Documents from Ontario Heritage Trust.
Assessment of Historical and Architectural Significance
Highgate United Church is historically significant for its association with the growth of the Methodist Church in Ontario and for its association with individuals of local significance, most notably members of the Gosnell family and the Rev. T .T George.
The Highgate United Church congregation dates to 1834. The current church, constructed in 1917-1918 is the seventh building the congregation has held services in throughout its 176 year history. In the summer of 1834, Mary Webb Gosnell invited members of the community into her home for a church service conducted by Rev. Stephen Miles, a Methodist circuit preacher. These small gatherings in Mary’s home became an established congregation in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada. The new congregation was part of the Kent County Circuit. When the congregation became too large to worship in Mary Gosnell’s home, services were held in a local schoolhouse.
In 1849 a small frame church was constructed on the grounds of the local cemetery on land donated by Joseph and George Gosnell, Mary’s two sons.
The first pastor of the church was Rev. John McLean. In 1861 a larger church was constructed on the same site by contractor Andrew Tolmie with local volunteers assisting with the construction. The new church was called The Centenary Church and had a resident pastor, Rev. M.A Wright. During this same time period, a number of the congregation felt The Centenary Church was too far from their homes and began holding services at Hornal’s Schoolhouse. In 1879, Thomas Lee donated land for the construction of a new place of worship, Lee’s Church. Centenary Church and Lee’s Church were a two point charge until Lee’s Church closed in 1969.
In 1870 a new frame church was built in the village of Highgate on the site of the present church. The old 1861 Centenary Church continued to hold services, but was soon sold and moved to Orford Township and used as the Township Hall. In 1897 the Rev. T.T. George drew up plans for a new, larger church. The cornerstone was laid on June 22, 1898. The new church was dedicated on December 18, 1898.
In March 1917, this church burned to the ground. It was decided that the new church be constructed to the same plans as the previous church. It was completed in September 1918. In 1925, the Methodist congregation voted to join the newly formed United Church of Canada.
Over the years, the congregation of Highgate United Church has declined and the final service was held in June 2010.