Historic Annapolis Valley church marks 231 years of service

·2 min read
Historic Annapolis Valley church marks 231 years of service

When the bell rang at the Old Holy Trinity Church in Middleton, N.S., on Sunday, it was no ordinary toll.

It marked the 231st anniversary of the first congregation held at the historic church on Aug. 14, 1791.

The church is one of the oldest, and largely unaltered, churches of its kind in Canada, according to Brian McConnell, chair of the Old Holy Trinity Heritage Trust.

The church was active until 1893, when a new church was built in the community. Despite no longer being the main church of the parish, Old Holy Trinity continued to be available for special occasions and anniversaries.

Victoria Welland/CBC
Victoria Welland/CBC

In 1998, the parish determined it could no longer afford to maintain both churches. It was decided Old Holy Trinity would be demolished.

But people in the community rallied to create the Old Holy Trinity Heritage Trust to ensure the church's survival.

One of them, Mary Teed Gillis, made headlines in local newspapers at the time for her attempts at thwarting the demolition.

"She threatened to tie herself, bolt herself, to the front door. She wouldn't allow this [demolition] to happen," McConnell said.

The trust then successfully lobbied the province to recognize the building as a heritage site.

Victoria Welland/CBC
Victoria Welland/CBC

Teed Gillis, and many other prominent figures, are now buried in the cemetery outside the church.

McConnell said many of the stones in the cemetery date back to the early 1800s, and there are well-known loyalists, reverends, and military pilots buried there. Many of the headstones are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

"It's so hard to find places where you can go back to original history," he said.

The church bell, which was made in England in 1792 by the same foundry that made the Liberty Bell and the bells at Westminster, was installed in the church in 1797 and still rings to this day.

Victoria Welland/CBC
Victoria Welland/CBC

Vivian Morris, who attended the church growing up and is a longtime member of the trust, gave a presentation about the church's history to parishioners.

She said it's important to carry on these stories so they're not lost between generations.

Victoria Welland/CBC
Victoria Welland/CBC

"Children aren't knowing what happened in the community beforehand. And while I was researching this, I found out all kinds of interesting little tidbits about things that happened in Middleton and Wilmot that I never knew about while I was growing up here," she said.

"I thought, why isn't that taught in history class?"

After the presentation, there was a trivia-style game about Queen Elizabeth and her Platinum Jubilee, and tours of the historic cemetery.

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