At the request of a number of people of the Anglican faith, the Rev. John Downie, Rector of Morpeth, decided to hold services every second Sunday afternoon at Ridgetown. The first service was held in the old Town Hall on Main Street (now the Township Hall) on November the 3, 1878. Mr. Downie had been giving a fortnightly Sunday afternoon service at Clearville. The people of Clearville felt they could attend Trinity Church, Howard, and were willing to give up their services so that Mr. Downie could preach in Ridgetown.
The following Easter, 1879, a vestry was organized and the congregation was to be known as St. George. Owing to the fact that several churches in the Diocese of Huron were known as St. George, Bishop Baldwin requested the name be changed, and suggested the parish be called "The Church Of The Advent", which name was adopted.
In 1880 Canon Downie began to hold weekly Sunday afternoon services in Porter's Opera House, and mid-weekly services were given to Highgate, Duart, and Clearville. This arrangement continued until June 25, 1882, when there was a re-organization of the work in Howard and Orford Townships, and Ridgetown, Highgate, and Duart became a separate parish under the Rev. Wm. Murton Shore.
Mr. Shore preached his first service in the Opera House on July 23, 1882; the average attendance at that time was between thirty and forty. Soon after, the services were again held in the Town Hall and the congregation grew to between seventy and eighty.
The first recorded Baptism was that of James Presling, an adult. Three children, Mary Jane Fisher, (now Mrs. Eli Gillings), her brother John and her sister Ella May, were baptized in the Town Hall by Mr. Shore.
The first confirmation service was held in the Town Hall on July 18, 1884 when Bishop Baldwin confirmed twelve candidates, the congregation numbered 200,and the collection was $16.40. Following the service a reception was held to give the people a chance to meet and welcome the Bishop. Out of this reception grew a strong agitation for the building of a church, and within the short period of four months following the confirmation, the corner stone was laid by the Masons on Church Street on October 29, 1884. Attending were the Rev. W. Rally of Duart , the Rev. Dixon of Bothwell, the Rev. Downie of Morpeth and the Rev. Taylor of Wardsville. The building lot was a gift from a Mr. Horton.
The Ladies Aid was organized in 1881, by Mr. Downie. The first money made by he Ladies Aid for a building fund was by means of a Bazaar, dinner and tea on May 24, 1883. Proceeds were over $200. The church was officially opened on July 5, 1885 with fitting services, when he Rt. Rev. Bishop Baldwin, Bishop of the Diocese of Huron, preached at both morning and evening services, and in the afternoon Mr. Downie preached Attendance at morning service was 400, afternoon 200, and evening 450. The Presbyterians withdrew their evening service to allow their members to attend the Anglican evening service.
The ornamental window at the west end of the church above the entrance was a contribution from the children of the Sunday school.
The first church Wardens were Mr. Wm. Simpson and a Mr. Barnard.
The first marriage recorded in the church books was that of John Savage and Fanny Metcalf on December 3,1884 by the Rev. N. Shore, at the rectory. The first wedding to take place in the church was that of Charles Bruce Kelly, a commercial traveller from Montreal, and Lottie Vanderlip of Ridgetown on June 4, 1891.
The first Baptism in the church were two babies, Mabel Irene Kennedy, on August 17, 1886 and Barry Roderick Elliott, on September 9, 1886.
Previous to the building of the rectory the following houses served as rectories, Mr. F. Kourtz' house on Main Street 2nd east of Memorial Park; Mrs. P. Campbell's Erie St. South; Mr. C. Johnston's Main St. just west of the gristmill; and, T. Hore's on Harold Street.
Rev. Wm. M. Shore owned the two lots adjoining the church and these were purchased from him in 1887 for $210. In 1899 the Anglican Church at Selton was sold to the Church of Christ (Disciples) for $300 and the money was given to the Ridgetown Church to help in the building of the rectory on Church St.
The rectory was built in Rev. Edwin Lee's time and Rev. and Mrs. F.M. Baldwin were the first to move into it in 1900.At first the rectors paid rent for the rectory until 1906 when it became free as part of the rectors salary.
Mr. Shore was succeeded by the Rev. A.B.B. Burt in 1887, and during Mr. Burt's incumbency the first organ was purchased. This organ had foot pedals and also an attachment for pumping by hand. The first organist was Miss M. Bernard. The first mention of the Women's Auxiliary was during Mr. Burt's time. Following a visit to the Parish by Rev. Cowper Robinson of Japan, it was decided to open a branch of the W.A. here.
Mr. Burt was succeeded by Rev. Wm. E. Scott in 1891. The Ladies Guild was organized in Mr. Scott's time.
Mr. Scott was followed by Rev. Edwin Lee in 1897. Owing to ill health Mr. Lee resigned in 1899 and Rev. F.M. Baldwin came in 1900. Mr. Baldwin died on February 2,1901, and his successor was Rev. W.F. Brownlee who in turn was followed by Rev. A.L. Murray in 1906, and Rev. A. Shore (brother of Mr. Wm. M. Shore) in 1908.
At first the church was lighted with lamps. Later a Mr. Bowman had gas piped from his place to light the church. After a time they returned to lamps until replaced by electric light in 1914.
During Mr. Brownlee's incumbency it was decided to form a branch of the Anglican Young People's Association, and their first regular meeting was held on December 4, 1905.
When Mr. Murray was rector the basement of the church was cleared and fitted for a Sunday school room, Mr. John Bobier donated chairs for the basement.
In 1907 a Baptismal Font was placed in the church as a memorial to Miss Annie Backus, aunt of Miss Evelyn Backus, who died in August 1906, and who remembered her church in her will.
When Mr. Shore was rector the Sunday school gave the Communion Table. The Ladies Guild bought from Lyes of Toronto the Pipe Organ with motor attached for electrical pumping, the purchase price was $1,200 .
In 1915 Mr. Shore was followed by Rev. T.J. Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton died on December 29, 1918, a victim of the dreadful influenza of that year.
Rev. S.S. Hardy came in 1919. The Chancel Guild was formed while Mr. Hardy was rector, gave the Credence Table and Church Linen. The Credence Table was of oak, also the Communion Table mentioned before, were made at Watson and Taylor mill, by their carpenter Mr. James O'Connor. The design for the Credence Table was chosen by the Chancel Guild.
Mr. Hardy's successor was Rev. P.G. Powell in 1920, who in turn was followed by Rev. Wm. Wallace in 1924.
During Mr. Wallace's term extensive renovations and additions in the form of a Choir room and kitchen were built on the south side of the church.
Rev. Walter Jones came in 1929. The Highlight of his stay in Ridgetown was in 1935, when the Golden Anniversary of the opening of the church was celebrated. The church was redecorated for the occasion. The Golden Jubilee was marked with special services on Sundays, June 30, July 7 and social functions during the week. Mr. Powell, a former rector preached at the morning service on June 30, and at the evening service the preacher was the Very Rev. C.E. Jenkins, Rector of St. Paul's Cathedral, and Dean of Huron. On July 7, Rev. Reginald Scott, son of Rev. Wm. E. Scott a former minister, preached at the morning service, and Rev. Stuart Brownlee, son of Rev. W.F. Brownlee, preached at the evening service. On July 2, there was an entertainment by the Sunday school and the A.Y.P.A; July 3 - a picnic at Rondeau Park; July 5, a Birthday Party was held on Dr. Marr's lawn from 3-6 p.m. Bishop Seager giving an address.
Rev. J.H. Geoghagen succeeded Rev. Walter Jones in 1937. While he was here the seating in the church was changed to allow a centre aisle. The A.Y.P.A gave new carpet. A brass cross, dedicated to the memory of Victoria Mark and Robert S. Brown, was given by their son Hamilton S. Brown, and their daughter Mrs. Gaskin. Lawton Simpson and his sister Mrs. A.E. McLean gave two brass candlesticks dedicated to the memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. David Simpson. Mrs. McLean supplies candles to be burnt at every service held in the church. The St. John's Bible Class gave two flags and a third flag was given by Mr. and Mrs. Brown. The Communion brass railing was given by a friend of Rev. J.H. Geoghagen.
Rev. C.J. Queen came in February 1940. The old gymnasium of the High School was bought that year for the sum of $275. It cost to tear down, move and rebuild, and approximately $600 for heating, lighting and other equipment. The church barn was torn down and rebuilt into a kitchen and garage annexed to the Parish Hall. The Parish Hall has a large banquet hall, with a small Clubroom at one end of the building. The Clubroom has a fireplace, the gift of Mr. M. Anions. Above the Clubroom is storage for the Parish Hall, and this task was accomplished in three years. In 1945 another storage room, also lavatories have been added to the building at a cost of $900 paid by the Men's Club in one year with $100, assistance from the Ladies Guild. Sunday School is now held in the Hall.
Mr. Anions in 1941 made and gave a new lectern to the church.
On March 7, 1943, two Oak Honour Rolls costing $l20. each were unveiled . The Honour Roll for the War 1914-1918 was unveiled by Mr. Anions and Robert S. Delmage called the roll. The Honour Roll for World War II, was unveiled by Mr. Alvin Fraser and names read by Miss Christine Dickman. The World War I Honour Roll bears the names of forty-one, eight being casualties, namely Murton Shor, Victor Pyne, Reginald Holmes, Roy Ctinkersmith, George Patterson, Truman Priestlely, Berte Smith, and William Storing.
The World War II Honour Roll has fifty-six names, four being casualties. Howard Jones, John Andrews, Robert Puttock, and William Dauphin.
Rev. D.S. Henry, who succeeded Mr. Queen, came on April 11, 1944.
In 1946, Mrs. Marr gave the church a Walnut floor, candelabra, and Mrs. Jane Backus gave a large Bible for the lectern. This Bible was dedicated to the memory of Rev. T.J. Hamilton.
Four sons of former rectors are now serving in the ministry, Reginald Scott, Stuart Brownlee, Howard Hamilton, and Derwyn Jones. Stuart Brownlee and Howard Hamilton were born in Ridgetown. Derwyn Jones preached his first sermon after his ordination at the 61st. anniversary of the Church of The Advent.
In 1946, new eaves trough costing $l20 was installed; the foundation was repointed and rebuilt, as well as one of the buttresses on the north side at a cost of $40. Insulation was installed (Johns-Mansville) in the Nave and Sanctuary Roofs at a price of $590. The whole cost of $750 is one half paid to date. Mr. C.F. Johnson and Mr. G.C. Craven, who were Wardens at that time are to be commended for their work in this respect.
In 1947 the Chancel Lighting was improved, Mr. M. Simpson and Mr. Harry Phillips the Wardens, being largely instrumental in this.
Compiled April 1947
May 1951; Anglican Church History (cont'd)
In June 1948, the Ladies Guild installed new lights, four lanterns in the church and paid for the wiring. The Ladies Club paid for the hardwood flooring in the Chancel, and the men did the work.
In 1949,the church roof was re-shingled at a cost of $538.75, shingles and nails costing $317.37, and labour $2l6.38. The Parish was canvassed and more than enough money donated to cover the complete cost. The verandah on the rectory was torn down and replaced by a small porch. The material from the verandah was used to make a screened porch at the back of the rectory.
In 1950, the Parish Hall gas heater and the rectory roof were repaired.
In September 1950, Mr. Henry went to Amhertsburg and in November Rev. J.H. Smith became rector. Rev. J.H. Smith retired owing to ill health. Rev. E.E.S. Ewald, B.A. took charge in 1963.
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.