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(1881 Kelvin Free Methodist Church)

Copyright 2010-2020 by C. Barker,

Published in the Burford Times July 7th, 2010

2010 view of the Northfield Hall

The Free Methodist Church originated in New York State in 1860, when members of the Methodist Episcopal Church split away from their church. The Free Methodist Church is so named because they believed it was improper to charge for better seats in pews closer to the pulpit. They also opposed slavery and many of their churches were located at “check-points” along the underground railway, which is one of the reasons they established churches here in Canada during that time period.

     By 1880 there were over 300 members in Canada and they held revival camp meetings throughout Ontario to gain more membership. Many Camp meetings and revivals took place over the fall of 1880 and the winter of 1881 near Harley and Kelvin and the general feeling seemed to be that this church group was encroaching into the other Methodist church’s territory. Bitterness toward them was expressed through the local papers and sarcasm was used saying that the Free Methodist members claimed to be “free of sin.” Another bone of contention was that they advocated “freedom from secret societies,” such as the Free Masons and other lodges, etc.

     During that time period, there were five types of Methodist Churches, including Episcopal Methodist, Primitive Methodist and Wesleyan Methodist. By 1884 there was a movement in the various Methodist Churches to amalgamate to form one Methodist Church of Canada.

     It seemed that Kelvin was a haven for a variety of churches in the early days, and at one time boasted about five churches within about a mile and a half of the village, including the Church of The Messiah, Congregational Church and Episcopal Methodist.

     The Free Methodist Church commenced construction of their new building by way of a bee of the entire congregation on April 30th, 1881. It was completed and consecrated on September 4th, 1881. The Church was built just north of the village of Kelvin on the east side of the Middle Townline on a property which was donated by Mr and Mrs Thomas Hill. The church building was thirty feet wide by fifty feet long and a cemetery was established on the same lot, which still exists.

(photo 2010 by D.A. Atkins)

     In 1963 after the free Methodist Church closed at Kelvin, the building was moved to the south-east corner of the 12th concession road and the Middle Townline and placed on a new concrete foundation and renovated to become the Northfield Community Hall. Many community and family events took place in that building including wedding receptions, community dances, card parties and family reunions. In 2010, the Northfield hall was closed and the local fire brigade used it for practice as it was (control-burned) burned to the ground.

     Prior to its demise, some architectural elements, such as the exterior clapboards, were salvaged by friends of Westfield Heritage Village, Rockton volunteers, to be put to re-use in the re-construction of another historic wood frame/timber constructed building which was salvaged from the vicinity of Oakland and recently sent to the Westfield Heritage theme park at Rockton to be reconstructed there. Much of what was left, by way of furnishings etc, were sold to the public.

     It was very interesting to see the various, nearly-extinct, species of woods which were utilized in the building’s construction, and the enormous size of some of them. The sheathing boards found on the interior side of the wall cavity were plenty wide with some fetching nearly 24 inches in width and over an inch thick. Back in 1881, there was an abundance of old-growth specimens of trees which are now nearly extinct, such as Chestnut and Hemlock, Elm, fur and various types of pine that are no longer found growing naturally in this part of the world. In 1881, a person from Kelvin wrote that Mr Paul Huffman had just cut plenty of hemlock boards, some as wide as 48 inches!!

     The cemetery at Kelvin still exists where the former Free Methodist Church once stood, and there is a commemorative monument located there which was composed by Bruce Hill, consisting of a bronze plaque fastened to actual stones from the original church foundation.

     Year after year, many families gathered at the Northfield Hall for their annual family reunions; the Givens family (my mother’s family) which settled in the Northfield area in the 1850s, used to have their family reunions here too. While the elderly members of the family were still alive, it didn’t make sense to them to have it anywhere else...










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