Our History

Strathmore: History and Heritage

The Strathmore Blvd., Toronto, Church of Christ now has a history of 90 years and a heritage that stretches back at least 180 years.

On Oct. 19, 2014, the congregation celebrated its founding in 1924.  Its roots reach to the first meetings of the church of Christ in Toronto in 1834.  Just renamed from “York” (in order to combat the Cholera Epidemic of 1832, the town incorporated with its new name). “Toronto” has had congregations of churches of Christ worshiping and serving in it from its beginning.

The Strathmore building under construction in 1924.

James Beaty, who took a leading  roll in the fellowship, had arrived in this pioneer community as a 20 year-old from Ireland in 1818.  Raised an Anglican, he personally studied his way into New Testament Christianity, accepting baptism at the hands of a friend in the harbour.  Joining in worship with an independent fellowship of Baptists, he with some twenty of these clarified their position by 1834, and were meeting in a building supplied by Beaty at 22 Shuter Street by 1841.

Beaty replaced this building in 1862 with a substantial brick meeting house.  Under the peak, carved in stone, were the letters drawn from John 8:31, “if ye continue in my word then are ye my disciples indeed.”

After 22 years, Beaty recalled the building, and the congregation relocated, after several temporary sites (Albert Hall, Temperance Hall, and Alice Street), on Louisa Street where it met for the next 23 years.  (The Eaton Centre covers this localtion presently.)  Following a brief stay on Elm Steet, a number of members began meeting in a new building on Bathurst Street in 1902. In the meantime, disciples began meeting “east of the Don.”  In about 1889, Duncan Stirling and his wife, Harriet (Trout), from Meaford, held services in their home.  Duncan, a preacher, was in  poor  health. He  could  neither  conduct nor  attend  services, but his wife saw that they were carried on.

Reports of their meetings can be found in the Bible Index, Aug. 1889, April and Oct. 1892, and Jan. 1893.  Baptisms were carried out in downtown churches.  Evangelistic meetings were held in a rented hall on Gerrard St. E.  Samuel Keffer was one who conducted meetings.  Charles Petch and William Forrester also preached.

At some point, the East Toronto church began meeting in a hall located on the corner of Main and Swanwick Streets.  This building was owned by Edward Trout and his wife, Jennie (Gowanlock), famous for being Canada’s first licensed female doctor.  The Trouts refused any rent payments, so the congregation determined to send the equivalent to an overseas mission. In the early 1920’s Ralph Schell was serving as preacher for the group.  One of the members, Annie Jones, was holding Bible classes for children in her home on Gillard Ave., just five blocks west of Coxwell and Danforth.  This may have been the spark that had Schell conducting tent meetings at the corner of Strathmore and Coxwell.  The success of these meetings resulted in the formation of the new congregation at 346 Strathmore Blvd.

While the building was being constructed, the growing Bible classes were being conducted by Alfred Firth at the nearby Earl Haig Public School, on Coxwell Ave.  The sale of the Main Street hall, given to the congregation by the Trouts, provided funding for the $18,000 cost of the building.

The building was construced by Colin Cameron, a member of the Wychwood congregation.  He had learned his brick-laying trade in Scotland, coming to Canada in 1907.

Colin Cameron (wife Jemima) member of the Wychwood Church of Christ who built the Strathmore building.

Incorporated into the new building was the 62 year-old lettering from the earlier Shuter Street building, saved when the older building had to be razed in about 1915, donated by Benjamin Kirk, member of Hillcrest Christian Church, Toronto. Thirty-four members from the former East

Toronto church  formed the  nucleus.  In  the first  year,   there   were  8  baptisms   and  18   placed membership, and by the end of the year there were 60 members.  D. H. Jackson, in 1925, was the first preacher to serve the congregation, but his ministry was cut short by his untimely passing.   W. H. Cauble served during 1928-33, and J. Scott Greer during 1936-39.  A number of evangelists held meetings in the first fifteen years: Maitland Watterworth, Earl C. Smith, Kenneth C. Spaulding, G. Madison Wright, F. L. Brooks, and W. G. Charlton.

Jack McElroy, Chattanooga, TN, played a significant roll in the 1940s, preaching briefly for six weeks, and then recommending young men that he had recruited and trained for service at Strathmore: Raymond Crumbliss, 1940-43; Charles Lemons, 1943-46; Ernie Fletcher, 1947; and T. J. Mitchell, 1947-1950.

Robert McCready, a native son of Strathmore, following schooling at David Lipscomb College, served Strathmore during 1950-1954.  Ralph Perry, whose wife, Joyce, was daughter of Strathmore’s Herbert Dale, served from 1954 to 1960.  Ed Bryant followed, serving through to 1969.

During the first 40 years of the congregation’s life, a dozen of its young men chose to enter the ministry.  Included were Walter Dale, Geoffrey Ellis, Howard Ewing, Roger MacKenzie, Victor McCormick, Robert McCready, Ronald Meecham, Louis Pauls, Arthur Peddle, Bert Thompson and Blenus Wright.  One of these men is still preaching full time, Vic McCormick, 85, in Brooksville, Florida!

In 1954, Strathmore assisted in a church planting in Ajax, supporting its members John and Ardeth Sanna in this initiative.

Marvin Johnson served as evangelist during 1969 through 1982.  He holds one of Strathmore’s records, having served as an elder from 1974 to the present—40 years!  Evangelists during the eighties included Mark Bryson, 198283; Roy MacDonald, 1983-86; and Jonathan Tabije, 1986-87.

A second record setting service began in 1987 with the ministry of Max Craddock, whose present service is in its 27th year!

The congregation added its Hispanic ministry in 1969 with the placement of Santiago Molina, of Honduras, taking the lead. Strathmore is noted for its major efforts in outreach.  It hosted the Canada-wide “Good News Is For Sharing” Campaign in 1992, an effort to place a teaching tract in every home in the  nation.  Then, beginning in 1994 as the Canadian co-cordinator of the New Mexico based “Key to the Kingdom” TV program, it took over the full production of the cross-Canada program beginning in 2005.

Today, Strathmore is noted for the diversity of its 200+ membership, counting 32 different cultures. Strathmore has cherished its past as it vigorously faces its future, having marked anniversaries in 1964—its 40th, 1974—50th, 1994—70th, 2004— 80th, and 2014—its 90th.

– Geoffrey Ellis

The formal opening of the new entrance to the Strathmore building in 1970.