The Museum’s Blog

The “Stolen Church” Keeps Moving

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In 1915, the pioneer farmers of the Grantham area decided to build a house of worship for the Anglican community. For the sum of $200, St. Mary’s church was constructed near the present Tsolum School.

When the Soldier Settlement project was established in Merville in 1919, the need of a church there was apparent and the little church was skidded up the gravel highway with a Clee tractor. The first sacrament was held in March 1920. According to one account, a Sunday service was interrupted by loud squeals from beneath the floorboards. A parishioner’s pigs had followed them from their farm and were being harassed by a dog, disturbing the sanctity of the morning.

The Sunday School was held in a small room off the front porch until it was no longer adequate. In 1960, an army hut originally from the WW2 Sandwick Camp was moved onto the site for the use of the congregation.

In 2003, the diocese decided the small church was no longer needed as transportation to Courtenay’s St. Andrews was adequate. The buildings were deconsecrated, the altar vestments distributed respectfully and the church was sold.

After several owners, Alison and Brad Orr purchased the property in 2013. They were approached by Craig Freeman of the Merville Community Association with a request. He suggested the buildings, so linked with the history of the district, be moved to the Hall and renovated. The Orr’s graciously accepted the idea and recently donated them to the MCA. “Once fixed up, these buildings will be available for smaller functions than the big Hall” says Freeman. “The church has a stained glass window and high ceilings, making it perfect for an intimate wedding.”

The Community Association has struck a committee to raise funds for the move and subsequent repairs and will be soliciting local trades and businesses for support. Some donations have already been made and Regional Heritage funds have been applied for and Nickel Brothers has been contracted to make the move. “We intend to make this a real event, though it will be in the middle of the night, which is sort of in keeping with the original move.” says Freeman. “ A parade up the highway with the church, parish hall and the heritage outhouse. We will invite a local political celebrity to ride in the latter building!”

The church is located just south a half kilometer from the Merville Store at 6567 Island Highway.

For more information call Harold Macy at 337 5332 or email hqcreek@telus.net. Article by Harold Macy.