Tuesday Tales from the Archives: Muskoka Churches
February 5, 2018
The steamers stopped at them, we can boat to their door, aren’t they beautiful? The Muskoka lakes are blessed with several churches accessible by boat. Let’s take a look at them.
Gregory Church on Lake Rosseau was a tiny pioneer church located near the site where Nephawin Gregory Resort once stood. The church was built in 1890, on the land that was donated to the Anglican Church by Michael Doyle. Tucked in the pines but close to Peninsula Road, this stone church is truly Muskokan.
St. John the Baptist Church is located on a rocky promontory over looking Lake Rosseau. William McNaughton gave the land to the local Roman Catholic mission in 1899. Within the next two years the locals raised money to build the church. The church was blessed on July 22nd, 1902 by Bishop O’ Conner. Today, summer services are held weekly and at the end of the service the priest of often seen standing on the dock blessing the boats of the attendees. What a wonderful sight on a Sunday morning.
The Lake Joseph Community Church is situated on Lake Joseph. In 1902, the Mackenzie brothers from Foot’s Bay started building the church on land purchased by the Presbyterian congregation. The first service was held on August 9, 1903. A.P. Cockburn arranged for SS Islander to pick up anyone who wanted to attend the service. In 1925, following the union of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, the Lake Joseph Church became non – denominational, under the jurisdiction of the United Church.
Until 1967, you could only reach the church by water or by walking through the bush from District Road 7. During Canada’s centennial year, the congregation chipped in to build a road and parking area. Today, summer visitors attend service just to hear the organ music. The church is often the setting for weddings and also some funerals.
Before the cottagers built this church, they went to Shaw’s summer residence on Shaw’s Island in northern Lake Muskoka for services. In 1885 they officially declared themselves The Kettles congregation, named from the rocky area in the lake at that location. One acre of land was put aside for the church and a group of volunteers put up the chapel in 1900. Today the Church of the Kettles is the only church in Muskoka that cannot be reached by land unless you are interested in a long hike.
In the 1860’s, Samuel, Issac and William White took up property close to each other in Medora Township, near Action Island. Around 1890, the settlers began to build a community hall, which was also used as the Orange Hall, and a Presbyterian Church. Later the building did not serve much purpose and was dismantled to build the Bannockburn Church. In 1921 Mr. Albert Gordon gave some of his land away for this church and at his request the church was called Bannockburn. First services were held in 1922 and by 1938 the church had become non- denominational.
St. Anne’s Church is located between two cottages, and behind the trees at a public wharf on the upper part of Lake Muskoka. It is the oldest mission church in the local Roman Catholic Parish and was built in 1899, by Joseph and George Fenn, In 1923, the church was turned ninety degrees and the construction of the present structure was commenced. The church has been blessed by three bishops, at its opening, at its reconstruction and on its hundredth anniversary in 1999.