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Ruby M. Cusack

The legacy of N.B. churches around Christmas time

Many of the churches of yesteryear no longer exist

                                                       Photo taken in the 1940's by Mae Floyd

 Church goers made the winter trip by horse and sleigh.
It was very important to give shelter to the horses thus horse sheds were built.
This era is long gone and only visible in photos.

o me, Christmas Eve was the most important evening of the year.

I sat on the floor, filled with excitement, just looking at the Christmas tree and presents, wondering what was under the wrapping paper. Actually I had been shaking and squeezing them whenever I had the chance.

When no one appeared to be looking, I crawled in behind the chesterfield chair and attempted to reach a present that was way back behind the tree. I didn’t know the cat was sleeping in there. Somehow my knee made contact with his tail and squeezed it to the floor. He let out a screech and jumped through the branches of the tree, knocking off ornaments and dragging tinsel behind him.

Pal woke up and started barking and chased the frightened cat.

Cliff came to my rescue and put the string of tinsel, back on the tree, while Mum swept up the broken ornaments.

Gramp didn’t seem too concerned and continued telling his recollections of Christmases of the past, as he drank his cup of tea and munched on a piece of dark fruit cake.

He told us, “Presents were homemade, thus Mother started early in the season to knit socks and mittens as well as do the sewing for her five boys and two girls.”

Speaking of getting ready for Christmas, the congregation of Trinity Church in Saint John probably spent lots of hours getting ready for the first divine service that was held in the church on Christmas Day in 1791.  And they also possibly readied themselves with warm clothes as there was no provision made for warming the church until 1804.

Although fire destroyed this church in 1877, the one hundredth anniversary of the opening was held on Friday, Christmas Day in 1891 when great preparations were made for a grand impressive service, with invitations being sent to several dignitaries. It was for this milestone the “History of Trinity Church, Saint John, N.B. 1791-1891", was compiled and edited by the Rev. Canon Brigstocke, D.D. Rector. It is not only a history of a church but gives a glimpse of the people who attended and supported it. You will find this 202-page book that was published in 1892 in several research institutions in New Brunswick as well as online.

A few blocks from Trinity, the foundation stone of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was laid in May of 1853 and the blessing of this building took place on Tuesday, Christmas Day of 1855 with no heat. Upon its completion in 1865, it was a building without a steeple. But all that changed in 1871, when a 230-foot spire was erected. The publication “Pax Vobis” A History of the diocese of Saint John - its Bishops and Parishes by Rev. Dr. Michael McGowan contains detailed history and many pictures to keep alive the memories of the past.

We learn much from the church historians who had the foresight to use the pen, the brush and the camera to record the changes that time has made to the Houses of God - whether it be alterations, amalgamations or the removal of these consecrated buildings.

In the early nineteen hundreds, Bridget Devine had a bake shop on St. James Street in Lower Cove, (South End of Saint John). She attended Saint John The Baptist Church where Father Chapman was the Parish priest. She was deeply religious and she told the priest about her people in Dipper Harbour who did not have a church. A meeting was arranged between the Bishop, Father Chapman, Bridget and her sister Lucy at the Anderson mansion. Lucy offered a part of the land that had been given to her son, Peter Boyle, by Charles Devine, her father.

Thanks to Julia Cassidy Quigley and Norma Goggin, we are aware the first funds raised by the community came from a dance held on the wharf. When the church was being built, the congregation chose St. Brendan as the name of the church because he was the patron saint of sailors. Most of the men who attended the services at that time were sailors and fishermen.

On Earth as it is in Heaven - Gothic Revival Churches of Victorian New Brunswick’ by Gregg Finley and Lynn Wigginton, published in 1995, explores the legacy of New Brunswick’s churches and examines the architecture and furnishings of the 19th century churches. In so doing, the publication provides a great deal of information on the history of churches in New Brunswick as well as 100 original paintings and drawings by visual artist, Lynn Wigginton.

Photographs of the Anglican Churches in the Diocese of Fredericton by Frank Morehouse provide a look at many styles of churches with two colour photographs (exterior/interior) of each of the 180 churches in the diocese, archival photos of 35 former churches and two pages of church furnishings

The 400 page book titled “History of Saint Andrew's Church, Saint John, New Brunswick” documented by David Russell Jack, was compiled for publication in 1913. It is filled with information, photos of ministers and parishioners, biographical sketches of a few of those who were prominent at various dates in the work of the church. It is now online for all to read.

If you visit the website of the New Brunswick Libraries and search by the subject - Church History New Brunswick - you may be amazed at the number of Church publicat8ions available.

As we research our family, we often wonder about the church our relatives attended and the folk who sat in the pews beside them.

Today, many of the churches of yesteryear no longer exist. In some cases all that is left is a photo.

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On the lighter side


Flokie Cusack