In the early 1920’s, church service in Pouce Coupe was held in the new Great Veterans’ Hall. Sometimes a Methodist, sometimes an Anglican or a Presbyterian, and at least once, a Salvation Army man conducted the service. These men just came through the country visiting, or looking over the country, holding services for one or two Sundays while they were here.
In the summer of 1931, Mr. Ernest Rands served Pouce Coupe under the supervision of Rev. Charles Roger of Rolla United Church. The United Church building in Pouce Coupe was erected during the summer on a lot on the south side of the street, where the house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Dalby later stood. The church was completed in September. In September 1931, Rev. H. Russell Ross arrived from Montreal and was inducted into the Pouce Coupe-Dawson Creek charge, which included East Pouce Coupe, South Dawson, Hays, North Swan Lake, Devereaux, Bon Accord, Willow Valley, Sunset Prairie and Sunrise Valley. Students covered the Sunset Prairie area during the summers. Mr. Ross accepted the call to Leduc, Alberta in June 1935. At this time the Pouce Coupe-Dawson Creek Pastoral Charge was divided into Pouce Coupe Pastoral Charge with Rev. Ernest Rands as minister, and Dawson Creek Pastoral Charge with Rev. Jack Scott as minister. Rev. Scott was followed at the end of one year by Rev. Jack Gardiner who was from the Maritimes.
On the arrival of Mr. Ross in 1931, the community built a small home for him and proceeded to furnish it. In 1935 on the departure of Mr. Ross, Rev. Ernest Rands came, (as noted above), and served as minister until June 1938. Mr. Rands was succeeded by Rev. Robert McLaren, who was here from that time until June 1940.
Mr. Charles Kitney came in 1940, leaving after one year for Trinidad. He was followed by Mr. Martin, Mr. Spady, and Mr. Young — each for one year only. Next came Rev. Hamilton from Dawson Creek and Rev. Bell from Dawson Creek — each for one year also. Mr. H. Hongisto who came in 1947 and remained for two years. The church was then without a minister for some months, and then Rev. E. G. Miller from Hythe added Pouce Coupe to his own field of Hythe. After two years of this, Mr. Miller moved his family to Pouce Coupe and was our resident minister for the next five years.
Since Mr. Miller’s departure in 1956, no resident minister has been sent here. Student ministers served the field for the next five years. These students came the first of May and returned to their studies at University in the middle of September. By this time the field was joined with Rolla, and the Rolla manse was occupied by students for two of these years, Pouce Coupe having sold their manse after Mr. Miller’s departure. There was a strong feeling that we should try to get a full time minister again but Rolla and Pouce Coupe combined could not afford one. After much deliberation and many meeting of persons from Rolla, Pouce Coupe and the new charge in Dawson Creek called Parkhill, the three fields were combined to form “The Parkhill charge”. A lay minister, Mr. James Nicholas, served this augmented field for one year. He was succeeded by Mr. T.W. Bell, also a lay minister, from June 1964 until June 1966. On his departure the Rev. K. Jordan came from Edmonton to serve the Parkhill Charge. Mr. Jordan left in 1968. His successor was the Rev. Robert Miller, eldest son of our former minister, Rev. E. G. Miller. Bob Miller was minister of the Parkhill Charge until June 1973.
In 1951 the Board sold the small original manse and bought a larger house for Mr. Miller and his family. This was sold again in 1956 and the money placed in a special Manse Savings Account at the Bank. All the ministers who have served the augmented Parkhill Charge have lived in a manse in Dawson Creek, which was supported by Rolla and Pouce Coupe as well as by the people of Dawson Creek.
A Sunday School was formed in 1932, the first superintendent being Mr. J. H. Clark. Mr. Clark held this position for 20 years until he retired as postmaster in 1952 and move to the Pacific Coast. There have been many dedicated workers in the Sunday School over the years, one of the finest of these being Mrs. Halliday, who took over the post of superintendent when Mr. Clark left. She did a fine job until her retirement in June of 1963. Records show that the Ladies’ Aid made donations each December to the Sunday School of $10 and $5 to the Cradle Roll. In 1943 this was raised up to $15 and $8, showing a healthy growth in each organization. In December 1944 the donation to the Sunday School was again raised to $20. About the year 1956 the Sunday School became the Pouce Coupe Community Sunday School — nondenominational — with Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, teachers as well as those from the United church. The school had an enrolment of 60 children and about ten teachers. In the year 1962 the Sunday School adopted a Foster Child in Hong Kong, Wong Pak Ming, sending $16 per month for his support. After about five years, the Foster Parents’ Plan notified the Sunday School that the family of Wong Pak Ming was now in improved circumstances and that it was no longer needed. The Sunday School then decided to adopt another child, Picardo Quiroga of Colombia, South America. Support, now raised to $17 a month, was continued until May 1972. Attendance at Sunday School had been gradually dropping for some time with older children leaving and fewer new ones beginning. So in 1972, it was found necessary to discontinue support of the Foster Child, as the Sunday School could no longer afford the $17 per month required. The fly-leaf of the first minute book of Ladies’ Aid contains the following: “Minute book of the 1st Ladies’ Aid formed in connection with the new church in Pouce Coupe. Charles E. Rogers, Rolla United Church Minister”. Records show an initial membership of 12, one of whom, Mrs. C. E. McWha, still lives in Pouce Coupe. The late Mrs. George Becker was a member, and also the late Mrs. Jack Fynn.
This enthusiastic group began immediately to work for the church, their first project being a well-attended chicken supper. Over the years they planned teas, dinners and bake sales. They served refreshments on more than one occasion at Auction Sales, and also on election days. Their aims and objects were to further the good work of the church in many different ways, and to help the minister in his many tasks.
The name of Mrs. Callahan, Sr. first appears in the minutes in 1934. The name of Mrs. Halliday in 1945; Mrs. Keen, 1946; Mrs. Brose, 1948; Mrs. Broad, 1950. There have been many others too, who served for shorter periods. One of the problems over the years has always been the large turnover in population in our town. This meant that we were always losing good members who moved away. Mrs. Harper became Secretary-Treasurer in September 1943 and she held this office for 28 consecutive years. Mrs. Halliday was President in 1950, and she continued in this position until December 1963. There were other presidents in the 1940’s. And more recently, Mrs. Young who held office for several years, and Mrs. Ireland who succeeded her. In 1960 the organization changed its name and became the United Church Women. Meetings originally were opened with prayer, but in 1952 the custom of beginning with a devotional period was begun.
No history of the church would be complete without mention of the choir. Miss Eva Morell was the organist in the 1930’s. Mrs. Callahan, a fine musician, formed a choir whose singing added much to the services of worship. This choir won certificates at several Musical Festivals. On Miss Morell’s marriage and departure from the district in 1939, Mrs. Callahan became organist, a position she held with the distinction until about 1950. Her successor was Mrs. R.L. Harper.
Groups of Explorers and CGIT, boys’ groups and Young Peoples’ clubs were organized and successfully conducted at various times. But the little church was beginning to be inadequate for these groups, and also for the Sunday School, which in 1951 was meeting in the basement of the Anglican Church. Janitor service, cleaning the church and next winter’s fuel were items mentioned at a meeting in 1951. Another item appearing regularly in early records was rent of hall and rent of chairs.
As the church foundation was in need of repairs, it was decided to buy a lot, and place the enlarged and renewed church upon a full sized basement. Several meetings were held and a comprehensive canvass was planned. Wonderful work was being done by a dedicated group of people, among them being C. T. Halliday, W. G. Brose, John Keen, R. L. Harper, Mrs. Valette Callahan, Mrs. Hicks and many others. The campaign was patterned after that of the Wells organization, a church fund-raising firm with much experience. All United Church people were brought in, interest in the church being as important as the raising of funds. The church was moved to a corner lot on the north side of the street, and placed over a full-sized basement. During the winter of 1953-54 services were held in the Anglican Church while the United Church was being remodeled.
In October 1954, Presbytery was held in the new United Church, with afternoon and evening sessions being held. On one of those evenings, the Ladies’ Aid served supper to a large gathering. Many other teas, dinners, potluck suppers and other social events have since been held in the church basement, and Sunday School and other groups now had a place to meet.
Over the years there have been many weddings held in the church, the majority being from 1945 to 1950 when the soldiers were returning from overseas. Many a pretty bride walked up the aisle, remembering when she was formerly a member of CGIT or Explorers. The first wedding in the newly renovated church was that of Miss Ardeth St. Dennis who married Mr. Norman Pederson in 1954.
There have been funerals held there too for those who had reached the end of the road and had been called home. Baptisms, too, were held at many a service, and new members received into membership of the church. Over the years many a dedicated minister and layman endeavored to do the will of God in this community, and the church has been a bulwark against the forces of evil.
But changes were coming. A certain trend had been observed during these past years on the Prairies, whereby consolidation of schools has taken students away from their own districts to larger centres. Here the students make new friends and become involved in different clubs and activities, both connected with schools, and also in other ways. This has resulted in the closure of the small country schools, and has also had a bearing on the closure of country churches, too. In Pouce Coupe our young people are taken by bus to High School in Dawson Creek. Several United Church families attend church in Dawson Creek, and their sons and daughters attend meetings of church oriented clubs which contribute so greatly to the well being of these young people. So the trend has reached here, too. Also this is the automobile age and church members and adherents can be anything from 50 to 100 or more miles from home on a Sunday morning.
In 1971 it was becoming apparent that the church could not continue. Our minister, Mr. Bob Miller, visited each United Church family in the spring. A few months later letters were mailed to each of these families, announcing a series of meetings — five in number — to consider the future of the church. The meetings were not well attended, showing extreme disinterest. At the annual meeting in January 1972, it was decided with regret, that since there was no alternative we would have to close the church. During the previous year, attendance averaged five or six persons, and on four or five occasions, no one came but the minister and the organist. The attendance at this January annual meeting was 15 persons, of whom two were representatives from Presbytery, one from Hythe and one from Wembley. Our church was in arrears in our contributions to the up-keep of the Parkhill Charge, so various articles of furniture were sold and the proceeds paid on our debt. The special manse savings account had been spent installing plumbing and a new furnace in the church. The United Church Women sold the contents of the kitchen which they owned. The organ was sold to a Lutheran Church in Grande Prairie. Certain articles were given to the United Church in Rolla. Books and church records were taken to Parkhill Church. The Church building was rented to the Pouce Coupe Kindergarten Association.
So, sadly, the Pouce Coupe United Church is no longer active. But–“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” And who knows what the future might bring. Across the way, the Anglican bell rings out and summons people to come and worship.
The last time the United Church was used, as a church, was in the summer of 1972 when Leslie Andrews of Pouce Coupe was married to Larry Luxton of Lethbridge, Alberta. The community Sunday School now meets in the basement of the Anglican Church, and at the time of writing is just the beginning its fall session. May God’s richest blessing rest upon those who carry on this very necessary work in this community.
Mabel L. Harper, Historian — September 1973
POUCE COUPE UNITED CHURCH, RECORD OF MINISTERS.
Rev. H. Russell Ross 1931 – 1935
Rev. Ernest Rands 1935 – 1938
Rev. Robert McLaren 1938 – 1940
Rev. Charles Kitney 1940 – 1941
Rev. Martin 1941 – 1943
Rev. George Spady 1943 – 1944
Rev. Young 1944 – 1945
Rev. Hamilton, Dawson Creek United Church 1945 – 1946
Rev. Bell, Dawson Creek United Church 1946 – 1947
Rev. H. Hongisto 1947 – 1949
Rev. E. G. Miller, Hythe United Church 1949 – 1951
Rev. E. G. Miller, Pouce Coupe United Church 1951 – 1956
Mr. Allan Barbes, May to September 1957
Mr. Allan Barbes, May to September 1958
2nd student, Mr. Howard Usher, May to September 1959
3rd student, Mr. Ed. Wigmore, May to September 1960
4th student, Mr. J. Burbidge, May to September 1961
5th student, Mr. T. Colwell, May to September 1962
Winters of 1962 and 1963, Rev. Frank Chubb of Dawson Creek held services at Pouce Coupe United Church every 1st and 3rd Sundays each month, at 2 P.M.
Mr. James Nicholas, lay minister, Parkhill Charge 1963 – 1964
Mr. T. W. Bell, lay minister, Parkhill Charge, 1964 – 1966
Rev. K. Jordan, Parkhill Charge 1966 – 1968
Rev. Robert Miller, Parkhill Charge 1968 – 1973.
Mrs. R L. Harper, Historian — September, 1973