The Stolen Church

Probably the most romantic tale of love and crime in the days of the Columbia Valley pioneers is that of the Stolen Church in Windermere BC.

The Stolen Church | Windermere, BC
St. Peter’s ‘Stolen’ Anglican Church

St. Peter’s Anglican Church was built in 1887 in the railway town of Donald, not far south of Golden, BC. In 1897, when the CPR decided to change their railway divisional point from Donald to Revelstoke, it was agreed that several important buildings would be moved to the new location. The company announced that it would move, free of charge, any buildings to any location along its line.

One of Donald’s leading citizens, Rufus Kimpton, realizing that the town would soon be a ghost town, moved his family 115 miles south to Windermere. When his beloved wife, Celina, missed her church in Donald, Rufus literally stole it from under the noses of town officials who had already dismantled the building in preparation for its move to Revelstoke. He had it shipped, piece by piece, by wagon and barge, and rebuilt in its present location at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Kootenay Street in Windermere. While the church was en route to its new home, however, its bell was mysteriously stolen and taken to Golden by some unknown person.

Marker to the memory of Reverend Henry Irwin
Marker in memory of ‘Father Pat’

When the theft of the church building was discovered, a group from Revelstoke wrote letters to Windermere, demanding its return, but received no response. Windermere had no better luck getting its bell back than Revelstoke had getting the church back. As a result, Windermere had St. Peter’s, the ‘stolen church’ and Golden had St. Paul’s, the church of the ‘stolen bell’!

Resentment was harbored between Golden and Windermere for over half a century until, in 1957, a group from Windermere stole the bell back from Golden. Their victory was short-lived, however, because Windermere officials who didn’t believe that two wrongs made a right, returned the bell to Golden.

In Memoriam
Father Pat
Rev. Henry Irwin
1860 – 1902
First Anglican missionary
in the Kootenays,
who built the first church
in the Rockies.
This stone was erected
by old-timers
1932.
“All things to all men.”

Today the picturesque red-roofed Stolen Church is administered by the Windermere Valley Shared Ministry and the Diocese of Kootenay. Residents of Windermere lovingly tend its lawns, plant its window boxes and maintain the upkeep of the building. Church services are held monthly during the summer months and on Christmas Eve. It is also a popular venue for weddings, having a capacity of 90 to 100 people.

In the church yard is a marker to the memory of Reverend Henry Irwin, affectionately known as ‘Father Pat’.

For information about services or using the Stolen Church for a wedding, please contact the Windermere Valley Shared Ministry office in Invermere at 250-342-6644, or email to ac.ms1490681724vw@ec1490681724iffo1490681724

3 thoughts on “The Stolen Church

  • August 1, 2011 at 11:44 am
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    “Father Pat” Irwin was born in Newtownmountkennedy,Ireland,County Wicklow in 1859.My mom,deceased nine years ago was a direct descendant of the Irwin clan.Our family has researched the geneaology of the family and will be traveling to Ireland later this month to visit the church and grounds where Father Pat and his 5 siblings were born.This article only re-educates us as to what a great servant Father Pat was.Thank you. ~

    Reply
  • December 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm
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    My Great Grandfather, Archdeacon Philip Sidney Irwin, was a brother of “Father Pat”, and also a missionary priest in the Bahamas, later in the U.S.A. Episcopal Church. His son, The Reverend Henry Alexander Irwin, a veteran Canadian Army infantry solder of the First World War, served in the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, Canada. His son, my father, Archdeacon Philip Sidney Irwin, a veteran Canadian Army artillary officer (anti-tank) of the Second World War also served his entire ministry in all deaneries the Ottawa Diocese. ~

    Reply
    • November 15, 2016 at 3:44 pm
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      Hi Philip: I am currently writing a story about Father Pat to be published in the Columbia Valley Pioneer. I am very interested to know more about his brother Archdeacon PS Irwin. Please contact me this week.

      Reply

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