250th Anniversary

St. Paul’s to Mark 250 Years

  • In 2019 our Parish is poised to mark our 250th anniversary. This is a remarkable milestone and we have already been informed that the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada will be joining us for Holy Week and Easter.
  • A Steering Committee has been struck to put together the calendar and budget for anniversary events. The Brainstorm has happened, now we need details. If you would like to spearhead an event, please let the committee know by e-mailing laurakbird@hotmail.com or giving a written notice to Audrey Stewart, George Likely, Carol MacDonald, or Laura K. Bird. Indicate WHAT the event is, and WHEN you wish to see it take place, and other needs. Nothing too formal, we need to know WHO and what and can work together to hammer out details.
  • The Steering Committee will also develop a theme or slogan for the year, looking back at celebrating 250 years of the parish of St. Paul`s, and looking to the future. All suggestions welcome and can be given to any on the committee. All ideas will be presented to Parish Council at the November meeting.

Historical Notes

As part of St Paul's 250 Celebrations, the steering committee wants to provide some "historical notes" to inform and hopefully entertain parish members on the history of the Anglican Ministry in Charlottetown.

The source of the information will primarily come from Dr. Frank Jelks' book on the history of Charlotte and the Church of St. Paul's. Dr. Jelks was a long-time member of our St. Paul's Church family and he spent countless hours researching and writing the book. Dr. Jelks' historical book was truly a labour of love and represented his great love, and deep faith in the Anglican Ministry. A limited number of Dr. Jelks' books are available at the parish office. Short historical notes, extracted from his book, will appear in our weekly church bulletin.

We would also request that if you have any information that you would like to share with others, please let us know.

The Beginning:

The Island of St John was formally ceded by the French to the British and annexed to the Government of Nova Scotia in 1763. The Church of England thereby became its’ recognized form of religion.

In 1768 the land in the Island was granted in lots of 20,000 acres to “gentlemen” living in Great Britain. A year later, in 1769, an Order in Council established the separate government for the Island of St John and His Majesty, King George III, ordered that 100 pounds be apportioned for the stipend of a clergyman.

Establishment of the Church of England:

An Order in Council by the British Government in July 1769 detailed the establishment of the Church of England in the Island with services to be conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer each Sunday and Holiday. The Order stated that churches would be competently maintained ; a house would be built at public charge for each Minister, 100 acres of land be allocated for the site of each church and as a glebe for the Minister. The Ministers were to be licensed by the Bishop in London and all “laws already made against Blasphemy, Profanity, Adultery, Fornification, Polygamy, Incest would be vigorous executed”.

The Parish of Charlotte extended past North Rustico from the west and around Dalvay to the east with Charlotte Town as the centre of administration.

Difficulties in establishing the church on the Island were almost immediately encountered.

The First Rector (1769 – 1774):

Rev John Caulfield was appointed the first Rector of the Parish of Charlotte in 1769 but he never left Great Britain.

The first visit to the Island of St John by a clergyman was in 1773. Rev John Eagleson who was a missionary serving in Nova Scotia spent eleven weeks on the Island conducting services at Charlotte Town, St Peter’s, Stanhope, and “Traccady and Malpeck or Princetown”. This was the first opportunity for citizens to attend services and hear a Protestant Clergy man since the establishment of the Province into a separate government in 1769.

Parish years 1769 – 1774:

The Island Governor Paterson and the Proprietors of Lands petitioned Great Britain emphasizing the need for a clergyman to reside on the Island. The main stumbling block was the fact that Rev John Caulfield’s appointment as Rector of the Parish of Charlotte in 1769 was granted for life and he could not be removed from office. However, Lord Dartmouth’s solution to the problem was to appoint an Assistant Minister for the Parish to whom the whole salary would be paid.

Rapid action followed, Col Thomas Desbrisay, living in Great Britain, had been appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Island in 1769. In May 1774 Lieutenant Governor Desbrisay arranged for his 20-year-old son, the Rev Theophilus Desbrisay to be appointed Minister of the Parish of Charlotte. Rev. Desbrisay would serve as Rector of St. Paul’s Church for 49 years!

Arrival of Rev Theophilus Desbrisay (Rector 1774 – 1823):

Rev. Desbrisay sailed from Great Britain in the autumn of 1775. Unfortunately the wind forced them to stay at Canso (Nova Scotia) where he was taken prisoner by two American privateers who had just previously raided Charlotte Town and taken two officials (Callbeck and Wright) as prisoners. After a short time Rev Desbrisay, and others, were released but the captors sailed off with their vessel and belongings.

On his arrival in Charlotte Town, Rev Desbrisay discovered that there was no church and that no provision had been made for housing, food or payment of salary and that he would have the upcoming winter season to contend with.

Rev Desbrisay therefore took duty as a clergyman on one of His Majesty’s ships of war for two years and visited Charlotte Town as often as possible to minister to the people.


Rev Theophilus Desbrisay ( Rector 1774 – 1823):

The British Government assumed responsibility in 1777 for paying the salaries of government officials on the Island of St John. Rev Desbrisay was to be paid 150 pounds per annum as a Minister of the Church of England and was now able to assume his duties in the Parish of Charlotte. The first entry in parish records bears the date August 21,1777.

Things were difficult for the young parson; there were approximately 600 soldiers and 100 sailors stationed at the Garrison in Charlotte Town for the summer of 1778 which was the cause of much drunkedness and debauchery. There were only about 300 civilians living in Charlotte Town at that time.

In 1778 Rev Desbrisay married Margaret Stewart, the daughter of Chief Justice Stewart, and in 1780 moved to a house in Covehead which was built for him by Benjamin Chappell. He lived in Covehead “among his beloved books and raised his family away from the wickedness of a garrison city.”

Rev Theophilus Desbrisay: (Rector 1774 – 1823):

Rev Desbrisay journeyed by horseback from Covehead to Charlotte Town at weekends to fulfill his pastoral duties. He always wore knee breeches, silk stockings, shoes with silver buckles, a laced coat and a three cornered clerical hat.

In light of Rev Desbrisay’s meagre salary of 150 pounds per annum, the prices of some food items in 1777 may be of interest:

  • 3.5 lb loaf of bread 7d = 14 cents
  • Lump of sugar, per pound 2s 6d = 60 cents
  • Milk, a quart 6d = 12 cents
  • Fresh Butter, per pound 1s 3d = 30 cents
  • Beef, per pound 7d = 14 cents
  • Pork, per pound 6d = 12 cents
  • Veal, per pound 10d = 20 cents