A History of First United Church
Written by Vera Laitinen in 1965, updated by others to October 2011.
The First United Church was born in the year 1925 when the Methodist and Presbyterian churches united to form one congregation. At that time all the Methodists and the majority of the Presbyterians voted for union and joined their congregations in the Wesley Methodist Church on 3rd Avenue, choosing the name First United Church.
The Methodists were the first denomination to hold services in Salmon Arm. In the conference year 1890-91 the Salmon Arm mission was part of the Revelstoke-Golden mission field under the ministry of Rev. James Turner. Rev. Turner was a beloved, and famous missionary, born in Ireland in 1842. He came out in l673 to do mission work on Burrard Inlet, then moved to Nicola. He was known as the Minister of the Interior and around mining camps as the Saddle-bag Parson. He came to Revelstoke in 1888 and later moved to the Kootenays.
All the information we have of the beginning of the Presbyterian Church is the following: Services were held as early as 1895 in the CPR Depot. Later the Methodists and Presbyterians held services on alternate Sundays in the Orange Hall, where the Bakery is now. They built a church and manse in 1898 on the North side of the tracks and the manse still stands – the tall house near the Second Hand Store. The next church was built on Lyman Hill, across from the old Public School, the site of the Village Hall. This was dedicated in 1914. It is now the Scout Hall. The present church was built in September 1941.
Now to continue with the progress of the Methodist church. The members became dissatisfied with an occasional service so requested the conference of May, 1890 to send a minister who could make Salmon Arm his headquarters and hold regular services. This request was answered by sending George Morden, a probationer of one year’s standing. This mission consisted of three appointments. Salmon Arm with fourteen members, where services would be held every four weeks, Grande Prairie – now Westwold – reached by travelling 52 miles west to Ducks, now Monte Creek, and then 16 miles south. The third service was held at Shuswap.
In Salmon Arm services were first held in the cabin of Dick Davis and later in the depot. After a service on Sunday, December 5th, 1890, a quarterly Official Board was formed, members being A.J. Palmer, R. Davis, Thomas Shaw and Pearson Shaw, with W.W. Shaw acting as Superintendent of the Sunday School. The first public entertainment was held on January 31st, 1890 when an oyster supper was held in Brother McGee’s cabin, which was nicely decorated with green boughs. The menu was fresh oysters stewed in milk, served with bread and butter, many kinds of cake, tea and coffee. A lengthy and varied program followed – choruses, duets, readings, recitations and speeches. This lasted until the hour of 12:30. The sum of $28.50 was raised which, with several donations, brought it up to $88.50. At this time the school teacher, Miss F. Goodridge, had been collecting funds to purchase an organ and had succeeded in raising $65.00. The organ chosen was one of Doherty’s best chapel organs, which cost in the factory in the East $65.00, so now they had sufficient funds to pay the $16.00 freight charges and soon had their first musical instrument for church services.
The financial statement of 1891 read as follows: Salary $200.00, board $200.00, horse keep $100.00, incidentals $10.00, totaling $510.00
In 1892 the Rev. T.W. Hall came as the new minister. He wrote the Dominion Land Agent to apply for property of the SE ¼ of Sec. 4, Twp. 20, Range 10, to be used for a burial ground and church property. Another minister mentioned at this time was the Rev. C. Ladner. Services were being held at Hedgeman’s Corner, the C.P.R. Station, Grande Prairie and Sicamous. The C.P.R. granted the ministers a pass for travels on his pastorate. Another minister in 1893 was the Rev. J.F. Betts and a new name on the Official Board was James Raby, who farmed at Mt. Ida. At about this date a marriage was solemnized at an Official Board Meeting when Mr. Ed Dalton was married to Miss Mary McGee. In 1894 the Rev. J. Calvert was superintendent of the Circuit.
The church was now more successful in a financial way as it is recorded in 1895 that the minister’s salary, board and fuel be $900.00 and. the horse keep $100.00. About this time services were begun at Canoe Creek.
The new church was erected on property, the gift of Mr. Ambrose Settle, the building to be 24′ by 36′ with l6′ walls, the inside lathed and plastered. The cost was to be $50.00 with volunteer labor. A parsonage was built of logs on the bank of the river at the corner of F.B. Shaw’s property, and a request was made to Conference for a married minister. Services were also held in the Orange Hall just completed in 1895. Sunday School was held. there for about 50 children. A Sunday School was also organized at Mt. Zion Church, now Mt. Ida.
About this time the first envelopes were used for church contributions. An interesting anecdote concerning one of
the ministers was told by Fred Shaw. The district was without a minister for some time and an urgent request was sent to the Superintendent of Missions to send one. He replied that though missionaries were scarce he believed he could obtain one from Eaton’s at Winnipeg. The young man referred to was R.H. Peardon, an accountant at Eaton’s store who was willing to enter the ministry and, in due course was sent to Salmon Arm, where he was referred to as the “minister we got from Eaton’s.”
In 1900 services were started at Kault, now Tappen Bay, at the Mill. The minister at that time was the Rev. W.D. Misener. It is recorded that an Epworth League was formed and was quite flourishing.
The Rev. James A. Wood came to Salmon Arm in June, 1902 from Kamloops, after having been four years at Revelstoke and four years in Kaslo, in the Kootenays.
He reports visiting at Mt. Ida, at Calverts and Rabys, in the Valley at Palmers, Kews, McGregors, at Gus Laitinens at the Section house, at Haines at Silver Creek, at Harbells, Daltons, Greens and Merrills and in town at Scales, Neelands and Toombs.
Mr. Wood was, undoubtedly, the busiest minister in the country. In his diary which he kept from 1888 he reports: helped his good wife, Jennie, with the washing, picked berries, canned strawberries and peaches, visited all his parishioners, made trips to Vernon, Armstrong, Kamloops, Vancouver and Toronto. Preached at the Station, at Mt. Zion (now Mt. Ida), Canoe Creek and Notch Hill sawmill, planted fruit trees, made hay, cultivated and planted a garden, went hunting for ducks, grouse and deer, cut wood, split shakes, trained Sunday School children for the Christmas Concert, fixed Mrs. Shaw’s finger, put up the new range in the manse kitchen, visited the Ladies’ Aid, sowed oats, went to Conference in Victoria, got the horse shod, attended fruit growers meeting, officiated as the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Sweeten at Tappen, built a woodshed, went to Enderby where he assisted Dr. Ernest Hall with several operations, went to Kamloops to attend meetings of the Mission Boards, went to Jersey City, where he reported having a delightful automobile ride to Coney Island and the beach.
In May, 1905 Rev. James Wood was elected President of the B.C. Conference. Back home he tells of going to Tappen to select a site for Summer School Camp where Brother Sutherland camped with 14 boys. The Wood family camped there, rowing out from town in two row boats. He held services on the lakeshore with good congregations. One old timer who lived at Tappen tells of the wonderful hymn singing at these camps.
Rev. Wood left Salmon Arm in 1906 and went to Sydney, Vancouver Island, then to Victoria. While in the Capital City he tells of having lunch at the Parliament Buildings with Hon. D.M. Eberts, and members of Parliament, and afterwards opening the session with prayer.
In May, 1914 the Wood family moved back to the Okanagan and Rev. Wood was minister in Armstrong in 1916 when his health was so poor he had to retire from the ministry and came home to the farm in Salmon Arm. Here he died on December 14, 1916. He was truly a man of God and a wonderful inspiration to all who knew him.
The next minister called to Wesley Methodist was the Rev. John Pye. New members in those years were Frank Wilcox, Mr. Lyman, Alex Sweeten of Canoe, R.K. Scales and S.J. Rumball, our good and faithful choir member Jay Kew, Sam Currie, W.J. Green and A.J. Hedgeman.
The Wesley Methodist Church was built in 1908 and dedicated in January by Dr. Sipperell, Principal of Columbia College, New Westminster. The building was constructed by the contracting firm of Les. Jackson & Parker.
The Salmon Arm Observer was published first on October 10, 1907, the Editors W. and H. Praser formerly of the Enderby Progress.
In 1909 the Official Board of Wesley Methodist decided to assume full support of the church and expressed appreciation to the Mission Board for it’s kind and liberal support. Owing to the large attendance of young people a request was made for a young minister. Rev. John Pye was followed by the Rev. Mr. Hicks.
In 1908 the Official Board of Zion Church at Mt. Ida were Henry Riddle, Harold Riddle, J.L. Johnston, S. Garbutt and J. Raby.
It is recorded that in 1911 the Rev. J.D. Hobden was visiting the Official Board Meeting. He was at that time a student minister preaching at Tappen Siding and Mt. Zion.
In 1912 the first vote on church union was taken and carried unanimously but it was to be another 13 years before it came into effect. The Rev. W.J. Beamish came in that year with a salary of $1,200.00, including horse keep. At this time the Official Board invited the Presbyterians to worship with Wesley Church during the absence of their minister, the Rev. Reid. New names on the Church Roll were Mr. George Barber, J. Robb, Wm. Ricaby, a local preacher, W.C. Lundy, W.J. Andi of the Valley, E.W. Scales and later in 1915, Mrs. Rich and Mr. George Clingan. Rev. Mr. Carpenter was the minister at this period.
Two very well known and much loved ministers of the Methodist Church were invited to Congregational Annual Meetings – one the Rev. Chown and the other Dr. A.M. Sanford, of Columbian College.
Mr. J. D. Hobden became the pastor of the Wesley Methodist on August 5th, 1918. At that time there were 154 members. This being war years he was asked to look after returned soldiers on their arrival home.
At this time a magic lantern was purchased for church and Sunday School use. A vote was taken on women being accepted into the ministry and voted down, 4 for and 6 against.
Names prominent in church records at this time were Robert Andrews, Mr. Shipphan, Mr. W.F. Richmond, Mr. Fred Cox, Mrs. Cousins, Mrs. J.D. Brown, Dr. Connelly, Mr. R.L. Tennant and J.G. Hanna. Mr. Bruce Cousins was recommended as a candidate for the ministry,
The Rev. J.D. Hobden was followed by the Rev. E. Leslie Best in 1922 with a salary of $1650.00, horse keep $150.00. Moving expenses for minister’s furniture etc. $120.00.
Names mentioned in these years were: Miss Lester in charge of the Cradle Roll, Miss Winnifred Wood, Mrs. George Shirley, Mr. Charles Addyman, a student minister who later married Miss Marie Greenwood, old timers on Broadview, Mr. and Mrs. K.V. Hooper, Mrs. Emily Melstead and Miss Laura Raby.
This brings our history up to the time of Union and the first minister, the Rev. Peter Gonnell, a Presbyterian.
On the Session were R.J. Glasgow, S.J. McDiarmid, Fred Shaw, A.S. McKim. The Board of Stewards were Fred Cox, J. Harbell, E.O. Wood, H.H. Williston, H.V. Hooper, Mrs. Williston, Mrs. Hall, and Mrs. Wood- man and, in later years R.L. Tennant, Dr. Usher and Albert Bedford were added.
A request for a Book of Praise for the new United Church was sent General Council and ten dozen were ordered.
Ministers after Union were the Rev. Thos. Griffiths and in 1929 Rev. J.F. Shaw.
Plans were made for a hall 40′ x 50′ which was called the Gymn Hall and used for social events and Sunday School, etc.
In the depression years of 1931-32 a resolution was sent to General Council suggesting the General Council not be called for two years owing to the depression, and the present executive carry on, assisted by any ministers needed to make specicia1 contributions in advice or assistance.
The Sunday School under Mr. R.K. Bray as Superintendent had 96 on the roll, 24 on the cradle roll and 14 teachers. Money collected $199.00.
In 1934 the Rev. E. S. Fleming of Burns Lake was called and accepted the call. In 1937 the Rev. M.D. McKee was supply minister during regular minister’s holidays. Names on the Official Board in 1938 were Wm. Akeroyd, Dr. D. Jamieson, A. Bedford, R.J. Glasgow, Harold Scales, Mrs.
A. Bedford, Hal Pardy, S.J. McDiarmid, Dan McMillan, R.N. Bray and R. Askew.
The next minister called to First United was the Rev. Victor Sansum. On May 25th, 1939 evening service was cancelled to allow people to gather at the depot to see the train carrying King George and Queen Elizabeth passing through Salmon Arm. This was of great interest to one of our church’s good members, Mrs. Tom Bennetts, who knew Queen Elizabeth as a little girl on the estate of the Queen’s Father at Glamis Castle in Scotland.
Rev. Victor Sansum had to give up his ministry in Salmon Arm owing to ill health. He was followed by the Rev. E.G. Dredge who preached in First United until 1947. He was followed by our good friend, the Rev. A.O. Clements, who filled our pulpit for thirteen years. Then, owing to ill health, he retired to his own home on Broadview. Mrs. Clements was a great help in our choir and for a time was leader of the Junior Choir.
During Rev. Clements years First United had one disaster in 1949 when the Gym Hall burned down, leaving the church in a bad financial state. Then in June, 1952 the Sunday School Hall was built, filling a very great need. It was sold to the Elks Lodge after our Christian Education Centre was built in I960. The new manse was built in 1954 and has been a very comfortable home for our ministers and their families.
The Rev. Clinton Swallow and his family came to Salmon Arm from Viking, Alberta, in I960 and has been a wonderful friend and leader in all our organizations. He left Salmon Arm in 1966 and returned to Alberta.
Rev. Dan MacQuarrie ministered to the congregations of First United and Canoe United for five years. He also preached occasionally at Silver Creek and Mr. Ida. During his ministry, Mr. MacQuarrie presided over the burning of the mortgage on the Christian Education Building.
The Mt. Ida Church was closed in 1971, and as population shifted, Silver Creek United was also closed and sold in 1974.
In September, 1971, Rev. Jim L. Johnson was called and served First United and Canoe United Churches for four years. Mr. Dean Salter followed as Trained Lay Supply for one year. During this time he was Ordained as a minister and left to continue in Saskatchewan.
In 1975, the 50th Anniversary of the United Church of Canada was celebrated in June with a weekend of events including a supper, concert and an address by Dr. Robert McLaren who had officially opened the C.E. Centre in 1960.
In 1977 the congregation called Rev. Alvin Adams who served both First United and Canoe until his retirement to Gabriola Island in 1987. From 1978 to 1980 a second staff person was added in the person of Mr. Kim MacMillan who worked as Christian Education Director.
At the time of Rev. Adams’ retirement, the pastoral charge called Rev. Darryl Auten from Edmonton. Due to his daughter’s educational requirements, he was not available to come for another year. Ministry during this year was provided by the recently retired Rev. Frank Chubb of Penticton and Kim MacMillan on a two thirds/one third basis. During this year, the congregation worked together with a very capable building committee to build and dedicate the long awaited new sanctuary, attached to the 1960 Christian Education Building.
Rev. Darryl Auten served the pastoral charge then from 1988 to his retirement in 1998. He had previously served on the program staff of the Naramata Centre and as the person in charge of continuing education for St. Stephen’s College in Edmonton.
In 1998, Rev. Will Sparks was called from the Arrow Lakes Pastoral Charge and served until the end of 2008, moving to Northwood United Church in Surrey. During this time (about 2006), Jim Hannah, was appointed as a Designated Lay Minister serving Children, Youth and Families. He left in June, 2011 to accept a call to serve as the solo minister at Winfield United Church.
In 2009 the Rev. Juanita Austin, our first female minister, was called from Merritt to First United and continues to serve us as of this writing (October, 2011).