By Bob Turner
If you are interested in seeing interesting old buildings, the many historic churches in Red River North should be on your bucket list.
This past summer, I decided to check out a few, and was amazed at the number of well-built, well-preserved structures there are. They include the oldest and second oldest stone churches in Western Canada,and the oldest United Church in Manitoba and Western Canada. Several are designated heritage buildings. I have chosen five to talk about here, all constructed prior to 1900.
The first church built in the area was a log structure, built by Anglican missionary, John West, whose job was to establish the Anglican Church in the colony and minister to the needs of the
population. Beginning in 1822, and over the next two decades, a number of Anglican churches were constructed in and around Red River, including a new stone church in 183l. None of these earliest churches survive.
St. Andrews, the oldest stone church in Western Canada
In 1844 work began on a new church, dedicated to the St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, It has been famous ever since, not just because of the beauty of its site, but also because of its stone and especially its fine bell tower. Today, St. Andrews on the Red remains the oldest stone church in Western Canada, a National Heritage Site. It is still used for weekly public worship.
The kneeling pads in the church are covered in buffalo hide, and many of the other original fixtures remain. St. Andrew’s played a key role in influencing communities that lived and worked along the Red River.
Built to house the Reverend William Cockran, rector of the church, the two story rectory was erected in 1854, it contained 8-9 rooms from which the rector could administer to his parishioners and provide education and religious guidance.
Originally constructed from locally quarried limestone cut from the Red River banks, St. Andrew’s Rectory was authentically reconstructed in the 1980s.
The church and rectory are located south of Lockport on River Road.
The Church of Little Britain
Little Britain United Church began in the 1820’s, as a Presbyterian church when six former Hudson’s Bay Company servants and their families, mostly English and Scottish and all related by blood or marriage, settled in the area between Lower Fort Garry and Lockport.
The area became known as “Little Britain” and became part of the newly-established Parish of St. Andrews in the mid-1840’s
In 1863, the congregation was granted a piece of land by the Hudson’s Bay Company, about 3/4 mile south of the main gate of Lower Fort Garry.
The church was built facing the Red River, which was still the major means of transportation via boats and ferries. There was also a well-used Red River Cart trail running south from Lower Fort Garry along the river bank. In 1874, the church was completed and named the Presbyterian Church of Little Britain. The original pews, pulpit, and other furnishings are still in use today.
It became Little Britain United Church in 1925, and in 1989, was declared a Provincial Historic Site and a major restoration was undertaken
Little Britain is the oldest United Church of Canada building in Manitoba
“The Old Stone Church”, St. Peter Dynevor
St. Peter Dynevor, on the east side of the Red River north of East Selkirk, was the only First Nations Anglican parish in the Red River settlement; it is the most significant site that remains from the Aboriginal agricultural community at St. Peter’s and was the first Anglican mission of its type in Western Canada.
This church was designed and built in Gothic Revival style between 1852 and 1854 by stonemason Duncan McRae under the personal direction of Archdeacon William Cockran. The foundation stone was laid on 23 May 1853 by Bishop David Anderson, who gave the church its name. It replaced an earlier one built in 1836 a little to the south of the new site. Stone was quarried from the bank of the Red River for the foundation and walls.
The church served the Aboriginal settlement of the same name established here in 1834, the first attempt at an Indigenous agricultural community in Western Canada. It was the home church for Chief Peguis, friend and benefactor to the Selkirk Settlers.
. In 1963, “The Old Stone Church” was designated a Provincial Historic Site.
The largely intact church, (still used on a seasonal basis), and surrounding cemetery containing more than 3,000 gravesites including that of Chief Peguis, are now rare links to the only First Nations parish in the Red River Settlement.
Knox Presbyterian Church
(341 Eveline Street, Selkirk)
In 1876, Presbyterians at Selkirk built a small log church on this site and a manse was erected on the west side of the property in 1896. In 1904, a new church building in the Gothic Revival style was built which incorporated the old one. Older parts of the building rest on the original field stone foundation while the newer portions are supported by concrete. One of Selkirk’s finest architectural landmarks, the interior retains the original woodwork and has three stained glass windows by noted Manitoba artist and sculptor Leo Mol
St. Clements Anglican Church
This served as the garrison church for troops stationed at Lower Fort Garry, and was the official chapel of employees of the HBC.
The Parish of St. Clements was established in 1857.
Samuel Taylor, a stonemason who had worked on Lower Fort Garry began construction of the church. It too is built in the English Gothic style, and features stained glass windows designed by Leo Mol. The bell tower was added in 1928.
St. Clements is located on River Road, just past the south city limits of Selkirk, surrounded by a large cemetery, containing the graves of many of the founding families of Selkirk.
These churches are:
Just five more reasons
Whatever the season,
To spend time in Red River North.