Tilbury East presented the early pioneers the challenge of wild swampy and desolate land to the north of the Thames River and primeval forest to the south. In the Spring the land
was unbroken swamp but by Summer it was parched so dry that the water supply became a problem and always the settlers were tortured by hordes of mosquitoes. In 1784, John Reaume and his wife Ann Trudell settled here quickly followed by other French-Canadian families from Fort Detroit. So in 1790, when Father J.B. Marchand made a trip from his parish of Assumption (Sandwich) up the Thames, he found 12 French families living along the river. In order to serve these folks, he established a log chapel in 1802, known at that time as St. Pierre sur la Tranche or St. Peter’s which became only the 2nd parish in the Western District of Upper Canada. This one parish was to spawn 15 more Parishes over the years as the population grew.
Services were held once a month until the log chapel was replaced in 1824 with a frame structure and the log chapel became a school. Around 1819 Pain Court became a settlement but the inhabitants still crossed the river by pulley ferry, by boat or canoe or on the ice during the winter, to attend services, get married, or for baptisms or funerals at St. Peter’s. In 1829 a small
pox epidemic devastated the Reaume settlement. In 1832, two hundred and ten acres were purchased to be held in trust for the Parish to use as a cemetery and farm. However, 8 acres of this was sold to the Great Western Railway for the Windsor Route. Erosion by the river was also a constant problem each Spring when the Thames flooded. Once there had been a 300 ft lawn in front of the church which faced the river so when the frame church burned in 1895, the new brick church, built with volunteer labour from the parish, bricks from Chatham and sand brought by horse and cart from Lake St. Clair for mortar, it was moved back 200 ft. From the original church site. It should be noted here that the Prairie Siding Bridge was not built until 1924 and that erosion was so severe by 1940 that the road which had originally run in front of the church was closed and St. Peter’s now had it’s back to the new road.
In 1851, three acres were set aside for a church and cemetery in the village of Pain Court
and in 1852 a small chapel was opened that doubled as a school. Four years later a new church had been built and 250 children had been confirmed. By 1871, the population of Pain Court had grown to 2000 souls and the new Parish of Grande Pointe was established. The church at Pain Court was destroyed by fire in 1874 and replaced by one that served until 1911 when the beautiful Church of the Immaculate Conception was erected at a cost of $50,000.00.
In 1834, Father Morin took charge of St. Peter’s and found that he was also holding Mass and missions in Chatham, Raleigh and Dover Township homes. So in that year, Belle River became the first church to claim roots in St. Peter’s followed over the years by St. Joachim; Tilbury; Pointe aux Roches (Stoney Point); Raleigh; Staples; Chatham; Pain Court; Grande Pointe; Wallaceburg; Thamesville; Bothwell; Port Lambton; Dresden and Blenheim. Father Morin is buried under the Epistle side of the altar in St. Peter’s Church. At the time of this writing, St. Peter’s Parish is 213 years old.
REFERENCES: Romantic Kent…Victor Lauriston; St. Peter’s Parish 1802 – 2008 (for Open Doors Kent); History of St. Peter’s Parish 1802 – 1947 for the Sesquicentennial 1952; Valley of the Lower Thames…Fred Coyne Hamil; History of St. Peter’s R.C. Church, Tilbury East: A Living Heritage…Gloria J. Vollans.
Name of sponsor of Barn Quilt : St Peters Roman Catholic Church
5425 Tecumseh Line, Tilbury, ON
Latitude : 42.33837 Longitude : -82.3766