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1846 - 1946 

Vast pine woods, far as the eye could see; the silver gleam of a river, winding through grassy flats, past timbered cutbanks; smoke of camp fires, where roving bands of Mississauga Indians had pitched their lodges near the shore – that was Halton County in the 18th Century. But before the century ended, the Indians who had for uncounted ages past roamed the “Chingua-cousy” (pine woods) had made treaty with the white men, surrendered their terrain, and travelled north and east, never to return. A new day dawned in this backwoods section of what was then called “Upper” or “Western” Canada.

Axe blades bit deeply into wood. The forest giants fell. The plough of the settler sliced the virgin soil. Log cabins, houses, school buildings, rose in the clearings. Trails became roads. Where water run, mill-wheels began to turn. And in the bowl valley where from time immemorial the Red Men camped and fished, the village of Norval came into being, ringed by fertile farms.

It is believed that as early as 1830 services of Divine Worship, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, were held in “McNabsville”. The first recorded history of the parish, however is to be found in the Minutes of Vestry Meeting held in the public schoolhouse at Norval on April 14th, 1845, with the Rev. R.T. Macgeorge (of Streetsville and Hurontario) in the chair. The Churchwardens appointed were Mr. Charles Mitchell and Mr. Paul Smeltzer. At that meeting it was resolved:

“That the Church now in course of erection be named ‘St. Paul’s Church”

At that time many prominent local men were Anglicans, and General Sir Peter Adamson had given the land on which the church edifice was to be built. A year later we find the annual (Easter) Vestry again holding its meeting in the Norval schoolhouse, on April 13th, 1846. Since, however, the 1847 annual Vestry was held in the church building itself, it may be presumed that St. Paul’s Church was completed during the Summer or Fall of 1846 and opened for divine warship. Since that time it has never close its doors, and the original edifice is still in use.

The minutes of the early vestry meetings are tantalizingly brief. We find “William Clay”, “William Pexton”, and “James Switzer” mentioned, the latter two serving as wardens for 1847. Vestry minutes also include the church accounts, listing such disbursements as 5s. 3d. for “candles” and 71/2d. for “a broom”.

Captain (later Colonel) William Clay, the postmaster, began business in 1837, and forty years later was still in business and still very active in St. Paul’s congregation. He served as Warden of Halton County, acting Magistrate for 12 years Reeve of Esquesing Township, and school trustee.

Another leading Anglican was Mr. Robert Noble, who became owner of the Norval mill, which (as the Historical Atlas of Halton County states) had “no superior in the Dominion”, grinding 60,000 barrels of flour a year. The mill had been owned and operated previously by General Sir Peter Adamson, then by Messrs. Gooderhan and Worts.

From March 27th, 1846, to April, 1847, a total of twenty-six services had been held in St. Paul’s, for the most part a service every two weeks. The total collection for these services amounted to £3. 3s. 5d., which with a balance from the previous year of  £1. 5s. 21/2d. made a total of £4. 8s. 71/2d. The disbursements were £3. 18s. 21/2d. leaving a balance of ten shillings and five pence with which the Vestry Meeting of 1847 “expressed themselves satisfied”.

The Rev. R.T. Macgeorge, in addition to his many duties at other mission stations, continued to serve the Norval church until 1849, and it was then that the Rev. Donald Fraser, a travelling missionary resident in Elora, took charge of the services.

According to the Vestry minutes of 1850-52 the Rev. Donald Fraser was paid the sum of £25 yearly by way of stipend, equivalent to $125. The purchasing power of money then was far greater than it is today; and instance of this is a Bill of Sale at present owner by a Hornby farmer (Mr. Kenneth Orr) revealing that in the year 1825 a local farm of 100 acres changed hands on payment of the same sum of £25.

The Church Society reports contain references to the Norval Mission about this period, as follows:

“1851 – The Rev. Donald Fraser transmitted £2. 10s. being his own subscription for two years, and expressed regret that on account of great local exertions which are still necessary to liquidate the debt contracted before he came to the mission, he cannot apply to the members of the (Norval) church for other purposes”.

1852 – The missionary resident in the prosperous and romantic village of Norval, after having by great local exertions, liquidated the debts contracted before he came into the mission, has formed a Parochial Association for the Church Society and has returned £3. 10s. 9d. to the Parent Society.”

We may infer, from the above financial details, and the reference to Norval as “prosperous”, that the Anglican and other farmers and residents of the village and district were finding a ready market for their produce, and improving their bank balances. Those were the days when church pews were rented to families and members of the congregation. In 1849 pews at St. Paul’s were being rented of as high as £2 10s. and as low as £1 a year, to W. Pexton, W. Gooder-Green, T. Greenwood, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Day, Mr. Weston, Mr. Nixon, Mr. Pettigrew, and others.

The names of Foster, Cunningham, Griffen, Holmes, Squires, Huntley, Monohan, Young, Switzer, Willson, Hoare, McCreary, appear in the list of pew-renters for 1850. There are other names written in ink now too faded to be readable. But with each succeeding year the list grows, with “McGintys”, “Ross’s”, and “Robinson’s” indicating a constant influx of Irish, Scottish and English settlers moving into Norval and district, with St. Paul’s Church congregation building up to its peak years.

An interesting note in the Vestry minutes of April 5th, 1858, states: “We, the undersigned, declare ourselves to be members of the United Church of England and Ireland”. The title as written was quite correct, the two great Churches having united by that time, and thus Anglicans are found to comprise the first and original “United Church” worshipping in Canada.

In 1853 the Rev. T. Marsh was appointed Rector of Hornby, Norval, Stewarttown, and Georgetown. Norval continued to be linked with Stewarttown and Georgetown until 1867, when Georgetown became a separate parish.

Following that time, there was a resident clergyman at Norval for several years, such ministers as the Rev. F.A. O’Meara, Rev. J.G. Maccarthur, Rev. J. Mockridge, and Rev. W.C. Martin travelling by horse or wagon to other mission stations and visiting the scattered farm homes of their parishioners. Between changes of pastor, divinity students from Anglican theological college in Toronto came out at week-ends to conduct services.

The former Rector of Oakville, Rev. Canon Russell Smith (who, though retired, has been serving recently as priest-in-charge of the Parish of Lowville until such time as an incumbent could be appointed), has vivid memories of his own week-end trips from Toronto, as a divinity student, to conduct divine worship at St. Paul’s Norval. “Like all the other students, I used to stay each week-end at the home of a Mrs. Collins”, he reveals. “She was an Anglican of the ‘old school’, glad to offer hospitality to everyone in the ministry, from student to Bishop. She had two beds available for guests – one for the students, and one for the Bishop. And the students were not allowed to sleep in the Bishop’s bed!”

“I can recall many a bitter winter Monday morning,” says Canon Russell Smith, “being awakened in the darkness at 5 a.m. by Mrs. Collins’ musical alarm clock playing ‘Home Sweet Home’, with the prospect of a two-mile walk through the snow to catch the seven o’clock train!”

Glancing through the old financial accounts, it is interesting to note that in 1859 the pounds-shillings-pence currency vanishes, all monies in the accounts being “brought down” into Canadian dollars. The church was heated for services for a whole year at a cost of $3.50 for cordwood, burned in stoves; painting the church cost $30; but “washing the surplice twice” came rather high – one dollar inclusive! Music for hymns came from a “Melodian”, which needed fifty cents worth of repairs in 1869. The accounts of 1869 also reveal that a free house was provided for the clergyman, plus a stipend of $275. The sexton’s honorarium was $17.

During the ‘60s, we find the names of many well-known local families and personages appearing in the records. Dr. Samuel Webster, who for many years played a prominent part in congregation and vestry, is listed as a pew-renter, and in 1869-70 acted as Secretary of the Vestry. Mr. James Pettigrew is found serving as People’s Warden and his loyalty and devotion had much to do with building up the congregation. Mention is made of “Mr. Hewson”, “Mr. Hunter”, and “Henry Pettigrew” as vestrymen – the latter helped as a boy in the construction of St. Paul’s, carrying stones for the foundations.

Vestrymen were eminently practical. In 1878 when the churchwarden’s financial accounts for the year showed a deficiency of $41.40, two members called for an immediate collection and the eight men present at once subscribed the amount necessary to balance the books.

Christian training of Anglican children was efficiently carried out from the earliest days of St. Paul’s Church, and equipment provided for the Sunday School (an item in the 1860 accounts is “paid for school books $5.30”), and vestries in the 1860-70 period and subsequently frequently accord votes of thanks to the “Sabbath School Teachers” for their devoted services. In 1883 subscriptions for “A Sunday School Library” brought $19.66. In 1893 the Sunday School staff consisted of five teachers, and thirty-seven scholars, and the school was built up strongly in succeeding years by the services of consecrated men and women fired with zeal for Christ and the Church. The names of Miss Sara Glendinning, Miss Mame Glendinning (Mrs. C.W. Coupland), Miss Maggie Holmes, Miss Margaret Pettigrew, Miss Vertha Pettigrew, Miss Gertrude Day, Miss Harriet Maxted, Miss Eva Day, Miss Laura Day, Miss Grace Fidler, Mr. Charles Day, Miss Helen Browne, Miss P. Maguire, Mr. John Bird, Mr. Fred Robinson, Capt. G.O. Brown, Miss Lydia Whitfield, Miss Mary Coupland, Miss Alice Gray, Mrs. C. Grimwood, all deserve mention, and there were many others.

During the latter part of the 19th Century and the first decades of the 20th, constantly in the records appear the names of Mr. James Fidler, Mr. R. Glendinning, Mr. John Pettigrew, Mr. J. Cunningham, Mr. H. Ross, Mr. John Murray, Mr. James Johnson, Mr. John Nelson, Mr. Henry Webster, Mr. John Slingsby, Mr. L.F. Greenwood, Mr. James Brown, Mr. George Day, Mr. Henry Lowndes, Mr. W.H. Fuller, Mr. John Hunter, Mr. Henry Pettigrew, Mr. nelson Cooke, Mr. Walter Thomson, Mr. Josph Bird, Mr. Griffin Thomson, Mr. George C. Thomson, Mr. George Thomson, Mr. William Thomson, Mr. E. Turner, Mr. R.Graham, Mr. George Pettigrew, Mr. George Brain, Mr. Thomas Bird, Mr. Wm. Scott, Mr. Frank McAndrew, Mr. Walter Brain, Mr. N. Robinson, Mr. Harold Pettigrew, Mr. C. Coupland, Mr. Walter Fidler, Mr. Warwick Coupland, Mr. C.W. Moreton, Mr. C. Grimwood, Mr. E.Driver, and others, revealing much faithful and devoted service to St. Paul’s. Year after year many of these men accepted office as wardens, lay delegates to synod, vestry clerks, sides-men, and proved veritable “pillars of the church”. One cannot praise too highly the consecrated service of our splendid laymen.

A “Ladies’ Aid” group was formed during the incumbency of the Rev. H.A. Bowden (1888-9), while the “W.A.” (local branch of the Woman’s Auxiliary to the Missionary Society of the C. of E. in Canada) appears to have been established early in the Twentieth Century, and for many years actively supported home and foreign missions with prayers, pledge-money, clothing bales, etc., at the same time raising considerable amounts of money to help St. Paul’s itself; as an instance, during the four years 1924-28, in addition to missionary givings the W.A. handed to St. Paul’s wardens the sum of $688.77 to cover installation of electric light and for general Sunday School, rectory, and parochial expenses. Among leading W. A. members may be mentioned Mrs. R. Glendinning, Mrs. H. Pettigrew, Mrs. A. Sinclair, Mrs. J. Bird, Sr., Mrs. Geo. Day, Mrs. J. Robinson, Miss S. Webster, Miss M. Bird, Miss. M. Pettigrew, Miss B. Pettigrew, Mrs. J. Morgason, Mrs. J. Evans, Mrs. J. Graham, Mrs. R. Graham, Mrs. R. Kerr, Mrs. L.F. Greenwood, Mrs. T.E. Hewson, Mrs. Gordon Browne, Mrs. J. Hughes, Miss P. Maguire, Miss Lizzie Hewson, Mrs. W. Fidler, Mrs. G. Rodway, Mrs. C. Moreton, Mrs. E. Rankine, Mrs. F. Knight, Mrs. J. Black. Mrs. J. Snow, Mrs. R. Gray, Mrs. A.E. Shain, Mrs. A. Barnett, Mrs. C. Burton, Mrs. J. Rawlingson, Mrs. H Caseley, Mrs. R. Pomeroy, Mrs. S.A. Morris, Mrs. A. Morris, Mrs. R.P. Gollop.

A complete list of church organists cannot be compiled, owing to scanty early records, but grateful thanks are due to all who Sunday by Sunday, often over many years, officiated in this capacity including: Miss A. Buchanan, Miss A. Pettigre, Miss H. Maxted, Miss S. Glendinning, Miss Emma Smith, Mrs, C.W. Coupland, Mrs. Walter Fidler, Mrs. C. Moreton, Mrs Maybee, Mrs. Kett, Miss G. Maybee, Mrs. S.R. Colebrook.

Men of St. Paul’s have ever responded readily to the call of King and Country in time of danger. In the troubled ‘70s and “80s, with news of the Half –Breed Rebellion in the Nortwest, and Anglican named Capt. Curry commanded a local company of Norval volunteers. During the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 members of the congregation carried out war work, aided bond drives, took up collections for War Orphan Relief, sent parcels to the men overseas, and gathered each Sunday for divine worship, confident that God would defend the Right. One result of World War II, however, was. A considerable depletion of congregational membership, many individuals and families moving away from Norval and their home church to engage in war work or take up new duties elsewhere.

Since 1902 St. Paul’s has been linked parochially with St. Stephen’s, Hornby, and St. John’s, Stewarttown. Until 1922 the rectory was at Stewarttow, after which a rectory was purchased at Norval. A fine parish hall was built, adjoining St. Paul’s, in 1927, and opened in February 1928.

Twice in its history the congregation has been called upon to play its part in “forward” movements of the Church of England in Canada. In 1919 St. Paul’s went “over the top” in raising $1,068 for the “Anglican Forward Movement”.

The congregation is very proud of the fact that two of its men entered the Anglican ministry; both of them – The Rev. Griffin Thomson (Diocese of Niagara) and the Rev. Robert Coupland  (Diocese of Nova Scotia) – are active in parish work, and the prayers and good wishes of the people of St. Paul’s are ever with them.

Gifts to St. Paul’s include the Collins’ Memorial Font, the Altar Light given by the family in memory of Mrs. George Day, and Brass Altar Vases given by Mrs. Apted (Miss Edith Pettigrew). Not a few members now deceased left legacies to the church.

Such is something of the romantic story of St. Paul’s Norval, gleaned painstakingly from faded written records of the past, and the personal recollections of members today. It is far from being a complete history, and can only hint at the deep devotional life of generations of churchfolk, and the Christian labours of Rectors and parishioners in furtherance of the prayer of Our Lord, “Thy kingdom come… on earth”.

Every possible care has been taken to ensure accuracy of details, names, etc. but sincere apologies are offered for the omission of any facts or names relevant to this narrative of which the resent writer lacks knowledge. Norval’s Anglicans have settled in almost every Province in the Dominion. And have travelled to the farthest corners of the world, but they have never forgotten, and ever hold in warmest affection, the “old home church” in the lovely valley where once they worshipped God.

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