Early Irish Catholic settlers of the Perkinsfield area-refugees from the Potato Famine- called their settlement “St. Patrick’s. They had no church of their own until 1870, when the mission of St. Patrick’s was founded by the Reverend Étienne Gibra, priest for the Francophone settlement of Lafontaine, 10 kilometres to the north. FatherGibra built a tiny log chapel on this site which would serve this community for the next 14 years.
In 1873, the Reverend Joseph Michel, who had succeeded Father Gibra at Lafontaine, paid from his own personal funds, for the construction of a new church, Saint-Croix, for the community. In 1884, he repeated the gesture here, paying all the costs-$4000-for a new church for Perkinsfield. All the materials used in the construction of a new church were local, as were the skilled workmen who shaped them. The church, with its unique octagonal bell tower, stands today as a monument to the carpenter’s art.
Despite the beauty of the church, St. Patrick’s did not have its own priest for 25 years. During all that time, the local congregation remained dependent on the visits of priests from Lafontaine or Penetanguishene. In 1909, Father Eugene Geoffrey arrived as the first resident priest.
Father Geoffrey oversaw the construction of a new rectory, just to the south of the church, raising some of the money for its construction through a festival-the Feast of St. John the Baptist-help at Balm Beach.
In 1910, Father Roussin came to replace Father Geoffrey. In 1913, he arranged for the building of a village school-’École élémentaire catholique Saint-Martyrs-Canadiens-just south of the church, in what is now Perkinsfield Park. The site of this school is marked with the wooden cross that once stood over it.
Father Roussin’s school is long gone; Father Geoffrey’s rectory was demolished in 2011, and there is no longer a resident priest at St. Patrick’s, but the church remains. Modern aluminum siding has replaced the original wooden clapboard, but the church today looks much as it did more than a century ago.