What became known as the Village of Shallow Lake was first visited by white people in the year 1862, who settled beside the creek which empties into the body of water that gave the village its name. During the summer months, the lake dried up leaving a chalky deposit known as marl on its floor. The marl held the necessary elements required for the manufacture of Portland cement.
Methodist ministry was begun in Shallow Lake as early as 1882 by the Minister of the Hepworth Church. However, an attempt to erect a Methodist Church in Shallow Lake in 1882 failed. Around 1882, a Methodist Church had been established in Hepworth. Having no church in Shallow Lake, a few families who lived there worshipped at Hepworth. Services were held in the hotel dining room, which was the upper level of a livery barn, or in the homes of the pioneers. The minister came, (often once monthly) by foot or on horseback.
In the year 1894, a few early pioneers and settlers, because of their strong faith and love of God, had a desire to build a Presbyterian Church. A piece of property, part of Lot 21, Concession 2, South Centre Diagonal, Township of Keppel, was purchased for $28. With prayer, sacrifice and perseverance, these ambitious pioneers erected Knox Presbyterian Church, Shallow Lake.
On November 29, 1894, a half-acre of land was purchased from James Cruickshank and Albert McInnis for $45, and on May 22, 1896, the cornerstone was laid for a Methodist Church in Shallow Lake. The church building was erected on the second lot west of McInnis Street on Princess Street and opened in October, 1896, with H. J. Harnwell as Pastor and Mrs. Grant as organist.
In 1895, a twelve branch chandelier with coal oil lamps was installed and used until 1938 when the building was wired for electricity. In 1971, it was donated to the Grey County – Owen Sound Museum by theShallow Lake United Church Board.
In January 1899, a Presbyterian Ladies Association had been formed with eleven members. Without modern conveniences as we know them, the Association worked together raising money for the improvement of their church. A porch was built onto the front of the church for the tendered price of $25.00; the interior was papered, new carpet and matting were purchased. These ladies planned strawberry teas (admission – 15 cents and 10 cents); Irish suppers (admission – 25 cents and 15 cents). In 1908, a fowl supper was held for which they prepared and used 60 chickens (admission – 25 cents and 15 cents). Proceeds were $73.32. Wood stoves with ovens were used. These old fashioned kitchens must have been extremely hot by the time the fowl was roasted and the baking completed. Arrangements had to be made to have boys carry water from the nearest well; the boys who did this received a free supper.
Each summer the Methodist Ladies Aid and the Presbyterian Ladies Association joined in arranging an annual picnic at Sauble Beach. They didn’t travel by car, but with horse and buggy or team and democrat. Later they travelled in a truck which was locally owned.
Until 1905, Shallow Lake Methodist Church was linked with Hepworth. Then, in 1905, Shallow Lake Methodist Church became separated from Hepworth and made a circuit with Mount Horeb (1905-1917) on Lot 5, Concession 15 of Keppel Township and Ottewell in Amabel Township. In 1917, Shouldice was added to this circuit as an associate appointment which continued for three years. However, a four-point charge proved awkward and, in 1920, Ottewell and Mount Horeb were then taken from the circuit and added to the Wiarton Methodist Church.
In 1925, a new era was beginning, the population of the village had been decreasing after the close of the cement plant twelve years previously, and financial obligations of the church were rising. Both Methodist and Presbyterian congregations came to realize that two churches and two ministers could not be maintained.
In 1925, the Knox Presbyterian congregation, which opened August 24, 1894 on the corner of Cruickshank and Main Streets in Shallow Lake, entered The United Church of Canada on a vote of 40 to four. It was then amalgamated with Shallow Lake Methodist congregation. There is no record of any ill feeling during the transition. Four months previous to this, the Sunday schools had combined. The combined ladies organization became Shallow Lake United Church Women. The former Methodist building was used for worship services and the former Presbyterian building as a community hall. William John Patton, the incumbent Presbyterian minister, left in June for Carnuff/Redvers, Sask. W.A. Matthews, the incumbent Methodist minister was expected to remain. However, the transition did not take place without some confusion. The Sun Times announced on May 30 that the Methodist incumbent W. A. Matthews had been appointed to the Shallow Lake circuit for an additional year. On June 20, it was announced that the settlement committee had appointed William H. Bartlett as minister.
On July 16, 1925, William H. Bartlett was inducted as minister of the new Shallow Lake Charge which included the former Methodist congregation of Shouldice; on July 18, a farewell was held for Mr. Matthews. For a short time, Mr. Matthews supplied the Hepworth, Zion-Amabel, and Park Head circuit in the temporary absence of John P. Barbaree. However, he remained in Shallow Lake without appointment until December when he went to the former Lion’s Head Methodist circuit. Before coming to Shallow Lake, he served four years on the Kemble circuit and six years at Colpoys.
The Presbyterian Church building became the property of Grey Presbytery and was renamed “Community Church Hall”. Thebuilding was maintained by Shallow Lake United Church until May, 1983 when it was demolished. In June, 1983, additional land was purchased and a new Shallow Lake United Church was constructed on the same site.
A major realignment took place in 1931 when Shallow Lake was linked with Hepworth and Zion-Amabel, an arrangement which existed for 49 years until July 1, 1980. The Shouldice Charge transferred to First United Church, Owen Sound, and it remained linked from 1942 to 1972. Ottewell became part of the new Clavering congregation which was formed on Lot 38, Concession 2N in Keppel Township.
The Shouldice congregation probably would have closed at this point had it not been for the services of a retired United Churchminister, William Fletcher Roach, who supplied the congregation.
A Book of Remembrance was published for the 80th Anniversary of Shallow Lake United Church held on June 20th, 1976; it was dedicated to the memory of those whose generosity made possible the furnishing and beautification of the church building.
Rev. Larry Marshall’s ministry at the Shallow Lake United Church began on July 1, 1976 and ended on June 30, 1986 (10 years). He was a dynamic leader and superb musician.
The Sun Times of June 24, 1978 contained an article about the ministry of Rev. Larry Marshall, a musical evangelist at Shallow Lake United, entitled “United Church evangelists “recovering roots”—They ‘re not typical preachers”.
The Rev. Larry Marshall was a former professional musician and teacher of vocal music at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto before coming to the Shallow Lake United Church. Rev. Marshall denied that what he was doing was new to the United Church as he recalled its Methodist beginnings. “We’re recovering our roots”, he said. Rev. Marshall also denied that evangelism implies a narrow-minded approach to religion. “I strongly believe everyone should worship and experience God in their own way,” he said. He describes himself as a “FLEC Christian – fundamental, liberal, evangelical conservative.” Referring to his call to evangelism, Marshall says the United Church has been “too intellectual, dour and cold.” “It needs some heart. That’s not to say I’m not intellectually interested, I need that too; but I need to be stimulated emotionally as well.” A former vocalist with Elmer Isle’s Festival Singers, Marshall’s evangelism is musical. “Too long The Word has been thought of as talk, but it can be sung, danced or mimed. My expressions of the Word are to sing it”, he said.
The Shallow Lake congregation met on Sunday, March 18, 1979 and approved of a recommendation from the Committee of Stewards and Session to seek approval to for a single-point Pastoral Charge. On July 1, 1980, Shallow Lake became a self-supporting charge under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Larry W. Marshall.
In November 1980, the Executive of Grey Presbytery recommended to Presbytery to grant permission to the Shallow Lake congregation to become a one-point charge, effective July 1981 and to review the decision in the year 1982 and continue to seek supply for the Hepworth and Zion-Amabel congregations.
On April 19, 1983, Grey Presbytery concurred with the request from Zion-Amabel and St. Andrews-Hepworth to be released from Grey Presbytery to Bruce Presbytery.
With Rev. Marshall’s appeal, the congregation grew to the point where the excising church building could no longer accommodate them. On June 19, 1983, the sod was turned for a new United Church facility to be built on the property on the northwest corner of Cruickshank and Main, where Knox Presbyterian Church first got its start, and which later became the church hall. The cornerstone reads, “To the Glory of God 1983”.
The doors of the new church were opened for the first service in October, 1983, with sanctuary seating for 375. The new facility includes: pastor’s office, secretary’s office, parlor, sound room and system, nursery, large kitchen, large hall, library, a meeting room and a number of Sunday school rooms off the hall, an electric organ and 2 pianos.
In September 1988, Rev. Robert (Roy) J. Cowieson was employed, and he served about six weeks until the split of the congregation at the end of November, 1988. He came to Shallow Lake from Tara United Church in Bruce Presbytery, Hamilton Conference.
Shallow Lake United was one of two charges in Grey County which suffered a major split as the result of the action taken by the United Church General Council in August 1988.
At a meeting of Grey Presbytery held at Shallow Lake on Sunday, November 27th, 1988, information was shared that a large number of the congregation had decided to withdraw from The United Church of Canada, and that Rev. Robert J. Cowieson had indicated his intention to resign immediately from the ministry of The United Church of Canada.
A large percentage of the congregation withdrew in December 1988 to form a new congregation under the name of Shallow Lake Community Church which became affiliated with the Congregational Christian Church of Canada.
Instead of re-establishing the previous linkage with the Hepworth and Zion-Amabel congregations, the Shallow Lake United Church chose to remain a one-point charge.
In a July 1989 self assessment, the Charge had 50 to 60 families with an average attendance of 75 to 90 for Sunday worship.
Over the next decade, it received ministerial and lay supply. In 1996, the congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary, being the centennial of the opening of the first Methodist Church in the community. In March, 2000, the secretary reported 73 resident members on the Shallow Lake United Church roll.
As mentioned above, the Shallow Lake Community Church was formed as a break away from Shallow Lake United Church. The initial meeting of the Community Church was held in the Community Centre on Sunday, Nov. 27, 1988. According to a report in the Sun Times on Nov. 29th, 122 members and 94 adherents of Shallow Lake United Church had left to identify with the new Community Church.
Services in the Community Church began in Amabel-Hepworth School on the following Sunday, Dec. 4th, 1988, under the leadership of Pastor Robert “Roy” Cowieson. When the congregation was officially constituted on Feb. 5, 1989, it had 180 charter members. It continued to meet in the school until the new Community Church was dedicated on May 20, 1990.
In 1996, the Shallow Lake congregation held its Centennial Celebrations which were reported by the Sun Times on December 13, 1996 as follows:
“This past year has been an important time in the life of the Shallow Lake United Church congregation. On the third Sunday of each month the congregation has had a guest minister and, in the evening, a special time of entertainment. In January, Rev. Roger McCombe spoke with the Owen Sound Highland Dancers performing in the evening. In February, Rev. Fred Miller was the guest speaker with performances by Bettyanne Bray, Andy Thompson and the Dusty Strings in the evening. March saw the former minister, Rev. Robert Duthie and the Up Beats, and in April, Rev. John Carbert and the Music Making Moms. In May, Ross Leigh, the former principal of the OSCVI, spoke in the morning, while the Sauble Beach and District Community Choir performed in the evening.
In June, Rev. Brad Clark spoke and, as part of the celebration, a centennial tree was planted with balloons filling the sky. In July, the church was filled with members of the Orange Lodge from across the province with the Beaver Valley Pipe Band. In August, Rev. Arthur Steed led the service. Former executive secretary of the Hamilton Conference, Rev. Bruce MacDougall, spoke in September with the Van Dusen Players putting on the play, “Love Begins at 60” in the evening. In October, the church had a community volunteer appreciation Sunday with the Wiarton and District Community Choir singing songs from the wars. Rev. Jack Fearnall and the choirs of Zion-Amabel and Hepworth joined with the Shallow Lake Church in November. On Sunday, Dec. 8th, the Owen Sound Highland Dancers, directed by Sheila Milne, performed for the congregation. At 11 a.m. on Sun. Dec. 15th, Rev. Roger McCombe was the guest speaker.”