In order to clarify the beginning of the history of the Hamilton Church, it may be helpful to state a few facts about the beginning of Adventism in Ontario. From denominational records, it is ascertained that the earliest Sabbath-keeping Adventists consisted of a small group in and around London, Ontario. By the request of this group in 1851, Hiram Edson and Joseph Bates made a circuit of Lake Ontario spreading the new-found faith. Others continued this work and as a result, by 1899, there were seven organized churches and eight companies, a total of some 500 members. In June of that year, all the “workers” in Ontario attended a camp meeting in London and the Old Ontario Conference was formed. F. D. Starr, a worker with strong organizational skills, was chosen as its ﬁrst president. Almost immediately, he began organizing churches: (1) Pcterborough, July 1899; (2) Ottawa, July or August 1899; (3) Brantford, October 1, 1899; (4) Hamilton, October 15, 1899. E. J. Dryer of Hamilton was ordained at this conference in London.
In the autumn of 1897, Pastor E. J. Dryer, an Ontario church worker, and his wife came to Hamilton and succeeded in arousing an interest in this new-found truth. When he had to leave for Toronto, two Bible workers. Carrie Irwin and Bertha Orchard, faithfully carried on his work, resulting in six persons becoming members of the remnant church. Also a lively Sabbath School of twenty members was organized. In December of 1898, Bernice Samis replaced Miss Irwin in working with Miss Orchard. In May 1899, E. J. Dryer had returned to Hamilton just before his ordination in London, in June 1899.
On July 1st, W. J. Dryer teamed up with P. M. Howe of St. Thomas, also a church worker, and they pitched a tent on the corner of Moriah Street and James Street South in Hamilton and began a series of meetings. Later the tent was moved to the corner of Grant Avenue and King Street East. Leonard Payne (at that time living in St. Thomas) acted as tent master. As a result of the combined efforts of these workers, ten persons were baptized on September 16, 1899. A month later, on October 15, F. D. Starr, ﬁrst president of the Ontario Conference was present as a church of 15 was organized. Hamilton’s ﬁrst Seventh-day Adventist church!
Just over 115 years ago, a “little company of believers in the Third Angels Message, met at the Royal Templars Hall on the corner of King William and Hughson Streets (Hamilton, Ontario) to organize themselves into a church.” Thus commences the church records of the beginning of the Hamilton Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Church as recorded by Lizzie Turner, the ﬁrst church clerk. “The meeting opened by prayer, after which an expression was taken to see who of the company had been baptized and were desirous of uniting together in church fellowship. Some fifteen responded and Elder Howe, William Lane and Frank Lane were chosen as a nucleus. The rules of organization were followed and as each member was accepted they took their seats and acted their part in receiving those who were to follow. When all had passed a satisfactory examination, the company proceeded to elect their officers. Elder P. M. Howe was chosen as elder, F. W. Watkins as deacon, Miss Lizzie Turner as church clerk, William Voelker as treasurer, and Frank Lane as librarian.” Thus the little company of believers in the Third Angels Message was organized into a church.
In the early days, meetings were first held in homes and then in halls: in 1910, in Swales Hall at $4.00 per month rent; in 1911, in a church at the corner of Melbourne and Locke Streets for a few weeks; in 1912, in Kennedy Hall. The brief period at the church at Melbourne and Locke streets was like an oasis in the desert. This location was particularly appealing with no rent to pay for a few Sabbaths, and all present were tired of meeting at Halls where “Satan rules all week but for a few short hours of our presence there, even so we go there to meet God and where we meet Him is holy ground, so all felt impressed with arrangements to meet at the church”. One can imagine their longing for a proper church home, away from the sights, sounds and smells of the secular world!
Apparently they enjoyed their meetings there so much that it was decided to make a move from meeting halls; so, on June 25, 1911, a business meeting was held to consider the purchase of a particular church. However, when the issue was opened for discussion, several propositions were brought forth, two of which were (1) to buy and convert a particular house on Locke Street, or (2) to build on two lots donated by Mr. Pink. (Sizeable cash donations were made at this time). It was ﬁnally moved, seconded and carried to appoint a committee of ﬁve “to look up these lots and buildings and consider the best move to make”. Fund-raising began in earnest and many gave regularly to the building fund.
Under Pastor Allen’s successful leadership, the membership continued to grow and a small church at the corner of Greenaway and Wilson Avenue was purchased for $1,850.00 from the Latter Day Saints.
This church was dedicated on September 20, 1913, by Elder M. N. Campbell. During his thirty-four months of outreach, Matthew J. Allen saw 61 persons added to the church and the first SDA church home purchased. By 1919, the membership was 119 – too large for their building – so they sold and moved to the Royal Templar’s Hall on Walnut Street.
Leading others to Christ …
An interesting event occurred in Hamilton. Elizabeth Gosnay had been reading literature containing information on the seventh-day Sabbath and had become convinced of its validity, but she knew of no organization observing that day. Being a resourceful person, she decided there must be a way to ﬁnd such a group. One Saturday morning, unknown to her family, she dressed in her best clothes and went down to Hamilton’s main street and stood, waiting, just waiting! After a considerable time, a lady with a Bible under her arm passed by. Mrs. Gosnay believed that this was the sign for which she was waiting. Without hesitation, and without the lady’s (Mrs. Clark) realization, Mrs. Gosnay followed her to a hall in which a meeting was about to be held. Mrs. Gosnay had found what she was looking for. From then on she was an active worker, leading among others, her husband and her children into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. (Mrs. Clarke was the mother of Miss Margaret Clark, a nurse, who also contributed greatly to the church).
The twenties brought a rapid decline in membership as, following World War I, many left for the United States, particularly the Detroit area. This decline in membership caused a signiﬁcant loss of funds, conference-wide, and consequently a reduction in staff and workers was necessary.
It was at the 1922 Hamilton Camp Meeting that Elton A. Jones was appointed pastor for the city. After his two-year appointment, which had not been renewed, he still carried on unofficially until 1931. Although during the twenties the membership had dwindled to about ﬁfty and there had been no church school since 1921, still there was a great deal of activity within the church.
In 1920, a rousing colporteur’s rally was held on August 7th. And in August the following year, a class in Home Nursing graduated in Toronto. The instructor, Florence Henderson, was presented with a bunch of American Beauty roses from the Hamilton class and a fountain pen from the Toronto class. Mrs. Henderson instructed this class for several months at no charge. In 1922, a joint outdoor camp meeting was held in the city.
A 1923 report was encouraging. The church membership was 67, the Ingathermg was in full swing, and one of the members who was over 70 brought in $15.00, apparently quite a sum in those days.
By the end of 1926, the reports were disturbing. The yearly report in the Eastern Canadian Messenger is as follows: “It is only fair, it seems to me, that a little comparison be made of years past with the year 1926 in the experience of the Hamilton Church. That we have had our problems none know better than the oﬁcers who have sewed. In some respects our difﬁculties have been those in common with all other churches; in some other distinct respects our problems have been local, such as unemployment, general depression, emigration to the “greener pastures” of the United States of American, and others.
In 1920 we had a recorded membership of 113. That year our tithe was the highest of any of the nine yearly reports before me, reaching $3,653. The Harvest Ingathering returns were $462, while the Sabbath School offerings for the 52 Sabbaths were $466.
Our membership and tithe steadily continued to drop during 1922, 1923, 1924 and 1925. (Eastern Canadian Messenger, 1926)
It was not until the next decade that the tempo changed.
In the thirties, the Depression Years when many Ontario churches were without regular pastors, Hamilton was fortunate in that about this time Oscar D. Cardey, a graduate of Oshawa Missionary College and former church worker in Ontario, returned to Canada from the USA. Following a very successful campaign in Toronto, he moved to Hamilton in 1931, where he held a large public effort (crusade) in the Palace Theatre, setting for himself a goal of 50 for his ﬁrst baptism and worked and prayed to that end. He preached to capacity audiences and by June of that year had baptized ﬁfty new converts, doubling the church membership and reaching his ﬁrst objective, baptizing the exact number that he had asked of the Lord.
Two years later, during a second series of meetings, this time held in the Delta Theatre, so many people living in the east end of Hamilton accepted the Lord that a second church was organized on June 10, 1933 by Pastor N. V. Campbell, then Conference President. This group met in a hall on Ottawa Street North until ultimately they united with the original church body.
Cardey was a forceful speaker, fearless, dramatic and humorous but unfortunately, tactless. Perhaps his most tactless deed was the reading of a long poem condemning the “papacy and its Protestant daughters” which he unfailingly read at each series of meetings causing negative feelings to arise in many people.
His meetings were never boring, perhaps because he used every means available to attract and hold an audience. It is reported that even when he was delivering an address in the radio studio, he employed all the gestures and facial expressions which he had used in his public addresses. When he left Hamilton, the membership had risen dramatically, radio had been used in Ontario for the ﬁrst time by a Seventh-day Adventist, and a church school had been re-established. Eugena Gage, a recent wealthy convert played a large part in the re-establishment of the church school by her generosity. (The Gage family owned the land of the present Gage Park, and their house is now the Children’s Museum). She ﬁnanced the church school which was conducted in a house on Bay Street with Dorothy Jones-Witt of Rock Hall, Maryland as teacher (1931-1933). Miss Jones was succeeded by William and Ethyl White (1933-1934) who conducted classes on Albany Avenue East, Hamilton.
During church growth under Pastor Cardey, the group moved to Pythian Hall on Jackson Street. When the building was sold, they returned to the Royal Templar’s Hall. After a short time, they moved to the Independent Order of Foresters (l.O.F) Hall on Main Street East, meeting there until the construction of the present building at the corner of Concession and East 11th Street at the top of the Jolley Cut.
The ﬁrst half of the forties experienced not only war but also prosperity and with them an increase in membership and funds throughout the conference. While an effort was being made conference-wide to eliminate church debt built up by the Depression, Hamilton was debt free. lt was during these years that Pastor O. B. Gerhard (1941-1946) and Pastor Philip Moores (1946-1949) were located in Hamilton. This was also the period when the groundwork was being laid for the purchase of property for a new church. Several properties were investigated as to their suitability. Offers were made and rejected. Perhaps the property which received the greatest consideration up to that time was a building at the corner of Main and Hess. Both the Union and the Conference presidents were in favor of this possible purchase. The selling price was $18,000.00 with approximately $8000 – $10,000 necessary to bring it up to standard. Each member was asked to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the matter and would be visited individually for either approval or disapproval of the purchase. The plan was voted down.
Following this, a site became available on Concession Street and on September 17, 1948, Pastor Philip Moores and ﬁve members of the church went to look at this lot and were impressed. Directly opposite this site and across the street overlooking the city was a large parcel of land owned by the City of Hamilton. Further across the Jolley Cut and along the mountain’s edge was a strip of land also owned by the city whose long range plans were for an extensive ﬂower garden there. This was indeed an ideal location. But there was one big problem! Church Board approval was necessary for the purchase and the Board was not scheduled to meet for about two weeks. Good land was moving fast. What to do? Leslie Kaytor, a member of the committee, had the answer. Immediately he went to the vendor, purchased and put a down payment on the lot, and presented it to the church. Later when they met, the Board decided to add the adjacent lot to this one and today the church stands on the lot bought by Leslie Kaytor. The other lot is used for parking.
In 1949, Pastor M. H. Philbrick arrived in Hamilton. He came to Ontario from the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference in 1943 to take charge of the Ukrainian work in this province. Soon he became known as a talented church builder and after the construction of churches at Simcoe (1946) and Toronto Ukrainian (1949), he was invited to enter the English work. Subsequently he was stationed in Hamilton (1949). Pastor Philbrick discovered that the believers in Hamilton, while meeting in halls for the past thirty years, had been saving for a new church building and indeed, had purchased a lot. Also a quantity of lumber had been prepared and donated. It was evident that the time had come to construct a church to the glory of God and he was the man chosen to launch the project.
This picture, in the July 17th, 1949 Church Bulletin, shows logs cut by the Missionary Men of the Hamilton Church. The logs were taken from the woodlot donated by Brother Cecil Chamberlain. Brother Les Soley donated the use of his tractor. The logs were milled by Slater Lumber Company and the National Steel Car Corporation.
7,000 sq. feet hardwood ﬂooring
2,000 linear ft. of cherry trim
150 linear ft. of 10″ stair tread
2,000 board ft. 2 X 4″ and 2 x 6″ stair tread
75 stove cords ﬁre wood.
Sketches of a possible design for the church had been received by the Board and after thoughtful discussion, suggestions were made for changes and modiﬁcations.
A new sketch for the church building was presented to the Board January 1950, less than a week before Mayor Jackson broke the sod January 4, 1950. A month later, February 8, 1950 the blueprints for both the church and the school were received.
Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church, Concession and East Eleventh
Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson, with shovel
On his left: Pastor M. H. Philbrick, responsible for building the church
On his right: G. Eric Jones, Ontario Conference President
(ln white coat) Nurse Florence Henderson, head of Dorcas Federation for all of Canada
(Far left) Mrs. Mary Kaytor with daughter, Lorraine