Advanced Search 

Home - introductions to the site
Search - a searchable database of letters/essays/etc.
Genealogy - short biographical information of each family member
Photographs - various images pertaining to the McQuesten family
Thesis - essays on the McQuestens and lifewriting by Mary Anderson
Timelines - a chronological list of events in the McQuesten family and corresponding historical events

Search Results

Seventy-Third Annual Report of the MacNab Street, Presbyterian Church, organized 1854, year ending 31st December 1927.

Jul 3 1927
To: MacNab Street Congregation MacNab Street Presbyterian Church Hamilton, Ontario

Mrs. McQuesten:

As I have been thinking over those early days of our Church and the people who sat in these pews,1 I have realized that we must in this Jubilee Service endeavor to be jubilant. It is difficult to think of all these dear people who are gone, without at least a sigh.2 Those who are left in our families, only one here, perhaps two there, perhaps more and some families who have entirely disappeared, makes it difficult for us to be altogether cheerful, and so I would say let us take another view of this case and follow the example of another lady whose story I read the other day. It was told at the meeting of the Centennial of Regent Square Church, London, England, where they were celebrating their centennial, and a minister made the cheerful remark to an old lady who was a centenarian, "I suppose we shall not be here at the next Centennial"--but the old lady said very optimistically, "I am not so sure--I am beginning the second hundred years feeling much stronger than at the beginning of the first hundred." So I think that must be our feeling too. Let us then take this other view, remembering with great joy and gladness the great work they accomplished, the valuable service they rendered to the church and the community, laying such a splendid foundation in this new country. They had brought their traditions from their old homelands. They had brought their Bibles and their catechisms and they straightaway prepared to set up an altar to the Lord their God.

MacNab Street had started out from Knox, because the Church had become too full, and they were anxious to branch out and extend the Presbyterian Church; so they came out.3 At the beginning they only numbered forty-six; but their numbers grew rapidly and on this site they erected this fine stone church. The members were enthusiastic and liberal, and the record shows that in the first ministry of Dr. Inglis their contributions were over $100,00., and in Dr. Fletcher's pastorate their contributions were over $237,000. this money was not spent altogether on this church. Money went outside to promote and support Knox College, and the various schemes of the Church, such as the Widows and Orphans Funds. MacNab Street was always a strong missionary Church.

Knowing all these things, surely we shall rejoice and be glad for those people of that early day. Who can fully estimate the value of Christian parentage and high traditions? It was the high traditions of the British people that won the great War. It is a great thing to have a high objective, and to have a fine background, and that is what these people of that day had. They had a fine background and we trust and pray that the young people of the present day will hold on to that back ground and keep themselves informed of that old Church history and let it not slip from them.

One of the things we notice, as we grow older is that in the Bible we find an appropriate word for every occasion. The Bible is a treasure house of suggestive-subjects for meditations. Thus, in the last book of the Old Testament in the very last verse we have these words "Turning the hearts of the children to their fathers," and is that not the aim of this Jubilee Service? To send our thought back to those fathers, to make us think once again of those great men and women, fathers and mothers in our Church in the early days who did such heroic work of service and laid the foundation of this church.

Recalling them to our minds "lest we forget." And so I would ask you to use your imagination. I was very much struck with that idea in an address I heard by a literary man on visiting the Cathedrals in the old country, when he said unless you could use your imagination and re-people them with those whose monuments were in these places you would lose the full value of these great memorials, and so to-day I would like you to look at this Church as I try to picture it.

It was on a Sunday morning of a warm July day I first saw this Congregation and Church. I was not born and brought up as the saying is in MacNab Street Church. I was not a Presbyterian and I was not Scotch. But remember I was not an American. No I was an English Canadian. As I made ready that morning you can imagine that I felt considerable anxiety because I felt I was on my probation. I had to make my way in this congregation, and it was somewhat difficult that Sunday morning, because Dr. and Mrs. McQuesten sat in the second pew from the front and it was a long long step from the door. Now the Church was entirely different from what you see. It was strictly a Presbyterian Church. This was a high pulpit at the end, not so high as some. It was painted white with walnut trimmings; the same as the pews were painted white with a walnut band across the top. At least I suppose it was walnut, it was that color. The pews were straight--they were not circular as it is now, and they were differently arranged. There were four square pews, one on each side of the pulpit and one at the top of each row of side pews and there was a door to each pew. I always envy St.Paul's their doors on the pews. I came a year after Dr. Fletcher. We had no Sunday school building. The Sunday school was in the basement, and at the end of that large room there was in one corner the kitchen, and in the other the vestry, furnished as comfortably as could be, but very dark and dismal, and Mr. Fletcher, as he was then, had to climb a narrow steep stair from which he emerged at the left corner, behind the pulpit where he was met by the Church Officer, who had preceded him with the Bible and who awaited his coming and followed him up the stairs and carefully shut the door. I have often thought why did they put doors on the pulpit. I wonder if they were afraid the Minister in his energy and enthusiasm would go too far and fall down the steps, or whether he might in desperation decide to depart. However below the pulpit was the precentor. It was Mr. John Wilson, there was no choir, there was no organ, and to aid him in starting the singing he used that mysterious instrument the tuning fork. I don't know exactly what it was made of, whether it was steel or iron or other metal, but I watched him Sunday after Sunday with the greatest interest, and I saw him put this thing between his teeth, and he seemed to grip it and then draw it out and put it quickly to his ear, listening intently, and I wondered I never could understand, what he could have heard that enabled him to start the singing. But years after Mr. William Addison did just the same thing when he had the choir, and he would put this strange thing to his ear and then turn to one side and say Do and to the other side and say Me. I had been taught singing but not with a tuning fork. Never could I imagine what they got out of it. I only wish when I had the chance I had asked - I failed to do that and am still wondering.

I was glad that though Dr. Inglis had left, I had had in Toronto the opportunity of hearing him - but just let me say - at that time in the Hamilton pulpit were the most distinguished preachers of the Church, and on any special or great occasion when a speaker was wanted in Toronto, they always sent up to Hamilton, and so I had the good fortune to hear Dr. Inglis, a man of commanding figure, and a great mind, when he gave a magnificent address at the annual meeting of the Religious Tract Society which was a magnificent subject and could not easily be forgotten. Then there was Dr. Ormiston in Central Church that remarkable type of man, a Highlander of outstanding presence, a brilliant preacher, unexcelled in the exposition of the Psalms. I heard him also in Toronto, when he expounded the Shepherd Psalm very touchingly with most pathetic feeling, his face radiant with Celtic emotion. Time forbids my speaking of the preachers in Knox, except to say, they had great men there too. George Paxton Young, a most distinguished scholar, Dr. Irving a notably brilliant preacher and Dr. A.B. Simpson, who going to New York rendered valuable service in the Christian Missionary Alliance. But I must now come back to our own Church pews. As I have said, the square pews headed the side rows, and on the west beside the pulpit was the Manse Pew, where sat Miss Fletcher and sometimes Colin, when home from College and often guests. In Miss Fletcher the congregation found a warm and sympathetic friend, who has been a very dear friend to me to this day. Behind that pew sat Mr. Robert Chisholm. His face impressed itself upon me almost more than anyone in the Congregation; he had a very fine head with snow-white hair; he was a Highlander and when you were introduced to him, a wealth of kindness shone out of his bright eyes; and I appreciated his warm greeting. Then behind him sat Mrs. Kennedy and her daughters. Mrs. Kennedy's home I delighted to visit. She told me many things of the Church in the old land and the Church in this and it was a privilege to hear her. Behind them sat Mr. And Mrs. Alexander Harvey with their two tall daughters and two tall sons. His brother William Harvey and family sat lower down. Then in the square pew at the head of the side row sat the Hon. James and Mrs. Turner and their large family. As I think it over, it occurs to me what fine families they had in those days, large families, who all came to Church. Mrs. Turner was very attractive, kind and hospitable; they had a lovely daughter, Miss Lucy Turner, who became the wife of Mr. Robert Hope, but lived only a short time after marriage, very deeply regretted.

In the next pew were Mr. And Mrs. David Gillies and Mrs. Gillies, Senior who was a sister of James Buntin and Mrs. Angus Sutherland; Mrs. David Gillies was a sister of Mr. William Hendrie.

Then next came Mr. And Mrs. Walter McDonald and their fine family, below them there were many whom I cannot enumerate. There was Alexander Gillies and family. There was J. M Williams and his family. He was of our members of Parliament; a very active man, a very busy man, with a large family of active sons and daughters.

Then Mrs. John Ferrie sat lower down with her fine family. That beautiful set of daughters who have all now passed away except one.

And then we turn to this East side. In the square south pew beside the pulpit sat Mr. And Mrs. James Watson. And isn't it delightful that we have Mrs. Watson here to-day? Now she won't hear what I say, but I used to sit in admiration of her and her lovely bonnets. They were beautiful bonnets and I remember she had one very pretty one - trimmed with pink. (We wore bonnet in those days, lovely ones). They came and they brought their young children too. Here came into evidence the value of a door to the pew. These little children were good, they never made any noise, but they quietly walked about inside of that pew without any disturbance, until one day unfortunately one of them let his eyes rest on his father's silk hat, he put it on, and you know a tall hat is simply irresistible no matter on whose hand, if not on the right person, at the right time and place.

And then just behind sat Alexander Stuart and Mrs. Stuart. He was City Treasurer for many years, and Mrs. Stuart was a very benevolent and kind lady. Behind them were Mr. And Mrs. James Stuart. Mrs. Stuart's father was Mr. Murison he was the Mayor of the City, and her mother much beloved by all who knew her.

Then in the square pew at top of East row sat James and Mrs. Osborne and their goodly family. Mrs. Osborne was one of the great women of the Church, capable in every way. She had a fine motherly personality, kind and hospitable to new comers, taking a very deep interest, not only in the Church's work but in all the benevolent societies of the city. We remember Mr. Osborne with sincere regard, always so kind and courteous. In that pew, just about facing us sat Agnes Osborne, our dearly loved Mrs. Waller, so that our friendship goes back a long long way. How much I wish it had been possible for her to be here and she would have enjoyed being here to-day. She could tell you of earlier days and we could wish the same of Mrs. Walter Macdonald, so long a loyal member of this Church and possessed of a remarkable memory. Below the square pew sat Andrew and Mrs. Skinner and family who were living at Fairleigh Park and the first entertainment I attended was a Garden Party in their beautiful grounds; largely attended. Next came Col. And Mrs. Patton with their son and daughter. Mrs. Patton was a sister or daughter of Mr. Harris, who belonged to the firm of Buchanan, Harris, and down below sat Mr. And Mrs. Donald Sutherland, and many others.

Now we come back to the centre. On the west side in front pew sat the pupils that came from the Ladies' College; the Presbyterians were brought here by Miss Duncan. Miss Anna Duncan was a very clever young lady, tall and fine looking. Dr. Punshon the great English Methodist preacher was here then and was much impressed by the high quality of her mental gifts. She became the wife of an eccentric but very devoted minister, the Rev. John Ross "The Man with the Book," who was esteemed eccentric because he always took his Bible with him and preached from it at every opportunity. I often thought--Isn't that what all of us should do? Why should it be called eccentric? Mrs. Ross is still living in Saskatchewan and was present at our W.M.S Annual Meeting in Saskatoon last year. One of her daughters is the wife of George Mackay in Formosa, son of the great missionary George Leslie Mackay.

Then below that were Mr. And Mrs. John Brown of Highfield he had built Highfield and they lived there, Mrs. Brown was a sister of Mrs. Walter McDonald, Mrs. Findlay, and Mrs. Dr. Malloch. Behind sat Mr. And Mrs. Plummer Dewar and family, who lived at Chedoke, a very beautiful place.

Then further down - I am not so clear about that - because you see they were behind our pew, but I know Mr. Donald McPhie and Mr. William Murphy and others were there and on this side, the east centre, immediately behind us sat Mr. John I. McKenzie and Mrs. McKenzie and their beautiful family. They were a really handsome family, and they were just as good as they were handsome and that is saying a great deal.

Below them sat the family of Mr. Thomas Smith, whose son rendered notable service at Ottawa in the Postal Department.

And next to them sat Mr. Angus Sutherland and Mrs. Sutherland and their family. Never shall we forget how Mr. Sutherland used to rouse us all out of the spirit of dulness[sic] at some of our meetings, with the "Famer's Boy." You would never forget it if you once heard it sung by him. He was always ready, cheerful and willing.

Below that sat Mr. And Mrs. Alex Turner, and Dr. and Mrs. Macdonald with their large and fine looking families. All most loyal and liberal supporters of the church. I cannot place more very positively because you see they were behind me.

In the gallery, facing the pulpit, in the front seat, sat the Hon. Isaac and Mrs.Buchanan. The front seat of the gallery was the seat of honor in the Scottish Churches. They were great up-holders of the Church, not only this Church, but many Churches throughout the Country. Mr. Buchanan gave $250 to every Church that would take the name of Knox so that Knox's name should never be forgotten in Canada. Mrs. Buchanan was a distinguished lady with a beautiful face and fine executive ability.

Then Mr. James Dingwal and his family, Mr. George Milne the Addisons, and there were twin brothers I think their name was Fairley, who sat there and many others, for the galleries were full in those days, when there was only three other Presbyterian Churches in the city. But those that I particularly remember now, and with great affection, were Mr. And Mrs. Quarrier. Mr. Quarrier was always kind and courteous and Mrs. Quarrier was very refined and interesting. She had belonged in Scotland to the Congregation of Andrew Bonar and she knew Horatio Bonar, and could tell much of his notable family and brother, whose beautiful hymn we sing nearly always at our Communion Service:-

"Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face, Here would I touch and handle things unseen." You all know it so well that very inspiring hymn.

And here my mind goes back to that very beautiful commemoration service, so reverently conducted by Dr. Fletcher, surrounded by his patriarchal elders, it was singularly impressive and abides forever in our memories. I have specially mentioned many of these names to show that MacNab Street Congregation was large and substantial, occupying an important and influential position in the community.

And then very well do I remember the annual meetings of the Congregation, carried on very quietly, very little excitement, almost too peaceable to be entertaining. The only thing that ever broke the stillness was when the organ question came up, and that was brought up by some of the young men I often thought in the spirit of mischief, just for the sake of rousing one or two of the opposition, and after some discussion you heard a well known voice saying "Mr. Moderator I rise to protest" and then would follow the argument against the organ and against the use of hymns. Now believe that in their several places they are leading useful, godly lives maintaining the worship of God in the Churches and training their children to follow in the steps of the Lord Jesus Christ, because in this McNab Street Church we never heard of Modernism, the Ministers were too busy preaching the Gospel and striving to carry out the great commission to save souls in all the world.

I would just mention this that in the Women's Missionary Society, when we finally got started Mrs. Osborne, Miss. Fletcher, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Dr. Macdonald and Miss. McMillan, the sister of Mrs. A.W. Leitch, were charter members in that society and so let me close with just these few words, this quotation from one of Charles Spurgeon's sermons - those wonderful sermons which are still being read by hundreds. "Live near to Christ, Christian, and it is a matter of minor importance whether thou livest on the mountain of honor or in the valley of humiliation. Living near to the Lord Jesus--thou are covered with the wings of God. And underneath thee are the everlasting arms."

What a comfort is that thought! 4

1 The Program follows:

Sunday July 3, 1927
Order of Service
At 8 P.M. in the Church

Chairman--Superintendent of Sunday School
Paraphrase--Selection No. 599. "O God of Bethel, by Whose Hand."
Lord's Prayer (in unison)
Responsive Scripture Reading--Psalms 121 and 122.
Address--Rev. H.B. Ketchen.
Address--Mrs. Dr. Fletcher.
Psalm Selection No., 19--"The Lord is My Shepherd."
Solo--Mrs. Wm. Ostler. "I Walk in the Garden Alone."
Address--Mrs. M.B. McQuesten.
Duet--Miss Annie Sutherland and Mr. C. Bolton.
Address--Mr. Alex Leitch, Nelson, B.C.
Offering--(For Sunday School Missionary Fund).
Hymn No. 701--"God be With You Till We Meet Again."
God Save the King.

2 William Smith also gives his memories of MacNab St. Church from the 1860's to 1886, in a letter to James Chisholm on May 2, 1930, see W8422a.

3 Biographical sketch/Administrative History MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, Hamilton was established in 1854 as Hamilton's second Free Church congregation. It began as a preaching station as an expansion of Knox Presbyterian Church Hamilton, Knox having expanded considerably since its beginning ten years before. Its first regular service was held in Mechanics' Hall, James Street North, with MacNab's first minister Rev. David Inglis officiating. The Rev. Inglis served from 1855, until in 1972 when he accepted a position as Professor at Knox College. A site for a new church was secured at Hunter and MacNab Streets and a first church was built in 1854. In 1857 a larger gothic stone church was completed. A significant contribution of $6,000 was made toward this new building by Dr. Calvin McQueston, James Osborne and J. P. Dickenson. They had been Trustees of an American Presbyterian Organization in Hamilton which was closing and they turned the proceeds of the sale of this property over to MacNab. A stone manse was also built about that time. In 1873 MacNab gave financial support to bring St. John's Presbyterian Church into being. Also, in 1883 MacNab established a mission on Locke Street, known as St. James and later Westmount Presbyterian. MacNab began by renting premiss for St. James and later acquired property and built a church, also on Locke Street (SW Corner Locke and Herkimer Streets). In 1878 St. James was established as a separate congregation. Also in 1878 the Sunday School was built and about 1900 a choir room and vestry were added. In 1925, MacNab voted overwhelmingly to remain within the Presbyterian Church. Extensive changes to the church sanctuary were completed in 1934 -- the floor was lowered, the galleries were removed, a new ceiling was built, stone pillars were erected and a chancel was added. A manse was purchased on Chedoke Avenue in 1955 or 1956 and the original MacNab Street manse was converted for use of the Sunday School in 1956. (Archeion search:

The McQuesten letters often mention the "Presbyterian" which is the national journal of the Church. The journal is named "The Presbyterian Record." The site states: "Welcome to the the national magazine of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, in its 131st year of publication. Published on the first of each month except August, The Presbyterian Record exists to publish issues relative to Christian faith and a selection of current and timely news analyses and opinions of interest or importance to Presbyterians across Canada."

4 For examples of Mary Baker McQuesten’s Presbyterian Missionary Society and Public Addresses, see W7172, W7181, W7193, W7203, W8422, W8432, W8447, W0127a, several others are illegible.

Home | Search | Thesis | Family | Timelines
Photographs | Whitehern | Sitemap | Credits

Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
Please direct questions and comments to Mary Anderson, Ph.D.

Hamilton Public Library This site was created in partnership with and is hosted by the Hamilton Public Library. Canada's Digital Collections This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections initiative, Industry Canada.