A History Of The Anglican Parish Of Saint Thomas
By Barbara Bottriell
The first St. Thomas was born before Confederation in a flourishing little village known as Rathwell's Corners, situated south of Stittsville at the junction of the 9th line (Flewellyn Road) and the Huntley Road.
It was here in 1866 that landowner Thomas McCaffery decided to donate some of his property for the building of a church. He gave "thirty square yards of land for building the Church of St. Thomas belonging to the Protestant Episcopal Church of Canada."
Many of Goulbourn's settlers were Protestants from Ireland and they brought their faith with them. The United Church of England and Ireland was the official title of the Anglican church in Canada at that time.
St. Thomas was a pretty little white frame church with a tall steeple and a bell, built on a rise so that it could be seen from the surrounding countryside. Its builder was Henry Foster of Arnprior, brother of Robert Foster of Richmond parish, and of Mrs. James Lewis, wife of the church warden of the new church. Mr. Foster was aided by men from the area who hand cut lumber from a nearby forest, carried it to the building site and cut it into logs for the church.
In those days, ministers had to travel around by horseback and in 1866, Goulbourn, Huntley and Hazeldean were all ministered to by the Rev. Jas. Godfrey. St. Thomas was included as a daughter church of St. John's in Richmond which had been in operation for some years.
(click on the picture
to see an enlarged view)
The little church prospered and was free of debt by 1873, when it was consecrated by the Right Reverend John Travis Lewis, Bishop of Ontario. An adjoining burial ground had also been established and a number of Goulbourn's pioneers rest there. Two further gifts of land were given to the church by the McCaffery's, one by Francis, Thomas' son, and one by Thomas' grandson Hamnet.
The community where the church stood, changed its name to Stanley's Corners in the 1870's and the township built its municipal building nearby which further added to the importance of this site.
The church building was enlarged in 1914 with the addition of a chancel at the west end. The pews of solid wood were used for nearly a hundred years and beautiful stained glass windows were added over the years. St. Thomas remained as part of the Richmond parish until 1961 when the parish of Stittsville was created.
The names and memories of many of the ancestors of the current Saint Thomas family live on in our 134-year-old parish, through century-old memorial stain glass windows now located in the new Church building at Carleton and Main Streets. Some were salvaged from the old building, after the disastrous 1964 fire that destroyed the original church building just south of today's Stittsville.
to see pictures of all the St Thomas stained glass windows including
enlargements of the dedication sections of the windows.
The church would probably be on its original site today if a cataclysmic event had not occurred.
Late in the afternoon on a beautiful summer's day in June 1964, a severe electrical storm swept through the Stittsville area. As the lightning flashed, it struck the tall steeple of the little white church standing alone on its rise. The steeple caught fire and soon the flames had spread to the ceiling of the church with its insulation of wood shavings.
Firemen had to tear apart the entire ceiling to get at the fire and by the next morning the interior of the church was covered in debris and the building unusable. By some miracle, only one of the nine beautiful memorial stained glass windows was broken and quick action on the part of firemen and local residents saved the electric organ, church records and vestments.
The next six years were difficult ones for St. Thomas' parishioners.
They resumed services immediately in the basement of the rectory and later joined with parishioners at St. Paul's in Hazeldean. But they wanted their own church and finally in October 1969, decided not to rebuild on the original Stanley's Corner's site, but to move into Stittsville where the village had grown to be a substantial community.
The St Thomas
cemetery is still located at the Stanley Corners site. The following
link is to a website that shows the pictures and details of these headstones.
A couple of very
interesting memorials in the cemetery are a memorial stone to the original
church and it's stained glass windows that were in the original church and are
now in the new church in Stittsville. Also, the spire from the original church
is in the cemetery. See the pictures and their inscriptions below.
A New Beginning
They were fortunate in that they already owned a large piece of land fronting on Main Street and Carleton Street which they had purchased from Mr. Len Hunt when they built the rectory in 1962. So on October 19, 1969 Canon R. S. V. Crossley, a former rector, turned the first sod for the new church. By the next spring, on April 19 1970, the old bell from the original church rang out to call the faithful to their new place of worship. This time it was a brick church but it had all the chancel furnishings, altar, organ and pews from the old church. Eight years later in May of 1978, the last mortgage had been cleared and the service of consecration took place.
As the first St. Thomas prospered, so did the second and its new location closer to the growing population of Stittsville, began to draw more people in. In May 1974 the church had its largest confirmation class ever: 38 children and adults were received into the church. So many people wanted to attend that nearby Wesleyan United Church was used for the service because it had a larger capacity. Canon Serson Clarke was rector then and the Right Reverend William J. Robinson, Bishop of Ottawa, conducted the service.
Over the years St. Thomas had shared administration and sometimes priests, with Hazeldean and Richmond. Latterly it was with Ashton and the priest would ply the route between Stittsville and Ashton on a Sunday morning, hoping the road would not be too icy in the winter and delay his arrival at the second service. These associations with other parishes brought friendships and good experiences, but Stittsville was growing and St. Thomas began to think about becoming a one-point charge.
That dream became a reality on June 1, 1987 and in September, a service of Thanksgiving was held to mark the beginning of one-point parish status
St. Thomas was able to handle the challenges of supporting a priest on its own but it had other problems. It had a very strong Christian education program and its Sunday School had attracted so many families and children that the church basement couldn't handle them all and overflow classes were held in the nearby public library. This led to a decision to look seriously at the growth of the congregation and the fact that Stittsville itself was growing rather quickly.
In the fall of l988 Rector Ross Moulton invited Barbara Brush of the Anglican Diocesan Office in Ottawa to conduct a planning session to think about the future of the parish. From that first meeting flowed a number of decisions which eventually led to our new church. A program committee chaired by Brian Smith was struck which began researching the needs of the parish and how it could encourage newcomers and maintain a dynamic Christian presence in the community.
We Move Ahead
A fateful decision was made that the church would not just expand its Sunday School space it would instead construct a new church and use the existing church for offices and Sunday school classes. Naturally this would depend on whether parishioners could support such a move. But in just 12 weeks, $90,000 was pledged toward a new building and the die was cast.
Many people in the parish were involved in the building of the church. There were furnishing committees, kitchen committees, building committees, financial committees, Christian program committees.
The ground-breaking ceremony was held on June 25th 1989 with the first sod being turned by the Right Reverend Edwin Lackey, Bishop of Ottawa. This seemed particularly fitting as Bishop Lackey's grandfather the Reverend Jacob Albert Lackey, is buried in the churchyard at Stanley's Corners.
Two years after the decision to go ahead with construction of a new church was taken, St. Thomas the Apostle of Stittsville held its inaugural services on December 23rd 1990, just in time for Christmas.
The new building is white, as was the original. It has deep red carpets and cherry wood pews, offered by St. Peter's Ingleside, a church no longer in use in the St. Lawrence valley. It still has the altar from the first St. Thomas and seven of the original stained glass windows grace its interior. Also like the first St. Thomas, this church has a tall steeple with the original bell in it. But it has a lightning rod to protect it.
A building alone does not a church make. It is the parishioners, the wardens and the rector who express their love and devotion through their actions both inside and outside the church that make the faith come alive.
St. Thomas has grown greatly since the small white church south of Stittsville was first built in 1866. It attempts to serve the community by making its hall available to local groups such as guides and scouts, and offered space to our local food bank when it was formed. It has an active and well-attended A.C.W., an excellent choir, a large Sunday School, a small but enthusiastic youth group, a cemetery committee that takes careful and loving care of the burial ground, and a dedicated Parish Council. It has made a commitment to outreach both here at home and abroad because being of service is an important part of who we are as Christians.
The church greenery has also grown greatly since the above pictures were taken.
Here is a picture taken in 2013.
St. Thomas today is still growing, looking for ways to deepen our spirituality and to stand as a beacon in a world where secular interests seem to be paramount.
Long may the church prosper and continue to grow.
Rectors of St. Thomas
The Rev'd C.B. Petit 1866-77
The Rev'd A.C. Nesbitt 1877-81
The Rev'd George Jemmett 1881-89
The Rev'd A.H. Coleman 1889-91
The Rev'd Charles Saddington 1892-09
The Rev'd Robert Orr 1909-11
The Rev'd W.H. Green 1911-19
The Rev'd A.E. Ferguson 1919-22
The Rev'd T.H. Iveson 1922-34
The Rev'd J.J. Bannell 1934-40
Canon J.W.R. Meakin 1940-51
The Rev'd J.L. Bradley 1951-55
The Rev'd A.J. Poole 1955-61
Canon R.S.V. Crossley 1961-67
The Rev'd Lydon McKeown 1968-73
Canon Serson Clarke 1973-76
The Rev'd Paul Blunt 1976-81
Canon Stephen Kenward 1981-85
The Rev'd Ross Moulton 1986-96
The Venerable Sally Gadd 1997-2005