A Short History of the Lord’s Work in the Cambridge Area...
In 1868, Mr. Douglas Russell, an evangelist from Scotland, came to the Galt area (now called Cambridge) where he had relatives in the Clyde and Valens area. In December, he began to preach the gospel on Queen’s Square in the downtown area. Later he was invited to preach in the Knox Church. Mr. J.K. Smith, a saved man, was minister at that time. Large crowds came to hear Mr. Russell from the Old Country, some walking eight miles. A good number were saved (including the grandparents of Lorne McBain) and the meetings continued most of the winter. As he did not teach baptism or gathering in the Lord’s name, most of the converts were absorbed into the churches. Upon returning to Scotland, he learned and obeyed the truth of gathering to the Lord's name, and entered into fellowship in an assembly there.
However, in the meantime, some of those living on Concession 9 and 10 East of Galt were not satisfied with the ministry they were getting and began to gather weekly in Mr. John Johnstone's home, 2 miles east of Clyde, for prayer and reading of the word of God. They found themselves in need of hymn books so wrote to a Mr. Taylor in Dundas who sent them some Little Flock Hymn Books.
In the year 1871 Mr. Munro from the east coast of Scotland came to Parkhill to visit his two brothers and preach the gospel around the district. Some souls were saved including one of his brothers. Until this time he had not taken the step of separation from the sects of men. The following year he returned to Scotland and found that Mr. Donald Ross and others of his friends had learned and obeyed the truth of gathering to the Lord's name. After much exercise of soul he was baptized by Mr. Ross in the river Dee. In October 1872, Mr. Munro returned to Canada and not only preached the gospel with power, but taught the truth of baptism and gathering to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Matt.18:20, Acts 2, Heb. 13:13). In 1872 the first assembly in Canada was formed in Parkhill, and then the following year near Forest in the home of Mr. Wm. Kernohan.
In 1873 Douglas Russell returned to Canada and continued working in the Clyde area after also having learned baptism and gathering truths. In the summer of 1874 Mr. Munro came to Hamilton accompanied by Mr. John Smith, also of Scotland. With Donald Ross they rented a room on King Street in Hamilton. Interest and attendance were small. They preached on the street corner each night to invite people to their meeting in the room. One night a young man of 19 was stirred as he listened to the plain preaching on the corner. He followed the preachers into the building and as he entered was confronted with a sign that read, ''Friend, you are traveling to eternity, to an everlasting heaven or an endless hell, Which?'' Within a short time, he was saved through John 3:36. The young man was T. D. W. Muir who at the age of nineteen began to preach the Gospel with Mr. Ross at Clyde and Galt.
At the meetings in Hamilton, Mr. Munro was told by Mr. Taylor of a company of Christians near Galt who had sent for hymn books. In September Mr. Munro, Smith and Carnie came to Galt and started meetings in a hall on Ainslie Street. Some of the Christians from the Clyde area went to hear them and invited them to come out and have meetings at Clyde. They started at the home of Mr. D. McPherson and then began meetings in the school house for two weeks, till one night they found a padlock on the door. Mr. James Goodfellow and his sister and others were saved at that time. The meetings were then held in a Blacksmith’s wagon shop owned by Mr. Tom Elliott, going on for five weeks. On Sunday afternoons they had Bible readings and the truths of baptism, gathering to the name of the Lord, law, grace, sanctification, the Lord's coming and others were taught. As a result, on October 23, 1875 fifty were baptized on the farm of Mr. George Renwick, later owned by Ben Hobson. Mr. John Smith read the truth from the Word of God, Mr. Munro did the baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. John Carnie was also there.
Mr. D. McPherson, in whose home Mr. Munro lodged during this time, gives the following testimony: “We shall never forget these times of blessing. Seven in our house had been saved several years before, but as we were getting little to feed our souls, we had not made much progress. When the Lord began to work we got revived, and then by means of the Bible Readings given by Mr. Munro, we were led on in the truth. His godly life in our home, and his earnest prayers, had a wonderful effect on all. He often retired alone to the edge of a wood to pour out his soul in prayer to God, continuing for a long time. He was the first to open up the Word of God to us, and we never knew any who could do it so simply and plainly as he did. In one day Mr. Munro baptized fifty believers in a pond near Clyde.”
The following Sunday, October 30, 1875, they remembered the Lord for the first time in the Blacksmith’s wagon shop in the Village of Clyde. The planks that were used for seats surely were not much to attract the flesh, but the Lord Jesus was in their midst. The families at that time were the Scotts, McPhersons, McBains, Johnstons, Goodfellows, Renwicks, Lapsleys, Humphrys, Riddells, Deckers, and others. A few weeks later Mr. Andrew McBain offered a house on his farm near the road, where they met until the hall was built in 1877, on the land given by Mr. A. McBain. All the work and plastering was done by the Christians.
Within a short time, the Valens Assembly was formed at nearby Valens, and a short time later the Galt Assembly came into being.
In the early 1920s, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lapsley lived in the Valens area and fellowshipped in the Clyde Assembly. The Lapsleys were exercised to see an assembly in their area, since the original Valens Assembly had discontinued, and with the help of George Dixon and Mr. and Mrs. John Robson, began an assembly in 1923, meeting first in the Robson home. William Bailley held many Gospel meetings in the area, resulting in new converts. Fred Watson also helped in establishing the new assembly. The Christians later built the Valens Gospel Hall on property adjacent to the Robson home.
In 2005, the assembly at Clyde had grown too large for the little building. Even though a few changes had been made, the assembly gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus in the same building that was built in 1877. In October 2005, a congregational church building came up for sale in the City of Cambridge, and after much prayer, an offer was made by the assembly in Clyde. The offer was accepted by the congregation that had the building. The final Lord’s Day in the Clyde Gospel Hall was Sunday November 27, 2005 with the final meeting taking place on Wednesday November 30th with a Prayer Meeting & Bible Study. The first gathering to remember the Lord in the new building in Cambridge took place on Lord’s Day December 4, 2005.
Today, the original Clyde Gospel Hall has been converted into a residence, but still stands as a testimony to the Lord for 130 years in the little village. While meetings no longer are held in Clyde, there will always be many who will remember the Lord working in their lives in the little village.
This history has been compiled from the combined recollections of the late Dan McPherson, George Riddell, and Charles W. Lapsley, with excerpts from “The Pioneer Series – Donald Munro” (published by Gospel Tract Publications, Glasgow, Scotland). Additional historical detail was also provided by Norman Crawford of Jackson, Michigan, and by Robert L. Peterson by way of his research paper “A History of Some Assemblies of Christians in the United States and Canada”.
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