The property of Crieff Hills Community was first worked by Highland Scots who settled this area in the 1830's. They cleared the land, building log cabins and barns. When their families grew they used the stone of the area to build solid stone houses. They borrowed the name Crieff from a town at the edge of the highlands. Many who lived in this area spoke Gaelic and for this reason they brought their first minister - The Reverend Andrew Maclean, from Scotland. The first child born in the manse was John Bayne Maclean. He grew up to become a newspaper man and founded "Maclean's magazine", "The Financial Post" and Maclean-Hunter publishers. He was known as Col. Maclean since he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Militia.
In the 1920's Col Maclean was responsible for having restoration and renovation work done on the grounds and cemetery of Knox Presbyterian Church which was at the cross-roads of Crieff. In 1925 as recognition of his service, he was given the old manse and the acre of land on which it sat. This land and house he made into his country home. Gradually he bought adjacent farm land (300 acres) and made a model working farm with a dairy herd, pigs, grain fields, orchards and about 100 acres of reforested land. His estate - Crieff Hills Farm - became known far and wide for its beautiful landscape and gardens.
When Col Maclean died in 1950 he left 250 acres of the farm and its buildings to the Presbyterian Church in Canada, along with money invested to be used "to maintain and develop the several properties at Crieff ... as a model and example to other communities." After 25 years of being rented out for farming and private residences, the property began to be developed into a retreat and conference centre for the church under the Directorship of the Reverend Robert Spencer and the Maclean Estate Committee.
The first building to be renovated and used as a retreat building in 1975 was the 1940 stone cottage (House of the Shepherd). This retreat building was so popular that the following year, the log cabin (House of Prophet) was turned into another retreat house that could be rented. Interest in Crieff Hills Community grew, and in 1977 - 1978, two lodges (St. Matthew and St. Mark) were built. These buildings did not have meal preparation facilities so a large kitchen was added to the former school house (Maclean Hall).
Through the gifts and skills of many people we have renovated and added to our buildings over the years. As needs have been identified we have tried to provide for them, as in the Hermitage which was completely made over through the work of many hands, into a private retreat house. In 1982 a second addition was added to Maclean Hall, to be used for offices. The House of Dove began to be used as a retreat house in 1983.
To meet the growing demand for programs and for use of the facilities, a fund raising campaign began in 1985 for more accommodation space (St. Luke's Lodge) and in 1991, more meeting space (Conference Hall). Many gifts have been given for these facilities, including the handmade quilts made by Presbyterian Church women's groups.