THE PREBYTERIAN CONGREGATION
It is not certain when the first settlers arrived in the Sebright area. Rama Township was surveyed into lots in 1857, Carden in 1858 and Dalton in 1861. Until this time they could not have purchased the land where they built their shanties. The records of Crown Patents or deeds are the first concrete proof of ownership of land. Registry office records show that in 1863 in the Mud Lake area, Concession 1 of Carden, Solomon Thompson, Artamas Thompson, Joel Day, Henry McCuaig and Andrew McNabb took title to land, followed in 1864 by Isaac Day and Daniel Day. There were enough families by 1865 that on June 5th Joel Day gave a “trust deed” for a plot of land to Henry McCuaig, Walter Hicks and Isaac Day, trustees School Section No. 3 Carden for $5.00 “In trust for use of a common school.” This is the property now used as the Mud Lake Cemetery.
In Dalton, the first recorded property owners are William Young and James R. Young in 1865, James K. Gordon and Robert R. Young in 1867, Frederick Adams in 1870, Jacob Nicholson in 1871 and George McLeish in 1873.
During the same period the Monck road was started. Its beginnings are told by F. V. LeCraw in THE LAND BETWEEN:
In 1867 some preliminary work was done at the western end and public accounts list the sum of $61.25 being paid for that years work. The progress as recorded is agonizingly slow compared to that on the other roads and their lack of progress helps give lie to the old myth of “Military Highway.” Here is the timetable:
1868—-8.25 miles built from Lake Couchiching eastwards
1869—-2 miles completed
1870—-8 miles more (now in the middle of Dalton)
As the settlers moved into the district the Presbyterian missionaries came to minister and start local congregations as is testified to in excerpts from the history of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Bolsover, published on their Centennial in 1966:
On September 2nd 1868 the Presbytery approved an application for a missionary to serve Bolsover, Mud Lake and Digby. The people promised to do their utmost to support a minister. The following year during May a college graduate, Donald MacAuley was appointed but stayed only a few weeks. Mr. Ivan MacAuley a Catechist came on Dec. 13th 1868. He was finally ordained and was inducted three days after Christmas 1871. His ministry was not an easy one with financial and other difficulties. He finally resigned after a five year pastorate on the 2nd of February 1874. He was followed over a year later by Rev. J. T. Paul who was inducted April 30th 1875. He remained until his death March 8th 1887.
The Mud Lake congregation also worshipped in the school there with the school yard being used as a cemetery. The children should not have grown up with a fear of graveyards. Finally, in 1896 a site was purchased for a new school which still stands, now used as a residence. There is no record of when or where services were held at Sebright before the church was built.
As indicated in the story in the Lindsay Post, quoted earlier it must have been very difficult to decide where the church would be built.
Would it be near Mud Lake where the most Presbyterians lived or at Sebright where they had already been given a parcel of land and which was the main intersection of the community? Hindsight proves they made the right decision.
The first records still retained at the church here at Sebright are baptismal rcords beginning July 23rd 1889 with Rev. James Gilchrist as the officiating minister. He continues to sign the baptismal register until July 6th 1898. Now we come to conflicting evidence. All other sources state he was not the resident minister after 1891 and in fact there were other ministers here after 1892. It is possible that there were only laymen on the charge and Mr. Gilchrist came to administer the sacraments. This raises the question, “where did he come from?” Travel was not easy in those days. The closest Presbyterian churches were at Kirkfield-Bolsover, Uptergrove, Beaverton and Orillia. There is no record of him at any of these churches.
The first solid information Mr. Mundy could find in the archives regarding Sebright came in 1888 with the formation of the Sebright charge. This would be the reorganization of the fields referred to by Mr. LeCraw. To quote Mr. Mundy regarding events in 1888 and the following years:
This new Sebright charge was made up of Sebright, Uphill, Sadowa, and Digby, and it had 57 families, and 57 members and 176 Sunday School children, and it paid its minister $206.00 a year.
In 1889, it was reduced to two congregations; Sebright and Uphill; and the Chief Elder, presumably the Clerk of Session, or the elder to lead the sessions of both churches was Andrew McNabb. We have no names of the ministers in this Pastoral Charge during these early years. Most likely, they were provided, on an occasional basis, to conduct communion; and the main responsibility for leadership was on the shoulder of the students, or retired ministers, or lay supplies. Local elders would probably look after the flocks. The Chief Elder may have been equivalent to the Local Preacher of the Methodist Church, with authority to bury the dead, and possibly with special dispensation to administer Holy Communion and Baptism. Or, ministers from neighbouring charges may have given this charge two or three Sundays a year, turn about. However in 1871, the address of the minister, and not his name was given as Uphill. So there may have been occasional resident ministers.
Except for the gift of the lot by Mr. Young as reported elsewhere this is all the record we have of the Church building. The Church was used by the Methodist congregation until 1918 when the co-operative union began using the Presbyterian Church for worship service. In February 1923 the building was sold to Mr. Herb Giles, who raised the roof to allow for a second story and made an addition on the back to use as a store and residence. Mr. and Mrs. Giles and their family operated the store and post office until their retirement in 1959.
Through various owners and alterations it has still served as a store. Today it is the site of the Sebright Bargain Store. Shortly after the church was closed, the shed for the horses was moved to the Presbyterian Church and rebuilt at the end of the shed there.
Before the co-operative local union the Methodist ministers had always lived at Dalrymple with the parsonage being built beside the church in 1884. This is recounted in Miss Graham’s booklet, “The Parsonage Era, 1884-1968.” When the Methodist congregation joined with the Presbyterian worshippers, the minister, Rev. Weir moved into the new and more central Sebright Manse. To get back to the actual congregation, the area supporting the present Sebright United Church contained three Methodist congregations, as Rev. Mundy has told, these were Sebright, Mud Lake, and Dartmoor. Of course the only one with a church was Sebright. The Mud Lake congregation may have used the log school as mentioned in the section on the Presbyterian congregation.
The Dartmoor congregation apparently met at John Gardiner’s home which was also the Post Office. It was on Lot 20, Conc. 3, Dalton, just north of the corner at the Lake Dalrymple road and Highway 503 (Monck Road). In 1883, the first records available list 17 members at Sebright, 13 at Mud Lake and 22 at Dartmoor. By 1884-85, membership was Sebright 16, Mud Lake 34, and Dartmoor 14. In 1891, the numbers were little changed with Sebright 17, Mud Lake 39, and Dartmoor 15. The Dartmoor congregation closed in 1893, as the Gilbert and McFadden families joined the Sebright congregation, since it was just as close and there was a church building. The Gardiners and Dizzels and probably others moved away. These were the four main families in membership. Census records show the highest population ever in Dalton in 1891.
After that people started moving to Western Canada or elsewhere in Ontario in search of better land or job opportunities. By 1889, the members of the Mud Lake congregation had transferred to Sebright as well. At about this time a congregation was started at Sylvan Glen, again likely meeting at the school which is between Dalrymple and Brechin on the first concession of Carden. For about twenty years the Dalrymple circuit was made up of four congregations: Dalrymple, Sebright, Sadowa, and Sylvan Glen. The same circumstances faced the Methodist Congregation as was described earlier in dealing with the Presbyterians. It was no doubt with a sense of relief that the two congregations finally joined in 1918.