St Nicholas Church: it's history by Cyril Hiscock

Inhabitants Abandon Island 55 Year Old Church Is Closed

Eastport, Flat Island in Bonavista Bay was once a flourishing community? Wost of the residents were fisherman who braved the turbulent seas for a living? As many as 25 fishing schooners sailed out the harbor to fish the Labrador Coast. Their sons and daughters were raised in the fishing boats and on the flakes.

In the beginning the settlement's education was at a low levels but as time went on the people became more determined to improve their living standards and highly experienced and well trained teachers were available up to 1954 when the beginning of the end took place?

Prior to 1954 the Labrador fishery, upon which the people depended for a living was slowly fading out and less schooners sailed out the harbor. More men had to seek employment on the mainland of Newfoundland. Since 1940 there has been an increasing tendency to abandon the Labrador fishery, to seek employment in the logging camps, construction jobs, and elsewhere. Schooners were sold and fishing equipment, stages wharves, decayed. In general an atmosphere of change took place. Families were left at home as men worked away and it became difficult to get to and from the island during the fall, winter and spring.

The general economy of the people slowly decreased and the merchants found it necessary leave the island in order to continue in business? This was the final straw which forced the peoples decision to leave the island in favor of new life elsewhere.

The voluntary evacuation took place from 1954 to 1958 when evacuation was completed.

Back in the year 1896 Dec. 12, the people of Flat Island made the momentous decision in their history. This was the period when the prosperity of the island began to increase and which was to continue for 90 years and then fade out and die. on that date the residents sat around a stove with the oil lamps burning and made decision that welded the people into a community of unity and prosperity. That night they decided to built a church.

What they had in their minds was later to become a reality which today seems remarkable in view of the circumstances surrounds these people time.

They sat there without money, without material, without plans, having only faith in God they set to work.

The meeting was presided over by the Rev. H. F. Wilson, Rector of the Parish of Salvage. It was proposed by J. W. Cullen and passed unanimously. It was also decided the church would be constructed with free labor and voluntary contributions.

The men agreed to cut the logs and saw them into lumber as a voluntary contribution. So the rest of the people dug in and got down to the business off raising money and getting stock.

Plans for the building were completed and a large amount of money was raised by April 28, 1900. A meeting was called and a building committee was elected composed of Job Lane, William Samson, F. Kelligrew, William Hiscock, R. Saunders, and Mr. Peyton.

At the meeting it was decided to elect a man to take change of the construction, and an experienced and competent carpenter was engaged. This was Caleb Marshell.

The work of construction started in the summers of 1900 and continued the winter and the following year.

Mr. Marshell, while engaged in work on the church was taken ill and and died on Feb. 19, 1901. He was buried at the church of England cemetery on Flat Island.

The late Mr. Marshell was succeeded by a Mr. Granger who lived to complete the job.

The church was completed April 30,1903. This being Easter Thursday, a special service was held which was presided over by Rev. Augustus T. Bayley, parish priest of Bonavista. This was the first official service held in the church.

The interior of the church is beautifully decorated with intricate coverings done by the people of the island using knives, chisels, lock saws and hammer.

The church is wholly constructed of pine which is is polished and varnished, producing a gleaming surface. Along the inscription, "Glory to God in the Highest. On earth peace and good will toward men."

Everywhere in the church stained glass windows are in evidence. All woodwork and furnishings are in dark oak staining which contrasts with the white ceiling.

All logs cut for this church were secured in the Rocky Bay, area and on nearby islands.

Pillars were donated by Mr. Reid of REID Newfoundland company and is of 12" baulk timber cased with pine boards and polished.

Again Aug. 23, 1903 another special service took place when the Right Rev. Llewellyn Jones, Bishop of Newfoundland conducted the consecration service at which the church was given the the name or St. Nicholas. This completed one of the greatest achievements in the lives of the people of Flat Island.

The life of this church extends from Aug 23, 1903 when the church of St. Nicholas became a reality till Sept. 21, 1958 when the official closing service was held on the island.

This is service was conducted by the Rev. L. C. Rees, rector of the parish of Salvage at 3 p.m. Sept. 21 when 475 parishioners attended. They arrived on the island by boat from Glovertown, Burnside, St. Chads, Salvage , Eastport, Sandringham, Happy Adventure, Sandy Cove.

Note: This account was discovered in Salvage as a building was being torn down.