Demise of the Catholic Church

 In Opinion

Last month this local history column told the story of the Roman Catholic Church just past Sideroad 12/13 on what is now called Fairgrounds Road.
Of course, if you look for it today, you won’t see it, only a small cemetery where the church was located.
Mass was, for some years, celebrated in that little church but gradually Mass became more frequent in the more settled areas in the area.
This Catholic settlement on the hill was in existence over 20 years before nearby Stayner came into existence. The arrival of the railway between Toronto, Barrie and Collingwood was completed in 1855.
As Stayner grew from the growth of a shipping centre on the railway St. Patrick’s Catholic Church came into existence, the church on the hill ceased to be used.
As the church fell into disrepair the iron rods that had been used in the original log church were taken to Stayner in 1887 and installed in St. Patrick’s Church to give extra strength to the walls since the weight of the very heavy slate roof was a concern.
As you pass the cemetery today you will see a wooden cross. This was a replacement for the cross that was on the original church. When the log church was demolished the cross was taken down and the base set in a large ball-like container that finally rusted away allowing the cross to fall.
What remained were only a few tombstones marking the graves of the stalwart pioneers and the many children who died from epidemics and at birth.
In 1978 the tombstones were brought to the front of the property and placed in a  semi circle and installed in concrete. Many were too fragile to move and simply crumbled away.
The sod was cultivated and resown and trees planted. These evergreen trees have grown very tall and shelter the bones and spirits of the people we should always remember.
The records and story of this early Catholic settlement have been collected and compiled by the late Agnes Giffen Douglas in an interesting manner in a booklet called The Dowling Family History.

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