Description of Historic Place
The William Black Memorial United Church is located on the St. Margaret's Bay Road between the Head of St. Margaret's Bay and Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. This wooden building, built in 1821, overlooks the bay and is surrounded by an old burial ground. The building, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
The William Black Memorial United Church is valued as the oldest surviving, largely unaltered, Methodist Church in Nova Scotia. It is also valued for its association with the history of the Methodist Church, Rev. William Black, and the history of the Glen Margaret area.
Glen Margaret was settled by members of the MacDonald Clan of Lady Margaret, wife of Duke of Cumberland. They were veterans of the American Revolution and were granted lands in Nova Scotia in 1784 and 1785 outside of Halifax. The settlement was known as Lower Ward, as it was considered to be part of the greater village of St. Margaret’s Bay. In 1876 the name of the area was changed to Glen Margaret.
In the 1780s a Methodist prayer group was founded at Glen Margaret, due in large part to the missionary activities of William Black, who began preaching in Nova Scotia in 1781. Black was raised in England and in 1775 he and his family were part of a stream of immigrants leaving Yorkshire and settled in Cumberland County. He was a Methodist and without a minister in the area, settlers had meetings in their homes. During one these meetings, Black experienced a spiritual conversion, leading him to become an evangelical preacher. Much of his early missionary work he did accompanied by New Lights evangelist preacher Henry Alline. Black and Alline split due to differences over organized denominations.
In 1784, practicing Methodists gathered in Baltimore, Maryland. At this time Black was the only preaching Methodist in what is now Canada. He requested that the assembled Methodists send other preachers to Nova Scotia. The conference sent two ordained ministers: Freeborn Garrettson and James Cromwell. Black studied under these two ordained ministers and collectively the three men were responsible for hundreds of conversations in the province before Garrettson and Cromwell returned to the United States. In 1789 Black became the first ordained Methodist minister in Canada.
The Glen Margaret prayer group, encouraged by the work of Black, Garrettson and Cromwell continued to meet. In 1821 they built a meeting house where they gathered regularly for class meetings, prayer and Bible study. The first minister dedicated to serve the congregation was Reverend John Allison who came to the area in 1844 and the church was known as the Wesleyan-Methodist Church. In 1925, with the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, the Glen Margaret church joined the newly created United Church of Canada. In 1939 the congregation decided to rename their church in honour of William Black. It is believed that Black visited the church prior to his death in 1834.
The building is a small, wood-frame structure with a simple gable roof. A small bell tower, which also accommodates an entrance porch, was added in 1953. On the front elevation, and on both side elevations, are the original nine-over-six windows. On the rear elevation is an original nine-over-nine window and a later square window, with stained glass, in the gable peak. The building is clad with wood shingles and has wooden cornerboards.
The William Black Memorial Church is surrounded by a burial ground. Some of the present congregation can trace their descendants from the original members, many of whom are buried here.
The church still holds regular service and the cemetery is still active.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 183, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, NS.
Character-defining elements of William Black Memorial United Church include:
- wood-frame construction;
- gable roof;
- bell tower, accommodating an entrance porch;
- wooden nine-over-six windows;
- square window with stained glass in the gable peak of the rear elevation;
- wood shingle cladding;
- Neo-classical style cornerboards;
- black painted trim around windows and door;
- wooden front door;
- location overlooking St. Margaret's Bay;
- cemetery surrounding church, including historic grave markers;
- all original and historic interior elements.