Major Religious Groups of Flamborough: Origins and impact on community development

Originally Published in Heritage Happenings, November 2002
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This paper is the second in a series designed to explore the origins and impact of major religious groups in Flamborough. As Catholicism was the first religion to be examined, the next logical choice would be the Anglican Church, which, although inflamed with a myriad of similarities, chose an alternate path to that of its predecessor.

Anglicanism, an offshoot of Catholicism originated in England. It was from Canterbury that Anglicanism emerged, and swept across the globe to enlist its millions of adherents. Similar to Catholicism, Anglicanism was brought to the New World by means of missionaries. The first Anglican service performed in Canada occurred on September 2nd 1578, and was conducted by Robert Wolfall, a Chaplain in Sir Martin Frobisher’s expedition. After Canada’s introduction to Anglicanism at the subsequently named Frobisher Bay in 1578, it continued to permeate deeper into the country through immigration from the British Isles, and by way of Anglican loyalists moving north after the American Revolution. Missionary work continued to be conducted in British North America by various groups, such as: the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG founded 1701), Church Missionary Society (CMS founded 1799), and the colonial and Continental Church Society (CCCS founded 1838). These evangelical groups centred their efforts on ministering to settlers, which resulted in the continued insurgence of the Anglican Church into Canada.

The first Anglican Bishopric in British North America was that of Nova Scotia, and was presided over by loyalist Bishop Charles Inglis. Although the official title granted to him in 1787 was Bishop of Nova Scotia, his jurisdiction included Newfoundland, Bermuda, PEI and Lower and Upper Canada. By 1860, six diocese had been formed: Nova Scotia, Québec, Toronto, Fredericton, Montréal and Huron. In 1790 Bishop Inglis informed the SPG that many of the inhabitants of Upper Canada were quickly becoming dissenters.

In the face of dissent, it was largely due to the efforts of Reverend Dr. John Stuart, and American by birth, that the Anglican Church survived and thrived in Upper Canada. Stuart’s arrival in Upper Canada was not initially by choice. He was taken prisoner and used as a hostage for purposes of barter, and was exchanged for several American soldiers. Upon his release he headed north, and on October 10, 1781 he reached St. John’s. One month later Stuart made his way to Montréal, where he opened a school for the children of Protestants. He continued as schoolmaster and deputy Chaplain of the 60th regiment until 1784 when he applied for a transfer to Cataraqui (present day Kingston). Later in the year, Stuart moved on and travelled to Niagara. He visited all the towns and homesteads in the area, and even proceeded as far as Ancaster. He was appointed as the commissary to the Bishop of Nova Scotia, and later as Chaplain to the House Assembly in 1792. These appointments required that he perform duties in Kingston, a factor which would eventually propel the SPG to send Reverend Addison to minister to the people of Niagara and the West. It was Stuart and his early ambitious preaching which set the stage for the rise of the Anglican Church, hence his nickname: the ‘Father of the Anglican Church in Upper Canada.’

Following in the footsteps of Reverend Stuart was Reverend Robert Addison. Addison was appointed to the Niagara region by the SPG as a result of a letter sent by Reverend Stuart. Stuart protested that due to the size of his mission, he would be unable to properly minister to anything west of Kingston. Throughout the 1790s Addison performed baptisms and marriages in the Niagara region. He is even known to have sojourned to Ancaster, where he helped to propagate the Anglican faith. During the War of 1812 Addison was unable to return to Niagara, as it was occupied by the Americans. As the War drew to a close, so to did Addison’s role in ministering in the Niagara Peninsula and Head-of-the-Lake. Age was beginning to take its toll, so the SPG sent Reverend Ralph Leeming to assume responsibility for the charge previously held by Addison. Addison died October 1829, at 75 years of age. Forty of his years were spent ministering to the Congregation of Niagara.

As the War of 1812 wound down, the tenure of Reverend Ralph Leeming was on the verge of reaching its peak. He was sent to Ancaster as a replacement for newly resigned Reverend Addison. A great deal of Leeming’s time was spent ministering to members of the Six Nations who had settled along the Grand River. Leeming’s baptismal registry records his whereabouts and actions. These records indicate that Leeming was in the London district in 1816, and in West Flamborough in 1817 where he held services in a small wooden building, near the site of present day Christ Churc, Bullock’s Corners. Throughout all of his priestly exploits, Leeming maintained contact with the SPG, until he resigned his commision in 1833. During this time, he left Ancaster to journey abroad, reaching such exotic locations as Florida and Cuba. Leeming eventually returned to Dundas, where he died on March 10, 1872.

In January 1817, “one acre of land was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. John Green Sr. of Greensville for the purpose of building a church.” The first Church in Bullock’s Corners was little more than a log cabin which served numerous denominations and was overseen sporadically by travelling ministers such as Reverends Leeming and McMurray of Ancaster. This tiny cabin served the local Anglican congregation for half a century, until 1857 when Rev. Cannon F.L. Osler was appointed to the parishes of Dundas and Ancaster. Osler saw that services were conducted regularly and consequently, the cabin was quickly outgrown. By August 1865, the new Anglican Church at Bullock’s Corners was completed.

Prior to 1860, residents of Rocton in the former township of Beverly were forced to journey as far as Sheffield to attend Anglican services. During 1860, members of the Rockton community decided that a local Anglican Church was necessary. Until the church was built in 1869, services were held in the Rockton Township Hall. In 1869 on land purchased from a Mr. Blackburn, the first Anglican Church in Beverly was erected. By 1871 St. Alban’s in Rockton was consecrated, receiving its first rector, rev. R. J. Harrison. Throughout the first everal years of its existence, two services were held at St. Alban’s every Sunday. Due to a declining population however, regular services were reduced by 1889. By 1950, regular services at St. Alban’s ceased completely. Although no regular services are currently held at St. Alban’s, the Church remains exactly as it did on the date of its construction. The Rockton community still utilizes the Church for special events, like weddings and rare festival events.

In 1847 two acres of land was donated to the Anglican Church in Waterdown by Frederick Feilde and his wife, Elizabeth Gildart Feilde. During the first half of the nineteenth century in East Flamborough Township, the Anglican Church had no place of regular worship. The occasional minister would pass through and offer services, but the majority of Anglicans were forced to venture to Nelson or Wellington Square for services. Between 1858 and 1860, the headmaster of the Grammar School in Hamilton, Reverend A.P. Morris, held services in the newly constructed East Flamborough Township Hall. By 1860, sufficient funds had been collected and an Anglican Church was constructed on the lot donated by the Feildes. Grace Anglican Church still resides and operates on this lot.

Carlisle too had an Anglican Church, if only for a brief while. Towards the close of 1870, the Canadian Wesleyan New Connexion Church of Carlisle placed an advertisement in the Milton paper “The Canadian Champion,” attempting to sell its chapel and property on Lot 6, Concession 8, east of Centre Road. The property was sold to a group of Anglicans for $350. This Anglican Church only lasted until 1885, at which time the lot once again went up for sale.

Like the majority of Anglican Churches in Flamborough, St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Beverly Township was originally part of the Ancaster circuit. Under the tutelage of Rev. Richard Harrison, the Copetown congregation flourished form 1871-1881. After 1881, the parish fell into a steady decline for the next two decades, until it was forced to close in 1906.

From Britain and the United States they came, messengers charged by the SPG with the task of spreading the Anglican faith and seeing that the Anglican Church was well established and attended to in the new world. With an initial Diocese at Nova Scotia, and subsequent Diocese emerging at Québec, Toronto, Fredericton, Montréal and Huron, the Anglican Church did undergo substantial growth. This growth continued under the guidance of missionaries sent forth by the SPG to establish an Anglican presence in Upper Canada. These missionaries travelled through the areas of Hamilton, Dundas and Flamborough, and the impact of their visits can still be seen by way of the lasting Anglican presence in these areas. Although the Anglican Church did not play a large role in founding educational institutions (like the Catholic Church), or individually seek out parishioners (like the Presbyterian, Baptists and Methodist churches respectively), it did play an instrumental role in the development of Flamborough, and in fact all of Southern Ontario. The Anglican Church also impacted the citizens of Flamborough and surrounding areas in a crucial way; it served as a tether to Great Britain. That people of Upper Canada remained loyal to Britain is due in part to the presence of the Anglican Church. The Church saw that the line of communications was present between Britain and Upper Canada, as well as demonstrating to residents that Britain was still aspiring to aid and better life in Upper Canada. The Anglican Church also ensured that Upper Canada would not be easily enveloped by the United States. The axiom, “Southern Ontario is more British than Britain itself”, is due, at least in part, to the presence of the Anglican Church.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 2002, 2023.


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