On the left of this aerial photo from the Quenneville collection, we see St. Columban Parish Centre (Agape today), which opened in March of 1962. Prior to that time the parish hall was a building north of the Bell Canada (notice the remnants of the circular drive at the top center). It was used as a Legion hall for a time. Today Adams/Hollis Wealth and St. Columban’s Pitt Street lane is there. The former second convent of the Congregation of Notre Dame to the west of the rectory operates as Baldwin House womens’ temporary shelter today. The footings of another former parish hall, Corbett Hall, can be seen in the area of the old cemetery, opposite the main Fire Station. Corbett Hall started out as a school building on the other side of the church and was re-located.
Laying the cornerstone of the present (third) church on the site. The second church is in the background. Note the strong man sitting atop the tripod, lowering the cornerstone with the aid of pulleys.
St. Columban Parish was established to serve the Irish immigrants and transient canal workers, thus the rationale for having an Irish patron saint. Scots were already well established in St. Raphael’s and at St. Andrews West. Later, as more Scots made their way to Cornwall, St. Patrick and St. Andrew became unofficial second patron saints. Statues of Andrew and Patrick are still located to either side of the sanctuary, while Columban stands guard at the main entrance.
Many of the statues, the Communion rail, and the old-style altar are long-gone. After two arsons, the church interior is modernized with ample lighting, modern storage facilities and a new sound system is being installed.
By the mid-1930s, the original parish cemetery site, east of the church, was very much in need of renewal. Although there were burials prior to that time, the first burial on record in that cemetery took place in 1835. Over time, many of the stones had become badly worn and damaged. The remaining intact gravestones were formed into a memorial cross to provide the base for the Calvary scene of the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and St. John surrounding Christ dying on the Cross of Calvary.
In 1872 the first Catholic school was opened by Fr. Charles Murray in a house that would later be known as Corbet Hall, on the site of St. Columban Parish’s first cemetery, immediately east of the church. The building was owned by Jan Ban MacLennan. The first teacher was Helen MacDonald, daughter of Alex. E. Macdonald. The school was behind MacDonald’s residence.
Some of the Irish Catholics who died while in quarantine at the temporary hospital, southeast of Cornwall’s original square mile, are among those buried in this cemetery. On 18 October, 2014 a memorial celtic cross was unveiled in Lamoureux Park, immediately west of the Cornwall Community Museum, commemorating the events of the summer of 1847 when fifty-two out of 234 Irish emigrants died in Cornwall Ontario’s typhoid quarantine sheds between June 14th and October 18, 1847, making this the single largest human tragedy in the history of Cornwall and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry. A list of those admitted and those discharged from the Cornwall Emigrant Hospital is posted on the Irish Memorial website.