St. Martin’s of Tours 


The current location of St. Martin’s church is a small community on the south shore of Prince Edward Island, Cumberland. From the 1720’s to the late 1750’s this region was the homeland to several French families inhabiting Port la Joie. The first priests to come to the Island were situated in this area, which is now more commonly known as Fort Amherst. There was a small parish, built in 1722, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, which thrived until 1759 when the British deported the citizens and destroyed their homes.[1] Following the deportation, families immigrated to the south shore from Ireland in the 1820’s and settled on property belonging to a daughter of General Fanning, who was the original proprietor of Township sixty-five.[2] For a long period of time the settlers had no choice but to travel to Charlottetown across the harbor for church services either by boat, or across the ice during the winter months. Getting to mass in Charlottetown was not an easy task, as there were no roads in this region; meaning the devout Catholic settlers would paddle past Holland Cove and around Blockhouse Point to reach the harbor. Due to the fact there was no parish close by, some of the residents celebrated mass locally at Matthew Murphy’s; the home of one of the parishioners in the community. However, certain rituals, such as baptisms could only be successfully executed at St Dunstan‘s, forcing them to brave the elements to the Capital.

                With enough interest from the residents, along with permission from the present Bishop, Peter MacIntyre, the community decided to build their own parish. The church was originally drawn up and planned to be constructed of wood. However, rampant fire outbreaks engulfed several churches during this time, forcing the residents to re-evaluate their plans and decided the church should be constructed of Island sandstone; a decision which certainly has proven to stand the test of time. With the generous contribution made by Matthew Murphy to use the stone from his quarry, and Patrick Scott’s donation of land, it was made possible for St. Martin’s of Tours to be constructed by the community.  It has been said the quarry was opened and construction began roughly in 1865. Located a quarter-mile down the road, the stone was cut and hauled to the building site. According to father A.E. Burke and his 1886 history of Catholic Parishes, the church was completed and opened in 1872. The small parish was designed by Irish-born mason-architect John Corbett, who was responsible for the construction of several notable Roman Catholic buildings including Bishop’s Palace, Notre-Dame Convent, and St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was destroyed by fire in 1897. The church was constructed by James Foley and brothers, Lawrence and Peter Murphy, along with the help of fellow neighbors and parishioners.  Measuring fifty feet in length and twenty-six feet wide, it is noted as being the smallest stone church east of Quebec. Another unique characteristic of St. Martin’s of Tours, which may be the reason why it has stood through the high winds of the southern shores, is the impressive double wall structure.[3] The building of the church would not have been possible without the collaboration of the community, as many of the men in the community were quick to jump in and lend a hand.

                After completing the church, it was to be dedicated to St. Martin’s of Tours (316-397 AD), who was the bishop of Tours, France, and a pioneer in Western monasticism. His tomb was rediscovered in 1862, only a few years prior to the erection of the church.[4] There is strong reason believe the rediscovery of St Martin’s tomb, was the reason behind dedicating this small church in his honor. The feast day is another important date to note, also known as the Saint’s Day, a day for celebrating the life of St. Martin, which is still celebrated during mass each year, on November 11th. St. Martin’s was under the ministry of St. Dunstan’s Parish until 1929, when the Redemptorist Fathers of Holy Redeemer Parish began serving. A vestry was constructed of brick in 1930, which needed to be replaced in 1971. In 1932, a Parish house was erected with the help of the Altar Society, to serve as a summer residence for the priest, or to host parish social events, such as the annual strawberry social. In 1971 the Parish was again under the ministry of St. Dunstan’s, which had paved the parking lot and installed a bell in the church tower. In 1977, the parish became associated with St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Cornwall, and in 2010, amalgamated with St. Anne’s Parish in Emyvale, creating the Good Shepherd Pastoral Unit.

                The small stone church is still frequented by descendants of the early pioneers responsible for its completion, and may also be the reason why the church is still functioning. The cemetery, made possible by donation of land by John Lannan, is located across the road. The cemetery serves as a historical walk through the past, as many of the early settlers are buried here. The detailed inscriptions on the headstones allow visitors a personal sneak peek into the past. Murphy, Hogan, Quilty, Dowling, Doyle, Lannan and Griffin are just a few of the names seen regularly on the headstones. These settlers emigrated from the southeast of Ireland from counties such as Tipperary, Carlow, Wexford, and Waterford.

                St. Martins of Tours has recently been recognized as one of Canada’s Historic Places, not only because it has been standing for almost 140 years. Architectural features such as the sandstone, brick and pointed-arch Gothic windows, have also contributed to its historic designation. The building stands as a testament to hard work, co-operation and devotion to prayer during a time when the people had little else.



[1] Father Art O’Shea, History of Catholic Parishes, 2002

[2] Father A.E Burke. Mission of St. Martins. 1886

[3] Catholic Parishes, 2002

[4] Mission of St. Martin

New Dominion United Church: Compiled by Bill MacEwen


            Today we are the heirs of all ages, and it is wise and necessary that we should endeavour to understand the past while we are advancing.

            The present is the result of the past, the concentration and completion of by-gone days. The history of this Church is a record of noble self-sacrificing men and women.

            The present structure is not the first Presbyterian Church in this area, as previous to 1862 services were held in a building used as a Church and familiarly called “the meeting house.” It was situated on the road leading to Long Creek, about midway between New Dominion corner and Mr. Bruce Smith’s gate – in the vicinity of Lowther’s Service Station. We have not been able to find out whether or not it was built for a Church but we do know that for an undetermined number of years services were held in it.

            The congregation was sparse and widely scattered, the boundaries extended from Rocky Point to Bonshaw, on the south side of the river and as well as a large section on the north side. At this time there was a ferry service at Westville and the names MacLeod and MacLean on church records indicate that they came from the north side of the river.

            The first church was situated in rather an isolated spot, surrounded by woods on all sides. This and the need for land for a cemetery were the main reasons, we presume, for moving to the present site which was part of the Wright estate. To these services people came long distances by horse, two-wheeled truck, cart, or on horse back, and it was not uncommon to walk eight or ten miles. The inspiration and Godliness of the patriarchs of the past was clearly demonstrated by their continued effort and too, the thought given and the confidence they have had in the future when they even conceived the idea of a building such as we have today. True, they had the guidance of leaders, for the names of Falconer ( who, we presume, was the father of the celebrated and much esteemed Rev. Robert Falconer), as well as Rev. Alex. And George Sutherland and Rev. William Ross whose name appears on the Act of Incorporation, are on Church records.

            On April 5, 1862 plans and specifications were drawn up for the erection of the present structure by Charles Binns, Charlottetown Lawyer, with James MacGregor, Architect and Contractor).

            The plans and specifications are available and it is worthy of note the thought which had been given them:- I quote “the window frames and outside facing 1 1/2”  plank, sashes 20” thick, framed, dowelled and glazed, with good plaster. Glass well bedded. The door 2” thick and hung with three pair of stout hinges and fastened with a good knob.” Everything specifically named, every detail taken into account. All timber was hand hewn and as one member remarked, “there must have been excellent co-operation, for there is still evidence of so many different kind of axes having been used.”

All the timbers were dove-tailed and wooden pegs used.

            The Act of Incorporation is dated April 17, 1862 and the corporate body named.  The following:- Rev. William Ross, ex-officio:- David MacEwen:-Donald Currie:-Richard Burdette:- Donald MacLeod:- Ewen MacMillan:- Norman MacKenzie:- and their successors forever declared to be a body corporate under and by the name “The Minister and Trustees of the Presbyterian Church, Elliot River” and that the annual meeting be held the first Tuesday of January. Those entitled to vote at such meetings were all made adherents in the congregation from twenty years up who may have a pew or half a pew, and not in arrears or who may be contributing fifteen shillings and upward annually and not in arrears.

            CLAUSE FOUR of the Act reads thus :- “ It shall not be lawful for the said Corporation to hold real estate for the use of the Congregation, which shall exceed in value at anytime more than a clear net yearly income of L. 1000 Island Currency.

            It is difficult to get any other particulars until 1896 when the square ceiling was arched and the gallery, which up until now had been part of the Church auditorium was enclosed. The first pulpit was high, of oak, with steps leading up to it on either side. Now, with the arched ceiling the pulpit was not satisfactory and it was not satisfactory and it was replaced with the one now in use.

            The next step was procuring an organ, Miss Bessie Stewart was the first organist with Mr. T.A. Stewart choir director and leader. At this time the organ was behind the pulpit and the choir sat on either side.

            There was no manse for the first years and the minister resided in what now Meadow Bank.

            In 1917 the interior of the Church was painted and the seats re-arranged; there were cross seats at both ends of the platform, now it was deemed advisable to remove the seats from the East side and have a raised platform for the choir as at present.

            The spire was high and winds and rain caused considerable trouble and in 1924 it was decided to replace it with four turrets as at present. There was considerable work on the interior and exterior at this time.

            In 1925 the Church decided by vote to enter Church Union and became part of the United Church of Canada.

            The exterior was painted in 1935 and again in 1953. there was also extensive remodeling in 1945. Electric lights were installed in 1950. During 1960 and 1961 the following repairs were made:- a new foundation, interior painted, new tile on the floor, as well as a new heating system installed.

            Through the years numerous donations and bequests have been gratefully received and “lest we forget” a few are named here :-

BELL- presented by Hon. Donald Farquharson, 1903.

CLOCK &  BIBLE presented by Capt. Ronald MacMillan.

ORGAN- presented by Mrs. Georgia MacKinnon, in memory of her nephew, Sgt. John Charles MacEwen, who made the supreme sacrifice in World War 1.

COLLECTION PLATES – presented by Mrs. James MacLean, Long Creek & Charlottetown.

COMMUNION TABLE- presented by Mr. & Mrs. Daniel MacPhee in memory of their daughters Anna R. and Harriet Jane.

BIBLE- presented by Mrs. D.N. Taylor, Mrs. Wm. Taylor, Mrs. A.K. MacPhee, 1945.

VASES- presented by Mrs. Garnet Campbell.

BAPTISMAL FONT- presented by Premier & Mrs. W.R. Shaw, 1959.

COMMUNION CHAIR- in memory of Mr. & Mrs. W.H. MacEwen, and Sgt. John Charles MacEwen, presented by the family, 1961.

CROSS- presented by Mrs. Wm. Petto in memory of her parents and brother, Lloyd.

            This brief sketch would be incomplete without the names of the ministers:-


Rev. Falconer    ________________________

Rev. Alex Sutherland____________________________________

Rev. George Sutherland__________________________________

W.M. Ross____________________________________________

Rev. S.C. Gunn__________1862-1870______________________

Rev. William Grant_______1870-1877______________________

Rev. A. S. Stewart__________1877_________________________

Rev. A.A. MacKenzie_____1889-1895_______________________

Rev. J.G. MacIvor________1889-1895______________________

Rev. M.J. MacIntosh________1895-1903____________________

Rev. A. Craise. _______________1903-1907__________________

Rev. W. J. Macleod______________1907-1915________________

Rev. W. A. Wood_______________1915-1917________________

Rev. C. U. MacNevin____________1919-1923________________

Rev. E. M. Aitken________________________________________

Rev. D. K. Ross_________________________________________

Rev. E. R. Woodside______________________________________

Rev. J. R. Skinner________________________________________

Rev. M. K. Charman______________________________________

Rev. Dr. A. S. Weir______________________________________

Rev. R. A. Patterson______________________________________

Rev. I. L. Wells      (Incumbent in office).



            Following each of the two World wars the members of the congregation saw fit to honour those who served their country by having engraved scrolls printed with their names thereon and placed a the front of the Church.

            Now, we have passed the century mark; we have much to be thankful, Godly parents, good birthright, rich land, and a new generation has risen to carry forward the enterprises entrusted to our care. We should be inspired with a zeal and energy worth of the splendid example set before us by our forefathers.

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