The North River Baptist Church

North River Baptist Church

NR Bapt. Ch.
Photo Courtesy of Buddy and Margaret MacKinley - North River Baptist Church Sunday School Class, c. 1940's

The Baptist church in Cornwall actually dates back about the same time as the Cornwall Methodist/United Church.  But at that time the church was located in the district called York River District or later North River.1  Although the Baptist Church in North River was organized in 1830, an enthusiastic preacher by the name of John Scott began preaching in the area more than twenty years before.  Scott is noted as being the first Baptist preacher on Prince Edward Island, therefore it can be said that the Baptist Church on the Island began in North River.2  In order to appreciate the history of the Baptist Church in North River, the story of John Scott must be told.

John Scott came to Prince Edward Island from Perthshire, Scotland in 1806 or 1807 and settled in the North River area.  A lay preacher at that time, Scott quickly gained a reputation in the surrounding community as a very devout Christian.  He traveled around to the neighboring areas and preached in Gaelic to anyone who would listen.3  He had received his formal education in Scotland at the Haldane School in Edinburgh, Scotland, prior to immigrating to Prince Edward Island.  He was a gifted preacher and was welcomed by many people.4

Scott would preach in barns, houses, schools, wherever he was welcomed.  There was no fixed place of worship in his early years of preaching.  Scott often preached in the home of William Dockendorff of North River.5  Mr. Dockendorff was not only a successful farmer in the area, but was also a member of the legislature.  He would often open his home to traveling ministers.  It was in the home of Mr. Dockendorff that the North River Baptist Church was organized.  During the fall of 1830, the auspice of the Nova Scotia Baptist Missionary Society sent Rev. Samuel McCully of Amherst on a missionary tour of Prince Edward Island.  From October to November of that year, Rev. McCully preached in the home of William Dockendorff.  He organized the church with thirteen founding members: John Scott and his wife Ann, Joseph and Ann Warren, Donald McKinley, Mr. and Mrs. David Livingstone, John Morrah, Malcolm Amos, Donald McPhail, Hector MacNeill, Mrs. Charles MacLean and Mrs. Duncan MacLean.6

Two years later, in 1832, Edward Manning and T.S. Harding come to the Island on a missionary tour.  These two men conducted the first Baptist ordinations on Prince Edward Island.  Benjamin Scott was the first to be ordained on September 18, 1832.  He became the pastor at the Church in Alexandra.  John Scott was the second; he was ordained on October 7 and became the first pastor at the North River Baptist Church.  Lastly, John Shaw was ordained on October 14, and became pastor at Montague and East Point.7

On July 18, 1868 the Baptist Church was incorporated.  On this day the first Prince Edward Island Baptist Association was organized.  This milestone is an important fact to mention because it took place at the North River Baptist Church.  The first trustees included Deacon James Warren, Alexander MacKinley, John MacKinley and Francis Bain.  It is interesting to note that Sunday school at the North River Baptist Church was organized that same year.8

As the Baptist Church first began to form in the early 1800’s, the surrounding areas of Clyde River, West River and Kingston were all included in the North River Field.  As the Baptist religion began to spread, these communities eventually separated into their own Fields.9  The Clyde River Baptist Church was organized in 1861 and was recognized by Convention in 1879.10  It was not until April 24, 1905 that Kingston separated and began its own church.  Although each had formed their own church, they all encompassed the same pastorate, with the addition of Long Creek.11  It is interesting to note that the other churches in the pastorate stemmed from the North River Baptist church, and the North River Church is the only one that is no longer standing.

The location of the North River Baptist Church changed several times throughout its history.  Research suggests that there were three possible sites church building.  The first structure that was built as a meeting house was a small log church located on the York Point Road.  It was built in 1813 and was more specifically located at the end of the York Point Road that intersects with the Ferry Road.  It was on the east side of the road only a few hundred yards north of the York Point Road and Ferry Road intersections.  That structure was either rebuilt or enlarged in 1818.  There seems to be no record as to why this took place or what eventually happened to it.12

A second church structure was built in 1825 on the York Point Road in the community of North River.13  The location of the second church is somewhat unclear. One source indicates that it could have been on the same plot as the third14, while another source suggests that it was located “almost opposite the parsonage just beyond the Kingston Road, but a little to the South…”15  Fortunately we discover from the 1863 Lake Map that the latter is correct.

 1863 Lake Map

1863 Lake Map (Source: Public Archives and Records Office of Prince Edward Island, Acc3252/32)

The third church was opened and dedicated on July 19, 1868.  Six hundred people attended the service and Rev. E.N. Archibald was the pastor at the time.  This church was located at the end of the York Point Road that meets with the TransCanada Highway.  It was only 100 yards from the highway and much later became encircled by the former North River rink parking lot.16

1880 Meacham

The North River Baptist Church continued to operate until 1973.  By that time numbers were decreasing rapidly.  The church was then sold and members were left to find another place to worship.17  The church remained at its current location until 2006 when it had been purchased, disassembled and moved18 to Miminegash and has since been used as a private cottage.

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