Our Heritage: A Brief History of Assembly Testimony in Orillia (1881 – 2001)

During the winter of 1880-1881, Mr. Alexander Marshall arrived in Orillia from Scotland, preaching a plain and simple message that Christ Jesus had died on the cross for the sin of mankind, been buried, and raised again from the dead by the power of God. Through faith in that finished work, anyone could have eternal life, complete forgiveness of sins, and peace with God. Many believed the message and were willing to gather simply in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the teaching of the Word of God, without any denominational affiliation. The gospel meetings were held originally in the local YMCA building, then in the Kennedy building at the southwest corner of Peter and Mississaga Streets in an upstairs hall.

In April 1881, a baptism was held for eleven converts in the chilly waters of Lake Couchiching near Cedar Island, and on April 17th of that year, a small group of these believers (nicknamed “Marshallites” after the preacher), met for the first time in Quinn’s Hall to carry out the “Lord’s Supper” according to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 22:19-20) and the practice of the early disciples (Acts 20:7). During that year, over 200 believers were baptized in this area, and other similar groups of Christians formed in local communities such as Foxmead, Warminster, and Severn Bridge.

Later, the assembly in Orillia gathered in Shaftesbury Hall on Mississaga Street, and Mr. Robert Telfer also had gospel meetings in another upstairs hall at 9 Andrew St. N. known as Dominion Hall. In September 1907, a Gospel Hall that had been built at 56 West St. N. was opened, and this served as a gathering place for 71 years.

Shortly after this, a division took place, and part of the company returned to the Dominion Hall. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, a small piece of property was acquired a half block south at 30 Andrew St. S., and a new building was erected in spite of the financial difficulties of the times. The building was called Dominion Gospel Hall simply in memory of the previous place of gathering. These Christians moved there in 1938 and still gather there to this day. Major renovations to the front entrance took place in 1986.

The Christians that stayed at the West St. Gospel Hall changed the name to West St. Gospel Chapel in April 1960, and remained there until September 1978. Due to expansion and parking needs, they built on Highway 12 West at Fairgrounds Road, moved there, and named the building, Hillside Bible Chapel. In 1966, a Sunday School work began in the South Ward, and by 1971, another company formed there out of the West St. Assembly which is today known as Simcoeside Bible Chapel.

Over the years, these autonomous assemblies have commended a number of workers to full-time service in preaching within Canada and to missions work in foreign countries. The support of this work continues actively to this very day. Within this city, each assembly carries on in regular meetings as well as active gospel outreach.

As we look back over the past 120 years, to the best of our knowledge now, there has never been a first day of the week in all those years when the “Lord’s Supper” has not been celebrated in this community according to the teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Truly we are compelled to be thankful to God and recognize that “GOD IS FAITHFUL!”