The Beginnings of St. Andrew’s Parish
In the 1820’s, following the amalgamation of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West Company, this stretch of the Red River was settled by retired and redundant members of the Hudson Bay Company. They were Orkney Islanders, and their wives and families.Archdeacon W. Cockran established a mission and built a wooden church here in 1831. This wooden church, outline of which can be found directly behind the present church, built for 340 people, soon became too small to accommodate the congregation and a new church built by Duncan McRae and designed by W. Cockran made of stone was begun in 1844 and completed in 1849.
The church is an example of an architectural style known as Gothic Revival, popular in England in the 18th century. The style and layout of St. Andrew’s is an example of what is known as a pre-Tractarian church design. The Gothic design is evident in the windows. The wooden beams for the frames had to be steamed two or three weeks to bend. The same geometric shape can be found on the pulpit, communion rails, lectern and by the choir stalls.The design of the ceiling, however, is in the shape of an inverted York Boat. Most of the men who worked on the church were familiar with the strength and durability of the York boats and knew the design would work well in the ceiling. The wood for the roof trusses, shingles, and floor boards came from the “Far Pines” or what is now Bird’s Hill. The stone for the church came from a quarry on the banks of the Red River a mile or two north of the church. Most of the interior has remained unchanged since 1849 with the exception of the carpeting.
Upon entering the church, one’s eyes fall on the beautiful stained glass window above the altar. This window is in memory of Archdeacon Cockran and was installed sometime between 1875 and 1884. It was brought from England to the Red River Settlement through the United States and from Fort Garry to St. Andrews by Red River cart. The window depicts Jesus calling Andrew and Peter to become “fishers” of men. There is a lot of Anglicanism in the window. The dove represents the Holy Spirit, the font and the chalice represent the two most important rites of the church, the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and the three circles represent the Trinity. The baptismal font in the back of the church was a gift from Bishop David Anderson when he consecrated the church on December 19, 1949. The pews are not the originals. One of the original pews can be seen in the tower entrance. Each pew had its own gate and had very straight backs. The floor in the nave is perforated at intervals with square holes into which the original pews were anchored. Our current pews were installed circ 1885. The kneelers are covered with buffalo hide throughout the church. The present hides came from the Winnipeg Police Force’s great coats which were donated to the church and used to recover the kneelers in the early 1960’s. For several years after St. Andrews was built, the church was lighted by four buckboard wheels. Holes were bored along the rim where each met the rim and buffalo tallow candles were inserted. The wheels were turned on their sides and elevated by means of a pulley system. Later, coal oil fixtures were installed and also used the same kind of pulley system. The church received electricity in 1949 and in 1967 the original coal lamps were restored and electrified. At the back of the main body of the church is one of the original carron stoves. It was made in Falkirk, Scotland and was designed for burning peat. Today our church is heated by two gas furnaces.
St. Andrew’s Cemetery
The cemetery surrounding the church is steeped in Manitoba’s history. The hardships of plagues such as influenza, diphtheria, typhoid and tuberculosis are revealed as the inscriptions on the tombstones in the older part of the cemetery are read. Many people who played a role in the Red River Settlement and Manitoba’s history are found in the cemetery. These people include Archdeacon Cockran, first missionary and founder of the church; E.H.G.G. Hay, the first leader of Manitoba’s Official Opposition Party in 1870; Alexander Christie, Chief Factor of the Hudson Bay Company; Alexander Lillie, who operated the first successful experimental farm at Lower Fort Garry; Matilda Davis, who ran the Miss Davis School for daughters of Hudson Bay Company officials in the area; and Captain William Kennedy, Arctic Explorer who searched for Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition.
Our Founder – Archdeacon William Cockran (1798 – 1865)
William Cockran was born in 1796 in Northumberland, England. His father was a yeoman and William and his brother were farmers. Little is known of him prior to coming to Red River with his wife Ann and infant son in October 1825. A Scot, he was raised Presbyterian and joined the Church of England as a young man. He was ordained a deacon on December 19th, 1824 and a priest on May 29th, 1825. His knowledge of husbandry and his desire to serve as a missionary made him a prime candidate for the Church Missionary Society (CMS). He departed for the Red River Settlement one week following his ordination. His main challenge was the evangelization of mixed-bloods migrating from the trading posts of the interior Red River, especially after the amalgamation of the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company in 1821. These half-bloods, native and Orkneymen, settled north of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and came under the auspices of the Anglican mission. In 1827 Cockran expanded the farming operations at the Upper Church (St. John’s). He taught the handling and care of farm animals and the planting, harvesting and storing of vegetables and root crops. He acted as administrator and financial advisor and was often called upon to mediate disputes within families and between neighbours. In 1829 Cockran came to the Lower Church (St. Andrews) and repeated the programme. In 1831 a wooden church, parsonage and school were built at St. Andrews. He expanded the mission and either built or reconstructed the outbuildings, barns, stores and fences. His land grant contained some 400 acres located on both sides of the river. In 1832 he established a school of industry at the Indian School founded by John West and in 1836 Cockran began construction of the first church in the Indian settlement. (The present stone church, St. Peter’s in dyneva was consecrated in 1853.) He held services there during the week. He conducted two services each Sunday at St. Andrews. In 1844, he started construction of our present stone church at St. Andrews. William Cockran left Red River in 1846 but returned in 1847 to the Upper Church. He was made Archdeacon in 1853 and returned to St. Andrews to take charge of the construction of the new stone rectory. This task took two years to complete. He also built an orphan asylum during this time period for abandoned mixed-blood children.
St. Andrew’s Rectory – National Historic Site of Canada
St. Andrew’s Rectory is of national architectural significance because it is a good example of the Hudson Bay style of stone architecture used in the Red River Settlement in the mid-19th century. Built in 1854, it is a two-storey structure with spacious rooms and a central hall plan. The size and prominence of the Rectory indicated the importance of the people who lived there. The entire building is open to the public and contain informational panels, exhibits, and displays pertaining to the Church Missionary Society and the Church of England and their influence on the economic and social life of the settlement of the Red River and Western Canada.