Quest in Roots:
Brookdale Manitoba History

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GORDON UNITED CHURCH

The Gordon United Church was built in 1898 and named in honor of British General Chas.

Gordon who was at the time serving in Egypt and the Sudan. Services had been held in the schoolhouse since 1890 when the Whitfield Circuit was organized with five appointments Gordon, Orr, Glendale, Osprey and Dumfries. The minister''s salary was $500 annually. A committee of three, Geo Stonehouse, W.F. Sirett and John Forsyth drew the plans and selected the site for the new church at Gordon and the contract was let to Alexander Thomson, who with the help of sons Russell and Wilber constructed the church in 1898.

The first trustees were John Forsyth, Geo Stonehouse, Robt. Cutting, Edgar Murray, Isaac Kerr, W.F. Sirett and Geo Forsyth.

The Ladies'' Aid Society of Gordon and Osprey was organized in 1904 to furnish the first parsonage.

Brookdale joined the circuit in 1904. In 1909 the Gordon Church was moved two miles east of the original site to a new location on the Ed Murray farm in order to unite the Osprey and Gordon congregations. The minister at this time was Rev.

F.e. Middleton whose widow was in attendance at the closing service.

The life of the community, as throughout the west, revolved around the church and school. Fowl suppers - the tradition that was to continue for 75 years, bazaars, autograph quilts, picnics, concerts, baking sales and travelling pantries helped pay the expenses. At the time of Union, Lorndale Church which had been part of the charge joined the Franklin Charge and Gordon, Brookdale and Oberon continued on as the Brookdale Charge. The manse, in Brookdale, was finally paid by 1925 only to have it burn down the next year. The minister at the time of Union was Rev. Sallons until late in ''26 when a young graduate, Rev. J.E. Bell was hired. Early in 1926, a play that was being produced by the Brookdale ladies was asked to perform in Gordon and so a tradition that was to recur for the next 40 years was begun, with productions moving both ways. The young minister was soon married. He proved to be very popular, especially with the Young Peoples'' Group which was formed in 1926, and this energetic group was responsible for many activities in the district, the largest being the construction of the skating rink in 1928. Rev.

McNeill came in 1929 and although the depression had started there is little reference to hard times until later. The first of one of the most successful projects started by the church was begun in 1931 - the Annual Picnic in the pasture of Hebe Hockin.

This was to continue for another 25 years.

The years became a little harder and leaner as reflected in the total expenditures which went from $792 in 1929 down to $328 per year in 1933 to $323 in 1935. The crop in 1935 had looked so good but when the fall came the wheat was no better than chicken feed for rust had struck. Many a farmer had to take the sad route to the field with a match. There is evidence of the ministers being paid in eggs, honey, potatoes, milk and meat in lieu of wages.

With all the misfortune around them one would think that other peoples'' problems would be insignificant, but the Christian influence on their lives was evident when word was received of the drought victims in our neighbouring province of Saskatchewan. These people dug down and sent relief in the form of food stuffs and hay the following year 1937. Even the Sunday School participated by looking after the cost of the freight. The ministers were hard working dedicated men. One of the more unusual jobs comes to light in the minutes of 1939 with the minister Rev. W.E. McDonald being appointed Choir Leader for 1937. - During the war, refugee quilts were made, and the ladies worked for the Red Cross and the various Relief Organizations. Through the year improvements were made to the church such as a new basement, furnace, dropped ceiling in the sanctuary and remodelling with the different organizations pulling their weight for assistance.

The Annual Fowl Supper in 1944 mentions for the first time the use of saccharine instead of sugar - a reflection of the rationing of the war years.

Extra money during these years was quickly turned into buying Victory Bonds. In 194fi tha unavailabilitv of meat and shortening forced a cancellation of the Annual Fowl Supper.

The special concern of the church after the war was expressed for the war-torn countries, and was reflected with the joining of the ladies as "Adopters for Britain" - an organization along the lines of today''s "Care" except that the ladies'' Aid did the collecting and sending of the parcels which started on their way monthly and continued through 1957.

Hydro was welcomed in the area in 1948 and 1949, the church was wired in 1948.

Life in the area returned to a relative calm in the early ''50''s. In 1951 Rev. Gordon Daly, presided at one of the largest confirmations in our history - totalling 23. This year the Red River Flood hit southern Manitoba and true to the "Jiving for others" that is so prevalent in rural areas, the district was responsible for donating time, supplies and homes to the victims of the flood.

The time was approaching when members of the congregation were beginning to move more often outside the district into other areas of church fellowship. The Presbytery, Presbyterial and Conference weren''t so far away so some of our members went to Portage, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Times were changing!!! In 1958 the 60th anniversary of our church was celebrated. Two services were held on Sunday June 22nd with former minister Rev. G.W. McNeill as guest speaker. An anniversary dinner was served in the church basement the following evening.

A church history was prepared by Mrs. lillian Reilly and Mrs. L. Sirett. The co-operation which existed between Brookdale and Gordon was displayed with the borrowing of choir gowns for the choir.

On August 13, 1960, an extremely heavy windstorm (tornado) hit a broad strip of the district moving the church off its foundation. This was quickly remedied by the congregation.

In 1962, a bequest left to Gordon Church by the late Mrs. B.F. Davidson, became the basis for a Memorial Organ Fund. By 1964, this fund enabled the purchase of a Baldwin Spinet Organ which added much to the services. This organ was dedicated to the pioneers of the district at a special service in June. At.the same service a Pulpit Bible in memory of Mr. and Mrs. F. Sirett was dedicated.

Following the closing of Gordon Church, the organ was placed in East View lodge.

Enrollment in the Sunday School in 1968 reached 116 with members also coming from the now closed lorndale Church.

At the annual meeting in 1970 discussion on the advisability of closing of Gordon to enable the moving into a larger parish was talked over. Then in June of 1971 the official closing of the Gordon United Church took place. Rev. Carol Roberts conducted the closing service and introduced Rev.

Gordon Daly of Swan River, the guest speaker who had served in this charge in 1949ยท1953. Rev. Daly spoke of the courage and faith that was required by the congregation to take this step in order to meet the challenge of the changing time - a step that was necessary to maintain a vital servant church.

Two former ministers, Rev. Geo McNeill (1929- 1931) and Rev. W.E. McDonald (1935-1940) sent greetings. Rev. Arvon Keating of Gladstone, chairman of Portage Presbytery declared the Gordon Church officially closed. Mrs. Vera Hockin, who faithfully served as organist for many years was presented with an organ mirror as a token of appreciation.

Following the service the United Church women served lunch and about 150 enjoyed a social hour.

The building was then moved half mile east to the Murray buildings where it is being cared for and used for a museum.

"By strange coincidence," it rained heavily when the church was originally opened on August 23, 1898, as it did for the closing service in June 1971. It also rained heavily for the first wedding and the first fowl supper.

 

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