Visiting the Historic United Church, Philipsburg, Quebec: Border Church, Dating From 1819
Georgian grace at a building with many memories
The United Church (French: Église unie ) building at Philipsburg, Quebec / Québec, dates from 1819, when work on the structure commenced; it was completed in 1821. Formerly Methodist, the building is thus the oldest existing, former Methodist church building in Quebec / Québec. Indeed, Philipsburg was the first settlement of what became known as the Eastern Townships (French: Cantons de l'Est ), dating from 1764. Many of the early settlers were Methodists.
The structure's simple, Neo-Classical lines give a typical Georgian appearance. Palladian window design may also be discerned. The building was executed in local marble. Its dimensions are 12.2 metres' width by 15.2 metres' length. A congregation in Montreal / Montréal is said to have assited in the raising of money for the building. A mission house, still in existence, dates from 1825. The congregation's first minister was the Reverend Richard Williams, who had previously ministered in Quebec City / Ville de Québec.
In 1837, the building was barricaded in connection with the nearby Battle of Moore's Corners. During the American Civil War period, families associated with the congregation facilitated the Underground Railroad; given Philipsburg's proximity to the US border, heightened opportunities for involvement were thus afforded to members of the church.
The congregation joined the amalgamation into the United Church in 1925 (1).
The actual building was predated by Methodist activity at Philipsburg by several decades. Itinerant Methodist preachers were visiting Philipsburg in the late 18th century, a reminder of the early simplicity of Methodist activities stimulated by prayer and Bible reading, regularly encouraged by preachers who would travel often huge distances in support of their ministries (2).
An historical plaque is situated at the front of the building. There is thus a very strong sense of history in the locality, bound up with events connected with this building, with the Neo-Classical simplicity of its frontage.
Since 1999, Philipsburg, located on Lake Champlain / lac Champlain, has formed part of Saint-Armand municipality, in the Brome-Missisquoi region / Région Brome-Missisquoi.
It is thus interesting that while the many, tumultuous historical events over the past two centuries or more have each brought with them sometimes far reaching developments which to those who lived in other decades might have seemed unusual, yet the geographical location of Philipsburg - in the Eastern Townships / Cantons-de-l'Est and in proximity to the Quebec-Vermont border has itself proved to be a significant actor in these events.
May 28, 2012
(1) In 1925 many of Canada's Presbyterians and Methodists united to form the United Church — hence the name; although some Presbyterian and Methodist congregations chose to remain outside the Union. It would be fair to say that these matters were very much driven by developments among Presbyterians and Methodists in English-speaking Canada.
(2) The lives of various of the early Methodist leaders such as John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield indeed testify to these practices.
Also worth seeing
In Philipsburg itself, St Paul's church dates from 1897, with its origins in an Anglican parish established in 1810.
Chambly (distance: 61.8 kilometres) has Fort Chambly National Historic Site / Lieu Historique National du Fort-Chambly.
Fairfield , Vermont, USA (distance: 42.1 kilometres) has the President Chester Arthur State Historic Site.
How to get there: Air Canada flies to Montreal (Aéroport international Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau de Montréal ) from Toronto-Pearson, and from New York-Newark and New York-La Guardia, with wide connections. A number of car rental companies offer service at Montreal-Trudeau airport. VIA Rail maintains regular services with Toronto and Windsor. Road access to Philipsburg is via the A-10 and Route 133; distance between Montreal / Montréal and Philipsburg : 83.1 kilometres. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to consult with appropriate consular sources regarding border-crossing arrangements for travellers of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.