St. Vincent de Paul Church – DeWitt’s Corners

St Vincent de Paul church

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.

old 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.

wedding couple   bridesmaids

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.

Mrs. Ed Lee

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.

DeWitt deed

 

DeWitt deed part 2

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 –

 

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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.”)

Hagan Jackman wedding jpg

St. Vincent de Paul wedding Richard Frizzell's maternal grandparents

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.”

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Father James Keeley St. Vincent de Paul

Father James Keeley – served St. Vicent de Paul from 1917-1926

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Oct. 17, 1930 – visit from the Archbishop

June 26 1931

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.

Father LeSage McNamee weddiing 1955

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.

Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 1Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 2Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 3

 

St. Bridget's sign

 

Dec 22 1977 p 8 Christmas St. V de P

December 22 1977 – ad for Christmas Eve Services

March 22 978 p 14 display ad Holy Week

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.

Aug 22 1979 The Boat People

August 22 1979 – sponsoring the ‘Boat People’

Sept 12 1979 picnic

September 12, 1979 – A picnic in Stanleyville

Nov 21 1979 St V de P complete

November 21, 1979 – St. Vincent de Paul Anniversary

Nov 21st 1979 special mass

November 21 1979 – special mass planned

Nov 28 1979 St V de P anniversary photo

November 28 1979 photos of St. Vincent de Paul anniversary celebrations

Dec 19 1979 Nativity Scene

December 19 1979 – Nativity Scene

Dec 19 1979 Junior Choir

December 19 1979 – Junior Choir

October 1 1980 Annual 40 Hours of Devotion

October 1, 1980 – Annual Forty Hours Devotion

March 11 1981 Shirley Scott

March 11, 1981 – Shirley Scott is new president of St. Vincent de Paul CWL

Dec 2 1981 CWL anniversary

December 2, 1981 – CWL Anniversary

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker display ad
October 20, 1982 – Guest Speaker

August 17 1983 Farewell Mass

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

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.

 

hands bible

 

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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
(story is an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”)

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Lanark County Classics – Book Launch

A sunny, warm, late September day brought record crowds to the official book launch for “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”.

The Book Nook, a popular store on the main street of historic Perth, Ontario, was the setting for a steady stream of book lovers eager to read the latest collection of stories set in Lanark County, the picturesque maple syrup capital of Ontario.

The newly released stories in this series are set in Perth, Lanark, DeWitt’s Corners, Pakenham, Clyde’s Forks, Middleville, and the former North Burgess Township, taking the reader along on a journey back to the 1960s and 1970s in rural Eastern Ontario.

An early visitor to the store on Saturday, was Tara Gesner, from Metroland Media, a reporter covering the book launch for the local newspaper.

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There were many new faces stopping by, after reading the glowing reviews appearing in several publications   Review of Lanark County Classics

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A reader from Port Elmsley stopped by, interested in local history, and had certainly come to the right book launch for stories set around the region.

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Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss, former classmate of the author has purchased the entire collection for her mother, who has been a fan of the series since the beginning.

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Nancy Townend, Pakenham resident, came to the launch after hearing that one of the stories ‘Perils in Pakenham’, was set in her lovely,scenic, village.

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Carol-Ann McDougall,  resident of the Big Rideau Lake, featured in the story “Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story” Lake Life – A Rideau Ferry Love Story  brought a lovely, bright yellow chrysanthemum to grace the table of the book launch.  Carol-Ann has read all of the books in the Lanark County series, and has been looking forward to reading the newest collection of stories.

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Carla Brown stopped by, as she often does, to purchase the latest Lanark County book for her grandmother Shirley Myers.

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Avid reader of local history, Tom Ayres was eager to get the latest book in the series.  Tom has read all five in the collection, and is the reader who requested the story on Antler Lodge, featured in the last book – Lanark County Connections. Antler Lodge

tom-ayres-book-launch-2016

 

One of the stories in the new book, Lanark County Classics is ‘Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners. The story takes the reader back to the earliest days of the hamlet, recounts the history of this proud settlement, and the DeWitt family, whose name still graces the community today.   It was a special treat to have members of this founding family attend the book launch.

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Jane DeWitt Brady O’Grady – descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, founding family of DeWitt’s Corners.

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Also, a direct descendant of Zephaniah DeWitt, and native of DeWitt’s Corners – William ‘Bill’ Cavanagh,  son of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh, and his wife Brenda.

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Another native of DeWitt’s Corners, and descendant of pioneer Zephaniah DeWitt, sister of Bill, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, daughter of Helen DeWitt and James ‘Jim’ Cavanagh:

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It was a real treat to share some memories of DeWitt’s Corners with Jane, JoAnne and Bill!

Along with the DeWitt descendants, long-time residents of DeWitt’s Corners, Elaine and Dave Morrow stopped by the book launch.  Both Dave and Elaine contributed their memories and stories of DeWitt’s Corners for the book.  Owner of The Book Nook, Leslie Wallack, is standing to the right of Elaine. Leslie and her staff were busy the entire day assisting visitors to this popular store.

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Beverly Miller Ferlatte also stopped by the book launch.  Beverly shared her memories of S.S. # 4 , Bathurst, School for the story based in DeWitt’s Corners.  Beverly’s grandmother Mary Jordan was a well-loved and respected teacher at the school for many years.  The school house has been converted into a residence and Beverly’s brother Brian is the current owner of this historic building.

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Janice Jordan Gordon was another contributer to the DeWitt’s Corners story in the book. Janice was very helpful in identifying the children in several class photos from S.S. # 4 Bathurst School.

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A book launch would not be complete without a visit from former neighbours from the Third Line of Bathurst, Margery Conboy and her daughter Diana. Margery and her husband Wayne Conboy also shared their memories of DeWitt’s Corners, and the historic cheese factory that remained at ‘The Corners’ until 1979.

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Another former neighbour, Dave Mitchell,stopped by the book launch.  Dave was also interested in reading the story on DeWitt’s Corners, and finding out more about the history of the area where he was raised.

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The Book Launch at The Book Nook was a great success!  Many thanks to host Leslie Wallack and her staff, for keeping up with the steady crowds, and for providing the delicious refreshments.

A special thanks to all who came, from near and far, to stop by and chat, to share some memories, and to be a part of the busy day!

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Stories in “Lanark County Classics”:

  1. Baffling Banshees in Burgess
  2. Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners
  3. Mystery in Clyde Forks
  4. Multitudes in Middleville
  5. A Grand Era in Lanark
  6. Perils in Pakenham
  7. Perplexed in Perth

 

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