Yarmouth’s Methodist Churches


In 1816 Rev. Robert Alder, a Methodist minister, preached his first sermon in Yarmouth at the house of Waitstill Lewis, at the foot of Lewis’ Lane, and he later preached in Hebron at the house of Captain Anthony Landers, from England, the first Methodist to come to Yarmouth. Yet Alder’s stay in Yarmouth was brief, and so in 1818 Thomas Payne arrived from England to serve as Yarmouth’s second Methodist minister. For a public place of worship Payne arranged to purchase a building, previously a carpenter’s workshop, on the west side of Main Street, not far from the foot of Butler’s Hill. It was converted into a church, enlarged in 1819, and subsequently furnished with pews and galleries. Here the Methodists of Yarmouth worshiped until increasing numbers and wealth enabled them in 1860 to build the larger, more elegant, Providence Church a few blocks north on Main Street. The original church was sold about 1870; eventually it was remodelled and reopened, on 20 January 1890, as a commodious public hall called St. Julian’s. [1]

Providence Church was dedicated on 5 August 1860 and destroyed by fire, sixty years later, in the early hours of 27 February 1921. For several months the Providence congregation held services in a Y. M. C. A. hall while negotiating to unite with Yarmouth’s Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Those negotiations failed, but on 10 July 1921 the Providence congregation joined that of Tabernacle Congregational Church, at 22 Collins Street, to form the United Tabernacle Church.

Since Milton’s Methodists found it inconvenient to worship in Yarmouth’s south end, they erected a Wesley Chapel, at the northeast corner of Elm and Main Streets, which opened on 8 December 1839. Eventually the congregation outgrew the chapel, so in 1865 they built the larger Wesley Church nearby. After that the chapel was sold, probably to Milton Division, No. 4, of the Sons of Temperance, and converted to a temperance hall known locally as the Milton Division Hall. [2]

The construction of Milton’s Wesley Church began in August 1864, at the northeast corner of Huntington and Main Streets, but the weather interfered. “On Monday, December 12th, the spire of Wesley church, Milton, then in process of completion, with staging to its top, was blown over by a gale of wind and shattered to fragments. There were a number of workmen engaged in and about the building, but all escaped injury, except a young man named Isaac Heightley, who received a slight wound from a falling board.” [3, p. 433] After the spire was rebuilt, the completed church was opened and dedicated on Sunday, 22 October 1865; but years later, in October 1894, the spire was replaced by a more stable tower. [3, pp 531–532] In 1925 Wesley Church became a congregation of the United Church of Canada. In 1967 the congregations of Wesley United and Central United joined to form the new Beacon United Church. Finally, after serving Milton’s Methodists for more than a century, Wesley Church was dismantled and the property was sold.

This album features three of Yarmouth’s Methodist churches:

            Providence Church at Main and Barnard Streets (9 images),

            Wesley Chapel at Elm and Main Streets (2 images), and

            Wesley Church at Huntington and Main Streets (11 images).

References and Notes

    [1] I based much of this essay on [3, pp. 523–527] and [4, pp. 125–128].

    [2] Wilfred Allan remembers the Division Hall from his scouting days. “My memories of the building were always with the windows boarded up even when the cub scouts met there. Apparently, though, there must have been a useable window or two in the Division Hall when my father was below drinking age. Mom told me the fire department used the hall for parties and other events. One evening my dad, who wasn't 21, joined them and proceeded to get quite drunk. He couldn't be wakened so the firemen left him there. In the morning, he discovered he was locked in. He opened a window and called for help. Unfortunately it was his father who heard him. I suspect interesting conversations followed. The Sons of Temperance would not have been amused.”

    [3] J. Murray Lawson, Yarmouth Past and Present: A Book of Reminiscences. Yarmouth Herald, Yarmouth NS, 1902. 681 pp.

    [4] D. W. Johnson, History of Methodism in Eastern British America: Including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Bermuda: From the Beginning till the Consummation of Union with the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches in 1925. The Tribune Printing Co., Ltd., Sackville NB, 1925?. 454 pp. Available online.

    [5] I thank Wilfred Allan, for permitting me to display digital images of his postcards, and Jamie Serran, Archivist at the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, for providing access to many photographs.

William Day (1 March 2013)