History of Melville White Church

The Past
The Melville (White Church) was built in 1837 and the simplicity of its structure reflects the religious beliefs and modest means of the original Scottish Presbyterian pioneers in the Caledon area.

The Church was named after Andrew Melville who was an early follower of John Knox the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland in the 17th century.

It was built by Daniel McMillan and his brothers. This stalwart Scot was a founder of nearby Erin. Prior to 1837 a log house served as both school and church, across the road from the present site. Upon completion the frame building was painted white, hence the popular name, “The White Church.”

The first minister was Duncan McMillan and the first congregation was, of course, Presbyterian. McMillan was trained at the Mayfield church in South Caledon. An upheaval in Scotland in 1843 persuaded these early worshippers to become the Free Church of Scotland. Volatile Scottish politics calmed down several years later, and so these hardy pioneers, with no doubt a sigh of relief, became Presbyterians once again.

A small church up the road disbanded in 1900 and, although Congregationalists, swelled the ranks of the “White Churchers”. Greenlaw Corners no longer exists but the remnants of their cemetery can still be seen at the corner of Mississauga Road and The Grange Sideroad.

In 1925 upon unification, the congregation joined the United Church of Canada, without taking a vote, according to disgruntled Presbyterians!

Throughout its history, the White Church has had wonderfully colourful ministers. McMillan often preached in Gaelic. There was an Irishman, a mulatto (1857) and a blind Syrian (1886). Multi-culturalism was alive and well in those days!

Review some of the names of those early worshippers who enriched the history of the White Church: Crichton, Gibson, Frank, Pattulo, Burnet, Kirkwood, Foster, Hunter, McLachlan, MacMillan, McEachern, Campbell, Sharp.

Many of these pioneers came from the Isle of Islay off the coast of Scotland.

Declining membership closed these venerable doors in 1964. Two years later it was acquired by the Credit Valley Conservation Authority. Restoration plans, at that stage considerably more economical than now, collapsed. This rare heritage gem was allowed to sink into decay. Periodic Thanksgiving services were held until the last one in 1984.

In 1997 the Town of Caledon acquired the site from the CVC. In 1998 the Town signed an agreement with the BHS to manage the fund raising and its restoration.

WEDDINGS FROM THE PAST

One of the last weddings held at the Melville White Church. 1970's - Kevin & Gail MacMillan

One of the last weddings held at the Melville White Church. 1970’s – Kevin & Gail MacMillan

THE FUTURE

Architectural technologist Denis Heroux, through the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, prepared a stimulating and positive report and plan for the restoration of the White Church.

He concluded:
“The White Church, one of the few remaining pre-Victorian era timber fame churches in Ontario, is a valuable cultural resource to the Town of Caledon. The modest size of the church, the quality of the natural light filtering through the windows, and the simplicity of the decor made the building highly adaptable for a number of users. It is also fortunate that the church is built mostly of wood making it possible to use local skills and materials.”

The fact that the White Church is a heritage building is not an obstacle to its reuse. The building can be easily modernized while retaining its heritage character.

This report recommended two restoration options – the first for year around use, and the second, only for summertime. This latter option is the plan the Belfountain Heritage Society has undertaken.

WITH OUR FIRST WEDDING IN SEPTEMBER 2002, OUR FUTURE VISION FOR OUR RESTORED BUILDING IS BECOMING A REALITY !!

Our first wedding in over 30 years! Samantha & Colin McCleave - Sept. 2002

Our first wedding in over 30 years!
Samantha & Colin McCleave – Sept. 2002

 

This gentleman played bagpipes at the McCleave wedding held in Sept 2002.

This gentleman played bagpipes at the McCleave wedding held in Sept 2002.