St Paul's United Church
Midland, Ontario
St. Paul's United Church has a long and varied history which we have tried to capture in the following notes. This history includes the development of St. Paul's itself, beginning in 1875. It also includes the history of our sister congregation, Trinity United Church in Penetanguishene which began services in that community in 1829 and ended with the joining of the two congregations and the closing of Trinity United Church in 1972. We hope you enjoy and find informative our summaries below.

A Brief History of St. Paul's United Church, Midland
On Sunday June 17, 2001, the main street of  Midland, Ontario was a scene from  the past as members of St. Paul's followed kilted pipers in a 100th anniversary church  parade. Most participants wore period costumes. A horse drawn buggy and some antique automobiles added to the atmosphere.

St. Paul's tradition of worship began in 1875 when regular Methodist services were established in Midland. Reverend Snowdon was the first ordained minister and as a circuit rider met his congregation on Sunday afternoon in an upstairs room of the town jail.

After 1880, they worshiped in the Baptist Church and two years later, built a church on Midland Avenue, (now an apartment building).

Midland continued as part of a circuit ministry until 1897, when construction of a new Methodist Church on King Street was inspired by the Reverend  T. Dunlop. The imposing red brick structure (called King Street Methodist) was dedicated in 1902, with Dr. W. F. Campbell as the first minister.

Cost of the original building exclusive of heating and eavestroughing  was $12,866.

The name was changed to St. Paul's United with Church Union in 1925 when St. Paul's became a part of the new
United Church of Canada

For the occasion of the 100th aniversary festivities, Pat Cowden wrote a verse that so aptly expressed the spirit of the occasion:

     So as we close out this exciting day
     And people leave church to go on their way,
     Don't forget St. Paul's is a meeting place
     Where Neighbours and friends meet face to face



A Brief Summary of the History of Trinity United Church, Penetanguishene, Ontario

Trinity United Church in Penetanguishene and its congregations faithfully served the people of this area from 1829 to 1972. During that period of 143 years  60 Ministers or Lay or Student Supply individuals served the Congregation. Trinity United was a Methodist church from 1829 to 1925 when the United Church of Canada was formed from Methodist, Congregationalist and some Presbyterian congregations across Canada. This church was the earliest Methodist church in the North Simcoe County area and, through its local missionary work, contributed to the founding of Methodist congregations in Hillsdale, Belfrey's Class, Vents, Vasey, Waverley, Wyevale, Wyebridge, Clutes, Randolph, Victoria Harbour, Midland, Gibson's Hornsby's, Ebenezer and Fairview.

The first congregation was formed through the dedicated zeal of the Rev. Peter Jones. He had been born in Burlington Heights on January 1, 1802. His father was the Surveyor General of Canada, his mother the daughter of the chief of the Mississauga Tribe of the Ojibway Nation. He was converted in June 1823 and was sent to the Penetanguishene area under the auspices of the Methodist Church, arriving on July 15th 1829. He was accompanied by eight other individuals on this trip and during his stay the first Methodist Congregation was formed. Peter Jones traveled to England and France and was presented to the King and Queen of England (King William 4th). He raised considerable funds on these trips, for the purpose of missionary work among the aboriginal people. Peter Jones died in Brantford, Ontario in 1860.

The first church building for this congregation was built in 1835 and stood on Main St. where McDonald Hardware stood. This building was sold in 1880 and a new church built at the corner of Peel and Simcoe Streets. The cost of erecting this structure was $2,186,43. This building was enlarged in the period of 1889 – 1891 and major renovations were carried out in 1919. It still stands, having been turned into an apartment block following its sale in 1972. The parsonage originally stood on Poyntz St. near the present day Poyntz Plaza. It then moved to the original Sneath home at Simcoe and Fox Streets. This latter home was sold in 1969.

The church also had three organs during its lifetime: the first was an original manual pump organ, usually pumped by some of the young men of the congregation (such as Bruce Todd, Ralph Osborne and Jack Kerr); the second was an electric pump organ and finally the church acquired an electronic organ. These organs were the accompaniment for excellent choirs. A highlight of the year was the annual Candlelight Service where the Methodist choirs united with those of the Presbyterian and Anglican churches for a Christmas service. These services continued to 1967.

The church also had a thriving Sunday School. In 1958 there were fifty-eight pupils and five teachers on the roll. It also had an active young people's group, youth groups, Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT), Ladies Aid and Women's Missionary Society (later amalgamated into the United Church Women). There was also an active Official Board and Board of Stewards.

In 1969,  the United Church Home Missions Board withdrew its support for this church. Dwindling numbers made it increasingly difficult to survive and in 1969 discussions were begun to close the church. Following two and half years of discussions the issue had still not been resolved and Rev. Ralph Gillingham, Minister of St. Paul's United Church in Midland was invited to attend the 1972 Annual Meeting. Few were present and the debate continued. Finally Rev. Gillingham issued a sincere invitation for the members of Trinity United to join with St. Paul's. This was agreed to and the full membership roll was transferred to St. Paul's. It was also agreed that because of travel it would be a good idea to keep a Penetang United Church Women's group active. Time has proven this to be the best solution.

The final service was held on January 16, 1972 and a welcoming service was held in St. Paul's on February 6, 1972 where the members of Trinity were welcomed and the Rolls were officially transferred to St. Paul's.

From a History of Trinity United Church, prepared in 1975 by the women of the former Trinity United Church in Penetanguishene and from which most of the material for this summary is taken, come these words:
“In closing this history, we give much thanks to God when we recall the many stalwart men and women who worked in the early days and to those who held on to the last, with great determination to maintain this church despite the many difficulties. The dwindling congregation made it impossible to continue as a viable church, and it was with much trepidation that the congregation accepted the invitation to join St. Paul's, Midland. While we view our church life in retrospect with sadness and disappointment that it was necessary to close our church, we look forward to enjoying the privilege of sharing the services of St. Paul's and their active congregation.”

November, 2008