ERSKINE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Montreal

The Erksine Presbyterian Church took its name from the Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, leaders of the Secession Church in Scotland in the late 18th century.  Scotch Secessionists in Montreal, met in 1831, under the charge of Mr. Shanks, a licentiate.  The Rev. William Taylor of Scotland was sent to Montreal in 1832 to organize a congregation.  Seventeen days after arriving a congregation was formed and Rev. Taylor was selected pastor.  Services originally took place in the school room of  Mr.Bruce's Academy on McGill Street.

When the Church outgrew these accommodations the American Presbyterians offered the use of their church.  In 1834 a committee was formed to obtain land and erect a church.  The property on Lagauchetière, from St. George to Chenneville Streets,  was far from the city limits at that time.  Unable to raise the amount originally intended, the plans were changed.  The second story and the gallery were omitted.  With a growing congregation the second story and basement were finished in 1847.  This  first building was known as the Scotch Secession Chapel or “The Wee Kirk”.  The Erskine name was adopted in 1865 with the construction of a new church on St. Catherine and Peel Streets.
 

"The Wee Kirk"
on Lagauchetiere street at the corner of Chenneville 1835-1866
(From: "One Hundred Years of Erskine Church, Montreal 1833-1933")

The “Wee Kirk” still stands on Lagauchetière and Chenneville, though it has been altered.  It is currently a Chinese Catholic Church.  The site has been declared an historic site by the provincial government and is the oldest existing (former) Protestant church building in Montreal.  The site of the second church, erected in 1866, was the south-east corner of Peel and St. Catherine Streets.  At the time it was thought by many to be too far in the country.  The church was one of the most imposing church buildings in Montreal at the time.  The Dominion Square Building now stands on that site.  As St. Catherine Street lost its residential character the congregation looked for a new site.  In 1891  the land at the corner of Sherbrooke and Avenue du Musée  was purchased.  The architect was A.C. Hutchison, using a design inspired by American architects Warren Hayes and Henry Richardson.
 

 
Erskine Church on St. Catherine St.
at the S.E. corner of Peel
1866-1894
Erskine Church on Sherbrroke St.
at the corner of Ontario St.
opened Sept. 30, 1894

The early congregation of Erskine Church was more working class than that of the American Presbyterian ChurchThe Erskine Church  list of members from 1833 shows that most were skilled labourers.  When funding for the first church was being sought, many pledged their labour, not having the money to contribute.  By the time the church on St. Catherine was built, in 1865, the congregation was more affluent.

The Reverend William Taylor, the first pastor of the Scotch Secession Church was active in the missionary and temperance movements.  He was also an advocate of church union and served as the first moderator of the Canada Presbyterian Church General Assembly.  He remained pastor from the founding in 1833 until his death in 1876.  A.J. Mowatt, beloved by his congregation, is unfortunately remembered for having died in the pulpit on Sunday February 19,1911.

For much of its history the Erskine Church was considered the “Cathedral of Presbyterianism” in Montreal.  Its Missionary Society, founded in 1856, aided many Mission Sunday Schools and young churches in the city including the Chinese Sunday School, Cote St. Antoine Mission School, Petite Cote Mission School, Mile End Mission School and Maisonneuve Mission Schools were missions of Erskine Church.  Others received material help.  The Society also supported Home Missions, French Evangelization, the Theological Colleges and other work in Canada and abroad.

In 1925 Erskine joined the Union and became Erskine United Church. In 1934 American United Church amalgamated with Erskine and the church became Erskine and American United Church.

List of living members of Erskine Church as at June 20, 1933
(one hundred years after the organization of the first congregation on June 20, 1833)


First members of the church in 1833 Erskine Members of Session 1833-1933
Erskine Board of Trustees 1833-1933 Erskine Roll of Honour 1914-1918
Erskine Board of Management 1833-1933 Members' positions 1883
Corresp. members of the Sabath School 1873 Members' positions 1933
Contributers to the Montreal College 1873

THE PASTORS OF ERSKINE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH 1833-1933

Rev. William TAYLOR   1833 - 1876
Rev. J. Monro GIBSON, assistant 1864 - 1874
Rev. James S. BLACK   1874 - 1884
Rev. Louis H. JORDAN   1885 - 1890
Rev. A.J. MOWATT   1891 - 1911
Rev. George HANSON   1912 - 1924
Rev. E. Leslie PIDGEON  1925 -

ASSISTANT (STUDENT) MINISTERS 1888-1932

Rev. W. M. ROCHESTER 1888-1892
Rev. Edward McGOUGAN 1907-1909
Rev. Neil MacLean RATTEE 1920-1921
Rev. William Ewart COCKRAM 1928-1932

TIMELINE OF ERSKINE CHURCH

December 29, 1831 Preliminary steps toward forming a "Secession Church"
May 15, 1832 Committee of Management appointed
May 1832 First church service (the following Sunday) under Mr. Shanks
June 20, 1833 Organization of congregation effected (75 persons)
July 14, 1833 First communion service (105 present)
January 1835 Lagauchetiere Street church building occupied
November 15, 1840  Sabbath School first mentioned (J.C. Becket, supt.)
1847 United Presbyterian Church in Canada adopted as designation of the Secession body
1847 Lagauchetiere's Street Church enlarged. 
Congregation worshiping at St. Gabriel's
1855 Missionary Committee established
June 6, 1861 Formation of the Canada Presbyterian Church by fusion of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian body.
April 29, 1866 Erskine church opens at the corner of Peel and St. Catherine Streets.
1867 The Montreal Presbyterian College is organized and lectures begin at Erskine Church
1875 Organ first used in the service of praise
June 15, 1875 Formation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada
November 1878 The "Weekly Envelope" system is adopted and Pew Rents abolished.
April 29, 1883 Special Jubilee Services (50 years)
1888 Support of an individual Foreign Missionary first undertaken in Canada (by David Yuile of Erskine Church)
March 2, 1891 Women's Missionary Society is founded
Sept 30, 1894 Opening of  Erskine Church at the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Ontario Ave.
1908 Duplex weekly offering envelope adopted by Erskine congregation
March 1914 Opening of "Erskine Hospital" in Changte Fu, Honan
1918 Influenza epidemic - all Montreal churches closed in the fall for 6 or 7 weeks
June 10, 1925 Formation of the United Church of Canada
October 1, 1933 Special cenmtenary services
February 27, 1934 Union of Erskine and "American" churches authorized by Presbytery - effective April 8th, 1934

 
1953 postcard showing Erskine & American Church
from the collection of Patty Brown

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