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Hazelmere United Church History

Hazelmere United is one of Surrey's historic churches. It was opened in 1905 and celebrated it centennial in 2005. It is located on Halls Prairie Road (184th Street) and North Bluff Road (16th Avenue).

Sketch of Hazelmere United Church

Hazelmere United Church

In 1879 Halls Prairie was one of the small communities in the District of Surrey and in 1881, the Municipality awarded a contract to construct Halls Prairie Road from the Yale Wagon Road (1875) to the US Border with a bridge at the Campbell River crossing. The improved access drew settlers to the district and in 1884 H.T. Thrift took up land and named the area of his homestead "Hazelmere" from the pond and hazel bushes found on the property. (See H.T. Thrift)

Thrift land holdings

H.T. Thrift took up land in the Hazelmere District in 1884. Eventually he held the NE corner of Halls Prairie Road and North Bluff Road ( 184th Street and 16th Avenue) and the SE corner of the same intersection.

With the influx of children Halls Prairie School opened in 1884 and the Thrift children were some of the early students. (See Schools to 1900; Hazelmere) The community grew as a result of the opening of the New Westminster Southern Railway and the establishing of Hazelmere Station. (See The Railway Era) Agriculture and logging were the dominant occupations but lumber and shingle mills developed as the railway gave access to larger markets. Thrift opened a mill just north of the church near Hazelmere station. (See Lumbermilling)

With increased settlement there was a general desire to establish more facilities, which were very necessary to community life. Once the school was built, there was a growing wish to build a church. Religious services at this time were being held in various homes but the community wanted a more permanent feature.

Hazelmere General Store

Hazelmere General Store

Hazelmere Store opened in 1900 at the corner of North Bluff and Halls Prairie Road. In 1905 the church was built on the opposite corner on land donated by Henry Thrift on the condition that it would be constituted as a union church open to all denominations. Legal constraints resulted in its ultimate ownership by the Presbyterian Church, but after Union in 1925, it became Hazelmere United. The community actively canvassed, throughout 1904, for funds to build. Young women of the community rode around on bicycles collecting funds to start a church building. They were joined by Mrs. H.T. Thrift and her son, who rode by carriage to canvass more distant homes.

Mr. Thrift donated a small corner of his property separated from the remainder by a small tributary creek of the Little Campbell River. Volunteers constructed the Church with materials partly paid by donations from lumber workers and monies collected from canvassing. The Church was completed in 1905 and hitching posts were added.

The first Minister was Rev. Wilkinson, a Methodist, whose responsibilities included eight other churches. Mr. Thrift served as the Church's first secretary treasurer and superintendent of the Sunday school. In 1910 Mr. Thrift sold his lumber mill operations north of the Church and moved to White Rock as the Great Northern Railway had opened its sea line route and the town site was developing. Mr. Thrift was instrumental in establishing the first school in White Rock as well as the first Union Church.

By 1912 the church became known as Hazelmere Methodist Church, and that year the vestibule was added under the influence of Reverend Balderson, the Methodist minister from White Rock. Hazelmere now came under the White Rock parish and the White Rock minister serviced the Hazelmere congregation.

In 1914, John Clark became the organist, succeeding Jessie Thrift, wife of H.T. Thrift's son, George. Clark also acted as secretary–treasurer and continued as organist for more than 30 years.

In 1925, with the Church Union of Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist Churches Hazelmere became part of the United Church family. The minister was now Reverend Frank.

The Women's Auxiliary began in 1929. The Martin sisters, who ran the Hazelmere store, took on the duty of cleaning and keeping the church grounds in order; and their efforts continued through to 1944. The Hazelmere community developed around a thriving lumbering, milling and farming community and continued as such for many years. Most of the original forest was logged off by the 1920s but farming continued to thrive. (See Margaret Stewart's Hazelmere)

Roll of Honour

Roll of Honour for those who served with Canada's forces

During the Great Depression, many people from outside the congregation attended the free bean suppers at the church. From 1936–40 Reverend Leslie was minister and also organized a Trail Ranger youth group.

The need for a Church hall was answered when in 1948 the old Halls Prairie School building, built in 1898, became available. Betty Huff, a Surrey Primary Teacher, purchased the building from the District for $200 and it was moved to the Church site in 1949 at the cost of $1,000. It was located on the site of the former hitching post. The new hall added much needed meeting and Sunday school space. Alterations were necessary but the men of the community stepped forward and gave their time and effort voluntarily.

Betty Huff

Betty Huff

Church Halll

Hazelmere Church Hall former Halls Prairie School

As with so many other similar communities the Church and Hall became a true gathering place. In addition to the important role of worship, there were large Boy Scout and Girl Guides that met regularly. Other groups that used the Church or Hall facilities were the CGIT (Canadian Girls' In Training), Brownies, a Tyro group, horse club, and community coffee club in addition to others.

The Women's Auxiliary and Women's Missionary Society combined as the United Church Women. The group contributed funds for many church improvements, church maintenance and other charitable causes.

Centennial Window

The stained glass window containing the crest of the United Church was handmade by a long time member, Brownie Price, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Church of Canada in 1975.

The other five stained glass windows were donated in 2005 by friends and members of Hazelmere to coincide with the Churches' 100th anniversary.

F & S Hemming Henning and Rattray Pohl and Williams

On the left, F and S Hemming Window. In the center, Henning Rattray window and on the right, Pohl and Williams windows

Pride Family WA Thompson

On the left, the Pride Family Window, and on the right the W and A Thompson window

More recently a smaller window in the Vestibule was added recognizing the contribution of the Thrift family and was donated by Bryan and Lois Williams.

Thrift Family Window

Thrift Family Window

Surrey Heritage sign

Surrey Heritage sign

In 1980 The Church and Hall were declared Heritage Buildings by the City of Surrey.
That year the 75th anniversary of the Church was celebrated with a pot luck dinner.

75th Anniversary dinner

75th anniversary pot luck dinner

Like so many small Churches survival has not been a given for Hazelmere. Constructed entirely of wood and with our climate there have been many challenges just to ensure the buildings remain sound. Both men and women have given volunteer hours of time and effort to maintain, rebuild and improve both the Church and the Hall.

Throughout the years many improvements were necessary and the congregation benefited. In the early years pews were acquired to replace the chairs, and cleaning, upkeep, and grass cutting was done by volunteers. During the 1960s and '70s the last four pews were completed, in 1969 a gas furnace was installed in the Church Hall and the old wood shed torn down, a sign was made and painted for the front door. Ed Murray and other men of the church paneled the church hall. In 1974 a gas furnace was installed in the church. As well a new roof was installed and the outside of the Church painted. Mr. A. Price installed a beautiful stained glass window in the church to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Church of Canada.

Hazelmere United

Hazelmere United Church

Church Alter

The Interior of the Church

Church mural

Church mural

Times were not always good for Hazelmere United. As the community changed from an agricultural base to a bedroom community, the church lost most of its members as farm families grew older and the young people drew away from the church or went to the larger churches to be with their peers. The congregation was down to four members in 2000. The church had to close or re–invent itself. The congregation chose to keep on going. They got lucky when a young couple came to the community and gave services. A few people came, and then a few more. Joanne Rattray the pianist and music director brought in the Hazeltones, a musical group with a sax, accordion, violin, bass fiddle and piano. Regular concerts became part of some Sunday services and other concerts that included Country sing–a–longs and a buffet dinner. This sparked a renewal of the Church and the congregation grew. Today (2013) Hazelmere United is an active parish with a committed congregation. Meetings in the Church Hall, before and after Sunday service, help to build and maintain the community spirit by encouraging contact amongst the parishioners.

Hazelmere United 2013

Hazelmere United Church in 2013


Next page: First United, White Rock

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