Benchmarks in Worship – Stokes Bay
In the early days there were no churches at Stokes Bay. For many years, services were held
in the homes where the faithful gathered to hear the Word. When a minister was not available,
some of the elders, such as Lex Martin – a very devout old bachelor, would take charge of the
meeting. John McIver was also a good speaker and took over many times.
by Helene Scott
In 1902 Knox Presbyterian Church was built and still stands in the same place, and is in use
to this day. The church was built mainly through the exhortation of the Reverend Mr. Severeight,
the Presbyterian minister in the area at this time. He was a very colourful figure, always in a hurry,
always bustling about exhorting his flock to greater efforts. The pockets of his old frock coat
would bulge with the weight of hammers, nails and other building tools. He was an Englishman
with a decided English accent, and as he went about he would keep repeating the everyone he
met: Must get the chutch built, we must get the chutch
built. He was instrumental in helping to get more than one Presbyterian Church built on
the Bruce Peninsula. One Sunday he arrived with a big bundle of rhubarb under his arm, that he
had gathered somewhere for someone. The elders were quite indignant at what they considered a
flagrant disregard of the Sabbath, and one was heard to say bitterly, Indeed peddlin
the rewbarg, (as he called it), on the Sabbath.
In the Presbyterian Church, services were held first in Gaelic, and then in English. The
Gaelic Service was conducted by Alex Martin, and his brother John Martin, was the Precentor.
The precentor read the first line of the psalm in Gaelic, and the congregation chanted the tune.
This procedure was repeated until the psalm was finished. To those not familiar with the chanting,
it was quite an experience to hear. Before the service was ended other members would be arriving
for the service in English. It is said that some of the younger people would have great difficulty
repressing their mirth on hearing the chanting. Fred Myles was once heard to say, in a loud
whisper, The old boys have all the wrong stops out!
The first student minister to preach at Knox Presbyterian was John Cowan. He was a
dynamic young Christian who was influential in getting a number of young people to join the
church. Other ministers remembered are Nelson, Duncan, Manthorne, Penman and
Violet Golden, daughter of George Golden, was an organist in the church at the time, as
was also Margaret McIver, daughter of John McIver. Members of the choir included: Nellie, Tena
and Mary McLeod, Ethel Martindale, Georgina Golden, Mina Mowatt, T.Y. Dealy and John
Cameron. There were some great singers in the church in those days. Lindsay Myles was said to
be one of the best, and could put his voice over ten hills, so the story goes, In later years, after
1912, Nathan Doran held the honour, especially when they sand his favourite hymn Will
Your Anchor Hold, a fitting choice for a fisherman.
Around this time, the Anglican held services in the Orange Hall. Two Anglican ministers
recalled are: Reverend Mr. Gandier and the beloved Canon James. After the Anglican
congregation dwindled, most members attended the Presbyterian Church.
Soon the Presbyterian congregation was reduced by people moving away, or departing the
mortal scene. The closing of the mills and the decline of the lumber business forced many to move
form the area. Other denominations began to use the church, such as the Mennonites. One
Mennonite minister in particular, is remembered. He was the Reverend Mr. Robert Etherington,
known to everyone as Happy Bob. He had a great voice, and a cheery personality,
and was welcomed by all. He went around visiting the sick and shut-ins and upon entering the
home of a sick person, would take off his coat and take a chair by the bedside, then taking out his
old Bible would read a chapter or two in his sonorous voice, and then sing the favourite hymns of
the sick person. No organ was needed with that voice! The children in the home (and I was one)
would steal in and sit on the floor listening in wide-eyed admiration.
Other names that come to mind are: Sinden, Groves and Schwalm. There were two Groves
– one had been a well-known hockey player, before his conversion, and was known as
Speedy Bill Groves. One thing is certain – they all laboured hard in this rather
barren part of the Lords Vineyard. In most cases they would have two or three charges to
care for. They were all fine, well-respected people. Most people who enjoyed church went no
matter what denomination was preaching; I know my mother played the organ for all, no matter
the denomination. Later on, Mrs. Nathan Doran filled in as organist when required. The above
ministers were all stationed at Ferndale.
Other sects held meetings from time to time in the village, and some of these well-meaning
persons were not too well received by the more dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterians and Anglicans –
One sect in particular, at a cottage prayer meeting, was bent on chasing the devil out of one
of the children in the home. They prayed and exhorted, and excitement ran so high that they
pounded the child on the back. The child, no doubt sick with fear, vomited, and the leader yelled
triumphantly, There, theres the devil, hes gone under the
That night, members of the meeting, returning home in their buggies and wagons, met with
a barrage of rotten eggs when they reached Pools Hallow. The nasty missiles were hurled
by mysterious assailants who melted into the night without a sound. On another occasion a much
nastier barrage was used, and one Christian wife was horrified to find a bunch of brown paper
bags in the cow stable ... one unchristian husband had a red face and burning ears for days
At still another meeting where the people were getting worked up to a fine frenzy, and the
prayers and cries went on an on, one young man getting bored with the whole thing, and his knees
sore from the hard floor, spied the family cat by the chair where he was kneeling. To see if he
could create a diversion, and maybe cut the prayers short, he caught the cat by the tail, lifted the
chair leg and let it down on poor pusss tail! The cat let out such screeching that it
completely drowned out the prayers and wails, and brought the meeting to a complete standstill.
The young man rolled on the floor, not in a frenzy, but in a desperate attempt to keep from
On still another occasion when the minister had called at a home, he read the Bible and had
a word of prayer – too long a prayer for some. The lady of the house was a very curious person,
and she just had to know who went by every time a vehicle passed. This time, as she and her
children and the neighbours children, who happened to be there, were all down on their
knees, the minister kept praying and praying. Then there was the sound of buggy wheels coming
down the hill. One boy opened his eyes for a peek and there was the lady of the house on her
hands and knees creeping silently to the window to have a look. She looked out, and then crept
silently back to her chair, and with hands clasped in an attitude of prayer, said
Amen just in time with the minister.
Another thing we personally recall at some prayer meetings, was speaking in
tongues by some of the members. This was quite awesome to hear by the uninitiated. I do
not know if it is still heard today or not. We were glad that we had the privilege of hearing it,
though many do not believe that it is a divine gift, but rather a form of hysteria. We would prefer
to believe the former as the persons we heard speak it were Christians above reproach.
Pages 261-263 of Benchmarks
A History of Eastnor Township and Lions Head
Compiled by The Eastnor & Lions Head Historical Society