St. Andrew’s Church makes historic journey

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Jim Hornby
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Using horsepower and manpower, building is transported over the ice to Charlottetown to become a convent

The Examiner, March 21

REMOVAL OF ST. ANDREW’S CHURCH. The removal of the old Church of St. Andrew’s Parish to Charlottetown, on the ice, is worthy of more than a passing notice. The people of this Parish, having completed their splendid new Church, and having no use for the old one, resolved on hauling it to the city for a schoolhouse. One of their reasons for not taking the building asunder was the veneration which they had for it, both on account of its age, and on account of the venerable prelate by whom it was erected. It is the oldest Catholic Church on the Island, having been been built upwards of sixty years ago by Bishop (Angus) McEachern, whose memory is still venerated by all classes of the community.

To transport a Church upwards of sixty feet in length, to a distance of twenty miles, was not an undertaking of a trifling nature. Hence it was necessary to place the building on a strong sleigh, the runners of which were of hard wood, at least a foot square. The Church being securely fastened to this sleigh, some fifty teams of horses were on Monday, the 7th inst., tackled thereto, hauled it on to the ice of the Hillsboro River, and set out for Charlottetown. A large number of persons, Protestants as well as Catholics, assembled to aid in starting the Church; and seldom is there enjoyed anywhere a more enjoyable and picturesque sight than was enjoyed by those who witnessed the Church passing down by Mount Stewart Bridge, at the rate of five miles an hour, accompanied as it was by hundreds of individuals.

For about twelve miles every thing went on admirably, and without even one stoppage; but when the building was approaching Apple-tree Wharf, and as the horses were trotting along with the view of passing rapidly over the ice which was known to be weak at that place, suddenly the Church broke down into the river. Were it not for this accident, which happened about two o’clock, the Church would have been in the city about 4 o’clock. We may easily imagine the disappointment of the good people of St. Andrews, as well as many from the neighboring parishes of Tracadie and Fort Augustus, who were aiding in the good work, when they saw the Church ten feet in the Hillsboro’. However, they were not discouraged. After making several unsuccessful attempts to draw the building out of the ice, the people dispersed for the night, many of them going to Charlottetown where they were hospitably received by their friends.

On the following day, they again assembled to make another effort. They were joined by many stalwart arms from Charlottetown, who brought with them a quantity of blocks and tackle. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, the pastor of St. Andrew, the Rev. Dr. MacPhee, continued to encourage his parishioners by his presence, as did the Pastors of Tracadie and Fort Augustus, the Rev. Thos. Phelan and the Rev. J. Phelan. Several of the riggers, belonging to the city, acted their part nobly in preparing the tackle, and at 4 o’clock everything was ready for another attempt. Two unsuccessful attempts were now made, and many were of opinion that the building would never be got up. However, when the third effort was made, the Church issued forth from the hole, and never stopped until it landed on Kent Street about 6 o’clock.

On Wednesday morning a large number of men and horses again assembled at the Church, and proceeded down Kent Street in grand style. A great portion of the city was in excitement, and many hundreds were congregated along the street to witness the building going along as fast as the horses could walk. An immense crowd preceded and followed the building, and the whole affair looked like a triumphal procession, as it really was, for the noble fellows who took so much interest in the work, and whose energy and perseverance were crowned with such signal success. When the Church reached Pownal Street, it was turned round the corner with as much apparent ease as an ordinary sleigh, and finally placed on the foundation prepared for it.

We have much pleasure in noticing that many Protestants, both at St. Andrew’s, Apple-tree Wharf, and Charlottetown, cheerfully gave their assistance in this undertaking and are deserving of many thanks. All the good people who took an active part in the matter are deserving of much credit; but none are deserving of more praise than the parishioners of St. Andrew’s, who have had a great deal of trouble with the undertaking, but who will, we hope, be amply rewarded for their zeal and piety, if not in this world, at all events in the world to come.

Mr. Angus McDonald, Garnhill, Pisquid, was the Superintendent in the removal of the Church, and was ably assisted by Mr. James McWade, of Mount Stewart. Both these gentlemen--as well as the leading teamsters--Messrs. Synot and Maguire, and the Charlottetown riggers who gave their assistance--acted with energy, skill and perseverance, and are deserving of much praise.

Jim Hornby: The building was soon refitted as St. Joseph’s Convent, 147 Pownal St. It was also used for meetings and public lectures. Another article stated that 500 men and 100 horses worked on the move.

The Vindicator, March 23

TENANTS BEWARE! Col. Gray said a few days ago, in the House of Assembly, that it was useless for the tenantry to refuse the payment of rents, for one of the proprietors, Lawrence Sullivan, being a near relative of the Premier of England, could easily obtain from the Home Government a sufficient number of troops to enforce the rents at the point of the bayonet. Matters appear coming to a crisis.

J.H.: The influence of British proprietors, such as Lawrence Sulivan and Sir Samuel Cunard, at the highest level of their government, was well known. British troops were called in from Halifax to settle tenant unrest in the summer of 1865.

Jim Hornby’s column, "1864: The Way We Were: gleanings from Charlottetown’s newspapers," will be presented in The Guardian every Monday throughout 2014 (on holiday Mondays when there is no paper, it will appear on Tuesdays). It contains excerpts from various newspapers of that era, as well as Hornby’s comments on what he has found. To give feedback on this feature, which is presented in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Charlottetown Conference, contact the author at hornby@pei.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: ANDREW’S CHURCH, Apple, Catholic Church on the Island

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Fort Augustus, Hillsboro River Kent Street Hillsboro Pownal Street Mount Stewart England Halifax

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