The congregation of Queens Avenue United Church recently marked the 160th anniversary of the beginnings of the Wesleyan roots of their church here in New Westminster.
Ten years ago, on the 150-year anniversary, members re-enacted the first service in costume, gathering near the banks of the Fraser River. This year, the celebrations included the story of a watch given to their pioneer minister, Rev. Edward White, by Royal City citizens when he left for a new position in Nanaimo in 1863.
A look back to the newspaper coverage of that event added some wonderful detail to the account of the reverend’s leaving.
The church members really did not wish to lose their minister and clearly expressed “their high appreciation of his labours in this place and of their deep regret at having to part with him.”
The reports also made it clear that “it is the intention of the people of New Westminster to present him with an address and a gold watch as an expression of the high estimation he is held as a citizen.”
This took place on the Steamer Enterprise as he was about to leave the city’s Fraser River docks en route across Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island.
The newspaper reported the presentation onboard the vessel, all that was said, and added a commentary of their own. On the ship a deputation of 10 men met White in the ship’s Grand Saloon, where they presented their address accompanied by the gold watch, which was suitably engraved: “Presented to the Reverend E. White, by the citizens of New Westminster, as a token of their esteem.”
In a following column, an address to the reverend was recorded followed by White’s response to the kind words and comments as he sailed out to his next calling. In speaking of the watch he noted: “It shall ever be carried by me as an emblem of the sterling worth of the givers, and as a remembrance of the many pleasing associations of our pioneer days in this country.”
The paper referred to White as “the pioneer missionary of New Westminster” who “beyond his professional duties he has truly proved himself a good citizen.”
“He landed here with his family about four years ago, where he has resided ever since, doing battle valiantly for the colony and its capital against the combined attacks of mosquitoes, croakers, and Victorians.” Much more was stated, but suffice it to say, he was dearly loved.