Merrickville’s lost legacy


The Anglican Church in Canada has had many publications through which it communicated with members of the communion and the outside world. In the 1850’s, The Canadian Churchman was published in Toronto, and addressed itself to the residents of Canada West. According to the main Anglican Church Archives site, the current periodical, the Anglican Journal, began life in 1875 as the Dominion Churchman, changing its name to the Canadian Churchman in 1890. The 1875 journal has been bought from a Mr. Theodore H. Spencer, who had published The Church Herald from 1868 until 1875. There has been uncertainty about where and when that newspaper had its origins before Spencer sold it.

But that mystery may now be solved, and the surprising fact may be that the origin of Spencer’s newspaper is to be found in Merrickville. On July 10, 1862, volume 1, number 1 of The Canadian Churchman was published from offices on Main Street, Merrickville, by John Parnell. The Editor was John’s older brother, Thomas Alexander Parnell, the Rector at Trinity Church in the village. The two men had come from Ireland with their parents, probably in the mid-1850’s, and the newspaper was the initiative of Thomas.

The two men had formed strong connections in the local community. Thomas had married Mary Burritt, while his sister, Mary, married into the Merrick family. Thomas was a strict and traditional High Church Anglican priest, one who might have stepped out of the pages of a Trollope novel and would have been perfectly at home in Barchester. A strict observer of the Sabbath, he promoted the Churchman as an alternative to secular periodicals for Sunday reading, believing that:

“A family without a religious newspaper, is a paradox in the religious world. The head of a household that fails, if he is able, to furnish his family with the religious press, has only to advance one degree in dereliction of duty, to be willing to banish from his house the word of God, or to forsake the sanctuary.”

At a time when clergymen of the Anglican Communion were considered leaders and role models in society, Thomas completely concurred with the idea that his position in Merrickville society was vital to its moral health. In an article he published on the Village Clergyman, it stated:

“He is the cynosure from on high by which all steer their course. By the silent influence of his example, he refines the habits, advances the civilization, and promotes the welfare of the little community, who look up to him as their model. The presence of the village pastor imposes a check on the influx of depravity, allays the beginnings of strife, and sets the affections in right tune…By the influence of his practice he brings God himself, as it were, into request.”

While the paper was filled with uplifting and instructional reading material and stories, there was room also for some commercial advertising and even the occasional local news item. The advertisers were, it seems, local doctors and acceptable periodicals and book sellers. Doctor Leggo and Drs. Cousens & Kelly, operated from their premises on St. Lawrence Street. Later, in 1863, E.J. Kelly M.D., a graduate of the University of Queen’s College had his office “next door to the City Hotel, St. Lawrence Street”.

Family connections also advertised in the Churchman, including S. H. Merrick & Son, Manufacturer of Woolens, in Merrickville. But there was room, too, for the Union House, Main Street, Merrickville, J. D. Stark, proprietor. “Parties wishing to proceed in any direction will find good Horses and Carriages, with or without drivers, by applying at the above hotel.”

Residents of Merrickville-Wolford today might be interested to hear that the Merrickville Cricket Club managed to beat a team from Easton’s Corners in a match held on Saturday, July 19, 1862 on the ground of the Merrickville Cricket Club. Merrickville won by 13 runs, and a return match was set for August 1, “wickets will be pitched at 10 o’clock”.

A Concert held on February 4, 1863 in aid of the parsonage fund in connection with Trinity Church, Merrickville, was a great success. The Town Hall was filled, with upwards of 400 persons present. The concert was managed by the ladies of the Sewing Society, and they supplied the tea and coffee, as well as arranging the entertainment. This included a performance by the Merrickville Brass Band.

In the same month, the mortgage on the parsonage for Trinity Church was discharged. $300 had been raised within little more than a year. “To the women of the congregation must be accorded the credit of liquidating this debt, as it has been through their exertions alone that this large sum has been paid”. There was also a Donation Visit by the Burritt’s Rapids congregation to Parnell. This consisted of a collection made by the congregation in support of the Rector. “The presents consisted of Groceries, Flour, Wheat, Beef, Pork, Hams, Butter, Eggs, Fowls, Potatoes, Oats, Wood, etc.” Nine cords of wood were cut and delivered to the newly mortgage-free parsonage.

Continued next week


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