The Madill Church Preservation Society (MCPS) is getting closer to their goal of restoring this historic building that was, just a few years ago, slated for demolition.
“Madill Church is one of the few remaining square log buildings in the province, and it’s historically and architecturally significant,” says Anne Collins, MCPS vice president. “It’s also one of the first pioneer churches that was built in Muskoka.”
Construction of the church began in 1872 on an acre of land donated by John Madill. It was completed in 1873 at a cost of about $600; each family in the congregation donated two round logs and labour to help with the build.
Many of Huntsville’s early settlers are interred in the adjacent cemetery, which is owned by the Town of Huntsville, including the town’s namesake, Captain George Hunt.
The Madill Church Preservation Society formed in 2017, at a time when the church was slated for demolition by the United Church of Canada, for the purpose of restoring, maintaining, and preserving the church.
The society’s members—Carolynn MacKay, president; Anne Collins, vice president; Lynda McLeod, secretary; Donna Collins, treasurer; Keith Collins, Barry Groomes, Ann Curley, and Cynthia Hampton—are eager to see their years-long passion come to fruition.
The society engaged Portico Timber Frames out of Dorset, which has completed major restoration and remedial work on two historic ranger cabins in Algonquin Park, to determine what needed to be done to stabilize the walls and foundation of Madill Church, and an estimated cost for the needed repairs.
They’ll need about $200,000 to do all of the work needed, including restoring the drystone foundation, restoring the log walls and chinking, restoring the windows, replacing the roof, and refurbishing the vestibule, and are aiming to have at least $100,000 of that secured by 2022 so that repairs can begin. They have raised about $50,000 so far.
Their goal is to have the work completed before May 2023, the 150th anniversary of the church’s first service, to be paid for through a combination of fundraising, in-kind donations, and both federal and provincial grants.
A grand opening celebration will be held in 2023. The society also plans to create a ‘legends and lore’ walking tour of the cemetery for people to learn more about some of the names on the gravestones. They are asking anyone who has a relative interred in the cemetery to submit family stories to email@example.com.
MCPS also hopes that the church building will be used by the community—it will be available to rent as a venue for events like art shows or small concerts, and by families for small gatherings. Donations and rental fees will help to cover annual operating costs of about $3,000, including insurance, property taxes, supplies, and bank fees.
To help promote both the fundraising campaign and the church as a venue in future, the society is seeking a volunteer to help with social media and marketing, someone who has some experience with both as well as an interest in local history, says Collins. Anyone interested can contact Carolynn MacKay at 705-788-4696.
As a fundraising event, MCPS hopes to co-host a Top 50 Pike Series tournament in May, COVID restrictions permitting. Anyone interested in volunteering to help or in learning more about it can contact Carolynn MacKay at 705-788-4696.
Learn how to make a donation to help with the Madill Church restoration at madillchurch.wordpress.com. One-time or recurring monthly donations can be made via CanadaHelps. Donors will receive a tax receipt, and a donor recognition program will acknowledge both past and future donors.
“We recognize at this time that there are a lot of worthy charities out there,” says Collins. “We are really hoping that they might consider us worthy as well, and will help us save a truly unique and important piece of Huntsville’s history.”
Read more about the Madill Church Preservation Society here.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!