No. 623 - Upper Blythe Methodist Church (1901-1910) - "A visit from the fire fiend"

Upper Blythe was a rural settlement centred on a ford on the Blythe River approximately 20 kilometres south west of Penguin. The area is now part of Camena. Researching the history of churches in the Penguin hinterland is complex as churches were moved around the district and settlements were renamed and went by different names.

Two Methodist churches were built at Upper Blythe. The first was a Primitive Methodist church built in 1901. This was replaced by a new church in 1911 after the original building was destroyed in a fire. The latter church was moved to Cuprona in 1939. This article will be limited to the history of the first church at Upper Blythe (Camena).

The establishment of a church is first mentioned in the North West Post in March 1900:

“Arrangements are being made for erecting a new church at the Upper Blythe, and to this end the offer of a site for the building by Mrs Westcombe, sen., is most welcome. The building will be used for school purposes also, and is very necessary. As the site offered is opposite the bridge over the Blythe, it should suit all concerned admirably. A picnic, the proceeds of which will be devoted to the funds of the new building in Mr Price’s paddock to-morrow”.

Progress on the planned church was reported in the North West Advocate in July 1900:

“A move has at last been made in the matter of the much talked of school and church building. A meeting of those interested was held it Mr T. Hayes' a few evening's ago to consider ways and means….the trees have been felled and the land is being cleared by many willing workers, who freely give their mite to the deserving cause. As satisfactory arrangements have been made for the sawn timber required and other material, we hope to see a substantial building erected very soon, so that the number of children growing up here will have the advantage of proper schooling and religions instruction”.


A year was to pass before construction began in mid 1901 and the church was officially opened on Sunday 27 October of that year. The North Western Advocate reported:

“The Primitive Methodists have completed their church and it will be opened to-morrow, when Mr Fletcher, evangelist from Melbourne, will preach afternoon and night, and also conduct meetings each night during the week except on Wednesday, when a tea and public meeting in aid of the new church will be held…”.


A record of the opening services has not survived but a report in the North Western Advocate describes the tea and public meeting held during week which provide further details about the building:

“An opening tea and public meeting took place at the new P.M. church at Upper Blythe on Wednesday. The tea meeting in the afternoon was largely attended. Visitors were present from Somerset, Burnie, Stowport, Blythe, West Pine, Penguin, and Riana. A splendid spread was provided by the ladies of the locality, prominent among whom were Mesdames Dicker, Price, Emmerton and Smith.… After the tea a public meeting was held, presided over by Mr R. Hilder, of Bumie, who congratulated the people on having now erected what was a long-felt want — a building for public worship, and also a place for a State School, which was badly needed in the district. …The contractor for the erection of the building was Mr C. Spinks, of Penguin. This satisfactory state of affairs is the outcome of three years' hard work by those specially interested…”.

While Upper Blythe got its church there is no record of a State school using the building up until the time that it burnt down in 1910. However it appears that a State school existed for a period in the 1920’s which was housed in the new church. The school and church closed around 1929.

The fate of the original church is described in a report in the Examiner in April 1910:

“Our North-Western representative wired from Ulverstone last night as follows: - It would appear that the coast is at present undergoing a visit from the fire fiend, for fires have been quite numerous since Christmas. The latest addition to the list is one that occurred at Upper Blythe on Wednesday night, when the Methodist Church there, with all its furniture, etc., was completely destroyed. The outbreak is regarded as the act of an incendiary, for there were no logs burning or bush fires in the vicinity at the time”.

The church was replaced in 1911 and the new building remained in use until the late 1920’s before it was was removed to Cuprona in 1939. The history of the second church will covered in a follow-up article in the near future.

A view of the Upper Blythe church from the Tasmanian Mail 

A different view of the church on a postcard, probably taken at the same time as the Tasmanian Mail photograph.
A detail of the church taken from the postcard.

The approximate location of the church on the hill on the right of the street-map screen shot

Notice of the church's opening in 1901 - North West Post


Sources:

North West Post, Thursday 15 March 1900, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 27 July 1900, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 3 April 1901, page 2
Daily telegraph, Thursday 27 June 1901, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 26 October 1901, page 2
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Friday 1 November 1901, page 2
Examiner, Monday 4 November 1901, page 3
The Tasmanian Mail, December 5 1903, page 23
Examiner, Friday 18 April 1910, page 4
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 18 December 1911, page 2


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