No. 764 - Mathinna - The Presbyterian Church

The settlement of Mathinna in the upper reaches of the South Esk River Valley is now a shadow of the thriving boom town of the late 19th century. The discovery of gold accelerated the growth of the settlement after the 1870s and the establishment of the Golden Gate mine briefly turned Mathinna into the third largest town in Tasmania. Today less than 150 people live in the township.

Soon after the arrival of the miners, three denominations were established at Mathinna in quick succession. An Anglican church (1896), a Methodist church (1896) and a Catholic church (1897) feature prominently in the photograph used at the head of this article. A fourth church, which is not visible, was a Presbyterian church. This was established in 1901 in a former Salvation Army Hall that had opened in March 1897.

Why the Salvation Army did not prosper at Mathinna is not clear but four years after the opening of the Salvation Army Hall, it was sold to the Presbyterians.

In January 1901 the Daily Telegraph reported:

“The Presbyterians have at last decided to have a church here, instead of using the public hall, and have purchased the building erected by the Salvation Army, which should prove suitable, and if a weekly, instead of a fortnightly, service could be arranged the success of this cause would be ensured, Rev. J. G. Millar being a very popular and eloquent preacher”.

Two months later the Telegraph reported that the former Salvation Army hall had been renovated and modified to give it the appearance of a church:

“Having purchased the building until recently occupied by the Salvation Army, the Presbyterians, after adding a porch and belfry, opened it with special Services on Sunday March 17. The church was nicely decorated by the ladies of the congregation and other friends. The morning service was harvest thanksgiving, and the evening, a special opening service, both conducted by the minister, Rev. J. G. Millar".

Although there are regular news items relating to the Mathinna Presbyterian church, these do not contribute any significant information about the building and apart from the fact that it had a porch and belfry, there are no further details of its appearance and no photograph of it seems to exist. Even its location is uncertain and a cursory study of maps of the town reveal no clues as to its site.

News of the Presbyterians at Mathinna gradually fades from the record and the last published report I have found relates to a funeral taking place in the Mathinna Presbyterian church in May 1948. The date of the church’s closure and the fate of the building is not known.


       An early postcard of a Mathinna showing three of the four churches established in the town. c.1900

       A postcard with a general view of Mathinna. Three churches are clearly visible but the Presbyterian    
                                                       church is hidden among the buildings.

                    An undated postcard of the Mathinna Post Office covered in snow. 
 
                           Mathinna street scenes published in the Weekly Courier in 1902

                          Mathinna street scenes published in the Weekly Courier in 1902

             
                  A coronation arch - Mathinna street scenes published in the Weekly Courier in 1902

 
                                         The Mathinna Hotel c.1895 - Source SLV - NC001811

                                 The Golden Gate Mine (1902) Source: The Tasmanian Mail

              Parade in main street of Mathinna. C J Bailey, butcher, Bulman Brothers produce store. (1904) -        
                                                                            Libraries Tasmania
                        
                                   Undated postcard with a view of the Golden Gate Mine

Sources:

Mercury, Saturday 13 March 1897, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 16 January 1901, page 8
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 9 April 1901, page 3
Tasmanian Mail, 23 July 1902
Weekly Courier, Saturday 26 July 1902 
The Mercury, Friday 28 May 1948, page 7

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