St. James Church

Perth Courier, November 13, 1941

St. James Congregation Will Observe 122nd Anniversary of Origin Here and 80th Anniversary of the Present Stone Edifice

In view of the observance in St. James Anglican Church on Sunday, November 16 of the 80th Anniversary of the opening of divine worship of that church and the 122nd anniversary of the congregation of St. James Church the following historical sketch of that church will be of interest to readers of the Courier.

The first clergyman of the Church of England who officiated in Perth was Rev. Michael Harris, M.A.  He was ordained in 1819 at Quebec by Bishop Mountain and appointed to Perth at that time, a mission of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

It was subsequently constituted a rectory in 1836 by Sir John Colbourne and is one of 44 completed rectories in what was then known as Upper Canada.  The services of the church in the absence of a suitable edifice, were held in an “upper room” in the house of one John Adamson on Craig Street.

In 1820, it was resolved to build a frame church on the lot appropriated by the government for that purpose in the original plan of the town.  It was erected on the site of where the present St. James Church now stands on the corner of Drummond and Harvey Streets and was opened for divine services on November 16, 1822.

The original church was a plain wooden building fifty feet in length by forty feet wide.  Some years later the wants of the increasing congregation were provided for by the addition of a gallery at the west end.  The contractor was J. Jackson and among the subscribers to the building fund outside the congregation were His Excellency the Earl of Dalhousie, the Bishop of Quebec, Sir Peregrine Maitland and The S.P.G. Society of England.  The church wardens in 1823(?) were Staff Surgeon N.F.(?) Thom and C.H. Sache, Esq.  In 1827 the church wardens were Staff Surgeon N.F.(?) Thom and Dr. G. H. Reade.  From the minutes of a vestry meeting we learn that one William McGrath was appointed parish clerk at ten pounds per annum. 

In 1826 the Hon. And Rt. Rev. Charles James Stewart, Bishop of Quebec and fifth son of the Earl of Galloway held a confirmation at Perth when 78 persons were confirmed among them Thomas Burke, town clerk of Perth, clerk of the county council and county of Lanark and a member of the Perth Board of Education for over forty years who died in June of 1911 at the advanced age of 84 years. 

The Rev. Mr. Harris did not confine his ministry to the town of Perth but held regular services at ten stations in the adjoining townships and occasionally visited settlers as far east as the townships of Pakenham and Fitzroy on the Ottawa River and south as far as New Boyne in the township of Leeds.  In 1853(?) he resigned the rectory after industriously serving for 33 years and was succeeded by Rev. A. Pyne, B.A.  During his incumbency, the increase of the congregation, both in wealth and in members seemed to justify the vestry in taking steps for the erection of a church of stone somewhat commensurate with their altered and improved circumstances.  Plans were procured from W. Thomas, architect, Toronto, but when the foundation was laid on account of the great cost and for the want of funds, the work came to a stand still.  In July, 1856, Rev. A. Pyne resigned the parish and accepted the curacy of Rochdale, Lancashire, England.

His successor was the Rev. R.L. Stephenson, M.A., who was appointed to the rectory by the Rt. Rev. John Strachan, Bishop of Toronto on October 25, and entered on his duties on October 3, 1857.

In the following year, the building committee employed Fuller and Jones, architects of Ottawa, to modify the original plans so that a church might be built at a cost of two thirds of the original contract.  The contractor was Simon Bothwell(?).

The new church was completed with the exception of the tower and spire and opened for divine services on the 14th November, 1861.  The opening sermons were preached by the Bishop Elect of Ontario Rev. Dr. Lewis of Brockville and Venerable Archdeacon Patton of Cornwall.   The church wardens were H.D. Shaw and W. A. Playfair.  The church, free of debt, was consecrated on October 10, 1873.

The church fabric consists of a sanctuary, chancel, nave, and two aisles with tower on the northwest corner.  The style of architecture adopted is early English and has a seating capacity of 600 people.  The church is not deformed by galleries.

In 1883 the chancel was further beautified by Mrs. Peter McLaren who, from designs from Darling and Curry, Toronto, placed in the sanitarium, a handsome raredos(?) and also a magnificent altar frontal cloth, the work of the Ladies’ Church Embroidery Guild of Toronto, and which The Mail then pronounced to be the handsomest piece of ecclesiastical needle work ever produced in Canada.  The cost was $1,157.

Again in 1887, Mrs. McLaren added to the chancel furniture a beautiful pulpit at a cost of 4330 designed by the same firm and in keeping with the other chancel fittings.  For the most reverent celebration of the Holy Communion the late Mrs. R.L. Stephenson, wife of the rector, presented to St. James Church, in memory of her eldest daughter, Mrs. Sieveright(?) Smith (wife of D.S. Smith, M.A., head of Park Hall and professor of Greek in Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin) from the firm of T. Prat and Son, a set of communion plate duly inscribed consisting of a silver gilt chalice, silver gilt paten(?) with spoon and pyx box of the same material, silver cruets, polished brass altar desk, with suitable altar linen and office book, at a cost of $250. The date on the brass plate is “All Saints Day, 1886”.

In 1887, the handsome gift of Mrs. H.D. Shaw, amounting to $1,000, was also expended on the chancel, in the form of two beautiful chancel screens, in memory of her husband, the late H.D. Shaw, Esq.,  The font near the west door was also donated by Mrs. H.D.Shaw, in memory of a dear one departed, at a cost of $70.  Mrs. Shaw’s contribution was also largely instrumental in making a most useful addition to the church fabric in the completion of the basement—used for many years for Sunday School purposes, week night services and other church activities.  In November, 1888 the Hon. Senator McLaren completed the tower and spire at a cost of $5,600.  This work is in memory of the late Mrs. R.L. Stephenson, wife of the rector.

The rectory house, designed by K. Arn- - - - ,  architect, Ottawa, was erected in 1875 on the church grounds at a cost of $5,000.  The church wardens at that date who lent the most valuable aid to the rectory in carrying out this work to completion were Col. A.J. Matheson and J.A. Douglas, barrister.

The old Church of England burying ground was consecrated  June 15, 1887 by the Rev. the Lord Bishop of Niagara; the church wardens were William Butler and A.W. Playfair. 

The organ, a very fine instrument, built by Warren of Toronto, was placed in the chancel by the efforts of the late Mrs. J. Ings(?) of Alberta, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. William Hicks, assisted by the rector’s daughter, deceased.

Other gifts received at this time were:  an alms box for the porch of the church for the sick and poor and book markers from the Misses Matheson for different church seasons at a cost of $40 and two flower vases for the altar from Capt. Allan F. Matheson.

The Rev. R.L. Stephenson was rector of the parish until his death which occurred on the 4th of August, 1893 and his remains were interred in the Old Burying Ground beside those of his wife and daughter.  A suitable brass tablet recording his death was placed in the chancel of the church.

The Rev. Richard Coleman, who had assisted the rector for some time, remained in charge of the parish and that of Port Elmsley until the late Archibald Lewis of Ontario filled the vacancy by the appointment of Rev. William Jeffries Mucklestone, M.A. of Lincoln College, Oxford, rector of Perth.  He was formally inducted by Rev. Rural Dean Nesbit on the 30th September, 1893, a position he occupied until December 31, 1911, when he resigned due to ill health.

During his incumbency, many additions were made to St. James Church.  Through a bequest of the late Miss Rose Thyme Matheson, a sweet toned bell, with suitable inscription, was placed in the church tower.  A stained glass window, subject, “The Crucifixion” was placed in the chancel by the family of the late Jesse Thomas Henderson, Esq., who died in 1896(?) as a memorial.  Mrs. James Rathwell placed a window of stained glass, subject, “The Woman of Samaria at the Well”, in memory of her husband, near the pew they had occupied.  And at this time also a handsome new pipe organ was installed to take the place of the one that had done good service for many years.

The parish guild, the women’s auxiliary, the girl’s and the junior auxiliary, altar guild, were developed and encouraged.  A new institution called The Women’s Association, was formed with the object of calling forth the best qualities of the women of the parish in aid of the church life and usefulness, resulting in much assistance in beautifying the church building.

On the retirement of Rev. Canon Mucklestone, the Rev. D.T. Clayton, M.A., of Bishop’s College, Lennoxville, was appointed Rector of Perth in 1912 by the late Archbishop Hamilton of Ottawa. The late Mr. and Mrs. Clayton were nicely settled in the work of their parish when the war broke out.  They did most faithful work in those stressing days. 

In 1913 the Matheson family placed a window of stained glass, the work of J.C. Spence of Montreal, subject, The Resurrection, in memory of their brother, the late Colonel, the Hon. Roderick Matheson.  In the same year, Mr. Clayton secured  W.R. Spence, a brother of the above, as organist and choir master of St. James Church. Mr. Spence, a composer of church music, and known as such, far and wide, gave his church faithful service until he was succeeded in 1929 by R.J. Devey(?) of Peterboro, a worthy successor to a worthy man.  Under the leadership of Mr. Clayton, a private home, across Harvey Street from the church, was purchased for a parish house at the cost of $4,600.  The church wardens at this time were J.S.L. McNeely and Governor John Oates.

The Rev. H.H. Bedford-Jones of Trinity College, Toronto, succeeded Mr. Clayton in the autumn of 1923.  The debt of the parish was paid off.  Further excavation under the church was made and new furnaces installed.  The church was re-wired and new lights put in.  Standard lights were placed in the chancel by Mrs. James Turpin in memory of her family. In 1927 the church was redecorated by Mr. Brown of Toronto.

The erection of two new choir vestries and screens gives a hallowing richness to this historic edifice with its historic associations.  The vestries and screens were the gift of Mrs. J. A. Stewart in memory of her distinguished husband, the late Hon. John Alexander Stewart.   Magnificent in setting and rich in color and material, the new vestries added cathedral dignity to the tiled entrance to the church.  Simple in design, yet neat and chaste in oak rolled letters is this inscription over the door:  “To the Glory of God and in Memory of John Alexander Stewart 1867-1922, These Vestries and Choir Screens Have Been Erected”, with a plaque lettered “Leaders of the people by their counsels, their memory shall remain forever.”

The architect of the vestries and screens was Cecil Burgess(?), Ottawa and John Davidson of Ottawa, woodwork, and M.S. Rabb of Perth, local contractor.  The vestries and screens are in solid oak with tiled entrance and cathedral glass.  Mrs. Stewart also donated the massive oak entrance doors to St. James Church.  The church wardens who gave faithful assistance to the rectors were T.A.Rogers, barrister, and William Kinloch.  At Christmas time in 1928 a beautiful new altar in solid oak was placed in the sanctuary by the altar guild at a cost of $410.00

At the close of 1928 Rev. Dr. Bedford-Jones was appointed rector of St. George’s Church, Ottawa  by His Lordship Bishop Roper and was succeeded by Rev. Gilbert A. Brunet, B.A. of Queen’s University, Kingston and L.Th of Trinity College, Toronto, as rector of Perth.  He was formally inducted by the Bishop of Ottawa on April 14, 1929, the Rev. G.G. Wright, L.Th of Carleton Place preaching the sermon.

In 1930, the outside woodwork of the parish house was repainted and the inside walls repapered, the work of the parish guild, with financial assistance from Mrs. J.A. Stewart and the late W.E. Danner.

Mrs. Stewart also made a handsome gift to St. James Church  in the shape of two lamps above the entrance doors.  These lamps are of Gothic design and quite in harmony with the church’s structure.

The old stable on the rectory grounds was taken down and sold as building material and in its place a new up-to-date double garage was built; the enterprise was financed by Lawrence H. James and Harry B. Warren.

The late Miss Eleanor Senkler provided a bequest of $3,025 to St. James Church, Perth; $2,600 for the equipment and maintenance of the church building at the discretion of the rector and church wardens; $526 went to the altar guild.

There are stained glass windows place in the church in memory of the late Judge William Stevens Senkler and his wife Honor Teit(?)—or Tait??  And in memory of the late William Edward Danner and tablets in memory of deceased rectors and their wives, the late Mrs. David Hogg, the late James Clyde Wilson killed in action at Pasechendaele(?) during the late great war, the late Andrew Ronald Gamble, and George Alfred Leggett, chums and comrades, who were also killed in action at Pasechendaele(?) , the late Senator Peter McLaren and his wife Sophia, the late Shirley John MacDonnell, and Philip Doyne MacDonnell, the late William Hicks and his wife Mary Jane, the late Hon. Arthur James Matheson, K.C., and the late Miss Flora Madeline Shaw, Reg. N.

To the right of the church entrance is placed a memorial tablet in memory of the world war dead of the parish, the tablet also containing the names of those of the parish who served their king and country in the world war. 

Early in 1940, the present incumbent, Rev. J.J. Bannell was appointed rector of St. James Church.

Posted: 16 March, 2005.