The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 33 no 1, July 2020. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
The people of Cantley were shocked to learn about the demolition Cantley’s historic St. Andrew's Church on the early morning of May 26, 2020.
Built in 1877, it was one of the oldest remaining buildings in Cantley. This simple yet beautiful church was the hub of the Cantley Protestant community for 140 years.
The following is an edited version of the article in l’Écho de Cantley – February 2016 (vol. 27 no.7).
For the complete article and history of St. Andrew’s, visit cantley1889.ca
Cantley’s first census listed Roman Catholic and six Protestant religions, but no churches. This article traces the history of the Protestant groups which led to the establishment of St Andrew’s Church.1
Religion was a very important part of the life of early settlers, and the church was the focal point.
Cantley’s first settlers were the Blackburn family in 1829. In 1830 many families of different religions followed. Early religious groups worked together with neighbouring communities such as Templeton, Chelsea, Cascades, Wakefield and Rupert. The first worship services were held in homes. Ministers crossed the river on the ice during winter, in summer by boat and after the 1840s on the ferry.
The Methodists were first to have an actual building. Early settler William Thompson donated land for a log chapel on today’s grounds of the Cantley United Cemetery. During the same period, the property began to be used as a burial ground. The building was used by other Protestant congregations and also as a school.
As years passed, Presbyterian became the predominant Protestant group. In 1876 James McClelland II donated the northwest corner of his farm for a church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian. Built in 1877 by Anderson Storey, this church still stands at 1128 Montée de la Source. A story tells of the first service held before the church roof was completed. When it started to rain, boards were nailed for a makeshift roof to cover the minister and children being baptized.
Over the years the church grew. Dedicated members raised large sums of money for those days. In 1900 Benjamin Storey led the canvassing to collect $125 for an organ. Later, the church raised $250 for new pews.
Early years were difficult. In 1925, because the community was not large enough to support both church and minister, it was grouped into a charge with other villages to become St. Andrew’s United Church.
In 1946 a more permanent arrangement was made with Cantley, Chelsea and Poltimore grouped into one charge. The minister had a difficult job with an early Sunday morning service in Chelsea, late morning in Cantley, and Poltimore in the afternoon.
The past 30 years have not been easy for many churches. St Andrew’s is no exception. The English population has declined. Cantley’s youth and seniors have had to move away for jobs and accommodation. Recently, the United Church community in Western Quebec has grouped together in an attempt to pool resources to maintain congregations. A number of church buildings will probably be sold, including St. Andrew’s Cantley.
2016 would have been the 140th anniversary of St. Andrew’s. For almost a century and a half it has stood proud and strong on a hill overlooking the community as a beacon for the congregation.
1 The main source for this article is “St. Andrew’s United Church, Cantley, An Historical Sketch” by Eirene McClelland, written in 1976 for the church’s centennial.