This pioneer church was destroyed by fire in 1844, and very soon afterwards a good substantial brick building was erected, and was "the largest church west of Toronto." In 1852 a beautiful chime of bells was placed in the tower.
In the meantime great improvements were taking place in all the western portion of the province. The original five counties were increased by those of Lambton, Huron, Bruce, and Grey in the west and northwest, Elgin (in the south of Middlesex), and of Brant, Perth, and Waterloo in the Oxford and Norfolk region, making in all thirteen. The Diocese of Toronto had become unwieldy in the extreme. The formation of two new dioceses, one in the west and the other in the east of "Upper Canada" (Ontario), was imperative, and resolved upon.
The necessary endowment was raised (chiefly by subscription) in the western section first, and the thirteen counties mentioned were formed into a diocese, with London as the see city. The name of the new diocese became a question. There could not well be two bishops of London, it was thought. The name "Huron" was finally chosen, probably because of the great lake of that name which washes its northern and northwestern shores.
A new state of things had set in for the Church of England in Canada. The Crown was to have nothing more to do with matters ecclesiastical. The people must learn to support the clergy, and the clergy must learn to govern the Church as best they might. Bishops were no longer to be Government officers. If the clergy and laity wanted bishops, they must devise some plan of procuring them irrespective of politics or governments. The only plan that could be devised was the primitive one of election. This was settled. The clergy were to meet in London, and with their lay representatives from the different parishes to elect a bishop.
This led to the canvassing of names. The Rev. Benjamin Cronyn had received from his Irish alma mater the degree of D.D. He was rector of the first church in the new district. He had been a hard-working missionary, and was a man of good ability and genial, kindly spirit. But he was of "pronounced evangelical views," and this caused some of the clergy and laity to look elsewhere. In the eastern portion of the province was the Venerable Dr. Bethune, Archdeacon of York, whose views were known to be of an opposite character. He was selected as one who many thought would make a good bishop. The evils of the elective system showed themselves in things that were said and done on behalf of the two "candidates" by their ardent supporters. The election was held in St. Paul's Church, London on July 9th, 1857, the Bishop of Toronto (Dr. Strachen) presiding. On the first ballot Dr. Cronyn received twenty-two clerical votes and twenty-four lay votes, and Archdeacon Bethune twenty clerical and ten lay.
Dr. Cronyn was therefore declared first Bishop of Huron. Such was the result of the first episcopal election in Canada.
Dr. Cronyn proceeded to England, and was consecrated at Lambeth in 1857 by the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1858 the first session of the Diocesan Synod was held, and a constitution adopted.