Sarnia - Bunyan Baptist Church

Front cover of booklet with picture of brick church

Bunyan Baptist Church was located in Sarnia Township; however, because of its proximity to the former Moore Township, it was attended by many families of Moore and so we have included it here.

In 1829, the Township of Sarnia and surrounding townships were surveyed, and in the following decade the land was settled by many families.  Among these settlers were two Baptist men, George Watson and Robert Sym, who were Elders of the Scottish Baptist Church in Lanark, Ontario.  Mr. Watson began conducting services in his own log home in 1836.  He also conducted services in the home of James Chalmers in Plympton, at the Anderson settlement close to present-day Wyoming and in Port Sarnia.  He travelled to each place by foot or horseback, until more established roads were available to accommodate a covered buggy.  In 1842, the baptized believers were organized into a small church, which would grow to twenty-seven members by 1846.

George Watson continued this work from 1836 until his death in 1871. His son, Ebenezer Watson, had been assisting with his father’s work since 1845, and continued to do so until Rev. J.A. Baldwin became the settled pastor in 1873.

The deed to the church building is dated November 15th, 1872.  A price of twenty-five dollars was paid to the owner, Andrew McAlpine; however, the original church was built on this land over twenty years prior. In 1851, a frame chapel was built, and later replaced with a brick building in 1879.  The cost of the brick building was $2,385.  A gas explosion almost demolished the structure in 1905, but it was repaired the following year and remained there until its closing in 1969. 

The Bunyan Church was linked with the Plympton Church until 1921, when the latter was closed.  From then until 1948, it was united with Petrolia Baptist Church under common pastorate.  From 1948 onward, the minister of Emmanuel Church in Sarnia served the Bunyan Church as well.

Members of the church were often active in other areas of the community. One of the earliest Women’s Mission Circles was organized at Bunyan.  The Canadian Baptist has been regarded as their Journal; and Sunday School, Mission Band, a Young People’s work and a mid-week service, have through the years been active.

Anniversaries of the church were always recognized.  In 1886, the history of the church was read at the Monday evening meeting, and membership for services was counted at over 100.  On Sunday, September 24th, 1961, more than 300 members and friends gathered for the 125th anniversary of the church.  The Rev. J.O. Vaughn, of First Baptist Church in Owen Sound, preached the anniversary sermons.  On the following Monday, a large supper was served to 125 people, followed by a service in the auditorium.

During the 121st anniversary services held in October of 1957, Mrs. Alex Gardiner unveiled the new memorial cabinet which contained the three piece communion sets donated by her father and mother in 1894.  The cabinet also contained the old Bible, which had been in use since 1853.

January 12th, 1969 marked the closing service at Bunyan Baptist Church.  Many Baptist families had moved out of the District and the remaining members felt they could not adequately maintain the work of the church, so it was decided by a majority vote to close.  Members were happy to donate the church furnishings to other sister churches.  The communion table and service, pulpit and pulpit chairs, kitchen stove and dishes were given to a church being built at the Oneida Reserve.  Hymn books and other Sunday School supplies were given to the Wyoming and Belfountain Churches.  The memorial cabinet containing the old communion service donated to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Holmes in 1894 and the Bible which had been in use since 1853 was placed in the Central Baptist Church in Sarnia.

The Church was torn down shortly after.  A cairn was placed on the site to pay tribute to the memory of all those who faithfully attended the church over its 132 years.


Commemorative plate with drawing of Bunyan Baptist Church