The History of Knox Presbyterian Church
Stokes Bay, Ontario

     Presbyterian services were held in Stokes Bay as early as the summer of 1896 by Gaelic speaking Alexander Fraser, who left in the fall of that year to do his last year at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. Under the ministry of James Sieveright (1896-2001) Stokes Bay was linked with Lionís Head, Spry, Lindsay and Barrow Bay. 1901 saw the formal formation of the Presbyterian congregation at Stokes Bay. In 1902, Reverend Sieveright oversaw the construction of the sturdy frame church building, still used today.

     The Presbyterian congregation was temporarily discontinued in December 1910 because of inroads made by the Latter Day Saints who also held services in the community. By the summer of 1912 services resumed but on September 30, 1913, the Presbytery of Owen Sound took action to dispose of the unused church in Stokes Bay. With the decline of the lumber industry many families had left the community and the congregation found it difficult to pay a minister.

     In the summer of 1916 Presbyterian J. Fletcher of Lionís Head was doing some work in the community. In 1925 Knox Church, Stokes Bay, presumably entered the United Church of Canada. However the congregation was still in a weakened state and in May 1928 the United Church gave permission to sell the church.

     The building was bought by Graham Menary who used it as a net shed to serve the local fishing industry. During World War Two, the building was home to at least four families... each family occupying one corner of the present sanctuary.

     In the fall of 1947, the Presbytery of Bruce-Maitland considered the idea of reopening the church, as part of its post W.W. II renewal program. On October 30, 1947, at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Allan McLay, a committee was formed to look into the idea or repurchasing the building from Mr. Menary. On the same date, the Womenís Association was formed with the aim of helping purchase the building and reorganize the Church and Sunday School.

     Trustees were appointed and took personal bond to borrow the money to but and renovate the church. They were Garnet Hawke, Jack McLay and Allan McLay. There are few and incomplete records of all who gave their money to but the building for $200 and the labour to renovate it. Jeanne Smith gave freely of her restaurant hall and musical talents and in the fall of 1947 Sunday School began.

     The pulpit and pews were donated by the Presbytery and delivered by Ken Smith. Karl Hawes provided material and labour for the wiring, Joe Picott gave money towards the hymn books, pulpit Bible, choir music and light fixtures, which were installed by Llewellyn Williams. The paint was purchased by the Womenís Association and applied by Bob Smith, Malcolm McDonald, Duncan Hewton, Murdock Martin and Jack McLay. Lewis Wood made and donated a hand-crafted Communion Table that is still in use and the Daughters of St, Andrews donated the Communion service. Vera Smith and Bertha Stevens finished the linen purchased by Verda Patterson.

     On June 27th, 1948, the church was reopened and rededicated at a service conducted by Reverend C.E. Fisher and student minister Kingsley King. Later that year Reverend Hugh Lowery arrived from Ireland to take charge of Stokes Bay, Lindsay, Mar and Barrow Bay.

     On August 6th, 1967, at a service conducted by Reverend George Millar, a plaque was placed in the church remembering the first minister and trustees at the church opening in 1902 and 1948.

     For many years the church functioned only during the summer months, with services conducted by student ministers who received invaluable experience while serving in this community of faith. Beginning in 1990, the season of services was slowly lengthened each year until the winter of 1996-97 saw the establishment of year-round services, under the leadership of Clerk of Session Peter Longmore. Student ministers were and are still used during the spring and summer periods.

     By 1998, 50 years after the re-opening in 1948, the congregation boasted weekly Sunday services, and active Sunday School, a Youth Program for pre-teens, a continuing Womenís Auxiliary, a mid-week Faithfinders adult discussion and Bible study group and a small choir. Renovations and several gifts also marked the 50th Anniversary year including insulation of the ceiling; installation of new windows; donation of a crocheted scene of the Last Supper by Jeanne Smith and Vera Smith; donation of a framed picture ďThe Risen Christ by the SeaĒ from the Longmore family; elders chairs, a ministerís chair and alter cross donated by the Belmont Presbyterian Church through the efforts of Jack and Carol Cowan; pew Bibles donated in memory of Henry Verburg by his family; an outside cross crafted by student Jonathan Sherbino and Orville Stewart; banners made by the women and children of the congregation and Communion glasses donated in memory of Malcolm McDonald by his family.

     In the summer of 1999, construction of an addition to the original church was started for the purpose of housing future summer students and also providing a small meeting room and washroom. The Building Committee consisted of Norma Stewart, Peter Longmore, Liz Gibson, Ron Schenk, Nean McArthur and Ben Gelenyse. Most of the work was done by congregation and community volunteers and the first student to live in the new facility was Barb Clarke in the summer of 2000. Total cost of the project was $53,000 and it was completely paid for within 15 months.

     In the fall of 2001, the Sanctuary was refurbished with newly painted walls and new carpeting. The former electric organ was replaced by a programmable electric keyboard, donated by Peter and Betty Longmore. On Easter Sunday, March 31st, 2002, Communicant membership stood at 61 with 14 adherents.

Written by Donalda (Nean) MacArthur
for the 50th Anniversary (1998)
Updated by Peter Longmore