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Burnt River United Church

February 10, 2024

By Guy Scott

Burnt River United Church was originally a Methodist Church, but with the joining of the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches in Canada (1925), it became part of the United Church of Canada. It has existed all these years because of the love and labour lavished on it by its congregation, both past and present. Church services were first held in Burnt River in 1879, at a little log school house, and were conducted by Rev. Tabscott from the Fenelon Falls Baptist Church. At that time there was no regular minister, and services were held whenever possible. By 1888, after a new frame school had been built, services were taken over by the Kinmount circuit with Rev. Oakes conducting.

On November 13, 1888, a lot, valued at $200, was donated by Mrs. Nancy McIntyre, a member of the Dodd family. Then on November 16, six trustees: James Suddaby, William Dodd, William Nichols, James Cain, Robert Umphrey and Joseph Eyres advanced funds for the building of a Church of the Methodist denomination. The church was soon completed with the help of the congregation, and Rev. Oakes brought in windows, sashes, the pulpit and seats from a church in Mariposa Township that had closed. There was much interest and the debts were quickly paid off. Robert Moffat drove the minister, who at that time came from Fenelon Falls, to Kinmount after services in Burnt River, to bring him back to Burnt river, so the preacher could return to Fenelon Falls; all in a day’s work.

In 1893, a Young People’s Society called “The Christian Endeavours,” was started, and through their efforts an organ was purchased. This instrument is still in the Church today, although it has been replaced in use by a modern electric organ. The Burnt River Church’s first organist was Minnie Nichols and the first Sunday School superintendent was George Wright. Around 1978, when Dr. Elgie Joblin was minister, word came that the Burnt River United Church was to be closed down. However, Dr. Joblin had just received a request from three young families to start a Sunday School for their children. After some soul searching he agreed and soon a small Sunday School was started with June Hunter as superintendent and Joyce Dudman and Dorothy Duval helping.

From this small nucleus the congregation took heart and went on to refurbish and maintain the church. By 1988, when the church celebrated its 100th anniversary, the building had been completely redecorated, rewired and the exterior freshly painted. For that 100th anniversary service, Dr. Joblin returned to preach and to celebrate the church’s triumph over adversity. Since then, the Burnt River United Church has purchased the Orange Lodge next door. They have used it as a meeting area, Sunday School home, and their annual pot-luck suppers at Easter and Christmas. Each summer, the Burnt River United Church hosts two large public suppers: a strawberry supper in June and a summer smorgasboard in mid-August, as well as an annual bake sale and garage sale. The Church’s Women’s Group produced a beautiful handmade quilt each year.

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