FOOTHILLS UNITED CHURCH IN COWLEY
By Caroline Johnson
The Foothills United Church started out as the Cowley Presbyterian Church in 1904. It was built at a cost of 600 dollars adjacent to the Cowley Methodist Church. Its initial pastor was Reverend Sealy, who held services on alternate Sundays at the two churches. In 1913 a manse was built, and in 1920 – 21 the Methodists joined with the Presbyterians. The Methodist Church was sold to Mr. J. Smyth in 1923. In 1925 Church Union took place and the Presbyterian Church became the Cowley United Church.
The manse was suitable for ministers with families, but was too large for single student ministers. Consequently a one-room house, referred to as “the shack”, was purchased and moved next to the church in 1920. This building, when not occupied, was rented for two dollars per month. It was sold in the 1950s to Mr. Robert H. Day. When student ministers resided in the small house, the manse was rented. In the 1920s it was rented to Dr. James Donald for ten dollars per month; by 1942 the rent had decreased to five dollars. The manse was sold in 1945 to the W. R. Cochrane family for 800 dollars.
The Cowley United church was associated with preaching points at Mountain Mill and Tennessee in the late 1920s. In 1932 the Cowley United Church served 290 people and included preaching points at Olin Creek and Tennessee. From 1933 – 35 Blairmore provided the pastor, and from 1935 – 38, Bellevue supplied the pastor; this association with Bellevue continued during 1940 – 52. Since 1954 Cowley United has been a preaching point in the Pincher Creek Pastoral Charge. In 1958 the Cowley United Church adopted a new name – Foothills United Church – and that name continues today. Reverend W. Dormer, who served from 1957 – 64, took a keen interest in the history of the Church and initiated the holding of anniversary services on the second Sunday in June. During this time, a Memorial Fund was started; the first purchase from the fund was an organ in 1960. The organ cost 1295 dollars; since the fund could provide only 900 dollars, along with one hundred dollars from the church, the remainder was provided by parishioner Jim McKay in the form of an interest-free loan. Ann Elton was the first organist.
The church building has experienced many changes over the years. The parlour (kitchen – Sunday School area) was added in 1958. The sidewalk was poured by parishioners in 1960. Water was provided in 1963. The steeple was also erected in 1963 and in 1964 the bell was obtained from the CNR. Natural gas came in 1975. The back porch addition was added in 1978, and a restroom in 1982.
Women have played a significant role throughout the history of the Foothills United Church. In June 1906 the Ladies Aid Society of the Presbyterian Church was formed. Its goal was to assist in carrying out the work of the church. Meetings were held monthly at the homes of the members. The founding members were Jessie G. Hamilton, Sara M. Archibald, Annie H. Morrison, Ethel G. Egbert, Martha Kean and Bessie A. Davidson. In 1958 the name of the group was changed to the Women’s Auxiliary, and in 1962 it became the United Church Women (UCW), its name today. The UCW has been and remains very active in supporting local causes and world charities. In the 1910 – 1930 era it raised money by holding concerns, some with paid entertainers, and annual teas with baking and sewn items (aprons, tea towels, clothes) for sale. It directed its funds to the Women’s Home Missionary Society, the building of the manse, and paying the taxes of the church and the public school. In the 1940s it paid the deficits on the ministers’ salaries. During the war it contributed to the war effort by sending packages of food and “treats” to the soldiers overseas, as well as bandages and clothing to use in hospitals. In the 1950s, the group’s activities included visiting hospital patients, sending presents and flowers to seniors, and ensuring congratulatory cards were received by those celebrating special occasions. In the 1960s and 1970s the group became very active in both fundraising and supporting charitable causes. It catered supper meetings, auctions, Christmas parties, anniversary teas, weddings, graduations, held its own fall tea and bazaar, and produced a cook book in 1973. It donated money to a leper mission, the Missionary and Maintenance Fund, drilling water wells and supporting “Operation Eyesight” in India, the Canadian Bible Society, St. Stephen’s College, the Beaver Mines Baptist Church Camp, the Canyon Church Camp, the Salvation Army, and the Alma Reynolds Bursary Fund as well as other organizations. The UCW also organized church picnics and socials. Since the 1980s the UCW has continued to support local and worldwide charities by raising funds through sewing and quilting projects, selling cards, catering suppers and helping to operate the Pincher Creek Thrift Shop. This group has contributed greatly to the welfare of the local community by visiting the sick, elderly, bereaved, and those in distress. The group has generally had between ten and thirty members, and its current longest serving ones are Karen Poulsen (1954), Shirley Scotton (1968), and June Jasman (1969). The longest serving president of the UCW was Mary Elton.
The church has also sponsored youth groups over the years. The Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT) first started in 1925, but ended in 1928 when the minister’s wife left. It was active again in 1945 and continued into the 1960s. The girls’ Messenger and Explorer groups were active in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The boys’ group, the Tyros, was formed in the 1950s and became the Wolf Club in 1962. From time to time these groups became amalgamated with one another and continued to provide a positive direction to the young people of the community.
Since its inception Foothills United Church has had a significant influence on the Cowley community and surrounding area, providing friendship, solace and spiritual learning. The warmth and goodwill of its members are as evident today as its 9:30 a.m. weekly service (except for the third Sunday of the month) and during the coffee and “goodies” gathering afterwards where friendly and lively discussions take place, as they have been for over one-hundred years.
1904 – 06: Reverend Sealy 1948 – 49: Reverend J. C. Kay
1906 – 11: Reverend G. Hamilton 1949 – 51: Reverend John Wood
1911 – 13: Reverend William Hay 1951 – 53: Reverend John W. Moules
1913 – 14: Reverend J. Edward Healy 1953 – 54: Reverend B. McPherson
1914 – 17: Reverend W. M. Chalmers 1954 – 57: Reverend R. M. Moriarty
19?? – ??: Mr. Paul Moore (student) 1957 – 64: Reverend W. Dormer
19?? – 23: Reverend Munro 1964 – 68: Reverend Lawrence Edwards
1923 – 28: Reverend R. W. Griffith 1968 – 72: Reverend Ken Jordan
1928: Reverend J. L. Wright 1972 – 74: Reverend Robert Putman
1931: Reverend Horton 1974 – 89: Reverend James Henning
1989 – 96: Reverend Joyce Sasse
1935 – 38: Reverend Richard Upton 1996 – 2000: Reverend Cullene Bryant
1940 – 47: Reverend W. H. Irwin 2001 – Current: Reverend Brent Woodard
Source: Johnson, Caroline, “Foothills United Church In Cowley”, Pincher Creek: Unpublished manuscript on the Cowley United Church, December 2010, two pages.