Like the song, “Little Brown Church in the Vale”, Saugeen Township has the “Little White Church on the River”.
After meeting in a barn, known as Cedar Hall, on the Gowanlock homestead, the early settlers of Queen’s Bush in Bruce County, decided, in 1859, to build the Dunblane Presbytertian Church from cedar trees felled along the banks of the Saugeen River. While the early log structure is still there today, it is now covered with board-and-batten on the outside and is painted a crisp white.
In 1860, a union with Southampton was formed that lasted until 1873 and then with Port Elgin that lasted until 1892, when the congregation formed a final union with Burgoyne that lasted until the congregation dissolved in 1968.
Today, the little church celebrates its origins each year on the Civic Holiday weekend Sunday, when descendants of some of the original families still attend a church service. On Sunday, August 5th, it was the 159th anniversary of the historic church.
The Anniversary began with the Presbyterian tradition of a piper, thanks to Lesley Raey.
Jim Gowan who lead the service, retired as a teacher for almost 40 years in Bruce County and has become worship leader in both Westminster Paisley and Cornerstone Tara. “There was a time when the church was the hub of the community and, if they disappear, it makes you question what is going to take their place. How will things be kept together in a community? You really have to wonder what the future holds for the church. It doesn’t matter what denomination it is, church attendance is way down. Sports and entertainment seem to be more important in the lives of families. Churches are amalgamating, cannot find ministers and, if they find them, cannot afford them. Personal values have taken the place of Christian values in North America. What is the value of a church in a community? According to a study, it means more volunteer hours, reduced crime rate, lower divorce rates, helping people find employment and many others. Churches today can still be a vital part of a community. It is wonderful to see a small community like this working together and trying to maintain this property. This little church is still an important part of the community and, in part, it’s because of the people.”
The Church Committee today is active in maintaining the church and trying to ensure its preservation for in the future. Chaired by Doug Gowanlock, descendant of the original Gowanlock homestead, the Committee includes Heather Gowanlock (Vice-chair), Margery Campbell (Treauser), Peggy Kirby (Secretary), Lynn Thede, Marg Jones, Ross Lamont, Lynn Fryday, Brian Grieve, Willa Faust (Presbytery representative), the Committee continues to improve the church structure.
Visitors stopping by can read an Interpretative Plaque that tells the history of the little church.
As a fundraiser this year, the Church is going to host an old-fashioned, traditional Hymn Sing on Sunday, September 16th from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. with admission by donation. Everyone is invited to take this step back in time in Bruce County.