A Brief History
Built in 1912, the original log church of St. James was the most elaborate and expensive church built by the Diocese of Athabasca. The $1000 building cost was covered by the S.P.G. (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel), the Toronto Women’s Auxiliary, and local collections, which paid for the lumber. Sergeant Anderson of the North West Mounted Police did the interior finishing work. It was only fitting that such a church should be replaced by something as magnificent as the present-day St. James Cathedral. It is certain that the building of a grand cathedral in Peace River during the depression would have been a financial impossibility without the astounding generosity of the Anonymous Donor.
The Anonymous Donor was an English widow who had lost her husband and only child during World War I. She was present at a talk given by Bishop Lloyd of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, while on a lecture tour of England in the early 1930’s. She was moved by his speech and resolved to dedicate her wealth to the cause of the Western Canadian pioneer settlements. She proceeded to donate what would amount to several million dollars by today’s standards to Dioceses in northern and western Canada.
Her gifts included churches in Jasper, Fort Smith, High Prairie and Moose Jaw, St. Catherine’s Home for Working Women in Edmonton, a boat for the Prince Rupert Coast Mission, a Hospital at Fort Norman and $80,000 to found the Diocese of Saskatchewan Episcopal Endowment Fund…just to name a few!!
The Anonymous Donor also donated the entire funds to build St. James Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Athabasca, to build the corresponding church hall and to outfit the kitchen service. Designed by Twizell & Twizell Architects of Vancouver, architecture of St. James Cathedral is distinctly reminiscent of Elizabethan England. The three stained glass windows were later gifts to the church. The one portraying the Ascension honors the Anonymous Donor, the depiction of the Women at the Cross honors the women who sacrificed their lives serving in World War II and the third, depicting the Resurrection, was installed by a grieving family in honor of their deceased daughter, Katie Raychyba.
Church consecrated: 14 October 1936
Church: locked and in use
Access: The public has access to the site.
FURTHER READING & BIBLIOGRAPHY
McCrum, Elizabeth 1976, A Register of Service: The Centennial History of the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca
Watts, L.F.S. 1949, Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of The Diocese of Athabasca