Methodist Church, Part 1

Methodist Church settles in Waterdown

In April 2008, St. James United Church on Parkside Drive in Waterdown celebrated the 180th anniversary of the arrival of the Methodist Church in the village.

During their history in Waterdown, the various denominations within the Methodist Church have worshipped in several different locations.

The oldest building and only one still fulfilling its function as a church is the former Wesleyan Methodist Church constructed in 1838 on Mill Street North.

In 1808, East Flamborough Township became one of the stations on the Ancaster Circuit that saddlebag preacher Rev. William Case was appointed to by the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Canada. His territory stretched around the western end of Lake Ontario, an area popularly referred to as “Methodist Mountain”.

Waterdown was awarded to Rev. Samuel Belton as a preaching appointment in 1828, with services held in the village schoolhouse built a year earlier on the corner of James Grierson’s farm. The building was used by the Methodists in the morning and by the Presbyterians in the afternoon.

When the union of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Canada and the British Wesleyan Methodists occurred in 1833, the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada was formed and a small congregation in Waterdown chose to erect a church on the present Mill Street North site in 1838.

Capable of seating 400 people, the original building was described as “constructed of plank, and timbers hewn by hand at a cost of $1400”.

During these early years, Ebenezer Culver Griffin served as superintendent of the Sunday School and was a zealous member of the church, instrumental in the formation of a Temperance Society in the village and the establishment of other Methodist congregations in the surrounding area.

The growing prosperity of Waterdown and the appointment of the village as the head of a new circuit under Rev. James Messmore led to the decision to renovate the wooden church. By 1865 the building was in a sad state of disrepair. The church newspaper, “The Christian Guardian” reported that “when first erected it had been built of inch boards laid in mortar and firmly nailed together, and after some time was overlaid with plastering. This had not, however, rendered it impervious; in several places the rain had penetrated and evident signs of decay appearing shook the confidence of the people in the safety of the building”.

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, 11 July 2008.


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