A movement of God began in England and other places 100 years before the gospel came to Earlton. It was preached in renewed simplicity and believers began to gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ outside the religious systems.
In 1870, 37 years before the Earlton assembly began, Donald Ross (Scotland) severed ties with the Coastal Mission, where the clergy represented the greatest opposition. The next year, co-worker Donald Munro came to southern Ontario, and God worked in many places, including Toronto, where several assemblies began. One of these split in 1892 and became Brock Avenue. In 1903, Albert Carr, stirred by the death of his mother, found the hall and was saved. He would bring gospel preachers to Earlton four years later.
The railway pushed its way into northern Ontario to Earlton in 1905. That same year, Mr. Carr arrived and obtained one of the farm lots. In 1907, his hired hand said, “There are preachers at New Liskeard that talk like you.” Mr. Carr walked 30km south and found the two young preachers, and soon John Sylvester and Fred Watson were at Earlton. A number were saved and an assembly commenced that year. Mr. Carr built a house which could also be used as a meeting room. More were saved and, in 1911, they built a little gospel hall three miles west of Earlton which was used until a more suitable hall was built.
In those days, the Booth children went to the Sunday school. Robert Booth was one of those children, and later became a preacher of the gospel, as did his son David. As the war ended in 1918, they, along with many others, left the area for the south.
In 1921, Ben Widdifield, 42, was commended from Huntsville and came for gospel meetings. He was concerned about relatives in the Charlton area just north of Earlton. He spent time preaching in homes and schoolhouses, and his sister, Florence Rodgers, was saved. She was the grandmother of David Rodgers who was commended to Chile in 1977. Bruce Rodgers was commended in 1980, and Murray Pratt in 1977. Murray and Bruce pushed farther north in 1979 and saw two assemblies formed at Kapuskasing (300km northwest of Charlton) and Timmins. Opposition grew in Charlton, but the devil outwitted himself when the school was closed to them and Florence’s husband, feeling sorry, convened the meetings in his home, where he was then saved.
The assembly began in Charlton in 1923. The brethren bought a schoolhouse, and the Earlton brethren helped them move it to the corner of the Rodgers farm, two miles north of Charlton. This was a good location as these were still the “horse and buggy” days. In 1966, a hardware store in town became the new gospel hall, and Arnold Adams held three weeks of ministry on the gospel of John.
In 1927, George Shivas and James Kay held gospel meetings at Charlton and decided to unite the Earlton and Charlton believers for some ministry at Charlton. A two-ton truck was hired, benches and planks were arranged in the back, and the believers had two meetings. This cold November conference was held again the next year in October. Later, it convened on the July 1 holiday weekend as a five-day conference, with meetings rotating between Earlton and Charlton. Since 1965, it has been convened at Englehart High School.
About this time, Margaret Bailey, age 19, came to work in Englehart, between Earlton and Charlton. She gathered ladies together and had gospel Bible readings in her home. In Earlton, Mr. Carr heard of it and came to assist. In 1929, Mr. Widdifield and Mr. Bruce held gospel meetings. By 1933, there had been several saved and the assembly began in the home of Tom Houldcroft, who had been transferred there by the OPP. Later, the Orange Hall was used on Sundays, but prayer meetings were in the homes. When numbers increased, they began to build a hall (1950). Mitch Parent, a Kapuskasing contact, was commended to Nicaragua in 2008.
In 1939, Ben Widdifield and young Aubrey Dellandrea had meetings in the home of the Dave Bailey family, at Hough Lake, about 16km north of the Charlton Hall. Another assembly commenced and lasted until 1944, when the depleted timber in the area forced many to other areas to find work. However, the hall was used for gospel meetings and Sunday school work until about 1950.
Assemblies were also planted at Elk Lake, west of Charlton, and at Matachewan, west of Kirkland Lake, where Aubrey and Ernie Dellandrea initially put up a portable hall. After the gospel meeting, Bert Howard would go to the Ojibway chief’s house in town for another meeting while the chief interpreted. The Matachewan assembly ceased in 1953, though gospel meetings and a Sunday school carried on a little longer. It was in Matachewan that they were in contact with young Jackie Ferguson. Years later, in Nipissing Junction (North Bay), Jackie married Alvin Cook and sent her children to the local gospel hall which she fondly remembered from childhood. The family was saved, and in 1991, Alvin was commended to the Lord’s work, preaching especially in the Earlton area.
The young brethren in Charlton were finding work in other places, including in the gold mines, 44km north at Kirkland Lake. Mr. and Mrs. Bert Scot arrived there in 1934 and started a thriving Sunday school work. Meanwhile, the young brethren from Charlton met for fellowship through the week but returned to Charlton for the Lord’s Day. Margaret (nee Bailey), now married and living in Kirkland Lake, was again active in the gospel. Mr. Widdifield and Mr. Miller held gospel meetings, and in 1938, another assembly commenced.
In 1946, Ernie and Aubrey Dellandrea had gospel meetings in Tom Clark’s home. Here John Smith’s war bride was saved, and also her mother. John was a nephew of Ben Widdifield. The work grew slowly, and in 1950, Ernie Dellandrea purchased a lot from the Hudson Bay Gold Mine for $800. He, Mr. Widdifield, and the believers, worked while the neighbors opposed the building of a “church” on their street. Bert Grainger and Harry McCready had the first series in the hall and some professed.
In the 1980s, college students from Iran, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria heard the gospel here. Senan Eldon heard Alan Parks singing on the radio, wrote for information, was contacted, and converted from native magic. Returning home to northern Nigeria with great zeal, he saw several assemblies planted.
In this summary, we have journeyed from Scotland to Toronto and then to the area around Earlton (six assemblies), north to Kapuskasing, and abroad to Chile, Nicaragua, and Nigeria. It is for good reasons the Lord spoke of his word as “Seed.” What potential! Where am I planting this week, and who can tell what it will become or where it will blossom?