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Nelson United Church History

Fairview United                                        Nelson United
Nelson United Church Memorial Organ                                                 Trinity Bell           
Centenial Events                                     Time Capsule                                     Anecdotal History


St. Paul’s Presbyterian

“First Presbyterian Church”
“First Presbyterian Church”

In 1867, gold and silver were found in the area and Salisbury (as the town of Nelson was then called) grew quickly as a result of the frantic mining activity. Our Church history begins in the year 1888, when John A. McDonald, a Presbyterian student minister from Queens College, Kingston, Ontario, having traveled by boat, pony, and on foot, preached the Gospel to some twenty people in a tent.Although his visit only lasted a couple days, he paved the way for Rev. Thomas Rogers who, in 1891, held services in the sitting-room of the International Hotel and then in rooms on the 2nd floor of the R.E. Lemon General Store.

St. Paul's Presbyterian
St. Paul’s Presbyterian

The “First Presbyterian Church”, on the corner of Victoria and Kootenay Streets was dedicated in June 1892, and in 1897 was renamed “St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church”. The Congregational Church constructed a building on the corner of Silica and Stanley Streets in 1898 and this was known as “St. Paul’s Church.” (The building, after going through a number of incarnations, is now the Evangelical Covenant Church.)

St. Paul's Sanctuary
St. Paul’s Sanctuary

In 1912, the Presbyterian Church purchased this building and the original “First Presbyterian Church” was sold to the First Church of Christ, Scientists, in November 1912. Following Church Union in 1925 a small number from the Presbyterian congregation, however, chose to re-purchase the original Presbyterian building, and re-named it “First Presbyterian Church.” This historic building continued to serve as Trinity Presbyterian Church until 2010. Today the building has been sold to a private enterprise.




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Trinity Methodist Church
As told by Edna Whiteley (nee Steed)

Trinity Methodist Church, Josephine at Silica, circa 1905
Trinity Methodist Church,
  Josephine at Silica, circa 1905
Rev. James Turner"The Saddle-Bags Parson"
Rev. James Turner (1842–1916)
       “The Saddle-Bags Parson”

Our local Methodist heritage began with the establishment of a Methodist Mission on Kootenay Lake in the year 1891 — and introduced to the area by the beloved and famous missionary, Rev. James Turner, who came to be known as the “Saddle-Bags Parson” because he travelled and served the area on horseback with one saddle bag filled with his personal effects and the other bag filled with his Bible, hymn book etc. 

By 1897 Nelson had grown into a fair size community and it was then that the little frame Church known as Trinity Methodist was erected on this present site. The same Church that Evelyn MacDonald’s grandfather and sons put the roof on. It is interesting to note that even then the congregation could boast of a strong Board of Stewards, excellent choir and active workers. In 1898 Trinity Methodist Church became self-supporting. 

St. Paul's Methodist erected 1908
Trinity Methodist
            erected 1908

By the turn of the century the Nelson Methodists numbered 162 and were under the Charge of Rev. James H. ‘White. In 1906 Rev. R. Newton Powell became pastor and under his direction the new Trinity Church was erected of marble and granite as described by Evelyn. Trinity Methodist Church was dedicated on March 7, 1909. Impressive and substantial, the church was the pride of the Nelson congregation.

February 1915 Fire
February 1915 Fire

But alas on a winter Sunday morning in 1915, Trinity Church caught fire and in a few hours was completely gutted — nothing remaining but the foundation and marble walls. Union services were held with St. Paul’s Presbyterian congregation for two Sundays. Then the Eagles Hall was rented until the basement of the church   could be fitted for use. The fire was a grievous blow but plans soon were made for reconstruction and I am sure I am correct when I say the congregation was back in the sanctuary by 1919. 

It was through the mighty efforts of the Ladies Aid and the Young Peoples Organization that a pipe organ was installed in 1922 as a memorial to the dead of the World War I. 

About this time, the talk of Church Union was going strong and since the majority of Presbyterians and Methodists in Nelson supported this union, St. Paul’s and Trinity Churches entered the United Church of Canada in June 1925. Owing to their size each continued as a separate congregation until in 1956 the two congregations amalgamated establishing St. Paul’s-Trinity United Church in this building and a new charge in Fairview – the Fairview United Church. 

We are now into more recent history and Evelyn did mention our second fire in 1967 and the dedication of this building on March 9,1969, just 2 days and 60 years after the dedication of this original building — I thought it was quite a parallel. 

Recently we heard Mr. Wayne Mackenzie speak of our Mission boats on the West Coast – do any of you realize, we too had a mission boat on Kootenay Lake — a Methodist Mission Boat. We have Jean Brandon to thank for this interesting bit of news that appeared in a church paper dated April 1914. The account tells how our Trinity minister and a minister from Grand Forks and Nr. A.D. Emory (grandfather of Bob Emory) were directed to procure a boat for Mission work on Kootenay Lake. A 55 ft. cabin cruiser that slept 4, and with kitchen equipment and a 10 H.P. motor that drove the boat at 8 miles per hour was found and purchased for $1200. It was interesting to note that the Methodist Sunday schools of B.C. took this expense as a project and raised most of the monies for that boat named “Iwylle”. The Iwylle cruised to all the little settlements, road camps and mines all along the lake much like the Crosby did at the coast. In the article it was even noted that little Malcolm Brandon, a child at Lardeau was the first to enroll in the Sunday school in connection with Kootenay Lake Mission. Most of us remember with deep affection Malcolm Brandon. a truly Christian gentleman who gave so much to this congregation. 

I don’t know just when the lwylle went out of service but I did discover another vessel — the Broadcaster — under Rev. Kinney, continued to serve our Lake shore holding services at Ainsworth, Riondel, Crawford Bay, Gray Creek and up into the Lardeau. I believe it was in 1935 that the Broadcaster made its last trip to Argenta and Johnson’s Landing before being returned to the Pacific Coast. 

Throughout the years this church has been blessed with many memorials given by loved ones. Evelyn tells me that one year, while her grandmother, Mrs. J .H. Wallace, was visiting in Ohio she was so impressed by the chimes in a Church she was attending that she presented our congregation with our chimes in memory of her husband and her 3 sons. Later these chimes were amplified, and as I recall, in time for the choir to meet at midnight that Christmas Eve to sing “0 Holy Night” and other carols that floated out over the town. It was an exciting moment for us choir members and a surprise to many that heard them. 

The new Keates organ is a memorial to the men who gave their lives in the first and second World Wars and presented by the congregation. The pulpit and communion table was given by Hr. and Mrs. Cec Grlzzelle, Mr. and Mrs. George Amos, and Mr. and Mrs. Percy Amos, as a memorial to their parents who were strong supporters of Trinity Methodist Church. Our Cross was given by Mrs Tyler and George. Pulpit drapes and Communion Table runner are in memory of James Earle Hoover, by his parents. Baptismal Font, in memory of Mr. and Mrs Fink and Wanda. Our flower pedestals, hymn boards and, more recently, the overhead screen, given in memory of son Don and parents by Margaret and Ernie Ireland and Peter and Shirley Faris. All our communion trays and glasses are memorials and all are recorded in the Memorial book.

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St. Paul’s-Trinity United

click to read>>>
Order of Service
for the Dedication of
St. Pauls-Trinity Church Building
Sunday, March 9, 1969

On June 10, 1925, the congregation of St. Paul’s Presbyterian and Trinity Methodist voted to enter Church Union. St Paul’s United and Trinity United continued to serve their separate congregations until 1956, when they combined under the name “St. Paul’s-Trinity United Church” using the Methodist building located on Silica Street.

April 1967 fire
April 1967 fire

Fire raged through the St. Paul’s-Trinity United Church building on April 17, 1967 and precious records were lost; the interior of the building was destroyed. Once more the congregation re-built on the granite foundation, utilizing the marble exterior walls. The reconstructed building was dedicated March 9, 1969.

Click to read this article published in the Nelson Daily News on March 8, 1969: Rebuilt Church Opens Sunday



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Fairview United Church

As the City of Nelson grew, the need for a second United Church was recognize. In 1956 the new congregation of Fairview United met in the Hume School gymnasium with Rev. Allan Dixon as the first Minister. On May 4, 1958, with the Rev. H.R. Whitmore as the new minister, “Fairview United Church” was dedicated to serve the communities of Fairview and the North Shore. The members set about being a “Friendly Church for Friendly People.”

Fairview United, painted by Verna Wright, 2001
Fairview United, painted by Verna Wright, 2001


In 1967 the North Shore Hall was opened, sponsored by Fairview United.

This hall was eventually sold to the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

Quoting Rev. Allan Dixon, Fairview’s first Minister, who wrote to us at the time of amalgamation in 1995, ” You have had 40 years of growth and development in the Christian faith and have had a lasting effect on many lives…the church location is but a vehicle for the spirit, as the body is a vehicle for the soul. Church history in Nelson has been made richer by your sojourn at Fairview.”

Sheila, daughter of Angus Fraser,  tells us: 
Dad had many very happy years as Organist & Choir Director at Fairview United.  He was greatly loved by his Choir Members, Ministers (Rev. Bert Whitmore, Rev. Rae Allan & Rev. Bob Morris) in particular and the congregations. I sang in his choir over the years and my twin, Don, & I sang many Hootenannies at both churches & the United Church Hall on the North Shore throughout the mid-sixties. 


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Nelson United Church

Nelson United Church, 602 Silica St
Nelson United Church, 602 Silica St

The decades of the 80’s and 90’s were difficult ones for the United Church. Declining Sunday Schools and attendance, changes in the social make-up of Nelson and re-evaluation of priorities meant challenges for both Fairview and St. Paul’s-Trinity congregations. To meet these challenges it was determined that the two churches amalgamate.



On July 2, 1995, by the amalgamation of Fairview United Church and St. Paul’s-Trinity United Church, with the Rev. David Boyd as its first minister, Nelson United Church was constituted. The two congregations met appropriately, half way, in Gyro Park for an inaugural meeting before processing to their “new” church at Silica and Josephine.

July 2, 1995 — two congregations meet as one
July 2, 1995 — two congregations meet as one at Gyro Park then process as a new united congregation

With the proceeds of the sale of the Fairview United Church building, renovation and upgrades were made to this building: new administration, meeting rooms, and storage areas have been added.

On July 1, 2000, Rev. Christine Dudley joined the staff to provide an additional half-time ministry to its congregation. She remained in this ministry until July of 2012.  Following Christine’s departure the Church Council placed an emphasis on Youth and Family Ministry and from September 2012 to April 2013, Michelle Sylvest was on staff as the Family Ministries Coordinator. Subsequently Robin Murray was hired to continue this ministry. 

Our Church Secretary, Lois Berg, has been with us since March 2008.

iconlogoIn the Spring of 2012 Our Church Council undertook a refreshing review of our spiritual life: the congregation adopted our Purpose Statement, “We dare to Live the Way of Jesus, Embodying the Love of God.” Our church administration was reformed into “ministry Teams” with greater autonomy rather than committees with a coordinated Council. In March, 2014 we were recognized as an Affirming Congregation. In September 2014 we adopted a modified logo to reflect our new status.


"1908" Cornerstone
“1908” Cornerstone

Since it was built, the present building has had four names: Trinity Methodist; Trinity United; St. Paul’s-Trinity United, and now, Nelson United Church. The cornerstone, dated 1908, commemorates the original marble building and in 2008 we celebrated with great joy the 100th anniversary of the creation of our church building and over the year recalled the names of the many “saints” who have gone before us to help make us what we are today.

And so, we gather as a congregation, remembering that:

We dare to live the Way of Jesus, embodying the Love of God.


For additional historical information and anecdotes of our past, click here.





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The Nelson United Church Memorial Organ

Fire has been no stranger to the buildings that have resided at 602 Silica Street. Sadly, the fire of April, 1967 completely destroyed the pipe organ which had been installed in 1923 as a memorial to the men who died in World War 1. Fortunately, insurance coverage enabled the then St. Paul’s-Trinity congregation to build a new pipe organ.

organ instalation
organ installation
The Pipe Loft, Nelson United Church Sanctuary
The Pipe Loft, Nelson United Church Sanctuary

Angus Fraser was Organist and Choir Director of Fairview United for many years from the late 1950’s through the 1960’s. He also led the Nelson Civic Choir for part of that time. When St. Paul’s-Trinity United began talking about getting a new organ, he was asked to design it by the organ builders and a church committee. Shortly after the first design was approved, the church had a fire and the insurance money was a considerable sum so Angus was asked to design a much bigger organ, the first specifications were bought by the famous American Organist, Virgil Fox, for his home organ. When the new organ was built and installed, Angus played one of the first recitals on it.

The Keates Organ Co. of Acton, Ontario, built the new pipe organ for the rebuilt church of St. Paul’s-Trinity. The organ has three divisions – two manuals and a division of pedals – of thirty ranks comprising 1625 “speaking pipes” ranging in size from 16 feet to 2/16 of an inch! The metal pipes are built from an alloy and provide excellent tonal production; the wooden pipes are made of California Redwood kiln-dried lumber. The organ is thought to be one of the finest between Calgary and Vancouver.

Tonally, the organ reflects basic principles of design which have been traditional for many years in the great and historic organs of Europe. These principles include the use of moderate wind pressure to avoid stridency and harshness of tone, and a skillful scaling of the pipes within a rank to give each stop a distinctive timbre, while permitting a proper blend when various stops are combined.

Click here for more about this organ

There is a plaque with the organ that bears the inscription:

In memory of those St. Paul’s-Trinity Church, Nelson, who fell in the two World Wars.
And in honour of those who daring to die, lived.


Nelson United Church, 2016                                                                                                                              photo: by J. Dudley


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Thanks to Dorothy Wayling for this historical research.