Early History of Churches in the Steveston Area

 

The early settlers came to Lulu Island around 1861.  Among them were A.E. Sharpe, Hugh McRoberts and Manoah Steves.
The early ministers, both Methodist and Presbyterian, who were stationed in New Westminster, considered the entire area to be their parish.

The Rev. Robert Jamieson, a Presbyterian, came to New Westminster in 1862 and served there until 1878.  It is recorded that he often preached to the Richmond community.  Likewise, the  Methodist missionaries made occasional visits and they were instrumental in having a small church building erected about 1870.  This was opened by Rev. Cornelius Bryant who was stationed in New Westminster.

When the new wharf was built at London's Landing in the fall of 1885, Rev. James A. Wood, the Methodist minister stationed in Ladner, began holding services in some of the homes.  By the middle of 1887, Rev. Wood had succeeded in getting a small church built at London's Landing. This was built by the Methodists and became a Union Church used by all denominations.

In 1887 Rev. Wood was succeeded by Rev. W.B. Seccombe.  The following year the Methodist Conference separated Richmond from Ladner and stationed a minister at Eburne to serve Richmond and London's Landing.  In 1890 Rev. James A. Wood returned to serve for the next thee years.  Services continued in the London's Landing church. In 1894 Rev. Alfred Eli Green was hired by the Richmond Church. He lived in the parsonage, conducted services at the North Arm Church and traveled to Steveston, holding services at the Steveston Methodist Church at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Chatham Street.

Prior to this, William Herbert Steves, eldest son of Manoah, built the Steveston Opera House as an entertainment centre to facilitate all types of public gatherings.  During the summer fishing season the Methodists began holding revival meetings on the street and in the Opera House.

In 1893 Rev. Alfred E. Green was instrumental in the building of the Steveston church.  Because of his interest in the Indians he gave special attention to Steveston where many Indians were working in the fishing industry.

Most of the Japanese fishermen who came to Steveston and remained were from a fishing village in Japan called Mio Mura.  By 1896 there were a few hundred in Steveston; practically all were men.

In 1892 Rev. Saddakichi Kawabe, an ordained minister, visited B.C. and conducted the first Christian service in the Japanese language.  Through his zeal and contact with the Japanese people, the mission to bring the gospel to their fellow Japanese began.

The operation of a hospital during the fishing season for the Japanese in 1894 was really the beginning of an organized Christian work in Steveston.  From its beginning the cost of maintaining the hospital was borne by volunteer contributions from the fishermen and their friends. By the middle of 1897 support for the hospital was badly needed.  A royal Japanese visitor, His Imperial Highness Arisugawa, who was en route from England, was touched by the story of the hospital in Steveston and made a generous gift of $200.00.  Later, the hospital came under the responsibility of the Fishermen's Association. The Japanese Mission Church was founded in 1897. The church was located across from the hospital at No. 1 Road and Chatham Street.

Through all the years of the Japanese mission, the Japanese Christians were a minority group. The amalgamation of the English and Japanese congregations took place on Sunday, February 15, 1953.  It was then decided to bring all activities of Steveston United Church under one roof.

A pattern of church life established by Rev. Green continued through the succeeding years with regular services, a formation of a Sunday School and extra staff workers on hand during the fishing season.

To summarize, the ministers on the Richmond circuit were:
1885-1887  Rev. James A. Wood
1887-1888  Rev. William B. Seccombe
1888-1890  Rev. Samuel J. Thompson
1890-1893  Rev. James A. Wood
1893-1894  Rev. Samuel J. Thompson
1894-1897  Rev. Alfred Eli Green

The ministers who succeeded Rev. Green on the Richmond circuit were:
1897-1898  Rev. W. Baer
1898-1902  Rev. Arthur N. Miller
1902-1904  Rev. Elihu Manuel
1904-1907  Rev. Thomas W. Hall
1907-1911  Rev. Samuel J. Green
1911-1912  Rev. Elihu Manuel
1912-1916  Rev. John H. Wright
1916-1919  Rev. George B. Ridland
1919-1924  Rev. John J. Nixon
1924-1925  Rev. J. Wesley Miller

The only remaining record of the Methodist church is the minute book of the Steveston Ladies Aid from 1913-1925.  These minutes indicate that the ladies assumed the responsibility for care of the church building, painting, replacing windows, hiring the janitor, providing stoves, purchasing fuel and the furnishing of the Mission House.  They played a major role in keeping the church going.

South Arm and Steveston became one charge under Rev. A. MacKay who lived in Steveston.  The arrangement became effective when the United Church of Canada came into being on June 10, 1925 without friction or dissent.

In Steveston the little Presbyterian church was closed and the Methodist church used for all services as well as Sunday School.  The coming together in Steveston of all factions was a great forward step: together under one roof, under one spirit, under one Lord -- Jesus Christ.

The Japanese Mission
(prior to 1914, all lay workers)
1892            Rev. Sada Kichi Kawabe of San Francisco visited.
1894-1895  Matutaro Okamoto and Koichi Ichu
1896           Rev. Goro Kaburagi visited.
1897-1901  Ukichi Oyama
1902-1903  Paul Ranzo Kishimoto
1903-1904  Gensaku Nakagama
1904-1909  Eichi Kawabara
1909-1911  Akima Kato
1911-1912  Eichi Kawabara
1912-1913  Guichi Suga
1914-1915  Rev. Chiyoji Shoikawa
1916-1922  Rev. Soji Saito
1922-1925  Rev. Yoshinsuke Yoshioka