EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Highlights from history of St. John's Anglican Church following announcement of its sale to Jason Rioux

Plaque dedication names below
In 1882, three years before Chapleau was formally established with the official arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Rev. John Sanders,  conducted a church service on the banks of the river, which was re-enacted 100 years later.

Rev. Sanders was one of a family of 20 born to Ojibway parents at Flying Post, on Groundhog Lake, 60 miles north of Biscotasing. He became one of the first aboriginal priests of the Church of England in Canada (later Anglican), and as a missionary conducted services not only on river bank, but at St. John's Church after it was established in 1885. 

Some of his descendants still live in the Chapleau area and other parts of Northern Ontario. Sanders is also spelled Saunders.

But, it was Rev. Gowan Gillmor, who delighted in his nickname "The Tramp" who was instrumental in establishing St. John's Church in Chapleau. He conducted the first service  in a boxcar in October 1884, and in  1885 was present to conduct services and hold meetings with the first settlers about building a church. He was called The Tramp because he actually walked the CPR line between Sudbury and Fort William (now Thunder Bay), and elsewhere as a "railway missionary".

By this time land had already been purchased and a deed granted by the CPR for the purpose of building the church. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in England would provide a grant of four hundred dollars towards its construction, but Chapleau people would have to raise five hundred dollars, a tremendous sum in those days.

The sum was raised primarily through the efforts of two teenagers, Miss Annie Nicholson and Miss Minnie Richardson. Within two weeks Miss Nicholson advised the committee that a "really strong box" would be needed as they had raised over one thousand dollars.

The first St. John's, on the site of the old tennis court, was opened and consecrated on July 1, 1886 by Bishop Edward Sullivan, assisted by Rev Gillmor. 

In 1982, when Rev. William Ivey was rector he organized a re-enactment of the service on the river bank conducted by Rev. Sanders. Rev. Canon Redfern Louttit, who had attended the St. John's Indian Residential School, and later became an Anglican priest played the role of Rev. Sanders. The service was conducted in Cree, Ojibway and English.

Rev. E. Roy Haddon, a former rector returned to play Rev. Gillmor in another historical re-enactment. 

With the arrival of Rev. Jerry Smith as rector, and as the 100th anniversary approached, Linda Tebbutt and Sharon Henderson played Annie Nicholson and Minnie Richardson, the young ladies who fund raised for the first St. John's.

By 1905, plans were underway to build the new church as St John's had become the Pro-Cathedral of Moosonee when Bishop George Holmes moved to Chapleau. With the completion of the new church, which was dedicated on March 29, 1908, it remained the pro-cathedral until 1913. Final cost of the church was $18,000.

Fast forward to 1985 and the 100th anniversary of St. John's. Rev. Smith was the rector and 100 years of faith was being celebrated, according to The Chapleau Sentinel headline.

An old fashioned hymn sing launched the activities held in June 1985 with John Way-White and Chris Ivey rendering a trumpet duet. Rev. Smith introduced the special guests Archbishop Edward Scott, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada;  Bishop Les Peterson, of Algoma, and Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee.
MJM at 100th anniversary

Then Bishop Peterson dedicated a plaque in front of the church, followed by Bishop Lawrence who dedicated one on the banks of the river. Former rector Rev. William Ivey led the procession with his bagpipes.

A public reception was held in the Legion Hall, most appropriately, as it was originally St John's Parish House built by Mrs. and Mrs. G.B. Nicholson in memory of their son Lorne and his friends, who died on active service in World War I.

St. John's Peoples Warden Tom O'Shaughnessy was master of ceremonies introducing the guests and reading letters from those who were unable to attend.

Special tribute was paid to Mrs Amy Green on her many years of faithful service as church organist.
Father Jerry with Mrs. Green

The Sentinel reported that the Thanksgiving Eucharist "from the Processional to the Recessional, an hour and a half later, it was a service to remember,"
Bishop Peterson with Velma Morin, treasurer

Some of the participants included Archbishop Scott as guest preacher, with Bishops Lawrence and Peterson celebrating the Eucharist assisted by Rev Smith and Rev Tom Corston, a Chapleau boy, later a bishop of Moosonee.. The junior and senior choirs under the direction of Mary Winter were excellent.

"It was a truly memorable occasion," the Sentinel reported. It was!!

And now, Tom Corston,  the retired bishop of Moosonee, advised in a Chapleau Express article on May 5, 2016. that St. John's has been sold, effective June 1 to Jason Rioux. 

In the article it is noted that with the sale, it does not mean that the Anglican congregation is to vacate.  It quotes Mr. Rioux as saying that "We are most excited to be accommodating the current congregation to use the church as its place of worship and continue with their long standing pride of ownership for years to come."  A lease agreement has been reached with the Diocese of Moosonee, the report notes.

Obviously a new era is beginning for St. John's after about 131 years of serving the Anglican community of Chapleau. It will be most interesting to watch the progress, and I wish all parties well in their endeavours. I am most delighted that the decision was not made to demolish St. John's.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Plaque unveiling  Unveiling of plaque at waterfront marking spot where early services were held. From left are Bishop Peterson, Primate Ted Scott, former rector Rev William Ivey (with pipes, layreader William Walker, Bishop Caleb Lawrence, Rector Rev Jerry Smith

NOTE: I wrote history of St John's, 'Sons of Thunder... Apostles of Love' at the time of the 100th anniversary 

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE