August 15, 2011
St. Eugene Church Restoration
The St. Eugene Church, one of the few Victorian-era wooden churches left in British Columbia, is on its way to restoration! St. Mary’s Indian Band has announced that restoration is slated to begin soon and that they hope to have it open to the public by early next year.
The church has been closed due to structural issues since November 2004. The beautiful building was pre-fabricated in Italy, brought to its present home in 1897, and opened for worship on Palm Sunday of 1898. The church features a tall steeple, stained glass windows, buttresses at each corner, and cut shingles, as well as priceless artwork and statues inside the building.
Father Coccola, the head of the mission, heard the story of two women picking berries along the St. Mary River in 1891 finding a large, shiny rock. Joseph Bourgeois later discovered the rock and started the North Star Mine, purchased a year later for $40,000. Father Coccola encouraged the Ktunaxa people to watch for similar stone. In April 1893, a Ktunaxa man named Pierre, Pielle, or Pete, showed Coccola the stone and lead to him to where he found it by Moyie Lake. Father Coccola, excited by this discovery, travelled to Fort Steele to register for a miner’s license, and then sent samples to Spokane for analysis. The ore was discovered to contain high percentages of silver, and Coccolo, Pierre, and James Cronin (a Spokane developer) each staked a claim above Moyie Lake. Father Coccolo and Pierre sold their claims in 1895 for $12,000. The money funded the St. Eugene Church, a second church in Moyie, the first St. Eugene hospital (the second St. Eugene hospital started construction in Cranbrook in 1900, as the mission was too remote of a location), and a home for Pierre.
The St. Eugene Church is an important part of East Kootenay history and we are pleased to see its restoration begin. We will keep you updated as the restoration proceeds!
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