Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter VI - The Next Thirty-three Years
From 1877 to 1893, St. Anne’s endured a series of short incumbencies. The congregation apparently took this in stride. Having learned to be well-organized and to take charge during recent renovations, perhaps parishioners simply carried on in the same way. Every new rector was accepted into their midst in a leadership role. But the congregation had become accustomed to sharing in the responsibility for the affairs of the church and continued to do so.
After De Lew, Rev. Robert Fletcher was named rector for Glanworth, Lambeth and Byron. Scottish by birth, Fletcher ministered to St. Anne’s from 1878 to 1881. He was made rural dean while serving here.
Next came Rev. George Bloomfield Sage, a capable and personable young man who had just been ordained deacon. During his four years at St. Anne’s, he became highly regarded by the parish.
Sage was appointed to Byron and Lambeth in 1881, and was priested the following year. In 1882, the congregation at Hyde Park was added to his charge. At the time, services in Hyde Park were conducted in the village school. The Church of the Hosannas was built and opened in1888, said to be a result of Sage’s efforts there.
While rector at St. Anne’s, Sage resided in London and travelled to his services on horseback. Usually entertained for dinner on Sunday, horse included, he took the opportunity to get to know his parishioners. When he dined at the Kains home, he would wade his horse across the Thames River and proceed to Hyde Park through the woods.
The river was not always accommodating, however, and on one occasion, at least, Sage would not have been crossing it.
On July 11, 1883, the Thames became a torrent. Severe flooding washed away the Byron bridge and badly damaged Kenny’s grist mill, Sissons hame factory, a distillery, and the wooden dam at the pump house, upstream. Some 17 lives were lost in London and area due to the flooding.
Sage would have had his hands full ministering to a community affected by such devastation. Fortunately for him, he would soon have a life partner who would assist him in his parish work.
In 1884, he married Jessica Olivia English, who, besides helping her husband, would also make her own mark on the church as a leader of the diocesan Women’s Auxiliary.
Sage sustained a long and accomplished ministry in the Diocese of Huron. After serving in Byron, he was rector of St. George’s Church in London for over 50 years. He was made a canon in 1912, archdeacon in 1923, and was examining chaplain to three consecutive bishops.
He also spent a number of years as professor of apologetics and church history at Huron College. In a particularly lean period, when the college ran short of funds, Sage and others lectured free of charge. Recognition for his work came later, though, when the University of Western Ontario conferred on him an honorary doctor of laws degree (L.L.D.). Sage died in St. George’s rectory in August, 1938.
The Drive Shed
It was during Sage’s time at St. Anne’s that another building project was undertaken. The congregation decided to build a shed to house horses and buggies for parishioners attending services.
The wooden structure, open on one side, was erected to the west of the church in 1882 or 1884 (sources vary). According to historian Roy Kerr’s research, the builder was J. B. Wells with material being donated by the Kains brothers, Wesley Meriam, Meredith Ormond, Walter Boler, Henry Wickerson, Robert McEwen, Burley Janes and John Stevens.
The drive shed was a fixture beside the church for many years. Anne (Ormond) Keam, a life-long parishioner, remembered that, in the early twentieth century, a special walled section of the shed was reserved for the rector’s horse, and that all the horses would be covered with warm blankets against inclement weather.
“If there was not enough room for all the parishioners’ horses, [some] would have to be tethered outside,” she added.
The drive shed had another important use, as well.
“The school [next door] always had a ‘Fair’ in September and the shed would be used as a market where chickens, eggs and produce of all kinds would be sold. This was a special and happy day for the people of Byron,” said Anne. (from “Serendipity,” memories of St. Anne’s seniors, 2003)
The shed was dismantled and removed in 1937 after the coming of the automobile made it redundant.
More Short Incumbencies
From 1885 to 1888, following Sage, Rev. Clarence Widmer Ball was rector of Glanworth, Lambeth and Byron churches. Ball had been a lawyer for a few years before entering the study of theology in Toronto.
In Westminster Township, he lived in the rectory at Glanworth, and married a local woman, Frances Shore, in 1888. Soon afterwards, the couple moved to Port Burwell where the work of this kindly man was cut short. He was struck while driving his horse and buggy to a service in 1893.
The next incumbent of St. Anne’s lasted only a few months. Rev. Richard Dingwall Freeman was assigned to Lambeth, Byron and Glanworth in May 1888. He died in October and was buried at Glanworth.
Still another short incumbency followed. Rev. Simeon Emmanuel Gottfried Edelstein was appointed to Byron, Glanworth and Lambeth at the beginning of 1889. Eighteen months later the parishes were realigned and Byron became attached to the Ilderton and Hyde Park congregations. This meant Edelstein was no longer rector of St. Anne’s. He did minister at Lambeth and Glanworth, however, for a full 20 years.
Edelstein was known as a man of deep spirituality and high moral character. Born in Poland of Jewish parents, he later converted to Christianity and migrated to Canada He was ordained deacon in 1877 and priest in 1878 by Bishop Hellmuth. Edelstein and his wife, Elizabeth Mary, had four children. Besides fulfilling pastoral and family responsibilities, Edelstein was also a professor of Hebrew at Huron College for 15 years.
The arrival of Rev. Henry Robert Diehl, on July 1, 1890, heralded a lively three years for the parish of St. Anne’s. A freshly-ordained deacon, Diehl took on his charges at Byron, Hyde Park and Ilderton, with vigour. He was soon ordained priest in 1891 by Bishop Baldwin.
His time at St. Anne’s was marked by many parish social events, with Diehl himself sometimes providing entertainment. His tenure also saw the formation of a women’s (then called “ladies’”) guild, although the group was later disbanded. And during his incumbency, Diehl encouraged inclusiveness by inviting other churches and denominations to take part in parish events.
Some of the social occasions were reported in the London Advertiser, a London daily newspaper that competed with The Free Press for many years. Among the events given coverage in the Advertiser were:
- a program of music and recitations presented by the Sunday school, featuring an opening address by 13-year-old Mabel Wickerson, and solos by the rector and his brother, Rev. Louis W. Diehl (January, 1891);
- a Sunday school picnic, sponsored by St. Anne’s, to which “four other Sunday schools [were] invited viz., the Methodists of Byron and the English, Presbyterian and Methodists of Hyde Park.” After races and “an excellent tea,” activities concluded with a “keenly contested tug-of-war” between Hyde Park and Byron, (June 30, 1891);
- a garden party and concert, sponsored by the guild, held “in the open air by torchlight” in James Griffith Grove. Musical entertainment included the Routledge Orchestra of Hyde Park. Tea and strawberries were served. (June 30, 1893).
The good times notwithstanding, Diehl’s departure was on the horizon. A controversy arose in the parish over the rector’s position on a theological issue. The following article published by the London Advertiser on August 18, 1893, helps explain the situation.
“A correspondent from near Byron writes, ‘A largely signed petition has been gotten up both here and at Hyde Park, asking [the] Rev. Mr. Diehl, Church of England, to resign his charge in both places. The cause of this action … arises from some alleged heterodoxy on the part of the reverend gentleman. He emphatically denies the Scriptural authority for eternal punishment and he further asserts that there is nothing in the articles or dogmas of the Episcopal church that teaches eternal punishment.’
“Quite a sensation has been created in religious circles in Byron and Hyde Park … and the Rev. Mr. Diehl has a great many sympathizers in all the churches. Several in both congregations in Byron and Hyde Park have appealed to the Bishop of Huron on the matter and it is thought a commission at an early day may be appointed to try the case and determine this theological point.”
It is unlikely there was ever a commission or a trial. However, on August 31, 1893, less than two weeks after publication of the aforementioned article, Henry Diehl resigned from this three-point parish. He was appointed to Florence and Aughrim parishes (north of Chatham) in September and married Caroline Maria soon afterwards. Diehl served in various churches throughout the diocese for the next 40 years. He died in 1943.
Given the circumstances of Diehl’s resignation, it could have been a tricky situation for a new rector entering the congregation. The parish needed a minister who could calm the waters and steer a steady course. The next rector, Rev. Arthur Hugh Rhodes, an Englishman and a man of strong faith, was the right man for the job.
Rhodes took the congregations at Byron, Ilderton and Hyde Park in October, 1893. His was to be the longest incumbency any of them had seen yet, which, in itself, brought stability to the congregations. During his tenure, Grace Church in Ilderton was built and opened in 1896, giving the Anglican community there a permanent home.
Rhodes had been ordained priest by Bishop Baldwin in 1892. He married Eva Lorena Jane in early 1893, and after his new appointment, the couple moved into a home of their own in Hyde Park.
Fred Kains (of St. Anne’s), who was helping them move, stopped to rest after wrestling with a heavy piano. He remarked, “We won’t move you again for 10 years.” His words turned out to be prophetic. Rhodes did not resign until 1903.
During his incumbency, Rhodes spent long hours visiting parishioners, sitting with them in times of sickness and grief, and even giving money if needed. He became a familiar figure driving along the road between Hyde Park and Byron with a fine Shetland pony. Sometimes those journeys presented challenges.
A story is told about Rhodes making his way to St. Anne’s for services at a time when Byron bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Tying his pony to a fence under the trees at the top of the riverbank, he would descend the steep hill and cross the bridge on foot.
Such was this cleric’s commitment.
At the time, the rector’s total annual stipend from the three parishes was $750. With four children and a home to maintain, Rhodes could have used every penny. Still, he managed to spare some for those in greater need.
Years later, his daughter, Frances Rhodes, wrote: “Father’s great passion was to win souls to Christ. He so often quoted, ‘For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’ I Corinthians 2:2. He endeavoured to lose no opportunity in sermon or conversation.” (from The Story of St. Anne’s)
In his preaching, Rhodes was evangelistic and his services were augmented with music. While specific details are not available, it is known that an old pump organ, an organist and a choir were in place at St. Anne’s before the turn of the century.
Parish social events, which had become traditions by then, continued as usual, during Rhodes’ tenure. The London Advertiser, once again, provided coverage. In its June 20, 1896 edition, the newspaper reported that the annual garden party, strawberry festival and concert had taken place the evening before “at the residence of Misses Flint … in aid of the guild of St. Anne’s Church.”
“Everything was done ‘up to date,’” the article said. The program included a humorous speech, rousing music, and an address by the rector.
The Women’s Auxiliary
It was also in Rhodes’ time, that the women of St. Anne’s decided to move their focus beyond the immediate community and assist the broader church. Inspired by Jessica Sage, who spoke to them in June, 1900 on behalf of the diocesan Women’s Auxiliary (W.A.), the Byron women formed a W.A. branch of their own.
In so doing, they joined Anglican women from across the country who supported missions in Canada and overseas. In practical terms, this meant sewing and quilting and sending bales of items to native missions in the Canadian north, plus raising funds for foreign missions. At their gatherings, the women learned about and prayed for missions around the world.
With the guidance of Ms. Sage, (wife of former rector Rev. George B. Sage), the St. Anne’s group organized immediately, electing Elizabeth (known as Lily) Kains as president, Mabel Wickerson secretary, and Margaret Kenny treasurer. Then they set to work.
Scrounging materials wherever they could find them, the W.A. met in members’ homes, hand-sewing garments and household articles (no electricity in those days), and forwarding their output for missions. Quilt-making was a major activity for the group. For several years they gathered fortnightly, then changed to monthly meetings. Tea, a biscuit, and a good chinwag, were no doubt part of the agenda.
The tasks begun by these dedicated women have been carried on by succeeding generations.
At a national level, the establishment of the W.A. made a significant impact on the mission work of the church. Even though the official mission society remained male-controlled, a shift in this ministry occurred. Women, in large numbers, were now involved. And they were organized.
Founded in 1885 by Roberta Tilton of Ottawa, the W.A. touched the hearts of Anglican women and spread rapidly. Within 23 years, there were branches across Canada – including the one at St. Anne’s.
The rector must have been gratified to see this development of outreach in the parish.
Leaving St. Anne’s on a solid footing, Rhodes went on to Point Edward where he served for 26 years. At his funeral in 1936, Bishop Charles Seager said: “I thank God for men of the caliber of Mr. Rhodes.”
His successor at St. Anne’s, Rev. Henry Heylon Tancock, is remembered as a jolly man who enjoyed children. He became rector of Byron, Hyde Park and Ilderton in 1904. Maintaining his own home in London, he drove a horse and buggy to the three parishes.
Although born in England, Tancock had come to Canada at a young age, and had been a choir boy at St. Paul’s Cathedral in nearby London. A fine singer, he often rounded off his service with a solo. He made much of baptisms and gave gifts to the babies.
Ordained deacon in 1897 and priest in 1898 by Bishop Baldwin, Tancock married Alice Claris of St. Thomas. He left St. Anne’s in 1911 and went to Norwich.
By then, the world had changed. The twentieth century had arrived, the Victorian era had ended (Queen Victoria died in 1901 after a 64-year reign), and an eagerness for progress was in the air.
The landscape around Byron had changed as well. After purchasing acres of riverfront property, the city of London had opened Springbank Park to the public in 1896. It was situated right on Byron’s doorstep. At first, residents of London reached the 325-acre park by horse-drawn streetcars. Later the tramline was electrified. Either way, Londoners came by the thousands to enjoy the immense parkland - a park that neighbourhood villagers could access, on foot, every day. Springbank Park remains a major city and area attraction in 2019.
Probably the biggest lifestyle change for Byron residents in the period, however, was due to the arrival of the household telephone. Day-to-day life altered in this rural community, after local folk formed the independent Byron Telephone Company in 1906. Soon lines were extended throughout the district and a telephone became a “must have” for homes and businesses alike. Byron, by this time, was connected.
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter V - Rejuvenation
Exciting news arrived for the congregation of St. Anne’s in the summer of 1877. A bequest from Dr. Henry Hall, who had died in Peru 14 years earlier, was finally available for the church. Deliverance from their financial plight had come.
Henry, of course, was a member of the Hall family who were responsible for the founding of St. Anne’s. Even after his death, Henry’s spirit seems to have continued to move on behalf of the church. Through his will, he provided funds for the renovation of the building and, as a result, sparked the rejuvenation of the congregation.
Not only would extensive repairs be done, but the church would also become properly fitted as an Anglican church with communion table, rail and so on. Prior to this the inside of the church resembled a meeting house.
In the congregation, leaders would emerge to usher the church into a new era. The church would be prepared for consecration by the bishop and Anglican clergy would be appointed to provide regular worship services. St. Anne’s would become the “English Church” it was intended to be, from the start.
Without a doubt Henry Hall’s bequest breathed new life into the church and its members.
A certified copy of Henry Hall’s will is preserved at the Diocese of Huron archives.
Written December 30, 1862, in Huanuco, Peru, the will was witnessed by Henry’s brother, Cyrenius, and another doctor. As he penned (or dictated) his last will and testament, young Henry, being a physician himself, would have known he did not have long to live. Despite his deteriorating condition from tuberculosis, he had the prudence to set down how he wanted his estate to be distributed.
He bequeathed to his stepmother, Margaret Hall of Hamilton, Canada West, the yearly income of $2,000. After her death the money was to be divided equally among his brothers Cyrenius and William, his sister Mary and her husband, James Stanton, a St. Thomas barrister. Additional bequests were left to the family.
Henry also remembered to forgive his brother’s debts to him. The will says: “To my aforesaid brother Cyrenius Hall I will and bequeath all my effects and instruments in Peru and whatever money is due me from him at the present time.”
Regarding the church, the magic words “ …and to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church at Westminster I give the sum of two hundred dollars.”
The gift was significant to the cash-strapped church. The statement also reveals an interesting fact. The church, as early as 1862, was known as “St. Ann’s.”
Sources disagree on the date of Henry’s death. It was either January 1 or July 1 in the year 1863. Yet the copy of the will now kept in the diocesan archives, was not certified by a registrar of the Surrogate Court of Middlesex County until July 3, 1877. The reason for the 14-year delay is not known. But the wait turned out to be profitable. The $200 for the church must have been invested in the meantime, because the amount received in the end was considerably more – approximately $430.
The bequest with accumulated income was placed, in trust, with the Synod of the Diocese of Huron and the parish was required to apply for funds as needed.
The situation called for organization, planning and resolution by the congregation. And parishioners quickly rose to the occasion.
Archibald Kains, a pioneer member of the church, played a major role in organizing church renovations. A committee was formed to oversee repairs and, for the first time in the church’s history, the names of two church wardens – Robert Sadler and F. H. Kenny – were on record.
Parish leaders lost no time in applying for funds.
On September 5, 1877, they were granted $200 from the Hall’s Mills Trust Fund towards “repairing and fitting up St. Ann’s Church.” The expenditure was to be supervised, once again, by the rural dean. (from Minutes of the Standing Committee of Synod) The Church Society, by then, had been amalgamated with Synod.
Work on the church building proceeded immediately and with gusto. Spurred on by the legacy of Henry Hall, a number of parishioners worked tirelessly at rebuilding the church. Local tradespeople were hired for specialized jobs; volunteers pitched in with hands-on assistance.
After three months, the church repair committee applied for another infusion of funds. A letter to the Standing Committee, written by Archie Kains, describes the work that was already finished and explains the need for further money. The letter, dated December 4, 1877, begins as follows:
“We the undersigned churchwardens and committee appointed to superintend the repairs needed in Byron Church beg to report that we have found the work more expensive than was anticipated. We found it necessary to secure the foundation and roof in order to make the building safe. The roof had to be properly secured and shingled and the floor had to be entirely new together with three dwarf walls to support the same, also a new chimney together with a partition across the rear end of the church to form a chancel and vestry. Also new window sash and glass and new front door, also plastering the ceiling and partitions as well as painting all the new work, amounting in all to $247.23 as far as we have gone.”
More plastering, glazing and painting were needed, the letter continues, “before the building will be ready for occupation …[It] will cost a further sum of at least $100 to complete the work.” The letter is signed by A. Kains, Robert Sadler and F. H. Kenny.
The application was heard the very next day and the Standing Committee of Synod granted another $150 from the Hall’s Mills Trust Fund towards repairing the church. (from standing committee minutes) About $80 remained in the fund after that. The final amount was turned over to the church in 1878.
Kains’ letter indicates the renovations were more extensive, as well as costlier, than expected. Still the congregation forged on.
Besides striving to make the building structurally sound, they were also endeavouring to outfit the church for dedication and consecration by the bishop. This meant providing a pulpit, reading desk, communion table, and “other things necessary for the decent performance of Divine Worship.” (from the deed of consecration)
Accounts and receipts for 1877 and early 1878 give a glimpse of what was entailed. Construction materials were purchased, of course – lumber, nails, paint, varnish, glass. And some individuals were paid for labour – P. Flint (masonry and plaster), S. Sutton (carpentry), Fulton (painting).
Colonel R. Lewis of Ontario Stained Glass Works in London received $25 for a memorial window. (This may have been the Henry Hall window, and if so, it was placed front and centre in the church, at the time. The window was moved to the east side wall during 1937 renovations, and remains in that location in 2019. It is the oldest memorial window in the church. See page for details.)
Another London firm, A. & J. G. McIntosh & Company, importers of staple and fancy dry goods, was paid $21.24 for crimson carpet, plush and damask. D. A. Denham, builder, received payment of $110 for items including pulpit, communion table and rail. Shingles, flooring and lath were purchased from James H. Belton Lumber Company for $97.66. A bill from T. & J. Thompson Hardware totalled $27.17. Others who were paid for materials or labour included J. B. Wells, McClary, W. Ayling and Sissons.
Pews are not specifically mentioned in the accounts. However, it is possible that the original pews were built and installed during these renovations.
The final tally for church repairs and “fitting up” was $447.03. The gift from Henry Hall, which amounted to $430, almost covered it. Because a church has to be debt-free before it can be consecrated, the remaining costs must have been met through other donations.
A New Rector
Into this buoyant, bustling and sometimes frenetic atmosphere of rebuilding, came a new rector, Rev. Louis De Lew. A former rabbi who held a Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Utrecht, De Lew was a lecturer, author and scholar. He was appointed to the Glanworth, Lambeth and Byron parishes in the latter part of 1877.
Since the members of St. Anne’s had the restoration well in hand, the new rector – an ardent Christian - would have been able to concentrate on giving spiritual guidance and direction. And he did lead the congregation through the consecration process itself, which members had looked forward to and worked towards for so long.
St. Anne’s was consecrated on January 27, 1878, by Bishop Isaac Hellmuth, who had succeeded Bishop Cronyn as Bishop of Huron in 1871.
At the appointed time and with the congregation waiting expectantly in the church, the bishop arrived at the door. There, the incumbent, church wardens and a few others, welcomed the bishop and petitioned him by “virtue of [his] ordinary and Episcopal authority to separate [the] Church from all profane and secular uses, and to dedicate [it] for sacred and Divine purposes, and to consecrate it as a Church for the worship of Almighty God.” (deed of consecration)
The bishop consented to proceed.
As the congregation said or sang Psalm 24, the wardens and rector, followed by Bishop Hellmuth, advanced through the nave to the chancel.
These words resounded in the church:
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.” (Psalm 24: 7)
The bishop performed the ancient rite of consecration, declaring that “from this time forth forever, the public prayers shall be regularly read in the Church …, the word of God therein faithfully expounded and preached; the Sacraments and other ordinances celebrated; the Solemnization of marriage duly performed; the office of the Dead performed over the faithful …; and all and singular other things done and performed, which by Divine right, or by the canons, constitutions, or laws of the United Church of England and Ireland ought to be done in relation to Divine Worship…” (deed of consecration)
Hellmuth dedicated the church to God by the name of “St. Ann,” and signed the deed of consecration, “I Huron,” in traditional purple ink.
Although Hellmuth officially named the church “St. Ann’s” at the consecration, he did so at the request of the congregation. The name, in fact, was already in use. Not only had the church been called St. Ann’s in Henry Hall’s will, but the name must have been used before that – possibly since the church was built. The spelling was later changed from the original St. Ann to the prayer book version of St. Anne.
Anne (Ann, Anna, Hannah) is the traditional name for the mother of the virgin Mary. While Anne is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, her name derives from an early (second century) apocryphal writing called the Protevangelium of James, which professes to give an account of Mary’s coming into the world. (from The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, 1995) The name Anne is the Hebrew “Hannah” which signifies “grace.”
Nothing is known with certainty about the life of Mary’s mother, yet St. Anne became popular, especially in Brittany and Canada. Her feast day, July 26, is listed in the Book of Common Prayer.
In Byron, however, the name St. Ann is thought to have been chosen because of Ann Terry Lee, a devoted and faithful member of the church in the early years. (see Living Stones in Chapter IV) Naming a church because of a known, favourite person, was a common practice at the time.
St. Anne’s was consecrated for the exclusive use by the Church of England. (This still holds true in 2019, unless the bishop gives permission otherwise.)
Fortunately, by the time of the consecration, other Byron denominations had found alternative sites for worship. Most of the Methodist community had been holding services in the schoolhouse for a few years, by then. Seven years later, the newly-united Methodists built their own church nearby, on the north side of Commissioners Road. It was opened in September, 1885. Parish lore says a number of St. Anne’s members switched allegiance to the Methodist church, at the time. As for the temperance men, their subsequent meeting place is not known.
The life of St. Anne’s moved on. Regular worship services as well as all the special rites of the Anglican church were faithfully observed. The exact year that a Sunday school was introduced is not on record. But classes for children would have been an early addition to the church agenda.
It is said that Franklin Kains (son of Archie) was Sunday school superintendent around the turn of the century and that he had served in that position for 25 years. This indicates that classes were offered for children from the time of the church’s consecration, if not before. Youngsters gathered in the church, prior to services, for religious education.
De Lew Departs
De Lew remained as rector through most of 1878. A London Free Press notice on November 25, 1878, announced that De Lew, “an Episcopalian minister, residing near this city” would give a lecture that evening at the Mechanics’ Hall. His subject – The Jew: His Past, Present and Future.
The report appearing in the following day’s newspaper, testifies to the missionary zeal that informed De Lew’s faith. In his address, he urged his listeners to put forth strong efforts “in the name of Jesus” to convert the Jews to Christianity. “Then indeed, will be fulfilled the Scriptures,” he said.
He also pointed out that the Church of England had 100 “baptized Jews” in its pulpits, including “our respected” Bishop Isaac Hellmuth. And, of course, De Lew himself. The
lecture was praised by the Free Press for its “powerful eloquence.”
Shortly after this event, De Lew’s incumbency in Westminster Township came to a close. Before the end of 1878 he was appointed to Onondaga and Middleport (east of Brantford). In 1880, he left the diocese for the United States.
Gradually, the congregation of St. Anne’s expanded its activities to include dramatic presentations (Shakespeare being a favourite), Christmas concerts and summer picnics. And according to Grace Bainard: “On evenings during the week young people would meet in the homes for a singing class where the tonic solpha was taught and close harmony practised.”
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter IV - The Mystery Years
Information is scanty on the first 20 years of St. Anne’s history. One can only piece together the fragments which have been uncovered to date, and mix them with what is known about the era, to try to get a picture of that period.
St. Anne’s was not consecrated as an Anglican church until 1878. Still, it had an Anglican identity right from the start. In the community, it was called an English Church. The county’s general directories from the period, refer to it as a Church of England or an Episcopalian Church. And the church hierarchy, particularly after the Diocese of Huron was established in 1857, made efforts to appoint a cleric to Byron. The visits were infrequent, to be sure, since the clergy had large territories to cover and they travelled by horse. Diocesan records show that in 1857 there were only 42 clergy and 59 churches in the entire diocese. Nevertheless, from time to time a clergyman of Anglican orders arrived in Byron, called the congregation together and performed the rites of the church.
Another aspect of St. Anne’s identity was that it was a community church. As the only church building in the village, it was used for services by other Christian denominations as well. This arrangement was not unique to Byron. In the early days of London and Delaware, various denominations also shared facilities, gathering for worship at different times. Co-operation may have grown as much out of practicality as good will, but it was co-operation nonetheless. And folks were neighbours, after all.
Grace Bainard identifies the following denominations – besides Anglicans - as being those that held services at St. Anne’s during the first 20 years: Presbyterians, itinerant evangelists, New Connexionists, Wesleyan Methodists, Bible Christians and Episcopal Methodists. The latter four, along with the Primitive Methodists, amalgamated in 1884 to form The Methodist Church of Canada.
Another group using St. Anne’s in those years was an organization called the Sons of Temperance who rented the church for meetings. The building was evidently well-used.
The earliest written reference to an Anglican priest visiting St. Anne’s is found in the Goodspeed history of Middlesex County. While the report is listed under Lambeth, rather than Hall’s Mills or Byron, the information fits with what is known of St. Anne’s at the time.
The account states: “In 1856, Rev. [Abraham] St. George Caulfield, of St. Thomas, was appointed to the mission of Westminster. About 1859 a temperance meeting was held within the church (a stone building) for the use of which the temperance men paid one dollar a month rent. Some one complained that they were destroying the building; but Mr. Caulfield, who was sent to report, could not agree with the rumor.”
Three terms in this passage, “Westminster,” “stone building” and “temperance men,” indicate that the church Caulfield visited was St. Anne’s.
At the formation of the diocese, Caulfield was indeed rector of St. Thomas Church in St. Thomas, and he also had charge of “Westminster (Christ Church),” which would have been Glanworth.(from Clerical Register I) However, other sources indicate that Caulfield ministered to the whole township of Westminster, as well as St. Thomas, and that his circuit included Glanworth (a wood frame church built in 1844), the Lambeth congregation (whose white brick church was not built until 1863), and Hall’s Mills (stone church built in 1855).
One can reasonably conclude that Caulfield not only visited St. Anne’s in 1859 to investigate the complaint, but was also one of the first designated Anglican clerics to the church. Possibly THE first. He probably journeyed from St. Thomas several times to conduct services and succor the faithful in Byron.
Caulfield was an Irishman who graduated from the University of Dublin and was priested in Toronto in 1848. At St. Thomas, however, his responsibilities were impossibly rigorous and far-flung. He must have been delighted, therefore, to obtain the help of a young Canadian-born curate, Rev. Maurice Scollard Baldwin, in 1860.
Baldwin, who was ordained deacon by Bishop Cronyn in 1860, and priested in 1861, relieved Caulfield of many duties in the widespread parish. While stationed in St. Thomas, the new curate was called upon to make many long horse-and-buggy drives throughout the region. Baldwin’s biographical material affirms that the charge covered Lambeth, Byron and Glanworth, as well as St. Thomas, during his two-year posting.
Many years later, Baldwin became the third Bishop of Huron, succeeding Bishop Isaac Hellmuth in 1883. Baldwin had a reputation as an evangelist and an eloquent preacher. He is said to have given of his best, whether he was addressing a large city congregation or a little country church at the crossroads. An article by Dr. A. H. Crowfoot says of Baldwin: “He loved people wherever he found them, and people loved him.” (London Free Press, May 27, l961)
Bishop Baldwin died in London in 1904. St. Paul’s Cathedral was crowded with those wishing to pay last respects to the beloved shepherd of the diocese.
While Baldwin was a horse-and-buggy traveller in his early ministry (allowing him to take his fiancée along as passenger), most travelling clergy of the era journeyed from mission to mission on horseback. They often encountered obstacles such as swamps, storms or even rattlesnakes along the way. And their duties included carrying all their priestly needs with them.
Details of this are spelled out in Rev. David George Bowyer’s book, The Church at the Cross Roads, Trinity Church, Lambeth, 1863-1988.
“While on these jaunts into the surrounding settlements,” writes Bowyer, “these travelling priests would carry a valise containing gown, surplice, books, communion elements, chalice and cup, with a great coat and umbrella strapped over it. They would pass along to their parishioners religious tracts, books, Bibles and Prayer Books, supplied by an English missionary group, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.”
One can only wonder how the heavy-laden horses, let alone the priests, survived the treks.
It was one such horseback cleric, Rev. Alexander Potts, who was the next Anglican priest definitely connected to St. Anne’s.
Potts began his ministry to Lambeth, Hall’s Mills (Byron) and Oneidatown in late 1861. His short-lived ministry might have faded into obscurity, were it not for Bowyer, a former rector of Trinity Church, Lambeth. Bowyer delved into past records, minutes and letters for a parish history of Trinity in 1988. He uncovered documented information about the little-known priest.
Alexander Potts was born in Ireland in 1822. His first career was as a teacher and in the 1850’s, having moved to Upper Canada, he became schoolmaster at Muncey Indian Reservation. Coincidently, he served as an assistant to its missionary, Richard Flood – who seems to have inspired him. Potts decided to enter the ministry himself.
After his ordination as deacon by Bishop Cronyn in 1859, Potts was assigned “Missionary to Indians, River Thames.” (from Clerical Register I) He continued to serve native missions after becoming a priest the following year, travelling back and forth from the village of Delaware where he lived with his wife, Elizabeth, and young son.
His appointment to Lambeth and Byron in late 1861 would have been a change for Potts. But he continued to serve in Oneida and devoted himself to all three of his congregations.
During his first year he baptized 20 children. After three years, he had performed a total of 47 baptisms, eight of the recipients being listed as “Indians.” (from Trinity Church parish register)
Relevant to St. Anne’s is the record of Potts’ baptism of two Ormond children. Walter and Mary Elizabeth, children of Meredith and Matilda Ormond of Westminster were baptized on March 1, 1863. The Ormonds were a pioneer family of St. Anne’s, and their descendents still belong to the church in 2019. Although written in the Trinity Church register, the Ormond baptisms might have been held at St. Anne’s. All Potts’ baptisms were recorded in one book.
Also in 1863, under Potts’ charge, the Lambeth church was built and officially opened for worship. Trinity Church was consecrated in January, 1864.
Less than a year later, the life of this dedicated priest was cut short. Alexander Potts died at his home in Delaware on December 10, 1864, at the age of 42. The funeral was held at Trinity Church and Potts was buried in Trinity’s churchyard.
And here the mystery deepens regarding St. Anne’s history. No further clerical records have been traced until 1877. During the intervening years, Byron must have been attached to other Anglican pastors’ circuits. It is known that worship services of the Church of England were held periodically in the church. But the names of the clergy who conducted them, remain elusive, at this point.
At a time when church records were either hidden, lost, or were not kept in the first place, the pioneer members of the congregation were moving into the community. This core group of people would assure the future of the church. Stone by living stone, they laid the spiritual foundation of St. Anne’s
- Ann Terry Lee moved into her home on Centre Street (now 249 Hall’s Mill Rd.) in 1848, after the death of her husband, the renowned Dr. Hiram Davis Lee of London. Ann is said to have been a faithful worker for the church in the start-up years. She is also reputed to have operated a private school at her home, prior to the erection of the public school.
- Meredith and Matilda Ormond, after their marriage in 1850, settled on 150 acres on Commissioner’s Road, opposite Kains Road. They built a log house and raised eight children there. Meredith assisted with the original construction of St. Anne’s. Descendants have had an unbroken active involvement with the church ever since.
- In 1862, Archibald and Mary Kains and three children settled on a farm just west of Byron. Living in a log house close to the river, the couple was to have three more children to complete their family. The Kains had come from St. Thomas where they belonged to the well-established parish of St. Thomas. In Byron, Archie was instrumental in organizing the 1877 repairs to St. Anne’s, and also helped with the rebuilding. Life-long member Grace (Kains) Bainard was a granddaughter.
- One of the earliest worshippers, Elizabeth S. Hart, walked from her home in the vicinity of Commissioner’s and Wonderland roads to St. Anne’s Church in the 1860’s. She was the great-grandmother of Kae (Hart) Ellis, another life-long member of the church.
- In 1871, Henry Wickerson and Caroline Branston were married and resided on the family farm on what is now Wickerson Road. They raised 10 children there and the family was active in both community and church life. The Rev. Peter Wickerson. a former rector of St. Anne’s (2002-2005), is a direct descendant of the pioneer couple.
- William C. Meriam and his wife Susanna (Mulholland) bought 110 acres on Commissioner’s Road, west of Byron, in 1872, moving there with their grown-up family. One son, Wesley, married Annie Bella Ormond (daughter of Meredith and Matilda), thus joining two of St. Anne’s pioneer families. Wesley and Annie had 10 children. The entire Meriam clan was active in the church from its early days and all are buried in St. Anne’s cemetery. Barbara (Meriam) Kightley, life-long parishioner, is a descendant.
While the aforementioned individuals and families are not the only ones who played a role in the mystery years, they do provide examples of the faith and dedication that carried the congregation through until the church’s consecration. Other families who would have been there, such as the Wells’ and Flints, are mentioned elsewhere in this history.
The village of Byron, meanwhile, was enjoying a period of industrial growth. The manufacturing area along the Thames River spilled east of Boler Road, at this time.
Among the industries operating at Byron in the 1860’s and 70’s were: a hame factory for harness (John Sissons and Sons); two woollen mills (Griffith Brothers and J. and J. Dufton and Company); three flour and grist mills (F. H. Kenny, Charles Coombs and Robert Summers, proprietors); two sawmills (one owned by Sissons); two distilleries; a tannery; a chair factory.
Other businesses included: two blacksmiths, two hotels, a tavern, a boot and shoemaker, general merchants, carpenters, a weaver, a silversmith.
The village boasted tri-weekly mail by then and Robert Sadler was postmaster – as well as a general merchant – throughout the time period.
Some of these names (specifically Kenny, Coombs and Sadler) would also appear in connection with St. Anne’s. Hence, more “living stones” reinforced the small congregation.
Huron College Opens
Meanwhile, something important had happened in the Diocese of Huron. On December 2, 1863, Huron College, an institution for the education of Anglican clergy, was officially opened in London.
News of the event probably trickled down to the Anglican community in Byron. But local parishioners may not have realized that a turning point had occurred in the life of the diocese. While not affected immediately, St. Anne’s would eventually benefit from the creation and functioning of Huron College.
Bishop Cronyn had two main reasons for founding the college. One was to address the severe shortage of clergy in the diocese. (In 1863, more than 50 townships were still without the ministrations of the Church of England.) The second was to establish a theological college based on low-church teachings, rather than the high-church principles of Toronto’s Trinity College.
The direction of the diocese had been set for years to come.
Despite being part of a forward-looking diocese, and despite being located in a flourishing village, St. Anne’s hit a low ebb. Little by little, during the mystery years, the church fell into a state of disrepair. One might think this was a consequence of the building being used by so many groups, or of the irregular attendance of an Anglican cleric. But that would underestimate the problem.
According to Nancy Tausky, architectural historical consultant, the run-down condition of the church in 1874 “suggests poor maintenance and perhaps a ‘finishing’ job [of the roof and floor] that was meant to be only temporary in the first place.” (from her article, Memorials in Paper and Stone, in the book, Simcoe’s Choice, 1992) In other words, parts of the structure may have been unsound from the start.
At least one meager attempt had been made to keep up with the wear and tear on the church. An 1871 receipt for $1.38-worth of incidentals (putty, nails, glass, lumber, trim) says on the back: “Hall’s Mills Church Paid Dec. 30/71 Paid by Trustees at Hall’s Mills.”
This indicates that local trustees were attending to the business of the church – sort of. But a bit of putty wasn’t going to do the trick.
The receipt also demonstrates that although the village may have been officially named Byron in 1857, the name Hall’s Mills was still being used long afterwards.
In May 1872, an insurance policy was taken out on the church. The church and contents were insured for $250 with Westminster Mutual Fire Insurance Company. The annual premium, at the time, was 50 cents. Application for the insurance was made by (Rev.) J. W. Marsh, secretary of the Church Society of the Diocese of Huron, and the bills for payment went to him. So the diocese was lending support, too.
Nevertheless, the condition of the church worsened and the community became distressed. It was time to take action.
The following letter to the secretary of the Church Society was written at Byron on June 20, 1874:
“Dear Sir, I have been requested to write you about the Church at Byron. It needs the roof and Floor reparing very much. The Sons of Temperance think if you would alow the rent of the Building to go toward fixing it, it could be fixed by them for about $40.00 yours Truly, H. Coombs, Sec’y.
P.S. Please reply as soon as possiby.”
At its next sitting, on August 27, 1874, the Standing Committee of the Church Society approved the proposal and appointed the rural dean (Rev. M. P. Smith of Strathroy) to see that the repair work was properly carried out.
True to their word, the temperance men set to work and did some “fixing.”
Then, yet another obstacle arose. The group had difficulty in obtaining reimbursement for its expenses. A few months later, H. Coombs was obliged to write another letter, this time to the rural dean. The letter from Byron, dated December 7, 1874, follows:
“Dear Sir, The Amt. collected is seven dollars fifty-five cents. The amount expended is about Thirty-five Dollars. The floor, windows, chimney etc. have been repaired likewise We have whitewashed the whole building. I think there is no further fixing required at present. This is the second time I have wrote to you about this matter. Yours Truly, H. Coombs.”
Contrary to Coombs’ belief, “further fixing” WAS required. The 1874 repairs proved inadequate as well. And it is apparent from the second letter that a major hindrance, once again, as it had been 20 years before, was “the want of funds.”
More dark days followed. At the start of 1877, the church building desperately needed work and the coffers were empty.
But the situation was about to change …
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter III - Construction of St. Anne's
Soon after land was purchased in 1853 (when weather permitted, of course), the community of Hall’s Mills began the long, slow process of building their church. According to Grace Bainard in The Story of St. Anne’s, the cobblestone structure was not completed until 1855.
Stones were gathered by hand from surrounding fields, the mortar mixed by hand, and heavy materials had to be hauled to the site by horses or oxen. These things took time. Plus, the volunteers had their own farms and businesses to run, at the same time.
As work progressed, completion of the church was hampered by a shortage of funds. But financial problems developed later, and one can suppose that, in the beginning, the Anglican community set out with enthusiasm and high hopes, to build their house of worship.
Robert Flint, who had already built several stone buildings in the area, was engaged as stonemason. He was the obvious choice as builder of St. Anne’s. Besides being a longstanding member of the community and a talented, experienced builder, Flint was also a member of the Church of England. He brought to the church building, as with his other structures, a distinctive style – an adaptation of a building tradition he had known in England, his former homeland. In England, the tradition was to use flint for the stone. In Hall’s Mills, Flint took the materials at hand, provided by nature, and created buildings that are now considered works of art.
“The majority of the original church would have been made from cobblestones,” says Nancy Zwart Tausky, an architectural historical consultant, living in London. Tausky has studied all the surviving Flint buildings and is highly respected for her expertise.
When his choice of cobblestone was not available, Flint would have used a fieldstone in its place, she continues. Thick applications of lime mortar (softer than modern mortar), were used to hold the stones together.
Cobblestones are naturally rounded stones, typically found in rivers. The stones are smoothed and rounded, over time, by the movement of the water.
The question has been posed as to how the church could have been made from cobblestones when the stones for St. Anne’s were plucked from nearby fields. Wouldn’t that make them fieldstones?
The answer is no, not in this case.
“River stones can be found far away” from the banks of a river, Tausky explains. Over the centuries, a river changes course, leaving cobblestones behind on dry land. And that is what occurred with the Thames River in this vicinity. Cobblestones, in a variety of colours, were plentiful in the fields of Hall’s Mills, 165 years ago.
Having been moulded by flowing river water for hundreds of years, the stones were chosen to form the original walls of St. Anne’s Church – a fine tribute to God’s creation.
In 2019, although some original stonework still stands, the exterior walls of the church are mostly fieldstone, a result of renovations, additions, and many repairs.
Tausky thinks Flint would have done most of the original stonework himself. Volunteers probably helped by gathering stones, providing wood and other materials, and possibly doing woodwork.
By May 1854, however, work on the uncompleted church seems to have come to a standstill. A letter written at the time by Hannah Flint (the stonemason’s wife), provides descriptions, insights and opinions on the situation. The letter was later held by John Millerson, a descendant of the Flints, who gave permission for the letter to be quoted in this history.
Writing to her son Pirney, on May 30, 1854, Hannah does not mince words about the stalled construction.
“Your Father built a very pretty English Church last Summer in this place. It’s built with gothic windows and a Porch but it stands in a wrong site close to the school house,” she writes. “John Sims & Lackey and your Father they were four months putting up the walls. [Still] it is not finish’d for the want of funds. If there is a show come along or any other foolishness, they can all find money & go by waggon loads … but to God that gives them all, [they] can spare nothing.” Furthermore, “old Eakins would not let them have stone altho’ he had so many that he could not cultivate his land…”
Hannah is clearly exasperated with what she sees as a lack of cooperation and assistance in the community. “I wish I was able and I would finish it,” she claims stoutly. Nevertheless her husband, the builder, seems to have been patient in the face of obstacles and delays.
“Your Father worked faithfull 4 months … and I never heard him grumble,” she continues, “but only the walls are up and windows and doors this spring.”
Elsewhere in the letter, Hannah mentions that Robert is now 70 years old and “getting too aged” to look after the horses in winter. Yet he continued to put up buildings, one of them being St. Anne’s Church.
The Flints had already survived worse troubles in their lives, as their story illustrates.
The Flints’ Story
A native of England, Robert Flint had been a landlord and builder in Norfolk, and then the owner of a fishing smack in Suffolk, before he and his family decided to emigrate to North America in the early 1830’s. Just before leaving England, Robert was robbed. Undeterred, and possibly counting on better fortunes in the New World, the Flints set off on their long ocean voyage anyway, landing in New York.
Robert seems to have been intent on providing for his family as quickly as possible. He left them in New York City while he went upstate to Pottsville to earn some money. When her husband did not return as soon as expected, Hannah “became anxious, made inquiries, and heard that [Robert] had died of cholera.” (Goodspeed) Soon afterwards, she packed herself and the children back to England.
Then “three days after Mrs. Flint had started back to England, Mr. Flint [alive and well] returned to New York and found his family gone.” (Goodspeed)
It sounds like a nightmare come true.
Robert, however, was no quitter. He made his way to Upper Canada, settled in the village of Westminster (now Byron), and later sent to England for his family to join him. The Flints were reunited in Westminster in 1836.
(Robert Flint, incidently, arrived in the village around the same time as Cyrenius Hall.)
Robert now had his wife, Hannah, with him, as well as their four children – son Robert, age 20, George, 18, Mary, 15, and Pirney, 11. Being together again, the Flints were ready to put down roots.
In 1838, Robert bought 61 acres along the Thames River, east of the village proper, and built a cobblestone cottage there as his family home. Some years later, he also built a stone house for son Pirney, on the property. Today, both cottages stand in their original locations and are familiar landmarks in Springbank Park.
For about 20 years, Robert farmed his land and also erected a number of buildings throughout the district. Hannah, who could be critical of others, remained her husband’s constant and loyal supporter.
Luckily, a picture of the pair survives. It is the copy of a painting done around the year 1850 by Cyrenius Hall (junior), showing Robert and Hannah Flint in the main room of their cottage. The picture also provides a glimpse into the simple lifestyle of the times – although the Flints appear to be wearing their finest apparel, rather than work clothes, for the portrait.
By then, the senior Flints were on their own. Daughter Mary had married William Blinn and lived on a nearby farm; son George had died of unexplained causes; sons Robert and Pirney had gone to the United States.
When Hannah wrote her letter in 1854 about the church construction, Pirney and Robert (junior) were living and working in California.
Pirney returned home in 1855 after a ten-year absence. He married Ann Elson a couple of years later, and settled down to raise his family (eight children in all), in his own stone house on the Flint farm. The youngest son’s timely return gave him a chance to reconnect with his father during the older man’s final four years. It was an opportunity that Robert (junior) missed.
Robert Flint, the builder of St. Anne’s, died in 1859 at the age of 75. Hannah Flint died six-and-a-half years later. Both were buried in Brick Street Cemetery.
Flint the stonemason left an outstanding legacy in the Byron area – a number of delightful stone buildings. Some of the structures (including St. Anne’s) still attest to the creativity and skill of their mid-nineteenth century builder.
Hannah’s gifts to future generations (notably to the members of St. Anne’s), were her letters. She wrote forthrightly, albeit through her own eyes, about some realities in the initial days of the congregation.
Robert (junior) did return to Byron, briefly, in the 1860’s. He married Eliza Elson, sister of Pirney’s wife, and moved back to California with his bride.
Pirney, who had learned the trade from his father, was later hired to do masonry and plastering for St. Anne’s when the 1877 repairs were being done.
The Completed Church
No records have been found describing exactly how and when the “pretty English Church” was finished. But funds, materials and help must have come forth eventually. Tradition holds that the building was completed and open for community worship some time in 1855.
The little stone church, measuring about 44 feet long (plus porch) and 29 feet wide, suited its humble village surroundings. It was simple and unpretentious with its low-pitched roof and the absence of tower or spire. Yet it was picturesque because of its stonework and symmetry, and “church-like” with its gothic windows.
The parishioners must have beamed with satisfaction as they filed into the church for the very first service. At last! After passing through the porch and entering the worship area, they would have found their seats, which were probably plank benches or stools or chairs – something portable, at any rate, to allow for versatile seating arrangements. Perhaps some one set out flowers for the occasion.
The church was probably filled to capacity. Such an event would have drawn most of the villagers as well as residents of nearby farms. Among the worshippers, no doubt, were people with the names of Hall, Flint, Wells, Ormond, Lee, Lackey, Coombs.
The identity of the clergyman who led that first service, is unknown. Nor is it even certain which denomination he represented. But surely, the first gathering was one of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Although Hannah Flint felt the church stood on “a wrong site close to the schoolhouse,” the church was actually built on the right site, in one respect at least. The deed stated that the land was for a church and burial ground. And the property, when purchased, already had at least three graves on it. Two headstones on the west side of the property, near the fence, mark the graves of Fidelia Hunt, age 29, wife of Burleigh Hunt, their daughter, Asenath, age three years, two months, and an unnamed infant son. All three died in 1832.
Following a common practice in those days, Archibald McMillan (property owner) must have allowed Burleigh to bury his family there. Therefore, the land was already a burial ground, making it an appropriate site for a church and cemetery. Perhaps Hannah Flint had something else in mind when she denounced the site.
Once the building was in use, the congregation would not have waited long before installing a small wood stove for heat. They would also have needed coal oil or kerosene lamps for light. But it is unlikely that anything lavish adorned the interior. The life of St. Anne’s Church probably began with the bare necessities. And presumably with a congregation of grateful hearts.
Researched and written by Shirley Geigen Miller
Chapter II - Looking Back - currently under revision
This window given in memory of Harry and Marion Shore, depicts The Sower in beautiful colours. The inscription is; "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
The window in memory of Alan C. Shepherd was installed in 1976, given by his family. The inscription reads "For I Have Given You An Example."
In 1988, a memorial window to Florence and Bill Lang, was installed in the transom of the entrance doors in the Church. The window faces the street and contains the symbol of St. Anne's, which is a lily in the form of a cross.
Isabella Gray Kains and Mary Zebby Kains
The window entitled "I Am The Resurrection And The Life" is situated in the Chancel area on the west side. It was given in memory of Isabella and Mary Kains. It shows Christ ascending with holes in his hands and feet.