The Erksine Presbyterian Church took its name from the Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, leaders of the Secession Church in Scotland in the late 18th century. Scotch Secessionists in Montreal, met in 1831, under the charge of Mr. Shanks, a licentiate. The Rev. William Taylor of Scotland was sent to Montreal in 1832 to organize a congregation. Seventeen days after arriving a congregation was formed and Rev. Taylor was selected pastor. Services originally took place in the school room of Mr.Bruce's Academy on McGill Street.
When the Church outgrew these
Presbyterians offered the use of their church. In 1834
a committee was formed to obtain land and erect a church. The property
on Lagauchetière, from St. George to Chenneville Streets,
was far from the city limits at that time. Unable to raise the amount
originally intended, the plans were changed. The second story and
the gallery were omitted. With a growing congregation the second
story and basement were finished in 1847. This first building
was known as the Scotch Secession Chapel or “The
Wee Kirk”. The Erskine name was adopted in 1865 with the construction
of a new church on St. Catherine and Peel Streets.
Kirk” still stands on Lagauchetière and Chenneville, though
it has been altered. It is currently a Chinese
Catholic Church. The site has been declared an historic site
by the provincial government and is the oldest existing (former) Protestant
church building in Montreal. The site of the second church, erected
in 1866, was the south-east corner of Peel and St. Catherine Streets.
At the time it was thought by many to be too far in the country.
The church was one of the most imposing church buildings in Montreal at
the time. The Dominion Square Building
now stands on that site. As St. Catherine Street lost its residential
character the congregation looked for a new site. In 1891 the
land at the corner of Sherbrooke and Avenue du Musée was purchased.
The architect was A.C. Hutchison, using a
design inspired by American architects Warren Hayes
and Henry Richardson.
The early congregation of Erskine Church was more working class than that of the American Presbyterian Church. The Erskine Church list of members from 1833 shows that most were skilled labourers. When funding for the first church was being sought, many pledged their labour, not having the money to contribute. By the time the church on St. Catherine was built, in 1865, the congregation was more affluent.
The Reverend William Taylor, the first pastor of the Scotch Secession Church was active in the missionary and temperance movements. He was also an advocate of church union and served as the first moderator of the Canada Presbyterian Church General Assembly. He remained pastor from the founding in 1833 until his death in 1876. A.J. Mowatt, beloved by his congregation, is unfortunately remembered for having died in the pulpit on Sunday February 19,1911.
For much of its history the Erskine Church was considered the “Cathedral of Presbyterianism” in Montreal. Its Missionary Society, founded in 1856, aided many Mission Sunday Schools and young churches in the city including the Chinese Sunday School, Cote St. Antoine Mission School, Petite Cote Mission School, Mile End Mission School and Maisonneuve Mission Schools were missions of Erskine Church. Others received material help. The Society also supported Home Missions, French Evangelization, the Theological Colleges and other work in Canada and abroad.
In 1925 Erskine joined the Union and became Erskine United Church. In 1934 American United Church amalgamated with Erskine and the church became Erskine and American United Church.
of living members of Erskine Church as at June 20, 1933
William TAYLOR 1833 - 1876
ASSISTANT (STUDENT) MINISTERS 1888-1932
TIMELINE OF ERSKINE CHURCH