Written by Rex Ennis
posted on May 13, 2011 22:41
The first Christian denomination on Grindstone was known as Christian Order founded by elder Jason McKee of Stone Mills in 1833. McKee was assisted by the Shephard Warren, Edwin Tuttle, William Torrey and F. O. Torrey. The original territory of the church covered the Towns of Lyme and Clayton, including Grindstone Island. An 1877 article in the Watertown Daily Times states that “Grindstone Island, where there is a small church at the present time.”
The article continues “This Christian church was the pioneer church” on Grindstone. The pastor was the Elder McKee and associates. It is not known if there was an actual church structure on Grindstone or if the meetings were held in private homes. The Christian Order numbered 141 members total over the two towns. The last church of Christian Order in Jefferson County was located in East Hounsfield founded in 1817 and continued until the early 1900’s.
The Christian Order was informally connected with the Methodist Church. At least newspaper reports indicated that they exchanged and shared pastors. Elder McKee died in about 1876 and it appears that his Christian Order also began a decline.
Services on the island, starting with Elder McKee, were led by pastors from the mainland both Canadian and American. Other than the above reference to a church on Grindstone, no church building is known to have been constructed until 1890. In the meantime services were held in the homes of parishioners. In 1873 the Rev. E. W. Jones of the Methodist Church in Clayton was given a purse of $65.00 in recognition of his biweekly services to the island. The Rev. W. Service, pastor of the Methodist Church in Gananoque, Ontario, held a service on 24 February 1875 at the home of Captain John Murdock.
The Rev. Alexander Short1, in 1890, began construction of the current church on Grindstone. Rev. Short was known as the “missionary of the Thousand Islands.” Born in 1839 in Napanee, Ontario, his father and grandfather were pastors. He became a Methodist minister and served in Newington, Riceville, Cardinal, Deseronto, Mallorytown, Brockville and Prescott before coming to Grindstone. Rev. Short used every mode of transportation to reach all of the folks living on the islands. In winter he skated and in summer sailed from island to island spreading the gospel.
Rev. Short’s efforts in the construction of the Grindstone Church were nothing less than heroic. For materials he was given an unused church on another island which he tore down and boated to Grindstone. Carrying the material from the boat landing to the church site on his back at the age of 51! The first services were held during that summer of 1890. Rev. Short passed away on 24 May 1896 in his 57th year. Since that time the church has been remodeled and maintained by an active congregation.
It is interesting to note that the Rev. C. H. Salisbury preached every 4th Sunday in 1891 at 2:30 PM at Grindstone. Rev. Salisbury was a Free Methodist; Free Methodist’s separated from the Methodist Church in 1860, primarily over the issue of slavery. They did not believe that the Methodist Church took a strong enough stance against slavery.
Today the Grindstone Island United Methodist Church continues to provide extensive facilities for the faithful as well as a social and cultural center. As a summer resort church it welcomes people of all denominations and faith backgrounds.
By Rexford M. Ennis, Grindstone Island
© Copyright Rexford M. Ennis 2010, All Rights Reserved
Rex Ennis first published his article in the Thousand Islands Sun last summer and is now sharing it with TI Life. Rex has also written ten other articles for our e-zine. He has also contributed to our History Page which can be found under the Tag: “The Place”. He recently published a biography of Charles G. Emery entitled: Toujours Jeune Always Young which was reviewed in TI Life, June 2010. Today Rex is hard at work completing another book which will be a “definitive guide to the people that made the Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands”. It is called Saints, Sinners and Sailors of the Gilded Age. In addition, Rex has presented TI Life with a database he compiled listing all the guests who summered at the New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island a century ago. This was placed online in February in Hotel Guest Registry: Fill in the Blanks.
Also spelled Shorts in Canadian historical records