In the late 1860's, the first settlers moved into the Nicola Valley, many of them taking up land in the vicinity of Nicola Lake. Among the early pioneers were Edwin Dalley, an Anglican, John and George Clapperton, Irish Presbyterians, and Sam, Ben and Joe Moore, also Irish Presbyterians. A few years later they were joined by Mr. John Moore, a man in his 70's and the father of the Moore brothers.
The entrance of British Columbia into Canada in 1871 gave a new impetus to exploration and settlement, and more families began to move into the interior of the new province. In the meantime, news of the Nicola Valley spread and in the fall of 1872, the first settlers were joined by Thomas Carrington and Thomas Woodward. Mr. Woodward brought his family with him and Mr. Carrington sent for his the following year.
A Great City...
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.
During these earlier years, religious services were few and far between, but in the spring of 1875 the Church of Scotland sent the Rev. George Murray, M.A., of Glasgow University to the valley.
The Rev. Mr. McGregor of Victoria accompanied Rev. Murray and on their arrival they stopped at the home of the Clappertons. On discovering who the newcomers were, John Clapperton sent an Indian boy with a message for Thomas Carrington.
"Come over, Tom, and help me receive the Devines." read the note.
Tom Carrington went over to Clapperton's house and together the two made the "Devines" welcome.
Reverend Murray, the only Presbyterian minister in the interior of British Columbia, had been ministering to the people of an area extending from Yale to Clinton and touching Ashcroft and Lillooet. With periodic visits to Quesnel and intervening points, his circuit exceeded 600 miles -- covered entirely on horseback -- and now the Nicola Valley was added to his parish.
A refined, scholarly Scotsman, Rev. Murray accepted the new territory with enthusiasm and soon found his way into the affections of the people. In 1876, with their help, he built the first church in the valley. It was not a very imposing building on the outside, but a comfortable "churchy little church" on the inside. Recorded memories of old-timers, long since passed away, tell of "the days when sixty people were packed in there for worship."
Six years after completion of the church, Rev. Murray became the first resident pastor in the valley. From Nicola, he made trips to the various surrounding settlements. He held services alternate Sundays as far afield 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 (Merritt).
In 1880, the strain of his work began to tell on his health and Rev. Murray accepted a call to St. Andrew's Church, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. He remained there for nine years before returning to the valley in 1889. He served the Nicola Valley until 1901 when he was appointed Government Agent and he retired from his duties as pastor of Nicola.
It is interesting to note that at the hour of his death in Vancouver on Sunday morning October 10, 1917, the Centennial Celebration of St. Andrew's, his New Glasgow parish, was taking place and an address, written by him, was being read.
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 (Merritt) 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 recently renovated buildings that serve the Nicola Lake Ranch.