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Argyle Historic Church & Old Burial Grounds
   July 1995, compiled by J. Atkinson 
The first settlers of Argyle arrived in the fall of 1761.  During their early days here many of the settlers travelled over land or by boat to Chebogue to worship at the "First Congregational Meeting House" there.  One of Argyle's first settlers, Rev. John Frost, preached at Chebogue for a time.  He was ordained there in 1769.  His was the first Protestant ordination to take place in Canada.  Due to unrest at the Chebogue Church and at the request of the Argyle people he returned to Argyle in 1770, and it was after this, that the first "Meeting House" was built on the hill at Frost Corner. This may have been a log structure.  It is known and documented that Rev. Henry Alline was at Argyle in 1781 and he probably preached at this early Meeting House.  The New England tradition of using the "Meeting House" for town meetings as well as religious purposes was carried on by the Argyle people during the early years of the settlement.  The Court of General Session was held at least once in June of 1803 in the "Meeting House at Abuptic."

Around 1806 a second church was built on the hill to replace the original meeting house.  This building was situated just up the hill, somewhat above the present church.  It was built while Rev. Enoch Towner, a pioneer Baptist minister was the preacher.  Some of its features are recorded in Jackson Ricker's book Historical Sketches of Glenwood and the Argyles  as follows "I can recall some of the old fashioned features, the elevated pulpit and high back pews, long high windows with many small panes.  The pews were enclosed by doors which were buttoned."  On April 30, 1865 this church burned to the ground.  Services had been held in the church earlier in the day and it was believed that a defect in the stove pipe caused the fire.  For twelve years the people of this area held their church services at the Victoria Hall in Argyle Head. 

During the years 1877-1887 the present church was built.  It was designed by James B. Kinney of Yarmouth.  It is 36 feet by 50 feet, 18 feet post, with tower and steeple 90 feet high.  On January 9, 1887, it was dedicated for divine worship.

On May 17, 1892, a bell for the Argyle Baptist Church arrived in Yarmouth from the Meneeley Foundry, West Troy, New York.  It weighs 600 lbs.  It was placed in position by Mr. Elwell and Mr. Nickerson and was first rung in June of 1892 by Miss Grace Elwell and Miss Maggie Hobbs. 

Evidence of two former chimneys can still be seen in the present building, at the front of the church.  At some time they were taken down to below roof level and covered.  A single chimney was then built in a central position on the exterior of this same wall.  There were at one time two stoves used with the stove pipes running the length of the church, supported by long black iron hooks.  Through the years, stoves and stovepipes were set up in various arrangements, and pews at the front and the back of the church were removed to accommodate the changes.  After restoration started, these pews were returned by Mr. & Mrs. Lyman (Dorothy) Stevens who had stored them in their barn for years and they are now reinstalled to their original positions.  Mrs. Stevens also returned to the church building the communion set which is now on display with its accompanying history. 

It was in the 1930's that the steeple, reaching 90 feet in height, was taken down as it was thought to be rotting. Workmen who removed it by means of long ropes and ox power found it to be much stronger than they had thought.  On that day the teacher of the local Argyle School dismissed her pupils to go watch the "pulling down of the steeple".

While the church now has electric lights, originally hanging lamps, were raised and lowered by pulleys.  These used kerosene for fuel as did the bracket lamps located between the windows, over the choir and on the organ.  When electric lights were installed, in 1941 the following account appeared in a Yarmouth newspaper. "Sunday July 6, 1941 will long be remembered in the Argyles as a 'red letter day'  for the Baptist people of those communities...300 people gathered in the old Argyle church to dedicate the new electric lights, ...The work was completed by Mr. Smith of Yarmouth last week and at the anniversary on Sunday evening, were switched on by the Langthorne twin sisters, daughters of the church clerk...The lights are on, the 135th anniversary has arrived."

Besides Sunday School and Worship Services, funerals and weddings were conducted here as well as the annual Christmas School Program, with a Christmas tree to the top of the windows and Santa Claus distributing gifts. 

The church was closed in 1974.
 

On February 13, 1984 at a meeting of the Glenwood-Argyle Women's Institute a motion was made that "our group look into the possibility of restoring the old church building as a historic site."  An agreement was written up and the trusteeship was turned over to the Women's Institute.  Later that year on May 2nd a demolition contractor approached the trustees of the church for the purpose of buying and tearing it down. 

Since then it has enjoyed a promising future, the roof has been reshingled with wooden shingles, windows reputtied and the whole building repainted. It is open each summer to the public, and annual Canada Day Celebrations are held.  It is available for weddings, funerals or other such events, by contacting one of the members of the Argyle Historic Church Building Committee.

Argyle Burial Grounds

The old cemetery beside the present church building, is believed to be the first in the Argyle area and many fieldstones were used to mark the graves.  A few are marked with letters such as "OCG"  & "WBH".  The oldest stone so marked is "1776 JFA50.  It is believed to be " Capt. Jeremiah Frost Aged 50".

Deborah Trask, Asst. Curator for NS Museum states, "There is no doubt in my mind but that the cemetery at the old church at Argyle Head is the original community burial ground for Argyle...What makes the old Argyle graveyard unusual is the remarkable survival of so very many fieldstone gravemarkers, with accompanying footmarkers."

The cemetery was enclosed by a stone wall, not laid out in lots to be held by any one person privately, but possessed by all residents as common property.  There are many graves without any stones or other markers.  Here too we find the grave of Caleb Slocomb, a Warden of the Municipality of Argyle and Uncle of Joshua Slocomb who went to sea at age 16 and at age 50 + rebuilt an old 36 ft oyster boat and was the first man to sail alone around the world.  On his return he wrote a book describing his adventures which is still selling on book stands. 

By-laws concerning the care and use of the old burial grounds may be seen in the present Historic Church.

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Donations in memory of a loved one to be recorded in our Memorial Book or a simple donation for the maintenance and preservation work on the old Argyle Burial Grounds and Argyle Historic Church are greatly appreciated and a tax deductible receipt is available.

Please send your inquiries or donation to
the committee for the restoration of the
Argyle Historic Church & Burial Grounds
c/o Mrs. Judy Atkinson, RR 1
Glenwood, Nova Scotia  B0W 1W0 
 

July 1995, compiled by J. Atkinson

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