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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