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

Rev Theophilus Desbrisay (Rector 1774 – 1823):

The lack of a church was a severe handicap for Rev Desbrisay’s work in the Parish of Charlotte.

Services were first held in a building on the north east corner of Queen and Kent Streets. A little later services were held in a room in either Alexander Richardsons’ house or in his “coffee and ballroom”. In 1790, Lieutenant Govenor Fanning purchased a house belonging to Captain Burns and allocated one part of the house to be used as a chapel for the performance of public Divine Service. Two chalices that were used in services in 1777 are still in possession of the church today.

In 1781 the Parish of Charlotte was constituted as an ecclesatical area by local statutes. It provided that the parishioners would meet on Tuesday and Whitsuntide each year to elect six vestrymen. The vestymen, along with the Rector, would choose two Wardens from the elected vestymen.

One of the Vestry’s most important responsibilities was the support of the poor for whose maintenance a rate was set at annual meetings of the inhabitants of the Parish. All inhabitants were legally responsible to accept the rate and pay the levy to the church.

Rev Theophilus Desbrisay (Rector 1774 – 1823):

In 1791 the Vestry adopted a table of fees recommended by the Bishop to be paid to the clergymen:

  • “for solemnising Matrimony” 10s 0d
  • “for each funeral where service is read” 7s 6d
  • “for registering Baptisms, each” 1s 0d

Also in 1791, it was ordered “that the Clerk open three Registers – one for Births, one for Marriages and one for Burials in the Parish.”

1792 marked the beginning of collections being made during services. The money collected was to go towards church expenses and to the maintenance of the poor.

In 1798 an Act of the PEI Assembly made church Wardens responsible for the registration of dogs in Charlotte Town and for the collection of dog taxes. This emphasizes the intrinsic role of the church in the early days of both the government and the community.

Rev Theophilus Desbrisay (Rector 1774 – 1823):

Rev Desbrisay, by virtue of his position as Rector of Parish of Charlotte, was a member of the PEI Legislative Council.

In addition to his Ministirial duties the Rector was a Justice of the Peace, Overseer of Roads for Stanhope District, Chaplain to the House and Garrison Chaplain.

Rev Desbrisay was plagued with personal financial difficulties from the beginning of his appointment to the Parish of Charlotte. He was the father of thirteen children and had rather expensive tastes. His problems escalated when his salary was reduced from 150 pounds per annum to 70 pounds.

The Arrival of Scottish and Ireland Settlers:

In the 1770’s emigration from England was discouraged by the British Government so most of the new settlers to the Island were Presbyterians from Scotland and Roman Catholics from Ireland.

In 1787 Charles Inglis was consecrated Bishop of Nova Scotia at Lambeth Palace and journeyed to Halifax to assume his new duties. In 1789 Bishop Inglis made his first and only visit to the Island and was very alarmed that there was no Anglican church building on PEI. The concerns of Bishop Inglis that there was no church on the Island was shared by the inhabitants especially in light of the arrival of the new Presbyterian and Roman Catholic immigrants.

In 1778, a petition was submitted from the Lands Commission of the British Treasury stating that it was necessary to build a church, court house and a jail in Charlotte Town as soon as possible to encourage settlers and to enforce obedience of the law. It added that there was no fund belonging to the Island which could be used for that purpose. Gov. Patterson also wrote to the British Government (Lord Hillsborough) and requested the sum of $3,000 pounds for the erection of the three buildings.

The British Government provided some dollars to Gov Patterson but no public buildings were erected. In 1787 the PEI House of Assembly informed Lieutenant Governor Fanning that the $3,000 pounds was misappropriated by Gov Patterson. The dollars voted by the British Government was never recovered and consequently the erection of the three public buildings were long delayed.

The First St Paul’s Church:

In 1795, work began on the erection of a church in the general area of what is now Memorial Hall in the Confederation Centre of the Arts. The first service was held in that church in 1796, but the building was not completed until 1802and services continued to be held in private houses during the cold months.

The first St Paul’s church was built by private subscription and was for the use of the Established Church of England and the Established Church of Scotland. The Bishop of Nova Scotia did not consecrate the first St Paul’s church since it was being used by two communions.

The Church of England service in these early days comprised of Morning Prayer followed by a Litany and ending with the Holy Communion. The services were long and members of the congregation would arrive at differing times during the service.

The Lieutenant Governor held a position of authority in the church at this time. The Lieutenant Governor’s arrival and entrance indicated to the Rector that the service may begin.

The First St Paul’s Church: (1796)

The Tables of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostle’s Creed, which you will find on the walls of our present church, were presented by the family of Lieutenant Governor Fanning and were first hung in the sanctuary of the first St. Paul’s. (A memorial tablet to Lieutenant Governor Fanning and his son is placed on the south wall of our present church.)

The pews in this church were of the “box type” with quite high sides and a door. The government bought three of the pews while the remainder were bought by the affluent and influential. Very little room was provided for the poor.

A communion rail was placed in the church in 1815 and a silver toned bell was cast in London and given as an offering by Mr Birnie of the firm Waters and Birnie. A stove made by Mr MacDougall of Tracadie heated the church.

There is every indication that this early church was poorly designed and built. As a consequence plans were set afoot to build a new church.

Rev. Theophillus Desbrisay -

Parish of Charlotte (1800 -1823):

Twenty seven years had passed from the time of the establishment of the Parish to the building of the first church in 1796. The Rev Theophilus Desbrisay had laboured for nineteen years without the benefit of such a building.

Rev Desbrisay had gained the respect of the community by his devotion to duty and his practice of religious balance. The sharing of the first church with the Church of Scotland did not appear to be of any concern to him.

When in the course of his duties, he was called upon to baptise the children of Presbyterians, Rev Desbrisay always performed the services according to their mode, omitting the sign of the cross and praying extempore. A close friend of Rev Desbrisay who was a Presbyterian Minister was always welcome to preach in the church when opportunities arose.

It was also known a strong feeling existed between Dev Desbrisay and the Roman Catholic Bishop MacEachern. The Bishop, when he came to town, often dined with Rev Desbrisay.

Rev Desbrisay was failing in health and died on March 14,1823 after serving the parish for 46 years. His body was buried in the Protestant Cemetery on University Avenue. ( A memorial tablet in memory of Rev Desbrisay and another of his daughter ,Penelope, are located high up on the west wall of the present church.)

Rev. Theophillus Desbrisay – his legacy: (1823)

Rev. Desbrisay was Rector of St Paul’s Church for 46 years – 1774 to 1823.

Rev. Desbrisay had established a form of service in St. Paul’s which was to be observed for over 200 years. It was a basic service with an almost complete lack of ceremonial practices. It was evangelical and is today labelled as the “low” church service.

Rev. Desbrisay was failing in health and died on March 14,1823. His body was buried in the Protestant Cemetary on University Avenue. (A memorial tablet in memory of Rev Desbrisay and another of his daughter ,Penelope, are located high up on the west wall of the present church.)

The following Tribute of Respect was stated on his Memorial Tablet:

“A good soldier of Jesus Christ he studied to show himself approved unto God, a Workman that needeth not to be ashamed. In every Social relation he lived respected and beloved. Supported under a long and trying illness by the rich consolations of the Gospel, and cheered with the hope of a blessed immortality he quitted for a season his earthly tabernacle on the 14th day of March , 1823 , aged 69 years.”

Second St. Paul’s Church: 1836

On July 30,1828 it was decided to build a large church on a site granted by the Governor in Council. This land was deeded to the Rector, Wardens and Vestry on the Authority of King William IV in 1836.

The contract for building the church, located to the south of the present stone church, was let on August 08, 1831. Construction started in 1832 and completion was expected to be late 1833. Unfortunately, the second St Paul’s Church was under construction, nearly completed, when it was blown down by a severe windstorm on August 10,1833.

Rebuilding of the church was not undertaken until the summer of 1835 and the completed church was consecrated by the Bishop of Nova Scotia on August 21, 1836 and was named St. Paul’s.

This church built in 1836 gave the members of the Church of England a church for their sole use and support. This church cost approximately 1,000 pounds sterling to erect.

Second St Paul’s Church: 1836

This church was enlarged twice at the east end, first in 1845 by adding 22 feet and the building of two porches at a cost of 292 pounds, and again In 1873–1874 when a brick chancel was erected at the east end of the church. The chancel included a five pane stained glass window and rose windows imported from England. The cost of the chancel was $4,670 and the cost of the chancel windows was $592. The stained glass window, enlarged to seven panels, together with the rose windows, were installed in the south transept of the present church in 1896.

The “Birnie Bell” from the first church was transferred to the second church as were the tablets given in memory of the late Governor Fanning. The tablets were hung in the chancel.

The first service in the second St Paul’s church was held on February 14, 1836 and the last service was in May 1896.

One observer stated “I can well remember the old high box pews, with doors, both in the gallery and on the ground floor, so high that one could lie back and sleep without being observed. I can distinctly remember one individual having done so.”

Parish of Charlotte 1833 – 1896:

Church attendance had increased over the years and in 1866 it was necessary to consider ways of increasing accommodation.

The Bishop of Nova Scotia visited Charlotte Town and advised that three options existed:

– Enlargement of present church

– Building a new replacement church

– Building a second church.

The Bishop recommended building a new replacement church but St Paul’s congregation resolved to erect a Chapel of Ease or a District Church in the western end of the city with seats to be free and unappropriated. In 1867 a start was made on the erection of the district church.

Rev. Fitzgerald , Rector of St. Paul’s, wished to have the “basic ministry and regulation of the same “ considered. It transpired that he wished to maintain some control over the new church which was to be named St. Peter’s.

A congregational meeting, a year later, heard a resolution that the Rector of St Paul’s (Rev. Fitzgerald) would accept the finished church which would be under his control and direction.

State of Affairs St. Paul’s : “High Church – Low Church “ practices:

A brief description of the state of affairs in St Paul’s Church at this time will help to show the significance of the above resolution. The Rev David Fitzgerald and the Rev D. B. Parnther who were the ministers at St. Paul’s were strongly Protestant and strongly opposed to the Tractarian movement which was in progress in England.

A division in the church existed among the members of the St. Paul’s congregation.

The ministers entered the church for service with the preacher of the day clothed in a long black gown which had two scrupulously white bands on the front. The reader of the prayers and psalm wore over his coat and trousers a long white surplice. The psalms were never sung and the service was monotonous.The pews were jealously guarded by their owners and lessees. There were two free pews for the poor at the end of the church furthest from the chancel and pulpit. The congregation was comprised of highly respected people among whom were those who wanted a brighter service and free pews. Some members had visited England and returned to the Island highly impressed with the Tractarian movement (literical and theological revival of the Catholic tradition within Anglicanism) and the more highly ritualistic service consistent with it. They were of the “High Church” persuasion and were opposed to the “Low Church” practices at St Paul’s.

The Rector and the majority of the laity were strongly supportive of the practices of the “Low Church” and feared going over into “Romish ways”.

It became necessary to have a division of the congregation in order to maintain peace with those desirous of the “High Church” ways going to the new church. Even this move became difficult when those in St Paul’s church wished to have their Rector supervise the new church as a chapel of ease.

The Right Rev, Binney, Bishop of Nova Scotia, was in full sympathy with the Tractarian movement and constituted the new church as the Free Chapel of St Peter in August 1969 thus making it “extra parochial” and removing it from supervision by the Rector of St Paul’s Church. In 1873 Bishop Binney consecrated St. Peter’s as the cathedral of the province. (In 2019 St Peters Church is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the church.)

Continuing Difficulties between Bishop Binney and Parish of St Pauls:

In 1870 the Bishop informed the Rev D B Parnther that his services would no longer be required in St Paul’s Church in Charlottetown but that there was a vacancy in Georgetown if he cared to take it. It was then reported that if Rev Parnther was retained in Charlottetown the CC and SS would withdraw his annual allowance. A committee of St Paul’s Parish found there was a strong desire to retain Rev Parnther, but despite all the efforts, Rev Parnther resigned and then became a rector in a Carlton, New Brunswick church.

More difficulties arose between Bishop Binney and St Paul’s church ...

Bishop Binney was to officiate at a wedding in St Paul’s church and on the evening before the intended marriage a strong feeling of members of the congregation rose against giving use of the church since Mr Hodgson, Rector of St Peter’s, was to take part in the ceremony and they feared the introduction of practices to which they would disapprove. On the morning of the wedding Rev Fitzgerald declared that the Bishop should not have his staff carried before him by a chaplain.

On September 11,1872 a letter from Bishop Binney was read to a meeting of St Paul’s congregation. The Bishop said that owing to an insult offered by the Rector of St Paul’s it would not be possible for him,as Bishop, to risk a repetition by officiating in St Paul’s while the present Rector was in office or the congregation acquiesced in the opposition. A rector must not dictate to his Bishop the mode of his administration of any rite or service of the church. Bishop Binney then presented critisims of the order of services in St Paul’s and stated it was necessary to separate himself from the Minister and people as a result of the rector’s action.

The congregation expressed agreement with the actions of Rev Fitzgerald in preventing “the introduction of novelties into the ceremonies of the church.” They regretted the determination of the Bishop not to enter St Paul’s while Fitzgerald remained rector of St Paul’s church. Strained relationships continued between Bishop Binney and the Parish of St Paul’s until Rev Fitzpatrick resigned as Rector at Easter 1885.