The first Presbyterian Church in Port Hammond was built in 1910. The congregation had been meeting for some time in a local hall and it was time for a building of its own.
A newspaper article lists the minister as Rev. George Findlay, who was assisted by a board of managers. The efforts of this body, plus the Ladies Aid and congregation membership were credited with getting the project to its grand opening in September.
We do not have records of those earliest days of the Presbyterian Ladies Aid, but we do have minutes of their meetings from 1913 on.
The core group of the Ladies Aid were the wives of the men on the managing board. The rest were members of the congregation. All were identified by their marital status – Mrs. or Ms. No first names are ever used.
At the first meeting we have record of – Nov. 6, 1913 – there were seven women present. A letter was read into the record, thanking the women for their donations of vegetables to the Children’s Aid Society. Even in those early days, there were poor and neglected children.
The next order of business was to strike a committee to purchase a new stove for the church. This would be the heating sort of stove rather than one for cooking. Members decided to spend no more than $18 on it.
Later, they agree to pay the church phone bill and also put $30 towards the minister’s salary. They finished with a decision to get an estimate on the varnishing and kalsomining (a kind of whitewash) of the building exterior.
From meeting after meeting, it was clear that this small, but determined group of women was looking after all the building expenses and maintenance with funds raised through near-constant baking and household goods sales and sponsored dances. This was in addition to running their households and caring for their children.
The men were not uninvolved, but their primary work was to feed and house their family, with church duties consisting mainly of meetings unless the women pressed them into service as heavy lifters.
Congregation members were also paying into the church via collection plate or subscription, but no details of those funds are included in the ladies’ minutes.
The minutes of this small group are incredibly valuable in telling the story of day-to-day life for women in that era. The population for the whole of Maple Ridge had barely passed 1,000 and people lived on relatively isolated farms.
The churches were hubs of social life, as well as being vital to the development of infrastructure in the community. They also provided social services that were not available from any other source.
The John and Mamie Chatwin family, who were charter members of the church management board and the Ladies Aid, retained the minutes after church union in 1926, when the minutes end.
They were kept by the family until donated by descendant Nancy McCulloch.
We are so grateful to the Chatwin family for the careful curation of these records and ask that other families give a thought to finding a permanent home for these kinds of records that have been left in your care.
Even if the records of the group or person were not created in Maple Ridge, museum staff can help find the best destination. This is history with no backup copies. Once lost, it is gone forever.
Val Patenaude is director of the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.