Old Stone Butter Church - Duncan, BC
Posted by: arby101ca
N 48° 46.153 W 123° 38.545
10U E 452795 N 5402000
Quick Description: The original mission church for the Cowichan Indians built in 1870 but abandoned in 1880 in favour of St Ann's Church. It has remained for over 100 years a haunted structure on the hill, abandoned, deconsecrated and desecrated.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 4/26/2009 9:51:32 PM
Waymark Code: WM699H
Father Peter Rondeault was a 33-year-old Quebecois who arrived in Fort Victoria in June 1858 and later set out for Cowichan with just a sack of flour, a gun and his breviary. After hiking to Brentwood Bay he paddled a canoe to Comiaken where, in the words of Father Joseph J. Cyr, nothing awaited him: “no house, no furniture, no church, and often no food.”
The young priest said his first Mass in Chief Jean Baptiste’s large house. Upon construction of a small log church, Rondeault built himself a one-room, dirt-floored log cabin, the Cowichans donating hand-split planks for its interior walls; furnishings consisted of just a bed, table and chair.
In 1870 Father Rondeauld with native helpers built the stone church on Comiaken Hill. It is known as the Butter church as he paid his helpers with funds raised from the sale of butter from his dairy herd on the mission's farm.
To his dismay, the church was only used for ten years as Bishop Demers orderd a new church be built on land with clear title. The verbal agreement authourizing the construction of the church on Indian land was not sufficient for the bishop. The stone church was abandoned an repeatedly vandalized. It developed a reputation as the haunted church among the natives. Repairs were attempted in 1922 and again in 1958 and 1980 when it was rebuilt as a cultural centre but the church rapidly reverted to the ghostly vandalized structure prominently located on Comiaken Hill.
The haunted church has a rich oral history. This was captured in 1931 with a report in "Ripley's Believe It or Not" They described "The church of no services...in which no congregation has ever gathered." According to Ripley, "the Indians will not go near (it) because all those who actually built it died mysteriously." In this case, Believe it Not. Services were held in the church for ten years, 1870 to 1880.
For a historical perspective, consider the historical time line. Vancouver Island (British Columbia) became the self governing colony in 1849 with James Douglas, the factor of Hudson's Bay Company atFort Victoria as the governor. Bishop Modeste Demers worked to establish the civilizing influence of the church on this ex-fur trading post. Bishop Demers went to Quebec to enlist the aid of priests and nuns willing to work as missionaries in the new colony on the edge of the frontier. Father Rondeauld, an Oblate priest answered the call with one other priest, two lay brothers including Brother Michaud and four Sisters of St Ann. They changed history. When they arrived back in Victoria in 1858, things had changed dramatically, Gold! The Barkerville gold rush was underway and new immigrants, rough miners, were everywhere. Father Rondeauld went to the Cowichan area and built three churches: the original log structure, the Stone Butter Church and St Ann's. The original wooden church built in 1880 was destroyed by fire in 1902 and rebuilt in 1903. Father Rondeauld died in in 1900 and never saw the final St Ann's but he is remembered and buried under the chapel at the back.
The Sisters of St Ann built in 1859 St Ann's Academy in Victoria, a convent and school for girls. See waymark WM67BO for the history. The sisters also built Providence House near St Ann's Church, Duncan in 1864. It remained a school for girls, many Cowichan natives for 100 years.
Brother Michaud who also came from Quebec in 1858 with Bishop Demers built St Andrew's Church as a classic Quebecois church as the cathedral for the diocese. This became St Ann's Chapel in 1871.
This handful of religious people have left there mark as they civilized the transition of British Columbia from a fur trading post to a self governing colony to a province in the Dominion of Canada. These waymarks trace this micro-history. From the small details on the accomplishments of individual people, we can better appreciate historical change than affects our destiny.
Date the Church was built, dedicated or cornerstone laid: 06/06/1870
Age of Church building determined by?: Other reliable source
If denomination of Church is not part of the name, please provide it here: Roman Catholic
If Church is open to the public, please indicate hours: From: 12:00 AM To: 12:00 AM
Indicate the time that the primary worship service is held. List only one: 12:00 AM
Street address of Church:
Duncan, BC Canada
Primary website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]
Secondary Website for Church or Historic Church Building: [Web Link]
If Church holds a weekly worship service and "all are welcome", please give the day of the week: Not listed
1) A photo of the church is required for visits to a waymark.
2) Please share some comments about your visit.
3) Additional photos are encouraged. If you can have information in addition to that already provided about this church, please share it with us.