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NEWS & HISTORY

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Plaque may commemorate Methodist Campgrounds John Curry john.curry@metroland.com

EMC news - The Methodist Campgrounds of Stittsville may be commemorated with an historic plaque. Erecting such a plaque to mark the location and history of these Campgrounds, site of church camp meetings from the 1890’s through to the 1970’s, may be done by the Goulbourn Township Historical Society after the idea was suggested by member Lillian Hobbs at the Society’s annual general meeting last Saturday in Stittsville. And the suggestion grabbed a lot of endorsement and support from others at the annual general meeting, causing Historical Society president Barbara Bottriell to remark on the high degree of support which there seems to be for such a plaque project. She did say that the Society’s Board of Directors has not yet set its priorities for 2013 but noted that now that the Society has successfully erected a plaque commemorating the Great Fire of 1870, it will be able to turn its attention seriously to consideration of a plaque for the Methodist Campgrounds. In suggesting such a plaque, Mrs. Hobbs noted that there is much that could be said about the Methodist Campgrounds, its location and its history. She noted that her brother

was a minister who worked at the Mapledene Camp at the Methodist Campgrounds and she herself was at the Methodist Campgrounds when she was only six years old. She admitted that a plaque would cost money, as evidenced by the $2,502.95 cost for the plaque commemorating the Great Fire of 1870 which was erected at Village Square Park last September. She suggested that a plan be developed to finance a plaque commemorating the Methodist Campgrounds, a plan which might include seeking some grants. “Let’s get it done,” she urged the Historical Society. She immediately received support from a number of other Historical Society members at the meeting. Robin Tilgner voiced support for the plaque proposal, noting that the story of the Methodist Campgrounds needs to be told. Lesley McKay, who grew up in Stittsville, told how she had enjoyed art and swimming activities at the Methodist Campgrounds, noting that a lot of Stittsville youth of her generation were able to attend activities at the Campgrounds, benefitting as well from the good principles and morals which prevailed there. Society members Phil Sweetnam, Marion Gullock, Marj Gillick and June Warner all spoke in favour of the proposal, as did city of Ot-

tawa Stittsville ward councillor Shad Qadri who was in attendance at the meeting. He said that just like with the plaque commemorating the Great Fire, he would be happy to work with the Historical Society on erecting a plaque commemorating the Methodist Campgrounds. The campgrounds in Stittsville are now just a memory, an area of Stittsville which now includes houses and sports fields. But from 1890 to 1974, these campgrounds, first known as the Holiness Church campgrounds and, after 1959, as the Free Methodist campgrounds, were a religious summer recluse for many. These campgrounds eventually extended from Manchester Street through to Poole Creek. The site is now the location of Long Meadow Way and Forest Heights Avenue as well as the soccer pitch and second ball field at Alexander Grove park. The campgrounds had their initial development with the founding of the Holiness Movement Church in Canada, an evangelistic movement founded by Rev. Ralph Horner which had its roots in the Ottawa area and eventually spread over much of the world. A merger in 1958 of the Holiness Movement and the Free Methodist Church, with the continuation of the name

Free Methodist Church, saw the campgrounds in Stittsville come under the jurisdiction of the Free Methodist Church. In the early days of the campgrounds, starting in the 1890’s, a small but faithful group of Holiness Movement adherents converged on the site. The camp at that time was held in July, with both farm and city folk attending. Tents were set up on the grounds, along with a large tent in which main services were held each day of the camp meeting. Special speakers and singers were brought in for these services. The initial site of the campgrounds was adjacent to Manchester Street. Among its permanent buildings were a parsonage, a barn and an open shed for horses. As time went on, strong bonds of friendship grew up among those who attended the camp meetings and gradually regularly-attending families erected small cottages on the site. The first row of these cottages, leading in from the gate on Manchester Street, included those of families such as the McGregors, Roes, Pritchards and Warrens. These camp meetings in Stittsville became more popular with the advent of the 20th century and this brought about the need to purchase more property which the Holiness Movement Church did

in both 1905 at a cost of $250 and again in 1911 at a cost of $600. The property holdings were increased to about 35 acres in total at a later date, with the site extending northward to Poole Creek. The first meeting tent was replaced by a larger one on the site. A pathway ran from the campgrounds site to the Holiness Church which was on a hill along Stittsville Main Street. The property for this church was purchased by the Holiness Church in 1898. This building still stands today, having housed MacDougall Sales and Services for years and later Captain Sandy’s Travel and still is used for commercial uses. More and more cottages were built on the campgrounds’ site as the years went by, reaching over 20 at one point. A few of the cottages, such as the Manchester family cottage, were two storey buildings. It developed that mothers and children would spend the summer at the campgrounds with the fathers joining them on the weekends, arriving either by train or by car. The campgrounds had a dining tent for meals and later a dining hall building was constructed. In the summer of 1926, the Holiness Church built a meeting place or tabernacle on the site to replace the use of a meeting tent. The building featured

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ventilation in the roof which could be opened during the warm summer services. This wooden tabernacle served for more than 40 years before the roof collapsed under heavy snow. A steel frame building was then erected which was removed after the 1974 camp season when the campgrounds was closed down by the Free Methodist Church. The Free Methodist Church had property in the Picton area to use as a large central summer campground, making the Stittsville campgrounds and five other similar camps surplus to its needs. The summer activity at the Stittsville campgrounds had increased after the merger of the Holiness Movement Church with the Free Methodist Church in 1958. In 1961, new washrooms and showers were built at the campgrounds at a cost of more than $10,000. A 30 foot by 60 foot swimming pool with change rooms was also built on the site as the Mapledene youth camps, which were formerly held at a Brockville site, were transferred to the Stittsville campgrounds. Fire had damaged the facilities at the Free Methodist Church camp in Brockville, with the result that its operation, including its Mapledene youth camps, were transferred to the Stittsville site.

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4 Stittsville News EMC - Thursday, January 24, 2013

Stittsville News EMC  

January 24, 2013

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