Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 52 - William Y. Porter & South Head Church

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1991/6/1 (318 reads)

William Y. Porter & South Head Church CONTINUED FROM INSIDE FRONT COVER appointment as schoolmaster, for we next encounter him in Sydney, Cape Breton, in 1834, engaged in his first vocation, if not his most important one. Of his years as schoolmaster, ail is silence. However, we know that he held the post for six years in a community where schoolmasters were scarce. From as early as November 2,1834, Reverend Charles Ingles, rector of St. George's, had asked for an assistant to take services at remote settlements such as Cow Bay. In 1838, Mr. Ingles stated that "the Church of England on the Island is in a destitute state, owing to the superior advantages enjoyed by every other denomination." These superior advantages are well documented by Laurie Stanley in her study of the early years of the Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton, A Well-watered Garden: The Glasgow Ladies' Society had funded by 1840 at least four clergymen in Cape Breton. But the Presbyterian Church in Port Morien was not permanently supplied until 1851. As well, there was a significant Roman Catholic population well supplied with clergy throughout the Island. Ingles hoped that the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts would "turn Its attention to this significant desert." It was therefore through the efforts of Ingles that William Y. Porter assumed the role for which he had longed when a student at Cambridge. He was ordained a priest in 1840. Thus began a ministry to the scat? tered communities along the southeastern shores of Cape Breton which lasted for nineteen years. In addition, he assisted two incum? bents at St. George's, first the Reverend Charles Ingles and, in 1853, the Reverend Richard Uniacke. He was able In his nineteen years to green that "significant desert." The Reverend Porter was the first missionary to provide regular ser? vices to the people of Big Glace Bay, Cow Bay, Mira, Malnadieu, Lor? raine, Louisbourg and smaller points in between. As we have seen, these settlements, given over to fishing, farming and mining, strag? gled along the coast of Cape Breton, dependent on the whims both of the market and of nature. In serving his charges, no missionary '__'''''''''''''''''''''H Seafood Forever Hova Scotia Fish and Shellfish ' ''''' Make it a part ofyour Keep fit L.'5W. Fisheries Honourable Guy Le Blanc 1 Minister 1 The View at the Heart of Your Great Cape Breton Visit! Kelly's View Motel East of Boularderie Centre 3/4 mile from Seal Island Bridge Cape Breton's Newest Motel at Affordable Rates _' ( Modern Motel Units featuring Full Baths and Colour TV ) manifested greater zeal and dedication, for the roads were bad and the weather often indifferent. He wrote In his 1840 report: "On November 13,1 went to the settle? ment of Cow Bay and was about four days during which I preached three times and paid several visits. Distance thirty-six miles, eighteen on horseback, eighteen walking." This revealing statment gives us some indication of the travail of the early missionary: he needed to prepare three sermons and negotiate a hazardous trail through virgin forest; then when he arrived he made time to visit the scattered homes of the faithful. Richard Uniacke alludes to William Porter's large and difficult territory In his Sketches of Cape Breton, in particular the distances he trav? elled: "I have often heard the late Travelling Missionary the Reverend Porter speak of these distant expeditions, and of the fatigue of offi? ciating In these outlying stations." In the same year, 1840, Rev. Porter made this self-effacing yet rea? listic comment: "I am conscious little has been effected in comparison with what is required; and I am thoroughly aware my best efforts are valueless and without avail, unless the blessing of God rest upon them. I trust to proceed in my course with an earnest desire to pro? mote the glory of God, the interests of our Holy and Apostolic Church and the salvation of souls: but the result is alone In the Hands of Him whom we all serve. I pray he may vouchsafe to accept my endea? vours, and employ them to the advancement of his Kingdom." The language is flowery but the focus Is correct. It is from the Reverend Porter that we first learn of the efforts of the faithful to build a church In South Head. In 1844, Mr. Porter said: "Our poor flock at Cow Bay are making a great effort for the erection of their church, which Is raised and boarded, and other preparations are proceeding [he doesn't say what they were] so that we expect the ensuing summer will see it considerably fonA/arded." The church which he refers to is the present church at South Head, only a chapel at this early date, but so long now a symbol of this man's jour? ney in faith. The land was donated by George Spencer, a descendant of Loyalists. As we shall see, parishioners took some time to build their little church because they were poor. One of the local residents has told the author that the timbers for this church were hewn on the Morrison road and transported with great difficulty to the site, no mean feat considering the distance that they had to transport them. Phone 674-2473 Your Hosts: Billie & Joe Smolenaars RESTAURANT ADJACENT 52 He suggested in his report that the missionar? ies should concentrate on established mis? sions such as the one at South Head rather than on all the pockets of believers between
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