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Our History - St James

St James United is made up of several congregations.

St James United

History of St. James, Sambro N.S.


In 1760 a group of families moved from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Barrington, Shelburne county. In 1794 some of these families moved again to Coote Cove near Sambro. These families were Methodists. They are where we got family names like Nickerson, Smith, Findley, and others now gone, Clattenburg and Thomas. Being methodists they held prayer meetings in their homes and in 1810 along with residents of Sambro formed the St. James congregation. With the loss of their leader the congregation was failing. This was likely Col. John Thomas who had come to Barrington from South Carolina. Prior to coming to Barrington he had sold his slaves except for one called “Jim”.  Jim must have had his own spot as there is an area known as “Jims Clearing” near Coote Cove that was said to have been his.


In 1821 Reverend William Black visited  the congregation. Born in 1760 in Huddersfield, England he emigrated with his parents and siblings to Cumberland County, Nova Scotia in 1775. A misbehaving rebel in his youth, he became known as the father of Methodism in the Maritime provinces. He was of ill health by the time he visited Sambro, but living in Halifax was able to visit. He started with a class of 18 people.


With Black's guidance the congregation was rebuilt and in 1830 a church, or meeting house, as the methodists referred to it as, was built down in the old cemetery. It was a plain rectangular building about 20 X 30 feet. In 1860 using local oxen it was moved up to where the parking lot of the present church is. In 1890 a major renovation took place. It was sawn in two, the ends separated, and 20 feet built in between.The two windows on each side were increased to four and the gothic peaks were added to them.  Foundation stones were cut by Elkanah Hamm and George Hamm cut the stone steps. I remember the steps, the lower one had more wear on the right and the next one more wear on the left as if everyone started in on the same foot.The steeple was added at this time, some complaining it was frivolous. Mrs John Smith donated the bell for the steeple and Rufus Gray and James Henneberry purchased an organ in Halifax  for $40. In 1824 Glen Margaret had built a church and in 1832 it and St. James were set up as a district, what we now call a pastoral charge. Many years passed before a minister was assigned to it. We know Rev. Robert Wasson was here by 1860 because there are records of buying a horse for him for 18 British pounds. By the way, his salary was half of the price of the horse, 9 pounds. In 1874 St. James tried to go it alone but by 1877 Glen Margaret requested to be joined back up with Sambro. It was agreed that the minister would preach two out of three Sundays in Sambro. In 1881 a parsonage was built in Sambro for the minister. Up until 1930 it was mostly ordained  ministers with a few Lay Supply, or as they were called Probationers. From 1930 to 1961 St. James was led by student ministers. On February 15, 1961 Halifax presbytery passed a motion that  Sambro, Long Pond and Jollimore Pastoral Charge be formed. In a service at Sambro Rev. B. R. Tupper was inducted as minister of the new charge on July 2, 1961. 


By this time Sambro and the surrounding area had grown to about 700 people and the old church was not adequate for the community. After getting quotes to upgrade the old church it was decided to build a new building. The church lot was small for a new church so the building committee in 1963 obtained from Mrs. Lucy Cooke the land from the rear of this lot to the water and a strip up the side to the lighthouse monument from Mrs. Lucy Cooke. As a side note her husband, Harris, built their house out of the lumber from the old Temperance hall after it was hit by lightning in 1921. The minister of the time, Rev. H.S. Bird drew up the plans for it. This hall was missed by the church and in 1937 the land was deeded to St. James and a new hall was built there.


The building committee for the church was Stanley Short, Chairman,  Murray Garrison, Secretary,  Aerial Gray, Curtis Hiltz, George Gray, Albert Gray, Cecil Drew, Maurice Gray, and Rev. B. R. Tupper. The finance Committee was B. R. Tupper, Chairman,  Mrs. Ralph (Inez) Nickerson, Secretary,  Mrs. Aerial (Lila) Gray, Treasurer,  Mrs. Leslie (Marjorie) Schnare, Mrs. Cecil (Elsie) Drew, Mrs. N.P. (Avis) Henneberry, and Mrs. Royce (Irene) Schnare. I have taken the liberty to add in brackets the ladies given first names which are not on the official records.


Money had to be raised. It was heard that slippers could be knit from the nylon remnants of material from the manufacture of ladies undergarments. Large boxes of this scrap were sorted in local homes by children to seniors by colour and size. The ladies knit and sold slippers and were amazed that almost $1,500 was in the memorial fund in the first year. This fund became the building fund. In March 1964 the finance committee made plans for an every person visitation. Well over 85% of the community responded  and almost $15,000. was promised, mostly over the next 3 years.


The building committee looked for a building that would suit their needs. They decided a church like one in Birch Cove, off of the Bedford Highway, would be perfect. The 40 x 80 foot building would seat over 200 and the basement would have accommodations for Sunday School and youth groups as well as a hall for suppers. The builder of many fine churches in the area, L. B. Stevens Construction Co. agreed to build it for an estimated cost of $55,000.


The final service in the old church was  on April 26, 1964. The service was conducted by Rev. Tupper. The special speaker for the service was Rev. Murray Gardner who, in the same spot 16 years prior had preached his last sermon as a student minister. Mrs. Percy Smith, who had played the organ for the last 50 years also played for this service. Instead of playing the recorded chimes, William (Bill) Gilkie, who had been the Church sexton for over 30 years rang the old bell to call the congregation to the service. The Explorers, C.G.I.T., Boy Scouts, and Cubs attended in uniform. The following day the church's contents  were moved to the hall so services could be held there. On Wednesday the 29th a bulldozer razed the old church. As the steeple hit the ground a young Frankie Gray ran up and salvaged a piece of the ball from the top and a blue window pane from the steeple window. He broke the pane to share with friends but saved a piece and the ball part. They are now displayed in the church entrance.


As the work was starting on the new building it was noted that the church was too close to the eastern line at the back to allow for enough backfill. Another strip obtained from Mrs. John Smith about ten feet wide from the road to the shore solved this. The carpenters started on July 8th and by October 24th were ready for the laying of the cornerstone, the outside being all but completed by then. A copper box behind it contains a 1963 annual church report, photos of  the old church, a church bulletin from October 18, an April 26 Bulletin, a pair of the slippers, a 1964 coin, and a current issue of the Chronicle-Hearld newspaper. With the help of volunteer labour working some evenings and Saturdays the Church was ready for a dedication ceremony on November 29th., seven months from the last service in the old Church. 


After the new building was finished the old hall was deemed surplus and given to Gerald Gray who built his house with the lumber. The hall lot was tiny and given to the neighbor that owned the land around it.  Although the old manse had been upgraded over the years it was not up to the standard of the day. When the minister's wife said she needed to wear a sweater in the bath in the winter it was decided to do something. A new manse could be built on the rear of the church but about that time Leslie Findley was building a new house at Sambro Creek. It was decided to purchase the Findley property which was directly across from the Church. When Halifax Presbytery inspected the house they rejected it because the bath was off of the kitchen. At the next Presbytery meeting a delegation attended and Murray Garrison, secretary of the board of trustees, spoke of how much of an improvement this was over the old manse. He explained how many of the older houses in the community had their pantries off of the kitchen converted to baths. Presbytery was swayed and we bought the house. The old manse was sold to help pay for  the new one. If my and Leslie’s memory is correct this was about 1985 and the purchase price was about $55,000. When Rev. Fairchild was coming with a young family and it was decided another bedroom was necessary. Using volunteer labour this was accomplished by adding a second story over the living room. During Rev. Chisholms time with us we had complaints about dampness and mold in the basement. To solve the problem the foundation was dug up and waterproofed and drain tile and gravel installed. 


The time had come when ministers wanted to own their own homes and it was decided to sell our manse. Rev. Chisholm had moved out before the foundation was finished and we found that renting the manse was not a good idea. In 2007 we sold it for $184,000. After a new septic and legal costs were able to invest $154,000. into a United Church investment fund. This was to be used to pay a housing allowance to our minister.


The church itself had many upgrades. Getting harder to get volunteers to climb ladders to paint the church it was decided to install vinyl siding, the roof has been reshingled a couple of times, insulation increased, and many smaller projects completed. In 2003 Hurricane Juan hit the church knocking the top off of the chimney and damaging the roof and ceiling. In 2018 with the help of government grants we were able to install a lift between the main floor and the hall floor at a total cost of $37,860.00. In 2019 the Church pavement was in need of replacing. An anonymous donor noticed and made a large donation towards repaving but the cost was more than the donation. With donations from the local fishermen the $64,000. cost was met. The paving was dedicated to the memory of our lost fishermen.


 In 2019 Hurricane Dorian struck our Church and a door blew open allowing the air to be sucked out. The vacuum caused the roof trusses to be stressed out of shape and the east side wall to bulge. Ceiling tiles and insulation fell to the floor. A real mess! The insurance paid the cost of Lindsays construction, who strengthened the trusses, replaced the eastern side of the roof and repaired the interior. The ceiling insulation was increased at the same time. 


By 2020 the furnaces were over 30 years old and needed replacing. The board of management wanted to get off of oil and go to a green method of heating. It was decided to install two air to air heat pumps. The ? cost of $ will be off set in the next few years by the reduction of the heating expense.


St. James always was a socially responsible church helping those in the community and the world. It did what it could to help those in need such as supporting the St. Paul's food bank. But in 2015 we were without leadership when many churches were sponsoring Syrian refugee families. St. James got to make up for this with the help of the community when we heard of a family with two grown daughters that couldn’t come to Halifax with them. Their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren were stuck in a refugee camp in Jordan. St.James doubled what the city churches boasted about when it sponsored both daughters and their families. More than the required $56,000.  minimum was raised in a short time.


There have been many suppers and fundraisers over the years but in 2000 a dinner theatre was started. It was a major financial and social success until in 2020 Covid 19 brought it to a stop. In 2021 and 2022 only take out dinners were served. A once a month soup lunch met the same fate. Covid 19 also closed our “in Church services” for a while, then sanitizing and masks allowed services again although few attended.    

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