In 1791, the Parliament of England with the British Constitutional Act, decided to set aside one-seventh of all the fresh new land in Upper and Lower Canada as Clergy Reserves, and a further one-seventh of all the land as Crown Reserves. The original intention for these Reserves was for them to be leased out...and never sold,..with the income from the Clergy Reserves to be used for "The Support and Maintenance of a Protestant Clergy". The income from the Crown Reserves was to be used to help finance expenses of the Government.
In the areas where settlement had not already started, the reserves were to be laid out in a checkerboard pattern, in parcels of 200 acres, so that their value would be representative of the overall value of the various townships. However, in other areas where settlement had already started, they were unable to do this staggered pattern. In order to set aside the required area (one-seventh of the acreage) entire Townships were often set aside as a Clergy Reserve. At one time, up until 1845, and just a short drive from here in Brooksdale, all of the land in the townships of Pushlinch, Maryborough and Peel were designated as a Clergy Reserve.
As could have been expected, very few new settlers to Canada were willing to make any of the necessary improvements such as clearing the land, building roadways etc. on leased land…land that they would never own. Other land was available close by...land that they could own, at very low cost, and improve for themselves. Eventually there was a realization that the reserves were liabilities. That they were impeding the orderly settlement of the various Townships.
And so, in 1826, the Canada Company was incorporated. The Canada Company was created for a number of reasons: partly because of this failure of the Reserves to raise money for the Church of England, and for the Government; and partly to help raise revenue to compensate all of the land owners who had suffered losses during the war of 1812. The invading American soldiers had burned and destroyed many of the properties of the early settlers. Further, the British soldiers, who were supposed to be protecting them, had seized many of their homes, their grain crops, and their livestock for food and lodging, as they fought the war. Ten years later, in 1822, many of the land owners, who had suffered significant losses wanted to be repaid. They banded together, with John Galt representing them, in a law suit against the Government for unpaid compensation. Galt evolved the idea of selling off some of the vast reserves of Clergy and Crown land that had been set aside. The resulting Canada Company became the largest enterprise of its kind in the history of Canada.
The Charter that they were granted gave them the power to raise the money required to purchase the Reserves, to hold onto them or to sell them. To make advances of operating capital needed by the early settlers, the ability to open roads, and make improvements to the lands that were being opened for settlement, and the right to import and export goods, duty free, that would be used for the common good to those first families of settlers. The result is that many of those original family farms still have family descendants living on them today. One of their most famous developments was the area of land just a few miles north of Brooksdale...known as the Huron tract. This included the current Townships of North Easthope, South Easthope, Ellice, Logan, McKillop, Hullet, Downie, Fullerton, Hibbert, Tuckersmith, Hay, Stanley, Blanchard and the town of Goderich, to name just a few. These are all named after the first Directors of that Canada Company.
At first, it was believed by the Church of England, that they were to receive all of the rent from the Clergy Reserves, but since the original loose wording had said "for a Protestant Clergy" it didn't take very long for the Presbyterians, and for all of the other denominations of Protestant Churches to raise the argument that they should also be entitled to own and to have income from these Reserves. Many historians have stated that this long simmering argument was one of the main causes for the 1837 Rebellion in Lower Canada and the 1838 Rebellion in Upper Canada. Whatever the reasons, the Rebellions must have worked, because just one year later, in 1839, the 200 acres here at lot 25, con.5 of Zorra, was granted to the Church of Scotland, as a Clergy Reserve, and in 1864, was transferred to the Presbyterian Church of Zorra.
Our research has indicated that there were no new leases for Clergy Reserves granted after 1840. In 1854 the remainder of the Clergy and Crown reserves were abolished and eventually sold.
The present Church building here in Brooksdale dates back to 1883. It was built by Benjamin Franklin Youngs, as a Presbyterian Church. At the time of Church Union in 1925 the congregation, which now included many members from the former Methodist Church that was located immediately across the road (and had closed about 10 years earlier), voted to become part of the new United Church of Canada. We believe that it might now be the last original 200 acre Church owned Clergy Reserve left in Ontario...and for sure, one that has been continuously farmed, and used for the original purpose of "Maintenance of a Protestant Clergy" and for the outreach mission work of the Church community here at Brooksdale, since it was created.
In the 1920's a 3 acre park was established just east of the parking lot, with a ball diamond. Here many hard fought softball games were played and trophies won. This is now being used as cropland.
In 1949, the north end of the Church was blown out by a windstorm (or so the story goes) and a decision was made to move the front entrance, that was on the south side of the building, around to the north. At the same time the horse stables were removed to make room for a parking lot for cars.
In 1960, 4000 trees were planted by the congregation on part of the farm, and in 1964 the old farm house on the property was demolished. The rows of trees on the south and west sides of the Church were planted in 1983 as a windbreak. More recently extensive tile drainage was done to the wet areas of the cropland.
Compiled from various sources by
John Hiuser Clerk of Session, 2012
St. Andrews United Church