Saint Mark, Avonmore

Clapboard buttresses

15. Archives - March 2023
St. Mark, Avonmore - Diocesan Archives 51 A7

Stormont Deanery

What are we to make of Saint Mark’s Church, Avonmore, viewed here as photographed in the mid twentieth century?  It looks so pristine, so perfect, and yet it has been gone for nearly 40 years. What happened to it anyway?

At first, it seems we need look no further than the pages of Faith of Our Fathers, a summary of early Anglican parish history published by the Anglican Book Society in 1957, when preparations were still underway for extensive flooding associated with the Saint Lawrence Seaway development.  Leonard Johnson wrote, “Progress exacts its toll!  In the path of the St. Lawrence Seaway stand three Anglican churches, one of them 120 years old, the other two 68 and 67, and two rectories which must, of necessity, be affected by this giant waterway system.”  At this time, Saint Mark’s, Avonmore, along with seven other Anglican churches was to be made redundant, to be replaced by two new larger churches and rectories.

But wait!  Avonmore was 10 miles inland from the Saint Lawrence.  It was in no danger of being flooded by the new seaway development.  Was it simply an excuse for some triumph of the philosophy that “bigger is better” in a time of ongoing clergy shortages?  Avonmore was one of eight small churches slated to be sacrificed by the Diocese so fewer clergy were needed to serve the same number of parishioners in two large new churches to be built by Ontario Hydro.

If that is what happened, we wonder what else lies beneath the surface of this idyllic little church?  Were the clapboards hiding actual stone buttresses and masonry walls in Saint Mark’s Church?  And, speaking of mysteries, which end of the church we see here held the chancel?

Avonmore began as part of the Mission of Newington, later renamed Newington & Northfield, as early as 1888.  Land was donated by Catherine and Oscar Fulton in 1891 where the main body of this frame house of worship was built in 1892.  Saint Mark’s Church, Avonmore was consecrated by Bishop John Travers Lewis on 31 October 1892.  In 1898, Avonmore became part of the Mission of Crysler & Newington.  In 1906, it was a church in the Mission of Newington & Avonmore, with an outstation at Saint Augustine’s Church, 8th Line.

By 1904, Saint Mark’s fabric was extended by building a tower and ample chancel.  This last piece of information suggests that we are looking at the chancel end of the church here.  The tower was a local landmark—a handsome composition that provided room for an ample vestry at the base, with its belfry distinguished by four turrets capped by finials.  The lancet arches of the belfry vents were placed below a handsome band of interlaced quatrefoils.  In the background a very long driveshed extends from one side of the photograph to the other.

In 1914, Saint Mark’s became part of the Parish of Newington.  In 1960, it was transferred to the Parish of Long Sault which had churches at Long Sault and Maxville.  The rectory (shown here on the right) was sold in June 1961, and that year Saint Augustine’s, 8th Line amalgamated with Saint Mark’s.  It was not until 1978 that Saint Mark’s Church closed, with the last regular service held on 12 November.  In the summer of 1982, Saint Mark’s Church was deconsecrated and closed permanently due to needed expensive repairs to the building and a greatly diminished congregation.  The land on which it stood was sold to Donald Duffy in 1985.

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