The Littlest Church in Ferguson Falls

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StPatricks

 

 

Perth Courier, December 19, 1968

St. Patrick’s Church, One of the Oldest Mission Churches in Ontario

St. Patrick’s Church, one of the oldest mission churches in Ontario, stands on the summit of a hill overlooking the Mississippi River in Ferguson’s Falls.  If this small edifice could speak, it would tell of the changes that have taken place in the district for the past 112 years.  In 1820 the first settlers came to Ferguson’s Falls.  At that time they had to walk through the woods to Perth to worship.  It was usually a two day trip, going in one day and returning the next day.  When any member of the community died, their remains were carried into Perth and buried in the old cemetery on the banks of the Tay River.

There was no church at that time and the first evidence of a priest coming was in 1820 when Father LaMothe came from Quebec.  He came at certain times during the year to those scattered throughout the county and held Mass in private homes.  He continued these visits until 1823 when he was replaced by Father Sweeney who did the missionary work in the territory.  Towards the end of 1823 Rev. Father McDonald came as the first resident pastor and for 15 years the priest labored.  He erected a frame church in Perth and in the outlying districts “stations” were erected and services were held at suitable times throughout the year.  The next priest to be sent to Perth was Rev. Hugh McDonagh in 1836(?).  During his pastorate the present church at Ferguson’s Falls was erected on account of the twenty miles or territory included in the parish at that time and the ever increasing congregation, it was decided that provision would have to be made to take care of the spiritual wants of the people who lived in the outlying portions of the parish and who had been required to make such long and tedious journeys to Perth to attend Mass.  Accordingly, in 1836, a church was built at Ferguson’s Falls.  Logs used to make the church were cut on the farm owned by a Mr. Scantlan.

Two years after it was built it was moved to the present site.  After it was placed on its permanent foundation the present vestry was added.  It was named St. Patrick’s Church in honor of the patron saint of Ireland.

On account of the slow mode of transport usually on horseback or by ox cart, as well as the extensive territory over which he presided, it was not until 1856 that the Archbishop of Kingston was able to make his first official visit to Ferguson’s Falls to take part in the dedication of the new church.

It was a mission church being part of the parish of Perth with Father McDonagh as its first pastor.  It was filled to capacity on Sundays and in fact, for a large percentage of the congregation, there was standing room only. People came to attend mass from McDonald’s Corners and above the “float bridge” in Lanark Township.

John Quinn was the first person buried in the cemetery adjoining the church.  The people who had died previously to that had been taken to Perth for burial because there was no cemetery in Ferguson’s Falls.  Since the opening of the church, several bodies have been brought back from Perth and re-buried.  Father McDonagh passed away in September of 18??(illegible).  His successor was Rev. Dr. Chisholm who was pastor for twelve lyears before he suddenly passed away from a heart attack on May 1, 1878(?)

Priests were sent from Kingston for the next twelve months to take charge of the congregation.  On the 1st of June, 1879, Rev. John O’Connor was installed.  He was later raised to the dignitary of Dean.  During his pastorate the new church at Carleton Place was formally opened.  Ferguson’s Falls then severed its long connection with the parish of Carleton Place thus becoming a mission of that parish.  Father Michael O’Donoghue was the first pastor.  In 1869 he was transferred to Perth and Father M. O’Rourke installed as pastor in Carleton Place and its mission church at Ferguson’s Falls.  He was later transferred to Westport where he remained until his death.

In October, 1907, Father Kearney was appointed for the first resident priest of Lanark parish and Ferguson’s Falls was transferred once more from Carleton Place to Lanark.  In 1912, the present steel roof was put on the church.

Father Carey was the next pastor.  During his pastorate, which ended in 1925, the fence was removed from around the church proper and a new one was erected. In 1925 Father Sullivan was installed as pastor and he remained there until the summer of 1928 when he was succeeded by Rev. Father Whelan.  Father Whelan had the interior of the church redecorated, the statues renovated and a grotto built at the rear of the statue of St. Theresa.

The next pastor was Father Clancy who remained until 1941 when he was transferred to Carleton Place.  He was succeeded by Rev. Father Healy.

In 1944 the cemetery grounds were improved and tombstones reset in proper formation.  This work was done in the form of bees by the parishioners.  A cobblestone cross designed by Father Healy was erected in the cemetery.  In 1945 the exterior of the church was painted by Mr. Watt of Lanark who also painted the surrounding fence.

 

You can read Arlene Stafford Wilson’s blog on the church here.

Related reading:

Another Example of Local Random Acts of Kindness- Zion Memorial United Church

The Beckwith Baptist Church

Before and After — Auld Kirk

Hallelujah and a Haircut —Faces of St. James 1976

What did Rector Elliot from St. James Bring Back from Cacouna?

The Emotional Crowded Houses– St. James

A Sneeze of a Tune from St. Andrew’s Church in Carleton Place

Let The Church Rise– A Little History of St. James Anglican Church

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

2 responses »

  1. Thank you for posting this article. My ancestor Thomas McCaffrey was also a founding member of St. Patrick. Our family still attends summer service and all our family is buried here.

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