The Farnham Church

Farnum Church Alter Puslinch Pioneer, January 1977 Jackie McTaggert

Before the Farnham Church was built Rachel Oulton would sweep out the barn and set up chairs and planks for the Sunday service which was conducted by ministers who travelled out from Guelph. One of these ministers, the Rev. Arthur Palmer, Rector of St. George's Church, was a good friend of F.W. Stone and for many years Mr. Stone was a warden at St George's when Mr. Palmer was Rector. In 1839 a voluntary subscription was started for the English Church at Farnham. Rev. Palmer headed the list with a donation of 25 pounds. John Arkell sent 25 pounds from England. A donation of 25 shillings or more towards the church entitled the donor to a nice cemetery spot without further charge.

The St George's Church Parochial Magazine of October 1903 states, "The people all gave very generously, both in cash and in labour. Those who ministered at Farnham in its earlier days bear testimony to the zeal and piety of the people. Not only did they build and pay for the church, but Mr. John Oulton, left the sum of $2000. as a small endowment for it, the interest to be paid to the minister officiating for the time being."

The church opened in the early 1840's. In those days it seems to have been the church was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Quebec, then Toronto and then Niagara. The first marriage entered in the Farnham register was that of John Wallace and Jane Buchanan in 1851. The first baptism was that of John son of William Henry and Susannah Decker (nee Iles) in 1861. The first burial was that of Mary Arkell in 1860.

The old custom of dividing the sexes prevailed for many years during the early years at Farnham Church but gradually died out. An organ was purchased in 1877 for $163. Prior to this a melodeon had been used. The melodeon was originally called a lap organ and looked and worked something like an accordion. It had 4 brass keys on the left and 10 treble on the right. Each press and draw of the bellows produced a different note. Someone who knew the church in the early days was quoted as saying that "The singing was led by the aid of a small melodeon played by old Mr. Hewer and young Mr. Wood, each using one finger, Mr. Wood providing the treble and Mrs. Hewer the bass. However, we got on fairly well, and certainly a more reverent and devout congregation I have never met with before or since.

Mr. Hewer carried the melodeon to church from his house every Sunday. The first Sunday after the installation of the organ, Mrs. G. Harvey and the whole choir came out from Guelph. Organists who played at the Farnham Church were Mrs. John Arkell, Miss Saunders and Miss Lydia Decker (who later married John Tolton.)

Until 1861 the church was cared for by the Rector of Guelph. In 1861 it was placed under the care of Rev. C.H Drinkwater from Rockwood. When he left, the church was once again united to Guelph and Archdeacon Palmer and his Curate Rev. Finlow Alexander looked after Farnham until 1876. Archdeacon A. Dixon took over from Rev. Palmer and he and his Curates conducted services until 1898.

The following excerpt is from a history written by Alice Parker Iles for the Arkell W.I. Tweedsmuir History "Many still recall Archdeacon Dixon as a dignified, scholarly, old gentleman, but as he did not see the necessity of visiting his parishioners, and so got out of touch and sympathy with them, he was better respected than known. That, together with many having passed away or moving to other parts caused the congregation to dwindle to so few the Church eventually was closed for a time. The village of Farnham never materialized because many of the early pioneers settled in what is now the village of Arkell. It was only the true-blue Anglicans who persevered in the long walk to the Plains to attend the Farnham Church before it closed.

Then Rev. Gilbert Farquhar Davidson appeared on the scene and things began to happen. He soon proved that a positive attitude was more important than the facts. If the people were having a hard time getting to church why not move the church to the people? From the Tweedsmuir History "he was young and vigorous, a brilliant preacher and musician and although lacking physical charm, his happy nature and genial personality, together with ready wit and sparkling humour made him popular with other members of other denominations as well as his own. He took a keen interest in this parish and soon began to muster his forces and succeeded in building up a congregation who saw the advisability of moving the structure bodily to the village of Arkell in 1901.

The church was somehow hoisted onto several round, smooth logs and with ropes, horsepower and manpower it was pulled and rolled on top of the logs much like the grocery boxes are rolled along the conveyor belt at Miracle Mart. As the church rolled over the logs they had to be carried from the back of the church to the front again in what must have seemed a never ending process. The church was on the road for weeks. Traffic was not a problem since there were no motorized vehicles and the horses and pedestrians only had to make a small detour.

John Arkell donated the new site for the church which was just west of the Buitenduk home. The church needed repairs and much sprucing up and an appeal went out for funds. According to the Parochial Magazine of St. George's church 1903,"The people responded to the appeal for funds with the same generosity which was characteristic of their fore fathers and like them they not only gave money, but saved much expense by giving labour. Not only did the men work hard, but the ladies helped in the painting of the seats and if any work was ever a labour of love, this was it. For a whole year, we were out of the Church, worshipping first in the schoolhouse, and later on in the Methodist church.

The improvement cost almost $500 which was a fair sum in those days. Special mention is also made of a Mr. Charles Aldrich who spent many of his evenings putting up the curtains and doing other jobs. Again we quote from the Parochial Magazine. "The general effect of the interior of the church is very beautiful The new windows supplied by the Dominion Stained Glass Co add greatly to its appearance. The Vestry has been built under the gallery and no longer cuts off a corner of the chancel. The Chancel furnishings were all presented to the church and are solid and good. The carpet was made in Guelph, and both it and the curtains were procured from Messrs. G.B. Ryan & Co., the rest of the furniture came from Toronto, except the Alms-dish which was made in Hamilton."

The church was heated by a wood stove; note the stove pipes in the picture, and lit with coal oil lamps. Ella Tolton recalls the drapes at the front of the church were a rich red colour with a yellow-gold panel behind the altar. The Alms-dish was displayed on the Altar.

The 1903 Parochial Magazine: "On Sunday, Sept 27,1903, the church was reopened by the Lord Bishop of Niagara, assisted by the Vicar. The building was crowded in every part, the service was very hearty. The Bishop delivered a magnificent sermon on the duty of keeping the Sabbath and reverencing the Sanctuary. Another large congregation filled the Church on St. Michael and all Angel's Day, when Rev A U DePencier, Senior Curate of St James Cathedral Toronto preached on the duty of thankfulness. As the Clergy of the Rural Deanery were meeting at Guelph, a number of them came over and quite an imposing process made its way from the vestries under the gallery to the Chancel. On Sunday, Oct 4 the Holy communion was celebrated by the Vicar, there being 19 communicants. The three ladies who have been acting as organists all took part in the opening services. Miss Mae Hallet playing on the Sunday evening , Miss Maddock on Tuesday, and Miss Colwill at the communion service. On the Tuesday evening Mr. Harold Ryan sang "Angels Bright and Angels Fair", with great feeling during the offertory, Mr. Charles Aldrich playing his accompaniment. It only remains to add that the Bishop has seen fit to give the Church a new name by which it will be legally known. Curiously enough it seems never to have had any special dedication before, a thing quite unheard of in the church of England, and as the Bishop pointed out it must be dedicated either in the name of our Blessed Lord or some Saint. As the opening coincided with the feast of St Michael and All Angels, the Bishop dedicated it in that name.

The article also mentions that the young Mr. William Wood, who provided the treble on the melodeon in the early days at Farnham, was brought from Rockwood for the reopening. Although he was quite old and stricken, he was quite overcome with joy at the conditions and prospects of the Church. Mr. Wood drew a beautiful pencil sketch of the Farnham church date AD1840. This drawing now hangs in the home of Ella Tolton


While Archdeacon Davidson, who was the motivating force in having the church moved to Arkell, was Rector of St. George's Church, a Mission Church was built in St. Patrick's Ward in Guelph. Mr. J.W. Lyon donated the land at the corner of York Rd and Harris St and also donated money to the building fund. The corner stone was laid Nov 14, 1910 and on April 23, 1911 Archdeacon Davidson conducted the first service. St. Michael's Church was then put the care of the Rector of St. George's Mission in St. Patrick's Ward. Eventually St. Patricks became a separate parish and 1920 Rev Ernest Slack became the first full time priest. Due to financial problems of the charge, he also served as Chaplain at the Ont Reformatory. Sunday was certainly not a day of rest for the Rector. The day began with a service at St. Patricks at 8 a.m. Then it was off to the Reformatory for 9:15, back to St. Patricks for 11 a.m. then out to St. Michael, Arkell at 3:15 p.m. The day ended with Evensong at 7 at St. Patricks, . All this he accomplished on his bicycle, said John F. Heap, of Guelph, who wrote "A History of St. Patrick's Church" and from which much information was gleaned. On August 15, 1943, Rev Geo T Mackey became Rector of St. Patricks and St. Michael. The wardens of St. Michael told him that the congregation had shrunk to about 10 people and they suggested that the Church be closed. Rev. Mackey took this up with the Bishop who agreed after looking into the matter. All memorials and furnishing went to St. Patrick's church, the few things not needed went to other mission churches. When the building and some land were sold, the 1� acre old burial ground at Farnham remained. In 1952 it was fenced and memorial gates erected, as a remembrance of the early pioneers, and was retained by the Diocese of Niagara. It is now administered by the Farnham Cemetery Board.

On Nov. 27 1944 Peter Iles, seen in the picture, received a letter from Rev. Thompson the Rector in Georgetown, who wrote to Mr. Iles to give permission to demolish the Church of Arkell He also mentioned that if the Arkell W.I. were interested in the building they should put their offer in writing. They deemed in to be impractical. Lil Boreham, remembers crying when the machines came to tear down the Church "It was such a pretty church." No trace of it remains today except in the hearts and memories of a few local resident, but some of the furnishing are still in use. In 1967 St. Patrick's Church was opened on Speedvale Ave. Rev. Will Thomas kindly showed me through the church pointing out the few furnishings he knew had come from St. Michael. In the side Chapel was the old but still beautiful alter that had served St. Michael and All Angels church in Arkell.

"The Anglican Church by the present cemetery was torn down when its parishioners numbered only a few. Mrs. Carter remembers what a beautiful little frame church it was and how Peter Iles and George Rubar were two of its last remaining supporters."