Our Early Beginnings: Governor William Beatty travelled to Parry Sound and conducted summer services in camp meetings, first in a small grove near where the present courthouse stands and later in a level area above the old town beach area of Parry Sound. The Natives and settlers of the district came to these meetings in large numbers. Sometime in the fall of 1863, a meeting was held in the cookhouse of the lumber company mill at the mouth of the Seguin River. This laid the groundwork for our connection to the Wesleyan Methodist Congregation. This first indoor meeting of worship, took place in a log shanty used as the cookery owned by the Parry Sound Lumber Company and owned by J. and W. Beatty Company. At this time, there was no thought of difference in creed or denomination; those who attended felt called to form themselves into a congregation and hold regular worship services. Governor William Beatty, founder of Parry Sound, often led the services, twice each Sunday, with Sunday school in the afternoon. This influenced the connection with the Wesleyan Methodist Congregation as he was a member of the National Conference of the Methodist Church.
1865 – First Building: The first church was built in 1865. For those who know Parry Sound, it was built facing and overlooking the harbour close to where the present day trestle bridge crosses Gibson Street. J. and W. Beatty Co. provided the funds (about $600) and Mr. Beatty continued to conduct the worship service. In 1869 the congregation hired Mr. A. Hanson, the first conference minister, with an annual salary of $400 and travel expenses of $12.50. He provided services for one year. As the church progressed, a parsonage was built near the west wing of the old General Hospital and provided accommodation for the Rev. Samuel Tucker – the second minister of Parry Sound.
1877 – Second Building: With the Free Grant Lands Act of 1868 opening the lands of the interior to settlement, there was a heavy influx of new people in the area. A larger church was required to house the growing congregation of Parry Sound. A new church was built in 1877 while The Rev. William Smyth was the minister. Governor Beatty donated land where our present church is located at 24 Mary Street – bounded by James Street, Mary Street and Miller Street. The building included a worship area, Sunday school, and parsonage and cost about $6,000.
1925 – Church Union: The United Church of Canada was formed by a merger of four Protestant denominations in 1925: the Methodist of Canada, the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, and two-thirds of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the Association of Local Union of Churches. The Parry Sound congregation became known as the St. James United Church and remained so until 1967.
1967 – Third Building: The earlier church remained until structural problems demanded that it be rebuilt and the present parsonage and church was built in 1967. At this time the name of the church became St. James Centennial United Church, as 1967 was Canada’s centennial year.
Ministers: On looking back over the list of Ministers who have served the St. James congregation, there are little factual records of these men. The list below includes the names of these spiritual leaders.
List of Ministers:
1863 – 1869 Governor William Beatty 1917 – 1920 Dr. S. G. Smith
1869 – Charles A. Hanson 1921 – Dec J. J. Wheatley
1870 – 1872 Samuel Tucker 1922 – 1926 R. Lee
1876 – 1878 J. E. Wilmot 1926 – 1931 Robert Brydon
1876 – 1878 William Smith 1932 – 1936 J. H. Wells
1879 – James Woodsworth 1936 – 1944 S. H. Soper
1880 – 1882 Wesley Easson 1944 – 1951 H. C. Harris
1883 – 1885 Richard Clark 1951 – 1961 N. J. Thomas
1886 – 1888 George Brown 1962 – 1969 J. Ray Anderson
1889 – 1891 J. A. Chapman 1969 – 1979 M. Binstead
1892 – 1894 W. A Rodwell 1979 – 1985 K. Gallinger
1895 – 1897 E. S. Rupert 1985 – 2006 W. Boyd
1898 – 1900 H. Harper 2006 – J. Gaspar
1901 – 1904 R. R. Strangway
1905 – 1908 Thomas Dunlop
1909 – 1913 C. W. Watch
1913 – 1914 A. P. Latter
1915 – 1916 Thomas McAteer