St. Peter’s (Hopewell) Upper Gullies, Part 3

Humble Beginnings

My previous article, Part 2 of this series, ended with a call for everyone within the church community of Hopewell Upper Gullies to pull together to complete the building of the new and much needed church. Accounts of the building of St. Peter’s Church show just how much the work was an undertaking of the whole faith community. The Diocesan Magazine’s Hopewell correspondent repeatedly mentions the work of the sewing circle, who raised money through teas and sales of work to go towards completion of the new church. Precursors of the Church of England Women’s Association (CEWA), the Anglican Church Women’s Association (ACWA), and today’s ACW, these sewing circles were noted for their ability to access and meet corporate and individual needs of the congregation. From 1900, when it was led by president Mrs. Isaac Dawe, through the process of building the new church, the Upper Gullies Sewing Circle was recognized as one of the most powerful agents of work. In 1906, the Hopewell contributor to the Diocesan Magazine created this image of the church being built through the flicker of needle and thread:

“Our new church, when completed in a year or so, will stand as a monument of our zeal and perseverance. But we have to keep the plate moving and the needles going.”

While the church women of that time held no church positions on the vestry, and while they were still called by their husbands’ Christian names, they did maintain the power and autonomy over the money they raised for the church. And while they were described in terms that by today’s codes of language would be considered condescending (the Diocesan of 1904 once described Upper Gullies Sewing Circle as “that praiseworthy little band of women”), people of the day honoured the women’s work.

Old church records show that while plans for the new church occupied the most attention, other issues still had to be dealt with. At the turn of the century members of the congregation were expected to bring stakes or rails to maintain the cemetery fence. The constancy of human nature meant that wasn’t always accomplished and at the 1900 annual meeting it was decided that truants in this matter would have to pay a dollar anytime they wanted to open a grave. In 1901 Rev’d Petley had to remind the congregation of its unfulfilled promise to provide hay for his horse: “but no steps were taken to mend the matter.”

But records show that on the whole people did pull together. Men gave freely of their labour to build the new church, fitting the work into the seasonal rhythms of their other employment. For instance, the Rev’d E.K.H. Caldwell asked men of his congregation in 1904 to try and dig the trench for the new church walls “ some time between caplin and hay time.” Men cut much of the wood for the building on Salmonier Line and hauled it by horse to the site in the winter. They pulled logs over the ice on the bay between Holyrood and Lance Cove. One account has it that as the horses came ashore at Doyle’s Road one evening, the ice shifted, leaving the way they had come through Lance Cove Bight, nothing but water. The men lost no time attributing their good fortune to the fact that they had been working for the Church.

(The final article will relate a tragic event that occurred while the church was nearing completion as well as the laying of the cornerstone and consecration of the Church)
This article is based on information researched, appropriately referenced and presented to the Parish by a committee of the Church for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the church in 1905. 

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