Description of Historic Place
The Argyle Historic Church and Cemetery are located on a hill easily viewed from Highway 103 at Frost Corner, Argyle, on the south shore of Nova Scotia. The present church was the third church built on this site, and was built between 1877 and 1887. The cemetery was established in 1776 and was used until 1891. The church, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Argyle Historic Church and Cemetery is valued for its association with the settlement of New England Planters in Argyle Township; as one of the earliest cemeteries in the area; and for its association with Reverend John Frost.
The history of this congregation goes back to the settlement of the Argyle area by New England Planters in the 1760s. Although the date is unknown, a Congregationalist Meeting House was erected on this site soon after initial settlement; most likely under the direction of Reverend John Frost, the first Protestant minister ordained in what is now Canada. Frost, as well as the evangelist Henry Alline, preached in this meeting house.
Frost served the congregation until his death and is buried in the adjoining cemetery. In 1782, Henry Alline's preaching resulted in the formation of three "Gospel Churches" on the south shore, one of which was at Argyle, which was the first Protestant church established in Argyle.
In 1806, a second "great awakening" swept western Nova Scotia; the Reverend Enoch Towner's preaching brought it to Argyle and he formed a Baptist church with one-hundred-and-fifty members. As a result, a new building was erected on the same site. This structure burned in 1865 and the present church, built on the same site and was opened for worship in 1877; however construction was not completed until 1887. It remained in use until 1975. In 1985, the Glenwood and Argyle's Women's Institute undertook restoration and maintenance of the Argyle Historical Church as the oldest surviving Protestant Church in Argyle.
The adjoining cemetery was established in the 1760s until 1891, when a new cemetery was started nearby. The church is no longer in service; however it is open to the public during the summer months for tours.
Greek Revival in style, the Argyle Historic Church was designed by Yarmouth County architect, James Kinney. It was constructed on the front gable or temple plan, with a steeply pitched gable roof. The front tower has a central double door and long curved Gothic Revival style windows. The decorative Classical cornerboards are designed to resemble twin pillars extending up to the cornice. Originally there was a large spire that was used by fishermen as a navigational landmark. It was removed in the 1930s and replaced by the present tower.
An inventory by the Yarmouth County Historical Society Gravestone Inventory Project revealed that there are 548 markers remaining in old burial ground. Of these, 83% are unmarked graves, with only fieldstones marking the location of remains. The remaining 17% are inscribed, including the one for Reverend John Frost. The oldest recorded tombstone in the graveyard is dated 1776; however the cemetery has been in use since the 1760s when New England Planters first settled in Argyle. Also buried in the cemetery is Caleb Slocum, a Warden of the Municipality of Argyle and uncle to Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail alone around the world.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 119
Character-defining elements of the Argyle Historic Church include:
- single storey, wood construction;
- massing typical of Classical Revival structures;
- steeply pitched gable roof;
- central tower on the front façade;
- central double door with a long curved Gothic Revival style window above;
- side walls with four bay façade of curved Gothic Revival style windows;
- Classical decorative cornerboards;
- chimney on rear wall.
Character-defining elements of the Argyle Historic Church Cemetery include:
- mature trees;
- original and historic grave stones and monuments;
- grass-covered interment areas;
- stone wall enclosure with stone step entrance;
- location adjacent to the Argyle Historic Church.