St. George's Anglican Church
in Clarksburg, the Town of the Blue Mountains
Including Thornbury, Craigleith and the Beaver Valley
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A Brief History of St. George's
This history is based on a talk given by Nan Maitland, a lifelong parishioner at St. George's and a great-granddaughter of William Jabez Marsh, the founder of both the Village of Clarksburg and St. George's. On January 1st, 1998, the Town of Thornbury amalgamated with the Township of Collingwood, which included Clarksburg, Craigleith and much of the Beaver Valley, becoming the Town of The Blue Mountains.
In 1858, William Jabez Marsh traveled from Holland Landing to purchase 500 acres of Crown land adjacent to the village of Thornbury. After choosing a location for his own farm and home, he donated 2.5 acres for the building of a church and rectory. While the church was being built the first Anglican services were held at ‘Grape Grange’, the home of Mr. Marsh and his family.
The first church, a frame building erected in 1863 and named St George’s, was located in the newly established village of Clarksburg immediately adjacent to the border with Thornbury in order to serve both municipalities. In writing to a friend, Mr. Marsh described the church in a humorous rhyme:
We have a Church, it has a steeple,
An iron rod and a ball of tin.
I think it will hold 200 people,
If they stand up and are well packed in.
The original church served until 1899 when it was replaced by the present brick structure, erected on the same site. Once the brick church was completed, the original frame church was disassembled and transported in mid-winter by horse-drawn sleighs to Beaverdale where it was re-assembled and continued to serve the congregation there for another half-century.
Over the years, St. George's has undergone numerous changes and improvements. In 1980 an addition was added, providing much needed space for a meeting room, nursery, and rector’s study. A wheelchair accessible entrance to the church and wheelchair accessible washroom were completed in 1995, just in time for veterans in wheelchairs to attend the Remembrance Day service. At this time, the bell tower was found to be in need of reinforcement, so a new steeple with cross and matching roof went up on 1998.
Many of the historically significant furnishings in St. George's, including the main altar, came from the rural church of Holy Trinity which was closed in 1969 and the parish amalgamated with St. George's. Other furnishings, including the beautiful stained glass windows that now grace the church, have been donated as memorials. The two-manual Keats-Geisler pipe organ has periodically been renovated and improved and is now recognized as one of the finest instruments in the area.
The brick rectory located next to the church was built in 1867 and has been well maintained. In 1985 major renovations were undertaken including re-wiring, the installation of insulation and upgrading of the plumbing. In 2008, further improvements were made to the rectory, including replacement of the hardwood flooring throughout the ground floor. When the old flooring was removed it was discovered that newspapers had been installed below the flooring to act as insulation, a common practice in the early 1900s. Some of these newspapers were from the Toronto Globe, a predecessor of the Globe & Mail.
A Garden of Remembrance, which had long been a dream of the parish, was begun in 2000 and completed and dedicated on July 22nd, 2001. This garden is a peaceful setting on consecrated ground, with perpetual care. It is available to anyone, irrespective of denomination or religion, for the scattering of ashes.
Over the years, three "boys" of the parish later became bishops: Bishop Peter Rowe, Bishop of Alaska; Bishop Harold Appleyard, Bishop of Georgian Bay; and Bishop Henry Marsh, Bishop of the Yukon. In addition, two sons of William Marsh, the church founder, became clergy: The Rev Canon Tom Marsh of Hay River, N.W.T. and The Rev Canon Charles Marsh, of Lindsay. Other clergy who grew up at St George’s include The Rev Kershaw Alexander of Woodstock and Flint, Michigan and The Rev Stuart Hicks, who spent several years in Northern Saskatchewan before serving in England.
The Venerable Stephen Haig is the current Rector at St. George's. He assumed his duties on January 15th, 2008 after serving as Rector for 10 years at St. John's Leamington and previous to that at St. Thomas' in Owen Sound and recently became Venerable September 2010. He also became the Archdeacon of the Saugeens on September 27, 2010.
St George’s has never lacked for caring, dedicated men and women to give of their talents, time and treasure, to glorify God in his church in Clarksburg. The spirit of hope, love and hospitality is evidenced every day. Newcomers are welcomed and made to feel at home. The future of the parish looks bright as we strive to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit.