I’m deviating from my routine of including scans of photographs or documents because the newspaper the following article came from was too big to scan! Bear with me though because the description of the surprise party is delightful! Also, it’s not everyone you come across a reference to a surprise party in archival records.
The Presbyterian Witness, December 16, 1882, p. 393
“On February 28, 1881, a party of members of the Presbyterian congregation assembled at the manse, with the view of agreeably surprising the inmates, Rev. and Mrs. John McCarter. To the letter, there could have been nothing more unexpected than when on a crisp, bright morning, a procession of sleighs and sleds arrived with esteemed friends, husbands with their wives, living at distances from four to eight miles. It soon appeared that they had brought a handsome supply of winter comforts, fitted to rejoice the hearts of any minister’s family, and not less so, a minister’s house. These were speedily stored away in the cellar; storeroom, and barn, and after the ladies had set the table, all sat down together, probably the largest party that the manse has ever accommodated. The minister spoke a few words expressive of the satisfaction of his wife and self, and specially of the evidence of good will, heartiness, and harmony prevailing in the congregation. At this stage–perhaps it was an innovation, we do not know–one of the gentlemen headed over to the mistress of the Manse, a sum of money which he said was intended just to take away the appearance of what such parties have been sometimes been charged with, of first bringing provisions and then eating them up. After dinner, a pleasant afternoon was spent with music and conversation before they separated. The whole thing was done with a degree of kindness and right feeling that left nothing to be desired. We are told that some friends at Newcastle also had a part in promoting this pleasing surprise.
The present may be a fit opportunity of saying a word regarding the beautiful manse itself, which stands on the beautiful banks of the North West. Though a church hall stood for forty years, the church organization is young and still in a struggling condition. The Manse which was commenced four years ago, has been greatly indebted to friends of Presbyterians outside this parish. At the first start, J.B. Snowball Esq., of Chatham, with others, rendered much service. Much more, however, was needed, and for assistance during the last and previous summers may be mentioned the names of the Hon. R. Hutchison, the Hon. W. Muirhead ans Sons, John Flett Esq., Allan Ritchie Esq., Messers. A. & D. Adams and many others in Newcastle, Chatham, and Douglastown. To mention each and all by name would be to fill our columns with a pretty extensive list, which in the present form is hardly practicable, as more than one has expressed the wish that their gifts be held as anonymous. A more detailed acknowledgement of these gifts may be expected later in the form of later congregational report, but meanwhile, to each all who have assisted to put a plank in the manse building, the congregation desires to express it’s sincere thanks.”