The History of Little Kin Park

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History of St James Anglican Church & Cemetery, Wardsville, ON

By Ken Willis, Wardsville Historian, July 2023

St Jame’s Anglican Church, Wardsville

It was in the year 1839 that John Strachan became the first Bishop of Toronto. When he received this appointment, his diocese covered the land area now known as Southern Ontario. 

The Rev John Gunne was licensed ‘To perform the office of Travelling Missionary’ by the Bishop, for the Townships of Zone, Euphemia, Brooke, Ekfrid and Mosa on June 30, 1845. On one Sunday of each month he would ride his horse from Zone Mills (Florence) which was his headquarters, to hold services in Wardsville, likely in private homes until a church building was erected. 

The first official parish to be formed was Wardsville, Glencoe and Newbury, also in 1845. About the same time, land was given to the Church of England, for the purposes of a church building, by Dr. Abraham Francis. (This land, 102 acres, was on the south Part of Lot 20, Range one North of the Longwoods Road.) A parsonage was subsequently built on this property but the year is not known. 

Lots 18 and 19, south of Church Street, were obtained by the Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto by a Bargain and Sale agreement with William Hatelie, et al, on August 22, 1849. This was a year or two after a wooden framed church building had already been constructed on the lot. This is known from a letter penned by Bishop Strachan on May 8, 1848, to Hatelie and the Churchwardens of the Church of Wardsville. He wrote, gentlemen: I have the honour to acknowledge your Memorial of the 2nd instant, in which you state that you have erected a church at Wardsville, Township of Mosa at considerable expense, but that since the erection of said building, you have only had divine service in it every third Sunday. This building served a congregation of approx. 150 members until the very early 1870s when it fell into disrepair. 

The Rev. George William Wye, rector from 1870 to 1878, was instrumental in the erection of a new brick church building, on lots 18 and 19, during his tenure in Wardsville. The parsonage and property (known as the Parsonage Farm), on Longwoods was advertised for sale in May of 1880 as it was no longer required by the congregation. The Rector, William James Taylor, was at this time living in Newbury as indicated on the for sale notice in the Glencoe Transcript. By May of 1884, the church building was declared free of debt and on the 24th of May, Rev Maurice S. Baldwin, Bishop of Huron, consecrated the church to the Glory of God. The resident minister at this time was still the Rev. W. J. Taylor, who was living in the new parsonage, which had been built early in 1883, on lot 16, facing Wellington Street. 

A horse and buggy shed on lot 17 facing Church Street was put up a little later. 

Burials, according to the only known record book, were conducted in the church vault and the lands south and east of the building, from 1873 to 1909. Many of the pioneers and early settlers of the village and surrounding area are buried beneath the ground between Church Street and a monument at the south end of the property, which lists a total of 54 names. I believe there were several more burials. (A Wardsville news item from Nov. 5, 1885 states: Two graves opened in the St. James church graveyard for the purpose of interning bodies elsewhere, disclosed the coffins in a perfectly sound state. They were made of walnut and have been in the ground for 23 years.) (1863?) 

I have also found newspaper obituary notices for a couple of people up to the year 1923, that indicated they were buried in this cemetery. 

By the beginning of World War 1, church membership had dropped to 87 members. The last resident minister, Rev. R.J. Murphy left the rectory in June of 1926 and ministers were then supplied by the Glencoe parish. The depression of the 1930’s caused a further decline in membership and a subsequent lack of funds for upkeep. The church was declared structurally unsafe at this time, some residents said it was due to road construction, in 1930. In the late winter of 1933 all the furniture of the Chancel, including the platform was transferred from the upstairs to the basement. By early spring of the year services were being held there. 

On Sunday morning May 21, 1939 at the re-opening and dedication of St. John’s Anglican Church in Glencoe, the Warden’s of St. James, on behalf of their congregation, presented a beautiful oak reredos and altar. 

By March of 1942, the building was in the process of being torn down. By this time the Wardsville congregation was holding worship services at the new St John’s Presbyterian Church and the church was not being used. A meeting in June of 1946 dealt with motions on the disposition of the funds raised from the sale of St James Church and the writing of a letter to the Archbishop concerning the discontinuing of Sunday services. 

By this year, 1946, many of the monuments marking the graves had fallen over causing breakage. Weeds and bushes had overgrown the site as well. Correspondence in 1946 from the Village of Wardsville to the Executive Committee, Synod of Huron, Anglican Church of Canada, requested that the cemetery and rectory property next to it, be deeded over to the village with the agreement that the village would clean up the said property, cut down or remove all brush on said property and in the Church Cemetery, erect a good fence between the cemetery and other lots and take care of all arrears of taxes. (That would have been on the rectory property lot 16 and 17).The village also stated in the correspondence, that they wanted to use the property as a playground for the children of the Village and surrounding neighborhood. 

Permission was granted on condition that the property be used for no other purpose and that the Village Council undertake that proper care be given to the cemetery. 

The taxes on the rectory property, Lots 16 and 17, were in arrears by December of 1948 and the Treasurer, County of Middlesex, put the property up for sale by public auction. James Little of R.R.2 Wardsville submitted the winning bid and gained the two lots totalling three fifths of an acre. 

In the next few years, the cemetery property was cleaned up and some of the broken monuments were placed under a stone cairn which Mr. Little had erected at the south end of the cemetery. Other larger, nearly complete stones were removed to a nearby farm. On August 14, 1951, for the consideration of one dollar, Mr Little and his wife Margaret, sold lots 16 and 17 to the trustees of the Kinsmen Club, of Wardsville. In the course of time the Kinsmen Club developed lots 16 and 17 into a baseball diamond and lots 18 and 19 into a parking lot with a good fence dividing the properties. (The name Little-Kin Park comes from this connection) 

In 1986 the original cairn put up by Mr Little was refurbished and three new brass coloured plaques, inscribed with the names of internees, were fitted into the stonework. 

All of the lots, 16 to 19, are the property of the Corporation of the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex and are as of February 26, 2020, not being used for recreational purposes. 

By Ken Willis, Wardsville Historian. 

GLENCOE TRANSCRIPT JULY 5, 1883 – Previous to his departure for the old country, the Rev. W. J. Taylor entertained a large gathering of friends at the Parsonage, Wardsville on the evening of June 29. Those of the number who had never before availed themselves of the opportunity of visiting their minister in his new home, were struck with the beautiful and attractive appearance which the Parsonage and grounds had so rapidly assumed. More than ordinary taste was displayed in the arrangement of the ground, which were rendered still more attractive by being lighted with Chinese lanterns. The party consisting of upwards of 120, after having spent five or six hours in pleasant amusements and enjoying a huge repast at the hands of Mrs. Taylor, dispersed about 11 p.m. feeling they had all really enjoyed a very pleasant time. 

John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto

TORONTO 8th May, 1848

To William Hatelie Esq., J.P. And the Churchwardens of the Church of Wardsville and the other Gentlemen signing the Memorial from the congregation dated 2nd May, 1848. 

Gentlemen: I have the honour to acknowledge your Memorial of the 2nd Instant, in which state that you have erected a church at Wardsville, Township of Mosa at considerable but that since the erection of said building, you have only had divine service in it every third Sunday. 

You further state that the cause of religion and morality suffers (greatly) in your neighbourhood on account of this infrequency of public worship and pray that the same may be taken into consideration and that arrangements be made as to give you the inestimable benefit of Divine Service every Lord’s Day. 

I beg in the first place to express my thanks, for the exertions you have made in erecting your church and the pleasure it would give me to be able to comply with your request. But, there are difficulties in the way, which though beyond my power to remove may nevertheless in God’s good time, be removed by our people themselves. 

You are perhaps not aware that you owe the advantages you now enjoy to the Rev. W.I.D. Waddilove, a Gentleman in the North of England, who with a very few friends actuated by a truly Christian spirit, supports three traveling missionaries in this diocese. To each is assigned a large extent of country to gather our people and to form congregations-expecting that when (these) such congregations are regularly constituted and become strong in the Lord, they will contribute wholly or at least in a great proportion to the support of a resident clergyman for themselves. 

The Rev. Mr. Gunne is one of these three traveling missionaries and to him is assigned Dawn, Mosa and adjacent parts and he is directed to distribute his services on weekdays as well as on Sundays, as equally for the benefit of the church people within his bounds, as may be in his power. Hence I infer that he allots to the congregation of Wardsville their just share of this time and services. 

Now with all due respect, I would remind you that Mr. Gunne’s support comes entirely from England and that many who contribute to that support are poorer than many of you and yet so bright in their Christian faith and charity, that out of their little earnings they give a portion to preach the Gospel in this new colony four thousand miles distant. But they do so in the hope that their example will not be lost and that the congregations which they gather by their Missionaries will be animated by the same Spirit and in a short time support their own clergyman, that they may be enabled to send their assistance to another vacant field in the country, or which there are unfortunately still so many and so on, until the whole Diocese is evangelized. 

You must allow that those who sustain the Rev. Mr. Gunne, have a right to say where he shall serve and to proclaim to the different congregations for whose good he labours, that they have equal claims upon sheer benevolence. 

What surprises me in your memorial is that you ask for the services of a clergyman every Sunday and do not propose to contribute one farthing towards his maintenance. How is such an additional clergyman to live? And from whence the support of our clergy to come from, except from their own people. 

1848 Memorial 

Hitherto they have been supported in a great measure by subscriptions from England, from people poorer than many of ourselves, but this cannot continue long and while it does continue, it can go but a little way towards supporting the great number of clergy which we now require. The time has arrived when we must do much more for ourselves than we have hitherto done – nor can we expect the ministry of the gospel to prosper to the full extent of our ability towards the support of public worship and till such a period arrives, we ought to rejoice in the provision made for our religious edification by others, although not so full as could be wished. 

How much nearer is the visible church of God now than it was a few years ago. Some of you may remember when there was but one clergyman west of Toronto and now there are more than forty, and they – Blessed be God – are rapidly increasing. Instead of complaining at the little, that has been done, you should, each and everyone of you, do your utmost to enlarge what has been begun, for much, very much remains to be accomplished. 

We have indeed one hundred and twenty clergymen in the Diocese, but we require five hundred and we shall gradually obtain them – it is God’s work and it will prosper whether we shall bear or whether we shall forbear and blessed will it be for those who do their utmost to promote this holy work, for on them will the blessing of God rest, through time and eternity. 

To murmur is to distrust God and although our congregation may not be able for a time to support the whole expense of a settled clergyman, yet two or three can join and sustain the charge and as they prosper each congregation may after a time obtain one for themselves. 

We are in this Province in much the same situation as the primitive Christians, who had to gather their congregations together out of large neighbourhoods of irreligious people. 

It was a slow process, but when persevered it was sure to succeed and if we proceed in the same way, it will succeed now as well as then. At first we must creep, so that we may at length walk. 

In the meantime we ought to receive contentedly and with thankfulness the means of spiritual edification which has been provided for us, till we can do more for ourselves, always bearing in mind that every Christian Nation has from its conversion supported the Ministrations of Religion and must continue to do so- and although we have been hitherto assisted by our religious friends in England, such assistance will soon be withdrawn; for they are becoming poorer than we are and then we shall be left entirely to ourselves, nor will this be a hardship, if your hearts are in the right place. For what we give towards the support of the Church of God will be returned to us an hundred fold, either in this life or in that which is to come. 

I remain, Gentlemen, Your Father and Friend In Christ 

John Toronto 


30 Apr 1986 – Site of First Anglican Church and Cemetery Marked With Plaques 

In Wardsville children and adults play on the same ground where an early church building stood and where a number of pioneers are buried. “This is holy ground,” said Bishop Derwyn Jones of the Diocese of Huron, Anglican Church of Canada, Saturday as he and others participated in the unveiling and dedication of plaques marking the site of the early church, called St James Anglican. 36 persons attended the 40 minute ceremony, which was chaired by Wardsville Reeve Mary Shamley. Among those present were Russell Walker of Forest, formerly of Mosa and Ravenswood, who Reeve Shamley credited with publicizing the significance of the site and encouraging the recognition of that aspect of local history. The Anglican parish is believed to have been formed in Wardsville during the mid 1840’s. 

During the act of dedication and remembrance, Bishop Jones noted that Canada is a fairly young acountry and that people had not taken proper notice of local history until the recent past when Canadians realized that recent history is all we have. 

It is good for us to have a sense of where we have been, he added and to realize the history of our settlers. He also noted that St James church was considerably larger than one would normally expect it to have been. “That says a lot for the hopes and aspirations of the early pioneers,” he added. 

“We pause to be grateful to their aspirations,” Bishop Jones said but he also added that it is right that some edifices have disappeared. “We still maintain a oneness in Christ,” he added. “Buildings may disappear but we live under a banner of our eternal God who provides us with different places to worship.” 

Bishop Jones thanked the Wardsville village “Fathers” and “Mothers” (a reference to Reeve Shamley being a woman) for providing a tangible remembrance of those who walked this place before. 

“This is holy ground, people have worshiped here,” he said, before asking a blessing on “All who work, live and play here.” 

The Cairn holding the 3 plaques was draped in the Canadian, Ontario and Wardsville Flags for the unveiling ceremony. Clerk Harold Turton removed them. 

As if by a ghost of the past, during the dedication prayer, someone elsewhere in the village must have dropped something of iron, the sound that echoed at the historic church and graveyard site sounded very much like a church bell tolling just once. 

Members of 4 different Christian denominations took part in the ceremony. Besides Bishop Jones, Rev Charles Shaver (Presbyterian), Archdeacon A.E. Skirving (Anglican), Ian Buist (United), Father T. McNamara (RC) and Rev George Hamilton (Anglican) participated with prayers and readings. Ken Willis, Village Historian, provided a brief history. 

Three sides of the four-sided cairn, located in the Wardsville ball park, have brass coloured plaques. One gives a brief description of the history of the church, the others list the names of the pioneers buried there. 

The Walker name appears more numerous than any other,it is listed 7 times. Others are: Archer (2), Armstrong (3), Batzner, Bedford, Belford (2), Caisted, Campbell, Draisey (2), Dunlop, Fennell, Hammond, Harris (3), Johnson, Johnston, Keys, Labourer, McMaster (2), Merritt (3), Munro, Munroe (3), Nicols, O’Malley (2), Randall, Robinson, Shepherd, Staples, Stokes (2), Taylor (2), Vyse, Wilson and Wye (2). 

Several of those in attendance were descendants of those early pioneers. 

Kinsmen Club of Wardsville  Formed in 1947

A meeting was held at the Wardsville Inn, to organize a Kinsmen’s Club in the Village of Wardsville. 20 prospective members present. The following officers were elected:

President, G.N. Brossard

Secretary, F.J. Dicker

Treasurer, Ed. O. Pettman

Directors, T.A. Muir, Gordon Watkin, Edwin Ross

Five members of the Kinsmen’s Club of Windsor were present to aid in the formation of the local club. After electing officers it was decided to hold meetings on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month at the Wardsville Inn

– A Charter Night was held on Monday, 23 Jun, with a celebration which began with a banquet in the Community Hall, 60 people were served by the ladies of the Wardsville Presbyterian Church

– The Charter was presented by Ken Smylie, Deputy Governor Elect, of London, to Mr Brossard on behalf of the Wardsville Club

– The newly-elected officers were then installed by

Andy Johnston, of Windsor and Kin pins were presented to members.

Brief addresses were given by Mr Brossard and Rev C. Jones

– In addition to the officers, other members of the new club were:

Joe Blain,Tim Buckley, Cliff Davis,Verd Edwards, Bram Gardiner, Len Giles

Raymond Jariett, Jack Miller, Thomas Simpson, Art Stinson,Dave Nisbet,

Art Downie, George Harvey, Gord Nisbet, Raymond Ross, Stewart Nisbet