IN LOVING MEMORY
OF THE EARL Y PIONEERS
OF THE MINITONAS DISTRICT
WHO GA VE THE CHURCH TO US,
TO YOU, FOR TOMORROW
-Ashley Ireland -
When I was asked by the board of Knox United Church
at Minitonas to compose a history of the Methodist Church dating
back to the period of homesteading before the turn of the century,
I was a little concerned. I was concerned because at the time I
was only three years of age, therefore my memory would be of little
value. My only hope was in research of church records. I expect
records were kept by presiding ministers, but because proper record
books were not available, I expect that entries were made in scribblers
and other available books. These were probably destroyed in later
I have been successful in finding records dating back
to 1900 only. However, we know that prior to this worship was held
in homes, in halls, in the C.N.R. station, in the Minitonas Hotel
and in Darrioch's Flour and Feed Store.
There were two ministers in the old Tent Town which
was a campsite where settlers stayed or perhaps left their families
while they constructed a home elsewhere. Rev. Johnstone was a Methodist
who went to Swan River, and Rev. North was the first Presbyterian
minister in Minitonas.
I believe there were three essentials in forming a
new settlement: a place of worship, a hospital for the sick, and
good roads which would make it possible for the people to get 'to
the church and hospital. The problem of transportation was solved
partially by the completion of the railroad from Cowan to Swan River
in the summer of 1899. The track bed provided a dry place to walk
for those who were fortunate enough to live near it. Three Methodist
families, the Durkins, the Turners and the Irelands, who lived on
one section of land (10-36-26) used this route.
Early in 1900, organization began with the electing
of Committees for building churches. Both the Methodist and Presbyterian
Churches were officially opened on the same Sunday. I am not sure
where our Methodist Minister lived, as our parsonage was not built
until 1903. Research show's that it was learned at a board meeting
that a Mr. Pockock, a merchant, was offering his house for sale.
A committee was elected to interview Mr. Pockock. When the committee
returned to report that the price of the house was two hundred dollars,
it was decided that a parsonage could be built for less. Our first
resident minister was Rev. V. H. Rust.
One thing I still remember is the small metal box
my father, T .V. Ireland had which contained the money donated to
the building fund. Fifty-two years later his youngest son was chairman
of the Finance Committee for our present United Church building.
The first baptism in our church was held on March
9, 1903. The person baptized was
Jessie Myrtle Paull, daughter of Edwin Paull Sr., an uncle of Edwin
Paull, our present undertaker.
The first marriage took place on December 17. 1902.
The groom was Charles Fraser of
Eden, Manitoba; the bride was Edith Jane Turner of Minitonas. I
still remember T. J.
Turner and his lovely tenor voice.
The first funeral, on November 3, 1902, was that of
Joseph Winterton, a child of sixteen months. The funeral was conducted
by Rev. V. H. Rust.
The church has had three phases~ first the Methodist,
and then the Co-operative of 1915. The first World War caused a
shortage of ministers since so many had volunteered for overseas
service. This resulted in the Methodists and Presbyterians having
a minister of one denomination in one pastoral charge, and one of
the other denomination in the next. True, there were a few wrinkles
to iron out, but I believe this was a factor in the United Church
working so smoothly in our pastorate. The amalgamation had to be
ratified by the federal government; this was done so officially
on June 10, 1925. I believe that in most congregations the church
role was accepted without question. There was a special service
for the occasion.
Here are a few personal notes. I was living in Cabri,
Saskatchewan at the time of amalgamation. Our minister, Rev. Fitzpatrick,
in a special service, had each of us who wished to become a member
of the United Church of Canada stand up and profess our faith in
Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. To me this was very meaningful,
and was a revival for the entire congregation.
Since the church was first organized at Minitonas
in 1900, worship services had been held in various school districts
including Fisher Siding, later known as Renwer. I have no record
of the Grahamville district: I believe it was the last district
to be settled. In the Methodist Church circuit register we find
that in 1900, Lidstone had fifty-five members, while Minitonas had
twenty-eight. At Floradale a few years later there was a request
for service. There were only four members and all but one were members
of the Smith family.
History usually consists of highlights. One that stands
out in my mind is the building of the present church. Rev. Aitken
Harvey got the "ball rolling' by organizing a work party for
taking out logs in 1949. This work was continued with volunteer
labour. The late Johnny Johnstone allowed logs to be taken from
his timber stand in the Duck Mountians.
Most of the spruce logs were cut and put on skidways
at the gravel pit on the Wellman Lake road. They were hauled by
truck to Glen Bertram's fann in the Ravensworth Districts where
the late Mr. Joseph Semchyshyn had a rnill. Here the logs were sawed
One of the trips on the log haul provided a memorable
experience. One afternoon Mr.
Robert Clarkson and I were coming down the long curved hill when
he discovered that he had neither brakes nor gears. But he did have
presence of mind and maybe a prayerful mind. One thing in our favor
was the fact that the road had not been plowed out too wide. So
by easing the truck into the snow, after what seemed like a long
time, the truck was stopped. Had the truck not been stopped by the
snow, this story might have been quite different.
In the spring of 1952, work was started with Mr. Lorne
Henderson as chairman do the
Building Committee, and the late Peter Hansen as carpenter. The
response in work, finance and interest was extremely gratifying.
I can recall going out to canvass one day.
The response was so good that by the end of the day I had one thousand
dollars to turn over to Mrs. Joyce Torrance who was our Treasurer.
Even though this period in our church required much hard work, it
also provided memories which will remain in our minds for a long
Work went along well on the building of the church.
The late Mr. Thomas Martin kept track of all volunteer hours put
in by each individual during the summer and fall of 1952. This story
would not be complete without telling of the good ladies of the
town who gave dinners, homes and afternoon lunches in their homes
to those workers coming in from the country.
The basement of the church was rented for one term
as a classroom for those grade ten and eleven students from the
country who could not get into the town school. Mr. Keith, Fulford
was the teacher. Coming from one who was raised as a very strict
Methodist, this may sound rather odd, but in my mind this was the
greatest revival held in our church not the school classes but the
building of the Church.
The church was officially opened and dedicated on
the first Sunday in 1953. One thing that I remember of this day
was that Mr. V. G. MacIntosh was the Master of Ceremonies. Mr. MacIntosh
called on a member of each committee to speak, and then it was time
for the Benediction.
Our church has had two anniversaries recently. In
November of 1970, we celebrated the seventieth anniversary of our
Christian Church in Minitonas. Rev. Ernie Baskier of Winnipeg, who
was raised in this Lidstone district, was the guest speaker. In
June 1972, we had the twentieth anniversary of our present church.
Rev .N. G. MacIntosh was the guest speaker. Mr. MacIntosh was our
minister when the church was under construction. Perhaps twenty
years is not customary for an anniversary, but who knows how many
of us will be here for the twenty-fifth.
While I know we cannot live in the past, I think it
is sometimes beneficial to remember and give thanks for those who
made life better for us.
Our statistical report is slightly more complicated. We already
have a history of the
Presbyterian Church which I do not wish to duplicate. Figures to
be given are taken from the Methodist records. All baptisms, marriages,
and funerals of both the Co-operative and United Churches were recorded
in the Presbyterian book until it was full, then a new one was started.
Using the Methodist and Presbyterian records from 1915 I arrived
at the following figures:
Baptisms - 410
Weddings - 285
Funerals - 341
The differential may be due to two factors; firstly
our healthy climate, secondly, people leaving to find employment
other than in agriculture.
Ministers in rotation since 1900 were as follows:
1900 Rev. J. S. Wilken
1902 Rev. A. E. Oke
1904 Rev. V. H. Rust
1905 Rev. E. Crocket
1906 Rev. J. D. Greig
1912 Rev. Thomas Bird
1914 Rev. James Little
1918 Rev. G. W. Phillips
1919 Rev. John Jackson
UNITED CHURCH 1928 -1972
1928 Rev. A. I. Radley
1929 Rev. I. W. Tyson
1930 Rev. H.H. Kippen
1932 Rev. S. H. Broron
1936 Rev. N. I. Harland
1940 Rev. D. G. Gardener
1942 Rev .R. A. Hanley
1945 Rev. W. A. Harvey
1945 Rev. S. H. Smith
1945 N. G. MacIntosh
1945 Rev. Miss LcLean
1945 Rev. H. I. Nickerson
1962 Rev. Ed Princelaar
1967 Rev. James Lites
1972 Rev. Stu Anderson
Possibly the closing of this story will be most difficult.
So many I would like to mention; the choir members, leaders, organists,
caretakers and members of various boards who served the church so
long and so well. I would take the privilege of mentioning Mr. and
Mrs. Thos Martin. I believe they have already written the story
of the Presbyterian Church, and our House of Worship, Knox United
Church, is named after Mrs. Martin's father.
Seventy-five years may seem like a long time. A lot
has taken place in that time. Two World Wars and two depressions,
neither of which is beneficial to the Christian Church, were added
to our experiences. It is true that it was our duty to participate,
but hostilities had to cease before any agreement could be reached
between the nations involved. Many times while on active duty I
asked myself whether there was a Loving God, and I fully expect
that the fellow on the other side of No Man's Land had the same
thoughts. For a while after returning to civilian life I was very
skeptical, but now I am fully convinced that the Christian Church
holds the answer to many of our problems; Jesus Christ thought not
of Himself but of others. I end with a thought from the Holy Scripture:
Genesis 12, part of verse 8: "There he built an altar to the
Lord and called on the name of the Lord. " We wish to thank
Mr. L. S. Harapiak, Vice-Principal of the Swan Valley Regional Secondary
School for making arrangements for the typing, and a special thanks
to the girls of the typing class who did the actual typing.
Respectfully submitted by:
Dolly and Ashley Ireland