What do cannonballs, a priest with a penchant for butter churning, and a headless horseman have in common? Well, welcome to the Stone Butter Church. In the late 1850s, Father Peter Rondeault, a young priest from Quebec, set out for the mountains with a mission to build a church. He settled on a rocky plot of land at the top of Comiaken Hill, where his sanctuary could look out over the beautiful valley and bay below. Rondeault managed to construct a temporary church and log cabin for himself and soon recruited members of the nearby Cowichan tribe to help him in his quest to construct a more enduring church made of stone.
While the sight of cannonballs is typically enough to make most head for cover, in the case of the Stone Butter Church, it was quite the opposite. The formidable weapons were used to smash boulders from Mount Tzouhalem for the church’s construction, helping to create a space for the congregation. The smaller stones made their way down the mountain in ox-drawn wagons before being carried to the church’s construction site on the hillside. (Phew!) Though it was backbreaking work, stone by stone the church was finally finished in 1870. But how does a priest without a church pay his laborers? Well, Father Rondeault paid his workers with money he earned by churning and selling butter from his nearby dairy farm – hence the name: Stone Butter Church.
Yet after all that hard labor, the church served its congregation of settlers and local natives for merely a decade before it was abandoned in favor of a new location. The Roman Catholic Diocese decided to build another church on nearby land, and Rondeault had to leave Stone Butter to lead the newly founded congregation. Over time, swallows took up residence in the rafters and the building was left, quite literally, to the birds – the stained glass windows were stripped and taken to other nearby churches, and even the front door itself was stolen
Today, the church still stands as an empty shrine, serving as a canvas for local artists to showcase their graffiti. But it’s rumored that the birds and graffiti aren’t the only things that call this stone shelter home. Whether it’s stories of ghosts following people home, strange sounds heard within the church, or eerie feelings of being watched while exploring the property – the legacy of Stone Butter Church is shrouded in the supernatural
Some visitors have even claimed to see a headless horseman standing in the church’s graveyard, though no one is quite sure who that spirit might be. Maybe it is the ghost of Chief Tzouhalem, a Quamichan warrior who was banished by his fellow tribe members and took up residence in a nearby cave in the mountains. Or perhaps it’s just a passerby from centuries ago hoping to get their hands on some more of that freshly churned butter.
Written By: Randi Cantrell