Christ Church, Chatham, Ontario 1861-1917

We come now to a period within the memory of some still living in this city. The Rev. Francis William Sandys came to Chatham in 1848 as witnessed by the first entry in a new Register which he began in December of that year. It appears that before this he was a travelling missionary in the townships of Dunwich and Mersea with headquarters at Tyrconnel. He was the first Clergyman to be appointed with the title of Rector. However, his field of labour was little less circumscribed than in his former missions, having a number of out-posts to look after as well as the increasing population of a growing town.

In 1860, on the nomination of Bishop Cronyn, Mr. Sandys was offered one of the three degrees of D.D. at the disposal of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He accepted the honour but had to pay fees for the degree amounting to £ 100. In 1866 he was appointed Archdeacon of Huron by Bishop Cronyn.

Judge Woods says of him: "Dr. Sandys was of commanding presence, of popular manners, with a kind, genial fund of humor and anecdote, a sound Evangelical preacher and a most instructive expositor of Scripture - the Atonement - the kindred doctrines. He was an excellent reader and a smooth agreeable speaker in the pulpit, always leading the hearer interested and instructed on the subject of has exposition.

About the year 1874 Archdeacon Sandys retired from the active work of the parish but still retained his title as Rector. Rev. G. C. MacKenzie, now rector of Grace Church, Brantford, was appointed curate; Rev. J. P. Lewis, now deceased, followed; then Rev. N. H. Martin, now deceased, and finally Rev. R. McCosh, who came to Chatham as curate in 1892 and succeeded Dr. Sandys as Rector in 1894.

During Dr. Sandys Rectorship Christ Church as it now stands was built. It was opened for Divine Service by Bishop Cronyn on the 26th of August 1861. An ordination was held in the Church on the same day when Messrs. Jonas S. Baker, Hans Caulfield and Joel T. Wright were ordained Deacons. Some years later The Sunday School Hall was built and when Mr. McCosh became Rector the Rectory on William Street was bought.

Mrs. Sandys tells me that the name of the Church was changed to Christ Church at the suggestion of Bishop Cronyn. The old Church of St. Paul was still standing on the River bank and was used as a mortuary chapel until it was destroyed by fire in March 1869.

In 1875 Holy Trinity Church was built and has had a succession of able and devoted Rectors, but a history of that Church is beyond the scope of this paper.

The Rev. R. McCosh died suddenly on the day after Christmas 1907, after a ministry in which he was greatly beloved and in which he did splendid service for Christ and the Church.

In the year 1908 Rev. T. S. Boyle succeeded as the third Rector of the parish and in Nov. 1910 the present Rector took charge on the removal of Dr. Boyle to Trinity College, Toronto.

You will observe that I have not attempted to give a complete history of the Parish of Chatham, but briefly to point out some things in the varied story of the past which are most interesting to us today.

by Rev. Canon Howard, M.A. Rector Christ Church, Chatham
Notes on the History of the Church of England in Chatham, Ont.
published in 1917 by the Kent Historical Society