The History of St. Andrew's

The first St. Andrew's Church:

1st St. Andrew's Church, circa 1821In 1821, the government granted an acre of land situated on the corner of Church Street and Hotel Street (now Victoria Ave.) to the representatives of the Church of Scotland, then in the village of Belleville.

The first church was erected in 1831, a frame building painted white. The parent Church of Scotland probably assisted in the cost of construction. The church was large enough to seat about 300. The seats for some years consisted of planks on blocks of wood. It was lighted with tallow candles until 1858, when gas was secured by the congregation laying a main from the corner of John and Hotel Streets to the church, as the gas company refused to do it. The snuffing of the candles was the duty of one gentleman who used to divide the honour with the minister. The collection was taken up with ladles.

Three poplar trees were planted in front of the church in 1850. These trees survived in spite of the efforts of one gentleman to break them down because he objected to all forms of church embellishment. No sound but the human voice was heard in St. Andrew's until 1865 when a small harmonium was placed in the church, and the Saturday night before it was first used. The minister received several threatening letters announcing the dreadful things that would happen if that "Kist of Whistles" was allowed to desecrate the Lord's house. The harmonium was used by the organist who dared not play a prelude to the hymns, and a voluntary would have emptied the church.

A year following the building of the church, a petition was sent from the congregation to the Presbytery of Edinburgh and in response, Reverend James Ketchan was sent as minister to St. Andrew's who was the first stated minister. He remained until 1844, then returned to Scotland. From 1844 to 1850, St. Andrew's was without a minister. During this time, parishioners of St. Andrew's worshipped in St. Thomas Anglican Church.

In November 1850, the Reverend William McEwen was inducted as minister. He resigned in 1853. Reverend A. Walker was inducted May 10, 1854 and remained until 1868 when he returned to Scotland. In 1869, the Reverend J. C. Smith took charge of the parish and during his tenure, the congregation prospered greatly.

At the annual meeting of the congregation on January 4, 1871, the following resolution was passed: That steps be taken to build a brick church with stone foundation and basement storey large enough to seat on the ground floor 500 persons, the cost of said building not to exceed $9,000.00. Application was made to the Government through the Attorney-General for renewal of the patent on which the church stands.

On April 24, 1871, a congregational meeting voted to allow the building committee to expend more than $9,000.00 if necessary and on January 4, 1872 the annual meeting of the congregation was held for the first time in the new church with Mr. Rutherford as chairman.

The Second St. Andrew's Church:

2nd St. Andrew's Church, circa 1871 The second St. Andrew's Church was built in 1871, replacing the frame church. The second church was an attractive brick edifice with stone basement. It had pews providing sittings for 446 persons. Many memorial stained glass windows were installed and finally all of the windows were stained glass. This church had the only chimes in Belleville, a fine organ, and was lighted by gas. It was destroyed by fire on Sunday morning September 9, 1894.

Two ministers served in this church: the Reverend J.C. Smith, who was minister in the first church, remained until the early part of 1873, when he resigned and went to Hamilton. A call was extended to Reverend M. W. McLean of Port Hope. He accepted and was inducted on November 12, 1873. Mr. McLean remained as minister of this second church until it burned and then he continued as minister of the third church, St. Andrew's current building.

In 1875, the union of various branches of the Presbyterians in Canada took place and the Presbyterian Church in Canada had one of the largest memberships of the Protestant churches. An annual report for 1880 showed the number of families in St. Andrew's as 136; number of communicants as 190; number of scholars on the Sunday School rolls was 180; and average attendance each week was 150.

The Women's Fellowship and Missionary Society (W. F. M. S.) was formed on November 10, 1885. They met monthly and reported a membership of 31 by 1889. The 1890 annual report indicated the W. F. M. S. had 31 members and total funds raised as $100.00.

In 1890, the Sunday School report shows the following: "One of the most notable features and one we regret to mention is the manner in which lessons are prepared at home. Here at least we should endeavour to improve during the coming year. Instruction received at Sunday School, even though ably imparted, can never take the place nor be retained in the memory like lessons learned at home. This is especially true of Bible Verses and Catechism questions." By 1893s annual report, the Sunday School had 19 teachers, with an average attendance of 140 children each Sunday.

Sunday morning, September 9, 1894, a fire alarm was given at 5 o'clock in the morning saying simply that St. Andrew's Church was on fire. In a few short hours, the church was just a mass of smouldering ruins. One of Belleville's most handsome churches was nothing but bare walls and charred timbers. The church, at this time, was free of debt, well furnished, and had a flourishing congregation. Because of the lack of instant communications such as we have today, many members of the congregation showed up for the regular service that morning, only to find their church in ruins.

The Third St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church:

Present Day Church, photo circa 1907On the afternoon of the day the second church was destroyed by fire, a meeting including Reverend McLean and church officials was convened. Offers of temporary accommodation were made by the Reverend Canon Burke of St. Thomas, Reverend Robert Wallace of Bridge Street Methodist, Mr. Power of the Opera House and Robert Bogle of the Business College. Mr. Bogle's offer was accepted and the congregation moved to its temporary home in the Business College .

The building committee for the third church building consisted of the Trustees and Thomas Stewart and J. L. Biggar representing the congregation. The active trustees were John Bell, Q.C., James Brown, D. M. Waters, Judge Lazier, Robert Elliott, D. R. Leavena, and R. E. Lazier. Various architects’ submitted plans and the committee selected as architects Darling, Sproat, and Pearson. Plans and specifications having been completed, tenders were called.

Numerous tenders were submitted. The contract for the building was let to Thomas Hanley for $23,000.00. The Globe Furniture Company received the contract for the pews for $1,466.00. The contract for the pulpit was let to Thomas Hanley for $480.00, the heating to William McGie for $650.00, the organ to Warren Co. for $2,275.00. The total cost for the building and furnishings was $34,000.00. J. L. Biggar installed a memorial window for $125.00 and the communion table at a cost of $125.00.

The third St. Andrew's Church was dedicated on November 17th, 1895.

The annual congregational meeting held February 3rd, 1904 brought the announcement of the resignation of Reverend M. W. McLean after 30 years as pastor of St. Andrew's. Regret was expressed at his resignation as he had served the congregation faithfully for so long a period of time. At this meeting it was suggested that the Board of Managers be reduced in number as many did not attend the meetings. Also, it was moved by Dr. Farley, seconded by W. J. Campbell the president, secretary, and treasurer that the Ladies Aid Society be members of the Board of Managers because of all the money they had collected for the church over the years. This motion did not carry.

After Reverend McLean left, various ministers filled in as asked until September 13, 19 04 when the Reverend R. S. Laidlaw was inducted. He served as minister until 1909 when he left to accept a post in Brandon, Manitoba. St. Andrew's then inducted the Reverend A. S. Kerr, M.A., who came to the church from Scarborough .

In 1925, after much controversy, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada voted the whole church into union with the United Church. However, each congregation was allowed to vote out of the union if they wanted to. St. Andrew's voted against entering the union, while the nearby John St. Presbyterian voted to join the United Church.

This caused considerable disruption as many left St. Andrew's to join the United Churchy and several left John Street Presbyterian to come to St. Andrew's. Reverend Kerr entered the United Church and left St. Andrew's.

A call was extended to Reverend R. G. Stewart of Neepawa, Manitoba. He was inducted on August 27th, 1925 and remained for three years. During his tenure, there was a large increase in membership and considerable growth in Sunday School attendance.

Reverend J. A. Seymour, M.A., S.T.D. was inducted as Minister of St. Andrew's on March 13, 1929. Dr. Seymour is described as being an excellent administrator and organizer. Under his guidance, several alterations took place to the church building. A new heating system providing heat for the entire building was added; Sunday School assembly hall, class rooms, and choir room, ladies' parlour, kindergarten room, kitchen and toilets were added to a remodelled basement. A new lighting system was installed and repairs were made to the outside of the building.

Unfortunately, Reverend Dr. Seymour was struck and killed by a street car in Toronto on February 14th, 1934. He had been attending a committee meeting in Toronto. Dr. Seymour was an able preacher, outstanding scholar and loved by the people of St. Andrew's. On Sunday morning, February 11, 1934, Dr. Seymour preached a sermon from the text, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?". This sermon related to many people passing through difficult times because of the Great Depression and they were inspired and comforted by the oratory.

The Reverend William James Walker, B.A., B. D. was inducted into the pastorate of St. Andrews on June 29, 1934, a post he served until June 16th, 1942. Some events of importance during the tenure of Reverend Walker included the destruction by fire of John Street United Church and the use of St. Andrew's by that congregation until it disbanded and former Presbyterians returned to St. Andrew's from John Street United. Also, the symbolic burning of the mortgage was held in 1939. The mortgage had covered part of the costs of the remodelling and alterations to the church.

The Reverend J. G. Hornsby was inducted on November 26, 1942 and he continued in the post until the latter part of 1954. The membership at the end of 1954 was 770. Reverend Hornsby was Minister for the last three years of World War Two and the war dead were memorialized. The names of St. Andrew's congregation who died in the Second World War were Haddow F. Baird, Charles Cunningham, Donald B. Douglas, George Graham, Edward Gailey, Charles T. Kidd, John Parsons and Stanley Seymour .

From early 1955 until 1963, Reverend R. D. MacLean served as Minister of St. Andrew's Church. During this period, the Sunday School accommodations were moved to the second floor of the church with auditorium and classrooms. Today, Sunday School is held in this area.

In 1963, the Reverend A. L. Sutherland accepted a call and was inducted in March, 1963. He remained in St. Andrew's pulpit until 1980. The vestry was refurnished as an office for Mr. Sutherland and a church office was equipped for the secretary. The office for the secretary was enlarged in 1967. In 1968 a new organ was installed in the Church by Casavant Freres. This organ is still the one used today. During this Ministry, the regular Sunday evening service was discontinued. Reverend Sutherland served until 1980.

A new Minister was not inducted until 1982, when the Reverend Malcolm Muth was selected. He served 10 years until 1992. Once again, two years passed before the Reverend Craig Cribar was inducted in 1994 and he remained until 2001. During this period, attendance at all of the established churches was dropping as new lifestyles began to take over. Older members of the congregation were passing away and their families were either moving to other communities or simply deciding not to attend church any more. People felt disconnected from the older established churches who were doing nothing to adapt to modern life and the numbers of church members declined. A drive around communities all across Canada in the late 20th century showed how out of touch the church was becoming, as there were many churches abandoned and closed. St. Andrew's was seriously in danger of becoming one of these churches.


St. Andrew's today, photo circa 2007After Reverend Cribar left, the selection committee at St. Andrew's decided to select someone to bring new life into St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. Thus they selected Anne-Marie Jones, a Quinte area native and a recent graduate of Knox College in Toronto . The congregation voted overwhelmingly in favour of the committee's choice and Reverend Anne-Marie Jones was inducted as Minister of St. Andrew's in October, 2002. She made history immediately by becoming St. Andrew's first woman Minister and with her father, the Reverend Bob Jones of St. Andrew's Church in Picton, became the first daughter and father Ministers in the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Rev. Anne-Marie left St. Andrew's Belleville at the end of 2014 to fulfill God's calling in Meaford, Ontario.

The Presbytery of Kingston assigned Pastor Job Van Hartingsveldt to be St. Andrew's interim moderator on September 1, 2014. Since then he has also been filling the role of interim minister and travels from Kingston every Sunday for worship service and Wednesday mornings he is in the office.


~ Excerpt from the pamphlet "St.Andrew's" by Kenneth S. Hill and "St. Andrew's Chronicles" by Gerald Boyce.


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