Congregational Church Picnic?

The image below is an early one from the City of Vancouver Archives (CVA). On the glass positive of the image, there are notes; these are difficult to make out, but I’m pretty sure it reads as follows, starting at the top margin: “Granite Falls. North Arm Burrard Inlet, circa summer 1890. Probably First Baptist Church Sunday School. [And along the bottom, appears the following note:] Rev. W. Pedley and Baptist minister in Vancouver.”

The notes were almost certainly made by the photographer or, if not, then by a person who was much closer to the event portrayed than are we today. But that does not mean that the note-maker was infallible. If my argument presented below is correct, it seems likely that the note-maker made at least a couple of errors, one of which may call into question this person’s conclusion that this was “probably” an assembly of First Baptist Church’s Sunday School.

LGN 506 - [Group of men, women and children from the First Baptist Church assembled for picnic at Granite Falls, Indian Arm] 1890?

LGN 506 – [Group of men, women and children from the First Baptist Church assembled for picnic at Granite Falls, Indian Arm] 1890?

Rev. James W. Pedley, Pastor, First Congregational Church

The name of the only clergyman identified by name appears to be in error. There never was (to my knowledge) a Rev. W. Pedley living in early Vancouver. There was, however, a Rev. J. (James) W. Pedley who was the first pastor called to Vancouver’s First Congregational Church. He came to the city just two years after its incorporation in 1888 and remained for 7 years, leaving in 1895 to accept a call to pastor a church in London, ON. For a helpful obituary of Pedley kindly supplied by BC Conference United Church of Canada archivist, Blair Galston, see below:

The Province. May 25 1933 Obit of Rev. J. W. Pedley. Clipping from The Bob Stewart Archives of United Church of Canada (BC Conference).

The Province. May 25 1933 Obit of Rev. J. W. Pedley. Clipping from The Bob Stewart Archives of United Church of Canada (BC Conference).

The error with J. W. Pedley’s name and the absence in the notes of his denominational affiliation suggests that the notes were written by the photographer in a hurry or (more likely, I think) by an assistant who was probably not present at Granite Falls for the making of the image.

Where’s Pedley?

The notes on the image do not indicate where (J.) W. Pedley is located in the photograph. Let me ask you, the reader of this blog: Where would you say that Pastor Pedley is situated among this collection of mainly young Sunday School students?

If you concluded that Rev. Pedley was the gent on the left of the image with high-forehead (revealed by his respectfully removed hat) and dressed in a dark three-piece suit – at a summer picnic! – I believe you’re correct. How do I reach that conclusion? By comparing the fellow in this photo with a couple of portraits in which Pedley is indisputably the sole subject or one of the subjects. The first one of these is a later portrait made after Pedley had left Vancouver:

Port P226 - [Reverend J.W. Pedley] ca 1900 Freeland photo.

Port P226 – [Reverend J.W. Pedley] ca 1900 Freeland photo.

The pastor’s hair is a bit curlier and his forehead a little more elevated than in the 1890 Granite Falls image. But the intense gaze and his prominent nose conspire to give away Mr. Pedley. It seems to me almost certain that this is the same man. But, to be safe, I sought out another image of JWP which was closer to the year in which his image was made at Granite Falls.

Crop of Port P566 - [Sod turning ceremony for the first Y.M.C.A. building on Cambie Street] ca 1889 Bailey and Neelands photo.

Crop of Port P566 – (Identifying Reverend J. W. Pedley at ) [Sod turning ceremony for the first Y.M.C.A. building on Cambie Street] ca 1889 Bailey and Neelands photo.

This cropped image of sod-turners at the construction of the first YMCA building in Vancouver includes identification of JWP just one year before the circa1890 year that Granite Falls was taken. Again, the eyes, nose and hairline betray him. There can be, it seems to me, little doubt as to where Pedley is in Granite Falls.

In Search of… the Elusive “Baptist minister”

Locating Pedley was a relatively simple matter. Finding the elusive pastor of First Baptist Church in 1890 was more problematic. Initially, it seemed to me, that there were two FBC ministerial contenders: Rev. J. B. Kennedy, whose Vancouver pastorate spanned the years 1887-90 and Rev. W. C. Weir (1890-94). J. B. Kennedy may be safely ruled out, however, by a careful reading of the text of First Baptist Church’s first historian, W. M. Carmichael, where he remarks that: “[JBK] bade the people farewell on the last Sunday of January, 1890…” Indeed, if we continue to assume that Granite Falls was made in Summer 1890, we must also eliminate the only other FBC contender in that year, Rev. W. C. Weir, for he (again according to Mr. Carmichael) “entered upon his ministry [in Vancouver] on September 14, 1890.” There seems to have been a period extending over the winter and summer period of 1890 during which First Baptist was without any minister. (There is nothing in FBC’s historical record, of which I’m aware, which suggests the church retained a part-time minister between JBK and WCW. Most likely, Baptist guest pastors from New Westminster and other nearby communities were enlisted to deliver Sunday sermons.)

So, given these facts, we need either to take more seriously the “circa” part of the note-maker’s “circa 1890” OR to call into question whether the gathering is likely to have been one of “First Baptist Church Sunday School”, as the note-maker claims, or some other gathering.

Let’s consider each option in turn. I cannot establish either way whether the note-maker’s dating of Granite Falls is 1890 or some earlier or (more likely, I think) later date. One way to be certain, as far as I can figure, is if there was included in the image a face of either J. B. Kennedy or W. C. Weir. I can find neither one in Granite Falls.

It seems to me more likely that this is an image of a First Congregational Church Sunday School Picnic rather than one of FBC. What would the pastor of First Congregational be doing, in the normal course of events, at a First Baptist Sunday School picnic? The only way to establish that, with any degree of certainty, would be to compare Granite Falls with a comparable image of First Congregational Church attenders – and even better, of Congregational Sunday Schoolers – around the same time. Is there such an image extant? Yes! There appear to be, at first glance, two Congregational picnic images available from the City of Vancouver Archives (one allegedly from 1891 and another from 1892, both apparently made on the Sunshine Coast at Bucanneer Bay). In fact, the images (CVA’s Ch P136 and Ch P156) are identical.

But even one image of Congregational picnic-ers from the 1890s would, I’d assume, assist us in answering the question as to whether Granite Falls is of a Baptist or Congregational Sunday School. Alas, not to my eyes. Readers of this post are welcome to compare the Congregational image (see below) with the “Baptist” one at Granite Falls, but my eyes are unable to detect close similarities between anyone in the two images.


What may be concluded from all this? A couple of modest corrections (and a question/speculation):

  1. There is no Rev. W. Pedley in Granite Falls, nor serving any Vancouver church.
  2. Rev. James W. Pedley, the founder of First Congregational Church in Vancouver, is in the image, and he appears to be the gent on the far left.
  3. There is no evidence in Granite Falls of a clergyman from First Baptist Church, nor indeed any evidence of which I’m aware that establishes that this is the Sunday School of First Baptist Church. It seems far more probable to me that this is the Sunday School group of First Congregational Church during Rev. J. W. Pedley’s pastorate. That, however, remains unproven and is wholly speculative on my part.
Ch P136 - [Congregational Church picnic] 1891. (Note: The author has enhanced the image a bit to improve its general over-exposure).

Ch P136 – [Congregational Church picnic] 1891. (Note: The author has enhanced the image a bit to correct for its general over-exposure).

This entry was posted in Bailey & Neelands, biography, churches, First Baptist Church, Vancouver, Freeland, people and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Congregational Church Picnic?

  1. Daniel says:

    Very interesting examination!

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