Description of Historic Place
The building at Country Road 16, known as Auld Kirk, is situated at the northwest corner of Country Road 16 and Concession 8, in the Town of Mississippi Mills. The one-storey stone building was designed in the vernacular with Gothic Revival details. It was constructed in 1836.
The exterior of the building and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement. A provincial plaque was erected at the site in 1970. The property is also designated by the Town of Mississippi Mills under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.
Located at County Road 16 at Concession 8, in the Town of Mississippi Mills, Lanark County, Auld Kirk's historical and architectural value is enhanced by its pastoral setting. The church is accessed through a stone and iron fence. It is surrounded on two sides by a large cemetery, at a country intersection. The cemetery contains many old gravestones of the area's earliest settlers and their descendents, and is surrounded by trees, creating a natural border to the site.
Auld Kirk is associated with the early Scottish, Presbyterian, settlers who came to Ontario. A survey, conducted in 1819-20, by the chief surveyor of Upper Canada, identified land available for settlement, in Ramsay Township (today amalgamated into the Town of Mississippi Mills). Among the first to arrive during this period were Scottish emigrants, who had been affected by the depression that followed the Napoleonic Wars. They had immigrated to Upper Canada with the assistance of the Lanark Society. Many of these emigrants were members of the Established Church of Scotland, and, for more than a decade, their religious needs were met by Rev. George Buchanan and Rev. William Bell, the first resident minister of the Rideau settlement. These missionaries made frequent visits to Ramsay Township, but did not establish any congregations or churches. As the number of Scottish settlers grew, so too did the need for a resident minister and place of worship.
The first minister, to permanently take up duties in Ramsay Township, was the Rev. John Fairburn, who assumed the role in early 1834. He had received his appointment from the Glasgow Colonial Society, in March 1833, and served until 1842. Within two years of Rev. Fairburn's arrival, the congregation built a church and a manse, on land purchased from John Mitchell, one of the first settlers in the area. Possibly due to the controversy brewing in the Church of Scotland, prior to the Disruption of 1843, Rev. Fairburn decided to leave Auld Kirk and return to Scotland, to minister to a Free Church congregation. Services continued at the Auld Kirk until 1864, when a new church, St. Andrew's, was built in Almonte. Since then, the Auld Kirk has only been used for special services. Part of the church is used as a mortuary vault, or as a chapel for memorial services, for the adjoining cemetery. This church stands as a testament to the faith and hard work of early Presbyterian settlers in the area.
Auld Kirk is significant as an example of vernacular architecture with Gothic Revival details. It is associated with early religious structures of Presbyterian settlers to Ontario. Auld Kirk is constructed of coursed-rubble stone and has a rectangular plan. On each side of the church there are three large windows, with rough-cut stone lintels, and ashlar stone sills. Despite the stone construction, the size of the windows gives the church a sense of delicacy and lightness. All windows are of a Gothic Revival style with simple lancets and thin wood muntin bars. The tops are decorated with intersecting tracery. On the gable, front façade, there is a large central door capped by a lancet window. On either side of the entrance are two lancet windows, of equal size, with intersecting tracery. Above the door there is a small gothic-arch window, that has the same dimensions and size, as the top intersecting tracery work, of the main windows. Two of the windows, along the nave wall nearest to the sanctuary, have been filled in to allow for the conversion of the church to a mortuary chapel, with a crypt above ground. The roof is at a shallow pitch and has simple wood brackets, return eaves and a small stone chimney.
Source: OHT Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Auld Kirk include its:
- coursed-rubble stone walls
- large lancet windows
- intersecting tracery of the windows
- rough-cut stone lintels
- ashlar stone sills
- shallow-pitched gable roof
- return eaves on the gable ends
- small and delicate brackets on the eaves
- prominent position within an early cemetery in Ramsay Township
- pastoral setting in the countryside of the Town of Mississippi Mills