Some of the best of all places are at the ends of the earth. Lands End, the Gaspe, much of Newfoundland, are examples. Extremeties reaching into the sea, which you cannot travel beyond by land, they usually display remarkable geographical features and their people, as is often the case with dwellers in remote places, offer a special brand of friendliness. We have such a place in our Diocese in the Bruce Peninsula. Granted, its Lake Huron to the west and Georgian Bay to the east and not the sea that it reaches into, but their mighty waters form a pretty effective substitute. Of course, you can drive straight through it and board the Chi-Cheemaun passenger and car ferry to Manitoulin Island and other points north in Ontario, but when you do that the Bruce coyly hides her secrets from you. Except for Wiarton, you have to get off the spine of Highway 6 and follow the rib roads running west or east to discover the landscapes and communities which constitute the Bruce Peninsula as one of the distinctive ends of the earth.
St. Margarets, Cape Chin grew directly out of the ministry of the Rev. R.W. "Daddy" James, stationed at Lion's Head from 1911 to 1934, whose unassuming but heroic pastoral care of the people of the Bruce became legendary. W. Sherwood Fox knew him intimately and devotes an entire chapter to him in The Bruce Beckons. James served several mission stations throughout the Bruce, one of which was at Cape Chin, where the people, worshipping in McCallum's schoolhouse, wanted a church of their own. James found an architect in Walkerton, Major F.B. James, and as Fox tells us, said to him: Cape Chin wants a church, and of course one built of stone, the stone of its own hills and valleys. Its plan and lines must be in keeping with the best Anglican tradition. There's no excuse for making a house of God in the wilderness as uncouth as the wilderness itself. Now won't you sketch me a plan of just such a church to crown the crest of a hill near Cape Chin? And dont forget lancet windows!
The Rectors vision was fully realized. Major James patterned the Cape Chin church on one he had designed years before in Southern Rhodesia, even to the extent of duplicating its name. A priest and an architect each with the name of James would naturally incline to the saintly Margaret who was Queen of Scotland in the 11th century. Construction began in 1925. Parson James recruited donors and joined the workforce himself, employing considerable ingenuity. For example, the wood which was hewn from nearby woods was cut by a saw powered by the drive wheels of his propped-up Model T Ford. Harry Oswell, Jamess stepson, masterminded the interior woodwork. Contributions of money and labour came from Roman Catholics as well as Anglicans. Only the furnishings came from outside the Bruce, as indicated by the following concise paragraph from an article by Phil McNichol:
A wealthy widow in London, Ont., donated money for the oak pews which ere made in Owen Sound; the oak pulpit and prayer desk were made in Dundas and donated by two Wiarton Railway men, C.A. Slean and A.H. Williams; the communion table was handmade and donated by Principal C.C. Waller of Huron College; the lectern came from Homesville, donated by the local people there when their church was being closed; the church bell, of solid brass, had been an old engine bell from the Grand Trunk Railway and came from the Old Grand Trunk repair yard in Stratford; the stained glass windows were donated by William Davidson, manager of the Hobbs Glass Factory of London.
St. Margarets sits in the northeast corner of the Peninsula, in open country at the edge of Cape Chin Village on Forty Hill Road. The combination of three factors, the neat grafting of an entrance and bell tower into the main structure, the outwardly sloping fall of the buttresses, and the bright textured surface of the dolomite limestone, give it an exquisite appearance. The interior is laid out in a well balanced fashion and to my eyes the most striking features are the wild flower renditions which have been recently incorporated into the original stained glass windows. The Bruce is renowned for its wild flowers, many of them rare, and so these renditions are most appropriate. I identified Trillium, Ladys Slipper, Vetchling, Wild Columbine, Trout Lily, and with the help of Petersons Guide
, I think, Dog Violet.
St. Margarets is currently the Chapel of the Anglican Parish of the Bruce Peninsula. Services are held Sunday evenings during the summer. The church is maintained and cared for with great devotion and occupies a treasured place in the hearts of many both on the Bruce Peninsula and in distant places. It is well worth a lingering visit.