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Conception Bay North - Harbour Grace

United Church History


The history of the United Church in Harbour Grace begins in 1765 with the 
arrival of Lawrence COUGHLAN, just 35 years after Methodism originated 
in England.

Thus Harbour Grace became the Methodists' first overseas mission field in 
Newfoundland and indeed British North America.

When the Reverend Coughlan arrived, not a single Methodist temple was 
raised to the worship of God.  Although, there was a small wooden 
structure built in 1764 by the Church of England.

Coughlan used this temple as a priest of the Church of England, while at 
the same time keeping up Methodist practices and expanding the 
Wesleyan philosophy.

He was converted by John WESLEY, the founder of Methodism, when 
he was only 15 years of age.  Wesley thought highly of him saying, 
"I have scarce one hearty helper, but Lawrence Coughlan."

After eight years servitude, Coughlan returned to England in 1773 when 
he died in 1785.  From 1765 to 1999, 79 lay readers, missionaries and 
ministers have served the spiritual needs of the United Church people.

As to the matter of church buildings, there was no Methodist chapel 
until 1788, when the first "legal" Methodist church built in Newfoundland 
was erected in Harbour Grace.

In that year, the Bench of Magistrates granted to the first official Methodist 
lay preacher, John STRETTON, a license to open a Methodist church.  
This church, opened on Aug 31, 1788, was built by Stretton at his own 
expense, and on his own land at the now Stretton's Hill.  No specific 
description of this church survives, only that it was a small chapel.

Stretton's church served the Methodist movement for 34 years.  A new 
church was built and dedicated in 1822 on the site of today's United Church.  
It was 50 feet long and 40 feet wide and was described as the neatest, best 
proportioned and best conditioned chapel belonging to the Methodist in 
Newfoundland.  On Feb 7, 1850, the church caught fire and burned to the 
ground.

The cornerstone for another new church was laid on June 25, 1850, then 
on Feb 9, 1851, the church was dedicated and opened with every pew rented.  
It was 58 feet long and 36 feet wide with a seating capacity for 500 people.
Attached to the chapel was a room 26 feet long and 18 feet wide for a 
Sunday school.  On Feb 7, 1904, 54 years after the former church burned, 
it too burned to the ground.

The cornerstone for the third church was laid on July 28, 1904 and opened 
its doors on Jan 28, 1905.  This church, including the chancel was 73 feet 
long and 39 feet wide and the spiral was 76 feet.  It could seat 500 people.  
This church was to suffer the same fate as its predecessors, and it too, was 
consumed in a tragic fire that swept Harbour Grace on Aug 17, 1944.

It would take six years before another church was built.  In the meantime, 
the congregation used Coughlan Hall for the church services. 

The present day United Church was dedicated and opened on Aug 29, 1950.  
More than 1,000 people thronged its pews and overflowed into the entrance 
and grounds for the services.

The Coughlan Memorial United Church today is the fifth one in Harbour 
Grace to service the spiritual need of its people and the fourth one on the 
same land.

Fate has not served the congregation well.  Who would ever conceive that 
fires would devastate three temples of God, of the same faith, on the same 
site and in the same town in the space of about 100 years?  Incomprehensible, 
indeed.

Be that as it may, I think the 233-year-old history of the United Church in 
Harbour Grace is a story of a people who have strived against hardship, 
oppression and against all odds to carve out a Methodist way of life in a 
town that is Methodism's "first overseas mission field in the New World."  
That spirit perseverance is still alive and well today.

The United Church has been served by these succeeding missionaries, 
lay readers and ministers -

Lawrence COUGHLAN 1765-75
John STRETTON and Arthur THUMY, lay readers 1773-85
John McGEARY 1785-88
John STRETTON, lay reader 1788-90
John McGEARY 1790-91
John STRETTON, lay reader 1791-94
George SMITH 1794-95
William THORESBY 1795-98
James BULPITT 1798-1806
John REMINGTON 1806-08
William ELLIS 1808-11
Samuel McDOWELL 1811-12
Richard TAYLOR 1812-13
Samuel BUSBY 1813-16
George CUBITT 1816-17
Ninian BARR 1817-18
John BELL 1818-22
John PICKAVANT 1822-24
John WALSH 1824-25
John HAIGH 1825-28
John CORLETT 1828-30
John SMITHIES 1830-31
John BOYD 1831-32
John TOMPKINS 1832-33
Richard SHEPPARD 1833-34
Adam NIGHTINGALE 1834, six months
William MURRAY 1834-35
John HAIGH 1835-37
John SNOWBALL 1837-41
Thomas ANGWIN 1841-43
George ELLIDGE 1843-46
William FAULKNER 1846-49
William STENSTONE 1849-52
Samuel SPRAGUE 1852-55
James DOVE 1855-56
 John PHINNEY 1856-58
William STENSTONE 1858-60
Christopher LOCKHART 1860-62
Elias BRETTLE 1862-63
James DOVE 1863-66
John PHINNEY 1866-69
Thomas HARRIS 1869-72
Charles LADNER 1872-75
Robert FREEMAN 1875-76
James DOVE 1876-79
John GOODISON 1879-82
George BOYD 1882-84
Thomas ATKINSON 1884-87
Thomas JAMES 1887-90
George PAINE 1890-92
William SWANN 1892-96
Walter DUNN 1896-99
John NEWMAN 1899-1900
Anthony HILL 1900-02
James PINCOCK 1902-06
Hunphrey COWPERTHWAITE 1906-07
John BARTLETT 1907-09
Thomas DARBY 1909-13
Albert N. HOLMES 1913-20
Henry BROWNING 1920-23
William HARRIS 1923-25
George PICKERING 1925-30
Ronald VATCHER 1930-34
Cyril BLOUNT 1934-38
Lloyd MORGAN 1938-42
A.W. OSBOURNE 1942-44
Walter McCABE 1944-51
Nelson HEDDER 1951-56
Albert A. HOLMES 1956-60
Jesse REYNOLDS 1960-61
Wilfred VARDY 1961-66
Cecil HOBBS 1966-70
C.R. McCAIG 1970-75
Edward G. BAILEY 1975-88
Wayne COLE 1988-91
William MERCER 1991-97
Joan SHORT 1997-98
Russell SMALL 1998-
      

'The Compass', Quodlibits by Gord Pike, 26 Jan 1999.