Haliburton United Church began with the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in 1875, which then joined with the First Methodist Church (established in the 1870s) as the Union Church in 1918, later named the United Church in 1925.
The current church sanctuary was constructed in 1912 by the First Methodist Church and has been expanded through several major renovations over the years that were funded in many ways, including a unique “Parable of the Talents” tripling of a bank loan in the 1940s.
The original Presbyterian Church was a Gothic style, built by James Brown at a price of $1,600, “not including painting”. The 24-foot by 44-foot structure was erected on the land where the Masonic Temple now stands at 20 George Street, next door to the current sanctuary. Alexander Niven (1836-1911) is reputed to have been mainly responsible for the church construction.
The First Methodist Church building was situated near the fairgrounds. It was constructed a short time after the land was purchased from the Canadian Land and Emigration Company in 1877 and was valued at $1,200.
That original First Methodist Church building was destroyed by fire in 1909, and church records may have been destroyed at the time; the first records available are dated August 3, 1914.
After the fire, the Presbyterians agreed to allow their church to be used by the Methodists and passed a resolution that “the Methodist body now using this Church building pay one dollar per Sunday for use of said building until further notice and to be paid each Sabbath”.
In 1912 the Methodists built the current sanctuary at 10 George Street. For many years it was only a partly dug basement with a five-foot foundation. The basement and sanctuary were completed at an undetermined date.
Between 1912 and 1918 the two churches operated with what was called a Joint Board. On the last Sunday in June 1918 the Presbyterian church was closed and those wishing to join with the Methodists in the new joint church, called the Union Church, were invited to do so. Thus the Haliburton area Presbyterians and Methodists predated the national union of the two denominations as the United Church of Canada by seven years.
Notes at the time of the Union Church’s first meeting read “Methodist Hymn Books to be used and if possible a psalm sung each Sunday”.
Major renovations were made in 1948 under the Rev. G.C. Smyth through a “Parable of the Talents” plan to multiply two hundred $5 bills given out to the congregation on a certain Sunday. The local bank manager advanced almost $1000 to back the plan and reportedly wondered if he should have had his head examined for doing so.
The venture was kept secret until the Lindsay printer of the plan literature decided it was too good a story to hide and contacted the Toronto Star. With the nation looking on, the church members multiplied their original $5 from one to tenfold, ultimately tripling the original total. They added the chancel and further beautified the sanctuary with furniture, pews and a new organ, and extended the basement and kitchen under the chancel.
Additional major renovations were completed in 1967. More than a third of the north church wall was rebuilt due to damage from a roof leak between the inner and outer walls. A new chimney and roof were constructed and the inside was redesigned and redecorated, including installation of memorial stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ. Each window is dedicated to members of families that include some of Haliburton’s original settlers. Funds were provided by special contributions and a generous trust fund from the estate of a congregation member.
In 1972 the old manse next door to the church, by then being used for Sunday School and church offices, was destroyed by fire. A special meeting was called and construction of a new Christian Education building was approved. During construction the crumbling stone foundation on the south wall of the sanctuary was replaced, extending the width of the basement by two feet. The construction was funded by special donations, the United Church Women (UCW), a federal grant and the manse fire insurance claim.
When the former Methodist church building used by Tory Hill United Church closed in 1988, the church bell was given to Haliburton United Church and positioned in a bell tower above the sanctuary. It is rung each Sunday morning prior to the start of the service.
In 1986-87 and again in the 1990s two denominations once again joined in one church as the congregation from St. George’s Anglican Church shared our building during renovations to their church.
The Christian Education building was expanded again in 2006 and now houses the Fellowship Room, the large main kitchen, the administrative and minister’s offices and the library on the main floor, and Sunday School rooms, a second kitchen, and storage and utility rooms in the basement.
Haliburton United Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of the sanctuary in 2012 with a full house that included several former ministers and members of some of our founding families.