Union Point Church: History and heart along Highway 75
Little white church stands alone between two busy stretches of highway just south of Ste. Agathe, Man.
For drivers heading down Highway 75 to the American border there's one welcome sign they are headed in the right direction — a tiny white church perched between two lanes of high-speed traffic.
But how did it end up perched so precariously? The answer dates back to the days of steamboats and river travel.
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Bustling town along the Red River
The church was built in 1887 in a small town called Union Point, located just south of Ste. Agathe, Man. A sandbar in the nearby Red River made it a prime docking point for steamboats carrying cargo and travellers.
At the time, there was a school, a hall, a post office and handful of residents.
But as the presence of railways increased, river travel fell out of favour. It was the beginning of the end for Union Point.
"I remember, when I was a boy, the post office was right here," said Richard Dorge, a long-time resident of Ste. Agathe.
Twinning the highway
By the late 1980s, the highway was twinned but what saved the church from demolition was the presence of its cemetery.
"They couldn't pave over the cemetery, so they went around it," said Richard Dorge, another resident of Ste. Agathe.
"It couldn't have turned out better. It's beautiful the way it is."
The highway wasn't the only thing to threaten the future of the little church. In 1939 it burned to the ground and in 1997 flood waters inundated its foundation.
Every time the church was repaired and revived.
Sold for a token
However, in 2005 local residents got wind that the United Church of Canada wanted to rid themselves of the structure.
"They sold the church to us for a token amount and, as a result, now we're the caretakers and we're responsible for the building," said Scott Parker, the Union Point Church caretaker.
Along with friends, the Parker family maintains the site year round.
They even have a guest book for travellers to sign. Scribbled notes shows that some weary travellers spend the night in the structure, while others celebrated their marriage at the historic site.
For Parker, the church is a link to the past.
"It's basically our way of showing our appreciation for the area and that it is important to remember history," he said. "So that's why it's here."
Ste. Agathe is located about 40 kilometres south of Winnipeg.
With files from Jacques Marcoux and Héloïse Bargain