Heritage In A Photograph

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by Doug MacDonald

For more than 70 years a small 21½ x 13½ cm photograph was displayed in the Vestry of St. James Anglican Church, Kemptville. This extremely rare and historic image of the interior of the 1827 St. James was “presented (to St. James) by Mrs. Wm. Ernest Giffin August 16th 1946 in memory of William Wells Giffin member of the original St. James Church”.

The photograph, from the 1860’s or 1870’s, is at least 150 years old, and the only known image of the interior of the first church in the area. Unfortunately time, sunlight, dirt, glue and acids have degraded the image. In addition, the photograph had been “touched up” by untrained hands that added badly applied lines and colour.

Recently, the photograph was professionally cleaned, then scanned. A second scan removed stains and enhanced the image to reveal lost detail. Although still a ghostly image, details of the Chancel are clearer, and, in the centre foreground, now recognizable, is lay reader Robert Leslie (yes, that Robert Leslie), pioneer of the community and St. James. He stands beside a pedestal on which rests what appears to be a baptismal font.

This confirms the history of the white alabaster baptismal font, initially from the old 1827 St. James and, after 1880, located in the present St. James. In 1893 it was presented to St. Paul’s, Beckett’s Landing, where it remained for more than twelve decades. When St. Paul’s was deconsecrated, the font was repatriated, repaired, polished and returned to St. James.

Once again, as with the children of the pioneers of St. James and St. Paul’s, the sacrament of baptism may take place at the heritage font; most recently on April 8, 2018, for Oliver, son of Melissa and Justin Poirier, and on October 16, 2016 for Audrey, daughter of Tira and Robert Porter.

The original photograph is in a zeolyte conservation sleeve in the St. James archives. A photo reproduction of the enhanced photograph has been placed in the period frame for display in the Vestry.

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