St. Mark's Anglican ChurchMemories: The First Fifty Years
The Development of the Parish Neighbourhood
|The area of
our present St. Mark's started life as a rural part of the Township
of Nepean. After World War II, it was simply a few farms, a small
commercial development at the intersection of what was then the
Prescott Highway and Hog's Back Rd, and cottages crammed into the
area east of Hog's Back Falls and along the eastern and western shores
of the Rideau River. The main streets of the area were the Prescott
Highway (Prince of Wales Dr), Baseline Rd, Fisher Ave, Dynes Rd, and
the Borden Side Rd. The next development west was City View on Baseline
and Merivale. Merivale had a fringe of houses along its length. The predominant
farms were the Nesbitt, Moffat, Borden, Stewart, Mulligan, and Leiken
A full early history of this area is contained in the The City Beyond, A History of Nepean, Birthplace of Canada's Capital, 1792-1990, by Bruce Elliott and published by the City of Nepean.
A young fool
diving at Hog's Back.
I first got to know the area in 1948 as a young 18 year old, newly enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and transferred to the RCAF Station Rockcliffe. Hog's Back was our swimming hole. On the weekends or holidays, we took the Eastview bus and then the Ottawa bus to go to Hog's Back for swimming. It was good swimming. Although the beach was really postage stamp size, it never seemed to be too crowded for one more. And yes, in those days we stupidly dove head first into the swirls below the Falls. Other than swimming, the only thing that sticks in my memory is the hamburger places on the Highway. I had no idea at that time that the area would play such an important part in my life in less than five years.
Things were happening in the area. The Canadian Government was worried about returning veterans and how to integrate them back into society. They were also concerned about a depression following the war and the devastation that it would have on the veterans.
The Veterans Land Act (VLA) was passed into law in 1942. Its purpose was "to assist war veterans to settle upon the land." As the Department of Veterans Affairs states, it was one of three pieces of rehabilitative legislation enacted as part of the government's overall program to re-establish veterans into civilian life.
The original intent of the VLA was to assist qualified veterans to become farmers, but provision was made in the Act for settlement on "small holdings," or single family dwelling size lots. Our Carleton Heights VLA development was part of over 140,000 returning veterans who were established under the Act.
The Department of Veterans Affairs decided that they would establish a VLA site just south of the Hog's Back Rd in the Township of Nepean. It was named Carleton Heights. They purchased the Nesbitt and Moffat farms totalling 434 acres, and laid it out in one-half acre lots with enough room for the veterans to have a large garden, raise goats and chickens, and keep bees. This was done so that the veterans could feed themselves in the event of a depression. Cynthia Greer, our present People's Warden, reports that there are still some households keeping chickens in 1999, which is amazing in an urban setting. Carleton Heights was developed in two stages with the part east of Fisher Ave being built mostly between 1945 to 1950 and the part west of Fisher Ave between 1950 to 1955.
The street names of Carleton Heights were chosen to honour battles of World War II (Ortona, Normandy, Falaise, Arnheim, Senio, and Apeldoorn) or in the case of Skeena to honour the RCN and HMCS Skeena. There were other names. Nesbitt was named after the Nesbitt family and according to Bruce Elliott, part of it follows the path of the original farm laneway. Claymor was apparently named for the clay.
The streets in the Carleton Heights area were listed in the Greater Ottawa Directory as: Apeldoorn Ave, Arnheim Ave, Claymor Ave, Falaise Rd, Falls View Rd (north off Hog's Back Rd on the west side) Fisher Ave, Hog's Back Rd, Melfa Cres, Minaki Cres, Nesbitt Ave, Normandy Cres, Ortona Ave, Prince of Wales Dr, Senio Ave, Skeena Ave, Stormont Ave, and Valmarie Ave. Falls View Rd does not exist now.
The VLA houses were all Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) plans. Bruce Elliott records that the first major start was made by Hill-Clark and Francis Contractors who undertook to build 88 houses of the 1-1/2 storey and bungalow designs. They were started in 1945 but they were not completed until 1947 because of a shortage of material. The first families moved-in in 1947. Many of the houses have had additions put on since then as they are very small by today's standards.
The majority of houses, however, were built by the veterans themselves either using their own contractor such as Boyd Brothers, or actually doing the work themselves. Three brothers, George, Alex, and Bill Michie help each other build the shells and close in their houses. When the houses were closed in, the Michie brothers each took over the finishing of their own house.
One area west of Fisher Ave on Argue Dr was built as a co-operative venture by the veterans themselves with the cooperation and help of VLA. They bought enough materials to build or equip 29 homes, such as 29 front doors, 29 furnaces, etc. This way they were able to get much better prices. When the 29 houses were finished, they drew numbers to see which home was theirs. There were only 2 designs, which were only slightly different from each other. Bruce Elliott records that Argue Drive was named for Frank Argue, who died of cancer during the building of the co-operative houses.
VLA authorities installed municipal services for the houses. Three wells on Ortona provided the water and a sewage plant was built on the Rideau River.
While the veterans of Carleton Heights were busy building houses and scraping mud, the City of Ottawa and the Township of Nepean were in annexation negotiations. Since 1890, Ottawa had annexed parts of Nepean nine times and it was not over yet. Indeed, Nepean Township originally extended westward from the Rideau River and Gloucester extended eastward. So all of the area of Ottawa came either from Nepean or Gloucester.
In 1949 the City of Ottawa ended at Western Ave on the West and essentially Carling on the south. Ottawa wanted to annex south to Black Rapids and west to Greenbank. It would have taken the urban core out of Nepean and left it mainly as a rural township, again. After some very bitter fights, Ottawa and Nepean agreed that the area to be annexed would be east of Fisher (except for 120 feet on the west), north of Baseline (except for 120 feet on the south) and west to Greenbank. Essentially these are the borders we have in our area in 1999. The Ontario Legislature passed the City of Ottawa Act in 1949 and it came into effect January 1, 1950.
In 1950, the area just south of Baseline Rd and west of Prince of Wales Drive started to be developed. It was part of the Mulligan farm. It was called Courtland Park. It included Baseline Rd, Wilshire Blvd, Chandler Ave, Sanford Ave, Hudson Ave, north side of Lexington St, and Morley Blvd. The houses, constructed by James More Construction, were 1-1/2 and 2 story houses. A central well was installed at the end of Lexington Ave to provide a source of water. It turned out to be an artesian well with natural fluoridation. The houses were on septic tanks which forced the large lots that still exist today.
After Courtland Park, Fisher Heights was started in 1953. The houses were CMHC new design three bedroom bungalows and a few of the standard 1-1/2 story houses. The land was the Leiken Farm, which had its main farm buildings near Woodrooffe and Baseline. The Leiken Farm was originally owned by J.R. Booth, a prominent businessman in the lumbering days. The lots were 90 by 100 feet and because the development had wells and septic tanks, building was done on every other lot. Real estate agent Jack Aaron is credited by historian Bruce Elliott as finding the loophole which would permit the building on every other lot to meet the regulations for wells and septic tanks. The in-between lots were reserved by the developer for future sale when municipal services became available. In an unusual move, a separate contractor built each interior block, i.e. Lipstan and Oakwood, Lipstan and Kesler, etc.
Lot pattern in Fisher Heights in 1958.
2 Lipstan is the black roof
closest to the centre.
We bought our home and moved into Fisher Heights in 1953. The abiding recollection is mud; sticky, gooey white clay mud. If you walked on the clay when it was wet, it stuck to your rubber boots and you gradually built yourself a pair of elevator shoes. But be that as it may, that clay grew great crops. As an example, we had a 100 foot long raspberry row (Newburg variety) and we continually had over 100 quarts of berries each year. Raspberries came out of our ears! Our "greatly improved" black soil in later years never produced that good a crop.
We were the fourth family to move in. Fisher and Baseline were both two lane gravel roads. We had buses to the city in the morning and at night. The area between us and the Church on the south was a vacant field. The AutoSky drive-in was at the corner of Baseline and Fisher. We picked up our mail at Jack & Ruby Lippett's IGA at the north-east corner of Hog's Back Rd and the Prescott Highway, right next to Monty Montgomery's service station. In 1953, we were thrilled to have the Lancaster Shopping Centre built on Merivale Rd because finally we had a local hardware store.
Basement at 2 Lipstan in 1953
with Courtland Park in the distance.
The closest thing to a tree
was a telephone pole!
The vacant lots were offered for sale for $325 in 1953. We didn't have that kind of money, but we did buy in 1956 for $900. The last lot sold in Fisher Height for $76,000 in the mid-70s. Those lots which were not sold to individuals were alternatively bought by Minto, soon to be the predominant developer in the area.
The Hog's Back area underwent dramatic change. The cottagers who had leased land from the National Capital Commission had their leases ended. The cottages were removed and the area east of the Rideau River was turned into open space. The area to the west of the River was destined to be large apartment buildings, and indeed 1456 Prince of Wales Drive is the largest apartment building in the area. It stands where the old Falls View Road used to run. And of course, swimming was banned at Hog's Back after Mooney's Bay beach was opened. Fences were erected at the Falls so young fools couldn't dive in any more.
Area in 1959. North is at the top. Locate the Autosky Drive-in near the top centre (looks like a fan).
It is at Fisher and Baseline. To the left is Fisher Heights,
to the right is Courtland Park. Down is Carleton Heights. Baseline, Fisher, Prince of Wales, Merivale (on the left), Dynes, and the Borden Side Rd are the major roads.
Water and sewer came into the entire area in the early 1960s as a result of an initiative of builders and developers lead by Irving Greenberg of Westmore Investments, later known as Minto Development Corporation. Greenberg suggested that developers and contractors contribute the money to build water and sewage facilities. The Township of Nepean met with a group of them and an agreement was reached. With water, sewer, and the land available, major construction of houses could start: These were Parkwood Hills from 1959 to 1972, Borden Farm from 1967 to 1976, and Fisher Glen from 1981 to 1984. On the Ottawa side, Murchison Place (Courtland Park to Dynes) in 1962 to 1968 was a built as a VLA Part B development, although few today use the name Murchison Place. The Part B plan had fewer strings attached and the lots could be smaller in size.
Minto, lead by brothers Irving and Gilbert Greenberg, are a huge part of the next twenty years of development in the area. Minto developed Parkwood Hills and built on the vacant lots in Fisher Heights. Skyline and the apartment buildings on Meadowlands were built, of course after Meadowlands came into existence. Then followed Borden Farm and Stewart Farm, all by Minto. Other major developers were Assaly for the apartment buildings on Dynes and Prince of Wales, Bellcourt for the apartment buildings at Hog's Back Rd and Prince of Wales, and Steenbakkers for the south side of Dynes. The City of Ottawa built rent to income houses in the Prince of Wales and Meadowlands area.
The air photo above shows the four developments in the late 50s. Note that there is no Meadowlands. The area between the developments was farm fields producing crops.
The area in 1949 had about 300 or so permanent houses on about 10 streets. By 1998 the Parish neighbourhood area from Baseline on the north, Merivale on the west, the Rideau River on the east, and the Nepean Creek (just south of Viewmount, Coolspring, and Valley Ridge) had grown to be a small city. There are 140 streets and 7600 or so households. Statistics Canada in 1998 gave the average density as 2.85 person per households to give a total population of about 21,500.
Written by Lorne Bowerman
with help from many
The Development of the Parish
Major growth in the area started in 1947 with the completion of more VLA houses. As would be expected, there was a good mix of religious backgrounds in the area. The closest church was City View United. The closest Anglican Church was St. Peter's on Merivale Rd, near Carling. Most families who moved out from the City were still going back into the City to attend services. However, things were changing.
S.S. # 14 in 1999, converted to a home and with apartment buildings behind.
In late August of 1947 permission was obtained from the Nepean Township Board of Education to conduct interdenominational Sunday School classes in S.S. #14 (also referred to as the Harboard School), which was located at the intersection of Dynes Rd and Prince of Wales Dr. It was a small red brick building which was later converted to a house. It still exists today.
Mary Mortimer in Make Me An Altar, the History of the Carleton Memorial United Church 1947-1983, recounts the recollections of Maurice Morgan:
Nepean School Board ... had given us permission to use the old school.
...On the surface this appeared a satisfactory arrangement, except
that no caretaker was provided; he was available only during the
regular school days. In order to provide heat for the Sunday School
during the winter months of 1947-48, Art Fillman and I went down to
the school house before breakfast each Sunday to light the furnace
in preparation for the morning session. Then back home to eat, and then
back to the school. ... And so was born the humble Sunday School of twenty-five
children and six teachers.
That introduces the two main catalysts in the Church life of the
community: Maurice Morgan, the Christian leader in the Community
and the force behind the forming of Carleton Memorial United Church,
and Art Fillman who later became the first Rector's Warden and then
the People's Warden for three years at St. Mark's. However, at that time
they were not talking about forming United or Anglican Churches. Their
prime purpose was to have religious services in the community. That
is not at all surprising since the community was veterans and they
were completely used to two types of religious services and padres: Protestant
and Roman Catholic. But even the two types were not necessary and when
the need arose, or in the absence of a particular padre, any padre would
"Ministers from the Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, and United Church took turns officiating at the Services. Although the lay people got along very well (after all, they had been building houses and wading through mud together for some months), there were some tense moments when the clergy and the pulpit supply tried to determine what indeed was an Interdenominational Service. Anything not structured tended to be regarded as "United." It did work out eventually, usually on the mode of the armed forces services."
The Interdenominational Church filled the needs for the community. The ministers taking the service performed the duties of a regular church minister in caring for the flock. For example, in the Anglican record of baptisms in the Diocesan Archives, the following two baptisms were recorded as having been performed by the Rev. E.A. Martineau on March 20, 1949:
Donald Wayne Morris, son of John Alfred Morris and Oris Ellen Gurling.
Jacqueline Edna Denise Marier, daughter of Jacques Lucien Marier and Nora Kathleen May Plant.
There were clouds on the horizon for the interdenominational structure.
The Anglicans were used to a structured liturgy with the sermon
as a short part of the service. The Uniteds were used to a more unstructured
service with the sermon being the main focus of the service. Associating
with the City View-Merivale United Church charge may have been an
irritant to the Anglicans, even though it may have made abundant sense.
As well, it is not hard to guess that the United Church lay structure
of a Board of Stewards instead of an Anglican Executive Council or Parish
Council would not sit too well.
"In response to Anglicans living in the area who wanted an organized Anglican Church, Bishop Robert Jefferson placed the Rev. Robert Shannon in charge of the area on May 1, 1949. To aid in the work of organizing a church in the new area, two summer students were sent to assist Mr. Shannon; Church Army Cadet Ralph Smith and J. Allan D. Meakin, a divinity student. They conducted a door-to-door survey and found some fifty families who expressed a desire for, and willingness to support, an Anglican church in the community. At a meeting held in Carleton Heights Public School in June of 1949, twenty-four of these families agreed to proceed with plans to form a parish. A building was not erected at this time due to lack of funds, so the ecumenical services continued in the school."
Note the words above, "In response to Anglicans who wanted an organized
Anglican Church," which would imply that the community took the
initiative and not the Diocese, and at least some members of the
community wanted an Anglican and not an Interdenominational Church.
That gives a good overview of the work that was done in 1949 from
the Anglican point of view. One item missing in the above story
was the election and appointment of officials for the new Parish. At
the June 21, 1949 meeting, Jim Wright was elected People's Warden and
Art Fillman was appointed Rector's Warden. At the same meeting, a Building
Fund was established with an initial donation of $100 from Mary Rump.
whence does the name of a new Church come? Who decides just what
that verbal identity should be? Why are we not St. Joseph's, All Saints,
or anything else?
The results were close with 8 votes for St. Mark's and 6 votes for
St. Paul's. In his hand-written letter to the Bishop on December
28, Robert Shannon noted the closeness with the words " ... so
it seemed St. Mark's was the one favoured by the majority of those
present." Notice he did not say "the majority of the Congregation."
on the Interdenominational Church. The final meeting of the executive
members of Carleton Heights Interdenominational Church was held on
Tuesday night, September 19th, (1951) at Laurie Baker's house, and,
after directing the disposal of the assets of the church, it voted
itself out of existence with the following very appropriate motion:
Brass cross in 1999.
Marguerite Godin records in the 1983 Photo Directory the following:
"Regular Anglican services were held in the school until the church was erected. Elsie Kempsey and Audrey Curran took on the altar guild duties and transformed the teacher's desk into an altar. Fr. Shannon donated a brass cross and candlesticks. Storage space at the school was non-existent so Mrs. Kempsey took the cross and candlesticks home each week and Mrs. Curran looked after the Communion vessels. Emile Godin made a carrying case for these items from a wooden orange crate and lined it with green felt, complete with carrying handle. One fond memory of St. Mark's early days is that of Elsie Kempsey coming up the highway carrying the cross when it was nearly nine for the service to begin. Joan and Louis Albert and Brooksie and Jim Wright made Communion kneelers."
In the April 1952 issue of The Diocesan Times, the Diocese outlined plans to raise $150,000 for Church Extension. The Bishop had named George Nelms (a member of St. Mark's in 1999) to head the fund raising Committee. The need for a central fund for church extension was outlined. St. Mark's was noted as one of the five Churches that was in need of help:
"Carleton Heights (St. Mark's) - A new Mission only two years old. Families now number 110. Sunday School pupils - 90. No Hall is available for Church Service or Sunday School. Three rooms rented in a Public School for these purposes. A building site has been purchased in a central area. In addition, there are several articles of furniture, but no Church. The people have raised $4,000 towards a Building Fund, and have also given $100 to Missions. A fine record for a two-year old child."
In 1952 Mr. Shannon left the area for Chicago, Illinois, to do further
studies. The Mission came under the charge of the Rev. A.E.O. Anderson.
Captain Ralph Smith was ordained in 1952 and was appointed Assistant
to Mr. Anderson, a position he held until 1953 when he was sent to
Iroquois, Ontario. Mr. Smith was replaced by the Rev. Allan Rogers.
"The D.V.A. Headquarters in Toronto are unwilling to part to the Church any frontage on Fisher Avenue, even in exchange for our own frontage. They are reserving it (the Fisher Avenue frontage) for business firms. They will sell us lots behind, but besides our Church being hidden, the cost would be $4,000 plus our own property, plus legal fees for the transfer of our land back to them. I believe the frontage on Fisher is important. I understand D.V.A. are willing to sell us two lots on Normandy Crescent adjoining our property, this would double our area, would involve no legal fees for conveying back our land to D.V.A., and would cost $2,400 instead of $4,000. We would still have frontage on Fisher Avenue. This I would recommend."
Two additional lots, 109 and 110, were purchased in 1953 after considerably
more discussion with VLA. A deposit of $250 was paid on March 18,
1953 and the balance of $2,150 was paid on May 11, 1953. Lot 109 eventually
would be used to build the Rectory.
Written by Lorne Bowerman with help from
Dorothy Brigley, Brooksie Wright, Mary Mortimer,
Audrey Morgan, Bill Michie, and many friends
The Parish in a Parish Church
The Parish in a Parish Church and a New Hall
The Clergy of St. Mark's
The Ministry of Music
The Organizations Sunday School; Women's, Men's & Youth Organizations
Appendices Anniversary Activities; 1951 Parish List; Veterans' List