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Early church in Collingwood gathered in a tavern

All Saints' Anglican parish formed in 1855 and met in the upper room of Hiram McDonald's tavern

Collingwood’s All Saints’ Anglican Church has a long and storied history that dates back to the arrival of the railway in Collingwood.

The Parish of All Saints’ was formed in 1855 and its first services, according to oral history, took place in the “upper room” of Hiram McDonald’s tavern. At first, one might think it odd that an 1850s-era church service was held in a tavern; however, the roles that early Ontario taverns and inns played in their respective communities lends credibility to the story.

In 2018, Collingwood Museum staff visited Montgomery’s Inn in Toronto during the Ontario Museum Association’s annual conference. While here, staff learned that a Montgomery’s Inn staff member found an architectural drawing by John G. Howard of the “Exterior view and floor plan of ‘An Inn’” at the Toronto Public Library. The inn’s upper floor contained three chambers and an assembly room.

The Town of Collingwood’s first town hall is recorded to have been constructed in 1858, the year Collingwood was incorporated as a town. In its absence, there doesn’t seem to have been a place for general assembly outside of the various taverns and inns that quickly popped up along Hurontario and Huron Streets. Perhaps this is the reason that the Anglican services were held above the tavern.

Following the fire that destroyed McDonald’s tavern, services were moved to a private home and then to a wooden frame church on the west side of Cedar Street, between First and Second Streets. This latter building would later be purchased by St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.

The original part of the beautiful stone building that stands today on Elgin Street was constructed of local stone in 1858, making it one of the earliest stone structures to remain in the present day. The only other stone structure -known to predate this building is the Nottawasaga Lighthouse, having been constructed between 1855 and 1858.

Today’s featured photographs show the Anglican congregation at the Anglican Summer School on July 11, 1912, 57 years after the parish’s formation. Photograph 1 was taken on the east side of the church and features the 1911 addition of the Parish Hall, the southernmost part of today’s structure. The location of the Anglican Summer School participants in Photograph 2 is unknown.

A unique part of All Saints’ history that dates back to the 1850s is on display at the Collingwood Museum. A small melodian (Photograph 3), reported to be the first of its kind in Collingwood, was used by All Saints’ first organist, William Telfer. The instrument was donated to the Huron Institute on February 10, 1913, by William’s brother James Telfer Jr.

If you have any information to share about today’s featured photographs or the history of the Anglican Church in Collingwood, please contact Collingwood Museum staff at [email protected].

Remember This is a weekly series of historic photographs submitted by the Collingwood Museum to These photographs were originally collected and documented by the Huron Institute in an historical catalogue entitled Huron Institute Paper and Records: Volume III. Much of Collingwood’s early history has been preserved due to the dedication and foresight of the early museum’s founders, namely its secretary-curator David Williams, upon its establishment in 1904.