BOOTLEGGER’S CHURCH – COPLEY ANGLICAN CHURCH

This stone church, formerly known as St. George’s Anglican Church was fifty-six feet long, twenty wide and twenty tall is located approximately 5 miles from the Saskatchewan border and 2 miles from North Dakota. The organization and fundraising efforts to build this church were headed by Goddard Gale and construction of same began in 1890 by Mr. William Cornwallis. Two years later in September 4th, 1892 the church was consecrated by Bishop Robert Machray.

Goddard Gale was an artist from London and the son of a well-known barrister and a cricket player. Goddard is also rumored to be the first “white man” to set eyes on Lake Louise. Mr. Gale was a surveyor and engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway and a staunch Anglican. When he took up residence is what was once known as Butterfield, he became a community leader and a council member for the RM of Arthur. Arthur is what this area of the province was before it was split into three smaller municipalities. In 2015 it was then reunified into one large RM known now as Two Borders.

When Mr. Gale started fundraising for the church on this 4.6 acres of land, stones were gathered as he wrote letters back home to his friends where he told them this would be the first Anglican church west of the Souris River.

As settlement started dwindling, church attendance also waned. In June, 1913 the church was deconsecrated. Some of the contents of the church were taken to a new building in Pierson but the organ and photos were taken to Eunola School.

Locals from the area told stories about Prohibition and how given the location close to the American border and the very isolated location of the now vacant church, it became an attractive hideout to bootleggers. I certainly didn’t get any Al Capone vibes while here.

Upon our arrival at the church, the sun was blaring, there were no clouds in the sky. I was a tad bit disappointed. Back at the start of Covid, Cade, Makenna and I drove out this way with the intention of visiting this location. We ended up heading North after a stop in Elva and I didn’t think I would ever make my way down here again. Yesterday a fellow bando hunter took me down here to do some touring. I’m glad he did. And I’m glad the sunset improved. Within fifteen or so minutes after our arrival, the infamous “golden hour” revealed itself.

After years of abandonment and vandalism, in 1932 the windows and doors of the church were boarded up in an effort to save the building. Inside the structure are obvious signs of a fire. I would have loved to have seen this place before Mother Nature and vandalism took hold.

In 1967 it was recorded that the building was still intact.

Driving around this area, there are very few cars and people. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, it is said that the government did all they could to entice people to this area. It is said that people from Britain and Northern Europe were heavily recruited. During the recruiting process no one took into consideration the climate these people would endure here on the wide open prairies nor did they consider if farming on this land would prove successful before they made their way to Canada from abroad.

And then there is this old truck. I will admit, at first I was a bit more excited about this old truck than I was the old church. What role this old truck plays to this historical site is beyond anyone’s knowledge. I googled it, but not to thoroughly, so I’m just going to pretend that a bootlegger parked his truck here to hide out in the church and then had to escape by foot and never came back for it. Its perfect right where it is and has been subject to many photographs in its time, as this old field stone church as its backdrop.

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