ST. AUGUSTINE'S ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSION
St. Augustine Mission
Links and documents
1894/01/01 to 1896/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The St. Augustine Mission site consists of a church and a cemetery. The church is a gable-roofed building with an apse projecting from the rear. The exterior walls are covered in white-painted wood siding. A bell tower with a metal-clad conical roof projects from the wood-shingle clad roof. The cross surmounting the bell tower was replaced in the mid-1980s. The church and cemetery are situated on a landscaped lot, which is located on the historic Shaftesbury Trail, approximately 13 kilometres southwest of the Town of Peace River. Also situated on the site are a concrete cairn and bronze plaques commemorating the mission's history.
The heritage value of the St. Augustine Mission site lies in its association with the important role played by Roman Catholic holy orders in the provision of education and health care to First Nations, Metis and early settlers in the Peace River region.
In 1886, Father Auguste Husson of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Roman Catholic religious order, received authorization to establish a mission on the Peace River Flats, a region of good agricultural land on the banks of the Peace River. The St. Augustine Mission competed for prominence with the nearby Anglican Christchurch Mission, which was founded at about the same time by Reverend John Gough Brick. In 1892, the Oblates traded land with Francois Le Petre and the mission was relocated one mile upstream. Immediately following the move, a two-storey residence, a barn, a stable and a workshop were raised. Two years later, construction began on the church, which was completed by 1896. The small church was constructed mainly of horizontally laid logs, typical of most buildings in the area of that time. A bell tower with a metal clad conical roof was added, giving the building increased prominence amongst the mission's other structures. An apse containing the altar was added to the rear of the building. In 1937, the church's log walls were covered in wood siding. A cemetery, marked by a large wooden cross, was located alongside the church.
The Oblate priests and brothers resident at the mission provided religious, educational and medical services to the Metis, First Nations and white populations in the region. The Oblates were assisted in their mission by the Sisters of Providence, who began to arrive in 1898. Between 1888 and 1951, 20 Oblate priests, 21 Oblate brothers and 129 Sisters of Providence served at the St. Augustine Mission. Regular church services, presided over by Oblate priests, were held at the mission. A farm and livestock were maintained to encourage First Nations people to adopt an agricultural lifestyle. A school was established, which became a boarding school in 1898 and a residential school in 1909. Although the school mainly educated First Nations children, some from as far away as Saskatchewan, starting in 1915, the children of the region's white settlers also attended. For many years in the early twentieth century, between 50 and 100 children attended school at the mission. The Oblates also provided medical services to the Metis and Native people. With the church remaining the focal point, the mission grew considerably over the ensuing decades with the addition of several new buildings - a windmill operated flour mill (1896); a two-storey convent (1898-99); a lumber mill (1902); a carpentry shop and a blacksmith shop (1909); and a two-storey priests' residence (1918). The convent was replaced in 1928 and a more modern barn was added in 1936. The mission was the Peace River area's main educational institution from 1891 to the 1930s and provided the area's only hospital facilities until 1915. The St. Augustine Mission was an important institution during the settlement period of the Peace River area and it bridged the period as the area developed from a fur trade economy to an agricultural economy. The mission operated until December 1950, at which point it was closed and abandoned. Over the ensuing decades many of the buildings fell into disrepair and were demolished. The two-storey priests' residence was moved into the Town of Peace River in 1958. The church is the only building from the St. Augustine Mission remaining on its original site.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 436)
Key elements that define the heritage value of the St. Augustine Mission include such elements as:
- location on the historic Shaftesbury Trail and in the former Shaftesbury Settlement;
- exterior walls constructed of horizontally laid logs and clad in wood siding;
- wood shingle gable roof with return eaves;
- front elevation with a centrally located doorway with arch, surmounted by a square window with arch;
- square bell tower with a conical metal-clad roof supported by six pillars;
- centrally located bell tower projecting from the roof close to the front edge;
- brick chimney located on the east side of the north (rear) elevation;
- fenestration pattern of three rectangular, double-hung, arched windows lining both the east and west elevations;
- gable roofed, wood-shingled apse projecting from the rear;
- a solitary, double-hung, arched window on both the east and west elevations of the apse;
- presence of the associated cemetery slightly to the north and west of the church;
- large wooden cross marking the location of the cemetery;
- historic interior elements.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Religious Institutions
- Building Social and Community Life
- Education and Social Well-Being
Function - Category and Type
- Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 436)
Cross-Reference to Collection