Project Canterbury

An Historical Sketch of the Diocese of Saskatchewan of the Anglican Church of Canada

By W. F. Payton, Archdeacon Emeritus

Prince Albert: The Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan, 1974.

Chapter 15. Carrot River development--Melfort--Railway extension--The new Cathedral church

In the clergy list for the Synod of 1905 the Reverend Thomas Clarke is described as the incumbent of Melfort. We have already reviewed briefly the ministry of Mr. Clarke in the Battleford area of the Diocese, where he continued to act as the principal of the Industrial School until 1895. Apart from the churches associated with the Fort a la Corne Mission, which had been established many years before, the opening up of all the work East of Prince Albert devolved largely upon Mr. Clarke's shoulders.

It is unfortunate that there appears to be no written record of any substance concerning this very important ministry which he had undertaken. At the time of the semi-centenary of the Diocese in 1924, Mr. Clarke did send from Winnipeg, where he was retired, an account of his earlier life at Battleford. But he appeared to think that the later work in what is now the Melfort Deanery was too modern to be touched upon at that time. As a consequence, we are largely dependent upon scattered references here and there, in church registers and elsewhere, to recognize the tremendous work that he did, travelling back and forth through the parishes which we know today as Birch Hills, Kinistino, Melfort, Star City, Tisdale and other points as far East as Hudson Bay.

One letter survives from Canon Clarke which was written on November 20th, 1930 in which he tells us that he was appointed as travelling missionary in the Carrot River valley in 1901. He describes the area over which he had jurisdiction as embracing the whole of the unorganized territory between Birch Hills and the Eastern boundary of the Diocese, Barrows, or Red Deer Lake, 150 miles in length and about 60 miles wide. There was not a church building of any description in the Melfort district. After a careful survey of the country, he located nine centres, at which one service was held every third Sunday. It was, he felt, just sufficient to let the people know that the Church of England was still in existence. Owing to the great distance that he had to travel, he could only visit his family in Prince Albert once in three weeks from Monday to Friday.

Since there were practically no roads, hotels or boarding houses, and no railway in the entire mission, so, he said, the traveller had to carry his bedding, and in many cases have to make up his bed on the floor in some poor pioneer's shack.

For nearly three years he was the only Anglican clergyman in this vast area, and all that he received from the church was a grant of $480.00 a year from the S.P.G. towards his stipend. The church people were still in the pioneer stage, and unable to render much assistance, but attended the services which were thoroughly appreciated. Subsequently he was put on the list of the C. and C.C.S. by Archdeacon Lloyd and the executive committee, as superintending missionary, at $700.00 a year, and then for a few years received a special grant from the Archbishop's Western Canada Fund, augmented by the M.S.C.C. in 1921 when he was placed on the retired list of the clergy, with permission to take occasional services.

At the beginning of that ministry, services were held in school houses, isolated settlers' homes, and numerous lumber and railway camps along the line of railway--in fact, whereever a few people could be found to unite in prayer and to hear the message of redeeming love. Sixteen churches were [62/63] built under his supervision, together with rectories and mission houses, although when he arrived in the work in 1901 there was not a town, village or hamlet in the whole area. Willow Creek, afterwards named Star City, was 100 miles from a market or railway, which was at Prince Albert where the farmers had to haul their grain and drive their cattle to sell. He recorded with gratitude the great help, co-operation and response that he received from the settlers, from students and from the Bishop and Archdeacon Lloyd during these many years of self-sacrificing service upon which foundation the Deanery of Melfort and its many parishes have been built. In August 1918, at a Synod of the Diocese, Mr. Clarke was named a Canon of the Diocese in tribute to the outstanding work which he had accomplished both in the Western part of the area at Battleford and in his later years at Melfort and the surrounding area.

Mr. Clarke reported to the Synod in 1909 that six new churches had been opened since the last meeting of Synod at Barrows, Hudson Bay Junction, Star City, Kinistino, Ridgedale and Ethelton, while material for two more was on the ground at New Osgoode and at Norwood. Forty centres had been well worked by the clergy and catechists, and the driving clergyman had visited the eight towns, villages and adjacent centres regularly, preaching and administering from 1000 to 1200 miles a month. Services were also held in lumbering camps between Crooked River and Mafeking, and were well attended and greatly appreciated. By this time catechists and other clergy had arrived, and the railway lines had made it possible for much easier communication.

In addition to outlining the developments of work among the white settlers East of Prince Albert, it is fitting at this point in our narrative to supply some further details regarding the building of the new St. Alban's Cathedral in which the 1906 Synod met.

On September 28th, 1904 a meeting of the congregation of St. Alban's Church was held in the church with the Bishop as chairman. He explained that he had called the meeting to discuss the question of erecting a new church. A resolution was passed that the wardens of the church be a committee to discuss with members of the congregation what could be contributed within the next year, and favorable results were obtained to make plans to proceed with the building of a church in the following season. It was first resolved that the church site on 13th Street be used for the new building, with the church facing the street, but after much discussion this motion was withdrawn, and it was moved that a committee be appointed to look for a suitable site.

As a consequence, lots 29-36 on Range 5 River Lot 78 were purchased from Mr. J. B. Kernaghan for the sum of $750.00. This included not only the present site of the Cathedral at 1st Avenue West and 14th Street, but also the property at present occupied by the Safeway Store and parking lots.

In a report to the congregation in May 1908, Mr. James McKay, the rector's warden reported that the church had been built on lots 29-30-31 and that there were two mortgages in existence: the first mortgage for $5,000.00 held by J. A. Newnham, James McKay, A. J. Bell, R. S. Cook, T. E. Baker and J. E. Sinclair; the second mortgage for $2,910.00 was held by Miss Ella Louise Newnham. The original church was still held by the Diocese at this time and was insured for the sum of $700.00. Mr. Thomas E. Baker was the chairman of the building committee and the treasurer of the collection committee, Mr. D. W. Adam. In addition, Mr. C. D. Neville appears to have been responsible for soliciting funds from national firms with business in Prince Albert. The estimated cost in June 1905 was stated to be $11,500.00 complete with furnishings. Three thousand dollars had been raised locally and the congregation was considered to be capable of raising [63/64] a further $6,000.00 in the way of mortgages but required from outside sources approximately $2,500.00.

The church was officially opened on Christmas Day 1905 when Bishop Newnham officiated. About 175 people attended the service on that occasion, and on February 4th of the same year Bishop Newnham dedicated the building. It was later in 1906 that the new Casavant Organ was used for the first time. In 1911 the chancel was added at the East end of the church, and a chapel provided in the basement.

As a matter of record, the Cathedral was not consecrated until Wednesday, June 28th, 1944 by Bishop Henry D. Martin. The debt on the building remained until that time, when under the leadership of Mr. Herbert H. Harradence a committee undertook to liquidate the mortgage in order that the consecration could take place.

Miss Helen Mackay, daughter of Archdeacon J. A. Mackay, has left some memoranda which she wrote with regard to the beginnings of the work both at St. Mary's and St. Alban's. Her comments are very straightforward and objective, and her own bias is quite apparent. The following extracts from her remarks about the incumbents at the Cathedral will serve to illustrate her views:

"Reverend George Moore came about 1894, proved himself able and constructive. He had the promise of <help from friends in England to build a new church on the corner of Central Avenue and 13th Street which was then church property, but Bishop Pinkham had a little habit of being jealous of any of his clergy who wanted progress and he prevented the work being undertaken. The congregation showed that they were tired of Mr. Moore by starving him out about 1897, when he went to Sheffield, England.

"He was succeeded by Reverend Spencer Collins (unmarried), a good worker, who was also starved in 1900. Reverend James Taylor apparently took some of the services till Reverend Metcalfe took charge for a short time. He was an able man but his wife did not like Saskatchewan and wept practically all the time she was here, which dampened his efforts and he went back to the Old Country.

"Reverend Oswald Taylor, the son of James Taylor, succeeded him. He was of the same calibre as his father, but where better men had a mean time he had an excellent backing in every way. During his regime, the Ladies Aid (W. A. was non-existent) built the present Cathedral Residence and handed it over to the wardens free of debt."

Miss Mackay went on to say that the old church was put to a variety of uses after the building of the new Cathedral, but was finally pulled down. The best of the lumber was used for the veranda of the Cathedral Residence and the porch as a shed at the back of the Rectory. The Cathedral Residence referred to was still in use at the time of Canon Noble's rectorship of the Cathedral, and the building still stands West of the lane behind Kresge's store. After being sold by the Cathedral, a small addition was put on the East side of the building and stores were built on the front, which still remain.

The porch referred to as a shed was later moved to the rear of the present Cathedral and used for storing storm windows and screens. Because of its historic value it was later moved to St. Mary's Church and now constitutes the entrance porch of St. Mary's. In this way it constitutes a direct link between the first Anglican Church in Prince Albert and the present Cathedral.

This may be as convenient an opportunity as any to refer to the fact that while St. George's Church, East Prince Albert, normally considers the beginning of its work as approximately the same time as the building of the Cathedral, Canon E. K. Matheson in his paper on the early history of the Diocese distinctly stated "another mission which was opened out in the [64/65] very early '80s was then called Goschen. It is now known as St. George's or East Prince Albert". Miss Helen Mackay also remarks upon the fact that St. George s Church had its origin in those early days.

Another factor in the early years of the century around 1905 was the entrance from Dauphin to Prince Albert of the Canadian Northern Railway. This gave considerable impetus to the settlements which grew up there and was incidentally of great value to the church and to the clergy in particular. The Reverend Thomas Clarke said that he often tramped along the line of the railway, and Bishop Lloyd once said that a conductor on that line had told him that any driver would stop his train to pick up the person that he very irreverently and lovingly called "Tommy Clarke'.

The railway was further extended West from Prince Albert to what we know today as the Deanery of Turtleford, and also North to Big River in order to assist the opening of lumbering in that area. Since these developments were somewhat later, we shall consider them in due course.

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