Description of Historic Place
The Goat Island Baptist Church is located on Highway 1 in Upper Clements, just outside of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. This meeting house style church, with adjacent cemetery, was built circa 1810. The building, cemetery and property are included in the provincial designation.
The Goat Island Baptist Church is valued as being the oldest extant Baptist Church building in Nova Scotia and possibly Canada.
The history of the Goat Island Baptist Church has its roots deep in the spirited and evangelistic fervour of the early religious movement called, "The New Light Movement." This was an imported religious movement from New England which came with the early Puritan settlers. In early 1810, a New Light revival swept through the area, resulting in the baptism of two to three hundred people between Weymouth and Annapolis. New congregations were organized at Upper Clements and Brier Island. The Goat Island Baptist Church at Upper Clements, was so named because it was located opposite Goat Island and was constructed circa 1810. Congregation members came from the areas around Clementsport, Clementsvale, Bear River, and Smith's Cove.
The first ordained pastor at Upper Clements was the Rev. Edmund J. Reis who served as pastor for two years. He was followed by the Rev. David Harris who was pastor of the church until 1825. Local convert Israel Potter was ordained in 1822 and became an associate pastor to Rev. Harris. Potter was part of the 1810 revival movement and was instrumental in the construction of the church. Rev. Potter was pastor of the church from 1825 until his death in 1847. He is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the church.
Due to the out migration of many members of the congregation during the turn of the twentieth century, the ministry of the Goat Island Church diminished. Services are now only held during the summer months. The cemetery is no longer active.
Goat Island Baptist Church is the oldest Baptist Church building in Nova Scotia. It is rectangular in plan, with an open gable roof. A steeple, built shortly after the church, is located symmetrically in the front façade and forms a narthex or entrance porch. The windows are Gothic Revival in style, with a very simple wooden tracery pattern within the pointed arch of the windows, with label mouldings. The entrance has a similar design and double doors, each with a pointed arch-shaped panel. An interesting element of the exterior design are the cornerboards which have inset panels in a pointed arch shape. The steeple is octagonal in plan, rising off a square tower base, and with a squat image overall.
Particularly from the exterior, Goat Island Church looks rather common, similar to small country churches in many parts of Nova Scotia. However, it is important to note that when built, this church represented a new trend in architectural style, one which was to deeply influence church design throughout the nineteenth century.
Source: Provincial Heritage Program property files, no. 49
Character-defining elements of the Goat Island Baptist Church include:
- location facing Goat Island;
- wood frame construction;
- rectangular plan;
- open gable roof;
- Gothic Revival style windows;
- octagonal steeple rising off a square tower base;
- cornerboards with inset panels in a pointed arch shape;
- stone wall perimeter;
- wooden shingles on roof and steeple;
- all original and historic interior elements including wooden box pews, gallery, wooden paneling, trim and floors;
- Rev. Israel Potter memorial plaque.
Character-defining elements of the cemetery at Goat Island Baptist Church include:
- original and historic grave stones and monuments, with their surviving inscription stone for Rev. Potter;
- grass-covered interment areas.