada. Rev. T.E. Kennedy was the minister at the time. On Tuesday, February 16, 1925 the members met in the Church to decide whether the congregation would enter the United Church. One hundred and one members in good standing on July 19, 1924 were eligible to vote. They appointed Rev. Kennedy as returning officer and R.J. Quinton acted as poll clerk. The poll was kept open for six voting periods. On March 2, 1925 the vote was counted and showed 45 – 13 majority in favour of the United Church of Canada. The congregation numbered 101 at the time.
Over the years, the Church has been on a charge with many other local churches including: Knox Holland, Knox St. Vincent, Victoria, Ebenezer, Mount Zion and New England. Decreasing membership closed these churches. In 1963, Temple Hill became part of the Walter’s Falls Pastoral Charge, which also included St. Paul’s church, Sydenham. Temple Hill remained on the charge with Walter’s Falls after St. Paul’s closed in the late 1970s. In 2018, the Walter’s Falls church closed.
On May 24, 1924, the Young Peoples’ Society that had disbanded handed in $17.25 to be applied toward the purchase of an individual communion set. The congregation held a special evening to raise additional funds to purchase a set from a Toronto company for $32.05. It was first used for the service on June 12, 1925. It is believed that this silver set is the one presently used for the communion service.
In 1945, Rev. S.E. Hayward was the minister when the Church celebrated the 20th anniversary of the church union and 88 persons participated in the communion service. In 1975, a 50th anniversary project saw $300.00 given out as talent money. At the close of the project $1,259.76 was realized. Trees were planted the same year and the church was redecorated.
Improvements and Upgrades
Numerous improvements have been made to the church building over the years. The major changes included: the installation of the electric power in the early 1950s and the electric heating in 1966; replacement of the basement floor and installation of a door to make the lower level wheelchair accessible; changing the heating system from wood and electric to central propane; installing stained glass in the rose window at the front of the Church in 1987; constructing a minister’s office in the basement; the gift of a drilled well in 1997 enabled the installation of bathroom facilities and a kitchenette with running water; installation of new lighting and a tile ceiling in the basement; replacement of the old hardwood floor in the basement with cement floor was completed in 1997; the original doors and windows have all been replaced, along with major masonry work to the outside of the structure. In 2012, a new furnace was installed, a new roof was put on in 2015; a new entryway sign was designed by Hillary Breadner and installed in October 2015 in honour of the 125th Church anniversary; also in 2015 a bell was purchased and donated by Don and Debbie Catto to fill the empty belfry; and in the fall of 2016 our vestibule and stairway was completely renovated with new drywall, painted, new carpet and light fixtures.
The faithful people who attend Temple Hill are responsible for the givings and earnings that sustain and improve the church building and make it a welcoming place for visitors at worship and music events. Many meals have been hosted by a hard-working group of women (and some men) earning nearly $20,000 during 2015. The church ladies do a lot of catering, food booths at sales, weddings, Christmas dinners, and meals for the Bruce trail to name a few.
The members and adherents of the Church have been very generous with their labour and financial resources over these many years. All of the maintenance is carried out on a volunteer basis. The present condition of this lovely old church is a testament to the pride of the congregations, past and present. We hope we are known as a welcoming Church, who care for each other and those who enter as strangers only once. Jesus instructs us to show love for everyone without exception. To that end we strive as we move forward into the future.