Local Histories

Historical Sketches of Summerside Churches

From the Summerside Journal-Pioneer

This is a re-print of an article that appeared in the Summerside Journal-Pioneer's special centennial issue of Tuesday, 12 October 1965. This particular issue, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Journal, contains many historical articles, of which this is only one. There is nothing to indicate the author or original sources of this history.

Unless otherwise noted, I have transcribed this article as it was originally written, including the spelling and grammar.

St. Mary's

The first St. Mary's Anglican Church, an offshoot of St. John's Church, St. Eleanor's was erected in August, 1861, the land having been deeded to the Rt. Rev. Bishop Binney on November 20, 1860.

Ven. Archdeacon Read, rector at St. Eleanor's, began missionary work on Green's Shore, now Summerside, by holding services in the old Western School in 1850 until a neat, wooden structure in English style was built.

The church, with all its records, was completely destroyed in that disastrous fire of 1906. The one thing preserved was the baptismal stone font, which had been donated by the Sunday School children. the following year a much finer edifice of brick was begun on the same site, with the late George E. Baker, as architect and M. F. Schurman Company, Limited, the contractor. This is the present building and is of Gothic architecture patterned after the style of English parish churches. The English ivy which adds much to its appearance was brought out from England and started in 1907.

In 1913 the church was honored by a visit of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught, at divine worship. The rector, Rev. C. DeWolfe White preached the sermon. Rev. T. H. Hunt of King's University had charge of the service while the Rev. F. M. Wentworth read the scripture.

The rectory property, formerly owned by Mr. Gourlie, on the corner of Summer and Green Streets, was purchased in 1912, and rebuilt in 1945. St. Mary's Parish Hall was built in 1928 during the incumbency of Archdeacon White and adds much to the facilities of the parish. The architect was the late George E. Baker and the contractor the late H. M. Downing.

In 1945 Herman F. Wilck, a noted Maritimer who specialized in church ornamentation, artistically decorated the walls in buff with marble effect, which blends beautifully with the oak finished interior.

The present rector of St. Mary's is the Rev. Robert C. Tuck who came here a year ago to succeed Canon Mark Ferguson who had been appointed to the parish on the death of Archdeacon G.R. Harrison, who had been the beloved rector of the parish for many years.

St. Paul's

The first church in Summerside was of the Roman catholic faith. A mission was opened in 1853. The people of Indian River had just completed a new church and generously made a gift of their old one to their pator who was also responsible for the Summerside mission. It was dismantled and hauled here from Indian river and located on the corner of Fitzroy and Summer Streets on the property now known as the Holman Homestead.

In 1859 the first convent of Notre Dame was build on the corner of Summer and Convent Streets by the pastor Rev. James MacDonald at his own expense. In 1865 Father MacDonald purchased on behalf of his congreagtion a building lot on the corner of Central and Notre Dame Streets and in 1866 the work of excavating the site of a new church was commenced. The foundation stone was laid in 1869. Because of a storm which greatly damaged the partly finished church it was not completed until 1876 with formal dedication taking place on October 21st of that year when the church was placed under the patronage of St. Paul.

The former parochial house was built in Mt. Carmel for a boys' school but was never completed. Father Perry of the Parish decided to present it to Summerside so the building was detached from its foundation and hauled across the ice to Summerside and located on the corner of Summer and Notre Dame Streets.

The first St. Paul's was of brick and of Gothic style. It was 90 by 45 feet with a tall tower. It was strikingly like the present Tignish church in architecture. The present convent building was opened on May 12, 1885.

On Sunday morning, Febraury 3, 1946 while Mass was in progress the church was found to be on fire and despite the best efforts of local firemen it burned to the ground, although all the furnishings were saved. For several months services were held in the Capitol Theatre while the building was reconstructed within the old walls but minus the bell tower. It was rebuilt as a parish center and parochial school but the auditorium on the top floor was used for a number of years as a church. During this time the pastor was the late Msgr. G. J. MacLellan.

The present beautiful St. Paul's church and attached rectory were built under the supervision of the present pastor, Rt. Rev. J. P. E. O'Hanley, PhD. This beautiful church is of contemporary design and is constructed of grey granite. It was opened on August 28, 1960 and consecrated by Bishop M. A. MacEachern on June 30, 1963.

Within the last couple of weeks two beautiful stained glass windows were installed.

Trinity United

Trinity United Church, Summerside, has a very historic background. The first Methodist Church was erected in 1854 on First Street on a plot of ground presented by the late Joseph Green, and the first pastor was the Rev. W. W. Percival. In 1866 this congregation withdrew from the Bedeque Charge of which they had been an offshoot and became independent. This was the original Protestant church in the town. Previously services were conducted in the old Western School building which was used by the other Protestant bodies before the churches were built.

In 1870 the late John Cudmore built a hall on Spring St. for the use of Bible Christians and the first pastor was the late Rev. J. H. Collins. Four years later the Bible Christian church was built. [Some text was obviously out of order, and some may be missing, from this paragraph as well as the next two. I have attempted to correct what I could, but the article may still be incomplete in places. - DLM]

In 1884 the Methodists united with the Bible Christians and worshipped in their church, in what is now known as Epworth Hall and sold their property, the present K. of C. Hall.

As time went on the Sunday School, which was held in the church, became so large that an agitation for a new schoolroom began. The result was the purchse of the desirable location on the north side of Dominion Park and the building of the present fine edifice in 1893, the cornerstone of which was laid by the late Hon. W. G. Strong, under Masonic auspices. The church was dedicated in 1894 during the ministry of the Rev. R. W. Weddall, and a pipe organ was installed in 1909, while Rev. Hammond Johnson was pastor. The late George E. Baker was the architect and Messrs Schurman, Clark and Company were the contractors.

The old church was remodelled making an excellent building for Sunday school and social activities and was given the name of Epworth Hall.

In 1925 with church union members of the Presbyterian Church joined to form the United Church the first minister after union being Rev. F. E. Boothroyd.

In 1945 the church was redecorated and in 1957 at a cost of well over $100,000 the church was enlarged and renovated. Many new sacred objects have been donated to the church in recent years and all the major windows of the church are now memorial stained glass windows with the exception of one that is spoken for.

Minister of the church is the Rev. C. R. Webber C.D., D.D., with Rev S, Grant Walls, D.D., BComm, associate minister, and Rev. L. P. Archibald D.D. minister of visitation.


The Summerside Presbyterian Church, the oldest church building in the town, was formally dedicated on March 19, 1865, with the Rev. R. S. Patterson, Bedeque; Rev. W. R. Frame, the first minister, and Rev. Isaac Murray, Cavendish, officiating.

Presbyterian worship began at Green's Shore, now Summerside, about 1853, with the Rev. R. S. Patterson conducting services in a 14 by 14 room in a private home on the front of the old hospital grounds. Later the Western School was erected and both Presbyterians and Methodists worshipped there. When the school became too small, Brown's Hall was used until the church was finished.

In 1856 the members of the Prince Edward Island Presbytery purchased a lot of land from Joseph Green, but it was not until 1862 that the foundation was laid and three years later the buidling was completed.

The records of the early church were burned on the first Prince Edward Island icebreaker "Northern Light" which plied between Georgetown and Pictou. The steamer, caught in an ice jam, was held up for one month and the fuel became exhausted making it necessary to burn a portion of the cargo with all books and papers. Among them were the valuable church records in charge of Rev. Neil MacKay who was taking them to the Presbytery in Nova Scotia.

The original choir was seated in the gallery and was trained by Henry Walker, precentor who used a tuning fork to obtain the correct note of the scale and who continued as choirmaster for over 35 years. A smll organ was purchased but was met with such opposition that for some time it was left unused just inside the church. However, prejudice gradually disappeared and Mrs. Douglas Gordon became the first organist.

The Sunday School hall was erected and dedicated in 1888 during the ministry of Rev. Henry Dickie.

During the last 20 years a great number of improvements and renovations have been made. In 1945 the interior of the church and Sunday School Hall were artistically decorated by James MacDonald. This was during the ministry of the Rev. Charles Carnegy.

In 1952 the hall was extensively renovated and in 1955 a complete redecoration and renovation of the church building was done. In subsequent years many sacred articles were donated in memory of deceased loved ones. Much progress was made during the ministry of Rev. J. D. MacKay including the formation of a pipe band. Mr. MacKay who served here for 15 years, accepted a call to Pictou a year ago and the present minister is the Rev. John S. MacBride.

Church of Christ

The beautiful Church of Christ in Summerside has an interesting origin. It was really a parting from the Baptist denomination. On September 13, 1858, fifteen people met in the home of Benjamin Schurman of North St. Eleanors and, under the leadership of Elder Donald Crawford, had instituted their first church.

The charter members were Rev. and Mrs. Donald Crawford; Mrs. Crawford, widow of Rev. Alex Crawford of Oxford University; John Crawford, Mrs. Patrick Brown, formerly Miss Mary Crawford; Benjamin Schurman; Miss Ada Jane Schurman later Mrs. Thomas Beattie; John F. and Mrs. Baker; Richard and Mrs. Murray; Mrs. George MacKay, Samuel Rodd; Donald MacKay and Montague Baker.

Worship was carried on in Brown's Hall, whose owner had married the sister of Elder Crawford. A few years later it was decided to build a church on Central Street and this was a box-like structure, with three long windows on either side.

In 1900 this building was emodelled and another window, vestibule and steple were added; also the settees were replaced by pews. Having no organ in the early days, tuning forks were used.

In the great fire of 1906 this church was levelled and the only furniture saved was the pulpit settee. A building committee composed of Messrs Beattie, Riley, Tanton, Cannon and Secretary-Treasurer George A. Jeffrey, who later entered the ministry erected the present church on the same lot in 1907. A new pulpit and communion table were built and supplied by Thomas Beattie.

While Rev. A. E. Smith was pastor in 1933-34 many changes were made, such as a new pulpit, new seats, choir space, pastor's room and baptistry.

The present minister of the church is the Rev. D. L. Howlett.


The Summerside Baptist Church was formed on May 27, 1868 at the residence of Stephen Baker, with the following charter members present: Isaac Howatt, John B. Schurman, James Silliker, Stephen Baker, Sarah Waugh, Armanella Walker and Ketherine MacPhail. The house referred to is situated at the corner of Granville and Harvard Streets, now the residence of Mrs. Heath Strong.

From early times this congregation was associated with the Bedeque charge. As what is now known as Summerside began to grow occasional services were held in "Strong Hall" which was located on Water Street west of St. Stephen Street. This building was later destroyed by fire. It is not clear when the first meeting house was built but it was renovated in 1890 with stained glass windows being added. In 1904 a spire was put up and other changes made such as new baptistry and the seats at the back of the church were elevated.

In 1906 this beautiful edifice was completely destroyed by the great fire of that year and the following year the present building was erected on the same location. George Baker was the architect and M. F. Schurman Co. Ltd., the contractors. The official opening was on December 22, 1907 when Rev. W. M. Smallman of New Glasgow, N. S. preached the dedicatory sermon in the evening. The pastor was the Rev. W. B. Crowell, and he took the morning service.

The first hall was built during the pastorate of Rev. A. K. Herman (1919-1925) to take care of the ever increasing number of Sunday School children.

Approximately fifteen years ago a major step was taken when a new hall was built adjacent and to the east of the old one. This much larger building has quarters for the Masonic Lodge on the top floor and in addition has a church parlor, Sunday School rooms, auditorium and kitchen.

Seven years ago a new pipe organ was installed and in recent years other improvements have been made. The minister of the present time is Rev. Robert P. Matthews who succeeded Rev. Keith Hobson who was minister here for ten years.

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