Christmas is a time of churches. After houses, barns, mills and shops, the early settlers to these parts built churches, and many of them remain. The builders were mostly people from the United States, who came here after the American Revolution, followed by French Canadians moving from more crowded parts of Quebec. Some, like the family of American writer, Jack Kerouac, later went to the mill towns of New England, others came to this area first.
One of the first American worshippers was John Jackson, a graduate of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, who arrived here in 1815. Reverend Jackson led Congregationalist services in “humble dwellings” and school houses and worked on building what is probably the oldest standing Protestant church in Brome County.
It is the stone church in Brome Village, built by Congregationalists (United) in 1842-43 to serve 15 worshippers. Reverend Jackson may well have presided over the first services there, but he died in 1844 at 73, a formidable age back then. The once magnificent steeple no longer crowns the stone church in Brome, which is which is now a compact stone house not far from the Brome Fair grounds.
Close by also in Brome, St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, built in a distinctive Gothic style with materials and labour donated by the community, is still serving the community.
Freeman Eldridge, a master builder, put up the original St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Knowlton and its first service was in August of 1843. That building was torn down in 1890 and a new brick St. Paul’s, with seating for a congregation of 300 was ready in time for Christmas of 1892. That church was destroyed by a fire in January of 1941 and the third St. Paul’s, the current church, opened later that year.
One of the first Roman Catholic missions in this part of the Eastern Townships was at StÉtienne de Bolton. A small chapel was built in 1850 and the first mass was celebrated at the magnificent church in StÉtienne in 1874, quite an achievement for a poor rural parish. “Quel exemple de foi et de courage pour ces familles pauvres,” wrote Father Laval Gagnon in a historical account published by the Brome County Historical Society in 1965.
In 1868, Charles LaRocque, the Bishop of St. Hyacinthe, decided the 85 Catholic families of Brome County needed a church. A small church was built in 1868 on land donated by an Irish Catholic, Thomas Lynch, and the first baby, Marie Clara Lefevbre, was baptised that year. L’Église St Édouard is named after St. Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo Saxon king of England.
“He was chosen as patron saint of the church because of the predominantly Englishspeaking environment of the New Mission,” wrote Father Jean SaintCharles in a history of the church.
The present church was built in stages over several decades as the Catholic population expanded. One of the many parish priests at St. Édouard was Arthur Kérouack, probably the proper spelling of Jack Kerouac’s name.
There are a number of small wooden churches, beautiful buildings that served as satellite churches for larger parishes or outlying small chapels serving tiny local populations. Four fine examples are in West Bolton. The Brill Church is now a private residence and St. Michael’s and All Angels, once an Anglican church, is now privately owned and used for music recitals. The Creek United Church, a pretty clapboard church, is still well attended. St. Andrew’s Church on Tuer Road in the Bolton Pass was originally a school house built on Fuller Road. It was moved to its present location in 1913 and consecrated four years later. Of special interest is its church bell, cast in 1850 of tin, copper and bronze. It rang first at St. Luke’s Church in Waterloo, then was moved to St. Paul’s Church in Knowlton, and then donated to St. Andrew’s in 1924. The church was deconsecrated in 1993.
Another fine example of a wooden structure is in Fulford. In 1864, the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada bought a half acre of land for $20 and built what today is the Fulford United Church. At the time, Fulford had a dozen houses, a tannery, rake factory, grist mill, post office and furniture shop. The only source of heat in the little clapboard church still today is an old Buck’s Gem wood stove. Fulford’s other church, St. Stephen Anglican Church also built in the 1860s, ceased services in 1971 and today is a private residence.
The United Church in Knowlton, seen from across a once filled mill pond, adorns many postcards and tourist posters. It replaced a spectacular fieldstone Methodist church built in 1855. The church was too small for the growing congregation and the Methodists tore down the stone church in 1895 and moved into the current church that same year.
Last year Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Iron Hill celebrated its 150th anniversary. In September of 1863 the Montreal Herald newspaper saw fit to announce the arrival of a new priest for the church. “The train rushing along at 25 miles an hour between St. Johns and Catchpaw Station, carried the Rev. Thomas We. Fyles and his very young, 21 yearold wife Mary, and son to their new mission at Iron Hill.”
The Anglican Church of the Ascension in West Brome is a pretty two-storey white church dating from 1885. The church was built with support from members of the Pettes family, whose relatives in Knowlton built the Pettes Memorial Library.
St. James Anglican Church in Foster is relatively young, built in 1907 and consecrated in 1910. Perched atop a knoll on Lakeside Rd., it is constructed of patterned cement blocks.