Houses of Holy | Boston Presbyterian Church (1820)

If there is a single place in southern Ontario where you could find Scottish immigrants, it was the Esquining Township. A small farming settlement, known locally as the Scotch Block, is the perfect spot to find the oldest Presbyterian congregation in Milton. But Boston is much more than that; it also shows the messy history of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Boston Presbyterian Church (1820)
Graflex Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Adox CHS 100 II @ ASA-100 – Adox Atomal 49 (Stock) 5:45 @ 20C

The earliest recorded service of Presbyterian Worship took place in 1820 on the farm of Alexander Laidlaw. Rev William Jenkins used a tree stump as a pulpit. He preached on Ezekial 34:25. The service proved popular, and in 1824, a section of Laidlaw’s farm was purchased to establish a meeting house and burial ground. Work on a simple wooden frame meeting house began in 1825. The congregation continued to meet through the construction of their Church, calling Rev Peter Ferguson in 1832. Already, the division was happening within the Church, with one congregation splitting in 1835 upon the completion of the wooden Church and a second in 1837. Each building has a separate meeting house near the original building. The most significant split occurred in 1844 with the Free Church; here again, a new congregation formed out of the original but reached an agreement to share the wooden frame building and conducted a separate service until Rev William Rintoul called themselves Boston Presbyterian Church in 1846. The 1835 congregation, or the Sceeder Church, rejoined the Free Church in 1861, and it quickly showed that the old wooden building was becoming too old and too small to support the growing congregations. Both congregations agreed to share the cost of building a new sanctuary. Hiring architect James A. Smith designed a new stone Gothic Revival structure with Charles Blackwell and Thomas Henderson agreeing to lead the Church’s building. Stone was quarried from the Hume Quarry, lumber provided by the Stuart Sawmill, and sand acquired from Duff’s farm. The cornerstone was laid in 1868, and the new Church was dedicated in 1870. The Free and Established congregations reunited in 1875 when the Presbyterian Church in Canada united a majority of the Presbyterian churches in Canada, the congregation agreeing to keep the name Boston Presbyterian Church. Boston installed their first organ in 1882. Electric lights and coal heating arrived in the early 20th Century. During the Union votes in the 1920s, the Church chose to remain a part of the Presbyterian Church in 1925. The Associate Church, formed in 1837, now Mansfield United Church, rejoined the Boston Church in 1935. In 1960 the congregation undertook a series of renovations which saw a basement constructed and a small addition added to the back, adding a church hall, kitchen, offices and a Sunday School room. The sanctuary received a facelift in 1968, which saw the choir loft moved and a backlit cross and panelling added. An elevator and accessibility entrances were added in 2005, and restoration work was completed on the bell tower in 2007. Today the Church remains a small rural congregation. Last year, the congregation said farewell to their long-serving minister, Rev Shawn Croll. I’ve previously worshipped with the congregation, and the pews are still original and most uncomfortable.

The day I went to photograph the Church, it took a bit to wait for the light and scene to be right. I was concerned about a film crew who said they would not interfere but also a gardener. Thankfully talking to the film crew for a bit gave time for the car in front of the Church to leave. I set up below the Church and used the 125mm lens and front rise to provide context and a sense of scale. The simple design and the visible historical plaque suit the county church’s look and feel. I should have metered for the deeper shadows near the front. But overall, I am happy with the exposure.

If you wish to worship with this congregation, they will be happy to welcome you! Please check out the congregational website for details on attending services worship either in-person on online streaming!

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