Legacy of Faith in Church
The faith of a few men accomplished what in the early years must have seemed like an impossible task. The population at “The Landing” was sparse and not many people were members of the Church of England. These enthusiastic men were staff of Simon James Dawson, leader of an expedition (1868) to establish communication between Lake Superior and the Red River Settlement. These men felt the nearness of God in this remote area. They made their plans known to the Diocese of Toronto. In 1872 Rev. Charles Benson Dundas was sent to the renamed “Prince Arthur`s Landing” from Toronto.
The sod was turned for the original framed building and parsonage in 1872. The congregation totaled 18. Rev. John McMorine replaced Rev. Dundas in 1877. The parish grew to have parishioners at Shuniah Mine, Silver Islet, Fort William, Town Plot, Neebing and Oliver, an area of 450 square miles, but only a small section was inhabited.
April 4, 1881 disaster struck; the church and parsonage burned to the ground. Worship services were held in the Masonic Hall. Mr. Thomas Marks ( 1st mayor of Port Arthur ) donated 800 bricks. The altar was donated by friends in England. On July 27, 1884 the first service was held in the new church. The parish continued to grow and became self-supporting in 1887. Sunday School, Young People`s Association, Women`s Auxiliary and other organizations were established. During the war young parishioners joined various branches of the armed services; there is a list of these men and women still at St. John`s today.
In 1934 , under the leadership of Rev. A.J. Bull, St. John`s celebrated 50 years of worship in the “new” church. A complete renovation was carried out: a new altar in memory of Mrs. W. F. Langworthy, choir stalls and panels in chancel as a memorial to F. J. Keefer, Woodstock Pipe Organ from the Women`s Auxiliary, new pews and memorials from parishioners. Other renovations included a basement, heating plant, new flooring, and a new front entrance. In 1940 a new rectory was erected.
In 1954 Rev. S. M. Craymer became rector. During his ministry a new entrance was extended out from the west end of the church to Pearl Street. With this addition, choir rooms were added and a balcony that sits 75 people . In 1957 Rev. Alvin J. Thomson became our new rector. During his tenure a new rectory on Blanchard Street was purchased. In 1980 under Rev. H. Morrow a new addition was completed on the south side of the church. With this addition a new sacristy was planned with many cupboards for our various vestments and communion vessels; a connecting hallway to our nursery, kitchen and Langworthy Hall made for easier entry and exit.
It is impossible to mention all the names of outstanding men and women who have worked diligently over the many years to bring St. John`s parish to its present day standing. They have seen good years and lean years, known sorrows and joys. As we move forward in this century, it must be the prayer and strong faith which was so evident by those first 18 parishioners, that will be our flame to keep St. John`s glowing brightly into the future. We pray that we`ll be prepared to meet and understand all the challenges in our changing world.