PORT LAMBTON UNITED CHURCH HISTORY
In the early 1900's many small churches dotted the landscape of the
Canadian countryside. Some of these were Becher, Brown's, Ward Line,
Whitebread. These churches were eventually closed and most of their members
became part of Port Lambton.
The following details some of the changes that have occurred over the years and
was complied from historical records and personal information.
There were several Methodist families living in the Becher area who
formed the nucleus for the Methodist Church there. They were the families of
William Brown, Robert Clark, William Bailey, Egerton Newkirk, and Andrew Smith.
When the Becher Methodist Congregation was formed in 1888 by Reverend Henry
Tyler, the members worshipped in the West Becher School, S. S. # 13 Sombra,
which was on Tom Duff's farm, now owned by Russ Tulloch, on the West River
Road. In the early life of the church, it was supported by missions but in 1897
- 98, the Port Lambton Circuit became self-sustaining.
In 1901, a red brick church was built on Lot 13, Concession 6, Sombra Township
(Lambton Line) just east of the Becher bridge. George Buckingham, an Anglican,
gave the land on which the church was built and a generous monetary donation as
well. The first regular minister was Reverend A. E. Jones. He worked with such
outstanding men as Robert Deyo, Robert Clark, Andrew Smith, Walter Newkirk, and
Charles Reid, in organizing, canvassing, carrying out building plans, and in
securing donations. The entire community cooperated in a common cause and much
thought, time, and labour were given whole-heartedly and voluntarily. Beside
the Church and to the rear, a serviceable and commodious shed was erected for
the horses and buggies.
The Board of Trustees at that time was David Clark, Egerton Newkirk, and Robert
Deyo. The opening of the new Becher Church was held on February 19, 1902, with
capacity congregations in attendance, even though people were obliged to walk
or drive sleighs or cutters through the snow. Three services were held and they
were at the hours of 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m. The ministers who officiated
were the President of London Conference, Reverend Richard Whiting of Mitchell,
Reverend Cooke of Wallaceburg, and Reverent A. E. Jones. Miss Bertha Duff was
organist and local talent supplied the music.
In the early days of the Becher Church, the facilities were shared by the Anglican
congregation. The Anglicans held their service at 3 p.m. every Sunday and made
generous donations towards defraying church expenses. Reverend T. H. Farr was
the first Anglican minister and was held in high esteem by everyone. This
sharing continued until 1913 when an Anglican Church was built.
At first, Becher, Brown's, Port Lambton, and Ward Line constituted the circuit
and it remained that way until 1908 - 09 when Ward Line was dropped and Brown's
Church moved to Whitebread. For many years, Becher, Port Lambton, and
Whitebread formed the circuit. When the minister travelled around the circuit
in his horse and buggy, he would have his noon meal with a Becher family, and
then go to Whitebread for the 3 p.m. service. The families liked this arrangement
as it gave them a chance to visit with the minister.
After Church Union in 1925, the Becher United Church was strengthened by the
Beggs and Reid families uniting with them from the Presbyterian Church, Duthil.
During the late 1930's the country was still in the depression. The United
Church was affected too. It found there were many small preaching places
struggling to exist. Lambton Presbytery tried to help by having more preaching
places for one minister. In the ministry of Reverend James Terry, 1936 - 38,
Sombra United Church joined the Port Lambton Charge. The preaching places were
then Port Lambton, Becher, Whitebread, and Sombra.
Now, as there were four services to be held on Sunday, the times of the
services were changed. Several of the Becher families were not happy with the
hour allotted to them and slowly the congregation dwindled as some members
began attending services in other churches such as the Baptist, Pentecostal,
Presbyterian, and United Churches in Wallaceburg. This was the time when the
heads of the churches thought it better for many of the rural churches to close
and unite with the urban churches. They thought that with a larger fellowship
and the combined talents the worship would be more effective.
In 1961, during the ministry of Reverend W. B. Johnson, the Becher Church was
closed and the congregation united with Port Lambton United Church. The
families who united with the Port Lambton U. C. were the Arnold, Beggs, Bowles,
Clark, Davis, Deyo, McNeil, and Towell. The other families went to other
When the church was closed, the Baptist minister from Wilkesport bought the
pews, pulpit, and communion table as a gift to the new church his congregation
In 1964, the Bogaert family, who owned the farm on which the church was built,
bought the church and property. They planned to move the church closer to their
buildings but found that it was solid brick and impossible to move. They sold
the brick to DePooters, Port Lambton, who used it in the bricking of homes. The
Bogaerts used the lumber as they needed it and were still doing so in 1978.
In the Sunday School and its important work, some of the most devoted workers
were Andrew Smith, Robert Deyo, Walter Newkirk, Robert Clark, Milo Deyo, and
Will Huey. Emma Gibbons taught the Bible Class faithfully and well for many
years. One other such devoted member was David Clark, who faithfully served as
secretary of the Official Board for forty years.
Organists during the life of Becher United Church were Sadie Clark, Mrs. George
Newkirk, Mrs. Will (Carrie) Huey, Mrs. Herb (Joanne) Roberts, Mrs. Art Horley,
Mrs. Morgan (Maude) Dalgety, Mrs. Gordon (Catherine) Gonyou, Dorothy Clark,
Enid Park, Mrs. Jack (Alice) Deyo, Mrs. Stan (Marion) Bowles, and Shirley
Mrs. Andrew Smith was the first president of the Becher Ladies Aid. Other fine
presidents were Mrs. Robert (Ellen) Deyo, Mrs. Robert (Minnie) Clark, Mrs.
Walter (Vivian) Newkirk, Mrs. Will (Carrie) Huey, Mrs. Milo (Louise) Deyo, Mrs.
Wes (Elly) Arnold, Mrs. William Raymond, and Mrs. William Crowe.
Two male quartets were formed during the years of the Becher Church. The first,
in the 1940's, consisted of Cliff Davis, Milo Deyo, Walt Braithwaite, and Walt
Newkirk. The second, in the 1950's, consisted of Cliff Davis, Jack Deyo, Clint
McNeil, and Earl Towell. They were very popular and sang at many functions in
Mrs. Reverend W. Moores organized a very active Missionary Society in 1933. A
member, Mrs. William (Clara) Bowles, was presented with a life membership pin.
In the early days there was an active Epworth League. Reverend C. L. Cousens
organized a Brotherhood which later became a very active Young Peoples'
The Becher United Church was a lovely, rectangular, solid brick, one room
building with a high ceiling and excellent acoustics. The interior was
furnished with matching light hardwood, well polished very comfortable pews, a
pulpit with the minister's chair upholstered in red velvet, and a communion
table. This table was donated by the Deyo family in memory of their parents,
Robert and Ellen Deyo, and brothers, Schyler and Milo.
Becher is still a place in our hearts but without the churches as the Anglican
Church was destroyed by fire in 1940.
Church Boards at the Time of Closing - 1961
Jack Beggs, Stan Bowles, Ralph NacNally, Clint McNeil
Stan Bowles, Bill Crowe, Cliff Davis, Ione Davis, Jack Deyo, Minnie Huey, Ileen
MacNally, Clint McNeil
Jack Beggs, Stan Bowles, Bill Crowe, Cliff Davis, Will Huey, Clint McNeil
Sunday School Superintendent:
A group of "Selkirk Settlers"
from Southwest Scotland, in search of suitable agricultural land, settled along
the Chenel Ecarte (Snye River) near where the Baldoon Settlement, now of historic
interest, is located. These settlers arrived in the early 1800's.
Having built crude homes from the abundant supply of trees, they then turned
their attention to education and religion. They built a school, but for a
number of years, had worship services in their homes. Some time later they
built a log church.
Later, when the settlement was more firmly established, they built a frame
church on the N½ of Lot A, Concession 2, Chatham Gore in Kent County (just
south of the intersection of St. Clair Parkway and Stewart Line). This church
was built in 1881 and was called Brown's Methodist Church. Among the early
attendants were Mr. & Mrs. Harmon Brown, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Stewart, Mr.
& Mrs. Isaac Arnold, Mr. & Mrs. John Arnold, and Mr. & Mrs. Edward
Stewart, and their families. There were also Murphys and McDonalds.
The Port Lambton Circuit started as a mission but became self-sustaining in
1897 - 98. At that time the Circuit consisted of Port Lambton, Becher, Brown's,
and Ward Line Churches.
The parsonage was located in Port Lambton. With travel being by horse and
buggy, this was a long drive for the Ministers, so it was decided to move
Brown's Church somewhat closer to the other churches on the circuit. In 1908 -
09, the church was moved to its present site, N½ of Lot A, Concession 4,
Chatham Gore (Whitebread). This land was donated by Hector McDonald.
The actual moving was assisted by local men. Their job was to place planks and
rollers under the building and using rope and tackle, a horse, and capstan, the
church was slowly moved. The men had the task of keeping the planks and rollers
carried forward. It took several weeks to complete the task.
The Church now became Whitebread Methodist Church and retained this name until
Church Union in 1925 when it became Whitebread United Church. The name
'Whitebread' came from William Whitebread, from Chatham, who was employed at
that particular time to dig the drain along the county line with a dry land
dredge. This drain became known as the Whitebread Drain.
The shed was not in good enough condition to move, so, under the supervision of
Peter Stinton, a new shed was built.
Many changes took place in the Church during the years it was in use. Some of
1930- A basement was put under the Church and class
rooms for the Sunday School were established;
1937- Hydro was installed. This was entirely funded by
canvassing members and adherents;
1937- Sombra was added to the Circuit and the manse was
changed to Sombra;
1939- The trustees sold the Church shed as cars had
replaced the horses and buggies;
1940- The exterior of the Church was painted;
1947- A new Communion Table was presented by the Payne
1949- New windows were installed;
1949- The basement was refloored and a sump pump
1950- Shrubs and plantings were donated by Harry and
Annie Sheller to beautify the grounds.
One of the major changes in the church occurred in 1955 when the interior was
remodelled and a new roof put on. Arthur Davis supervised and David Raymond was
employed to do much of the work. There also was much volunteer help. The
kitchen was modernized with new cupboards and counters. Wallaceburg Glass
donated glassware for church suppers. A choir room and a study for the Minister
were added. New rugs and a hardwood floor were installed and new pews came from
Corunna United Church.
During this period of renovation, the Whitebread congregation joined with the
Becher congregation for worship. On January 15, 1956, a service of reopening
and rededication was held with Reverend R. G. Gillingham as the officiating
minister. Among the gifts presented at this time were a lovely picture by Mr.
and Mrs. Harry Stewart, candelabra by Mrs. Russel Emig (nee Leila Stewart), and
a Baptismal bowl by Mr. and Mrs. John Bishop. An earlier gift was a large Holy
Bible presented by William and Wilhelmina Benedict. Wooden offering plates were
donated by the Becher congregation.
In 1959, a new oil-burning furnace was installed taking the place of the coal
and wood-burning furnace.
In 1964, the basement was further improved with a new tile floor and new walls.
These were donated by Mr. S. McDonald in memory of his father, Mr. Allan
McDonald, and his wife, Marion (Wray) McDonald.
In 1964, the church bought the adjoining property on which the Whitebread
School was situated. This school had been closed and the pupils bussed to the
new Riverview Central School, north of Port Lambton. This assured the church of
a good water supply.
A cross for the Communion Table was donated in 1965 by George and Louella
Abrams, in memory of their son, Larry Butterfield.
The Whitebread congregation kept some fairly detailed records over their active
years and from this information came the following:
The Men's Club, A.O.T.S. (As One That Serves), held its first meeting on
December 10, 1957. Randy Purser was the first president elected. Many men held
the office of president and Glen Payne was secretary until 1966 when he retired
and Walter Wadsworth replaced him. The A.O.T.S. held regular monthly meetings
in the form of suppers, with entertainment following. For many years they
supported a needy child through the Foster Parents Plan. The congregation of
Port Lambton United Church continues the tradition of supporting Foster
A Sunday School was started as early as 1883 and many area names are mentioned
as Sunday School Superintendents and Teachers over the years. A special
notation is made for the many years Miss Evelyn Payne conducted the Bible
As far as is known the women of the Church had an organization as early as 1881
with records being kept from 1925. Again the area names of Sheller, Gray,
Benedict, Payne, McDonald, Richmond, McRae, Murphy, Stewart, Innis, Campbell,
Wadsworth, and many more, appear over and over in the activities of this Church.
Some interesting items from the Women's Association minutes are:
March, 1935- Moved by Lillian McRae, seconded by Mrs.
Harry Stewart, that we quilt 5 quilts for Mrs. McClure for $ 1.00 each.
September, 1935- Moved by Hattie Murphy, seconded by
Wilhelmina Benedict, that the price for our Chicken Supper be Adults $.35 and
Children $.20. Carried.
October, 1940- The prices for the Chicken Supper will
remain the same this year (Adults $ .35 and Children $ .20) but we will have no
July, 1941- The ladies decided to donate 1 cwt of sugar
to the Tupperville Ladies for making jam for the soldiers. The afternoon was
spent quilting 2 quilts.
April, 1954- 5 quilts still to quilt.
In 1972, with Reverend Witherspoon as minister, the Whitebread United
Church was closed. The congregation numbered 35 - 40 persons at this time. On
January 16, 1972, the final Church Service was held and the congregation joined
with Port Lambton United Church. For a short time the church was used for suppers
In 1977, the church and property was sold to Stan Benedict. It is now used as a
Church Boards at the Time of Closing - 1961
Stan Benedict, Art Ferrar, Glen Payne, Robert Payne, Walter Wadsworth
Alan Gray, Charlie Gray, Dorothy Gray, Clarence Murphy, George Murphy, Bert
Payne, Clayt Raymond, Annie Sheller, Walter Wadsworth
Stan Benedict, Art Ferrar, Charlie Gray, Clarence Murphy, Robert Payne, Walter
Sunday School Superintendent:
The Port Lambton congregation began in 1869 through the work of
Reverend William Cross. There is very little information about this but it is
known that he was the first Wesleyan Methodist Pastor in this community.
In 1871 the Mission consisted of Bear Creek, Port Lambton, Sombra, and Walpole
Island, and was served by Reverend John Russell.
The land on which our old church stood (the northeast corner of Merritt and
William Streets) was donated by John D. McDonald and there is reason to believe
that that church is the original edifice erected in 1877 for the Methodist
Episcopal (Anglican) Church. Records of Port Lambton Church reflect the names
of the early settlers of Sombra Township through the family names of Boothman,
Branton, Hart, Horton, McDonald, McPhail, Mulholland, and Young.
In 1878 there was a rearrangement of the Mission under Reverend Joseph Hill who
recorded the progress of the work in Port Lambton. The care of the Indian work
of Walpole Island was made a separate Mission. He said, "The life of
Methodism in this community was marked by eight weeks of special visitation and
prayer meetings resulting in regular prayer meetings, a juvenile class, and a
Bible class for adults being held".
Mr. Hill recorded the difficulties which prevailed in 1879 - 80 in maintaining
the pastoral work and Sunday services through a hard winter. Sleighing was
difficult but the congregation in Port Lambton was good and attentive. There
also were two prayer meetings each week. In 1882 a parsonage was built in Port
Lambton. It was located at 503 Broadway Street.
In 1884 the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church were
united as part of the Methodist Church of Canada. Four years later, the
congregation at Becher was formed but the red brick church was not erected
until 1901 (since removed).
During the ministry of Reverend James Terry (1936 - 38), Sombra United Church
joined the Port Lambton Pastoral Charge. The preaching places were then Becher,
Port Lambton, Whitebread, and Sombra and continued that way until 1961 when
Becher was closed and the congregation united with Port Lambton. In 1972 the
Whitebread Church was also closed. In 1976 Wilkesport was added to the Port
Lambton Charge again making it a three-point charge (Port Lambton, Sombra, and
Wilkesport). It remains this way today.
In 1955 - 56 the church was completely renovated and redecorated. A chancel was
added and a new Hammond electric organ was installed. The kitchen facilities
were remodelled with the installation of new cabinets. A new gas furnace was
also installed. The new pulpit, donated by the U.C.W., a Communion Table
donated by Ethel Young, and the Baptismal Font donated by Mrs. Albert (Laura)
Harrison and family were all furnished in a light stain to match the new
No records are available of the very early Sunday School days at Port Lambton
except that it is known that Mr. Young was the superintendent for many years in
the early 1900's. Cliff Nixon served in the work of the Sunday School in many
offices in the 1920's. Some later superintendents were Dorothea Allen
(Jennings), Louise Hart, and Bunny Clarke. There was also an active Young
Peoples group during these years. As far back as could be remembered, a Ladies
Aid, now the U.C.W., has been active in the work of the Port Lambton United
Some of the organists were Miss McDonald, Mrs. Ecroyd, Mrs. William Allen, Mrs.
Cooke (wife of Reverend J. P. Cooke), Miss Barnard (daughter of Reverend G. A.
Barnard), David Mann, Lois Johnson (daughter of Reverend H. B. Johnson), Kay
Abbott, Irma McRae, Marion Bowles, Shirley Davis. The choral cantatas arranged
by the organists and choirs of the Port Lambton church are some of the
well-remembered events of the Christmas Seasons of years gone by.
In 1974 it was decided that Port Lambton United Church needed a great deal of
expensive repairs and the decision was then made to build a new church. So,
with great enthusiasm and devotion by interested church members, the property
across the street from the original church was purchased from the Gates Estate
in anticipation of a new building.
On April 16, 1978, members of Port Lambton United Church held the official
sod-turning ceremony. Two long-time members, Louise Hart (Port Lambton) and
Bert Payne (Whitebread) were given the honour of turning the sod. Construction
of the new 40 x 72 foot building was started shortly thereafter under the
supervision of Clayton Hasson, a contractor from the Dresden area. The corner
stone was laid October 1, 1978. Those taking part were Clayt Hasson, Reverend
Einar Egilsson, Jack Deyo (Becher), Mildred Barclay (Port Lambton) and Clarence
With many generous donations of money and much labour by men and women of the
congregation, the new church was official opened and dedicated on May 6, 1979.
This church was not just financed and constructed by church members - there was
a great deal of support, from many people, groups, and businesses in the area.
It truly is a community-built church.
In 1999 an addition was built along the south end of the church by Maaten
Construction of Sarnia. This included an elevator, wheelchair-accessible
washroom, large meeting room, and much needed storage space. Renovations were
completed in 2004 and included replacing the carpet, updating the lighting, and
reupholstering the pews and chairs. A new sound and video system was also
May our church be to the glory of God! From here the torch is ours. May we
continue to meet the challenge, with hearts dedicated to the work so nobly
begun, and may we continue to serve our Master faithfully as time goes on.
Boards of Port Lambton - 1979
Harry Albion, Ted Barclay, Jack Beggs, Dorothy Benedict, Stan Benedict, Stan
Bowles, George Bradley, George Clark, Ione Davis, Dale Dean, Grant Dean, Muriel
Dean, Wilf Fiege, Jim Goodman, Nick Krahn, Dolly Purser, Reverend R. L.
McConnell, Allan Wadsworth, Walter Wadsworth
Maurice Burke, Colleen Dean, Ralph Finkbeiner, Charlie Gray, Clare Horley,
Marlene Horley, Doug Lindsay, Bruce MacDonald, George Murphy, Bert Payne, Ed
Sheridan, Gretta Wadsworth, Lyle Walker, Jim Zelinski, Marg Zelinski
Mildred Barclay, Jack Beggs, Stan Benedict, Stan Bowles, George Clark, Charlie
Gray, Clarence Murphy, Marg Richards, Walter Wadsworth, Grant Dean
Sunday School Superintendent:
When Sombra became part of the Port Lambton Pastoral Charge in 1937,
there was a manse in Port Lambton and one in Sombra. The congregations decided
to keep the one in Sombra and sell the Port Lambton one. The Port Lambton
manse, located at 503 Broadway Street, was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Flanagan
in the fall of 1939. From 1938 - 1989 the ministers of the Port Lambton
Pastoral Charge lived in the Sombra manse, located at 3466 John Street. In the
early 80's, the manse needed a great deal of repair so, in 1986, it was decided
a new manse should be built. A lot at 3936 St. Clair Parkway, between Sombra
and Port Lambton, was purchased in early 1988 from Mildred McKibbon.
Construction of a four-bedroom manse began in the fall of 1988 and was
completed in the spring of 1989. The Sombra manse was sold in 1989 to Ben
1869 Reverend William Cross
1872 Reverend John Russell
1878 - 81 Reverend Joseph Hill
1881 - 83 Reverend James E. Russ
1883 - 86 Reverend Thomas Mason
1886 - 89 Reverend Henry Tyler
1889 - 91 Reverend Edwin Fessant
1891 - 93 Reverend R. Whiting
1893 - 94 Reverend R. L. Wilson
1894 - 95 Reverend E. W. Edwards
1895 - 96 Reverend A. W. Dever, Reverend Irving McKelvey
1896 - 98 Reverend M. J. Wilson, Reverend W. Millson
1898 - 1900 Reverend J. W. Pring
1900 - 03 Reverend Albert W. Jones
1903 - 04 Reverend George W. W. Rivers
1904 - 05 Reverend William Conway
1905 - 06 Reverend J. W. Johnston
1906 - 07 Reverend C. Baker, Reverend F. Clydesdale
1907 - 08 Reverend J. Franklin Reycraft
1908 - 09 Reverend Charles W. Down
1909 - 10 Reverend L. O. Spracklin
1910 - 11 Reverend A. W. Brown
1911 - 13 Reverend George Colborne
1913 - 16 Reverend Arthur J. Love
1916 - 18 Reverend W. H. Huck
1918 - 20 Reverend Allan W. Hopper
1920 - 22 Reverend A. E. Allin
1922 - 23 Reverend George M. Clayton
1923 - 24 Reverend Harold White
1924 - 27 Reverend W. T. Eddy
1927 - 28 Reverend C. L. Cousens
1928 - 29 Reverend S. V. R. Pentland
1929 - 32 Reverend J. P. Cooke
1932 - 34 Reverend Wesley W. Moores
1934 - 36 Reverend George Barnard
1936 - 38 Reverend James A. Terry
1938 - 43 Reverend R. E. Southcott
1943 - 47 Reverend J. R. Peters
1947 - 52 Reverend J. W. Patton
1953 - 55 Reverend James E. Hummel
1955 - 56 Mr. D. Eby (Lay Supply)
1956 - 59 Reverend Lewis Snow
1959 - 62 Reverend W. B. Johnson
1962 - 68 Reverend Harry B. Johnson
1968 - 71 Reverend Hugh C. Burtch
1971 - 76 Reverend Bruce Witherspoon
1976 - 80 Reverend Einar Egilsson
1980 - 85 Reverend D. Glen Stewart
1985 - 87 Paul Reed (Student Minister)
1987 - 08 Reverend Bob Whalls
2004 - 09 Reverend Susan Woodhouse
2010 - 15 Pastor Betty Jean Page