“We Will Recover”
The sign on what used to be the front doors of the Old Wesleyville United Church says it all.
Three words written by one of the pieces of burned lumber from the church.
The church built in 1860 suffered significant damage from what is believed to have been an act of arson over the Easter weekend.
Port Hope Fire and Emergency Services received the 9-1-1 call at approximately 5:40 a.m. on Saturday, (April 3, 2021) morning the church located approximately 10 kilometres west of the town of Port Hope was on fire.
When they arrived they quickly knocked down the flames that were mainly at the front entrance of the former church.
Luckily neighbour Tim Deschamps noticed the fire on his way to work.
Investigators with the Office of the Fire Marshal and OPP Forensics spent the day examining the church looking for any evidence.
Lighters taken from the scene may hold a clue.
All signs point to arson with the church having no power supply.
The church suffered significant fire, smoke and water damage to the woodwork.
Pews near the front entrance are scorched. The floor near the area where the fire started is burned through to the basement.
Most of the congregation moved to Welcome and the last time the building was used as a church was 1969.
The Friends of Wesleyville Village was created in 2009 and they’ve been having fundraisers throughout the years to maintain the buildings and the church was restored in 2010.
Kathryn McHolm who is Chair of the Friends of Wesleyville Village remembers working on the ceiling and floors to restore the church to its glory.
Looking around the soot covered floor and ceiling, it’s easy to see McHolm is a optimist.
“Thank goodness it wasn’t all burned.”
Damage estimated could reach $100,000 or more to restore the building that was the centre of activity for the group.
Hundreds of hours were spent on restoring the church since 2010.
“We made a big difference when we started to restore the building and we’ll just do it again.”
On Monday afternoon, McHolm said she’s unsure if they have the proper insurance for repairs.
If not, they’ll be starting from the beginning looking for donations.
With the arson happening on Easter weekend, McHolm and others on the board wonder if it was a hate crime.
“We don’t know that. We did discuss that – but we don’t know.”
“I think it was a very sad, angry individual/s.”
If anyone would like to donate go to www.wesleyvillevillage.com.
Anyone with information that could assist with this investigation is encouraged to contact the Northumberland OPP at 1 888-310-1122. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call the Peterborough/Northumberland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) where you may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000 and not have to appear in court. You can also submit information online at www.stopcrimehere.ca.