A stranger coming into Almonte from the junction of Highways 29 and 44. 33 miles from Ottawa, it very likely to ask the first person he meets this question: “Say, what Is that quaint little church we pass halfway down the hill on the right-hand side of the road coming into town?”
The man at the gas pump or the waitress in the restaurant will tell him “That’s the Cameronian Church and it’s the only one in Canada.” This is a startling statement and the stranger cannot be blamed if he takes it with a grain of salt. Not now, but in less than a generation hence it could indeed be absolutely true which is a hard thing for any Christian willingly to want to prophesy.
The history, of this church is a story of the almost unbelievable , rectitude, integrity- sad-courage of a small group of God-fearing people. But the stranger will get very little information more than the accommodating waitress gave him, unless by chance he happened to meet a member of the congregation.
Perhaps some citizen who wished to appear very knowledgable might inform him:
They have no music in their church service and I mean no instrumental music, like piano or organ they just Sing the Psalms, no hymns. Strictly they’re Covenanters. I think- that’s it. The stranger is impressed and makes a mental note to tell the folks back home. This pretty church on the ‘ hillside which has always been known as the Cameronian Church by the people in Almonte is a Reformed Presbyterian-Church and the correct designation Is the Almonte Congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church–and in spite of popular opinion, it is not the only Reformed Presbyterian Church in Canada– not quite. But there is only one other.
It is at Lochiel, a crossroads near the village of Glen Sandfield in Glengarry County. True, there are a couple of mission stations in the Maritimesand there used to be a church in Toronto and one in Winnpeg but they no longer function as distinct congregations. As the congregation at Lochiel is considerably smaller than that at Almonte, it Is quite possible that some years away the statement that the Almonte Cameronian Church is the only one in Canada could indeed be true.
However, there is no question about it being the only Reformed Presbyterian , Church in Canada called the Cameronian Church. There are Reformed Presbyterian Churches in scattered regions of the United States, but none of them is known as Cameronian. Nor is its sister church at Lochiel in Canada known by any other name than Reformed Presbyterian.
In fact the present minister of the Church Rev. Robert More, Jr., who has done extensive research, on the Reformed Presbyterian Church In North . America, and has recently done the script for a film on the history’of the Church says this church is the only one in North America properly designated as Cameronian.
Why are the Almonte Covenanters or Reformed Presbyterians called Cameronians? It is a carry-over from the early Scotch Presbyterian settlement’ in the Ottawa Valley. It was simply that their neighbours persisted in calling these ever-faithful adherents to the Church of their fathers by the name Cameronian– and for a very good reason, too.
Most of the settlers belonged to the Church of Scotland or to a Secession Church, but there were a few faithful in the hills and glens of Scotland. Attendance at the Established Church was obligatory under heavy penalties enforced by magistrates, and dissenting Covenanter preachers were obliged to hold their services (conventicles) in the wilds.
One of these preachers was a man named Richard Cameron. A squad of Government soldiers hunted Richard Cameron’s small band of Dissenters through the wild country of Dumfries and Ayr and finally caught up with them. The small group of worshippers were poorly armed and outnumbered, but being Scots, they resolved to fight.
They fought desperately but were overpowered by numbers; the members of the little group were either killed or taken prisoner. Richard Cameron and his brother Michael died fighting. The head and hands of Richard were cut off, taken to Edinburgh fixed to the Netherbow Port with the hands stretched out in the attitude of prayer.
In those days they were thorough in such grisly undertakings. “There,” said one of the soldiers, pointing tip at the head, “There’s the head and hands that lived praying and preaching, and died praying and fighting.
It is now nearly 370 years since Richard Cameron was slain in that brief but desperate-encounter. Yet today his name lives in Almonte when the descendants of the early Scottish settlers still refer to that small church, known as the Cameronian Church. So, whether we call these faithful people Reformed Presbyterians, Covenanters or Cameronians, their Church is certainly one unique in Canada.
In Carleton Place there were two Presbyterian Church buildings, both on William Street. That of the Cameronian Reformed Presbyterians had been built in the 1840’s. Construction of the stone church building which remains at the corner of St. Paul Street, facing the park of the old Commons, had been started in the 1840’s after the Disruption. It had been completed but lack of agreement had prevented it from being occupied. It was being used by Robert Bell for the lowly purpose of storing hay. Now it was renovated and fitted as the first St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Carleton Place, for the part of the Seventh Line Church of Scotland congregation living at and near the village.
Welcome to Hillside Church
For almost 175 years, God has preserved our ministry here on the side of Bayhill in Almonte, Ontario. Generations of men and women have given their lives to celebrate and extend the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this beautiful church family. We consider it a privilege to build on that inheritance in this gospel – hope that is transforming us and our community. We strive to be ‘Christ-Centered and People-Focused’ in our calling here in Lanark County. We hope this website brings you a clearer sense of who we are, but to be honest, it would be best to discover us in person. We’re so glad you found us and welcome the chance to meet. CLICK
he Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
22 Mar 1930, Sat • Page 32
My father, Kenneth McBurney, was pastor at the RP Church in Almonte from 1976 to 1995, and then he and my mother attended the church on McGill Street in Smiths Falls for two years before returning to the US for retirement. The Smiths Falls congregation closed not long after that.
There are, in fact, two Reformed Presbyterian churches in Ottawa. The one on the west side was started as a joint effort of the Almonte RP Church and the Lisbon, NY Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1980. The west side congregation then daughtered another congregation on the east side of the city, and had 2 or 3 other church planting efforts around Ontario.
The Lochiel congregation moved their services from the building out in the country to a location closer to Montreal. I am not certain of the current status of this church.
There is also an RP Church in Toronto that had been a member of the Free Church of Scotland, and there is at least one congregation in Alberta. There may be one or two other congregations that I have forgotten.
After many years of dwindling numbers and churches closing, the Reformed Presbyterian presence in Canada was reduced to less than 100 members in 2 congregations in the 1970’s. By God’s grace, these faithful few asked for God’s blessing and have seen much growth.
These were all part of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, along with 80+ congregations in the US. In 2021 the Canadian churches decided to form a new denomination, and separated from the American churches with their blessing.