Among the most talented and accomplished clergymen to ever live in Red Deer, was Rev. C.H. Huestis, a famous resident of our community for more than 20 years between 1907 and 1927.
Charles Herbert Huestis was born in 1863 in New Brunswick. His father was a Methodist minister who was in charge of the Methodist Book Room which distributed religious and educational publications across Canada.
Huestis got his university education at Mount Allison University and, shortly thereafter, entered the ministry. On July 4th, 1888, he married Jessie Brown Ackman, who had been born in Devonshire England and was the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. S.R. Ackman.
Rev. Huestis was posted to such pastorates as Port Hood, Bridgewater, and Sydney, Nova Scotia, as well as St. Georges, Bermuda. In the meanwhile, he also continued his studies and received his Masters of Arts degree in 1896.
In 1901, he was posted to McDougall Methodist Church in Edmonton. While there, he also became a philosophy instructor at Alberta College. With his keen desire to continue learning, he completed a second Master’s degree in 1906, this time from McGill University.
Despite the heavy load of being a minister of a large church, college instructor and university student, he still found time to become very active in a number of religious and educational organizations. From 1905 to 1907, he served as the general superintendent of the International Sunday School Associations.
In 1907, he moved to Red Deer where he became the minister at local Methodist Church. One of his biggest tasks was to replace the modest little wood frame church on Blowers (51) St. with a larger, more substantial structure on the northeast corner of Ross St. and Nanton 48) Ave.
The $45,000 cost was an enormous challenge.
Construction had to be delayed for two years. However, Rev. Huestis was such a dynamo that he personally took on a great deal of the fundraising and managed to raise several thousands of dollars. The beautiful new church, formally named the Leonard Gaetz Memorial Methodist Church, was finally completed in April 1910.
Meanwhile, Rev. Huestis made quite an impact on the community with his eloquence. He frequently used quotations from English language classics and poems in his sermons. He often closed by reciting Tennyson’s Crossing The Bar. His scriptural interpretations challenged his congregation and often precipitated a great deal of debate and controversy in the community.
In 1911, Rev Huestis became the Alberta and B.C. field secretary for the Lord’s Day Alliance. With these new duties and the church building now finished, he decided to resign as minister at Gaetz Church. However, he and his wife decided they wanted to continue to live in Red Deer. They consequently built a beautiful new home at on the corner of Parkvale (47) Ave. and Morrison (52) St.
The residence still stands and is now home to the Wonderflow School.
Charles and Jessie remained active in a number of community organizations, particularly those in which their children were involved. In 1922, Jessie made Canadian legal history when she became one of the first three women to serve on a jury.
In 1927, they moved to Toronto, where Charles became the national secretary of the Lord’s Day Alliance. He gained a national reputation as a vigorous advocate of maintaining Sundays, not only for religious services, but also for ‘family and home.’ He continued to write a number of books and became a regular columnist for the Toronto Star.
The Huestis’s retired to Edmonton in 1938. Charles was awarded honorary doctorates from Mount Allison University and Wesley College, Winnipeg. Charles passed away in August 1951, while Jessie died in 1956.
Their son, Waldo, was killed at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Ralph became a professor at the University of Oregon. Dorothy married noted Alberta architect Heath MacDonald. Eric became the deputy minister of Lands and Forests for the Alberta government. Mt. Huestis is named in his honour.
At 10:30 am on Wednesday, June 10th, Gaetz Church will be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the formation of the United Church of Canada with a ringing of the church bells.