Pioneer Portraits: a look at the earliest days of All Saints Ladner
When I looked at the list of early pastors at All Saints, I was struck by how LITTLE time any of them spend here: the average tenure was about three years.
Then I began to read the accounts, & wondered how any of them lasted SO LONG! It’s all too easy to look with today’s eyes & attitudes at events in the late 1800s. I had forgotten that these men - it was all men in those days - were as much pioneers as the flocks that they tended.
Remember that it was only a decade earlier that Stanley had found Livingston in Zanzibar, so perhaps these early preachers thought of Ladner’s Landing as a hardship posting on the edge of the Empire, where answering God’s call might provide a chance for adventure.
Archbishop Douglas has said that Christianity is not for the faint of heart, & men like Rev. Charles Croucher are a great example of the kind of toughness that was required to get a mission church up and running. Or in Rev. Croucher's case, TWO mission churches.
As I write this, in the fall of 2015, our rector Elizabeth is looking after two parishes: one in Ladner and one in Tsawwassen. Her pioneer predecessor Rev. Croucher (1885 - 1888) also had to look after two churches: Ladner’s Landing & St. John the Divine, in Port Hammond. And where is Port Hammond, I hear you ask? It’s underneath today’s Golden Ears Bridge, about an hours drive east along the new South Fraser Perimeter Road.
Only, in the 1880s, the good preacher had to travel by SKIFF between the two parishes, taking on the Fraser River to do so. I say taking on, because on one famous occasion, the mighty Fraser nearly won: his skiff overturned, leaving Rev. Croucher clinging to the upturned hull, calling for help, until he was rescued by workers at a nearby cannery.
Here is what the official record says:
“To minister to these two parishes, he had for some time to use a little skiff totally unsuited to breast the rapid flood of the Fraser River. He nearly lost his life in his efforts to perform his double duty. Returning from Lander’s Landing, the tide running swiftly out, and the wind blowing strongly against it, the boat capsized and after struggling for three quarters of an hour in the deadly cold water, Reverend Croucher’s cries were heard by workmen in a salmon cannery nearby, who had stopped their machinery for a break”.
The accounts don’t say whether he preached that Sunday or not. Following this near-disaster, Rev. Croucher wrote to the Missions in England, asking if they could assist him by providing the funds necessary to purchase a motor boat. In due course, a twenty five foot motor launch was delivered. According to parish records:
“she had a two horsepower Shipman's Rochester motor, was fuelled by crude petroleum, did not need an engineer and had a self-acting pump. She was to be used only by Rev. Croucher and Bishop Sillitoe for their visits to the settlers along the Fraser”.
Rev. Croucher spent the rest of his life ministering to various parishes up & down the Fraser. He was chaplain to the Sisters of All Hallows in Yale; vicar of St. John the Divine in Yale with All Saints Agassiz (another long commute!). He wound up his career as rural dean in Lytton.
He died June 6th 1917, & is buried in Sapperton, in a cemetery that is a stone's throw from the Fraser.