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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 317: Pre-1900 Buildings: St. Augustine's Church and Mission, Peace River

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A simple log church and a graveyard are all that remain of St. Augustine's Mission in the Peace River District.

According to historian Dorothy Field, the church has survived for more than a century.

St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Mission was first established in 1888, but was moved subsequently to the current location of St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in 1896. And this log church was built in that year.

St. Augustine's played an important role during the fur trade, and soon became a focal point for the people who lived in the remote Peace River Country.

Father August Toussant OMI was responsible for establishing St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Mission. It was located along a critical fur trade route, the Shaftesbury Trail, which was a supply route for points north, and played a major role in the life of local native and Métis people, providing them with education and hospital care.

And these were the majority of the people who used the facility until after the First World War, when there was quite an influx of white settlers into the area.

The logs used to construct the church were laid in a horizontal fashion. The belfry is conical.

Well, it's a very simply rectangular plan, with a gable front and a steeple on the apex at the front.

It's a log church, although you can't tell that now because it has clapboard on the outside, but most of the early buildings pre-1900 in these more remote areas were built of logs.

This is quite similar to other mission churches of the period, for instance St. Charles at Dunvegan.

In fact it was part of quite a large complex of buildings, including a residential school and a hospital, and was in use as such until 1950. In 1964, the site became a correctional institution and the church is the only remaining building from the original mission.

Inmates at the correctional institute helped restore the tiny church and graveyard, and in 1978, St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church was designated a provincial historic resource.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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