No. 317 - The Wesleyan Methodist Church at Mathinna

The settlement of Mathinna in the upper reaches of the South Esk River Valley is now a shadow of the thriving boomtown that existed over 100 years ago. The discovery of gold accelerated the growth of the settlement from the 1870’s and the establishment of the Golden Gate mine briefly turned Mathinna into the third largest town in Tasmania. Today less than 150 people live at the settlement. The town was originally known as “Black Boy” before it was renamed Mathinna, an aboriginal girl who was who was ‘adopted’ and later abandoned by the Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin.

With the arrival of the miners, the churches followed and three denominations were established at the settlement in quick succession. The Wesleyans opened a church shortly after the Anglicans and just before a Catholic church was built. The Salvation Army and Presbyterians were also to establish places of worship in the town. There is very little detailed about the town’s Wesleyan Methodist church and as far as I know, no photograph of it exists. A report in the Launceston Daily Telegraph has a fairly lengthy description of the traditional stone laying ceremony which took place in May 1896, and unusually on this occasion, two stones were laid:

“On Thursday the ceremony of laying the foundation stones in connection with new Wesleyan church was performed by Mrs G. Brock, of Campania, and Miss M. Andrews of Mathinna. The Rev. Wykes, the resident minister, gave an interesting account of the work of the connexion in this district, and referred to the pleasure the committee felt in having obtained the consent of Mrs Brock and Miss Andrews to perform the ceremony. The usual coins of the realm and copies of the Daily Telegraph and Mercury, placed in a bottle, were deposited beneath the stone, and Mrs Brock declared the stone duly and truly laid. Mrs Brock was then made the recipient of a handsome silver trowel, suitably inscribed, and she heartily thanked the people for their kindness in inviting her to perform such a pleasing ceremony. Miss Andrews, who at all times has shown a warm interest in the affairs of the church, laid the second stone, and thanked those present for inviting her to assist. She was presented with an inscribed silver trowel. A social and coffee supper were held in the evening in Maher's Hall, which was largely attended, the proceeds going to the church funds. The contractors are making excellent headway with the building”.

The weatherboard church was completed within a couple of months and there is a brief reference to the opening services in June 1896:

“The opening of the Wesleyan church took place on Sunday [7 June], when three sermons were preached by the Rev. Henry Bath to large congregations. The ladies tastefully decorated the church. The amount secured from the Sunday collections was favourable, and the tea would also result in a good profit. The bachelor’s table was the centre of attraction, being handsomely laid out, no expense having been spared to make it a success. An efficient choir sang at each service”.

An organ had been purchased prior to the opening service and being a remote community, complex arrangements were made for its acquisition:

“Mr. T. Andrews having been called to Launceston as one of the principal witnesses in a case in the Supreme Court, the trustees of the Wesleyan Church took the opportunity of getting him to select and purchase a new organ for the church. He obtained a beautiful instrument for £44, and it has been safely delivered here. Mr. Andrews likewise succeeded in obtaining several handsome donations in aid of the organ fund, which will materially assist the trust….”

There are frequent references to the church in local newspapers up until the 1930’s after which it disappears from the record. I have not yet determined the date of the church’s closure or when and to where it was removed.


A postcard showing three of Mathinna's five churches. The Wesleyan Methodist Church is to the left with the Catholic church in the background. The Anglican church on the right. 

An early undated photograph of Mathinna showing the Methodist and Anglican churches in the centre and the Catholic church on the hill on the right. Source: Date unknown. Source: QVM:1999:P:0006
Sources:

Daily Telegraph, Thursday 14 May 1896, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Friday 12 June 1896, page 4
The Mercury, Wednesday 24 June 1896, page 4

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