History of St. John The Evangelist Church

Sketch of St .Peter’s Anglican Church in West LaHave.

Before the Church

The first LaHave Islands residents had to go by boat to Lunenburg in order to attend an Anglican Service. However, when St. Peter’s Church was built nearby in West LaHave in 1818. travel was much shorter. It became even easier in 1842 when the Union Church was built in West Dublin. By 1847, Rev. Robert F. Brine was located at Petite Riviere and he went along the coast conducting services in private homes and schools.  When Rev. Ambrose became Rector in 1854, he encouraged the construction of a small chapel on Jenkin’s (now Bell) Island.

The Church

On a grassy knoll overlooking Wolfe Gut, the first chapel/school was built in 1855. It was nicknamed the Ambrose Church in honour of Rev. Ambrose. Shortly after its completion, an evening wedding was held and people brought in their whale oil lamps for illumination. After the ceremony, the bride’s white dress and the clergyman’s surplice were reportedly covered in soot.

Soon the church was too small for the increasing population and by 1885 a new church (St John the Evangelist) was built on land obtained from John Thomas Bell. This building was consecrated by Bishop Courtney on February 27,1889. This building was partially destroyed by fire in 1901 and a larger church constructed on the site by 1903.

The 1885 Anglican Church on Bell’s Island.

The New Church

Thomas A Hemeon, a noted Church builder from the Beach Meadows area, was brought in to do the construction. Church records indicate that from July 16 to October 3 he was paid $1,003.58. exclusive of amounts paid for materials from Boehner Bros. and others. The church incorporated elements of the 1885 church , including part of the foundation. The architecture demonstrates both Gothic Revival (pointed arched windows and steeply pitched roof) and Queen Anne revival elements (cornice on the gable end which forms a triangular pediment and the decorative shingle pattern). The bell was made by McShane Bell Foundry, Baltimore, Oregon and is dated 1897.

The 1903 Anglican Church on Bell Island. The yellow stripes were used by sailors for navigation.
The Anglican Church today. The yellow stripes have been painted over as more modern technology allows the fisherman to find their way home.

The recorded collection at the opening of the new church on Nov. 1,1903 was $26.33, a very large amount when the usual weekly collection that year ranged from $0.50 to $1.14. The new church was, for some unknown reason, not consecrated until five years later, on November 3,1908.

The church continued to be regularly used until 1974, when the congregation became too small to support continued operation. On October 20,1977 the Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia granted use of the building to the LaHave Islands Marine Museum Society, which became responsible for its up-keep. It is no longer a consecrated church. The Museum Society has an annual Fishermen’s Memorial Service and uses it as a venue for community events, weddings, etc..

The church was designated a Municipal Heritage Building on September 30.1997.