THEN AND NOW: A look back at Holly United Church


A bustling center of the community in its day, the last service at Holly United Church was in 1972

The village of Holly was named by WC Little, MP for South Simcoe, after a village in his native Gloucestershire, England. Other little-named villages in the region also: Stroud, Ivy and Vine.

Holly’s route from Allandale was little more than a marked trail until the ‘new’ Essa route was surveyed in 1849 and subsequently opened.

Long ago, in rural and urban communities, people would gather in private homes to worship until proper churches could be built. In Holly this was the case in 1857 until the first Methodist Church was erected in 1859.

Early settlers first met at Thomas Lougheed, a Holly farmer in 1845. The local pioneers themselves built their church from logs… the women of the community cooked for days in preparation for a fundraising tea to cover the cost of supplies for the church.

Country churches at this time were often circuitous until they had their own minister. Despite her closeness to Allandale, Holly was not on that tour, but entertained ministers from Barrie and even at one time Angus.

Later the church was on a pastoral charge with Burton Avenue United Church until 1959, when Holly and Egbert became part of Thornton’s charge. In 1966, the congregations of Holly, Thornton and Cookstown established a new charge.

Holly’s humble log church was in use for about 40 years until a new brick church opened in 1900 at today’s intersection of Mapleview Drive and Essa Road.

Holly Church continued to be a busy hub in the community. Holly Ladies Aid, later known as United Church Women, was formed in 1906. Over the years, this industrious organization has supported its church, community and beyond with decades of bake sales, bazaars, religious dinners and other fundraisers.

Holly United Church’s last service was held on January 3, 1972. Sacred objects, artifacts and other Holly Church property was dispersed to new homes: the communion table and baptismal font went to the Ivy Presbyterian Church, the cross and silver bread plates at Stroud United Church, a velvet table and altar coverings at Grace United Church and communion sets, gowns and hymnals at the Faith Missionary Church.

Practical items such as the piano, coffee urns, crockery and cutlery as well as stackable tables and chairs went to the Holly Room (formerly the school on Harvey Road before it was turned into a center community, then demolished). The Simcoe County Museum received the collector’s box, creams and sugars, pewter vessels and wine chisel.

After the church closed, it was purchased by Seventh-day Adventists. The structure is now commercial property. The old church may be one of the very last ‘old holly’ buildings still standing.


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