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The story of Sarnia’s ‘lost church’

Ian Mason Sarnia’s ‘lost church” isn’t a traditional church with a roof and walls, and it isn’t really located in Sarnia.
This overgrown pulpit remains the focal point of what was an outdoor chapel at Lamrecton Camp, just east of Bright’s Grove on Lake Huron. Submitted Photo

Ian Mason

Sarnia’s ‘lost church” isn’t a traditional church with a roof and walls, and it isn’t really located in Sarnia.

But the religious site at the former Lamrecton Camp just east of Bright’s Grove did serve a largely Sarnia congregation, and it does have an interesting history.

Today, a red brick pulpit remains the focal point of what was the camp’s natural outdoor chapel, and its sanctuary walls are a hedge of evergreen trees and bushes.

The top of the pulpit was slanted, so the minister or leader could lead prayers with a Bible or hymnbook at a comfortable reading level. It also functioned as a Communion table on which the bread and “wine” were placed during Communion services.

An inscription indicates the pulpit was built by the Young People’s Union of Devine Street United Church, in memory of Grant Barnes (1930-1951), a Sarnian who died while attending Toronto’s Ryerson Institute of Technology.

Barnes was a musically talented youth who played in the SCITS band, Sarnia Citizens’ Band and the church’s Sunday School Orchestra. Inflammation of the heart was the probable cause of death.

By 1950, Devine Street United was the second-largest United Church in Lambton County, with 1,062 members.

Long-time member Janet (Eyre) Thompson remembers the day the finishing touches were applied to the outdoor chapel. The boys of the YPU sawed the wood for a picket fence outlining the perimeters of the chapel, while the girls painted the fence as soon as it was nailed together. It was Tuesday, June 2, 1953, and Governor General Vincent Massey had proclaimed the day a national holiday.

“It was the day of the Queen’s coronation,” Thompson recalled. “The boys opened their car doors and turned up the radios so that we could all listen to the ceremony.”

Lamrecton Camp had been established in 1926 by Rev. A. Earle Waghorne of Mandaumin United Church, his family and a crew of volunteers. During the summer, the eight-member family lived on site on Egremont Road, just east of Mandaumin Road.

Earle Waghorne stitched the first tents and designed the bunks so they could be folded up during the day, and wife Mirah served as cook.

Even the stone entrance gates and fence pillars, built in 1926 and still standing today, were the work of Rev. Waghorne and his family.

Janet Thompson recalled it was typical for each of the 65 United Churches in Lambton Presbytery to use the camp at least once a year in the 1950s, more if a group like Canadian Girls in Training (C.G.I.T.) wanted to camp.

A group of volunteers, mainly from Camlachie United Church, managed to keep the facility operating even after the Lambton United Church Centre Camp on County Road 7 opened in the 1960s.

But last summer, at the conclusion of the 89th season, the Board of Directors transferred Lamrecton to the Town of Plympton-Wyoming for public use.

The fate of the pulpit and the outdoor sanctuary is not known.

Ian Mason, a Brigden resident, is the great-grandson of Rev. A. Earle Waghorne.

Editor’s Note: Former campers can explore the grounds and cabins on Sunday, June 5, when Plympton-Wyoming hosts a dedication ceremony and auction from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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