The Springside United Church

The Springside United Church
 History: The Building – The People

The Church is wherever God’s people are praising,
Singing His goodness for joy on this day.
The Church is wherever Disciples of Jesus
Remember His story and walk in His way.

The Church is wherever God’s people are helping
Caring for neighbours in sickness and need.
The Church is wherever God’s people are sharing
The words of the Bible in gift and in deed.
Carol Rose Ikeler

By Judy Miller
Berry Hill
Upper Stewiacke, N.S.

As the words of this traditional hymn indicate, the church is more that a building. As we look back at the story of the Springside United Church, we see a magnificent building, which for many years has been the center of a congregation of people who have been praising, singing, sharing and caring.

The first settlers in the Stewiacke Valley worshipped in the homes, then in a small log church. In 1857, construction began on a large wooden-framed church on the north side of the Stewiacke River, in Eastville.

The building plans for this church were drawn up by Rev. Dr. James Smith, a Presbyterian Missionary from Scotland who had built himself a home in Upper Stewiacke twenty-five years earlier. (He named his home “The Strathlorne”, and it is now owned by Ross Graves.)

Rev. Smith named this new church Springside in reference to the numerous springs of water on the near-by hill. Rev. Smith was the first minister to preach in the new Springside Church .

Found in the walls

Ross Graves found, in the walls of his home, one of Rev. Smith’s original drawings of the upstairs of the Springside Church, as well as some of Rev. Smith’s sermons.

The master builder of the church was John Crockett from Eastville, and he was known as a fine builder, and a devout church-goer. When he was ninety years old, he and his wife were still attending church every Sunday. If the hymn was too long for him to stand through, he would turn around and sit on the back of the seat ahead of him.

Many men of the area helped in the building of the church. One has only to go upstairs and look up above the ceiling to see the massive array of timbers used to frame up the building, to realize the man-hours required to build such a structure in the 1850’s. The Museum at Upper Stewiacke has two hand planers given to them by Mrs. Elwood Graham. Her grandfather used them when he helped with the building of this church.

An Italian painter from Truro was hired to do the interior decorating, and the result was a most ornate plaster ceiling. This ceiling has since been covered by one of varnished hemlock sheathing, which matches the ceiling in the church hall.

February 1858

The church was completed and opened for worship in February 1858, as the Springside Presbyterian Church. It was attended by folk from the whole of the Upper Stewiacke Valley area, including Upper Stewiacke, Newton Mills, Eastville, Cross Roads, Pembroke and Burnside. It is presently one of the oldest church buildings in use in the Truro Presbytery. The earliest known “elders” included the Honorable Samuel Creelman, David Fulton, William Logan, Samuel Johnson, William Deyarmond and James Creelman.

In 1866, Springside and Upper Stewiacke separated to form two congregations, each with its own minister.

Early church services were much different from those of today. For one thing,they were much longer. Another difference is in the music. Musical instruments, even organs, were considered inappropriate for church in the 1800’s. A “Precentor” was responsible for getting the singing off on the right note. Mr. Jeens Cox, who came from a musical family, was one of the early precentors in Springside. He used a tuning fork to properly pitch the hymns. The first choirs were made up entirely of men. In Springside the early choir sat in the rear balcony, facing the minister.

$750 a year

The earliest figures available for Springside indicate that in 1879, there were 128 families under the care of the Church, with a total of 259 names on the membership roll. Total givings for the year were $1005. Around 1890, the Minister’s salary was $750 per year.

One of Springside’s early ministers died a very painful death. Rev. J.C.Meek contracted Rabies (or hydrophobia) and succumbed after two days of great pain.

In 1888 a most energetic and multi-talented man became minister in Springside. Rev. D. Stiles Fraser was popular with young and old alike. Rev. Fraser did a great deal of congregational visiting and announced from the pulpit each Sunday what homes he would be visiting the following week.

Around the turn of the century, as times were changing, Rev. Fraser and younger members of the congregation felt it was time to have an organ in the church. The elderly folk, however, were not so sure. To settle this matter, a vote was held one Sunday. Ballots were given out, returned and counted. There is no record of the count, but in a short while an organ was purchased and installed in the church. Miss Nessie Cox was Springside’s first church organist .

High pulpit removed

The original design of the Springside Church included a very high pulpit. Rev. Stiles Fraser did not care for this pulpit so he had it removed. He had the more modern platform constructed and then he added the present pulpit, which he had built himself.

The first furnace in Springside was also one of Rev. D.S.Fraser’s projects. He wanted a furnace to replace the two box-stoves used to heat the church. The congregation thought they couldn’t afford a furnace, so Rev. Fraser offered to buy it himself if the congregation would supply the Manse with firewood for four years. Since that was their custom anyway, they agreed!

Rev. Stiles Fraser held mid-week Prayer Meetings in Burnside. At one of these meetings, he encouraged those attending to build their own church. The idea caught on, and the men of the area went to work. In 1897 the Stiles Church in Burnside was opened. Rev. Fraser was their first minister, and Burnside Church continued to be served by the minister from Springside.

Rev. Fraser remained here for sixteen years and then left to become editor of the Presbyterian Witness.

‘Wooden Ladles’

Early items of interest used in the Springside Church are the wooden “ladles” used to receive the weekly offering. Each consisted of an oblong box, open on the top, fastened to a five-foot long handle. These have not been used since the early 1900’s but are still located in the church. (Presently they are on loan to the local Museum.)

Over the first years of its existence, the church accumulated some other structures around it. Out back, between the church and the river bank, was built a “hearse house”. This was used as shelter for the horse-drawn hearse. There were also open-front sheds to shelter the horses and buggys of the people attending church. Of course, there was also an outhouse

Around 1890, a manse was built on the west side of the church. The first church hall was located across the road from the manse. This hall burned in 1924 and the present one, just to the east of the church, was constructed. It was dedicated in 1926. Rev. P.C. Lewis of Upper Musquodoboit. gave the address at the dedication. He stressed that the “Kingdom of God includes the whole community, and that a church hall helps the church reach out into that community.”

Sunday School, the choir and dancing

Sunday School has been active in Springside since the very early years. In the beginning, Sunday School classes were held in the school house, or hall in each area – Newton Mills, Eastville, Cross Roads, Pembroke and Burnside. The Superintendent, always a man, was appointed by the Springside Session. In the 1930s, a United Sunday School was formed, and held at Springside. The only children not attending Springside Sunday School were those from Burnside. They continued to meet in Burnside with their Superintendent being appointed by the Springside Session.

Sunday School Picnics were held every year, and the favourite place for the picnic was on Lloyd Johnson’s interval, near the old river bridge. (This land now belongs to Fred Canning,)

During the 1920s, someone began to organize dances at the former Grange Hall in Cross Roads. This alarmed the members of the Springside Session. It became even more alarming when some members of the church choir were seen at these dances. The Session attempted to have the Hall locked up, but failing that, they visited the homes of the choir members, informing them that attending these functions was not acceptable, and they could not remain in the choir unless they stayed away from the dances. For some time after that, prospective choir members’ names had to be approved by Session before the individuals would be allowed in the choir.

Church union

In 1925, Springside Presbyterian Church became a part of the United Church of Canada. Rev. MacKean was minister at the time and he worked very hard to secure the vote in favour of church union. The final count was: 98 Yes, and 64 No.

Many church-related groups thrived here over the years. Women’s Missionary Society, Ladies Aid and then United Church Women have been active since the earliest days of the church. Other organizations which flourished over the years included Christian Endeavour, Young Peoples, Mission Band, Messengers, Explorers, Tyros, CGIT, Vacation Bible School and mid-week Prayer Meetings. Bible-Study groups have come and gone at various times, and Sunday School, as mentioned, was one of the first activities organized, and it continues to be active today.

One event that was organized each August for many years was the Springside Old Home Picnic. The first one was held in 1946 and was organized by the Ladies Aid at the suggestion of Mrs. C.A. Dickie. Men, women and children were all involved in the Old Home Picnic, and people came from many surrounding communities to attend. There was usually a Children’s Parade, with prizes for the best-decorated doll carriage and tricycle. There would be a Fish-Pond, White-Elephant Table, races, games, hay-rides, musical entertainment, candy-scramble and sometimes a Baby Contest. There was ice cream, hot dogs, and soft drinks for sale on the grounds, and a Ham and Salad Supper in the hall.

Guest books

Presentations were made to the oldest person in attendance, to the youngest, and to the one who had traveled the farthest to attend. Everyone attending signed a Guest Book, and many of these Guest Books are still in the bookcase at the church.

In 1949, on Old Home Picnic day, a horse fell into a well on Richard Creelman’s farm, and the men were called away from the picnic to rescue it. The horse was saved, but two men were slightly injured.

The Old Home Picnic continued for thirty years, the last one being held in 1976. In 1971, a special Picnic and Church Service was held to mark the 25th Annual Old Home Picnic.

In 1949, Springside and Upper Stewiacke reunited as one Pastoral Charge – a four-point charge with churches in Burnside, Springside, Upper Stewiacke and South Branch. This joining up was due in part to a scarcity of ministers, and also to financial difficulties. The first minister called to serve in the new Upper Stewiacke-Springside Pastoral Charge was Rev. J.Parker Matheson. It was decided to use the Manse in Upper Stewiacke, so in 1953 the Springside manse was sold to Mr and Mrs Robert Kincaid, who still reside in the old Manse.

Closed in 1970

In 1970 the Burnside Church closed and the people of Burnside were once again worshipping in Springside. At this time several items from the Burnside Church were presented by the Burnside people to the Springside Church. These included the pulpit, which remains in the Springside hall, two offering plates, two plaques and several chairs. Since that time, the Burnside Communion Table has also been placed in the Springside Church.

During the 1970’s, the Springside church went through some troubled times. Church attendance was down, interest in church affairs was very low and thus finances were also in trouble. The church building was closed for the winters, with Sunday Services being held in the hall, which was easier to heat. A few people wondered if Springside United Church would remain open. However, things began to turn around, and although we are not large in numbers, today we have an active and enthusiastic congregation.

Over the years a number of special events have taken place in Springside United Church. For example, in 1897, on June 22, a Victorian Diamond Jubilee Service was held here. Two highlights of this service were the singing of the new National Anthem (God Save The Queen) and the planting of the Jubilee Maple in front of the church.


On September 12 , 1920, a Memorial Monument to honor those men from Springside who died in World War I was unveiled, and this was followed by a Memorial Service in the church. Upper Stewiacke and Upper Musquodoboit cancelled their services that evening so people could attend this service at Springside. The monument was made by J.J. MacLeod of Stewiacke. In 1949, a new block was added to the monument so that the names of the fallen in World War II could be added. This monument remains in place today, with wreaths and poppies being laid at the base of it each year on November 11. In recent years, the monument has been cleaned and repaired to ensure its preservation.

On June 18, 1939 , the church’s 81st Anniversary was celebrated with a morning and an afternoon service. A choir from New Glasgow provided special music for the morning service.

The 95th Anniversary services on July 19, 1953, drew capacity crowds. Betty Murray’s choir performed in the morning and the John Fisher Men’s Choir provided music in the evening.

100th Anniversary

A major celebration was held on July 6, 1958 for the 100th Anniversary. Many gifts were presented to the church. An historical review of the church was read by Mr. D.F. Creelman.

The Springside Church was filled to overflowing on August 10, 1980, for the Stewiacke Valley Bicentennial Week concluding service. The service was conducted by Rev. Samuel Sheilds. Rev. Morley Bentley was guest speaker, and his text for the day was, “There is a river”.

The 125th Anniversary was celebrated in 1983. Rev. Parker Matheson was guest speaker. In 1988, on October 19th the 130th Anniversary was marked. Rev. Mary Johnson conducted the service. Guest preacher was Rev. Roy White.

In 1986, Truro Presbytery chose Springside United Church for one of its Bicentennial Services.

Other special events such as Eastern Star services, and World Day of Prayer services have been held here. Weddings, funerals, confirmations, baptisms, have all taken place in Springside. CGIT Candle-Lighting services, White-Gift services, Christmas Eve Services, Good Friday Services and many other events around the church calendar have been a part of the history of Springside United Church.

Gifts to the church

The Springside Church has received many gifts. Many of these gifts have been presented in memory of loved ones; others in memory of those whose work made the church what it is today. Among these gifts is the Communion Table, given in memory of early Elders in the church. Records show that this beautiful table cost $71.50 in the year 1930.

In 1955, a very old table cloth was presented to the Session, to be used at Communion Services. The flax for this piece of fabric had been grown in Burnside on the farm of Charles and Letitia Graham. It was hand spun and woven one hundred and fifty years before, and was presented to the church by Charles and Letitia’s grandson, M.D. (Dennie) Graham (father of Donald Graham).

Some of the other gifts presented to the church include the stand for the Guest Book, the pulpit lamp, the brass altar rail, the Baptismal Font, the Chalice, the oil furnace, the brass cross, the chairs beside the Communion Table, the offering plates, some furnishings for the new meeting-room, as well as various gifts of money and hymn books.

One special gift was a beautifully pieced wall-hanging made and presented by the Burnside UCW. This item is in memory of three deceased members of that group.

Communion set

On one occasion, the Springside Church made a presentation of its own. In 1922, a no-longer-used Communion Set was presented to Rev. E.J.O.Fraser, a missionary from the area who was home on furlough from Korea.

Several persons from the Springside area went on to be ministers or missionaries. Among them were Rev. John A. Logan (b.1848), Rev. D.F. Creelman (b.1845), Rev. Richmond Logan (b.1851), Rev. George M. Johnson (b. 1869), and Rev. George F. Johnson (b. 1872).

Miss Adella Archibald, who lived much of her youth in Pembroke, became a Missionary to Trinidad. Rev. E.J.O.Fraser was a Missionary to Korea, and Rev. L.P..Archibald, who grew up here as the son of Rev. W.P..Archibald, came back to minister here.

Many different projects both directly within the church, and closely related to the church have been supported by the Springside congregation. Early congregations supported the Forward Movement, the Dr. George Murray Fund, Pine Hill Divinity Hall Fund, The Mount Allison Fund and The Elms Home Fund.

First donation

It is believed that the first donation ever given to the Bible Society, came from Springside.

At various times, church groups supported overseas Missionaries, packed Mission Boxes for the needy, put together layettes to be sent to Brunswick St. Mission in Halifax, and made “ditty bags” which contained personal care items and were given to refugees entering Canada at Halifax.

They saved postage stamps for the Leprosy Mission, supported the Ventures-In-Mission project, and contributed to Berwick Camp. In recent times, donations are being made to Transition House, the Food Bank, the Horn-of-Africa Appeal, and to the Christmas Family Index program.

The Church Hall has been an important factor in the support of many of these causes, and an important part of the Springside congregational life. Meetings of church boards and committees, as well as of all church groups have been held in the Hall. Sunday Worship has taken place there. Variety Concerts, wedding receptions, afternoon teas, rummage sales, church suppers, craft sales, teen events, going-away parties, welcome-aboard parties, and birthday parties are some of the events which people of Springside recall attending in the Hall. Political meetings, election voting stations, card parties, bridal showers, baby showers and slide shows are also part of the history of the Springside Hall.

Oil furnace

In 1993, at a social event in the Hall, a young woman who remembered coming as a child with her mother to suppers etc., commented that she felt all grown up now because she was working in the Hall kitchen. She had not been allowed out there when she was younger because she might be “in the way.”

Today the Hall is used regularly for Sunday School and meetings – also for some fund-raising. Although it now has an oil furnace, and during the summer it has running water, the Springside Hall has retained most of its original features. These include the hemlock sheathing, the hardwood floor, the stage, and the sparse kitchen. These give the Hall the feeling of belonging to a much earlier and less hectic era; and cause many ex-Springsiders , upon entering the Hall, to feel that they have come home.

Latest available statistics from Springside indicate approximately 120 names on the roll. This involves 87 families and includes members who no longer reside here.

Eva Johnson

The oldest member of the church , when this was written in 1994, was Eva Johnson. Eva resided in a Guest Home in Meadowvale and was 97 years old at the time. (It should be noted here, that Eva passed away in October, 1999 at 102 years of age.) Eva had some great memories of early ministers in Springside. She remembered Rev. D.Stiles Fraser visiting her home when she was a child. She said he would always set the children on his knee and talk to them.

She recalled Rev. W.P.Archibald also. She remembered him as a very stern man. Adults at that time considered him to be an excellent preacher, but as a child and teenager, Eva remembered being terrified when he came to visit. He always asked young people questions from their Catechism.

Rev. W.P.Archiblad’s young daughter suffered from TB, and passed away on a Sunday morning in 1909. Since telephones were not plentiful, and the word was not out there, Rev. Archibald announced his daughter’s death from the pulpit, then saying that their sorrow must not stand in the way of duty, he proceeded with the service.

When Rev. W.P.Archibald died in 1918, Eva played the organ at his funeral and remembers being very nervous.

Minute books

Two interesting changes most notable as you read through old Minute Books and Church Records are the move from strict formality to a more relaxed style; and the emergence of women into church business.

In the early 1900’s there were no women on any major Church boards, or at any church meetings (except WMS and Ladies Aid). The men conducted the business of the church. We read of “Mr. M.D. Graham”, “Mr. Alfred Johnson”, “Mr. D.F. Creelman”; and the minister was always referred to as “Rev. J.A. MacKean”. Around 1940, with a bit less formality, the names appeared as “H.B. Graham”, “Lester Johnson”, “C.A. Dickie” and “Murray Graham”. The minister was now called “Mr. Fraser”.

Women began to participate in the 1950’s. Early names such as “Miss Ruby Johnson”, “Mrs Sadie Archibald”, and “Ethel Crockett” appear, and at present some church boards have more women than men on their lists. The first women elected as Elders in Springside were Margaret Deyarmond and Margaret Graham. They became elders in 1975. Four of the recent ministers on the Pastoral Charge have been women. In keeping with the less formal trend, many ministers today prefer to be called by their first name.

Hotly debated

As Springside prepared to mark its 136th Anniversary in 1994, we saw still more changes taking place. That earlier mentioned outhouse had been replaced by a propane-powered toilet facility, located in the small vestry to the left of the church lobby. (It may seem odd to even mention such a mundane event here, but if you knew how long it had been discussed, and how many meetings were spent pondering what to do about the situation, well….you would understand!)

A Meeting Room has been constructed and furnished at the back of the church as an addition to the Minister’s vestry.

In 1995, an application was made to have the Springside United Church declared a Municipal Heritage Property. This was approved and was made official at a special Heritage Service on June 22, 1997.

When the Heritage Property Advisory Board visited the church in May, 1995, Mr. Wayde Brown, architectural expert, made some interesting observations. He noted that the sloped (theatre-style) floor of the sanctuary – and the fact that the “ceilings” under the side balconies are sloped upwards to the windows to let in more light; both point to advanced architectural knowledge for the time in which it was built (1850’s).

‘The Light’

Mr. Brown pointed out that the two large windows behind the pulpit are very representative of Presbyterian Churches of the era. The idea was that “The Light” should be the focus of everyone’s attention.

The third thing Mr. Brown noted was his hope that the wide board floors downstairs always be left visible; and the unpainted floors and seats upstairs be left in their original condition.

The latest improvements at Springside have been the new wooden storm windows. The windows of the church are believed to be the original ones, and were beginning to need major repair or replacement. In agreement with the Heritage Property committee, it was decided to have new wooden storm windows made and put on the outside to not only help with the heating, but also to preserve the original windows. This task was completed with the financial help of families who paid for a storm window in memory of a loved one. Local carpenter Allister Benvie built and installed the storm windows.

The years in Springside have been busy ones as we can see by the events and projects that were carried out. In 1953, as the Official Board reviewed the life of the congregation, and in particular the adult organizations, the following assessment was made: “We have more organizations than people – more meetings than evenings in the week.” So, some people might say that things haven’t changed that much!

‘We celebrate’

Now the year 2003, people come to Springside United Church each Sunday from Newton Mills, Burnside, Eastville, Pembroke and Cross Roads to continue the singing, praising, helping, caring and sharing mentioned in the hymn. This building has been a meeting place to these folk and their families in times of joy and sorrow for these many years. We celebrate this as we move forward in this new century.

Thanks be to God!

Ministers who have served the Springside Church
1793 – Rev. James Monroe
(settled in Truro, served Onslow and Musquodoboit, and Stewiacke Valleys)
1947 – Rev. Calder Fraser
1950 – Rev. J.Parker Matheson
1955 – Rev. L.P.Archibald
1795 – Rev. Duncan Ross
(settled in Pictou, served congregation part-time)
1960 – Rev. C.O.Burrill
1962 – Rev. E.D.Murray
Rev. George Murray (interim)
1799 – Rev. Hugh Graham
(first settled minister in the Musquodoboit and Stewiacke valleys)
Rev. Thomas Evans (interim)
Mr. Harvie Harris (interim)
1830 – Rev. James Smith – Presbyterian Missionary from Scotland and first minister to preach in the Springside Church. 1964 – Rev. Roy White
1969 – Rev. David Whiston
1978 – Rev. Samuel Shields
1867 – Rev. James Sinclair 1984 – Mr. Boyd Vincent (student)
1879 – Rev. John C. Meek 1985 – Mr Norman Baines (student)
1883 – Rev. S.C.Gunn 1988 – Rev. Mary Johnson
1888 – Rev. D.Stiles Fraser 1990 – Mr. Mark Kingsbury
trained supply minister
1904 – Rev. W.P.Archibald 1990 – Rev. Alice Muma
1919 – Rev. J.A. MacKean 1993 – Margaret Archibald (student )
1926 – Rev. H.H.Blanchard 1994 – Rev. Margaret Archibald
1932 – Rev. H.S.Raynor 1996 – Ms. Jacqueline Ross
trained supply minister
1940 – Rev. D.F. Marshall 1996 – Rev. James E. Brown
1941 – Rev. W.A.Ross 2001 – Ms Jacqueline Ross
trained supply minister
1944 – Rev. J.C.Parker 2002 – Rev. Natalie Buchanan