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A Brief History of the Catholic Church in Queens County, Nova Scotia
Contributed By Gary Vaughn
Published Jan. 17, 2000
Legend has it that the first Roman Catholic mass was celebrated at Port Mouton (Nova Scotia) in 1604. At that time, DeMonts' vessel arrived and two priest's rowed ashore to celebrate mass.St. Gregory's Chapel was built in Liverpool in 1829, after a short period of time it became a mission of St. Jerome's Parish in West Caledonia which was built in 1836 it remained as such until 1941.
MASS CELEBRATED IN BANGS FALLS and MILL VILLAGE
We do not know all that much about the celebration of mass in Bangs Falls, but we do know where it was celebrated and how many persons belonged to the faith around the turn of the century. From the Baptismal Register of Saint Jerome's Parish West Caledonia, we read of an entry made by the almost legendary Father O'Sullivan, that reads like this:
RETURNS OF THE PARISH OF CALEDONIA [& Missions]
From Oct. 08 to Dec. 31st., 1909.
Mass was celebrated in the Fisher Home in Bangs Falls. In all probability this was the case for many years back into the last century. We know that the priest came from Caledonia on horseback or by horse and wagon. This only happened twice a year, around Easter and around Christmas.
In 1840, a Roman Catholic Chapel was built near Port Medway Station, (This is located in Queens County, Nova Scotia about two miles from exit 17A of the 103 highway down the Port Medway road) by the faithful who lived in the area of Port Medway and Mill Village. It would appear that the Chapel, which was served by the priest from St. Jerome's, was only used for about 50 years. To this date, the foundation is still intact and the graveyard around the Chapel is still a hallowed spot, for it contains the mortal remains of the earliest parishioners, including many of the native Micmacs (Mi'kmaq/Mi'gmaq ). The spelling has changed over the years but to prevent confusion I will use the old one throughout this article.
The erection of the Chapel was necessitated by the fact that at that particular time in the history of Queens County, Port Medway was quite an active trading center. One long time resident of Port Medway, to whom we are indeed indebted for this information, relates the fact that at one time there were some 12 stores in Port Medway; 5 Cooperages, 5 Blacksmith Forges; and that at one point there were some 15 ships laying at anchor in the harbour waiting to be loaded with lumber. The population of the area was much greater than that of Liverpool.
There was also, on the point of what is now known as Roxbury Road, a very large Micmac Reservation. The Chief-- was the famous Paul Malti, who is mentioned in several histories of the area. The Micmacs, were then, and still are, mostly Roman Catholics.
The names of McCluskey, Crowley, McConnell, Daly, Darrab, Sewards, and many more, are remembered as being strong members of the Church, and as those who by the labour of their hands, built the chapel at Port Medway Station.
The Church was located across the road from the Sewards farm. The Sewards name is often found spelled 'Swords'. In fact the brook that runs close to the site of the old Chapel is known as Swords Brook. The names of Mary and William Sewards appear on the one tombstone still standing in the graveyard in 1979( this tombstone has disappeared since 1979). There are none there today and most of the old cemetery is over grown with bushes.
The land for the Church and graveyard was once part of the Sewards farm and was deeded by William Swords and his wife Mary, to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the City and County of Halifax on June 3, 1853, in consideration of the sum of 6 pounds, 10 shillings. The Swords farm itself in 1979 was the property of the Belward Family. The Sewards were the great-grandparents of Mrs. Dora Vogler, and Miss Mildred Manthorne, present residents of Mill Village.
The Chapel was left unattended for many years, and was finally torn down and used as lumber in a home in Mill Village, (a few of the older people say it burned down but I find this difficult to believe as the organ from the Chapel still exists today although, due to its storage location, restoration would be just about impossible).
The earliest remembrance of mass being celebrated in Charleston is of the time of Father Thomas J. Butler, in the 1890's. He too came from St. Jerome's in West Caledonia, as did his successors for many years thereafter.
He came by horse and wagon to the home of Michael and Cecilia McGinty. He would stay overnight before making the return journey.
Father Butler came to celebrate mass twice a year in Charleston, as he did in the Bangs Falls area. Quite a number of the faithful would gather at the McGinty home for the sacred celebration. Many were 'taxied' there by Mr. McGinty and his 'express wagon'. He would gather his passengers from different spots. Among them would be Sol and Liddy Noel and their children -- Peter, Hannah, and Bessie, as well as the blind and 'saintly' Margaret Luxy, already an old woman. She became godmother to one of the McGinty children.
The McLaughlins, the Crofts -- Margaret and her mother Theresa, the Welches Mary Ellen and Larry, were but a few of the names of Roman Catholics who participated in the celebration of mass in the McGinty home.
There was a table which was used as an altar in the McGinty household in Charleston. There was at least one wedding celebrated in the' home during the visit of the' parish priest. The coming of the Mersey Paper Company mill greatly increased the size of the Liverpool area and parish. So much so that today, the number of Catholic families far out numbers that of Saint Jerome's. which had been the 'mother' parish.
Saint Gregory's owes much to the parish of Saint Jerome's, and it was with great sadness that parishioners in Liverpool area learned of the disastrous fire on Feb. 2, 1976, during the new infamous Ground Hog Day Storm, that destroyed the parish church of St. Jerome's. A church built in 1836. and serving the needs of the faithful of the whole county until 1941, when St. Gregory's was raised to the status of an independent parish.
It was with a great sense of satisfaction that many of the parishioners of St. Gregory's journeyed to West Caledonia on the 30th of September, 1978, when Archbishop James M. Hayes, solemnly blessed the new Saint Jerome's, built at a cost of $79,900.00, the funds being totally raised by the parish in the time between the terrible fire and the opening of the new Church some 2 ½ years later, today St. Jerome's is classed as a Mission under St. Gregorys of Liverpool with the priest residing in Liverpool.
Many of the fathers of the faith from the early days would be very pleased with the health of the Roman Catholic community of Queens County today.
Although mass is no longer celebrated in private homes the outlying areas of St. Gregory's parish, it is celebrated during the summer months in the Greenfield area in the United Baptist Church. This all came about in the summer of 1978 when Saint Gregory's decided to offer mass for the summer residents of the area. It had been decided to use the facilities of a community hall in Greenfield, when the United Baptist Congregation made the offer of the use of their church. It was an historic move, and one that has had many good consequences. St. Gregory's Parish is indeed grateful to the Pastor and congregation of Greenfleld United Baptist Church for their farsighted consideration of their needs.
The Church in Liverpool has undergone several significant changes structurally during its history. The original building still stands, and has been added to at least twice. In the latter half of the last century the bell tower was built. The bell in the steeple -- which rings after every mass, in praise of what has just been celebrated, was originally ordered for the church in West Caledonia, but somehow got sidetracked and ended up in Saint Gregory's tower. When the error was discovered, the people of Saint Gregory's had already grown attached to their new bell and didn't like the idea of giving it up. So, a ships bell was purchased and given to Saint Jerome's Church instead.
In 1978, with the help of a Federal Government Grant of $16,761.00, a new porch was added to the front of the church. This very beautiful addition has greatly enhanced the looks of the church as well as contributing to a drop in the cost of heating the church. At the same time the interior of the church was renovated.
On Sunday, November 26.1978. a new concrete walkway between the church and Parish Hall was blessed and dedicated in memory of Mrs. Genevieve Francis, who was tragically killed during the summer of 1978. Her husband and children helped plant some three hundred tulips along the walkway in the fall of 1978. Before the tulips came in bloom, her husband. Joseph "Chiefy" Francis died on April 7,1979. They are both buried near the Church.
Some of the Priests since the building of St. Gregorys Church:
Complied By Gary Vaughn Nov. 06, 1999.
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