The original Methodist Church in Atherley was framed on the property of Mr. James Duncan, west of the Anglican Church graveyard. This property on which the present church is built was purchased on November 12, 1894 from Georgina Reeve (Mrs. George Reeve of Orillia). The trustees who arranged the purchase were: Silas Prophet, Duncan McPhee, Joshua McPhee, William Whitney, Henry Whitney, George Whitney, John Allewell, and Frances Gaddye. The purchase price of the land was $115.00. The agreement between the trustees and Mrs. Reeve was:
1. The parcel land was to be used for erection of a church and other buildings to permit Sunday School to be carried on in the said church.
2. To have and to hold the said parcel of land and premises and use by the said trustees and their successors in the same trust forever.
We shall be forever grateful to those loyal men, who in the name of Jesus Christ built this place of worship and to all who have beautified it and hallowed it with their prayers and praises.
Mr. Francis Gaddye laid the Corner Stone. The carpenters were Henry Whitney and his sons, while other pioneer families had their parts in the construction. Mr. Fran Toole, who is a brother-in-law of Mr. George Moase, was the architect. He made and carved the first pulpit. Mr. William Prophet, as a young man bought and drew the stone from Longford.
The first Minister in 1895 was the Reverend J. S. McMullin; his salary was $550.00.
About 1912 electricity was brought from the lake front through the efforts of the Young Men’s Bible class, taught by Miss Lettie Black, who gave her services to guide the young men of the community.
The Atherley Church has always been the centre of the community activities and social events. Atherley Church like many rural churches has had its share of sending forth into the world men and women whose ideals are set and lives were changed by their connections with the church, who have attributed their formations of character to its influence and teachings.
In Atherley the church has always been fortunate in having many loyal friends who have given of their time and money to further the interest of the church. It is impossible for us to assess the value of our church with our poor measuring rods. There has been achievement and failure in the double ministry of pulpit and pew, both at the church and in the wider context of life. Today we look back with gratitude to God and recognition to all who served here. The future is filled with opportunity and promises if we have the gratitude to God and dependence on Him; we face the future faithfully and hopefully. Atherley United Church was fortunate to have a beautiful stained glass window installed in the sanctuary in memory of Charles Wesley Symington by his family.
The first Organist of the church was Miss Emily Whitney (Payne) followed by Loretta Stone, Etta Allewell Irwin, Mary James (Allewell), Edith Symington (Jackson), Isobel Whitney (Thompson), Mrs. James Meacher (Helen Hewitt), Francis Whitney (Page) (daughter of Grace Whitney), Jessie Elder, James Lewis( a grandson of Silas Prophet), Steve Lewis (son of James Lewis), Audrey Lightheart, Ruth Ellen Shapiro, and Adrienne Davies.
The first bride and groom married in the church were Miss Susan Prophet and Mr. Edwin Brown, who were presented with a Bible which today is much treasured by their family. They were married on June 30, 1896.
One of the first Sunday School teachers was Mrs. Charles Myers. The Sunday School has been an important part of the church. It has been the centre for instruction of the young. The Love of God has been revealed here. Children have been inspired and comforted by faithful teachers.
The first Superintendent was Mr. Hill followed by Duncan McPhee, William Whitney, Ira Gaddye, Lawrence Whitney, Edgar Whitney, George Ross, James Mitchell, Mrs. Louis English, Mrs. H. Featherston, Lois LeBarr, Elva Moase, Donna Payie, Julie Scott, Linda Davidson, Vivian Burgin, and Helene Allen.
The Ladie’s Aid was organized following the church’s opening. The first president was Mrs. Albert Duffet. This organization accomplished much and continued to function until they formed as the United Church Women in 1962.
Devoted women have made these organizations possible and still accomplish much by their prayers, interests, and help. The Canadian Girls in Training and Mission Bands as groups had a share in setting ideals for the young people of the church and community.
The following is a list of some of the highlights taken from the record books, which were kept over the years.
Feb. 18, 1895
The taxes on the manse were $9.45.
Aug. 4, 1895
The Pastor’s salary was increased to $600 and Udney was added to the Circuit.
May 14, 1914
Lawrence Whitney elected as Sunday School superintendent. Members of the Church -239.
Minister’s salary was increased to $1,000.00 per year.
May 16, 1928
Weekly envelope system is adopted.
Feb. 6, 1930
The official Board met with representatives from Brechin. The following were present. From Udney: St. John, Robertson, Newman, Mundie, W. Barnes, and H. Barnes. From Atherley: H. Ross, W. Ross, W. Allewell, and E. Whitney. From Fairvalley: E. Elder, G. Elder, and J. Read. From Brechin: D. Windatt, Calder, Newman, Harris, Taylor, Lamb, and Campbell. It was a unanimous vote that Brechin join the Udney, Atherley and Fairvalley Circuit. To be known as Brechin Udney Circuit. The minister’s salary was to by $3,000.00. The union finally came into service in July of 1933 with the understanding that the parsonage be at Brechin until such a time Udney is financially able to build one there and that they concur with Atherley restarting services for 6 months commencing May 1st and Nov 1st.
April 30, 1935
Mrs. H. Read asked to be caretaker of the church at a salary of $25.00 a year.
There were 66 members in the Sunday School.
Jan 20, 1937
Mrs. G. Allewell as appointed organist with Helen Hewitt as assistant.
Jan 20, 1939
Garden Party was held with Mr. Cecil Payne’s orchestra providing music.
Jan 20, 1950
Miss Jessie Elder appointed pianist with Mrs. Helen Meacher (Hewitt) as assistant.
In 1952 it was decided to change to an electric organ from the piano. During the year of 1953, it saw the repainting of the inside at a total cost of $300.00. During the same year, organists were Miss Jessie Elder assisted by Helen Meacher and Francis Whitney. The organ purchased (1952) was paid in full Dec. 30, 1953 at a total cost of $990.00. The Every family plan for the Observer was put into motion in 1954 at a cost of $1.00 for each name on the list. The organ was dedicated to the memory of the War Veterans.
It was decided to enlarge the kitchen at church and install a new oil furnace. A committee formed for this purpose decided to approach old members and interested persons and former residents of Atherley with a view to getting financial support for the undertaking. Committee of 3 Stewards: Edgar Speiran, G. Moase, and William Doolittle, assisted by 4 Trustees: Arnold Cook, Angus Lewis, Art Vyse, Lorne Adams with Edgar Whitney as Chairman of the committee. These men were able to accomplish this job over the next few months.
The Ty Ro Group was formed under the leadership of Clarence Doolittle with a total of 12 boys. They met each Tuesday in the Sunday School Room and their meeting consisted of worship, study and recreation.
The Mission Band was formed under the leadership of Mrs. Louise Duncan. Junior Choir formed under leadership of Mrs. Grace Whitney.
Miss Sylvia Howard was appointed as a Steward and church Treasurer. The first woman to be appointed.
It was decided to renovate the kitchen and washroom and install a water pump, hot water heater, septic system etc. on a motion by Dr. Jamieson seconded by Harry Featherston.
The W.A. and W. M. S. became the U.C.W.
Hardwood floor installed in Sunday School Room at a cost of $500.00. Also there were 69 enrolled in Sunday School.
Mrs. Louise Duncan appointed Treasurer. The Atherley U.C.W. made up and sold cookbooks.
The Sunday School Room was all rewired and brought up to fire regulations. The Stained glass window had a plexiglass covering installed for protection.
A new organ was purchased and the old organ was moved to the manse. The Atherley Sports Centre Assoc. paid to have the church steeple repaired and covered in cedar and later had it recovered in aluminum.
The Washroom at the church as renovated due to a generous offer of an anonymous donor.
Holly Desroches (Meacher) appointed Treasurer. Louise Duncan was Treasurer from 1967-2004. A motion was made to have the kitchen renovated—painting, new flooring, and enlarging pass-through windows. A new stove was purchased through fundraising.
Held a Quilt Display featuring family quilts handed down from generation to generation. For example, a quilt was made in the 1800’s, which the family did not realize until it was noticed the year was stitched into the fabric. The women of the church and community made a quilt in the church hall and it was later raffled.
The Sunday School Room/Hall was painted and Bess Dixon, from the church made new curtains for all the windows. The changes for this room are still ongoing.
Over the next few years the Atherley Church, like so many others, has had a financial problem due to dropping memberships. The faithful few are desperately trying to keep the doors of Atherley Church open for another 100 years.
SUBMITTED BY MRS. ELVA MOASE & CECIL BYERS