The first official record of any Presbyterian activity in Barrie occurred during the summer of 1843 when the Presbyterians in the town petitioned the Presbytery of Toronto of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, in connection with the Church of1910 image Scotland, the "Kirk Synod," for supply of ordinances. The Rev. Andrew Bell of Streetsville, the Presbytery Clerk, preached in Barrie in September of that year and provided advice as to how to apply to the Government of Canada West for a grant of land for a church. The Barrie Presbyterians had no further involvement with the Kirk Synod, but they were granted two lots on Blake Street, between Dundonald and St. Vincent, that backed onto a double lot on the unopened Collingwood Street road allowance as a site for a church and manse. In June 1844 a number of ministers and congregations broke away for the Church of Scotland Synod and formed the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the "Free Synod." In the late winter/early spring of 1845 the Rev. Angus McIntosh, the Free Synod minister in Thorold, undertook a missionary tour that took him up to Owen's Sound - as Owen Sound was called in those days, across Nottawasaga Township to Oro Township and Orillia. This tour is recorded in great detail in the "Ecclesiastical & Missionary Record," the official organ of the Free Synod. From Orillia he proceeded south through Oro, preaching at the tenth line and at the "Campbell Settlement," which we can safely assume was Guthrie. He then preached in Barrie and noted that the Presbyterians there had received a grant of land for a church. For some reason, or reasons, unknown the Blake Street property was not developed. Perhaps it was because of the smallness of the fledgling unorganized Presbyterian congregation or because it was away from the centre of the town, we just don't know. We have virtually no record of any Presbyterian activity in the period between Mr. McIntosh's visit and the Summer of 1849, when the Rev. Thomas Lowry came to the area.
Presbyterian activity is noted from time-to-time in the "Barrie Magnet," the local newspaper, in 1847 and 1848, with the fledgling congregation using the facilities of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, now Collier Street United. The redoubtable Dr. Robert Burns, Professor of Church History at Knox College, is noted as preaching in Barrie during this time. In the summer of 1849 the Free Synod received a number of Ordained Missionaries from the Synod of Ulster, Presbyterian Church of Ireland, and one of them, the Rev. Thomas Lowry, was sent to this area.
In October 1849 the Presbyterians in Barrie and Innisfil petitioned the Presbytery of Toronto for a continuation of Mr. Lowry's services among them. The Presbytery was sufficiently impressed by this to erect Barrie and Innisfil into a single Pastoral Charge with Mr. Lowry as minister. On the 16th of January 1850 Mr. Lowry was Inducted into the Innisfil part of the charge at the Sixth Line Church. The following day, 17th, in a service held in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Mr. Lowry was formally inducted into the Barrie part of the charge. Dr. Burns presided at both services. During this period the Hon. J. C. Morrison donated lot 68 on the north side of Collier Street, east of Clapperton, to the congregation for a site for a church and manse. The Blake and Collingwood lots were subsequently sold by the Trustees.
In addition to the Blake and Collingwood Streets lots the Presbyterians also received a Government Grant of land in the general area of St. Vincent and Duckworth Streets, and used this property to establish a cemetery. This is shown on old plans of Barrie as "The Scotch Burying Ground." While the Crown Patent was not issued until 1850 it is believed that the property was used for burials right from the mid 1840's. The site, with the exception of one grave, was cleared in 1906. The remains were exhumed and re-interred in the Barrie Union Cemetery and the site sold by the Trustees. The one remaining grave, belonging to the Summers family, is still there, now in the backyard of a home on St. Vincent Street.
Also in 1850 plans were drawn up for a church building with the agreement and specifications, that are among our records, being signed by the Trustees and the builder. It would appear that this building was opened for worship in November 1850.
By 1880 this building had become too small and in 1882 land at the corner of Owen and Worsley Streets was purchased and our present building erected. The opening services were held on Sunday the 25th of February 1883 with the Rev. Principal George Grant of Queen's University as guest preacher. This building has served us now for one hundred and twenty-three years, with relatively few changes. The Sunday School addition at the back was added following the First World War as a memorial to those members of St. Andrew's who had served their Country and to remember those who did not return. Also in 1883 the congregations longest serving minister, Duncan Darroch McLeod, was inducted. He served the congregation for 33 years. In 1901 Knox College conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Until the late 1890's the congregation was simply known as the Barrie Presbyterian Church, the St. Andrew's name seems to have been adopted about 1898, but did not come into general useage until much later. The Annual Report did not reflect the St. Andrew's name until 1920.
In 1890 the congregation was actively involved with the establishment of the Allandale Presbyterian Church, now the Essa Road congregation. In 1925 the congregation voted decisively to remain with The Presbyterian Church in Canada, although a number of the congregation, including most of the Kirk Session, left to join with Collier Street United Church. These included the Walls family who owned the Barrie Examiner. In the late 1950's the congregation was once again active in the establishment of a third Presbyterian congregation, that of Westminster on Steel Street. In 1999 we celebrated our 150th Anniversary and in 2009 we made our building fully accessible through the addition of an entrance-way elevator and ramped access both outside and within.
The foregoing is a very brief account of some of the highlights of the history of our congregation.
Michael Millar, FRPSC, Congregational Historian. March 2006.
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