The Colpoy's Bay Church

As with most communities in their infancy, the pioneering residents of Colpoy's Bay first held church services in their homes. One of the earliest residents, Reverend Ludwick Kribs led the services, occasionally from his own home, a log cabin on the shore of the bay later used as a workshop by Edwin and Fred Kalbfleisch (see Figure 13A).

Figure 13A:  Log cabin built by Rev. Ludwick Kribs likely in 1857. Later used as workshop by Kalbfleisch Boat Works (c. 1950s).

In 1863, Kribs donated a half acre of land and had a log structure erected for use as as a combined Congregationalist church, school and community hall. Located along the shore road roughly half way between the bottom of Spragge's Hill and the village wharf, church services were held in the building until 1875, although they had become intermittent after Rev. Kribs moved away in 1870.

The year 1875 saw a dedicated church constructed just southwest of Krib's log hall. The new frame church was built by John Wood (along with the hand-carved pulpit) and formally consecrated on October 15, 1876 as a Bible Christian Church. The classic wood-sided church with its high-pitched room and slender profile must have been a source of great pride for the village at the time. Although the denomination changed titles (Bible Christian was subsumed into the Methodist Church in 1884, which itself became part of the United Church in 1925), the building itself saw only minor additions over the years. A Sunday school was added to the rear of the structure in 1919 and electricity was added in the mid-1930s. Otherwise, the church remained virtually unchanged. Figure 13B shows the church as it appeared in 2004, both inside and out.

Figure 13B:  Colpoy's Bay Church (c. 2004). 

In 1937, the Church was temporarily closed for interior renovations. Upon its opening on October 10th, a celebratory service was held, making front-page news in the Wiarton Echo newspaper. In fact, three of the attendees (Mrs. C. Cottrill, Mrs. Jon McIver and Mr. Caleb Brown) had been present at the opening of the church 61 years earlier.

Through the decades, the church served its community well. However, attendance slowly declined, in part due to competition from other churches (made more accessible by the automobile) and the growing share of summer residents in the village's population. In 1968, the church was taken in as part of the Wiarton United Church pastoral charge, and services were only held during the summer. Even these became less frequent with time, however, to the point when the church was essentially closed except for special occations. The church garnered a large crowd for its 125th anniversary service in 2000, however, no services were held after July of 2004. Not surprisingly, building maintenance suffered as usage declined. The paint began to peel on the exterior and interior of the church. Most notably, the Sunday school room fell into disrepair (see Figure 13D).

Figure 13C:  The Sunday school room in a state of disrepair in 2004 (facing rear of church, top image looking left, bottom image looking right). 

In 2007 it was revealed that the United Church would be seeking a buyer for the Colpoy's Bay church property. The $75 000 cost for necessary structural repairs was simply too much for the United church to justify. Efforts were made to save the structure by offering it to the Grey County Museum Heritage Village, but the museum turned the offer down because the church did not come from Grey county.

The end came swiftly when the entire church structure was turned into a pile of rubble on December 6, 2007. On the positive side, a catalogue was made of the all the contents in the building before demolition and important items (e.g., the pulpit, pump organ, some pews, a list of local soldiers lost in World War 1) were preserved through acquisition by St. John's United Church (Wiarton), the local veterans' legion, the Bruce County Museum and local individuals. Figure 13D shows the demolition of Colpoys Bay United Church in progress.

Figure 13D:  The demolition of the Colpoys Bay church. (December 6, 2007) 

For the first time in over 130 years, the bright white facade of Colpoys Bay's little community church would not cast a reflection in the calm morning waters of the bay. One of the village's oldest buildings, erected by the hands of its first settlers, was lost.

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Postcards From the Bay was launched April 14, 2000


Copyright 2000 - Christopher R. Graham