HISTORY

History

The story of St. Paul's United Church, which was first a Methodist church, stretches back to the early settlement of Coot's Paradise, the name by which Dundas was originally known. Dundas was one of the first places in the Niagara district to be visited by Major George Neal, one of the first Methodist preachers in Upper Canada.

The Methodists, who can trace their early history in Dundas to 1795, were the first Christian denomination in Dundas to have a church home of their own. The original building, constructed on Ogilvie Street on what is now the site of the Dundas Public Library, was built in 1830. The membership at the time was 170.

In 1832, an addition to accommodate a growing congregation and a church school was added. The Sunday School, discontinued because of a cholera epidemic of that same year, reopened in the spring of 1833 under the direction of Superintendent Benjamin Spencer. A letter, written much later by Mr. Spencer, tells how he twice went to Buffalo, New York to purchase supplies and books for the Sunday School Library. Mr. Spencer continued as Superintendent of the Sunday School until 1854 when he moved to Delmar, Iowa.

In 1852 the Trustees purchased property from George Rolph, at the northwest corner of Cross and Park Streets, for the building of a new church. The Methodist Church opened for worship on September 30, 1855. The good will of other denominations toward the Methodists was indicated when the Anglican Rector of Ancaster and priests from St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church joined other well-known members of the Dundas community in financially supporting the building of the new Methodist church.

With a growing Church School, plans were developed to build a separate Sunday School building adjacent to the church. On July 28, 1897, the cornerstone for the Sunday school was laid. It was dedicated and opened in December of that year. In 1899 the church building itself was renovated, a new entrance was built and the two buildings were connected.

On July 19, 1924 an Act incorporating The United Church of Canada was passed in the Canadian Parliament. It is called "The United Church of Canada Act", bringing together the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the Methodist Church, the Congregational Church, and Union churches, came into effect on June 10, 1925. There was no Congregational Church in Dundas, but a group of over 180 members from Knox (Dundas) Presbyterian and West Flamborough Presbyterian churches joined with members of the Methodist Church to form St. Paul's United Church.

The Minister at the time of church union was the Rev. Dr. J.C. Speer, formerly of the Methodist Church; Rev. J.M. MacDonald of Knox Presbyterian became the Associate Minister. A few months later Rev. MacDonald left Dundas after accepting a call to a United church in Montreal.

In 1931 the congregation at St. Paul's dealt with a double tragedy. On July 26 the congregation was saddened by the sudden and unexpected death of Rev. Dr. Speer. And just over a week later, on August 4, a fire completely destroyed the historic 76-year-old church. Fortunately the fire fighters were able to save the Sunday School building. The fire was a tragic occurrence, but it presented the new St. Paul's congregation with the opportunity to work together to build a newchurch home.

Under the direction of H.W. Simpson, chairman of the building fund, plans for the rebuilding of St. Paul's were begun. On Sunday, November 12, 1933, the new St. Paul's structure, rebuilt at a cost of $106,000, was opened and officially dedicated by the Rev. Francis Vipond. It is interesting to note that the contractors and workmen working on rebuilding the church themselves contributed $3,000 toward its construction.

On November 15, 2003, the Official Opening of the SPACE Project took place - making the building accessible with ramps and an elevator. The Video Record of the project, prepared by Ron Hopkins, is available for viewing HERE.

In 2013, St. Paul's United Church congregation, celebrated the 80th anniversary of the present building, and the 158th anniversary of the first church on the site, the 183rd anniversary of the original Wesleyan Church on Ogilvie Street and the 218th anniversary of a Methodist presence in Dundas.

In 2016, a complete restoration of the building - roof, stonework and windows was completed, funded by a bequest of Eleanor Jackson.

The St. Paul's ministry has been a blessing to the town of Dundas across the years, and the present faith community is alive and well, continuing to grow and to flourish.

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