The Cornwall United Church
A Brief History
The Cornwall United Church actually began in the Methodist tradition in the early 1800’s. Before an actual church structure was built, William Crosby of the West River area offered his lodgings. During the winter months services would be held in Mr. Crosby’s home, and during the summer months services would be moved into the barn. These services began around the year 1818. It was from 1818 to 1856 that the Cornwall Methodist Church belonged to the Charlottetown Methodist circuit1. There is also an oral tradition which claims that Mr. Kellow of Cornwall also held services in his home.
At some point after 1818 and prior to 1855 a log cabin was built for worship. We know this because records indicate that in 1855 a new framed church was built on or very close to the same location as the pre-existing one. There exists an indenture of land dated August 16th, 1842; a transaction between a group of men in order to establish a piece of land assigned for a Preaching House. This transaction occurred between John Duffus, Matthew Boyles Almon, Alexander Morison, Andrew Unjacke, Joseph Stair (of Halifax) and William Crosby, John Corbin, Zechariah Mayhew, John Boyle and James Kellow. Consent was given from the British absentee land proprietor Samuel Cunard. There were many stipulations that went along with the purchase of the land, although ultimately, it was to be used for a Preaching House and burial grounds. The land which is said to be measured at one acre, two rods and sixteen perches cost five shillings2. It is suggested that the first log cabin church was built prior to the purchase of this land.
Cornwall Methodist Church, 1855 - Photo Courtesy of Lawson Drake
In 1856, the Cornwall and Little York Churches decided to separate from the Charlottetown circuit and form their own independent circuit3. By 1874, new circuits were created and Cornwall became head of a circuit including Princetown Road (now Springvale), South Wiltshire (now Kingston) and North Wiltshire and Highfield. The Cornwall circuit changed once again in 1893 when Highfield and Princetown Road were removed from the circuit4.
In February of 1902, the Trustee Board decided to tear down the existing church and build a newer, larger church on the same site. A Building Committee was created and consisted of Robert Boyle, James Drake Jr., Samuel Drake, Samuel Frizzell and Golding Howard. Around the same time Samuel Hyde and John Mayhew were appointed to solicit subscriptions for a new church building. Architect C.B. Chappell and contractor Mr. Neil MacNeil(l) of West River were chosen to create the new structure. A farewell service was conducted on the last Sunday of March that same year by Rev. W.B. Thomas, and on October 19th, 1902 the new church was opened5. This church is the same one that stands today.
Cornwall United Church c. 1979-80 - Photo Courtesy of Ginny Grant
Another significant change occurred in 1925 with church union. As is the case with any major change, there were many differences in opinion regarding church union. In Cornwall however, it seemed as though most people were in favor of a church union. A congregational meeting was held at the Cornwall church on April 19, 1926 to adopt church unification. The result was the formation of the Cornwall Pastoral Charge which included the congregations of Cornwall, Kingston, Hampshire, North Wiltshire and New Dominion6. Today the Cornwall Pastoral Charge consists of the following three congregations, Cornwall, Kingston and New Dominion.
Over the years the Cornwall United Church has undergone renovations. During the 1960’s there arose a need for a facility to accommodate the church’s growing programs. The church was therefore excavated and a basement, including an education centre, class rooms, a kitchen, a furnace room, and bathrooms were added. A new forced air heating system and appropriate plumbing were also installed, and the main church was also repaired and painted inside and out7. More major renovations came between 1980 and 1982. These changes happened in two phases. While the hall was under construction, services still took place in the main church, and while the main church was undergoing renovations services took place in the hall. The extension was a large one which included a large assembly space, a second storey, extra rooms, offices, a large kitchen and an attachment that connects to the extension to main church. The architectural company responsible for the extension was Manning and Jones8.
Cornwall United Church Hall Photo Taken Winter 2011 by Sara Richard
*For further information about the Cornwall United Church please refer to The History of the Cornwall United Church 11819-1975, which can be found at the Prince Edward Island public library (Call# PEI 287 COR) as well as the Cornwall United Church fonds; 1856-1972, Acc3059 at the Public Archives and Records Office