Eaglehawk Uniting Church - a brief history

Prepared by Harold Davey

August 1996

 

EAGLEHAWK PARISH HISTORY

Extracts Spectator - 29 March 1901

 

Bendigo Circuit History. Part 4.

Eaglehawk, California Hill, Long Gully.

 

We are fortunate in having secured from Mr Thomas B. Hunt, now of Geelong, a short account of the earliest days in Eaglehawk.

Early in 1852, Mr Hunt with his elder brother Mr E. Hooker came to Eaglehawk to look for gold. Arrived on Saturday, and around camp fire discussed what they should do on the morrow. "Are we to sit in our tent all day or what?" said Mr Hunt. "What do you propose?" asked Mr Hooker. "To hold a service" he replied.

They asked him if he would preach and he said, "Yes, if they would stand by him and help in the singing."

Next morning they strolled to the head of the gully where most miners were, took their stand on a convenient spot and started a fine old Methodist hymn. Diggers ran from all directions, and before the hymn was finished, a large congregation had gathered together. The usual sequence of a Methodist service was followed, three hymns, prayers, Bible reading and sermon.

After the service, Mr Hunt announced that as long as he and his mates remained in Eaglehawk, they would arrange a service every Sunday morning at 11.

This, we believe, was the first religious service held at Eaglehawk, and continued, weather permitting, without a break.

On the next Sunday morning when Mr Hunt and his mates were making ready to begin the service at the head of the gully, a newcomer introduced himself as a Wesleyan Minister from Adelaide, who had been sent to look after the miners from South Australia. This man was the late John Christian Symons, and he conducted the service.

To their amazement, he gave out the same hymns, read the same lesson, and preached the same text as the previous Sunday, for Mr Symons knew nothing about the particulars of Mr Hunt's service on the Sunday before.

Mr Hunt concludes: Mr Symons received good help from local preachers, among whom were Brother James Jeffrey from Adelaide, the brethren John Barrows, T. M. Waldock, E. Hooker and his brother.

Mr Hunt's account is confirmed by the Rev. W. L. Blamires in his lecture on "Former Days of Methodism in the Sandhurst Circuit".

 

Extract - Bendigo Advertiser Thursday 1 October 1863

 

On Tuesday 29 September 1863, afternoon the laying of the foundation stone of a new Wesleyan Church at Eaglehawk was performed according to previous announcements by Mr W. Simpson J.P. at 5 o'clock about that time the Rev's G. Daniel, T. James, J. Dare and W.R. Fletcher arrived from Sandhurst and were met by the Rev. G. L Hall, Mr Simpson and members of the committee and a considerable gathering of friends.

A sheet of vellum neatly engrossed with the usual information - the date of the foundation stone laying, of Her Majesty's reign etc, the name of the Governor of Victoria, President of the Wesleyan Conference, Chairman of the District Ministers of the Circuit, members of the Committee etc., was read and duly deposited with copies of the local journals plan of Sandhurst circuit and other documents in the bottle prepared for their reception.

The Rev. Daniel in the name of the Committee handed a very neat silver trowel to Mr Simpson who proceeded to spread the mortar and the stone having been lowered it was declared duly and well laid. A few words were addressed by Mr Simpson to the bystanders and then as the weather looked threatening the ceremony was brought to a close.

The company adjourned to the school room where a very sumptuous tea had been provided by the ladies of the congregation which was discussed most heartily by relays of cheerful visitors, the tables being filled again and again.

As there was no possibility of crowding the numbers who were in attendance into the old room the Rev. Abernethy very kindly proffered the use of the Presbyterian church which was greatly accepted.

By the time of commencing the public meeting the church was densely crowded numbers being unable to gain admittance.

Mr Simpson presided over the meeting and animated and instructive addresses were delivered by the Rev. Fletcher, Abernethy, James, Dare, Daniel, Messrs Fizelle Dowling and Bamford.

A collection was then made and promised for various amounts given which with the proceeds of the tea amounted to fifty pounds.

The proposed church of which Messrs Vahland and Getzschumann are the architects and Messrs Tolhurst and Shepherd contractors is to be of red and white bricks in plain Gothic style.

The front will be entered by two doors and contain a large handsome three light window surmounted by two neat pinnacles of Portland cement.

It will be 50 x 30 feet in the clear and will seat over 300 persons.

 

Eaglehawk Church Buildings:

 

1852 First religious service held at the head of Eaglehawk Gully. (Near present Tip)

1853 Tent church erected there.

1853 Chapel, slab structure, zinc roof - Sailors Gully.

1854 Congregations united and built weather board church, mid-way between on the present site - Peg Leg Road.

1863 Foundation stone of the new Wesleyan church laid, a bottle containing various information was placed with the stone.

Architects Vahland and Getzachumann. Contractors Rolhurst and Shepherd. Gothic style church 50 ft x 30 ft, seating 300 persons. Windows frosted glass with red and blue side panels.

1867 Church extended to present dimensions with choir In elevated position behind pulpit and communion rail seating in nave and transepts.

1920's Choir brought down to floor level - stained glass memorial windows installed small - twelve pounds ten shillings, large-twenty five pounds.

1965 Worship Centre with cross was formed and choir transferred to transept.

1986 Church and Sunday School connected by Foyer .

1991 New Organ, two manuals and bar pedals purchased $9995.

1992 New floor put down, carpeted and new seating.

1995 Office established.

 

Sunday School:

1854 Sunday School started.

1860 (approx) The wooden church moved to a new position to use as Sunday School later, a brick building was erected.

1872 Due to increasing numbers the main hall was extended to double its size.

1878 Front section added to house - Kindergarten and two rooms. Sunday School attendance Increased to 550 - 600 and in order to cope with Anniversaries a large permanent platform was erected right across the hall with a gallery on each side. Two Superintendents with separate staffs conducted the school alternatively.

1961 Platform demolished and replaced with Kitchen, meeting room, stage and storage room.

1995 Kitchen modernised.

 

Anniversaries:

In early days Anniversaries were very important and much time was given in preparation. The school was trained to sing special songs assisted by the Choir and an efficient Orchestra the festivities included services l l am, 3pm and 7pm.

Concert items included action songs, dialogues etc.

 

Sunday School Picnic:

A train was hired to transport the people to Marong or Ravenswood. In later years as cars became available patrons for the trains was lost and a bus was hired.

 

Interesting Information:

A legal Agreement between the Church and the Directors of South Virginia Gold Mining Company dated 15 May 1881, to mine under the church for 15 years was completed. The mine to pay seven and half percent of all gold obtained.

This agreement was transferred to the Virginia Gold Mining Company for a further 15 years the terms payment of thirty pounds and a further payment of thirty pounds when mined through the ground on or about the depth of 500 feet from the surface.

(Legal document held)

 

Choir:

Rules, Eaglehawk West Methodist Church Choir held. Adopted by Trustees 10 February 1910.

 

Murals on Walls in Sunday School: All paintings by Berne Marcollo, Painter Eaglehawk.

"In my hand no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling".

Bible Study and Fellowship Groups.

"What will Thou have me to do? For me to live is Christ". Endeavour Society.

"Daniel would not defile himself with the King's meat nor with the wine".

Band of Hope.

"That our Sons may be as plants grown up in their youth". By a Family who had all boys.

"That our daughters may be as corner stones polished after the similitude of a palace".

By a Family who had all daughters.

 

Library:

Sunday School had a library of approximately 500 books. (Catalogue held)

 

Caretaker's Duties: (Forest Street)

 

Keep clean, scrub floor three times a year, dust every Saturday, light

up, open church to allow foul air to escape, attend to drainage. gather rubbish, keep fences in good order, look after garden, show strangers to seats, collect pew rents.

Toll Bell ten minutes, half an hour before the services and five minutes before the commencement of the service. Wage - one pound a week. Free house.

10% of pew rents collected up to two hundred pounds then 15%. (Duties list held)

 

Amalgamations:

 

1901 Wesleyan, Primitive, Bible Christian churches.

1924 St. Mungo Church.

1967 Nerring or (Woodvale) church.

1977 Eaglehawk East.

1986 California Hill.

 

The Uniting Church in Australia was formed on the 22 June 1977. Methodist. Congregational and some Presbyterian Churches were combined.