Following the Presbyterian and the Anglican Churches before it, the Baptists Church has progressed into Canada and become another of the influential Protestant denominations which has noticeably contributed to the development of Flamborough.
The name ‘Baptist’ is derived from the term ‘Anabaptist’, meaning re-baptized. This is the primary difference between Baptists and other Protestant denominations, namely that whereas other denominations perform the baptism ritual upon infants, Baptists reject this notion and prefer to baptize their adherents in adulthood upon hearing a profession of faith.
The oldest English speaking Baptist Church was founded in Amsterdam by Puritan refugees in 1609. The first church in America was established at Providence, Rhode Island in 1639 and from here during the next century, the Baptist faith spread to Canada. Churches were established under ministers from Massachusetts at Sackville, Nova Scotia in the early 1760s, and at Horton (present day Wolfville), Nova Scotia during 1765. Although both congregations had ceased to exist by the early 1770s, they ensured that the church was firmly rooted in Canada. The Great Awakening and other 19th century revivals would fan the fires of the Baptist faith still smouldering at the Sackville and Horton congregations, and would eventually see the Baptists Church become the most prevalent Protestant denomination in the Maritimes.
The church was brought to Upper and Lower Canada by British and American immigrants. Although newcomers from Britain influenced the development of Baptist Churches in Canada, they sprung from primarily American roots. American ministers founded churches in the eastern townships of Lower Canada, and in Upper Canada, a church was established near present day Beamsville in 1796.
By the middle of the 19th century Baptists had arrived in Dundas and Burlington, and these two areas became the points of origin for several mission churches. The Baptist congregations in Mountsberg and Westover were among the first to appear in Flamborough.
Former West Flamborough farmer turned pastor, Joseph Clutton of Dundas Baptist Church elicited the enrolment of sixteen Mountsberg and Freelton area residents into Dundas Baptist Church in 1843. These sixteen individuals were known as the “Brock Road Branch” as it was not uncommon for them to meet in homes along the Brock Road near Freelton. In 1844 they requested that they be permitted to organize their own church, distinct from the Dundas congregation. Their request was approved, and Clutton agreed to preach every 4th Sunday. In 1847, Craig Haggins, owner of the property upon which the new church was built, allowed the Brock Road to be diverted through the said land. This vexed the congregation and forced them to find a new location for their church. The home of Thomas Wingrove on Campbellville Road (a kilometre west of the present church) became a temporary site for Sunday morning bible readings, and the Mountsberg School house on the corner of Campbellville Road and Centre Road was used for afternoon services and communion. In the fall of 1852, a church building was erected on the north west corner of Campbellville Road and Centre Road at a cost of approximately £116. In that same year, long time church member Job Moxom was ordained, and was called to serve the congregation. Mountsberg Baptist Church continues to conduct regular services to this day, and boasts one of the longest and most successful histories in Flamborough.
On October 3, 1845, 22 residents of Westover, Beverly Township gathered in a small log school house and formed the second regular Baptist Church of Beverly. Joseph Clutton of Dundas read the sermon at this historic service, and in 1849 the congregation called church elder Isaac Elliot to serve as its first pastor. Between 1845 and 1849 services were held at the home of John and Lydia Westover. Thanks to John Westover, the church not only had an initial place of meeting, but it would eventually have its own permanent location. He donated land to be used for a church, and in 1850, the Westover Baptist Church held its first service, conducted by Elders Elliot, Clutton, Clarke and Moxom. Beverly Baptists still worship in the original building, and they share a similar ancestry as their neighbours in Mountsberg.
The Burlington Baptist Church has also played a major role in the establishment of Flamborough’s Baptist community. In Burlington services were initially held at Wellington Square in the home of James Cushie Bent and from here, a mission church appeared in Waterdown in 1857. The mission became an established village church in 1861, all the while maintaining ties with Wellington Square. The Waterdown church was built through the toil of Reid Baker, a Waterdown mill owner who donated land, and retired Burlington merchant William Beeforth. Although the church served the community for almost half a century, its existence was terminated in 1905. Fire ravaged the Waterdown church on June 28, 1905, and as the blaze occurred in the dawn hours and was quick to burn, the residents were helpless, having no recourse or means of combating the inferno. The cause of the fire remained a mystery, and as the church and its contents were un-insured, the Hamilton Times observed that, “this loss amounts to nothing less than a calamity”.
The 1905 fire left Waterdown Baptists without a place of worship, and as such, the parishioners of the decimated church felt it necessary to organize a new congregation. Soon after, Rev. Albert Carr of Burlington began holding services in a one-room schoolhouse on Centre Road at the cross-roads community of Flamboro’ Centre, located on the Sixth Concession Road. The congregation’s first church was originally a non-denominational church in Mount Healy, near Caledonia. It was disassembled, then transported to the present location in 1909. Shortly after it was erected, Flamboro Centre Baptist Church became part of the Burlington circuit. By 1913 however, the church left Burlington and became part of the Mountsberg – Westover circuit until 1943. Flamboro Baptist Church has seen many additions over the years, including a parsonage, Sunday School, and a Gym. In the summer of 1997. the Flamboro Centre congregation began awaiting the construction of a new building, as the structure on the Sixth Concession was no longer able to meet the needs of their growing congregation. The new structure has been operational since the fall of 1999, and is located on the Fifth Concession Road, in the former township of East Flamborough.
Although not as widespread as other major religions, the Baptist Church in Flamborough has remained a stalwart pillar of community ideals. With a determined, steadily and consistent growing number of adherents in local congregations, the Baptist Church in Flamborough continues to exert considerable influence on the community. In addition to being one of the oldest religious institutions in the area, the church may well be one of the longest serving in the Flamborough area.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 2003, 2023.