St. James Church

This church was built or finished on October 4, 1893, by Thomas Robison, William Embleton and James Patterson. This is known because a small triangular piece of wood was found when the steeple was removed. It was dated October 4, 1893. The New Church was dedicated on Sunday, June 6, 1896. This church was originally the St. James Presbyterian Church, later known as the St. James United Church, and was later on sold to the Baptist Church. It has since been sold and is now privately owned as a small business.



On behalf of the United Church Community, I would like to thank you for inviting us to relate to you the history of the Church.

This Church is a very important part of the heritage of our community and we are very pleased to see it provide your congregation with a new home.

The information on the history of the Church I will be reading tonight has been taken from a paper compiled by Mary Coburn in 1966. We have prepared copies for distribution tonight, and would encourage you to take them with you so that this valuable piece of history may be preserved.


A plaque commemorating the work of those people active in the construction and maintaining of this building will be placed here later this spring

In order to trace the history of St. James Church it is well to start at the beginning.

As is probably well known, a Ladies Sewing Circle, was organized in September 1886 whose main objective was “to work for the Church”. At this time there was but one Church in Harvey known to all as “The Upper Church”. This fine old building was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, 1895 and was replaced by the present St. Andrew’s Church.

At that time, once in two weeks, a Sunday evening service was held in Taylor’s Hall, now the upper part of the house owned and occupied by Mrs. Arthur Cunningham During the week, the Christian Endeavor Society met in the same hall. This building soon proved to be entirely inadequate, so the ladies of the Circle decided something must be done and, with a vision characteristic of them, the idea of building a Church in the Village was born. When a site for the building was discussed Marshall Robison presented the circle with a deed of the land where St. James Church now stands. His son, Thomas Robison planned and built the Church which is considered a fine type of architecture. The deed to the land given by Marshall and Mary Robison is dated April 20, 1893.

One of the first things done by the Circle, aside from Church work, was the purchase of an organ for a society known as The Sons of Temperance, so as a mark of appreciation when the Church was nearly completed the Sons of Temperance came forth and offered to pay for a bell. They made a considerable amount of money by holding a picnic and $125.00 of this was given to the Circle and gladly accepted.

The bell, still in use is made of bell metal and is of a fine quality and tone. The cost of installing the bell was next considered. Mr. John W. Taylor proposed the construction of an elaborate framework to hoist the bell to the tower, this he estimated could be done for $25.00, a large sum in those days.

Mr. Thomas Robison, the builder, thought it could be done for $5.00, so the Circle accepted his offer. The bell was hung in the belfry without mishap and when the job was completed the $5.00 was given back to the Circle. An interesting little story is connected

with the iron ornament which tops the steeple of the church. The only blacksmith in the Village was Mr. Michael Donahue, who lived with his large family in the house where what is now the Royal Bank beside the residence of Mrs. Elwood McLean. The main part of the house was still in use in 1966. 

The Donahue’s were the only Roman Catholic family in the village, so when Mr. Thomas Robison approached Mr. Donahue to make a pattern for something lasting to finish the steeple and they had worked out a design in wrought iron, Mr. Robison asked what the charge would be, Mr. Donahue asked if he might be allowed to donate his materials and work to the new Church. This was “allowed” and Mr. Donahue and several members of his family attended the dedication of the building.

The Church was first lighted with oil lamps, which was followed by an acetylene plant, and later still by electricity. Mr. William McGee, (who lived next door to the Church in what is now Austin Pollock’s home) was the first janitor, serving for many years. He did an excellent job and he was so punctual that many residents of the Village set their clocks when he rang the bell knowing that the time by Mr. McGee’s big railroad watch, would be absolutely correct. His successors – were Wesley Cleghorn, Gardiner Essensa and William Hunter, all good janitors. 

    There have been others whose names I do not have but they may known to this audience. Mr. McGee worked for years without a salary, then he was given the magnificent amount of $25.00 a year. Many organists have throughout the years given their time and talents and until the late Prof. John Peterson was hired to teach music in Harvey and act as organist, no organist received any pay and probably not even a thank you. Years ago people did not expect any reward, consequently none was offered. I am told that the salary of Rev. J.A. MacLean was $700.00 per year with preaching stations at Acton, South Tweedside, Tweedside (sometimes York Mills & Coburn) as well as the two Churches in Harvey. I have not a complete list of the various organists but I believe that Maude Glendenning later the wife of Dr. Gilbert Chamberlain may have been the first. Others were Margaret Smith, Annie Smith, Regina Keith (a sister of the local doctor) Elizabeth Robison, Ada Robison, Annie Robison, Maude Robison, Alice Robison, Ellen Robison, Mary Robison, Jeanette Robison, Ella Hunter and Alice Little, prior to Church Union, followed by Dora Hunter, Mrs. Lorne Coffey, Mrs. Ross Robbins, Mrs. Douglas Delaney, Mrs. Wallace Coburn, Mrs. Linda Little, Mrs. Ford Messer, Helen Ritchie Christie, Mrs. Roy Coburn, Prof John Peterson and Mrs. W.L. Randall. These names are not in order and I have probably overlooked some, though not intentionally. Mrs. Karl Byers, Miss

Blanche Cleghorn, Mrs. Lloyd Wood and Mrs. Hazen Burrell have all played at various times but I do not know if they were officially hired or just helping out.

The first choir was composed of many fine voices and as all could read music well, it was four part singing. Visiting clergymen often commented on the quality of the music, so unusual in a small country church. This choir was composed of Glendenning’s, Smith’s and Robison’s. 

Ministers of St. James Church were, Rev. James A. MacLean, for whom the Church was named, Rev. Malcolm J. Macpherson, Rev. Jamieson F. MacKay, Rev J. Hugh McLean (son of the first minister) Rev. Alexander MacKay, Rev. Ross Robbins, Rev. Edward Aitken, Rev John L. Rose and Rev. W.L. Randall. These ministers were all natives of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island of which it was said years ago that; the main exports of these two Provinces were horses and ministers, “putting the horses in first place for some unknown reason’:

The Church was finally finished and dedicated on Sunday June 7, 1896. The following account is taken from a newspaper clipping in an old scrapbook.

Harvey Station, N.B. June 9, 1896, Formal Opening of the

New Presbyterian Church for Worship.

“On Sunday, June 7th the new Presbyterian Church at Harvey Station was formally opened for worship. The inception of this Church was in the minds of the ladies of the Harvey Station Sewing Circle about six years ago. Since then they have striven towards this object and now they have an enduring monument of their energy. The Church has been erected at a cost of nearly $2,000 and there remains on it only about $200 of debt.The main building is 20 feet by 45 feet with an end for the choir of 8 feet. To it, -every way the building is a credit to the place and people and compares favorably with any country church in this Province and also with many city churches.

Recommended Reading

Interested in learning more about the rich history and heritage of the Harvey region? Here are a few blog posts that might pique your interest: