Catholic in Flamborough, Part 3

The long history of Catholic worship in East Flamborough Township and the story of St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church

Sadly, the old church being built of stone was extremely uncomfortable for much of the year. The first men to arrive at the church on Sunday mornings took the responsibility for lighting the woodstove at the rear of the church, but the building never did get warm enough in winter. Lit by kerosene lamps that were liable to char the face of the person attempting to light them, it soon became apparent that the church needed to be modernized.

During the tenure of Rev. William Becker (1909-1924), the third Waterdown church, a red brick structure, was erected closer to the village core. One interesting story about the construction of the church concerns the bricks used in the building that were donated by Peter Cheeseman, a wealthy Hamilton brickyard owner. William Galivan and other residents of the area transported a load of bricks back to the site of the newly planned church each time they took a load of produce to market. As a result of this generosity, sufficient bricks from the brickyard opposite the present Cathedral of Christ the King were collected to complete the project within budget.

His Excellency Bishop Dowling laid the cornerstone for the new church on Barton Street in 1914, with the dedication of the building a year later. Again this was a grand occasion with a gathering of both church and civic dignitaries. With the completion of the new building, the old stone church on the outskirts of the village slowly fell into disuse and was abandoned, although the surrounding property continued to serve as a burial ground. Father McHugh (1932-1942) had hoped to change the function of the old church to that of a parish centre, but it too failed and finally the Fred Carson and Sons Company demolished the structure about 1937.

Steady and continuing growth resulted in Bishop Ryan establishing Waterdown as a separate parish in 1950, naming Rev. Joseph Cremmen the first pastor. With his accession to office, Father Cremmen organized parishioners to form a Separate School Board and saw the establishment of a school in the village that was opened on August 26, 1951. Now, approximately 160 years after the establishment of the first church, the Roman Catholic population of the township worships in its fourth church and looks forward to the opening of their second St. Thomas School.

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 19 January 2012.


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