The Early Days
The history of Knox Presbyterian Church begins as a house service, as was common in other communities at the time. Mr. R. Sanderson hosted the first service in his home in 1876 which included 5 other men. The service was held by Rev. Alex Matheson who travelled on horseback from Little Britain. Following the first service, the small group continued to meet in each other’s homes every two weeks for over a year.
Not long after, the growing congregation decided to acquire a proper building for the church to use. The group purchased a log and plaster cabin with a thatched roof for $50 from Henry Cochrane. The building was located on the corner of Eveline Street and Superior Avenue across the road from the present Royal Canadian Legion Hall. Among the congregation and those supplying the funds for this purchase were F.W. Colcleugh, James Colcleugh, William Gibbs, Dr. David Young, Duncan McRae, and James Matheson. Church services and a Sunday School were held in the log cabin. By 1878 the school had 20 students enrolled.
By 1879, the log building had become too small, as the minister was responsible for the congregation in Selkirk, Little Britain, Parks Creek, East Selkirk, and Clandeboye. It wouldn’t be until 1888 that the congregation petitioned the Presbytery to separate Selkirk from Little Britain and obtain a resident minister of their own. In 1890, East and West Selkirk separated, and Rev. J. A. F. Sutherland became the new minister.
A committee was formed to discuss the possibility of building a new church. The committee raised $350 to start, which rose to $858 after the congregation contributed. Funds were also raised by “a social at James Colcleugh’s residence, a strawberry festival, a bazaar in the new building, and a soiree.”
A lot on the corner of Eveline Street and McLean Avenue was purchased from Duncan McLean, and Dr. David Young donated the adjoining. Richard Dixon signed a contract to build the new church for $1650 and to completed by January of 1880. This was the first church building constructed in Selkirk.
A New Church Building
The new church contained what is now the minister’s study and business office, the hall and cloakroom of the present church, and the nursery at the back of the present sanctuary. These features would later be absorbed by the present-day church.
The first congregational service was held on January 2nd, 1880. The church purchased an organ and Mrs. J. Davies became the first organist with William Gibbs leading the choir. The church was known as the Selkirk Congregation until 1883 when the name changed to Knox Church.
A manse was built next door to the church in 1896, which was a “magnificent home, but was a terrible drudge for any family to furnish and maintain.”
The church ran smoothly for a while; however, it quickly became evident that the church needed another expansion. Samuel Hooper, a Winnipeg architect, designed the plans for the present church in 1904. Hooper became Manitoba’s first provincial architect and designed several well-known buildings in Manitoba. With assistance from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the foundation for the new church cost $8000. Lt. Gov. Daniel McMillan laid the cornerstone on June 28th, 1904, and the well-known stonemason, Duncan McRae worked on the church. When the church opened in 1904, Rev. Matheson, 80 years old at the time, preached the opening service.
Beautiful woodwork and stained-glass fills the interior of the church. The hand carved Baptismal font is a and curved pews are great examples of the woodwork inside the church. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch #42 members donated the font in memory of a past minister, Dr. Gardiner Dickey.
Three stained-glass windows, designed by the famous sculptor, Leo Mol were installed in the sanctuary in 1962. Two of these windows placed at the front of the sanctuary were dedicated in Cliff Morrison’s honour the same year. Cliff was the Superintendent of the Sunday School, a member of the Board of Managers, and an Elder. One of the windows depicts Daniel in the lion’s den, which was in reference to Cliff’s favourite song, “Dare to be Daniel.” The third window designed by Leo Mol, located at the south-west end of the sanctuary commemorates Dr. Dickey with an image of “The Good Shephard” as the central figure.
The stained-glass windows dedicated in the early 1900s in the memory of William Gibbs and the Moncrieff family are set in a triptych on the east and west sides of the vestry.
The church purchased a new organ for $625 in 1908, half of which was Andrew Carnegie donated. This organ was eventually replaced by an electronic organ in the 1980s.
Knox in Later Years
The Fellowship Hall was built in 1967, and a new wing, Knox Christian Education Centre was built in the following year. The Centre has been the core for church functions, Sunday School, suppers, and social events.
In 1997, members of the church began making perogies as a fundraiser. The perogies quickly became so popular that only paid orders could be filled, with many batches being sold already before being made. By 2001, the congregation had made over 55 000 perogies which profited the church $12 631.
Over the last 147 years, Knox Presbyterian Church has been a large part of society for many people. Several of the town’s big supporters were also supporters of the church, such as the Colcleugh cousins, Robert Smith, and Dr. David Young.