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.

Have a historical picture of St. Peter’s Church? Contact us!

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?

Harbour Grace Notebook: April

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Follow the Harbour Grace Notebook series with the hashtag #hgnotebook on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

1 Apr. 1888: St. Paul’s Hall opens on Harvey St, at the head of LeMarchant St. 

7 Apr. 1913: SS Kyle completed in Newcastle, England.

7 Apr. 1806: Dr. John Stirling dies at Harbour Grace, aged 32. Dr. William Archibald Stirling, possibly his cousin or brother, replaces him in 1808-10.

7 Apr. 1877: Harbor Grace Standard advertisement: “A large quantity of ice, in Arthur Thomey’s ice-house at Mosquito. Also, from this date until the end of September, bait of different kinds is easily obtainable at Mosquito. The opportunity is a good one for masters of Bankers, both of Newfoundland and American, to obtain a good supply of these two indispensable articles for successfully prosecuting the Bank fishery.”

12 Apr. 1908: First service at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Harbour Grace South. 

12 Apr. 1858:  A fire breaks out in Harbour Grace, often considered the second “great fire” in the town. The principal downtown trading quarter, between LeMarchant St and Victoria St, is reduced to ashes, and some 50 families are deprived of their trade or business, most of them being shopkeepers, tradesmen, or planters. Several persons have some small portion of their stock insured, but many are not able to pay their debts. More info: Toussaint’s Fire, 1858.

14 April 1858: Meeting held at the Temperance Hall to petition the House of Asssembly to aid the sufferers of the calamitous Toussaint’s Fire of April 1858. 

17 Apr. 1912: Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd and the Reid Newfoundland Company sign an agreement, which foresees the construction of the SS Kyle.

17 Apr. 1913: SS Kyle launches; leaves Newcastle.

22 Apr. 1770: Birth of Rev. Lewis Amadeus Anspach in Geneva, Switzerland, son of Jean-Louis Anspach and Jeanne-Marie Audibert. 

25 Apr. 1766: Laurence Coughlan is made deacon.

25 Apr. 1855: Sir Henry Pynn dies in London, England. A former man of property in Harbour Grace, Pynn fought in the 1798 Irish Rebellion with the South Devon Militia and afterwards in the Peninsular War (Napoleonic Wars). Pynn was present at the Battle of Roliça, the Battle of Vimeiro, the Battle of Buçaco, and the seige of Badajoz, where he held a Portuguese regiment under Lord Hill. Pynn also engaged in various battles in the Pyrenees, where he was wounded. He was knighted in 1815, the first native-born Newfoundlander to receive the honour. In later years he invested heavily in the railway on the European continent. 

Battle of Vimeiro

The Battle of Vimeiro (1808), by William Heath. Pynn distinguished himself in this battle and others during the Peninsular War.

26 Apr. 1766: Laurence Coughlan is “licensed to perform the ministerial office in the province of Newfoundland” under the auspices of the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel. 

27 Apr. 1766: Laurence Coughlan is ordained a priest. 

28 Apr. 1845: Ridley & Sons open a dry goods store on Water St. The store features a large stock of British manufactured goods.

29 Apr. 1834: Hundreds of sealers cut down Peter Downing (Downey) from Gibbet Hill, Harbour Grace. The men bring Downing’s remains to Dr. William Stirling, the local magistrate. A note is attached to the corpse:

Dr. S.  This  is your man you were the cause of bringing him here take and bury him or Look Out should you be the cause of allowing him to be put up again we will mark you for it, so do your duty and get him out of sight. 

Truly a friend,
Anonymous Carbonear

Stirling orders the body buried on the grounds of the courthouse. More info: Gibbet Hill: Unfinished Justice by Patrick J. Collins

Gibbet

An example of a gibbet, once used across the former British Empire to publicly display executed criminals.

Travelling Tuners: A.L. Collis & Son, Harbour Grace, 1910-2001

Former A.L. Collis & Sons piano factory

Former A.L. Collis & Sons piano factory, Water St, Harbour Grace.

Born in 1881, Althelstan Lockyer Collis lost his father at a young age and moved back to Trouty, Trinity Bay, with his mother’s family, the Lockyers. Despite his severe tunnel vision—the condition was “like looking down a lead pencil,” in the words of his grandson Alastair—Althelstan went to Montreal for five years to study voice, piano and organ as young man. “He was a baritone, like [Luciano] Pavarotti,” says Alastair.

In 1910 he moved to Harbour Grace, where he repaired and tuned pianos out of his home on LeMarchant Street. Owning to Harbour Grace’s public infrastructure—the town had water and sewer 50 years before the capital—Althelstan felt Harbour Grace was the place to establish his music business. Athelstan was mobile, though, travelling around the island repairing pianos for extended periods each year.

His near-blindness didn’t hamper his work, however. In the Harbour Grace issue of Decks Awash (1982), Alastair recounts a story Athelstan’s friend Max King often told:

Max was a boy when grandfather arrived in Trouty, Trinity Bay. Max’s mother told him to ‘bring Mr. Collis to the church,’ where Max left him to repair the organ. Later, after supper, Max returned, but the church was in darkness. Groping his way up the aisle, he saw in the moonlight the organ in pieces all over the floor. Grandfather told Max to come back in two hours. Max rushed home and reported, ‘Mother, that man can’t see. He’s up there and there’s no lights on. I don’t know what’s going on!’ However, when Max did return the organ was back together and grandfather was happily playing it—still in the dark.

Athelstan married Mary Parsons, of Harbour Grace, and the pair had three children. Born in 1918, their son James Leslie followed in his father’s footsteps, cultivating a love of music at an early age. At four, he began music lessons under the tutelage of Flora Parsons, a student of Sister Loretta Croake. Croake was a strong supporter of Leslie’s musical gifts and influenced his career pursuit of music. In his teens, Leslie sat the exams for Junior, Senior and Higher Local at Trinity College and won first place at both the Junior and Higher Local levels.

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A.L. Collis buildings, 2000 (Source: BTHC)

For years, the father and son duo travelled Newfoundland tuning and repairing pianos. Time appears to have little meaning: If they finished in one town late Thursday, then they stayed until Sunday, just so that Athelstan could sing in the church choir while Leslie played the organ. According to Alistair, the family owed this sense of ease to Athelstan: “Once, when Leslie was concerned least they miss the next boat, grandfather Collis commented, ‘Don’t worry, son, if we miss it, there’s another in two weeks.'”

Athelstan died in 1940 and Leslie inherited the travelling business. However, Leslie almost met his own end in 1942, when he was badly burned in a fire and required 45 skin grafts on his legs. Fearing he might not walk again, Leslie convalesced in a St. John’s ward for three months. Returning to Harbour Grace, he found his house burnt. Even his girlfriend had deserted him. Undeterred, Leslie began his slow recovery, learning to use his hands and legs again. He began dating Lillian Martin, a nursing trainee whom he met at the hospital in St. John’s. Lillian came from Coley’s Point, in nearby Bay Roberts. The two were married in 1943.

James Leslie Collis

James Leslie Collis, 1918-1982 (Source: Kiwanis Music Festival)

Soon after, Leslie embarked on an ambitious plan to expand the family piano business. He acquired an old, three-story Water Street property, which luckily had survived the great Harbour Grace fire of 1944. The building housed a piano showroom on the ground floor and a repair and finishing shop above. Later, an extension was built behind the original structure; the building even featured a small railway to transport pianos around the shop.

In 1954 Leslie and Lillian moved to St. John’s, where the expanded operations. In 1962 a new showroom and workshop opened on 556 Topsail Rd, where the business is still based today. Eventually, A.L. Collis had seven stores across the island.

Despite his new workshops, Leslie continued his tuning and travelling, now with a new companion, his son Alastair, who joined the business in 1976. “‘Collis’—he always called me ‘Collis’—‘no matter what it is, if it’s one piano in Fogo or Burgeo, whatever it is, you’ve gotta go do it.’ That was the key to business really,” his son recalls in a Telegram profile. His love of music continued, too. He played for Tony Bennett and Celine Dion, and even tuned Bob Hope’s piano in Botwood in 1943.

Alastair Collis

Alastair Collis in 1982. His grandfather Athelstan Collis is pictured on the wall behind (Source: Decks Awash)

Leslie died in March 1982, when Alistair was in Japan. Alistair continues to operate the business on 556 Topsail Rd. While A.L Collis and Son’s Harbour Grace piano factory closed in 2001, the building remains, a memory of the town’s tall and narrow downtown architecture before the 1944 fire. No longer building the pianos, due to competition from the Asian market, A.L. Collis and Son focuses on their earlier trade, tuning and repair.

One interesting, recent restoration is the Wurlitzer Baby Grand piano formerly housed at the U.S. Naval base in Argentia. In 1943 A.L. Collis and Son built 17 pianos—five grand, six baby grand and six upright models—for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army at their Harbour Grace location. Though the Wurlitzer had deteriorated severely, Alastair repaired the piano because of its sentimentality and heritage value. Today, the piano is located at the CFS St. John’s. According to the Telegram, “no piano in this province has gotten more play in its day,” with such luminaries as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis, Vera Lynn and Jayne Mansfield playing its keys.

Sources & Further Information

“Carrying on in the Collis Tradition.” Decks Awash, vol. 11, no. 2, November-December 1982, pp. 22-24.

MacEachern, Daniel. “Piano man.” The Telegram [St.  John’s], 6 August 2013. https://www.thetelegram.com/business/piano-man-133069/. Accessed 22 April 2019.

Whiffen, Glen. “Baby grand once played by celebrities visiting Argentia now has a new home at CFS St. John’s.” The Telegram [St. John’s], 3 October 2017. https://www.cbncompass.ca/news/local/baby-grand-once-played-by-celebrities-visiting-argentia-has-new-home-at-cfs-st-johns-153607/.

“James Leslie Collis.” Kiwanis Music Festival of St. John’s. https://www.kiwanismusicfestivalsj.org/hall_collis.html. Accessed 22 April 2019.

 

Artifact: James Clancy’s Royal Coat of Arms

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For years this coat of arms hung above the magistrate’s desk at the Harbour Grace Courthouse, before the building closed in 2015. Much of what we know of its history  comes from W.W. French, a former jailer.

According to French, James Clancy (or John Alexander Clance) painted the coat of arms in 1850. A writer, painter and musician, Clancy was said to have escaped some trouble in Ireland. What “trouble” is unknown, for the reticent Clancy “brooked no question as to his condition.” However, one can speculate about his well educated origins and “gentlemanly bearing”: rumours were that Clancy had left a great European university, where he mastered various languages, namely Latin and Greek. Clancy was an imposing figure, often walking around town with a black frock coat, beaver hat, and a high, stiff collar with a large tie. For years he was keeper of Rogerson’s Farm, on the south side of Lady Lake, and lived in poverty; despite his condition, he accepted no charity.

Clancy out his later years in relative obscurity. On January 20, 1865, he was found dead in the eastern house of the range, commonly known as the Great Eastern, at the southeast corner of Harvey St and Kerry Lane, Harbour Grace.

The coat of arms is the standard iconography of the United Kingdom and its monarchy. The French script around the Royal Coat of Arms is the motto of the chivalric Order of the Garter“Honor soit qui mal y pense”–“May he be shamed who thinks badly of it.” To the left is the English lion; to the right, the Scottish unicorn. The coat of arms is quartered:  in the first and fourth quarters are the three guardian lions of England; in the second, the rampant lion of Scotland; and in the third, a celtic harp for Ireland.

Courthouse, 1940s

James Clancy’s Royal Coat of Arms (1850) above the magistrate’s desk, ca. 1910.

Sources and Further Information

“Early Institutions.” Decks Awash, vol. 11, no. 2, November-December 1982, p. 10.

Connelly, R.J. The Story of Harbor Grace, 1981.