Vanished Flamborough: The German Evangelical Church, Waterdown (Part 1)

Originally Published in Heritage Happenings, September 2006
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On the map of Waterdown in the Illustrated Atlas of Wentworth County, published in 1875, the site of an Evangelical Church is marked as existing in the centre of the village. All the physical evidence of such a building having existed has now completed disappeared, and it is only through stories, photographs and a date stone that its history is still known.

Between 1840 and 1880, Waterdown was a prosperous and thriving community, with many of the residents employed in the mills being European immigrants. These people brought with them valuable manufacturing skills they had acquired in their homeland and which were eagerly sought after by mill owners. The largest group to settle in the village came from Germany and settled in a small enclave along Raglan and Nelson Streets, close to the woollen and carding mills where they were first employed and which had been started by the Griffin brothers in 1838.

This area of Waterdown gradually became known as ‘Dutch Town’ – the name originating because most of the older residents along these streets spoke only German or “deutsche” with their children and gradually the word became corrupted to “Dutch” by village residents. Most of the immigrants never became permanent residents of Waterdown, but some families did remain and a number of German names are to be found in the Census Returns for the village and on the tombstones in the Waterdown Union Cemetery on Margaret Street – among them, names such as Metzger, Klodt, Kink, Burkholder and Hasselfeldt and others that have become anglicized such as Slater.

For the older members of this German-speaking community, there was little need to learn English and among the first generation who worked in the mills, the requirements to speak the language were probably minimal. It was attendance at church that presented the immigrants with their greatest problem of language, for services in each of the major village churches were conducted in English, and in Latin for the Roman Catholic Church – so the desire to worship in their own church and in their own language was natural.

Detail of Waterdown from the Illustrated Atlas of Wentworth County

There was a Lutheran church in the downtown area of Hamilton as early as the 1850s where services were conduced in German, but this would have been difficult for Waterdown residents to attend. The date of when the first services in German were held in the village is unknown – possibly adherents met originally in member’s homes until the building of a church was financially feasible. However, by the 1860s, the listing of Waterdown residents in the Wentworth County Directories, included the name of Reverend John Yenney, Evangelical Minister.

It seems likely that the church building may have been in existence by about 1865, when Rev. Yenney’s name is first listed, and it was certainly there by the time the Wentworth County Atlas was published in 1875. Officially known as the German Evangelical Church, it was located on a narrow strip of property near the corner of John Street and Mill Street North, just south of present-day Grace Anglican Church.

-to be continued-

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 2006, 2024.


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