ZORRA – A BRIEF HISTORY
When the first territorial division of the province of Ontario was made in July of 1792, the township of West Zorra was unknown and not surveyed. The first allusion to it by Act of Parliament was in 1821, together with the township of Nissouri were added to the County of Oxford.
Zorra Township was first named in 1819 by Lt. Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland after the Spanish word zorro ' female fox'. The township was first surveyed by Shubal Parke in 1820 and organized in 1822 by Charles Ingersoll and Peter Teeples. The landowners at this time were mostly United Empire Loyalists who settled along the Fourth Concession that runs north and south through Embro.
Two of the earliest settlers from the highlands of Scotland were William and Angus MacKay who arrived in Zorra in 1820. William arrived first and settled on the 9th line and Angus joined his brother later. Around 1829 Angus returned to Scotland and induced many Sutherlandshire families to come to Zorra. Among them were his father George mother Isobel from Relochan.
Those early settlers were compelled to leave their native land to escape the tyranny of the Scottish landlords who were converting the highlands into sheep farms. The journey could take from 12 to 14 weeks.
West Zorra was separated from East Zorra in 1845, by 1861 ten schools had been built and the population was about 3,691.
KNOX UNITED CHURCH EMBRO
The imposing spire of this gracious church started out the 1900’s as the local Presbyterian Church. It served as Knox Presbyterian Church until 1925 when the congregation joined with that of the Methodist Church to form the new Knox United Church. When the Ebenezer Church finally closed in 1943 some of the members joined the Knox United Church.
The first minister to preach in the 1900’s was Rev. Gilbert Currie Patterson and he stayed until ill health caused his resignation. It must be noted that at this time major renovations were made to the church at a cost of $4,500.
In 1907, Rev. James Barber was called to the congregation. He was first a teacher at Youngsville School for four years and after ordination ministered at Knox Church until 1910. Rev. Finlay Matheson and Mrs. Matheson and one son Kenneth Bruce came in 1910 from Bruce County. In 1914, he was called to Stratford. Rev. W.P. Lane and Mrs. Lane and one daughter arrived in Embro in 1914. It was during this time that the question of church union came up. In 1925, with a 2:1 majority, the Methodist, United and Ebenezer Congregational churches united. In 1917, a fund was made available from the legacy from the late D.M. McCaul for a new organ and folding doors to form classrooms for the Sunday school. Rev. Lane was called to Seaforth in 1926. Reverend W.D. McIntosh, his wife and three sons came from Bruce County following Rev. Lane’s pastorate in 1926.
The highlight of his ministry was the centennial celebration in 1932, when the church was completely decorated both inside and out and a new pipe was installed. Rev. McIntosh accepted the task of preparing a history of the congregation and "One Hundred Years in the Zorra Church" was ready for sale before the centennial services.
In 1933, Rev. Roy R. and Mrs. Connor and one daughter were welcomed to Knox Church. In 1943, Rev. O. Glen and Mrs. Taylor and two daughters joined the people of Embro. In 1848, the chimes were added to the pipe organ and a plaque was added in memory of those who lost their lives during the Second World War.
KNOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH AND CEMETERY HARRINGTONThe 1900’s began with a congregation of eighty families. Mr. McLachlin was the current minister at this time but resigned in 1905 and was succeeded in the same year by Rev. A.H. Kippan. A choir was organized under the leadership of Mr. James Martin. The congregation observed it’s 50th anniversary in 1907. Owing to ill health, Mr. Kippan resigned in 1912. Rev. P.W. Currie succeeded Mr. Kippan and after a brief ministry of two years, resigned in 1914. The same year, a call was extended to Rev. Lawrence Newton who ministered for five years at which time resigned to return to college. During his stay in Harrington, the Young People’s Society became a strong force in the work of the church.
In the same year 1919, Harrington congregation became associated with Brooksdale and the following year, Rev A.D. Cornett was inducted and given charge of both churches until 1925. The year 1925 was a year of crisis for the Harrington Presbyterian Church. The vote for a church union resulted in forty-seven for and Fifty-six against. The forty-seven withdrew their names and joined the newly constituted Broadview Church.
After three years without a minister Rev George Lougheed served as part-time as a supply minister along with an unordained student, Mr. Alex McCauley.
The Presbytery of Stratford decided to associate Burns Church, East Zorra and Knox in Harrington. In 1929, a call was extended to Rev. J.M. Miller and in November of that year, Mr. Miller took ill and died. Rev. W.A. Hunter was inducted in 1930 and the 75th anniversary was celebrated in 1932. Wallace Wadland became the second person from the congregation to enter the ministry.
In 1930, Broadview United Church joined with Knox Presbyterian congregation to share in cemetery decoration services, which are held yearly in August. In 1934, Rev. Hunter resigned to be followed in the same year by Rev. Oliver Mann, who remained for five years. Rev. Williamson who remained for a year and half succeeded him.
In 1941, Knox Church became associated with Knox Church in Embro under the ministry of Rev. A. McLean before he resigned in 1946. Electric lighting was installed at this time. In 1947, Rev J.A. Isaac took charge of both congregations and served six years, leaving in May of 1953, followed by Rev. Robert Sinclair who left in 1959. On the board of managers at that time was Mr. George Campbell, who served for over fifty years. He died in 1958 at the age of 94.
In 1957, Knox Church celebrated it’s centennial. The seating capacity was taxed to its limit and many had to sit in the Sunday school room at both morning and evening services.
In 1961, under Rev. S. Kerr and after much discussion, Sunday afternoon service was changed to Sunday morning, like so many other churches were doing. The previous year a well was drilled and a water system was installed.
On March 23, 1964, a fire was noticed around noon at the old Presbyterian Church and in spite of the efforts of Embro and West Zorra Fire Department the church burned to the ground. The fire of undetermined origin was out of hand and church was impossible to save.
On September 11, 1964, the cornerstone for a new church on the same spot was laid. Just six and a half months after fire destroyed the old church, the new church was dedicated.
KNOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – EMBRO
The first Ebenezer Congregational Church was constructed in 1877. It stood where Knox Presbyterian Church stands today on St. Andrews Street. It burned in 1904 and a new church was built on the same spot in 1905. Reverend W.T. Gunn was the famous congregational pastor at the time and is said to have done a lot of the preparatory work himself. The congregation renamed the church as the Ebenezer United Church following the church union in 1925. They eventually sold the building to the Presbyterian Church in 1946.
Following the decision on the church union in 1925 a number of Presbyterian families wished to continue as Presbyterians. The auditorium of the town hall was used until 1931. Mr. A. McCauley preached for a year followed by Dr. M.C. Campbell. The congregation purchased the D.R. Ross home on John Street in August 1931 for their church for the sum of $1,500. The opening service was held on July 9, 1933, the minister, Mr. McLean and his family used the upper floor as living quarters.
On November 19, 1945, permission was given to the board of managers to purchase the Ebenezer Church for the sum of $5.00. The building was renovated and formally opened on June 23, 1946 and has served as Knox Presbyterian Church in Embro ever since.
ST. ANDREWS UNITED CHURCH – BROOKSDALE
The church is situated in the village of Brooksdale on the property belonging to the congregation in a beautiful valley watered by a spring creek that was the delight of the original pioneers. It is surrounded on four sides by rising uplands, which extend back over some of the first farming land in the province.
In 1878, Brooksdale and Burns Church East Zorra were united as one pastoral charge and Mr. John Bagrie, the local blacksmith was the first secretary treasurer after the union an office he held until the end of 1907.
The first minister to welcome this church into the 1900’s was Rev. J.D. Ferguson BA graduate of McGill University, Montreal and Moran College in Quebec. He was faithful to the Master for the term of twelve and a half years leaving in 1905.
With the closing of the Methodist church across the road in 1915, new names appeared in the records such as Symons, Chenoweth, Reed, Bean, Young and Lindsay. In 1901 an organ was purchased and some members left the congregation because they did not believe music should be part of the church service.
In October 1919, the Brooksdale congregation became associated with that of Harrington and Rev. A.D. Cornett was inducted and given charge of both.
It was a crisis year in 1925 for St. Andrews Church and in May the union movement reached it’s climax. A vote was held and the result of fifty-eight for and forty-one against prompted several members leave and joined Harrington Presbyterian Church. Rev. Cornett resigned and Rev. Strachan of Lakeside supplied the church until October 11, 1925 when Brooksdale united with Ebenezer Church of Embro under Rev. C. Javener.
Rev. Andrew Laing was pastor for eight years from 1926 though 1934, the 50th anniversary was not celebrated because the whole country was in the throes of the depression. In 1934, Dr. M.W. Goodrich became minister until 1943 when the Ebenezer church closed in Embro and Brooksdale became associated with the Chalmers United Church of Kintore.
BROADVIEW UNITED CHURCH – HARRINGTON
This church was born on February 17, 1925. The people of both Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Harrington joined into the general move toward church union. However, many of the officials of the Presbyterian churches in Canada felt they would lose their identity as a church. How that crisis affected the congregation of Knox Church is revealed in the following minutes recorded on February 17, 1925. A meeting of the congregation was held in the church basement at 4 p.m. The poll was closed, the ballots were counted and the clerk announced the results: for union 47, against union 56. Forty-seven members left the Presbyterian Church, joined with members of the Methodist church and constituted themselves as Broadview United Church. The meeting chairman, Mr. A.D. Cornett then resigned.
A house owned by Eli Hiuser, which existed on the site, and occupied by Mr. Herman Grieves was vacated and torn down to build a new church. The lot was sold to the church for $75.00. Services were held in Duncan’s Hall white Broadview Church was being built.
Thomas Bean of Maplewood donated the Maplewood Methodist Church already standing on a parcel of land. It had been empty for about ten years. Mr. H. Whitehead was hired for $115.00 as contractor for moving the church. Steam engines owned by Herb Pelton, Ernst Clark and Bailey brothers with tractors owned by Jas Clark and Len Howe, were used to move it. The plaster was removed along the way to lighten the load. The front and back sections were constructed from the old Methodist structure. Angus and Hugh Reid and Wilbert Clark did the brick and cement work. Sandy and Sidney McKay did the plastering. Hack Morrison was in charge of carpenter work.
The corner stone for the new church was laid on May 13, 1926 at three o’clock by Alfred Dunnell, the oldest member of the congregation in his 85th year. Mr. Dunnell was presented with a silver trowel which is still with the Dunnell family.
Ministers that have served the church are as follows: Rev. C. Strachan, Rev. J. McLean, Rev. J.P. McQuarrie, Rev. M. Cook, Rev. J. Peter, Rev. J. Foster, Rev E.R. May, Rev. B.F. Green, Rev. W.P. Newman, Rev. A. Lane, Rev. D. Blackmore (student), Rev. S. Risdon, Rev. Dr. J. Semple, Rev. C. Brown, Rev. D. Markle, P. Mitchell (lay), Deaconness M. Hannah, Rev. C.B. Graham. H. Annen (student), Ms. J. Page (student), Lori Jacobson (student) and Carol Brown (student).
From the booklet "TRAVEL OUR ROUTES TO FIND YOUR ROOTS" a self-guided car tour of Zorra’s churches and cemeteries by Kathy Fraser and Lynn Munro.