Mystery of St. James Church, Hood’s

St. James United Church & Cemetery – Lot 16, Con. 2, Dalhousie Twp., at Hood, Lanark County, Ontario

“Who owns the property now?”

Oct. 28, 1971

Early this year, after much consideration and discussion among the parishioners, the church was tendered for sale.  The response passed all expectations, and, on September 10, 1971, the old pioneer church was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Eric Davis of Seattle, Washington, who plan to remodel it into a permanent home.”

Sign on St. James’ United Church

An article about St. James Church was dated October 28, 1971, written over 50 years ago, by an anonymous author, and published in “The Perth Courier”. According to the author, the church had just been sold, with the promise that it would be remodeled and loved once again, by its new owners. For reasons unknown, the building was never touched, and it stands today, abandoned, with the original ‘St James’ sign attached, looking a little worse for the wear, the fact that it’s still upright, a tribute to the pioneer builders who constructed this church in 1860.

Area known as Hood, or Hood’s Corners

Hood, named for the Hood family who settled there, and most likely for William Hood, educated in the University of Glasgow, the teacher at Hood’s Corners School. William was the son of James Hood, who came from Scotland along with others, on the ship, “Prompt”.

The very earliest settlers to the area came in the fall of 1820, Scotsmen from Glasgow and Paisley. James Blair, John McLellan, John McNangle, Neil Campbell, Donald McPhee, James Martin, William Barrett, Charles Bailie, James Watson, George Brown, Thomas Easton, George Easton, Edward Conroy, Peter Shields, John Donald, John Duncan, Andrew Park, James Park, John Todd, William Jack, James Hood, Alex Watt, Robert Forest, George Richmond, and John Duncan were among the first to arrive.

St. James Church

The article from “The Perth Courier” (author unknown) Oct. 28, 1971

“The little white church on the top of the hill at Hoods, two miles north of Watson’s Corners, is now awaiting a new tenant.

The St. James’ United Church, which was built in 1859, holds many memories for the older inhabitants of the area.  In the early days, people walked from Elphin, McDonald’s Corners and other communities to worship.  Also, stables were provided for the convenience of those who came by horse and buggy.

The church, guarded by three large maple trees, is enclosed  by wire strand fencing.  An unusual aspect of this is that the cedar posts are ornamented, and the wire is threaded through the posts horizontally.  On the top of each vertical wire is a small metal maple leaf. Early this year, after much consideration and discussion among the parishioners, the church was tendered for sale.  The response passed all expectations, and, on September 10, 1971, the old pioneer church was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Eric Davis of Seattle, Washington, who plan to remodel it into a permanent home.

On Thanksgiving Day, October 11, an auction sale was held of the church furnishings which drew a large crowd of people.  Some were bargain hunters while others came to buy a memento of their former place of worship.

Steeped in history, the church had many ministers, the first being the Rev. John Robb, who came from the Dutch Reformed Church in the United States.  He was inducted on May 29, 1846, and services were first held in the old St. Andrew’s Hall.  The Rev. Robb died on May 27, 1851, and was buried on the Hall property, but it was not until 1930 that the grave was marked with a headstone.  The Rev. Robb donated a silver communion urn and goblets inscribed, “Scotch Church, Dalhousie, Canada West, Rev. J. Robb.”  These were in use at St. James’ Church for many years and now will be placed in the museum.

Following the death of Rev. Robb, Dalhousie came under the supervision of the Lanark ministers.  Early in 1859, Middleville and Dalhousie became one field, under the direct ministry of Rev. William Clarke.  It was during his ministry that St. James’ Church was built. He inspired the congregation to have a place of worship entirely dedicated for this purpose.  The walls were raised in the Fall of 1859, but it was not used for worship until 1860.

The building was erected without financial assistance from outside sources. The work was done as money became available from the congregation and the church was used before the interior was completed.

The first seats were hand-made, being square-backed and not made for comfort.  They were placed down each side of the church, making one center aisle.  Because of the long length o the seats, the offering was collected by means of a velvet pouch fastened to the end of a long rod.

It seems as if the year 1894 was a prosperous one as several projects were accomplished.  The walls were plastered and painted a pale green, new pews were installed, and a new  pulpit added, along with chairs and a carpet.  The Session House was built in 1862 and a woodshed in 1895.  The pine log walls of the church were clapboarded in 1896 and the windows were frosted in 1897.

From 1860 until the first organ was installed in 1895 there was a special box-like pew before the pulpit.  Here sat the Precentor, who pitched the key for singing, using a tuning fork.  Mr. David Easton performed this duty for many years.

Since the land for the church site was donated by James Reid, it was his wish that the church be named, “St. James”.  Mr. Reid kept a diary in which many of the facts of the pioneer history of the community were recorded.

During the early years, the Bible Society made annual visits to St. James’ Church and the representative would stay overnight with Mr. Reid.  It was also recorded that the trees in front of the church were planted by William Penman and David Forbes.

The Synod Minutes of 1860 reveal that the Rev. William Clarke was paid $94. semi-annually.  This money came from Middleville, Dalhousie and Lanark.  His last service was held on February 26th, 1865.  He was known as a very capable speaker and made a great contribution to this area.

During Rev. McConnells’ ministry, the first manse at Watson’s Corners was built in 1893, and the next year the Zion Church was built at Watson’s Corners.

During Rev. McLean’s ministry in 1908, the Manse was burned to the ground on August 20, but was rebuilt immediately after the fire.

It was during Mr. Clark’s ministry in January 1965 that St. James’ Church amalgamated with Zion Church at Watson’s Corners, when services were held at each church on alternate Sundays.

In June 1965, St. James’ Church was closed, along with several other churches in the district.  Since then, the people of St. James’ congregation have been known as St. Andrew’s of Central Lanark Charge, and they attend church at Watson’s Corners.

During the past six years, only two worship services have been held in the pioneer church.  One was on August 13, 1967, when the Machan reunion held a special centennial service with the Rev. L. M. Somerville, of the Machan clan, as speaker.  The last service was held on September 26, 1971, to honour the forefathers of the congregation with the Rev. E.C. Brown, Minister of St. Andrew’s officiating.  He gave an inspiring message that was appropriate for the historical occasion. During the service, the choir sang the anthem “The Beautiful Garden of Prayer”, while Mr. Harry Stead gave a sole, “Others”

In the past 105 years, St. James’ Church was used as a sanctuary.  Hundreds of worshipers from miles around received spiritual blessings and encouragement to carry on their daily tasks.  Many people will treasure in their hearts the many happy memories of hours spent in fellowship and spiritual help received at St. James’ Church.”

The ministers of St. James’ Church:

1860-1864 Rev. William Clarke

1865-1871 Rev. Donald J. McLean

1872-1879 Rev. Wm. Cochrane

1881-1893 Rev. Joseph Andrews

1893-1895 Rev. James McConnells

1896-1903 Rev. James Leitch

1903-1909 Rev. J.R. Miller

1906-1909 Rev. J.A. McLean

1910-1916 Rev William Ferguson

1916-1920 Rev. J.R. Wilson

1920-1928 Rev. J.T. Caswell

1928-1931 Rev. Henry Scott (for a few months in 1931 Rev. J.H. McLaren)

1931-1937 Rev. L.N. Beckstead

1937-1939 Rev. Harry Peters

1939-1942 Rev. R.A. Cameron

1942-1943 Mr. H.C. Mercer

1943-1956 Rev. D.J. Campbell

1956-1962 Rev. Fred Wakeling

1962-1965 Mr. L.V. Clark

Property Sales History: (West half of Lot 16, Concession 2, Dalhousie Township, Lanark County)

June 27, 1844 – the Crown transfers 100 acres to the Canada Company

Feb. 6, 1857 – James Reid purchases 100 acres, rear (or west half) for 75 pounds

Mar. 24, 1859 – James Reid sells (donates) to the Presbyterian Church Trustees 22,500 square feet for the sum of $2.00

Dec. 2, 1971 – Lorne Pretty and Keith McNicol (Chairman and Secretary of the Trustees of St. Andrew’s Congregation of Central Lanark Renfrew Presbytery, of the United Church of Canada) – sell the church property 150 ft. by 150 ft. (22,500 square feet)

to Eric Davis and Chloe Davis, for the sum of $2,950.

(this was the last listed transaction in the historical records)

Source: the historical records of the Ontario Land Registry, (Lanark County LRO 27), Dalhousie Township, Concessions 1-3, p.130

Abandoned at Hood’s

No one seems to know what happened to the owners of the property, or why the old church wasn’t remodeled into a family home, as was the original intention, discussed with the parishioners of St. James, over 50 years ago.

The Davis family was from Seattle, Washington. Were they vacationing in the area when they decided to purchase the church? Did they ever return to Hood’s?

Whatever the reason this historic pioneer church was never remodeled by the owners remains a 50-year-old mystery.

Sadly, this abandoned house of worship with its traditional-style interior are examples of early architecture by the Scottish pioneers. Part of a proud community, this building witnessed many baptisms, marriages, and funerals of the community’s early Scottish settlers, a refuge and sanctuary for the new emigrants, as they forged their way in the new land.

Perhaps we’ll never know the real reasons that St. James Church was abandoned by its owners.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of 10 books: “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email:

2 comments on “Mystery of St. James Church, Hood’s

  1. Marilyn Grainger Martin says:

    Who owns this church & property now? Have taxes been paid?

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