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This Old Church is a Blast

St Laurence Anglican Church

You may be asking, “what’s with that title?” Well when exploring old churches, whether abandoned or nearly abandoned, it should come as no surprise that I’ve come across some odd things. Sometimes they’re odd because they don’t belong in an old church and sometimes they are simply odd things. This is one of the latter types of things. First let’s get the preliminaries out of the way.

In 1911-1912 the CPR hired Robert Crisp to survey and buy townsites along the proposed railway route. Mr. Crisp was an Englishman so he returned home to England to recruit settlers for Western Canada with emphasis on the lands near the railway. Many English immigrants were of the Anglican faith so there was a need to organize churches. This church was built for those settlers.

The first services were held in a building known as the pint building. Each Sunday most of the pool tables were pushed back against the wall and covered with cloth. One pool table was covered with a white cloth and used as the altar.

The Reverend and Mrs Charles Lea-Wilson arrived in town in 1914 and immediately recognized the need for a church building. They also noticed that the people were quite poor due to a drought on the prairies. They returned to England and began to raise funds to address this need. Miss Lilian Bosanquet of the Parish of St. Lawrence, Sevenoaks, Kent, England was interested in this project. She raised $700.00 for the church building but stipulated that it be named St. Laurence, with a “u” rather than a “w” but there is no record of why this request was made.

We will never know why Miss Bosanquet, or someone else, stipulated the church’s name be spelled with a “u”.

The Monitor Historic Society

The building went up quickly and the opening service was held on August 22, 1915; a vestry was added in the following spring. St. Laurence was an established church and received many donations of items throughout the following years. Some of the donated items were more necessary than others though, including this German trench mortar, which was captured at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. According to the sign out front, the WWI relic was donated to Monitor and the surrounding area for their achievement in buying Victory Bonds in 1919. They raised $54,300 which was a record for all of Canada.

Don’t mess with St. Laurence Anglican Church because it’s well protected by the trench mortar. You might even say that the church is well monitored.
The sign that explains the reason why there is a trench mortar near the church’s entrance.
Hold on there, this blog is about the church that you see in the background, not this fine old water truck. Now let’s get focused back on the old church.
You can just barely see the German trench mortar at the front of the church. Shadows from the trees are rising up to claim another day.
St. Laurence Anglican Church as the sun begins to set.
Is this a remnant of the library before it was burned?

A library was established near the entrance of the church that eventually held 265 books. It was meant for the whole community, not just the congregation. At a later date a student minister burned the books. Perhaps he thought the aging books were an eyesore but this didn’t go over well with many of the parishioners.

In 1921 Mr Smith Hill made the baptismal font based on a miniature version brought back from England by Reverend Wickenden (see comments below for some memories shared by Mr Hill’s great-granddaughter). Smith’s descendants lived in Monitor until the passing of his son, Leslie Hill. The pump organ still works. My wife can plan the organ and she tried it out. She said that the pumping action is a real workout.
The stained glass above the altar was dedicated in 1963. Mrs McConnell suggested this upgrade and over a period of five years she sold knitting articles at the annual fall bazaar until she raised 2\3s of the $600.00 cost of the window.
The view from the pulpit
Well it’s time to close these doors and head back outside.
St. Laurence Anglican Church’s upkeep is an on-going project as evidenced by the missing boards at top of the tower.
The back of the church.

Due to a dwindling congregation, the Parish of St Laurence was phased out in 1972, although there were annual services held here until 1987. The church was falling into disrepair so the Monitor Historical Society was formed. They bought the church from the Diocese of Calgary for a nominal amount. Surprisingly it remains a consecrated church. In 1993 It was designated as a Registered Historical Resource by Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism. Most of the restoration work was completed by the local people of Monitor with the aid of matching grants from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. Upkeep is an on-going challenge. If you would like to help, the Society is a registered charity that will issue donation receipts for tax purposes for donations over $10.00. Cheques should be made out to the Monitor Historical Society and sent to Pat Rutledge, Box 61, Monitor, Alberta, T0C 2A0.

The information contained in this blog was paraphrased from a document distributed by the Monitor Historical Society.
The photos are by the blog author, Glen Bowe.
The trench mortar is compliments of the Department of Militia and, of course, The German Army.


8 thoughts on “This Old Church is a Blast

  1. Love this particular story Glen. Thank you!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Val. This one was fun to write.


  2. Visiting from BW’s blog and enjoyed reading about this wonderful church and seeing your photos of it. It certainly has an interesting history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mary Anne, I’m happy to have you here reading my blog. I’ll Thank BW for the link to my blog that brought you here and I hope you’ll be back for future publications (or even some of the past ones). Have a great day.


  3. Sherry-Anne Bogen January 15, 2021 — 9:30 am

    Hi! Loved seeing this church in your list. My family is from Monitor and the Font in the church was actually crafted by my great-grandfather. However, you have his name wrong. His name was Smith Hill. His first name was Smith. My mom, Valerie Bogen (nee Hill) has told me that Smith had very short fingers (not sure why), which made doing stonework that much harder for him. The house on the hill to the northwest of the church was owned by Smith’s son Leslie Hill until his death. It was extensively renovated and added into by its new owners, but the original fireplace is still there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog about the old church in Monitor. I always find it interesting hearing about a place from people who live or previously lived at the place. I fixed the name of your great-grandfather to correctly read Smith Hill.


  4. Glad to see this church is being cared for. So much history (by Alberta standards, anyway). Cheers. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

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