Shasdy Grove Unitarian Church, South Australia

Shady Grove Unitarian Church.

After his arrival at Port Adelaide in 1845 John Monks took up land near Hahndorf. He named his property Shady Grove Farm. John married Priscilla Appleton on 29 May 1850 and their first child was born the following year.

Francis Duffield and Alice Monks arrived in South Australia in 1839. They came from Lancashire, England, where they were members of Unitarian congregations. For the next five years he was secretary to Osmond Gilles. After establishing themselves at Shady Grove they called their property, which adjoined John's, Cobden Grange, after the British champion of Free Trade, Richard Cobden. Francis had been a home missionary in the Salford Church. For several years Francis was Chairman of the Onkaparinga District Council and Trustee of the Balhannah Public School.

John Monks

John Monks, who was from the Croft Unitarian congregation vowed that if God prospered him in the new country he would build a church. He did prosper, financially, but still suffered personal hardship. On 24 December 1854 their youngest child, John died, aged only nine months. Daughter Emmeline was buried on 29 July 1863, aged three years and ten months. Their youngest daughter, Emma Naomi, died 20 May 1889, aged 20 years and five months.

In 1858 John and his sons set about building a school on the Shady Grove property with stone quarried on the property, and the timber cut by cross cut saw over a pit. The floor was originally dirt and there was no ceiling. The inside walls were whitewashed.

From about 1856 a tutor from England had been engaged to teach the children of the two families, now of school age and others of the district. The schoolhouse was completed on 4 October 1858 and In November 1858 J.F. Ascoll applied for a teaching licence for Shady Grove. The school was also used for Unitarian Church services on Sundays, with Francis Duffield, husband of Alice Monks, as leader.

On 26 January 1863 John and Priscilla’s third daughter, Editha, was born at Shady Grove. She later married Ernest Alfred Smith on 7 June 1882. Ernest’s father, Frederick, conducted services at the church for more than 25 years. Frederick Charles Smith, born on 24 June 1832, had left England on the barque Royal Shepherdess on 5 March 1852 and arrived at Port Adelaide on 17 July 1852.

F.C. Smith

Frederick married Eliza J. Jones, born 27 July 1838, who had arrived on the Canton in 1848, at Blakiston on 22 June 1856. In South Australia he joined the Prince of Wales Lodge at Mount Barker and the Loyal Britannia Lodge of Oddfellows. For thirty years he was an active member of the Mount Barker Auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the prime mover for the erection of a monument to honour Captain Collet Barker.

When a government school was built in Balhannah the little school was no longer needed, so it was decided to officially open the Shady Grove building as the Shady Grove Unitarian Church. It had seating for a hundred people. The Rev. J. Crawford Woods, from the Adelaide Unitarian Church, officiated at the opening ceremony which took place on 24 Dec 1865. That same year John Monks gave the land for the schoolhouse and the cemetery to the Unitarian Church in Adelaide. In 1877 the Trust Deeds of the transfer were completed.

Shady Grove now officially became the second Unitarian Meeting House in the colony of South Australia. At the opening service Rev. Woods stated that in pleasantly calling Shady Grove the 'Mother Church' he did so from learning that Francis Duffield had held services for his own family and that of John Monks, his brother-in-law, and other neighbours at first in his own house, from the early 1850s, and afterwards in the school house.

From 1865 to 1881 Francis Duffield was the official lay leader of the Shady Grove congregation. Services were held at 2.30 p.m. each Sunday until 1877. From then on they were held each fortnight at Mount Barker. Shady Grove services were altered to 10.30 a.m. on those days. Around this time many of Francis Duffield's sermons were published and circulated in the Mount Barker district as another means of attracting followers.

Francis Duffield

The Shady Grove congregation consisted mainly of three families; the Monks, Duffields and Cromptons. Mary Duffield had married John Crompton, a farmer from the area. There were also the occasional visits from neighbours, amounting to some 20 to 25 people. Settlement in the area did not expand greatly, so in Francis Duffield's opinion there was little chance of attracting more attendants at weekly services unless arrangements for lectures were made and well publicised beforehand.

For many years the Rev. Woods would come up from Adelaide to Shady Grove and give the Anniversary sermon which was always well attended by both members and visitors. When he returned to England for health reasons for some time he was replaced by Rev. Whitlam. He was back in time to officiate the wedding of Frederick W. Smith and Mary Duffield on 22 May 1879. A month later, George Monks married Ina Eliza Smith at Mount Barker on 24 June.

On 27 July 1879 John Monk and F.C. Smith, two of the trustees of the church presented a testimonial to Francis Duffield for his 14 years of service. A brief report in 1880 was Francis' last. In 1881 he moved to Clare to live with his daughter and son-in-law Fred. W. Smith. Francis Duffield died 25 December 1888, aged 89.

The responsibility for continuing Unitarian services fell to the Rev. Frederick Charles Smith of Mount Barker, who was Fred W. Smith's father. He conducted regular services at Shady Grove and Mount Barker for the next 25 years. In 1909 F.C. Smith was appointed officiating minister under the Marriage Act. He died on 6 June 1910, aged 78 and was buried at Shady Grove on 14 June 1910.

On 10 December 1882 the Rev J.C. Woods once again preached his anniversary sermon to a large and appreciative congregation. Although the church was hidden away in picturesque bushland, the congregation was well aware of local and international affairs. When donations were sought for the China Famine Relief Fund in 1889 it contributed ten shillings.

Bible presented September 1870

After the death of Frederick Charles Smith his sons Kenneth, Eric and Wilfred, each conducted services while his son Alwyn was the organist for more than 50 years. John Monks died 7 November 1889, age 74. His wife Priscilla died at Shady Grove on 22 June 1915. John and Priscilla's property was advertised for sale on 15 April 1916. After her mother's death Editha and Ernest lived on the farm and continued to support, and be involved with, the church. Ernest died 30 September 1929 aged 70. After his death Editha built a home close to that of her sister Mary Alice Monks. She died on 2 February 1943 and was buried with her husband in the nearby cemetery.

Another family living at Shady Grove was J.T. and S. Lemar. J.T. arrived on the Resource in 1839. Their second son George William aged 24 died on 11 February 1885. A month later, on 12 March their fourth son, Albert Edward also died aged 19. Henry Lemar, husband of Elizabeth died at Shady Grove on 18 March 1900. On 1 November 1901 the wife of James Lemar had a son and it was reported that the father was delighted. On 13 July 1910 J.T. Lemar celebrated his 80th birthday with a dinner at which 50 people sat down. He liced at Shady Grove for some 60 years.

The church is now classified by the National Trust as a building of historical interest.


Shady Grove Cemetery

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