Our History



“The first members of the Church of Scotland parish of Lochiel Township, Glengarry County, were Gaelic speaking settlers who had come to the township from Glenelg, Inverness-shire, in 1796.

The congregation was organized by Rev. John McLaurin (d. 1833) of Breadalbane, Scotland, who came to Lochiel Township at the end of 1819, after completing his studies at the University of St. Andrew’s and receiving ordination from the Presbytery of Edinburgh, 27 October 1819. Under his direction, a frame church was erected at Lochiel and a stone church at Vankleek Hill. During his ministry at Lochiel, he also taught the Ottawa District School at L’Orignal, and was transferred to the ministry of Hawkesbury and L’Orignal in 1832.

At the time of the disruption, part of the congregation sided with the Free Kirk and seceded to the new (Free) Canada Presbyterian Church in 1943. In 1862 the “Auld Kirk” adopted the name of St. Columba’s Church, Kirkhill. In 1863-1865 a new stone building was erected to replace the wooden structure of 1822.” (quoted from Archives Canada)


Lochiel Township took its name from the many Cameron families who settled there. The first organized settlement was in 1794. That was when the Glenelg party arrived in the present Kirk Hill district to hew out homes from the bush.

The Glenelg party had a very adventurous journey. They were mainly MacLeods, MacGillivrays, Macintoshes, MacCuaigs and McLennans — 40 families in all — and in early April 1793, they left Greenock, Scotland in a ship which was chartered by Captain Alexander MacLeod of the family of Moale. As Great Britain was then at war with France, Captain MacLeod armed his ship with cannon and provided muskets and broadswords for his able bodied men.

Finally, after a tedious voyage of 18 weeks, they arrived at St. John’s Island now called Prince Edward Island on October 18th, 1793, with a foot of ice on their decks.

Early in April, the following year, Alexander MacLeod and Big Norman MacLeod engaged two French schooners at St. Mary’s Bay, in which the devoted undismayed and unfaltering emigrants made their way through the ice that filled the river to Montreal.

From thence they came up the river to Lancaster in bateau, portaging and carrying their effects on their backs past the numerous rapids on the route. A few of them including John Ban MacLennan and Alex MacLeod, settled in the front of Lancaster, but the majority of the party took up land in the vicinity of Kirk Hill in Lochiel Township. For many years the settlement was known as Glenelg, in memory of their old home and the present name, Kirk Hill, was given after the building of the Kirk in 1820. In May 1796, 18 other families came out of Glenelg and settled in the 6th and 7th Concessions of Lochiel.

Until 1819 the Township of Lochiel had no other Protestant ministers than those of Rev. John Bethune and his successor at St. Andrew’s Church, Williamstown. In that year Rev. John McLaurin came out from Scotland and took his abode among the Presbyterian settlers of Glenelg. He put up a small wooden Church in their midst, and here he continued until shortly before his death in 1833. In 1843 the controversy over patronage, which resulted in the disruption of the Church extended to Canada and divided the congregation of Kirk Hill. Consequently a new Free Church was erected near the site of the old one.

The first sacrament in Lochiel was celebrated in 1822 by Rev. John McLaurin assisted by Rev. John McKenzie of Williamstown, and Rev. John Barclay of Kingston. The building of the new Church had commenced but the edifice was not finished, so the service was held in the open air. The next communion was in 1854 when 374 approached the table. Some of these came a distance of 100 miles on foot.
The Lochiel men were among the first to enlist in the war of 1812 and the troubles of 1837, and 1838. In 1812 besides the Glengarry Light Infantry, two regiments of Militia were raised in the county.


A meeting of the Parishioners of the Township of Lochiel in the County of Glengarry in Upper Canada in the Presbyterian Church there in connection with the Established Church of Scotland convened in the Parish Church of said Township for the purpose of taking into consideration the necessity of building a new Church in said Township. It was on the 27th day of February, A.D. 1862.

It was moved by Captain Duncan MacGillivray and seconded by Donald Dewar that Rev. John Darroch do take the chair and that William MacLennan do act as Secretary.
— Carried

It was moved by Captain Duncan MacGillivray, seconded by Donald Dewar, that the increase of the Parishioners and the decaying state of the present Church require the erection of a new one forthwith.
— Carried

It was moved by Captain Duncan MacGillivray and seconded by Archibald MacMillan that the materials to be used for the intended New Church be stone and that the size be seventy – two feet long by forty – five feet in width
— Carried.
It was moved by Norman MacLeod and seconded by Roderick MacLeod that a subscription list be opened for the said purpose and that a building committee be appointed empowered also to receive and collect such subscriptions and that the same do consist of :
Colonel Archibald MacBean
Allen Morrison
John Cameron
Neil MacDonald
John Macintosh
Norman D. MacLeod
Andrew Fraser
Norman R. MacLeod
— Carried

It was moved by Malcolm MacGillivray and seconded by Donald Fraser that the said Committee do meet again in said Church on the fifth day of May next to report progress.
— Carried
On the fifth day of May the said Committee met with other members of the Church and it was moved by John ‘Cameron and seconded by Malcolm MacGillivray that the intended New Church shall be called “St. Columba. Church”.
— Carried

It was moved by Donald MacLeod and seconded by Neil MacDon¬ald that the Committee do issue notice of tenders for the erection of and finishing said Church according to specifications agreed on.
— Carried

It was moved by Ewen MacMillan and seconded by Donald MacIntosh that the sums to be subscribed for shall be made in three equal portions payable on the 10th days of January next A.D. 1863, 1864 and 1865, and that Ewen B. MacMillan be treasurer and that Colonel Archibald MacBean be secretary for the said purpose and that no less a number than five of the said Committee shall constitute a quorum.
— Carried

On the 23rd day of June all the Committee again met in the Church and it was moved by Captain Duncan MacGillivray and seconded by Malcolm MacGillivray that plans and specifications with probable costs be laid before the Committee.

Norman MacLeod laid a plan and specification before the Committee and stated that they had advertized for tenders and some had been received with that of Thomas Ferguson of Vankleek Hill being found the lowest.

The treasurer was instructed to pay Norman MacLeod 11 pounds five shillings for the said plan.

It was also moved by Andrew Fraser seconded by Norman R. MacLeod that the treasurer be paid ten dollars a year for his service, and moved by Andrew Fraser, seconded by John MacIntosh that the treasurer give security to the Committee in the sum of Five Hundred pounds and Two Hundred and Fifty pounds.

At the next meeting July 1st, 1862, it was agreed that the basement and double windows be dispensed with.
— Carried

It was moved by Norman D. MacLeod seconded by Allen Morrison that the tender of Thomas Ferguson be accepted at his offer of Five Thousand, Eight Hundred and Seventy Dollars.

On the 11th day of July 1862 the Committee met in the Church, Mr. Thomas Ferguson being present. The contract was entered into signed and sealed by all parties.
The terms of the contract are —
1. That the said Church be completed and finished according to the specifications and plans on or before the 1st of December A.D., 1864.
2. That Mr. Thomas Ferguson be paid for the same $5,870 – 1/3 on the 20th of January next, 1/3 on the 20th of January, 1864 and 1/3 remaining part on the 20th of January A.D., 1865.


At the regular quarterly meeting of the Presbytery of Glengarry, held at Cornwall, on the 12th day of February, 1862, Rev. John Darroch intimated that his Congregation at a meeting, recently held, had resolved in view of accommodation and comfort to. build a new Church to cost about $6,000 that they proposed themselves raising $4,000 but, as it would tax them to the utmost of their ability, he asked the permission of the Presbytery to solicit the friends of the Church for aid. The Presbytery rejoiced to hear that it was the intention of the Congregation of Lochiel to build a new Church, cheerfully endowed Mr: Darroch’s application, and earnestly recommended to the favourable consideration of the members of the Church, throughout the Province the case of the Congregation of Lochiel, who amid well known trials in their history had unwaveringly adhered to the Church and its cause and who themselves had liberally contributed to the General Schemes of the Church.


In October 1865. Rev. John Darroch requested space in the columns of “The Presbyterian” to acknowledge the assistance shown the Congregation at Lochiel, and to make known the present state of progress.

The amount of Collections made, independent of the Congregation.
Scotland $ 816.25
Montreal (including Quebec and Lachine) $ 409.50
Ottawa and Arnprior $ 147.48
Belleville $ 33.04
Kingston $ 111.45
Martintown $ 22.50
Lancaster and Williamstown $ 61.90
Jos. Croil, Esq. $ 10.00
R. W. Cameron, New York $ 137.00
A Friend $ 20.00
TOTAL $1,769.12
From Festivals and a Bazaar $ 441.62

“To the very many donors who have contributed to this amount we feel called upon to take this opportunity of giving a public expression of sincerest thanks.”
Rev. Darroch could not, however, at this time report the completion of the work but that, “it is now in a fair way towards it.” It. is now being closed in, so far as to encourage the hope that the close of the Fall will leave it in a condition fit for use during the coming winter. We may state that Divine Service was held under the new roof the first Sabbath of this month. I may conclude by stating that the building thus far is the admiration of all, both as regards the plan and the execution of the work and if completed according to the design, and as carried out thus far, will make ample amends for a temporary delay.”

Lochiel, October 1865 J. DARROCH


The new Church was named after the Irish Missionary to Scotland, Columba of Gartan County Donegal, who at 43 led a colony of monks to the Island of Iona which had been granted to him by the King of Dalriada, Northern Ireland.

Columba was born in 521 and studied under Finian of Moville and Finian of Clonard and in 551 was ordained a priest. He founded a number of Churches in Ireland and the famous monastery at Derry (Daire Calgaich).

On arrival at Iona he erected a Church and a monastery and in 565 applied himself to the task of converting the Picts. By his preaching his holy life and miracles he converted the whole of northern Scotland and established many monasteries there, with Iona becoming the mother house.

The last years of his life were spent at Iona, where he was already revered as a Saint. He died on June 8th, 597.

On May 5th, 1862 the building committee met with other members of the Church and it was moved by John Cameron and seconded by Malcolm MacGillivray that the intended new Church be called St. Columba Church. This motion was approved and carried and the Lochiel Church, in connection with the Church of Scotland in Canada became St. Columba Church, Lochiel, Canada West.


The task of finishing the work on the new Church was entrusted to the hands of Rev. Duncan MacKenzie, 1887 – 1908. The Trustees of the Church at their September meeting in 1888 authorized Mr. MacKenzie to collect for the building of the Spire. Three months later at the annual meeting, Rev. MacKenzie submitted his report which showed that $875.00 had been subscribed and that $62.00 was already in with 17 families still to be heard from. A building Committee was formed and empowered to superintend the finishing of the Church, with a spire. At the next quarterly meeting it was reported that $1,045 had been subscribed and that the contract had been awarded. The Spire was to cost $1,300. By the close of 1889 it was reported that $1,119.66 had been paid to the contractor and the following year 1890 it was reported that the Spire was finished and clear of debt. Also that $11.00 had been paid to George Macintosh for putting in steps to the door of the Church. The Weather vane was set in place by George MacIntosh.


The first minister at the Church at Lochiel was the Rev. John McLaurin, who came from Breadalbane, Scotland. He was a Student at St. Andrews and was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh on October 27th, 1819. He came to Lochiel at the close of the year and began the task of erecting a frame Church. He remained at Lochiel until the 12th of July 1832 when he became the minister of the Church at Hawkesbury and L’Orignal. He died at L’Orignal in 1833. Mr. McLaurin was followed by Rev. John McIsaac who came to Lochiel in August 1835. He received his education at Glasgow University and. was a man who possessed “the gift of tongues”. He referred to his Church as “the most landward Church in Canada West”. To the grief of many he returned to Scotland in 1845 and was inducted into the Charge at Oban, where he died in 1847. The Church was then to experience a long vacancy and it was not until June 1854 before she was to have another minister in the person of the Rev. John MacDonald. His ministry with the congregation was of a brief duration. Next came the Rev. Donald MacDonald in September 1856 who remained for three years. He resigned his Charge in 1859 and returned to Scotland to the Isle of Skye. In 1861 the Rev. John Darroch was inducted into the pastoral charge at Lochiel and it was under his guidance that the new Church was built. The old frame Church was taken down in 1863 to make room for the new stone edifice. At the time of the building of the new Church there was also a good brick manse with five acres of land attached and a glebe of 50 acres.

UNION 1911

After public notice had been made from the pulpit, the Rev. D. N. MacPhail opened a congregational meeting in the Church at 1 P. M. October 18th, 1911. The meeting had been called by the Session to allow the congregation to decide for or against Union with the Presbyterian Church in Canada which had come into existence in 1875. As many of the members of the congregation wished more time to consider the matter at hand the meeting was adjourned until November 8th.

On November 8th the members cast their ballots but the voting resulted in a tie and the Moderator, Rev. MacPhail refused to cast the deciding vote and another meeting was suggested.

On December 5th the congregation was again called together in the Church. This was the annual meeting and the congregation had been well informed that matters pertaining to the future of the Church were to be discussed and all were requested to be present. It was pointed out that if the congregation were to unite with the Presbyterian Church in Canada it was to be understood that the congregation was to remain a separate one. That there be no change in the running affairs of the congregation and that the Church retain the name St. Columba, but with the address Kirk Hill instead of Lochiel. It was also stated that when the application be made to the Presbytery of Glengarry that these stipulations be plainly laid before the Court. The vote was then called for and by a show of hands the congregation unanimously agreed to join the Presbyterian Church in Canada. This vote ratified a show of hands at the Sabbath Service held December 3rd, 1911. After the vote had been declared carried the Moderator, Rev. D. N. MacPhail stated that if any were dissatisfied they make a motion to reconsider, however there was no such motion. Mr. John A. MacGillivray and John It. Macintosh were appointed to represent the congregation before Presbytery of Glengarry.

UNION 1925

The question of Organic Union involving Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches was brought to a head in the Fall of 1924. During the summer months the Congregations listened to supporters from both sides and in December preparations were laid for the casting of the vote. At the annual Congregational meeting December 22nd the Congregation elected a returning officer and two scrutineers and set the voting dates.

On January 6th, 1925 the poles were closed and the ballots counted. The result was unanimously in favour of remaining Presbyterian.
For union- 11
Against- 131

The result of the vote showed that the men and women of St. Columba wished to remain with the Church of their fathers. A result of the Union vote was that fifty – four men and women joined the Church by transfer of certificates.


“Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His Commandments or no.” Deut. 8:2.

Israel had been led from Egypt’s bondage by a long, hard journey through the Arabian desert, and in the freedom and comfort of Canaan they were not to forget that journey nor Him who had led them nor His purpose in leading them.

That purpose was not merely to bring them from one land to another, from serfdom to freedom, from Egypt to Canaan. Forty days and less would have sufficed for that journey. The distance was not great. His higher, greater purpose was to lead them nearer to Himself, to fit them for their destiny as His chosen people.

God is ever the same. He leads His people, in His loving care for them, often by a rough hard road from worse to better things. From seeking satisfaction in things of this world and making these things life’s chief end, He leads them by the road of disappointment and sorrow to put their trust in Him, where only can be found true rest and peace. All down her history He has lead His Church through trial, nearer to Himself.

He has in these latter days led the Presbyterian Church in Canada from threatened bondage to clerical and official despotism into a larger liberty. He has led her through years of wilderness with its deserts of discouragement and its oases of peace and rest; — with its fiery flying serpents of reproach, confiscation and loss, and its manna plenteous in the fellowship of kindred minds standing for freedom and for truth; — with its pillar of cloud and fire, its conviction of right, leading steadily on — “o’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,” — and with the morn of freedom we may again hear the voice Divine. “Thou shalt remember all the way the Lord. thy God bath led thee, to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no.”

Montreal, 1928


Church Interior Post 1927In the Spring of 1927 extensive remodelling work was done on the interior of the present Church. The center pulpit was removed and the seating capacity reduced. The area created was turned into a vestry, choir room and a chancel, with the choir stalls within the chancel and the organ in the center rear. The pulpit then occupied the right front side of the chancel. Also at this time the gallery was closed in and became the Sunday School Room. A false ceiling was also installed which covered the high beams and lowered the roof which greatly reduced the echo.

The task of remodelling was undertaken by W. J. Wills of Ottawa at an initial cost of $6,800. The Congregation was called upon to share in the expenses of this work and from the records it would seem that they were wholeheartedly in favour of the work being carried out for in two days the members subscribed a total of $8,207.00.

A Service of Rededication was held on Sunday, June 26th, 1927 with the Rev. Dr. W.D. Reid of Stanley St. Church, Montreal, being the guest speaker. Every seat in the Church was filled and many stood throughout the Service, some of whom had come a great distance to be present at that memorable occasion.

During the Service the four memorial windows in the Chancel were dedicated and a beautiful flower holder with pedestal was presented to the Church.

The following evening the Ladies of the Church put on what has been so often repeated “a beautiful Supper.”

In the last decade the men and women have laboured together in their effort to beautify this House of Praise. A new carpet was laid in 1958 which covers the whole of the Chancel, the front of the Church and the three aisles. In 1961 Aluminum Storm windows and doors were added, while this year 1962, the ‘Ladies have made possible the complete redecorating of the interior and the new floor, by their conscientious and faithful work. To them go the grateful “appreciation” of the Congregation.

1962-present (to be completed)