EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, May 2, 2015

St. John's Anglican Church marks 130th anniversary in 2015 as it plans for the future

St. John's Anglican Church marks its 130th anniversary in 2015, as members of the congregation plan the future of one of the last historic public buildings in Chapleau.

St. John's was established in 1885 with the first services being held in a boxcar used by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a station. The first church building was located on the old tennis court across from the present church.
First St john's. Rev Robert Warrington in photo

The first service in the present church was held on March 29. 1908 when it was dedicated by Bishop George Holmes. From 1905 to 1913, St. John's was the Pro-Cathedral of the Diocese of Moosonee and Bishop Holmes and his successor Bishop John Anderson both lived in Chapleau.

Let's fast forward from 1885 to 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression when St. John's celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was not only a highlight in the parish history, but in the interests of full disclosure, it is of great personal interest to me.

First, family members were involved in the 50th anniversary celebration. My grandfather, George Hunt, was the choirmaster; my mother, Muriel (Hunt) Morris was a soloist at the anniversary service, and my grandmother, Edith Hunt and aunt Elsie were in the choir. My grandmother with Mrs. P.J. Collins was a convener of the anniversary banquet.

Second, the visit by Rt. Rev. Derwyn T. Owen, Archbishop of Toronto and Primate of the Anglican Church as guest preacher contributed to me being hired by the Kingston Whig-Standard some 30 years later.

Prior to the actual celebration St. John's,  Chapleau lost an outstanding citizen when G.B. Nicholson died on January 1. Mr. Nicholson was Chapleau's first reeve from 1901 to 1913, and at the time of his death was the Member of Parliament for the area.

For 25 years Mr. Nicholson. who had been People's Warden for many years, also conducted an Adult Bible Class for 25 years, returning from Ottawa on weekends to teach it.

In 1935, despite the depression and loss of members through CPR transfers after it moved its district offices to Schreiber, and other factors, the church was debt free.

Archbishop Owen preached at the anniversary service and gave address at the banquet. A vote of thanks was given to him moved by P.J. Collins and seconded by Albert Evans.

William Card spoke on the early history of the parish. Church wardens were Charles W. Collins and Albert Evans. Vestry board members included George Collinson, Charles McKnight, F.J. Morris, Jim Good, R.J. Hopper, P.J. Collins, John Corston, Fred Matters, A.C. Whybray, W. Broomhead, E. Woodard, Harry Searle, F. Bacchus and W. Card. George Hunt was Choirmaster and Miss Nettie Herner, the church organist.

The Chapleau Post reported that a "splendid banquet" in the Town Hall brought the anniversary celebration to a close. 

Here is part of the newspaper report:  ..."the hall was tastefully decorated for the occasion. The tables looked very pretty each table having silver baskets with yellow mum. also yellow candles, white and yellow being the colour scheme throughout."

My grandmother and Mrs. Collins were overall conveners, assisted by George Collinson and Charles Collins, decorations; Mrs. A Simpson, tables and ladies in charge of tables were Mrs. W. Card, Mrs. F. Matters, Mrs. J. Corston, Miss Swanson, Mrs. A. Whybray, Mrs. Bacchus, Mrs. C. Matheson, Mrs. Glabb, Mrs. W. McMullen, Mrs. W. McLeod, Mrs. Machan and Mrs. Encil.

Mrs. J. Coulter and Mrs. F.J. Morris were in charge of the food table while Mrs. G. Collinson looked after tickets; Mrs. Westerman, the kitchen assisted by Mrs. Folkerts, Mrs. Herbert and Mrs. Chappise.

The young men "ably assisting pouring tea" were John Woodard, Lorne Woodard, Harvey Glabb. John Way-White, Bill Pepper, ken Crowhurst, Harry Searle, David and Elbert Collinson and Percy Encil.

Rev. Harold Hesketh, Rector of St. John's was "in the chair".

I am sure it was a precious moment for my Grandpa Hunt to be the Choirmaster on this special occasion and have his daughter singing a solo. Mom, who would have just returned home to teach at Chapleau Public School sang "Now the Day is Over". Having my grandmother and aunt in the choir would have made it even more special.

Fast forward to 1965 and I went to Kingston for a job interview at the Kingston Whig-Standard as a reporter, with Robert D. Owen, the executive editor of the newspaper. Mr Owen was a nephew of Archbishop Owen, and knew where Chapleau was, and the anniversary of St. John's

In the course of the interview he asked me if I was staying the weekend. Mom was visiting in Toronto at the time, and had driven over with me. I told Mr. Owen we were and would be attending St. George's Anglican Cathedral where they had a magnificent choir. That did it. Mr. Owen hired me. Small world!

I wish the good people of St. John's and Bishop Tom Corston who has accepted position as interim priest in charge of St. John's well as  they plan for the future of this historic place in the life and times of Chapleau

Mike Turner, Fred McAuley, Donald White, Doc Potts 1932 canoe trip

My very best wishes to Donald White. World War II veteran and member of Chapleau Cree First Nation, who celebrated his 102nd birthday recently.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thanks to Dorothy Turner for photo from canoe trip in 1932 from Chapleau to Moose Factory.

Michael J Morris

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


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