Houses of Holy | Nassagaweya Presbyterian Church (1839)

In an area filled with Gothic Revival churches, Nassagaweya Presbyterian bucks the local trend by sticking to its rural roots with its loyalist-style building. But this small rural church has a big heart.

Nassagaweya Presbyterian Church (1839)
Graflex Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Adox CHS 100 II @ ASA-100 – Adox Atomal 49 (Stock) 5:45 @ 20C

Starting in 1836, Presbyterian ministers from the Esquining Presbyterian Church (Boston) began to host worship services in S.S. No. 3 or Knowles Schoolhouse. Despite the area’s poor reputation, the congregation flourished, and in 1838 Daniel McNair donated a section of his property to establish a church and burial ground. Volunteers constructed a simple Loyalist-style frame meeting house which hosted its first service in 1839. In May 1839, the session’s first meeting was held, with Rev Peter Ferguson and Rev William Rintoul leading the service in both English and Gaelic. The congregation never had a minister assigned. Instead, various ministers from around the whole of Upper Canada led services. It’s unknown which branch of the Presbyterian church the Nassagaweya congregation ascribed to, but it appears both the Established and Free Church supplied ministers to the congregation. Growth was slow but steady, with a membership roll of forty-five by 1854, but the population in the township of Nassagewya continued to grow. The wooden structure began to show its age and could no longer support the growing congregation. The small congregation commissioned a stone structure that mirrored the design of their original frame building, completing the new church in 1861. In 1864, Nassagewya began supporting a small service in Campbellville, which became a mission congregation in 1869. In 1866 the cemetery saw its first burial. A manual pump organ was installed in 1880, and a balcony was installed in the sanctuary to increase the seating numbers in 1895. The congregation also hoped to install a bell tower and a porch, but the lack of funds cancelled the project. The original box pews were replaced with the current pews in 1908. During the same year, a basement was dug under the church, and a hall, kitchen and Sunday School room were built. The church was among those who voted to remain Presbyterian in 1925. The church received electric lights in 1932, and the current choir loft was installed in 1940. A car park replaced the horse sheds in 1969. Running water was not installed until 1985, and a telephone line for the office came in 1992 as and rear addition to house the Church offices. Restoration work was completed in 2013 with a new hardwood floor to replace the original one. Today, despite being a rural church that remains a vibrant and connected congregation within the former Nassagaweya Township, it also stands as the oldest surveying building in the former village of Haltonville.

Being located on a sideroad certainly helped with getting a good angle on the building, and having high power lines kept those out of my frame, but it did take some fine tuning on the front standard to keep the church in and the power lines out. I set up across the road on the shoulder but needed the 125mm lens because of the narrow road. Having the morning sun come through the trees helped break up the light, so I metered for the shadows and the highlights and averages between the two so I didn’t lose too much detail between them.

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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