Grace Church at 150, Part 1

Graceful beginnings

On February 4, 1847, Frederick Feilde and his wife Elizabeth Gildart Campbell donated the deed for land on the north side of the village of Waterdown to Rev. John Strachan, Lord Bishop of Toronto and his successors. The donation was made on the condition that the site was to be used for a church, rectory and cemetery, as the small Anglican congregation in the village had no building for regular worship and journeyed to St. John’s at Nelson or to St. Luke’s, Wellington Square.

Frederick Feilde was born in 1797 in Devon, England and served in the Napoleonic Wars with his father, Captain James Feilde and his brother, Fulford Feilde, who was Deputy Commissary General in the British Army. Both young men had come to Canada during the 1830s and were typical of the numerous half-pay officers who settled in Upper Canada at this time.

The donated Feilde property was purchased from Absalom Griffin and his wife, Harriet Smith, and described as “2 acres, 1 rod and 11 perches in total area,” part of the Griffin Survey.

It appears that funds to build a church were not immediately available, possibly because the congregation was so small. The first regular services were begun in 1858 by Rev. A. P. Morris, Headmaster of the Grammar School in Hamilton, who visited the village on Sundays and preached in the Township Hall for an annual stipend of $81.50.

In 1860, a small stone church was finally erected. At the annual Vestry Meeting on Easter Monday, a motion was passed that “it was desirable to avail ourselves of the liberal grant of the Church Society and procure the settlement in this parish of a resident clergy.” By the end of the year, Rev. George Higginson was appointed the first minister of the church that was named Grace Church.

During its first decade, entries in the small church’s Baptism and Marriage Registers reveal that the congregation came from as far as Nassagaweya, Nelson and Beverly Townships. Although some of these services may have been conducted by the minister travelling to the various households, there appear to have been faithful adherents to the church.

Five years later, because of the growing congregation, the church was enlarged under the direction of the second incumbent, Rev. H. Stringfellow, who had fled to Canada from the southern states during the American Civil War, a circumstance that alone must have made him of great interest to the people of Waterdown. The incumbency of Rev. Stringfellow only lasted a year before he returned to the United States but during that time, the west end of the original building was removed and the walls extended about 20 feet.

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, 5 August 2010.


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