Profile: St. Peter’s Church

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The earliest evidence of a congregation is only circumstantial. Robert Nichens donated two collection plates in 1853 to a church; these collection plates are used at St. Peter’s today. Of course, this fact does not mean a church existed then –  it may have been a gift for a different church, in another town or another country.

The first concrete evidence of a congregation at St. Peter’s can be found in 1872, when there are baptismal  records for residents. Parish records also show names of communicants from Harbour Grace South starting on December 25, 1872. The unusual circumstances around these dates suggest there was not a church at this time. It was not until May 21, 1873, the Crown gave land to the “Bishop and his Successors” (Diocesan Synod Reports and Accounts 1870-83). It’s possible that members of St. Peter’s congregation held services in private homes, schools, or travelled to Bryant’s Cove. (Bryant’s Cove names also appear on the baptismal lists of 1872, which indicate they were part of St. Peter’s parish, and not that of Harbour Grace.) Whether or not there was a church at Harbour Grace South in 1872 remains a mystery.

However, a church for Harbour Grace South’s Anglicans was definitely constructed between 1872-1875. Rev. John Godden was paid £28 in 1875 (tablet to his memory can be found in the church) for his work at Harbour Grace South. Grants of £100 in 1875 and £20 in 1876 were given by General Church Fund of Diocesan for church construction. Also, in 1875, the church bell was purchased from New York and “erected upon Rev. Godden’s church, Southside” (Harbour Grace Standard and Conception Bay Advertiser, August 21, 1875). A church, whether the first or not, had now been constructed at Harbour Grace South.

In the early twentieth century, plans were made to construct a new Anglican church at Harbour Grace South. At the Annual Meeting of 1906, these plans were made when Selby Noel moved and Josiah Yetman seconded “that collections be made as in 1905 and that at the end of 1906 the list of subscribers to the Annual Expenses Fund be placed in the church porch.” These early parishioners showed their determination at a special meeting held on May 17, 1906, when collectors for the “new church” fund were appointed for different harbours of “The Labrador” – that is, the seasonal Labrador fishery – as follows:

Carpoon – Thos. H. Sheppard
Fishing Ships – Clem Sheppard & Martin George
Tub Harbour – James & Josiah Yetman
Seal Islands – Lymen & John Noel
Webbers Harbour – Alex Sheppard & Eliezer Noel
Shoal Tickle – Mark Sheppard
Shoal Bay Islands – Victor Sheppard and Leander Noel
Grady – Jonathan Sheppard
Sandy Islands – Moses Yetman

In addition, the Rev. C. Carpenter was to cover Harbour Grace Islands; Richard and Leonard Sheppard the east end of Southside; Moses Yetman Jr. and James Shute the west end. By December 20, 1906, a whopping $211.10 had been collected. At a special meeting on December 20, 1906, a proposition called for Edward Darcy, of St. John’s, to inspect and report on a church, that is, if “his fees didn’t exceed $10.00.” Collections continued in 1907 and 1908. Finally, with the old church torn down in April 1907, the contract amounting to $1,400.00 was awarded to William Carson, to “close in” the new church, which would see its first service on April 12, 1908. Construction had begun and feelings were high, as expressed by one parishioner, who wrote to the Diocesan Magazine in June 1908, “We shall have as pretty a church as there is in the bay…”

 Rev. C. Carpenter planned and supervised the construction of the church. Men stayed home in the spring of 1907 and were late leaving for the Labrador fishery so that they could help build the church from their volunteer labour. The cells were cut on the White Hills and hauled across ponds on New Harbour Barrens. Materials were salvaged from the dismantling of the old St. Peter’s Church. The bell was the same one which came from New York in 1875.

There were some stumbling blocks in St. Peter’s future. Although not easily recognizable today, there were east and west end entrances to the church. There was a debate about the “high society” using the east end and the “low society” using the west end. This matter was settled when it was decided that the west end door would be the entrance for everyone. This type of attitude also surrounded the distribution of seats, a dilemma settled by a “draw.” After the Annual Meeting of 1909, “families of seven or more would draw for long seats; of five and six to draw for medium length seats; and four and under the short seats. Those who do not care to draw to be content with whatever seats may be left after the others have drawn.”

St. Peter’s was now ready for growth. In 1910 Rev. Carpenter left due to ill health. One parishioner showed his love for this man stating, “his equal, I fear, we shall never get again” (Diocesan Magazine). Rev. C.M. Stickings took over the parish in 1911. He left for Heart’s Content in 1914 and Rev. Mackay assumed responsibility for one year, being replaced by Rev. E.O.W. Andrews. During Rev. Andrews’s first year, an attempt to unite St. Peter’s and Christ Church Parish with St. Paul’s was rejected. In 1919 Rev. W.E.R. Cracknell became Rector of St. Peter’s, under whose leadership many milestones occurred. On March 21, 1920, electric lights were introduced; the first parade of the L.O.B.A. was held on May 24, 1920; and on October 26, 1924, a new pulpit was donated by Rev. A.B.S. Sterling. As Rev. Cracknell’s service ended in 1925 and and Rev. G.S. Templeton became Rector, a very important event happened: Christ Church, St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s became one parish. In 1934 Rev. Templeton overcame all barriers between St. Paul’s and Christ Church, resulting in the latter closing and the formation of the modern parish.

Rev. H.F.G.D. Kirby succeeded Rev. Templeton in 1934. The church remained steady and, in fact, the C.E.W.A. found enough funds to donate the vases on the Altar today. Another person (unknown) donated the candleholders that were made in  England. In 1945 the Church underwent some major repairs to the clapboard, shingles, steps, and windows. In 1946 Rev. R.O. Davies became Rector and served the Parish until 1954 and was succeeded by Rev. L.A.J. Ludlow. Rev. Ludlow’s contributions to the Parish were many, especially his efforts towards improving education. Under his direction, pledges were collected and a new two-room school was constructed. Rev. Ludlow was a major factor in convincing people in 1968 that the high school on the north side would be advantageous for the children of St. Peter’s.

In 1969 Rev. D.M.A. Pearce became Rector of St. Peter’s, noted for his financial expertise and great energies. He was the catalyst for obtaining grants in 1977-78, thus enabling St. Peter’s to receive badly needed major repairs. In 1976, under his direction, a new organ was obtained for St. Peter’s through general collections. When the collections were completed, enough funds remained to carpet the Church with major contributions from A.C.W. Rev. Pearce also concentrated on the youth in the community, starting recreation groups and encouraging young people to attend church camps.

Canon J.A.F. Slade became rector in 1977. Under Canon Slade’s service, major renovations were made to the parish hall, the church grounds and church fences. Also, a collection was made to replace the church furnace.

Rev. David Hewitt became minister when Canon Slade passed away while serving the parish. Under Rev. Hewitt, a grant was obtained and the church was varnished, tile placed on the under the seats, and the altar made free standing. The choir seats were moved up to where they are today, the minister’s vestry was shingled, and cabinets were made to place altar cloths and communion needs in.

In 1983 Rev. John M. Dinn was church rector. He focused on repairs needed around the church – new lighting, a new furnace, a new roof and electrical service for St. Peter’s Hall – cemetery clean-up, a new carpet, and reopened St. Peter’s Sunday School and re-established confirmation classes. He encouraged the youth of our church to be part of the CLB, JA and YGA.

As of 2018, St. Peter’s remains an active, vibrant congregation on Harbour Grace’s South Side.

— Taken from the research of Gord Pike, Daphne Mercer, Gord Stone & Phil Sheppard.

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Liberty or Death: Lou Reichers’s Atlantic Attempt

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On May 13, 1932, Lou Reichers, nicknamed “The Arlington Speed Pilot,” departed Newark, New Jersey, at 12:30 a.m. NT, expecting to make Harbour Grace in five hours. Flying in darkness, Reichers encountered bad weather within fifty miles of the Harbour Grace Airport. Fortunately for Reichers, the visibility was clear over Conception Bay. The plane was first sighted in the western horizon by those at the airstrip. The plane then headed north and reappeared some minutes later: blinded by the brilliant sunlight, Reichers had overflown the field.

Doug Fraser and Arthur Sullivan, who had earlier flown from St. John’s in a seaplane to greet Reichers, realized the predicament and went out to guide the Liberty back to the airstrip. When he finally located the field, Reichers made a complete circle at an altitude of 2000 feet, descended gracefully and landed in the west end of the field. He touched down at 6:24 a.m.—a record time.

Lou Reichers at Hr Grace

Lou Reichers at Harbour Grace, May 13, 1932

During landing, the tailskid threw up a loose rock which slightly damaged the plywood covering the port stabilizer. Reichers arranged to make the necessary repairs while the plane refuelled. Soon, however, another issue threatened to delay the flight: the London Air Ministry reported rainy weather over the Atlantic, with a southeast wind blowing 30 mph. Undaunted, Reichers requested the Air Ministry have light flares ready at Baldonnel, Ireland, in case he would need them that night.

Reichers, wearing an ordinary suit and windbreaker, ate a light breakfast in Harbour Grace and took coffee and sandwiches to eat on his way. At 8:29 a.m., two hours after landing, the pilot tuned up his plane and took off. Harry Connon, chief officer of the Baltimore Mail Line ship City of Hamburg, furnished Reichers with weather reports and navigational data.

Reichers described experience flying across the Atlantic to the Cornell Daily Sun:

[Harry Connon] indicated [the] weather [was] O.K. so I refuelled and took off flying the course Harry radioed me from aboard his ship mid-ocean. The first hour out was clear and cold and I sighted several icebergs; then low-hanging clouds obscured the sea and for at least four [hours] I did not see it again.

When eight hours had passed I came down through a hole to have a look underneath. The visibility was poor and I could see no indication of land, so I climbed up again over the clouds and flew another half hour. I repeated the same performance but still no land again at nine hours and at nine and one half there was still nothing but water.

Turning south I flew for half an hour, still I could see nothing but water, so [I] came to the conclusion then that winds out of the north, possibly north-west, had carried me so far south that the southwest wind I was flying in then had not been enough to counteract them.

Because of the night and poor visibility, plus my landing speed and the fact that I was tired I felt incapable of judging a forced landing. So when sighting the lights of the President Roosevelt, and still no land and with very little gas left, I decided there was only one thing to do and that was to set the Liberty down on the water. I signalled the boat to stand by and came down in the sea about fifty yards away.

That evening, at 9:10 p.m., the lookout on the bridge of the SS President Roosevelt spotted the Liberty floating in the water off the coast of Ireland. The ship’s chief officer, Harry Manning, immediately prepared to take Reichers aboard. Despite southwest wind and high seas, the liner maneuvered as near to the ill-fated plane as possible. After dangerously circling, the lifeboat crewmen hauled the exhausted pilot aboard. Reichers was immediately placed under the care of Surgeon Mulligan; but except for lacerations and a broken nose, he was none the worse for his struggle for survival.

Of the twenty planes attempting transatlantic flights from Harbour Grace between 1927 and 1936, only the Liberty was successfully rescued at sea.

This post is part of the Harbour Grace Notebook series. Follow the updates on social media with the hashtag #hgnotebook

 

Sources & Further Information

Parsons, Bill & Bill Bowman. “Liberty.” The Challenge of the Atlantic, 1987. Print.

Reichers, Lou. “Lou Reichers Gives a Graphic Account of His Ocean Flight.” Cornell Daily Sun, vol. 52, no. 166, 16 May 1932.

Profile: Old St. Paul’s Hall, Harbour Grace

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The old St. Paul’s Hall was located on Harvey St, near the head of LeMarchant St. The building formally opened on April 1 (Easter Sunday), 1888, at 3 p.m.

On May 1, 1888, its first grand concert was given. The press reported that the entertainment greatly exceeded their lofty expectations. 500 people attended the show, and receipts totaled $131.00. Prof. and Miss Flynn performed together to much applause, the latter singing “Tell Me, O Bird of the Greenwood” solo. To close out the performance, Rev. J.M. Noel, the local rector, extended his thanks to everyone who contributed to this fine opening performance.

Do you have any memories or stories of the old St. Paul’s Hall in Harbour Grace?