The Register, April 1, 1971

End Of Era In Church History

(The building in the photo above is being torn down at Grafton. With the disappearance of this building it seems proper that its significant and interesting history should be recorded. Our thanks to Douglas Hale for the following article).

(By Douglas Hale)

Click here for larger image

It would appear from T. W. Smith’s History of Methodism that about the year 1835 there was quite a religious awakening in Pleasant Valley.

On January, 1835, James Buckley, a young local preacher of Irish parentage and son of John Buckley, made his first essay at preaching in his father’s house at Buckley’s Corner. At the district meeting of 1835 he was accepted as a candidate for the ministry.

This revival interest appears to have continued, and in 1836 or 1837 the people decided to build, and commenced to build, a place of worship, situated at the corner where the Black Rock Road crosses what was then called Shadow Street (now called Brooklyn Street), Mr. Buckley giving the land that the church was built upon. The corner is now called Grafton.

This building was erected and finished, all but he seating of it, in the summer of 1838, and as there existed among the people more than an ordinary religious awakening, and as Rev. Peter Sleep from the Aylesford and Wilmot circuit, was holding special services in Mr. Buckley’s house, it was thought advisable to open the new church and hold services in it, using temporary seats. Mr. Sleep was, at the time of this great revival at the Valley Church, one of the most successful evangelistic workers of his day.

This revival under Mr. Sleep was wide spreading. The whole valley was largely under a deep religious influence, and perhaps there was under Mr. Sleep’s preaching in the new Valley Meeting House over one hundred conversions, many of whom joined other churches. Suffice it to say, it was the beginning which eventually established the formation of the Berwick circuit. This circuit included later Berwick, Weston, Welsford, Grafton and Harbourville. Soon after the revival at the Valley church preachers from the Horton and Cornwallis Circuit would come out west and preach in the Valley Church.

In the winter of 1847 Messrs. Weddall and Smith held special services in the Valley Church, as it was then called. Mr. Smith’s revival at the Valley Church so increased the congregation that would assemble there for worship, that the church was cut in two at the centre and spread far enough apart to add four pews on each side of the aisle, in consequence of which the Rev. Mr. Butcher named the corner Grafton.

The Rev. Mr. Smith was followed in 1849 by the Rev. G. O. Huestis. The Rev. James Narraway followed Mr. G. O. Huestis in 1850, and in the autumn of that year a new Methodist hall was opened in Curry’s Corner (now Berwick), and Mr. Narraway, with other clergymen, was invited to the opening of the hall.

In the spring of 1851 the Rev. G. W. Tuttle succeeded Mr. Narraway, and owing to ill health left in the spring of 1852, and was followed by Rev. J. L. Sponagle.

Mr. Sponagle only remained one year, and in the spring of 1853 a Rev. Mr. Moore was appointed, and remained one year, and was followed in the spring of 1854 by the Rev. Thomas Harris, a young man just out from England, who was the first young man that had been sent out West to board in Pleasant Valley. Mr. Harris boarded at Mr. Leveret Morse’s about two miles from the Valley Church.

There had been a Sabbath School organized in the Grafton Church soon after its opening by Mr. Sleep, but after the revival under Mr. Smith, the school at Grafton received a new impetus, and then the revival under Mr. Harris brought the Sabbath School at Grafton, which was under the superintendency of Mr. James Silver, up to a point that at that time it was not surpassed by any Sabbath School in the County.

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End Of Era –

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Mr. Harris was followed by the Rev. John Lathern. Mr. Lathern preached his first sermon at Grafton, July 19, 1857. In 1862 the Rev. Richard Smith was appointed superintendent of the Berwick Circuit, and a new residence, owned by J. M. Parker, Esq., was rented for a parsonage where he lived the first year that he was on the circuit. Mr. Smith only remained on the Circuit for two years, and in the year 1864 Rev. T. H. Davies was appointed superintendent of the Circuit.

In 1866 the Rev. John Read was superintendent of the Berwick Circuit and remained for three years. Rev. Fletcher Pickles, on account of ill health, only remained on the field for two years.

Mr. Pickles was succeeded by Rev. John Prince in 1871, who remained for one year. It is worthy of notice that the Berwick Camp Meeting, that has now grown to be an established institution, was started during Mr. Prince’s stay.

Other ministers who served on the Circuit were Rev. Christopher Lockhart, Rev. Geo. Payson, Rev. John Cassidy, Rev. John Johnson, Rev. J. D. Hart, Rev. Alexander Tuttle, Rev. E. E. England, Rev. John Craig, Rev. Mr. Glendenning, Rev. John Prestwood and Rev. Mr. Gee.

The Valley Church served the public until 1925, when the Methodists, Congregationalists and some of the Presbyterians united to form the United Church of Canada.

With the formation of the United Church of Canada, there was no further need for the church building as such, and it became a community hall used for Scout meetings, Women’s Institute and other section activities.

In June, 1962, the Grafton School Section was closed and the school building was taken over by the community, and there was no further need for the church building as a meeting hall. The church building has been subsequently sold, and is being demolished. Present plans are to clear and landscape the site to enhance the beauty of the cemetery that adjoins the church property.

To the average person passing the site it would appear to be just an old building being torn down, but, in reality, it is the end of an era when hardworking ministers and followers of the Methodist Church gave untiringly of their efforts to being the principles and teaching of Methodism to the people of what was then the Cornwallis Township of Kings County.


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