The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

April 19, 2006

Apr. 19, 2006 – St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church

With the coming of the Scottish and Irish Catholics in 1872-1873 and then a large number of French Catholics in 1877 there was a need for a Catholic Church. Until that time services were held in homes, mostly, Thomas Shanahan’s. Rev. Hugh Malone, Parish Priest of Parrsboro, would come to Springhill once a month and held mass, heard confessions, baptized children and made plans for future weddings.

The first little wooden church was built in 1878 by Philip Gilmore and for a time Rev. Hugh Malone continued to serve as Priest. Father Egan was the first resident Priest. The Church was blessed in 1881 by Archbishop Hannan assisted by Cannon Power, Father Kearns, Father Murphy and Father Malone.

The Glebe House was built in 1888 and was enlarged 20 years later. This has since been replaced.

The little church was soon too small with some of the parishioners having to kneel outside on the steps or on the ground during mass and in 1893 it was decided to build a larger church. The little Church was moved back to Pleasant St. and became to C.M.B.A. Hall (Catholic Mutual Benevolent Association) and was later used for Parish Activities. The CMBA used to hold “Goose Suppers” in aid of the Catholic Chapel. These were held at Michael Dunn’s and then dancing was held next door at Mahoney’s with a policeman to keep order. The only trouble was that the policeman had a few drinks and ended up causing a disturbance. At the regular meeting of the CMBA held December 11, 1895 the following were elected: James Murphy, James McNeil, P. Gaudet, R.J. MacDonald, William Shields, Michael Dunn, Alex McKinnon, D.T. Chisholm, D.D. McNeil, Board of Trustees, R.J. McDonald, F.S. Heffernan, James Murphy, James McNeil and Jude Gould. The little church was later torn down.

Father Egan decided he wanted the new church built of stone and was shown an ideal bed of stone down by the Lake ; however, this belonged to the Coal Company. J.R. Cowans gave him permission to use the stones and told Rev. Egan that he would pay for any surplus stones that were quarried. The estimated cost was $10,500. The corner stone was laid in the fall of 1894 by Rev. Dr. Walsh of Londonderry , N.S. assisted by Rev. Egan and Father Mihan, P.P.. The church was built in the Romanesque Revival style which was designed by James Charles Dumaresq.

The stones had to be hauled up Junction Road down Main and then up Chapel Street . Both street were and still are very steep.

Rev. Walter J. Doody became the second Parish Priest in 1897. At that time the basement had been completed and used as a Chapel until the rest of the church was finished in 1903-1904. Corey Johnson did the plastering and the painter was E.A. Potter. At that time, the basement was used as a second church. First Mass of Sunday Services and Sunday school were held there. Today, it is used for recreational purposes.

With the high mortgage held on the church the members held an annual bazaar in the drill shed which were always followed by a dance.

Father Doody was an Irishman who was the Parish Priest here for 37 years. He was a great supporter of the Springhill Baseball Team and often attended the games. He died in Springhill in 1934 and is buried here.

The next Priest was Rev. Thomas Sweet from Windsor , N.S. He died of a heart attack and is also buried here.

Rev. Sweet was followed by the Very Rev, T.J. Buchanan, Dean of the Deanery. He made many improvements to the interior of the church such as the pipe organ.

St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church was built cruciform, has beautiful stained glass windows and is one of the few stone churches in Nova Scotia .