Iere Village on the outskirts of Princes Town is unique in Trinidad's church history.
It was in that village the Moslem community had constructed its first mosque in 1868, the same year in which Presbyterian missionary John Morton arrived in Trinidad.
After a short stay in San Fernando Morton and his wife Sarah moved to Iere Village and built the first Presbyterian Church, which marked the start of a mission to Christianise the indentured East Indian immigrants who came to work on the sugar estates.
Morton's mission soon spread from Iere village to many areas in South Trinidad where in addition to building churches he had established dozens of schools between 1871 and 1881.
With limited resources he teamed up with his counterpart Rev Kenneth Grant and built Susamachar church on Coffee Street and in 1875 Lal Behari was ordained the first local Presbyterian Minister in Trinidad.
Through the efforts of Morton the church expanded to other areas in Trinidad such as Cedros, central Trinidad and along the east west corridor and to the eastern village of Guaico.
When Morton retired in 1911, forty seven years after the vessel ' Sapphire 'brought him to Trinidad, his performance as a missionary was phenomenal. Beginning classes with three children on the doorstep of his home in Princes Town it grew to 8000 with 61 schools established.
Morton died one year after his retirement on August 4, 1912 and was buried at Tunapuna cemetery. This year marks the centenary of Morton's death.
Among the churches he had built was one at Iere village, Guaico, Tunapuna and Princes Town. Through the growth of the Mission several local priests were ordained and a Theological College and Teachers College established in San Fernando.
Coming from a long list of ordained ministers was Rev. Winston Gopaul who had served in several leading positions until his retirement as a pastor.
Gopaul said the success of Morton's mission was due to his vision to take Christianity to rural communities. "He had a passion for the gospel and was determined to build a new society with the use of the Bible. To effect his mission he learnt the Hindi language so that he could communicate better with his community."
John Morton was founder and leader f the Trinidad arm of the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad. He came to Trinidad to escape the winter which was affecting his health, and while in Trinidad he became associated with the East Indian labourers from India.
At the time, the East Indians comprised about 25 per cent of the total population. Because they were largely ignored by the other religions, Morton decided to remain in Trinidad for four months in the first instance until the synod of the Presbyterian Church in Canada agreed to establish a Mission in Trinidad.
On January 3, 1868, he arrived with his wife Sarah and daughter and stayed for a while in San Fernando until he moved to Iere Village. Sarah, though not a minister, had served with her husband in establishing several church groups with emphasis on children and women.
In 1881 the family moved to Tunapuna where they remained until his death in 1912. While in Trinidad Morton had established several primary and secondary schools that have produced many scholars. As Trinidad and Tobago celebrates its 50th year of independence from Britain it is on record that many who served the nation in various capacities have been recognised for their contributions.