St. John The Evangelist Anglican Church
– A Brief History, 1853 – 2003
History prepared by Pat Lawson
From information compiled by Connie Hill
And condensed by Wayne Knorr (June 2003)
St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church on Main Street in Fredericton will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone in 2003. This area of Fredericton’s north side can trace its faith back much further than that.
The King’s American Regiment first settled in Nashwaaksis after the American Revolution in 1783. They brought with them many things, including their religious beliefs. In fact, one of their members, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Cooke, was Chaplain to His Majesty’s Guards and later became the first rector of Fredericton.
Planning for a church in Nashwaaksis started as early as 1851 when the first local committee of the Diocesan Church Society passed a resolution stating, in part, that it would be “very desirable to build a small church near the mills at the lower part of the parish.”
Construction of St. John The Evangelist Anglican Church started in 1853, making it one of the oldest churches in Fredericton. The cornerstone of the church was laid on July 18, 1853. The church was enclosed in 1854 and completed in 1855 for a total cost of about 400 pounds.
The stone used to build the church was hauled from a quarry several miles away. Butternut trees along the St. John River were cut and church furnishings were made in the village carpenter shop. The Rt. Rev. Bishop John Medley consecrated St. John’s on March 12, 1856.
Starting in 1857, Rev. Dr. George Goodrich Roberts was responsible for services in the parish. In his first annual report, Rev. Dr. Roberts reported the average attendance at Sunday sermons at St. John’s was 100. Sunday School began in the parish in 1857. Various missionaries looked after the Parish of Douglas and St. John’s Church during those early years.
In 1868, a number of improvements were made to the grounds and outbuildings of St. John’s. In 1895, a new roof was put on the church and a new altar and altar cloth were received as a gift from Mrs. Medley, wife of Bishop Medley. Parish records record a number of ministers and lay readers continued to serve St. John’s and area churches.
By 1912, St. John’s was in need of repairs. It was not until 1919, however, that the efforts of Miss L.M. Myles, and active church member, resulted in enough funds being raised to re-shingle the church and fence the graveyard.
Parish of Douglas and Nashwaaksis 2021 Parish Profile
In 1923, a committee was struck to supervise the restoration of the church. Painting was done and the church was wired for electricity. In 1926, a concrete walk was built from the church door to the gate in the fence around the church. The same year light globes were installed in the church.
Ernest Doherty, a lay reader at St. John’s, organized a choir at St. John’s church between 1936 and 1938. A variety of ministers and lay readers continued to serve the parish. The first Women’s World Day of Prayer Service in the Fredericton area was held in St. John’s Church in 1940. In 1942, the men of the parish dug a church basement and installed a wood furnace.
In 1945, a Chancel Guild was organized for St. John’s. The same year a Minshall organ was purchased to replace the foot-pumped organ. The church choir also started a Church Extension Fund the same year. The intent was to build an addition to the present church building to house a choir room. Fundraising for the church extension continued until 1950.
That year, St. John’s Church purchased a 60’ x 80’ lot on the opposite side of the road from the church for the purpose of building a church hall. On August 13, 1950 Miss Lillian Myles, Sunday School superintendent for over 60 years, turned the first sod for the hall. The hall was completed in 1953 and dedicated to Miss Myles.
For many years, St. John’s organized a canteen at the Fredericton Exhibition. The first was in 1950 and consisted of a canvas tent on the exhibition grounds near Aberdeen Street. In 1952, a canteen building was erected. St. John’s Church continued to have a canteen at the Exhibition for 50 years.
In 1955, the furnace for the church was converted to oil. In 1956, a well was dug and water no longer had to be carried to the hall. In 1957, plans were made to extend the west end of the church building by 24 feet, putting a basement under the new extension. This extension also included a balcony and increased the seating capacity to 200.
In 1960, the church vestry purchased additional land so a kitchen could be added on to the hall. In 1961, St. John’s welcomed its first resident rector, Rev. Alvin Hawkes. A church rectory was designed by Rev. Hawkes and built on Summer Street. In 1966, St. John’s purchased the land that is now the church parking lot. A number of resident rectors have followed Rev. Hawkes.
After 150 years, St. John’s continues to have a presence in Nashwaaksis. The congregation supports Christian efforts locally and around the world. In 2002, the congregation of St. John’s voted in favour of building a new church facility. Planning for this next milestone continues.
***NOTE: Since this history was prepared, the new church facility has been built and is in use.