St. Paul’s Anglican Church

In 1878, Anglican inhabitants of the Combermere area had formal worship services only when a traveling minister happened to be in the area. Services were held in private homes. At that time the minister was Rev. M. Gower Poole.

On Sunday, September 7, 1883 the first services were held at Combermere with only a few loyal members in attendance. St. Paul’s was the second church in the village with the Wendish Methodist Church being the first church to be established in the late 1840’s. Approximately 30 Anglican priests have served the church from 1883 to the present.

The earliest records of the church that can be found date back to November 27, 1884 when Elizabeth Hudson, wife of captain John Charles Hudson (of the steamer Mayflower), donated land (1 acre) to the Synod of the Diocese of Ontario for the church. It is believed that a new church was built late 1885 or 1886 on this site although the sign in front of the church mentions 1883. (The land was not purchased until 1884).

A major fire threatened St. Paul’s Church on Sunday, April 18, 1971. The church had 23 inch thick walls which hampered the fire fighters in their attempt to make an opening so that the water could be directed to the source of the fire. After several attempts a hole was made in the roof. Firemen also gained entrance though one of the side doors in their successful attempt to save the historic church. The fire was believed to have started about 4:00 p.m. and was noticed by a passerby. Losses in the fire were numerous though the building was saved. Damage to the sanctuary and vestry was due mostly to water. Altar furnishings and robes were completely destroyed by fire and the altar and pulpit were both badly scorched. As for memorial gifts and personal vestments, all were completely destroyed. The organ was completely ruined by water and fire but the stained glass windows, two of which were dedicated the morning of the fire by Bishop Greenwood of Ottawa, were not damaged.

Unfortunately, Radcliffe Township did not have it’s own fire department. Local people tried to control the fire until a volunteer fire department from Sherwood, Jones and Burns Township could come to the rescue. Stevenson Lodge people also helped to contain the fire with a pump they had for the lodge. Many men from Madonna House also offered their help.

By October 1971, the church had been fully restored and was rededicated by Venerable John Salter, Archdeacon of Lanark along with all the memorials that were donated to the church to replace those lost.

It is believed that the rectory was built approximately 1885. The rectory was used to house the incumbents from 1885 to 1997 until a new rectory was purchased on Sand Hill Drive in Barry’s Bay. Since the incumbent priest served the Whitney, Madawaska, Barry’s Bay and Combermere churches, it was deemed to be more appropriate to have the rectory located in Barry’s Bay.  The old rectory was renovated and opened as Mission House Museum in 2005.

The Mission Hall next door to the church was built in 1893 when Rev. James Robinson was the incumbent. Many dinners, receptions, euchre parties, wedding receptions and bridge parties have taken place there over the years. Additions were added in 1953 for a kitchen in the rear and in 1994 for a washroom on the side closest to the church.

The men’s club also met in the hall regularly to play a variety of card games. Women also met there to sew, quilt and spend social time together. The fall hunter’s dinner of turkey, ham and home-made beans has been a very popular event.

On August 2, 2006, a powerful tornado ripped through Combermere that took out over 25 pine trees behind and beside the church. Fortunately, there was no serious damage to the church, mission hall and old rectory.

COMBERMERE HERITAGE WALK, A PROJECT BY THE COMBERMERE HERITAGE SOCIETY INC. – 2014