The following historical account of Knox Presbyterian Church is a summary sourced by a book compiled and written by Brian Cameron entitled Knox United Church: 1846-1975. This book is held at the church.
The history of Knox Presbyterian Church traces its origins to the actions of the Church of Scotland’s disruption of 1843. During this time, there were multiple Scottish Presbyterian Church branches in operation, each operating independently from one another. In 1843, as a result of evangelicals breaking away from the Established Church of Scotland due to protesting the government’s encroachment on the spiritual life of the church, the Free Church of Scotland was established. In Canada, multiple branches of Presbyterianism were operating throughout the provinces.
Since 1787, there had been only one Presbyterian Church in Cornwall, St. John’s Presbyterian Church. (Click here to visit their history) In July 1844, a meeting was held in Kingston to discuss the recent creation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. While the majority of the attendees did feel sympathy for the Free Church’s struggle, many felt that struggle did not exist in Canada. A minority of attendees disagreed, and seceded to form the Free Presbyterian Church in Canada. Over the next two years, a small number of those attending St. John’s were unhappy with the wavering stance of their minister over the Free Church issue, and in 1846, decided to secede and form their own congregation under the Free Church banner. Thus, a new church was founded. Despite this new church not having an official name until 1876, it was the congregational body upon which Knox Presbyterian Church was founded.
Those that left St. John’s to form the new Free Church found themselves worshipping at the home of John Hunter, located at First and Amelia Streets. The desire to acquire a permanent home led to the formation of a committee to secure land and erect a permanent place of worship. In 1848, land was acquired on the south side of Second Street. John Hunter’s house was used until 1851, when construction of the new church building was completed. Over the next decade, the congregation continued to grow despite some members, whose support of the Free Church diminished, deciding to return to St. John’s
During the 1860s, Cornwall was undergoing a huge shift towards industrialization with the opening of many new manufacturing companies and facilities. As more individuals moved into Cornwall, the congregation’s size grew as well. The 1870s was a period of large growth for the church, and the need to construct a bigger church was soon realized. A committee was formed in 1882 to acquire land on Lot 12 on the South side of Second Street East. Despite some delay on the construction of the new building due to the death of the minister, the building was completed on June 14, 1885.
During the growth of the 1870s, the Presbyterian Church branches that operated in Canada decided to unite to form a singular Presbyterian Church in Canada. With this union, there would be two Presbyterian Churches less than a block apart adhering to the same Presbyterian polity. In January of 1876, the congregation voted on a new name. Three suggestions were made at the time: Arnott, St. Paul’s, and Knox. The name “St. Paul’s” was withdrawn and between the two remaining names, a majority of voters chose Knox as their new name.
During the 1900s, the idea of a union between the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist Churches was proposed. In 1911, Knox indicated its approval for the union of the churches. On June 10, 1925, Knox Presbyterian Church entered into the United Church of Canada. Its name for the first few years after 1925 had read “Knox Presbyterian Church – The United Church of Canada”. After the establishment of the United Church, around 1/3rd of Knox’s membership left and returned to St. John’s.
In 1944 and 1945, an earthquake and fire damaged the structure of the church and forced its temporary closure. While the building was closed, Knox worshipped with St. Paul’s United Church and St. John’s while the local Baptist church opened their Sunday School to the congregation. The congregation raised some money and loaned the remaining required funds to repair the building. By 1947, repairs and expansions of the church were completed. An additional Christian Education building was constructed in 1958, which was named Lewis Hall.
In 1978, Knox opened its doors to the neighbouring St. Paul’s United Church, the same St. Paul’s that had opened its doors to Knox just 3 decades earlier. St. Paul’s had sold its building and took up residence with Knox. As they continued to share the space, some felt that it would be a practical move to amalgamate together. The amalgamation represented the opening of a new future filled with opportunities, challenges, and adventures to be had by both churches. On January 1, 1981, Knox United Church joined with St. Paul’s United Church to form what is now Knox St. Paul’s United Church.
Ministers of Knox
Presbyterian Ministers (1846-1925)
1846-1849 – Rev. John Fraser
1849-1853 – Rev. J. Charles Quinn
1854-1864 – Rev. Hugh Campbell
1865-1867 – Rev. Martin Lowry
1868-1870 – Rev. Wm. Heu de Bourck
1872-1883 – Rev. Robert Binnie
1883-1901 – Rev. James Hastie
1902-1919 – Rev. Robert Harkness
1919-1925 – Rev. James Faulds
United Ministers (1925-1980)
1925-1939 – Rev. James Faulds
1940 – Rev. R.W. Paton
1941-1952 – Rev. Colin R. Rudd
1952-1960 – Rev. Percy C. Lewis
1960-1972 – Rev. J. Clare Kellogg
1972-1980 – Rev. Robbert Pentinga