Sept. 25, 2009
An Historical Sketch
First Hillsboro Baptist Church
BY: REV. W. CAMP.
Read before the New Brunswick Eastern Association
Published by request of that body
Saint John New Brunswick
In May, 1763, a few years after the taking of Quebec by the English and in the
same year in which the “Treaty of Paris,” was signed at Paris, which marked the close of “The Seven Year’
War,” six German families left Pennsylvania to settle somewhere in a northern climate. “They sailed in a sloop
commanded by Capt. Hall. After a long and wearisome passage, they arrived at a place now called Hillsboro, July 1, and landed
at a small creek on the north side of Gray’s Island,”
Among these adventurers was a family by the name of Steeves. Hendrick Steeves
and his wife, Rachel, had seven sons-Jacob, John, Christian, Frederick, Lutrick, Henry and Matthias-names still cherished
among the Steeves and given to present generations.
Mr. and Mrs. Hendrick Steeves, with their seven sons, stopped at Hillsboro,
built a log house and made this their headquarters.
The sloop after landing the Steeves family proceeded up the Petitcodiac to a
place afterwards called, “The Bend,” and later Moncton. Here the remainder of the party was landed. The names
of these families were Jones, Trites, Ricker, Lutz and Somers. After this the sloop left on her homeward voyage promising
to return the next spring.
The Steeves family at Hillsboro began to clear land and make for themselves
a home. As the season was too late when they arrived to sow grain they planted a few turnips, and contented themselves by
fishing and hunting and making preparations for the coming and untried winter. When the winter came it was cold and stormy,
and seemed extremely severe to those accustomed to a warmer climate. They looked forward to the coming of the spring with
great hopefulness. Soon the snow and ice began to melt; the forests were clothed in green robes and June. With her warm and
gentle breath stirred new life in this lonely and discouraged family. Eagerly did they now look for the returning sloop, but
were doomed to disappointment. The summer passed, the autumn with its beautifully tinted leaves came, and the winter with
its biting blasts returned, but no vessel arrived to cheer these isolated settlers. After the first winter the most trying
time in their experience came. Their provisions were about gone, and there was no place to procure more: the remainder of
the seed they brought with them they had just planted; and no vessel came to supply their growing needs.
What they passed through the second summer and winter, hoping against hope that
sloop would return; and then at last giving up all hopes of her coming back. Manfully and heroically meeting the difficulties
which arose when they had only a few turnips and such fish and game as they could procure-all the can be better imagined than
the stern facts can be recorded.
But meeting isolation, loneliness, cold winters and scarcity of food, this noble
family struggled on with a cheerfulness, a perseverance, a hardihood and a heroism that characterize only the truly great.
Such manly conduct in the face of discouraging and trying surroundings deserves a place in the history of the early settlers
of this province. And be it known that these pioneers building houses, clearing lands and constructing dykes to keep out the
Petitcodiac from their marshes did not toil without the inspiration of a preached gospel. Henry Steeves, the sixth of the
seven sons, began about 1795, to preach the gospel to the people. Thus until the organization of the church he kept alive
in the hearts of those who came to hear him the fires of faith and love towards Jesus, and made their lives all the brighter
and nobler by holding up to them the inspiring and helpful life of Christ.
At the close of the Revolutionary War many of the troops came from Fort Cumberland
and settled along the Petitcodiac River. Among them was a man by the name Jacob Beck, known as “King’s Baker.”
Henry Steeves married Mr. Beck’s daughter and settled on his father’s farm. He wrought with his hands six days
of the week, tilling the ground, and on the Sabbath read from his German Bible and expounded the Word of God to his hearers.
Thus until 1822 this man taught the people the love of God in Christ. An old man now living informs the writer that he, when
a lad, heard Mr. Steeves speak to the people the precious things of the gospel. There was a house of worship standing on the
same spot where now the village church stands. It was here Henry Steeves preached or exhorted from Sabbath to Sabbath. Sometime
after the First Hillsboro Baptist Church was organized this building was removed and came into the possession of the Methodists.
Another large building was put on the spot. This in time was removed and third still larger edifice build here. This is the
present beautiful structure which commands the old and memorable hill. Until
the arrival of Father Crandall, in 1822, Mr. Steeves was the only minister in this neighbourhood, save, perhaps, an occasional
itinerant preacher,” Mr. Crandall, directed by God, visited what is now known as Hillsboro. Shortly after his coming
the spirit of God began to move upon the people.
Mr. Peter Janah, now an octogenarian, gives, “the writer a vivid picture
of a baptism which took place on the 6th of October, 1822. He claims to have been present at the organization of
the church. He was then a boy of 18 years. On the banks of Weldon Creek, about three miles from the village, there gathered,
one Sabbath day, a few settlers to witness the sacred ordinance of baptism administered to several candidates. It was not
the first baptism the people had seen. There may have been one or two scenes like this before. What is now a pleasant half
hour’s drive amid beautiful trees and along beautifully cultivated fields, and by neat and pretty houses, was then a
tedious journey over stumps and stones. And where now in Hillsboro and Salem are large farms with delightful and pleasant
homes then there were isolated clearings with here and there a dwelling.
The octogenarian above referred to says that at this time, seventy-one years
ago, there were but five houses at the ‘Bend;’ and from Edgett’s Landing to Mclatchey’s in Weldon
only fourteen houses, but to return to the scene on the banks of Weldon Creek. It was the 6th of October, 1822.
Rev. Joseph Crandall stood with several happy converts who were about to follow their Saviour in his own appointed ways. And
there amid autumnal foliage, with God, and angels and men as witnesses, this little band of believers put on Christ by public
obedience to His Commands.
After this service was completed they went to a barn a short distance from the
spot and there organized the First Hillsboro Baptist Church. This barn was owned by Henry Steeves, grandson of preacher and
one of the first deacons of the church. A man by the name of Robert Smith, a good singer, who was present from the Salisbury
Church and whose home was in Pollet River, at Mr. Crandall’s request read the articles of the Baptist faith; and those
who were baptised that day, together with others who had been baptized previously-perhaps ten or twelve in all-formed themselves
into a New Testament church. The names of some of them were: Michael Steeves, Patrick Duffy, Eunice Duffy, William Duffy,
John Steeves, Peggy Steeves, Jennie Gross, Vinnia Taylor, William Gross, Mrs. Peter Hopper and perhaps others.
Christ was born in a manger and cradled upon straw. It the barn was not too
low for the son of God it was not too mean and humbles a place to witness the organisation of a church of His. What a quaint
scene! On the barn floor, surrounded by fragrant hay solemn obligations were
assumed and recorded in God’s Books. One can imagine the love and affection which bound together that little band of
pioneer men and women, who could conquer the wild forests and compel the earth to yield her increase, all the more heroically
and successfully by cherishing in their hearts the religion of Christ and maintaining a visible church of our Redeemer in
To the unconcerned this must have appeared as a delicate plant soon to wither
and die; but the sturdy nature of the pioneer was in the organization and it soon proved itself to be no “reed shaken
in the wind,” forward Christmas this little band had grown to seventy-seven - thirty-seven of these bearing the name
It is but fair to state that no church record has been preserved with reference
to the place of the organization of the Church, and that some of the members hold that the tradition I have described and
verified from the memory of an old man is incorrect. Those who do not think the church was organized at Salem believe the
organization took place in the village in the first building standing where now the village church stands.
The writer has presented what he believes to be that facts. It is recorded that
an association was held with this church the next summer after its organization, I. E., in 1828. “In 1824 one of the
members, James Wallace, was licensed to preach. He had to improve his talents without the aid of schools and colleges and
with but a few books. Towards the close of 1834 there seemed to be a subsiding of the first enthusiasm. Doubtless the truth
was penetrating beneath the surface, affecting a work of which they were hardly conscious. Memory says that the first deacons
were Henry Steeves, David Steeves and Elijah Milton. Joseph Steeves was clerk in 1824, and Issac Gross was appointed to that
office in 1882.”
In 1884 Rev. Wm. Sears became pastor of the church, giving three-fourths of
his time. He had preached to the people before, but now became their regular pastor. From 1884 to 1888 no remarkable events
occurred, but the work of God continued. Members were received and baptized – not many at a time, but a few frequently.
In 1840 Pastor Walker, from the Hopewell Church, visited them. This sister church was organized in 1818. After this visit
the church seems to have gained a new life. The country all about felt her influence. In 1841 a sister comes all the way from
Middle Coverdale to confess her Lord and to receive baptism. In 1848 Patrick Duffy was licensed to preach. In 1844 James Wallace
Became pastor of this church. In 1845 William Gross was elected as a deacon of the church. For a few years the church seems
to have been in a depressed state. But in 1848 Alexander McDonald and John Francis arrived from Wales and for a time preached
and laboured with good success. Many were converted, the work extending to Baltimore. Among those converted at this time was
James Irving, who afterwards became a preacher of the gospel, and who for some eighteen years held the pastorate of the Baltimore
Church, leading many precious souls to Christ.
Little is known of the church’s prosperity from 1848 to 1860. These are
proofs, however, to show that this was not an uneventful period. During these twelve years no less than three churches sprang
from the First Hillsboro. The Second Hillsboro was organized at Dawson Settlement in 1852, The Third Hillsboro at Demoiselle
Creek in 1855, and the Forth Hillsboro at Baltimore in 1857. Mr. James Newcomb, a graduate of Acadia College, taught a high
school and preached for the churches of Hillsboro for some little time. After wards, in May, 1849, he and Patrick Duffy were
ordained to the gospel ministry. Both of these men did valiant work for God and died loved and honoured by all who came under
their kind and Christian influence.
In 1852 Rev. John Hughes became pastor of this church. Before his coming among
the people the church was threatened with division. Under his able and wise ministry the different opposing elements were
brought together and the work of the Lord carried forward with great success. He remained until about 1861.
In 1860 steps were taken to provide for the first instrumental music. Record
is also made of a gracious revival during the winter of 1861, when many souls were led to Christ as the result of special
meetings. No less than twelve ministers assisted in this work. The name Salem was given to what was then called “The
Beck Settlement” in 1861.
In 1862 Rev. Lewis Marshall had change of the church for a short time.
In 1868 Rev. James Austen Smith accepted a call to this church, and four years
continued his indefatigable labours with the people. “During his ministry at Hillsboro, a revival of mighty power aroused
the church and called a large number to participate for the first time in the blessings of redeeming love.” In the winter
of 1868 this revival took place, when there were added to the church 155 by baptism and thirteen by letter, making in all
168-the largest ingathering at any one time during the history of this church. In 1865 the Salem house of worship was opened.
About this time the present edifice in the village was built-it being the third building standing on this spot. In 1867 Rev.
W. T. Corey was called as pastor of the church. During his pastorate of some eleven years, the village church building was
finished and dedicated. Mr. Corey’s pastorate was a successful one. Many were added to the church and the work of God
It was during this pastorate that regular preaching services were held in Weidon,
where now there is an Supper room furnished” and set apart for the worship of God, and where regular prayer and preaching
services are held.
In 1876 the valley church, the fourth and last child was organized. A church
building was already built in that part of Hillsboro, and services had been held here. Now this became the home of one of
the most active churches in the county. And be it said with gratitude to God, that these four daughters have, form the very
first, and maintained a character worthy of the New Testament Church. They have cherished the pure gospel and built up a strong
membership, and have done a work for God that eternity alone will reveal. And so they have given their mother church every
reason to be grateful for their existence and proud of their useful career. And now she looks upon them as loved children
who have grown up to womanhood and settled for themselves, and rejoices that they have settled so well.
In 1878 Rev. C. B. Welton became the pastor of this Church. During his pastorate
a large and burdensome debt was removed and many souls added to the church.
In 1880 the convention of the Maritime Provinces was held in this church. These
meetings are still cherished in the memories of a large part of the church members.
Rev. J. C. Bleakney was called to the pastorate in 1888. His stay, though short,
was one of great helpfulness to the cause. During the summer of 1884 Evangelist Chubbuck visited Hillsboro and held special
services. Some eighty were converted and united wit God’s people.
The present pastor, Rev. W. Camp, began his labours with the church March, 1886.
During these past seven years the church has greatly prospered. About 153 have been baptizes and 38 received by letter. Large
sums of money have been raised to purchase a parsonage, repair and paint church buildings, and remove indebtedness. The benevolent
offerings of the church have more than doubled in these years. The church is united and prosperous. The people have every
reason to thank “God and take courage.”
Last October 1892 the church celebrated her seventieth anniversary. For four
days religious services were held. On the evening of October sixth, after devotional exercises, a short historical record
of the church was read. Then followed addresses from former pastors. On the evening of the seventh addresses were delivered
by pastors of invited churches, October eighth there was held an old-fashioned conference meeting. The ninth being Sunday,
three services were held, preaching services morning and evening. In the afternoon was the “roll call” and special
“thank offering.” On this occasion 202 answered to their names, and $91 was taken as the thank offering. These
services were much enjoyed by the people and the life of the church was quickened.
Beginning with ten or twelve members the church has grown until twelve hundred
and twenty-five have come into our fellowship. It has become the mother of four living, active and flourishing churches. Many
of those who were baptized into the fellowship of this church are now labouring for Jesus in different parts of the world.
There are at present 436 members, and hundreds have gone triumphantly to heaven. Only the faintest outline of the history
of this people has been given in this summary. Facts interesting to the church members, but not so interesting to this body,
are withheld. Only the briefest record has been kept from time to time, and unfortunately part of that is gone. But from what
facts are available and from what memory can furnish we have many reasons for believing that the First Hillsboro Baptist Church
has done a great and good work for God and perishing souls. Only eternity can reveal all that has been accomplished.
What inspiration is afforded by the study of the history of God’s people!
moving, guiding and overruling all things to His glory and for the good of His people. What an inspiration to every church
to make a good record-to live in harmony, fellowship and love! And what and inspiration to every member to live for the glory
of Christ and the highest good of one another!
To the church and to the members of the church God is calling in all generations
for earnest; God-fearing, consecrated and holy living.
Submitted By: Helena Lewis Added: Sept. 25, 2009