Having expressed concern over the closing of Hyde Park United Church, I was pleased to see two rural United Churches celebrating birthdays this month. Vanneck United Church, at the corner of Vanneck and Ilderton roads, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Once known as the English Settlement Church, the congregation was first established in 1825 and relocated twice before building the present sanctuary. The church is an excellent example of the simple but elegant architecture of 1860 and was one of the first country churches in this area to have a pipe organ.
Also celebrating an anniversary this month is Malahide United Church, at Imperial Road and Calton Line in Elgin County. This is also not the original building for the congregation, its precursor dating back to 1857. The current Malahide building is younger than Vanneck, dating to just 1910, but it's also an attractive example of southwestern Ontario's Christian heritage.
Coincidentally, both these churches are located at the sites of long-vanished hamlets. In the 1880s, Vanneck consisted of a post office, shoemaker, tile maker, doctor and general store with a population of about 50. Malahide Church was located at the hamlet of Dunboyne, which at the same time period consisted of a post office, schoolhouse, shoemaker and the Dunboyne Cheese and Butter Factory. After the cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1910, the large crowd gathered for the event strolled over to the cheese factory for a celebration supper.
There's nothing at either Vanneck or Dunboyne today to suggest these intersections were once little settlements. So there's yet another reason to conserve historic churches - many of them are the last remaining reminders of extinct communities.