Summer in the country was a time for swimming in the Tay River, hanging out with friends at the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store, and regular bike rides up and down the Third Line. There were farm tractors, hay-wagons, mothers outside hanging their washing on clotheslines, and daisies and black-eyed-Susans waving in the ditches, as I flew by on my old red bike.
I always passed by the familiar farms and houses along the way – Mitchell’s, Conboy’s, pedaled like lightning past Heney’s, so their dogs couldn’t catch me. I continued past Radford’s, Siebel’s, Mitchell’s, Kerr’s, Closs’, heading up the Third Line toward Kyle’s, Perkins’ and Doyle’s when one day, something unusual caught my eye.
A stylish wedding party was entering St. Vincent de Paul Church; a bride in a flowing white gown, three bridesmaids dressed in pastel pink, carrying matching nosegays. Several cars were parked outside, decorated with pink and white tissue flowers. I pulled over to the side of the road to watch the procession. The old Catholic church had been around for as long as I could remember, and appeared as proud and majestic as ever on that hot summer day so long ago.
The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church, instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville. Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.
Long before St. Vincent de Paul Church was built, Roman Catholic services were held for 69 years, in the home of Mrs. Ed. Lee on the Third Line.
The people of Bathurst petitioned Bishop James Vincent Cleary for a church of their own. They needed a suitable, conveniently located place to erect a new church building.
John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.
The paperwork was completed, and the land on lot 11, between the 2nd and 3rd concessions of Bathurst Township was donated by John and Mary DeWitt on July 26, 1889. To ensure that the transaction was legal, the land was sold for the token sum of one dollar to the Kingston Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.
The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889. The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.
Pastors who have served St. Vincent de Paul:
Rev. T.P. O’Connor 1889-1899
Rev. John O’Brien – 1899-1901
Rev. J.H. McDonough – 1901-1912
Rev. P.J. Keaney – 1912-1917
Rev. J.J. Keeley – 1917-1926
Rev. J.V. Meagher – 1926-1928
Rev. L.B. Garvin – 1928-1934
Rev. Walter Whalen – 1934-1940
Rev. J.W. Callahan – 1940-1947
Rev. W.L. Terrion – 1947-1952
Rev. J.C. LeSage – 1952-1976
Father Karl Clemens – 1976 – 1983
Father Richard Whalen – 1983-1985
Father Liam Tallon – 1985 – 1993
Father Karl Clemens (back) – 1993 – 1998
Father Lindo Molon – 1998 – 2006
Father Mark Ruckpaul – 2006 – 2012
Father Aidan Dasaah – 2012 – 2014
Father Jan Kusyk – 2014 –
One of the weddings in the early days of St. Vincent de Paul Church – Henry Edmund Hagan, son of Hugh Hagan and Agnes Bennett, Westport, married Anna Victoria Jackman Hagan, daughter of John Jackman and Matilda Nagle, Wemyss, on 25 September 1918. Henry was 25 and Anna was 17. (according to Richard Frizzell, their grandson on his mother’s side – ” Family history has it that she married so young in order to escape having to rear her 4 brothers and sisters after her mother passed away in 1916.”)
According to their grandson, Richard Frizell, “Henry and Anna farmed up on the mountain in Westport until 1956 or 57. They sold the farm and moved to Glen Tay. They had 5 children; my mom, Vera, was the oldest girl.”
Father James Keeley – served St. Vicent de Paul from 1917-1926
Oct. 17, 1930 – visit from the Archbishop
June 26, 1931 – Dance at DeWitt’s Corners
I recall that Father J.C. Le Sage was the Priest of the parish from 1952 through to 1976. Fr. Le Sage was well-liked, and a good friend to many of the local parishioners. He was known to be extremely intelligent, and it was widely believed that he had come from a very capable family. He had a reputation for being an excellent business manager, and ensured that the Church was in good repair.
wedding of Peter and Mary McNamee – September 24th, 1955, with Father J.C. LeSage
During his time serving at DeWitt’s Corners he hired an exceptionally talented Dutch painter who cleaned and restored the wood ceiling of St. Vincent’s, and painted the interior of the building. He was also instrumental in building a parish hall in Stanleyville (the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Hall) to serve both parishes (St. Vincent de Paul in Dewitt’s Corners and St. Bridget’s in Stanleyville). Because of his excellent fiscal management, the total costs for the new hall were paid off quickly. Along with Fr. Le Sage’s sound business sense, an active Catholic Women’s League helped to raise money for the church, and assist with local charities.
At the age of 67, Rev. Father LeSage suffered a heart attack at his home, near Stanleyville, and passed away on September 13, 1976.
December 22 1977 – ad for Christmas Eve Services
March 22, 1978 – ad for Holy Week
In 1979 the parishoners from DeWitt’s Corners and Stanleyville, sponsored a family of seven ‘Boat People’, who had fled their homeland for Canada.
August 22 1979 – sponsoring the ‘Boat People’
September 12, 1979 – A picnic in Stanleyville
November 21, 1979 – St. Vincent de Paul Anniversary
November 21 1979 – special mass planned
November 28 1979 photos of St. Vincent de Paul anniversary celebrations
December 19 1979 – Nativity Scene
December 19 1979 – Junior Choir
October 1, 1980 – Annual Forty Hours Devotion
March 11, 1981 – Shirley Scott is new president of St. Vincent de Paul CWL
December 2, 1981 – CWL Anniversary
October 20, 1982 – Guest Speaker
August 17, 1983 – Farewell Mass for Fr. Karl Clemens
St. Vincent de Paul, the pretty red brick church at DeWitt’s Corners, has served the community for well over a century. Both residents and seasonal visitors from nearby cottages have found comfort and a sense of belonging, inside these stately walls.
June 8, 1983 – Summer Schedule
Many weddings, christenings, and funerals have taken place over the past hundred years, and to those of us who grew up in this neighbourhood, St. Vincent de Paul will always remain a memorable place, in our hearts.
photo of St. Vincent de Paul church c. 1970s, courtesy of JoAnne Cavanagh Butler
photo of wedding -Peter and Mary McNamee 1955 with Father LeSage – courtesy of Mary McNamee
photo of wedding – Henry Hagan, to Anna Jackman Hagan, and photo of Father Keeley- courtesy of Richard Frizell
For more about the history and days gone by in DeWitt’s Corners:
‘Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”
“Lanark County Classics” ISBN 978-0987-702654 – at The Book Nook, 60 Gore St. Perth, Spark Books and Curios 76 Foster St., Perth, and Mill Street Books, 52 Mill St., in Almonte