Historic Murray Church
The oldest building in the Nicola Valley
“The quaint little white church, the first in the area.”
One of the most iconic attractions in the Nicola Valley is the historic Murray Church. Located in the Nicola Valley on highway 5A just northeast of Merritt, the quaint little white church, the first in the area. Built in 1876 the Murray Church is the oldest building in the Nicola Valley and also the only building still standing made with local Nicola Valley lumber. If you peek in the windows you can get an idea of what a 19th century church looked like back in the day. It has a pulpit at the front, pews waiting to be filled, and stained glass windows at the back.
Murray Church originally starts out as a Presbyterian Church and in 1927 became Murray United Church. The church named after its founder Rev. George Murray is the most photographed church in all of the southern interior of BC.
Murray Church cemetery
A small cemetery surrounds it with several dozen headstones, some crumbled and worn, but mostly still legible. These told the story of a harder period in history, when many didn’t make it past the age of 50. One headstone marked the grave of a young mother who died just 19 days before her infant daughter. There was also a number of unmarked graves, distinguished only by small piles of rocks or wooden fences. Walking amongst these graves, some marked with ornate marble headstones and some just with a pile of stones, was a somber but fascinating experience.
About the founder – Rev. George Murray
Reverend George Murray first arrived in the Nicola Valley in 1875. rev. George Murray, who became the only Presbyterian minister in B.C. for five years after his arrival. A graduate of the University of Glasgow, rev. Murray had previously ministered to the district extending from Yale to Clinton, including Ashcroft and Lillooet. Perched on a saddle and armed with a Bible, the reverend travelled through the wilderness on horseback covering a circuit of 600 miles. Now the Nicola Valley was added to his parish. As he travelled the circuit, the reverend would camp outdoors, or sleep at whatever house he happened to be near when night fell. As more settlers arrived, the village of Nicola began to take shape and the more optimistic looked forward to the day when it might become a great city.
Rev. Murray was accepted into the valley and soon found his way into the people’s hearts. In 1876, with their help, he began construction of Murray Church. It was originally St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church as the local Presbyterian pioneer families. The Clappertons and the Moores were no doubt among the founders of the church. While living in the Valley, the reverend’s travels took him to surrounding settlements, holding services on alternate Sundays as far away as Stump Lake, Douglas Lake and down the valley to the old 22-Mile House. On special occasions he held services at Aspen Grove and Mamette Lake. Every other Sunday, he preached morning and evening in the little church at Nicola and in the afternoon at either Lower Nicola, or Forksdale (which later became Merritt).
Nicola Ranch home of the Murray Church
The Nicola Ranch is situated around Murray United Church. Major Goldman in 1919 purchased the Nicola Ranch and Town site in Nicola, which grew to some 300,000 acres. He owned all the way up to Monck Provincial Park. Which is now that name. He named this park after his son Commander Victor Robert Penryn Monck Goldman of the Royal Navy. Charles Sydney Major Goldman was a British businessman, author, and journalist who served as a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1910 until 1918. There is a memorial stone in the Murray Church yard. He had purchased all the land including the land that the Murray United Church on today.
Much to the regret of the early pioneers, the great city that had been hoped for at Nicola did not materialize. Coal was discovered at Forksdale and with the completion of the railroad into the valley in 1908, Merritt began to grow at the expense of Nicola.
Today the Murray Church stands among the pioneer buildings of the original village of Nicola and the newly renovated buildings that serve the Nicola Lake Ranch.
Historic Murray Church today!!
This year the Murray Church has undergone renovations to restore the building to it’s former glory.
Regular services there were terminated in 1957 and today the church is only open for special occasions, such as Easter Sunday service, wedding ceremonies and most recently “Strings Plus” concert. Anyone is welcome to any of the services. Please contact the Trinity United Church 1899 Quilchena Ave. Merritt BC 250-378-5735 for more information.
If you are a history buff this attraction will definately be of interest to you!!!
Take a selfie and post your visit on www.experiencenicolavalley.com.