Published on January 2, 2014 by Amy
The history of the historical old “Indian Stone Church” built in 1870 on Comiaken Hill, and is located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.
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In the mid 1800’s the Cowichan Indian tribes were one of the largest Indian tribes in British Columbia, and the Roman Catholic missionaries were intent on establishing and gaining a following amongst the local Cowichan Indian communities. One of their earliest priests Father Peter Rondeault, a pioneer Oblate missionary to the Cowichan Indians built this landmark in 1870 with the help of the local Cowichan Indians.
This stone masonry building on Comiaken Hill was constructed using money collected from the sale of the butter churned from the milk of Father Rondeault’s cows and that is how this beautiful stone church acquired the name “The Butter Church”.
A very simple bronze plaque explains how the local Native Indian helpers were paid in the construction of the Butter Church; “Helpers were paid through the sale of butter churned by the priest”.
The Butter Church has had a very rich history since it’s creation on the Comiaken Indian Reserve. In 1931 it was written that the ‘Believe It Or Not’ syndicated newspaper column termed it “The church of no services…in which no congregation has ever gathered”. According to Ripley, “the Indians will not go near it because all those who actually built it died mysteriously”.
There’s no denying that the Butter Church has had a very rich oral and written history since its creation on the Comiaken Indian Reserve. It’s been a place that is steep in the history of the first established Indian contact with European Religion, and over the last 140 years it’s also been a place of unexplained occurrences that have been wrapped in mystery, and intertwined with sacred Native Indian spirituality.
The Old Stone Church was rather exclusive in its early days but shortly after being completed the Butter Church was abandoned after only 10 years of service in 1880 in favour of St. Ann’s Church at Tzouhalem.
No longer a home to any congregation, the Butter Church fell into disrepair. The doors and the beautiful stained glass windows are in fact installed in St. Paul’s Church on Saltspring Island, where it still exists today. The Old Stone Church is a beautiful historic site with a beautiful history; it continues to serve as a magnificent landmark to the Cowichan Valley, and a visible representation of the struggles, hardships, spirituality, and generosity of it’s local Native Indian population.