History of St. Andrews Church

by Edna Copithorne, assisted by Ruth Davies pg 169 Big Hill Country 1977

About 1962, Mrs. Sara Robinson, who was living with her daughter Annie in Banff, invited a few older Cochrane-ites in for tea. I gleaned some interesting bits of the history of the church from this group. 

They all agreed that the first minister in Cochrane was Mr. Ternie, who held church service in the tiny schoolhouse and later in the section house. This section house was a spacious, two-storey frame building painted “CPR red”, housing the C.P.R. foreman and his family. The first Presbyterian church was built between 1901 and 1902 and was located on the site of the present church. Mr. Simpson was the pastor. The Rev. J. A. Claxton arrived in 1903. Mrs. Claxton taught Sunday school and played the organ every Sunday. Mr. Claxton purchased a team of ponies and held services at Mitford, Grand Valley, Lochend, and in homes in the area called the “Burnt Ground.” I remember a barn behind the church, where there was a nice yard with a pump in it. That area is now taken up by the Andrew Sibbald School. In 1904 a frame two-storey

the manse was built beside the church and the Claxtons lived there. This manse was torn down in the 1960s, and the space is now used as the church parking area. The church was a wooden structure, heated with two wood stoves. This church was so crowded at times that latecomers were obliged to stand during the service, so it was decided to build a new one. The old church was hauled to the back of the lot, where it was used as a gymnasium for years and sometimes as a schoolroom. Later it was sold to Bill Beynon Sr. and moved to his farm, where it is still being used as a barn. The original church windows are still in it. 


The new church (the present one) was built by Robert and Andrew Chapman, built with local bricks from the Collins Brickyard. The drop lights in the church were taken out of the hotel and donated to the church. The cornerstone was laid in October 1908, by Mrs. James Quigley, and the trowel she used was framed and hung by the door inside the church. While she was laying the cornerstone, Billie Wright dropped a coin under it just for fun. In 1934 Mrs. Quigley was given the honor of burning the church mortgage. 

On February 10, 1909, the new church was dedicated. The first organist was Mrs. Park (the Doctor’s wife), and she was assisted by Mrs. Claxton. Rev. Claxton invited the following speakers for the dedication: Rev. Bacon Hillocks; Rev. Hollingsworth, of the Methodist Church at Springbank; Rev. R. Harrison of the Anglican Church in Cochrane and Rev. Kennedy. In 1925 it became the United Church. Ministers down through the years were: J. A. Claxton, 1903-1912; W. A. R. Whiteman, 1913-1914; W. F. Burns, 1915-1916; 1917 – vacant; W. A. Greer, 1918; A. W. K. Herdman, 1919; in 1920 and 1921 – vacant; W. S. Brooker, 1922, student supply, Per cy Halstead, 1928-1931; Doctor McKeen Reid, B.A., B.D., 1932-1933; A. R. Aldridge, 1934-1935; E. Pow, B.A. (was at Springbank also), 1936 1939; W. Little, B.A., 1940-1943; 1944 – vacant; W. B. Leard, 1945; C. W. MacKay, B.A., B.D., 1946-1948; J. R. Brown, B.A., 1948-1951; L. A.

Thompson, 1952-1956; W. E. Julian, B.Sc., 1957 1963; K. G. Syer, 1964-1966; William Dickson, Murray Armstrong, 1967; Rev. Randy Naylor, B.A., B. D. Honors, 1971 to the present year of 1976. 

During Rev. Julian’s service, a fine church hall was built onto the back of the church, and in 1974, church offices were added to this building. 

The first couple to be married in the new church was William Beynon and Chris Davies. 

At the dedication service in February 1909, the Ladies’ Aid gave a “New England Supper” and a program of music and addresses. 

The earliest history of the Ladies’ Aid is scarce. Mrs. Sarah Robinson said, “I joined it before I was married, going to it with my mother (Mrs. James Quigley). I was married in 1902.” Members she could recall were: Mrs. Adam Baptie, Mrs. Bruce, Mrs. McEwen, Mrs. James Quigley and herself, Miss Sara Quigley. 

Members of the Church Board will always be remembered with gratitude. Bob Beynon was secretary for 42 years. Ed Davies was on the Board and Session for 22 years. Hugh Wearmouth has now taken their place. 

The Sunday school superintendents with their staff of teachers have served this community since the year 1886; 89 years of volunteer service

teaching and guiding our young people! The earliest superintendent the Quigleys could remember was Mrs. Morophy, the blacksmith’s wife. Incidentally, their blacksmith shop was located where Jimmie McKay’s store now stands. Alex Quigley said, “Mrs. Morophy was so religious she would peel her potatoes, and do all the other work she could do on Saturday instead of on Sunday.” 

Vivian Riddle, nee McNamee, contributed this information: “Thomas Davies was superintendent and teacher about 1915. He wore his hair longish and it and his beard were white.” Vivian, a very young child then, thought God must look like Mr. Davies. He travelled in a buggy pulled by his buckskin pony. 

Hazel White and Dorothy Grayson were both active teachers in the early Sunday school. Sunday school picnics and garden parties were held in Mrs. White’s or Mrs. Bruce’s beautiful gardens, amid tall shady trees. The Crawfords later were hosts to the annual Sunday school picnic, held in their field near the Jumping Pound Creek – an ideal spot! In the church, you can see a plaque in memory of Arthur Crawford, a generous supporter of the church. 

Andrew Chapman, one of the first superintendents, taught a Bible Class of senior

boys and girls, and was a strict disciplinarian. His class would get out of line sometimes, especially at Hallowe’en, and he did not hesitate to bring them into court, as he was also the Village Magistrate. The church had a little vestry at the back, which was used for classes as well as the sanctuary. At times there were more than one hundred children attending. Mr. Chapman carried on his good work until the mid-forties when he and Mrs. Chapman retired and moved to the Coast. The children saved their extra pennies and bought a lovely chair for them as a parting gift. 

T. Boucher and George Bunny were also very good leaders in the Sunday school. Nancy Boothby was secretary and leader for many years, 

June Morris was the next leader. June was quite young and introduced new and different ideas. 

Winnie Neilson was the next leader and proved to be an excellent choice. Her music was a great help to the children. Every Christmas, we had a Christmas party with Santa Claus and candy bags for all. Everyone enjoyed this, especially the little children. 

Rev. L. Thompson, our minister in the fifties, was the leader of the Sunday school and taught a class of boys. 

Later on George Woods, the bank manager took over the reins. His wife was C.G.I.T. leader and taught a class of girls. Their two daughters also helped with church work. Mr. Woods took the pulpit in the absence of the minister. He retired from the bank and the family moved to Calgary. This was Cochrane’s great loss, but St. David’s gain. 

Betty MacDonnell then became the superintendent and leader of the C.G.I.T. This was no small task, by this time the Sunday school had about 125 to 130 pupils. Betty also belonged to the U.C.W. The MacDonnells (Jack and Betty) went to England, where Jack taught school for two years. 


We had had an education building added on to the church, and a new curriculum was introduced. Clarence McGonigle, the new leader, was very active in many organizations that helped children. Clarence was one of the first men to work at the new Shell Oil plant south of Cochrane. The Sunday school picnic was then held at McGonigle’s. 

At present, our minister, the Rev. Randy Naylor, is the leader. We also have a baby-sitting service so the young mothers can go to church and leave their wee ones in competent hands. 

The first St. Andrews church choir had 17 members; some were: Mable, Ivor and Bruce McNamee; Myrtle, Lila, Bessie and Ruth Webster; Steve, Charlie and Lily Peyto; George Bunny, Bill Beynon, Margaret Chapman, Dot White, Dr. Park, and Andrew Chapman. This choir, along with an active Bible class, raised money to install the church bell still being used in the tower. Mrs. Brooker and daughter Dorothy organized a choir in the 1930s, especially for Easter and Christmas services. 

Andy Chapman later organized a choir with Kelly Siple as the leader; Dorothy and Maybelle Colgan; Florence and Freda Getty; Pat and Doreen Flynn; Cathie, Vivian, and Don McNamee; Bill Graham, Tom Pratt, Muriel Raby and Bernice Fletcher. 

Later, Mrs. White, the school principal’s wife, became choir leader. The Cochrane relief camp, established by the Government in the 1930s, provided work for the unemployed men during the depression years. Some of these men joined the church choir and Ben Skinner, a well-known Calgary tenor, sang with them. On special occasions F. L. Gainer, a member of the Cochrane Roman Catholic Church, who sang tenor, would sing a solo. Many names should be mentioned here in connection with the later choirs such as Vi Desjardine and her daughter Donna, Miriam Callaway, Claudia Edge, Winnie Neilson, and the present Ecumenical or Inter-Faith choir conducted by Claudette McLenahan of St. Mary’s Church, Cochrane. 

There were many fine organists throughout the years. Bessie Webster played for a couple of years; then Ruth Seal (who later married a student minister, F. R. Vanderburgh) played for 15 years. She also played occasionally in the Anglican Church. During 1929-30 she played at 22 funerals held in the church. The Ladies’ Aid gave her two of J. D. Curren’s paintings. In 1921 she was given a watch inscribed, “To Ruth M. Seal By Church Friends, Cochrane, Alberta.” This she used until 1953 when it wore out! Her sister, Margaret Chapman, also played for years; then Vivian and Cathie McNamee. Dorothy Brooker played when her father was a minister. Alice Moore and Aileen Copithorne also played for a number of years. Vernice Wearmouth now plays for the church and the choir. Dolly Callaway and Helen Scott also deserve thanks for playing the piano at Sunday school. 


In 1953 we bought a new organ and Fred Gaskell from the Ghost Dam played for us. In 1974 this organ was sold and Alice and Bob Moore gave their organ to the church in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Andison, and Mr. and Mrs. Alex Moore. 

There have been many youth groups in the church. Dorothy Grayson and Julie Carscallen were two excellent leaders. Mrs. McKeen Reid and Mrs. McBey started the first C.G.I.T. in Cochrane. Other leaders were Mrs. Clare McKay, Margaret Klassen, Mrs. Woods and her daughter (Marilyn Whittle). 

The first Boy Scout group was formed in 1912 with Andrew Chapman as Scout Master. He took a group to Calgary to see the Duke of Devonshire, 

In 1962, when the Boy Scouts celebrated their 50th anniversary in Calgary, two of Mr. Chapman’s 1912 Boy Scouts, Ernest Craig and Ivor McNamee, were honoured by the Governor-General of Canada, Roland Michener. 

There have been other groups established since, such as the Hi-Cs, Tuxis Groups and a “Drop-In” for young marrieds. 

The people of Cochrane and the district can look back into the Church’s history with honour and respect. Missionaries of every faith, with great courage and devotion, zeal and patience, established the foundation for the present churches. The St. Andrew’s United Church has added much to community life. 

Leave a comment

want more details?

Fill in your details and we'll be in touch