Bonar’s history is the history of Port McNicoll. In 1912 the five ship Canadian Pacific Railway fleet moved to town from Owen Sound. Construction of the church likely began sometime in 1913, reportedly on land donated by the CPR. The first services in this church were held September 27, 1914.
Figure 1: Bonar Presbyterian Church c1913
Isaac Wardell was perhaps the largest contributor to its construction, donating time, money, materials and a mason’s expertise. Rumour has it that Isaac’s motivation to build the church came from a grudge against one of his neighbours who had built a house obstructing Wardell’s view. Though there is no documentation to support this tale, it is an opinion shared by many members of the community.
Many members of the congregation were connected to shipping, and Bonar served as the home church for many sailors. James McCannell, the son of Assiniboia Captain James McCannell Sr., was the first child to be baptized in this church.
It was originally called the Mariners’ Church – to commemorate sailors lost on the Great Lakes. There was a mariners’ service held each spring, prior to the commencement of sailing season.
Figure 2: Ship’s Bell and Wheel Figure 3: S.S. Manitoba, c1930
Against the imposing backdrop of the huge pipe organ donated in 1925 by the Midland Knox Presbyterian Church stand symbols of the past: the shining brass bell and eight-spoke wheel from the Manitoba, one of the CPR fleet of ships that called the town home port until the 1960’s. Fittingly, the bell was rung as part of the mariners’ service.
However, with enrollment declining in recent years, the church closed in April, 2016.
For more detail on Tay heritage sites visit https://taytownshipheritage.wordpress.com
Facebook: Port McNicoll Gateway to the North: http://www.facebook.com/groups/61683315861/
Midland Mirror, Church’s history parallels town’s maritime past, June 22, 2012
Tay Township Heritage blog https://taytownshipheritage.wordpress.com
Tay Township Heritage Committee http://www.tay.ca/en/your-municipality/tay-heritage-committee.asp
Tay Township Heritage Register
Interview with James McCannell, Port McNicoll