Shipwreck at St. Croix Cove?
Old stories and built heritage the focus of Annapolis County churches event
There are lots of stories from the Fundy shore. Ann McCurdy tells the one about the five Portuguese sailors who tried to get to safety after their ship was wrecked off St. Croix Cove.
McCurdy spent a couple of hours at the St. Croix Cove Baptist Church Sept. 28 as part of Doors Open for Churches, an initiative of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. Twenty- eight churches across Annapolis County were open to the public that day and the next.
The two- day event was as much to hear the old stories as it was to appreciate the architecture and craftsmanship going back several hundred years.
In the case of St. Croix Cove, the building is possibly 178 years old, but nobody knows for sure. The first known recorded reference to it is 1843 with the suggestion it was built shortly before that.
“Dedication of Saint Croix Meeting House: The Baptist Meeting House lately finished in this thriving locality was opened for divine worship on Wednesday of this month,” said the Christian Messenger in January of 1856. “Elder N. Viditoe and Elder S. King preached. The house is 30 X 38, and is creditable to the taste of the people and the skill of the architect.”
Margaret Herdman, the chairwoman of the Places of Worship Committee of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, dropped in to see the little St. Croix Cove church.
“We started last year with a trial run in Cape Breton for two of the counties, looking at trying to make the saving or the interest in built heritage be more than just in urban centres,” she said of the Doors Open for Churches events. “So we moved it out into smaller communities.”
She said the people in those communities didn’t really realize they were saving built heritage by saving churches, but in fact that was what they were doing – saving the heritage of their community.
“We did Kings County last weekend and we’re doing Annapolis this weekend,” she said in an interview at St. Croix Cove. “I would say the same thing. There are a lot of people who have a lot of pride and love for their churches. Just look at the wonderful work that was done a hundred, two hundred years ago. It’s pretty special.”
She said for Heritage Trust, preservation of built heritage is a priority.
“But it’s also the stories, and the whole culture of the community, not just the building,” she said. “A church is so central to a community, especially in days gone by,” Herdman said. “I don’t know how big St. Croix Cove would have been.”
McCurdy speculated about 15 homes with quite a few kids back when the building was constructed. She said there was a school for St. Croix Cove just up the road from the church.
“So you had schools and churches and probably a post office,” Herdman said of rural communities.
McCurdy told the 1879 story of the Portuguese sailors. And it’s retold in information compiled by Marilynn Linley of nearby Port Lorne.
“The ship ran aground in a severe winter storm and five sailors attempted to reach safety by following lights from what was then the home of James Hill,” Linley wrote. “Unfortunately, none of the sailors survived and their frozen bodies were discovered the next morning by Mr. Hill.”
The dead men were thought to be Portuguese because of the coins in their pockets.
“With the help of other men in the community, Mr. Hill brought the bodies to the church where they were thawed out and put in caskets built by Mr. Hill,” Linley wrote. “Because they were Portuguese, it was assumed that they were Roman Catholic and so could not be buried in the local cemetery, but were buried in a private plot of land in the village.”
Margaret Herdman, chairwoman of the Places of Worship Committee of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, dropped in to see the St. Croix Cove Baptist Church Sept. 28 as part of Doors Open for Churches.
These strait-back, hard wooden pews at the St. Croix Cove Baptist Church weren’t built for comfort. The comfort was supposed to come from the pulpit. The church was open to the public Sept. 28 for Doors Open for Churches, an initiative of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia.