St James Church has a lengthy history. The site for its first building on land donated by John William Kedy at the Mushamush burial ground on Clearland Road overlooking the head of the bay was approved by Bishop John Inglis in 1826. The building was completed in 1833 but it was pretty basic. A galleried Georgian-style building, its original pews were boards placed on heavy blocks of wood, and the walls were only single-boarded for a long time, making the building drafty. The building was improved in 1834 and Ezra Ernst was hired as sexton at a salary of £2 per year with instructions to sweep the floor once a month. The church was consecrated in 1835 by Bishop Inglis.
There was no priest, however, and the congregation was served by the priest at St John's in Lunenburg until about 1845, when the Rev J. Philip Filleul was appointed. He was succeeded in 1852 by the Rev William Henry Snyder, who served until his death in 1889 except for a brief absence in 1874-75.
By 1858 the chapel had become too small for the growing congregation so it was cut apart and greatly enlarged. Some years later the square tower was added. By the 1880s it was again too small and was in poor condition so it was decided to build a new church at the bottom of the hill, on its present site.
This huge project was spearheaded by the Rev Ned Harris, who came to St James in 1884 as curate to Snyder and succeeded him as rector in 1889, remaining until his death in 1913, an astonishing 47 years.
The new church was designed by Harris' brother, William Critchlow Harris, an architect who designed several impressive churches throughout the Maritime provinces. Much of the actual work was done voluntarily by members of the congregation.
Meanwhile, the rectory had been built in 1847. Originally designed in the Gothic Revival style, it was extensively modified in 1905, adding a second storey. When Harris lived there it exhibited several paintings by another brother, Robert Harris, a highly successful painter best known for his portrait of the Fathers of Confederation.