Stittsville United Church celebrates historical 175 years in the community

(The Stittsville United Church located at the corner of Stittsville Main Street and Fernbank Road.)

This year marks the 175 anniversity of the Stittsville United Church. The church that stands with its graveyard at the corner of Stittsville Main Street and Fernbank Road has a history that takes you back to 1819. This is the year when Ezra Healey, a faithful Methodist saddle-bag preacher began to establish twenty member classes in the forests and wilderness between the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers. In 1824, George and Mary Argue, along with their four sons, resided in the Township of Goulbourn on lot 21, concession 11. When the construction of the family home was completed, the neighbours gathered to give thanks to God. Goulbourn Township saw its first Methodist service ever held.

(George and Mary Argue)

When Ezra Healey arrived in Stittsville he placed the Methodist adherents under the leadership of George Argue, James Wilson and Archibald Magee. In 1845, William Magee donated to the trustees, one acre of land where today you find the current church. The first church was made of logs hewn off the land and was known as the Magee Chapel. At one time, James Stitt lived above the Magee Chapel – with local preacher and farmer, James Cherry, and Joseph Magee living near the chapel.

In 1847, a stone building replaced the original and became known as the Argue Chapel then was transformed to become the Wesley Methodist Church. This new church was built about 100 yards east of the existing log building. In the church cemetery, you can still see the remains of the stone foundation.

(The 1847 original stone Methodist church. From the photo album of Anne Healey Cuthbert)

In 1883, the stone building was replaced by a much larger brick structured church, often referred to as the ‘Brick Church’. The brick Wesley Methodist Church stood for 70 years and forms a significant component of the current sanctuary.

(The 1883 ‘brick church’ also known as the Wesley Methodist Church. Source unknown.)

In 1925, with the union of Methodist Congregationalist and former Presbyterian members added to the congregation, The Wesley Methodist became the United Church of Canada. In 1975 the name was again changed to Stittsville United Church.

The beginning of changes at Stittsville United began in 1952 with the town growing which added to the congregation. The church require more space and for the related activities. Over the next 30 or so years, the old ‘brick church’ underwent many changes inside and out. The sanctuary was enlarged, offices and activity room were added. The grandest of all changes were both the arrival of the new organ and the addition of a tower and spire being built. The entire church was also covered in a white stucco finish.

In 1964 stained-glass memorial windows in the narthex and sanctuary, and many of the pews and other church furnishings were donated in memory of loved ones. The two panels at the front of the sanctuary were dedicated in 1975 and the four remaining windows in the narthex were dedicated in 1980. In 1976, a memorial fund was inaugurated. Contributions to the fund were sufficient to purchase a Baldwin organ, to replace the failing Hammond which had served the congregation so well, and to install a sound system in the sanctuary. In 1979 an electric carillon with external speakers was installed and in 1998 the Baldwin organ was replaced by a more modern version.

In 2004, it agreed by the Revitalization and Long-Range Planning Commitee for the church, that five goals should be focused on – hiring a part-time youth worker; a part-time music director; and, an addition to the building was needed with the growing congregation.

(Stittsville United Church. Drawing by Lloyd C. Morrison)

The official sod turning for the new addition was held in April 2006 and on November 20, 2006 a grand opening of the addition was celebrated. The church became totally accessible for all. The entire roof was replaced. It is most appropriate to note that the latest addition to the proud history of the Methodist/United Church presence in the Goulbourn/Stittsville area is partially made possible by a bequest from the estate of the late Gerald Cathcart, a descendent of the same George Argue who held the first Methodist service in Goulbourn Township in 1824. Additional funds from the Hodgins estate and a Trillium Grant from the Province of Ontario, made it all possible.

From the time of church union in 1925, the church has seen twenty-seven ministers pass through the doors of Stittsville United. During time, from 1925 until 1990, the ministers also led the congregation at St. Paul’s United Church in Richmond, Ontario – as part of a two-point pastoral charge. Here is a link to the list of ministers who served the church from 1868 to present.

The church celebrates 175 years in Stittsville with a Virtual Celebration that takes place on Sunday, October 18 at 10:00 am. Join Reverend Grant Dillenbeck and the church congregation in celebration at Facebook live – where all are welcome!


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