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Visiting the historic Erskine Church: memories of 19th century Pickering, Ontario

Updated on February 23, 2016
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
The Erskine Church, Pickering
The Erskine Church, Pickering | Source
Another view of the Erskine Church, Pickering
Another view of the Erskine Church, Pickering | Source
Map location of Pickering, Durham Region
Map location of Pickering, Durham Region | Source

The living past in the Durham Region

In the Durham Region's Pickering, the Erskine Church serves as a link of continuity with the city's past.

19th century origins

Already by 1954, the church building's centenary was being commemorated. An historical booklet was issued for this centenary and may be viewed in the Pickering Public Library. The Erskine Church has sometimes been called the White Church and certainly its exterior is kept well painted in this colour.

The inception of the church was through Presbyterians who mainly hailed from Scotland. Earlier in the 19th century, a Presbyterian group met locally in a log schoolhouse. Records indicate that for Pickering's Presbyterians the events surrounding Mackenzie's Rebellion of 1837 were subjected to most lively discussion. It is fair to note, however, that the tenor of existing records regarding Presbyterians in Pickering in the mid-19th century seems to indicate an emphasis on matters of Scripture study and matters of the spirit, rather than on the wider issues of secular politics.

In 1854, the cost of the building was said to amount to one thousand dollars. Very shortly after its inception, it became known as the Erskine Church.

1932 move and preservation

Originally built about 100 metres nearer to Fairport Road, in 1932 the Erskine Church building was moved to its present location, still near the intersection of Fairport and Finch Roads. Despite the move, the building was kept essentially intact and much of the original wooden furnishings may still be seen in its interior.

For decades already, the Pickering Council has taken an active interest in the preservation of this important piece of local history.

Other local features

In the nearby cemetery, a Pioneer Memorial monument, referred to sometimes as a cairn, recalls early European settlers in the area. First Nations inhabitants of the Pickering area, and other historical information, are also described on information panels situated at the junction of the Pickering Waterfront with the end of Liverpool Road.

The local history section of Pickering Library, situated in the CIty Hall complex on The Esplanade, contains valuable documents regarding the religious and secular history of the former Pickering Township.

Also worth visiting

The immediate Durham region has various buildings and structures of historic interest. A few of these include:

Post Hill House , Ajax (distance: approx. 11 kilometres) which dates from 1855, this building, restored recently, demonstrates the Rural Gothic Revival architectural style.

McKay House, Ajax (distance: approx. 13.6 kilometres) this structure, which dates from 1854, is the only 2 story fieldstone house still existing in Ajax. Sometimes known also as Charnacy, this name refers to the original owner's birthplace in Scotland.

Pickering Museum Village , Greenwood (distance: approx. 15.1 kilometres), situated on Duffins Creek , it contains various examples of interesting, heritage buildings, including a Temperance Hotel, a number of barns, a blacksmith's and woodworking shop, Redman House, a Bible Christian Chapel, a General Store, and a Gift Shop.

Parkwood, Oshawa (distance: approx. 27.9 kilometres); this striking, stately home is open to the public. Formely the home of founder of General Motors of Canada, Colonel Sam McLaughlin, its extensive grounds and noteworthy, pillared portico are a local landmark.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Pickering: approx. 47.8 kilometres). GO Train operates a service between Union Station, Toronto and Pickering. Highway 401 gives straightforward access to Pickering. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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