Through a Canadian stained glass window – John Antle

 on December 18, 2017

by Dennis M. Goldsberry

The window’s inscription reads: “The Columbia Coast Mission was started in 1905 by the Rev. John Antle, former Newfoundlander. It brought the ministry of the Church of England to loggers, fishermen, lighthouse keepers, Indians and remote settlers along the shores of British Columbia.”

The Reverend John Antle (1865-1949) was born about 70 miles from St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the sealing-and-fishing port of Brigus.

Because his father was captain of a ship, John was acquainted early with sea navigation.

He attended school in Brigus, leaving home at seventeen. Supporting himself by teaching, he attended Queen’s Theological College, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and graduated at age twenty five. He was ordained to the deaconate (1890) and the priesthood (1892).

After five years in the ministry in Newfoundland, John and his family emigrated to Roslyn, Washington.

In 1899, he became Rector of Holy Trinity Church in the Fairview Parish of Vancouver.

After the bodies of four dead loggers arrived in Vancouver on a ship capable of doing only nine knots an hour, John realized proper medical care might have saved their lives.

With a hundred-dollar grant and a fourteen-foot dinghy, he surveyed the medical needs of the coast of British Columbia. By 1905, with the financial help of the Missionary Society of the Church of England, John ran the ship Columbia, which functioned as a dispensary, hospital, library and chapel for the British Columbia coastal communities. He also trained as an anesthetist to help control costs.

John’s Columbia Coast Mission grew rapidly.

At its peak, the mission provided annual examinations for children, and pre-and post-natal care for both mother and child. Such care greatly reduced infant mortality.

He devised an insurance system for loggers that allowed treatment at the most convenient mission hospital, but with the migratory nature of logging, the insurance was only partially successful.

The Columbia Coast Mission operated three hospitals, two ambulance ships, one hospital ship, five churches and two native missions.

John retired at age seventy, but continued to sail.

In 1939, he purchased a boat in the United Kingdom and sailed to Vancouver, through the Panama Canal.

During the Second World War, he was in charge of an Anglican parish on Mayne Island.
John died in 1949. His funeral was held on board his ship Columbia, and he was buried at sea at Manson’s Deep, off Bowen Island.

Dennis M. Goldsberry is a member of the Church of the Ascension Hamilton.

As we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, we looked back at the role of the church as told through stained glass windows.

The Church of the Ascension Hamilton has 10 stained glass windows in their Chapel of the Holy Spirit dedicated to Canadian Anglican pioneers. For more information about the windows go to

Note cards featuring the historic windows can be purchased through the church.

The Niagara Anglican thanks the Church of the Ascension Hamilton for sharing the stories of our church’s history through their stained glass windows during Canada’s 150th anniversary.

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