On a sunny afternoon, Aug. 3, the Shiloh Baptist Church and Cemetery was officially designated as a Provincial Heritage Property. More than 200 people gathered on the grounds to celebrate the occasion.
Opening remarks were made by Crystal Mayes, board member of the Shiloh Baptist Church and Cemetery Restoration Society. The inspirational singing of Amazing Grace was rendered by Paula Collins of Saskatoon.
The unveiling of the bronze dedication plaque was done by Minister of Parks, Sport and Culture Gene Makowsky, assisted by Crystal Mayes.
Greetings followed by Lisa Heape on behalf of Rosemarie Falk, MP, by MLA for Cut Knife - Turtleford Larry Doke, Mayor Brennan Becotte of Maidstone, Deputy Reeve Greg Donald of the RM of Eldon and Mayor Rodney Weisner of Waseca.
Closing remarks were made by Leander Lane, chairman of the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum board.
The closing hymn, How Great Thou Art, was led by Paula Collins and a prayer by Heape concluded the official ceremony.
Refreshments catered by AG Foods of Maidstone were enjoyed.
Visitors from as far away as Los Angeles, Calif., Kingston and Toronto, Ont., Winnipeg, Man., Edmonton, Amisk, Beaumont and Lloydminster, Alta., Turtleford, Paradise Hill, Mervin, Elrose, Saskatoon and North Battleford, as well as the Maidstone area, to name a few. Relatives and friends who had not seen each other for years came together for this special occasion.
I travelled with Keith and Claire Paton. Claire went to Eldon School with the Shiloh people and enjoyed seeing her old school chums once again. Murray Mayes, whose deceased father George Harvey Mayes was the last of the original Shiloh people to reside in Eldon, came out with his daughter Charlotte from Elrose. His other three daughters, Crystal from Saskatoon, Luella of North Battleford and Marion of Toronto were there. Murray lived and ran the Mayes Auto Body business in North Battleford for 40 years before his retirement at age 72.
My deceased husband, Johnnie Schwartz, lived less than a quarter mile north of Shiloh Church, so had first hand knowledge of his friends and neighbours, the Shiloh people. He remembered hearing the ringing of a big bell that could be heard a mile away on a Sunday morning calling the faithful to worship. Unfortunately, after many of the Shiloh people left the district, the bell was stolen. It was nice to hear the ringing of a smaller bell at the dedication event.
There is a group of volunteers from Eldon and adjacent districts that have never been recognized as a group that helped save this church. In the centennial year of 1967, a group chose the church and cemetery as their centennial project. Grader blades were attached to the outside walls of the church to stabilize them. The overgrown cemetery was cleaned up and overgrown trees around the church trimmed back. Wives of the workers brought meals while they worked. Without this volunteer group, there might not have been a standing building to restore. This was some years prior to the formation of the SBCCRS.