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Historic Inverness Church Victim of Arsonist

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large_st.stephens.1.sm_.jpg--June 2, 2010

The former St. Stephen's Anglican Church, one of the last remnants of the once-thriving hamlet known as Rectory Hill, northwest of Inverness, and an increasingly rare testament to the early Scottish and Irish settlers that once pioneered this part of the Townships, has burned to the ground, the apparent victim of an arsonist during the night of May 27-28.

Built in 1904 by the Reverend H. D. Dickson, the resident Anglican minister, St. Stephen's replaced an earlier church that had been built in the cemetery in 1852. That church had burned in 1902. St. Stephen's, a veritable jewel that was noted for its fine interior woodwork and its humble but picturesque Gothic exterior, was built opposite the rectory in 1904. Deconsecrated in 1980, the church had since been turned into a summer concert hall and cultural centre.

large_st.stephens.2.sm_.jpgRectory Hill takes its name from the presence of the rectory near the church. During the nineteenth century, many farming families settled in the neighbourhood surrounding the church.

A number of tradesmen set up shop at that time, as well, including a blacksmith in 1831 and a shoemaker in 1861. Now, virtually all that remains of Rectory Hill and the families that lived and died here is the old rectory (now a private home) and a graveyard.

large_st.stephens.3.sm_.jpgMarie-Ève Adam, the owner of the church, and the director of the Celtic Way, a group that promotes the Scottish and Irish heritage of this part of Quebec, was heartbroken over the loss of "[her] little country church nestled on a mountainside in Inverness."

She said that she was "losing more than a magnificent building; I am losing a dream, a dream of bringing new life to this mythical place through music and performances which I have been planning with friends for this summer."

Adam said that although the church had been deconsecrated, it was still a spiritual place. People who entered, she said, "never left quite the same."