A church steeped in Métis history is getting a facelift and will once again be used for important occasions in community life.

The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) recently donated $15,000 to the restoration of the building, the MMF writes in its newsletterLe Metis.

Southeast Region Vice-President Denise Thomas delivered the cheque to the Friends of Old St. Jude’s, the stewards and curators for the building, located in the Métis community of Grand Marais, north of Winnipeg. The money will go towards rebuilding the vestibule and steeple at the historical site.  

“I am so grateful that the President agreed to donate the $15,000 to help us with this project,” said Minister Thomas.  

Her sister-in-law, Phoebe Thomas, one of the Directors for Friends of Old St. Jude’s, agrees. “They were generous enough to give us that donation. So we were really, really, happy with that.” 

The new vestibule will be historically correct and represent the earliest foyer and steeple as closely as possible.  

A small old, white, church building

The original structure was built in 1896 by Métis families on two acres of land donated for a cemetery by two Métis from Grand Marais, George Rupert and Alex Knott.  

The church’s restoration is personal for Minister Thomas – her late husband’s family established the church, and they are all buried in its cemetery.  

“That’s where my late husband is buried, in that cemetery, so that’s where I’m going to be buried,” she said. 

Minister Thomas was eager to deliver the cheque at the last open house in celebration of the church’s 125th anniversary. 

“It was very exciting because that’s my family that established that Old St. Jude’s. They were so much a part of it,” she said.  

The same goes for Phoebe.  

“My great-grandfather was Reverend Edward Thomas. He built the altar and the shelf and the bishop’s chair in that building. The first person that was buried there … was Marie Knott, it was Alex Knott’s (mother), so it’s a lot of Métis history there,” Phoebe said. “I have five generations buried there.”  

The new vestibule will be historically correct and represent the earliest foyer and steeple as closely as possible. 
The church halted service in 1964 due to the deterioration of the building, and the vestibule in particular. It was rescued from demolition in 2005 and is now owned by the RM of St. Clements.  

“There was a group of people that wanted to tear that building down, and the Friends of Old St. Jude’s Incorporation that I sit on, they decided that they didn’t want the building torn down, so they formed a group, and they stopped the demolition of that building,” said Phoebe, who joined the group in 2006. 

The Friends of Old St. Jude’s reshingled the roof, and then started work on the vestibule in 2012.  

“We’ve been fundraising and making the community aware that we wanted to restore the vestibule,” Phoebe said.  

“We have an engineer, and an architect, and a project manager, guiding us on how to tear this vestibule down, and the chimney down, and how to get the plans for the next build, and what’s good for the heritage site.” 

Once construction is complete, the group plans to use the 30-person church, which was designated a historical site in 2018, for community events such as weddings and funerals.