Ship­wreck at St. Croix Cove?

Old sto­ries and built her­itage the fo­cus of An­napo­lis County churches event

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY LAWRENCE POW­ELL THE SPEC­TA­TOR ST. CROIX COVE

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.”

LAWRENCE POW­ELL

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.

LAWRENCE POW­ELL

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.

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