Chalmers

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In 1912, seven people met in the home of Jim Symes on Rockcliffe Boulevard, to discuss forming a Presbyterian Church in Mount Dennis. The nearest congregation was at Runnymede Presbyterian Church on St. John's Road. This meeting led to a request to the Home Mission Board for permission and assistance. The Board granted permission to form a congregation.

In the Spring of 1913, student ministers were sent out to conduct services. The first service was held in May of that year in the home of Mr. Symes and was conducted by a Mr. Forbes, student at Knox College. At first, a different student might be sent out each Sunday. Initially services continued to be held in members' homes. Later, services were held in Dennis Avenue School and in the original Mount Dennis Cinema just north of Dennis Avenue at 1040 Weston Road (this building still existed in 1990, having gone through many reincarnations).

Many families, well known to our current membership and to the Mount Dennis community in general, were early members in what was called Mount Dennis Presbyterian Church. The Winkworths and the Millers were instrumental in working with Mr. Carlaw to buy land at the corner of Dennis and Guestville Avenues.

A habitable basement room was constructed and first used in 1916. Many men helped dig out the basement and the first full time minister, Rev. C.A. Gowans, drove the horses while Mr. McKechan used the stone scraper. The basement was heated by Quebec heaters and a small hand-pumped organ was purchased.

It is interesting to note that the Annual Report for 1916 show total receipts of $1,125.76 and total expenditures of $1,166.04! There is a footnote which states that "in regard to supply (preachers), it is the intention of the Board to increase the Weekly Stipend from $5 to $6 at an early date."

Funds were raised by a very enthusiastic and hard working membership and $21,000 was borrowed from the Home Mission Board. The Sanctuary was completed over the original basement by 1921. Records show that the first wedding held there was that of Dorothy Winkworth to Herb French on August 3rd, 1921.

Mr. Gowans was minister for 23 years until 1939, helping lead the congregation into Church Union in 1925. Mount Dennis Presbyterian Church became Chalmers United Church at the suggestion of Mr. King, grandfather of Jack King of the former Kings' Meat Market on Lambton Avenue.

In 1923, the L.C. Bible Class was formed and quickly grew to a membership of well over 200. The group, representing ALoyalty to Christ, Church and Class, continued for 53 years. It was a very important part of the lives of Mount Dennis young people for over half a century.

In 1939, the Rev. A.J. "Art" Eagle and his wife came with their family to Chalmers and served for 20 years until their tragic deaths in a car crash in August 1959. Almost immediately after the arrival of the Eagles, a great many of the men left for service in the Second World War. Several gave their lives. Scrolls on display in the Memorial Chapel list these men . When Mr. Eagle first arrived he found $17,500 of the original loan still unpaid. Under his leadership and after the Mission Board cut the loan amount in half, a campaign was launched which resulted in the burning of the Mortgage on April 22nd, 1945. Some of the money used for this purpose was raised by selling the Guestville Avenue lawn bowling green. Two houses were built on this property, one of which was eventually repurchased by Mount Dennis United Church to serve as the Manse.

The congregation was Ahealthy and active in the forties and fifties as the area grew and young families joined. Many groups met regularly in the building with very large Sunday School, active CGIT and Boy's Brigade organizations and a great many adult groups.

Following the death of the Eagles, Chalmers United was served by Rev. M.P. Smith until February 1960 and then by Rev. William Butt. The expropriation of the nearby Pearen United Church property provided the impetus for amalgamation with Chalmers to form the new Mount Dennis United Church which called the Rev. R. Gordon Nodwell to become minister of the combined congregations in 1961.

The Chalmers Library is named to commemorate of the history and many years of Christian service of the former Chalmers Congregation which continues as an integral part of Mount Dennis United Church. At the time of the dedication of the new church building in June of 1965, the auditorium which had been the sanctuary of the Chalmers buildings was named the AChalmers Auditorium. However, as that portion of the church buildings became part of a separate day care operation, it was decided in 1995 to rename the Library as a space which is constantly in use by the congregation.

NOTES:

A portion of the original memorial window was taken from the Chalmers building and placed in the Memorial Chapel along with the Communion Table and Font from the original sanctuary. Also in the Chapel are the memorial plaques containing the names of those who served and those who gave their lives in the World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.