Father Pierre Rondeault established a mission to the Cowicahan Indians in 1858. In 1870 he built the old stone “Butter Church” on Comiaken Hill. But in 1890 he was forced to abandon that church and build St Ann’s just down the road where the diocese had clear title to the land. The original St Ann’s was destroyed by fire in 1902 and the current structure built in 1903. It continues to serve the Cowicahans and more recent settlers in the Duncan area. The Way of the Cross, a pilgrimage from St Ann’s to the White Cross visible on the top of Mt. Tzouhalem remains a Good Friday tradition.
Father Rondeault died in 1900 after 41 years with the Cowichan. He is buried beneath the small chapel at the back of St Ann’s.
The oldest gravestone is marked 1891.
For a historical perspective, consider the historical time line. Vancouver Island (British Columbia) became the self governing colony in 1849 with James Douglas, the factor of Hudson’s Bay Company atFort Victoria as the governor. Bishop Modeste Demers worked to establish the civilizing influence of the church on this ex-fur trading post. Bishop Demers went to Quebec to enlist the aid of priests and nuns willing to work as missionaries in the new colony on the edge of the frontier. Father Rondeauld, an Oblate priest answered the call with one other priest, two lay brothers including Brother Michaud and four Sisters of St Ann. They changed history. When they arrived back in Victoria in 1858, things had changed dramatically, Gold! The Barkerville gold rush was underway and new immigrants, rough miners, were everywhere. Father Rondeauld went to the Cowichan area and built three churches: the original log structure, the Stone Butter Church and St Ann’s. The original wooden church built in 1880 was destroyed by fire in 1902 and rebuilt in 1903. Father Rondeauld died in in 1900 and never saw the final St Ann’s but he is remembered and buried under the chapel at the back.
The Sisters of St Ann built in 1859 St Ann’s Academy in Victoria, a convent and school for girls. See waymark WM67BO for the history. The sisters also built Providence House near St Ann’s Church, Duncan in 1864. It remained a school for girls, many Cowichan natives for 100 years.
Brother Michaud who also came from Quebec in 1858 with Bishop Demers built St Andrew’s Church as a classic Quebecois church as the cathedral for the diocese. This became St Ann’s Chapel in 1871.
This handful of religious people have left there mark as they civilized the transition of British Columbia from a fur trading post to a self governing colony to a province in the Dominion of Canada. These waymarks trace this micro-history. From the small details on the accomplishments of individual people, we can better appreciate historical change than affects our destiny.
The oldest grave in the graveyard is dated 1890.