Early Settlers and The Auld Kirk (By Mrs. J. W. (Annie F.) Stone) As one drives along beautiful picturesque No. 88 Highway, West Gwillimbury, County of Simcoe, Ontario you see a sign indicating that nearby is a historical site. Following this sign it heads you south on the Middleton sideroad into the Scotch Settlement. On the south-west of 88 Highway and the sideroad was the Armstrong farm. The next farms, on the east the Hamon Sutherland and west the D. Campbell farm. You turn west on the sixth line, known as the Scotch Line, passing the Henry Robbins store located on the Wm. Sutherland farm. On the rise of land are the John Roger's farms, north and south. The next farm west is the James MacBeth farm and across the road the ancestral John Faris, brothers and sisters came from Ireland in 1819. Later in 1821 he came to the Scotch Settlement. On this farm is located an old church known as the Auld Kirk, standing in the midst of a well kept cemetery which dates back to 1822. At the entrance to God's Holy Acre are two large pillars erected in 1929. One is a memorial plaque with an inscription which was unveiled in 1958 by the late Henry McKay, who was a local resident. The plaque commemorates his aunt and uncle, the late Mr. and Mrs. James McKay, whose generosity helped greatly to insure the retention of the property as a historical site. A second plaque was unveiled at the same time by Mrs. Angus Campbell, formerly Helen Fraser, whose parents lived on Helmdale Farm nearby. This plaque was erected by the Historical Board of Ontario, and reads as follows: "In 1815 some Highland Scots from Lord Selkirk's Red River Settlement, disheartened by crop failures and the opposition of the North West Co., moved to Upper Canada. Transported int he North Western canoes they disembarked at Holland Landing in September. They found temporary employment in the Yonge St. settlements, but in 1819 many took up land in West Gwillimbury. In 1823 Presbyterian services were held in a temporary log building on the site of Auld Kirk. It was replaced in 1827. The present brick structure was completed in 1869." As one stands there reading the inscription, one thinks of the long, hazardous and dangerous journey of the sturdy pioneers; of the difficulties and obstacles they encountered and overcame, on a one thousand mile trip; and of their suffering and deliverance from perils of land and water. Having arrived at this spot, they hewed homes out of the wilderness and erected a church on an acre of land which became the final resting place of the early settlers. In the quiet sanctuary among the beautiful tall oak trees, you are reminded of that beautiful poem, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard": "The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowly herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The ploughman homeward ploughs his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me." The first church was a log building, and was used during the winter months for a school. The first teacher was Wm. Moffatt in 1823. John Carruthers was the second teacher, starting in 1826. The teachers were paid directly by parents until the School Act of 1841. The Scotch Settlement School began in 1831 on the Innis McKay farm on the 4th line, and the No. 3 school was built in 1840. The Auld Kirk was the first settlers' church and the first school in Simcoe County. It also was the first Presbyterian Church north of Richmond Hill. The congregation was organized by James Harris of York (not Toronto) on Jan. 6, 1822. James Sutherland was authorized by the Church of Scotland to conduct baptisms and marriages until there was a settled minister. Services were held in the church four times a year by Rev. Wm. Jenkins, who made the trip on horseback from Richmond Hill. The firs Trustees were Messrs. Andrew MacBeth, Robt. Sutherland, and James McKay. On Jan. 24th, 1824, there were fourteen members. Adam Goodfellow, Wm. Sutherland, Alex. Bannerman and John Matheson were the first elders. In 1831 Rev. Peter Ferguson became the first pastor. However, the Auld Kirk was destined never to reach ambitious parochial heights, as one by one, other churches were built. In 1832 it was decided to send for a minister to the established Church of Scotland, with the result a new church was formed at Bond Head. The Auld Kirk carried on under the Rev. Wm. McKillican, from 1832-1842. Then under the Rev. McMurchy, from 184201844. In 1844, the congregation was again divided. The larger portion joining the Free Church, which is at present the Scotch Settlement Presbyterian Church of the 5th line, West Gwillimbury. Innisfil broke away at this time also, and built its church at the 6th line, Innisfil Township. The Auld Kirk, 6th line, West Gwillimbury, and the 6th line, Innisfil, became sister churches. Rev. Ross started to preach in 1844, and continued until his death in 1857. Rev. McKee filled the appointment until 1871. In 1871 there were so few still loyal to the Kirk, Presbyterian Church services were discontinued on a regular basis. Occasional services were held, but the church was finally closed in 1885. The small congregation upheld the standards of the Scotch Presbyterian Church to the bitter end. "Faith of our fathers, Holy faith. We will be true to Thee till death." The church never had an organ, just a precenter with a tuning fork. Mr. George McKay was the last precenter, who carried on until the church closed. Sermons were preached in Gaelic and interpreted by John Matheson, who conducted the Sabbath School, as well as Day School master. With the closing of the church, it became very badly in need of repair, and the cemetery overgrown with brush. A restoration program started on the cemetery in 1953, and on the church in 1958. The bleak little church stands as a monument to pioneer stock and the tenacity of the Presbyterians, who built the first church in Simcoe County in 1823. The popularity of this shrine as a historical site might be ascertained by the hundreds of tourists who visit every year from all over the world. "O come to the church in the wild wood, O come to the church int he vale, no spot is so dear to my child hood, As the little brown church in the dale."