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The road around Conception Bay was commenced in the time of Governor Cochrane about 1825. The territory it passed through is one of the best farming districts in the Island and Robert Miller of Portugese Cove and his brother-in-law, Blacksmith Moyse, an Englishman, determined to take up land in the new district, seven or eight miles south (up the Bay) from their rocky village. They were the first settlers at Topsail, and they were soon joined by other Methodists named, Downe, Towlow, Butler, and Allan, which names are still to be found in the village. These people were visited by Methodist ministers from St. John’s, and soon a church was built at Topsail which was used for many years until superseded by the present neat building (1925).
Rev. Joseph Gaetz, who was junior minister in St. John’s (1864-67) ranged this shore and pushed forward building a church at the Gullies some miles farther up the Bay. His successor, not so sanguine, sold it to the Church of England which still uses it for a school after occupying it for a church for years. Years later, Rev. George Boyd again found an entrance to the Gullies and built a small school which still stands and in which occasional preaching services are held. When the first church at Topsail was taken down the material was used to build a very pretty church at Long Pond, which was equipped with furniture and seats from the West End Presbyterian Church when that was discontinued. Long Pond, through the lack of regular ministerial supply and invasion of the Salvation Army, was lost to the Methodist Church.
The parsonage at Topsail was built during the pastorate of Mark Fenwick (1886-88). Of the early Methodist settlers mentioned, Robert Miller, lived to be a very old man and died sitting in his chair with his finger marking his place in the book of Hebrews. He was scarcely ever seen in his later days without the Bible in his hand. Miss Miller, probably the best known poet in Newfoundland, is descended of this old pioneer. Mr. Moyse was paralysed, comparatively early in life, but lived as an invalid to a great age.
Mr. Isaac Morris, able local preacher and devoted church worker, was contributed to the Methodism of St. John’s (Gower St.) By the Topsail community.
Topsail first appears as a separate circuit in the Minutes of 1886 with Mark Fenwick as Pastor. He was succeeded as follows: 1888 - W. H. Adams; 1889 - S. Snowden; 1891 - John Reay; 1894 - A. Hill; 1897 - F. G. Willey; in 1900 Bell Island appeared attached to Topsail with Jessie Hayfield as pastor, assisted by Supply, but in 1901 Bell Island was connected with Pouch Cove; 1904 - F. G. Milley; 1908 - James Nurse; in 1912 Mr. Nurse became a supernumerary but continued to reside at Topsail and carried on the work as a supply assistant by local preachers from the city.
In 1924 a young preacher named Povey, just out from Wales, connected with Gower Street, St. John’s, as assistant supplied Topsail and met with much encouragement but through a break in health was obliged to relinquish his work early in 1925 and return to England. There is still good stock in Topsail and a large population round the shore should be cultivated by the appointed of a strong and zealous ministerial supply. In 1924, S. Watcher was appointed as supply for this mission.
First Reference Topsail in 1832
Newfoundland Minute book of the Nfld. District of the English Wesleyan Methodist Conference Volume 1. 1832
A few inhabitants here, visited several times during year, A class formed, but no leader (began to collect material for chapel at Topsail) page 117
J. Pickovant, J. Tompkins
Has not been visited this year as only one man on this circuit.
In 1836 there were 44 Dissenters on the South Shore of Conception Bay.
Topsail, a place about twelve miles from here we have lately opened a neat place of worship which will contain about 150 people. All the inhabitants attended on the occasion and enjoyed the services of the day. This place and Portugal Cove and Pouch Cove and Quidi Vidi are frequently visited by us and our excellent local preacher, and at each of which we have a class and hope from these efforts that souls may be saved.
J. J. Smithies
Societies at Quidi Vidi, Topsail and Pouch Cove, but the latter two suffer much loss for want of the stated means of grace.
A chapel is an unfinished state and a small Society. A place of promise but suffers from the want of a competent person to take charge of the class.
Visited by local preacher and missionary when possible.
Work in Portugal Cove and Topsail same as before.
Provincial Wesleyan, February 14 (5 min. speeches)
Outport Aid Meetings -
Tuesday, January 23
To Topsail next day. St. John’s ladies accompanied. Chairman, Mr. Gear, He promised 25 pounds, if they started a new church and had it covered in 12 months. He had erected a summer cottage there. Notice was given by the resident minister, Rev. G. Gaetz, that all concerned would meet at 7 p.m. next day with horses, and slides, and axes, and proceed at once to the woods to cut a frame for the new church. J. C. January 24, 1866.
Wesleyan - October 25, 1871
The old church in Topsail which was opened in 1837 by Rev. J. S. Addy has been recently superseded by a new substantial and elegant structure. Sunday, September 17, preached the last sermon in the old church, and a fortnight later opened the new one. Offering $100. Church is 50 feet long. Provision is made in the interior for a S. S. Room, and the meeting of the Society Class.
St. John’s, October, 1871
Wesleyan - March 15, 1865
Our circuit outport aid meetings have been held at Topsail, Portugal Cove and Pouch Cove. The object of these meetings is to aid in support of a third minister at present labouring in the outports of the St. John’s Circuit. They proved to be a decided success. At Topsail our little church was crowded. At Hopewell, we have commenced a church which we hope to finish next fall. Pouch Cove was filled.
Sunday School Reports
School formed last year (1832), only one person to conduct it.
1836 - 16 pupils - 1 teacher.
Page Contributed by Barbara McGrath
Page Transcribed by Ivy F. Benoit (January 2001)
Page Revised by Oct 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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