For over a century St. Anne’s Church has stood as a symbol of the faith, determination and courage of the early pioneers of this area. Its history began in 1893 when the Rev. Canon Charles Cooper arrived in Victoria from England. That same year he travelled to Nanaimo by train and then to Port Alberni by stage. His objective was to build a church in the northern part of the island, as there was no place of worship between Nanaimo and Alberni at that time.
By April 1894, after careful investigation and consultation with the settlers, a site was chosen at French Creek. Canon Cooper purchased the property out of his own funds and subsequently donated three and one half acres to the Diocese of British Columbia for church purposes.
The Building of the Church
The first work bee to clear the site was held on 17th April, 1894 and from then on rapid progress was made. Logs were hauled from the bush by teams of oxen borrowed from nearby farmers and hand hewn. On 24th June the walls were raised with 8 men squaring the corners: Richard P. Wallis, James Lowery, James Dunn, Otto Renz, W. Cheney, W. McKenzie, John McKinnon and B. Harris. Among others at the raising were Canon Cooper, Thomas Kinkade and Mr. Gaetzen. Mr. Cooper promised free burial plots to all those who assisted with the construction.
John McKinnon had the contract for building the church. The lumber came from Andrew Haslam’s mill at Nanaimo, and was hauled on a raft by a tug to French Creek Bay near what was the Lee home, and then taken ashore at high tide. Every available horse and oxen were brought into use as men and animals worked feverishly to unload lumber before high tide.
The finishing touches to the church were completed in time for St. Anne’s Day, 26th July 1894, when the Rt. Rev. William Perrin, Second Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia, consecrated the building and church yard as St. Anne’s, Aldemere. Also present were the Rev. Canon Cooper, Canon J.H. Good, the Rev. J.W. Flinton, the Rev. E.G. Miller and a choir from St. Matthew’s Church, Wellington. Mrs. Hickey played the organ. The church was filled for the 11:00 a.m. service, and the weather was fine enough for a picnic on the grounds for those who had travelled a long distance.
Canon Cooper was the first minister, and came from Nanaimo every second Sunday to hold services until the Rev. Hugh Wilson was appointed the first resident minister.
Memorials of Mr. Cooper included a brass lectern which was placed in the church for the 25th anniversary in 1919, but which was stolen many years later, and the stone font which was donated by Mrs Cooper in 1921 in memory of her husband who had died in England in 1916.
In 1921 a new log vestry was consecrated by the Bishop. Many parishioners gathered for a work bee in 1934 to restore the foundations of the church. Because of the rising cost of concrete, cedar blocks were used. A trench was dug around one side of the building, the structure was jacked up, old blocks removed and new ones inserted. That same year the 1st Parksville Scouts erected the lych gate on Church Road. The present gate was built in 2000.
The bell was installed in 1936, and two years later the east window, a gift from E.B. May in memory of his wife, Dorothy May, was consecrated.
Restoration of the church was necessary in 1977 – again by volunteers. Insulating paper from the ceiling was removed, and the bell which had not functioned for some years was once again able to ring. C.J.S. Cooper of London, England, great-nephew of Canon Cooper, sent a donation toward the work. A special rededication service was held Sunday, 24th July.
The parish records show that the first Baptism in St. Anne’s was for Emily Jane Hume, daughter of Robert Hume and Charlot Emily Hickey, on 12th August 1894, and the first wedding united Thomas Kinkade of Little Qualicum and Sarah Coqulamat on 24th October 1896.
A parish hall, built in 1925 in downtown Parksville and used for many years for worship, was moved to Nanoose in 1990. St. Edmund’s Church was built on the same downtown Parksville site in 1962 and moved to the present location on Wembley Road in February 1990. Our present parish hall was opened that same year.