Archive for September, 2012

Following the American Revolution of 1774-83, the British Parliament enacted the Constitutional Act of 1791, which divided Canada into two provinces, Lower and Upper Canada. Immediately, a new period of settlement began; and not only did immigrants come from the British Isles, but many Dutch settlers from Pennsylvania, Quakers from New England, and thousands of United Empire Loyalists from the nearby American States poured into this territory to hew out new homes for themselves in the bushland that was later to become Ontario. They brought with them little in the way of worldly possessions, but they were richly endowed with stout hearts, ambition, the will to work, and a burning desire to retain and exercise the religious and political freedoms for which so many of their forefathers had left the old world.

The Methodist denomination was, as usual, one of the very first to establish its organization in the new country. It is said that the Presbyterians have the congregation first, and the church afterwards; but the Methodists the church first and the congregation afterwards.

Once the original settlers had erected a cabin and secured a roof over their heads, the next project to receive immediate attention was a place in which to worship. In those early times, church services were quite frequently held in private homes. Gradually churches were constructed, and by the end of the nineteenth century the rural landscape was liberally dotted by religious edifices, where the Gospel was solemnly expounded by ministers of various denominations.

It was in the early days of the nineteenth century that the “Circuit Riders” of the Methodist Church began to bring the gospel message westward from the new capital, York, established by Governor Simcoe. In a report made in 1817, Bishop Mountain testified, “that the settlers are simple folk, mostly dissenters; to them come the saddle-bag preachers, mostly Methodists, with the simple gospel of right living, shorn of the trimmings of ritual which a more cultivated society desires.”

The saddle-bag preacher was so called because of the fact that he traveled on horseback over the muddy, backwoods trails, equipped with only a few essentials – a change of clothing, some hymn books and bibles – which he carried in a saddlebag. Some idea of the dedication, enthusiasm and physical endurance of these men may be better understood if we look at the extent of two of the seven Circuits then existing in Upper Canada: for example, in 1802, the Rev. Nathan Bangs was assigned to the Bay of Quinte Circuit, which covered the area from Kingston in the east, west to York, then north to Lake Simcoe, and back; the Yonge Street Circuit, when set up, included “Little York”, the old surveys of Toronto, Trafalgar, and Nelson Townships, and the townships on both sides of “the street” (Yonge) from the Bay of Toronto to Lake Simcoe – i.e., Scarborough, Pickering, York, Etobicoke, Vaughan, Markham, King, Whitchurch, and East and West Gwillimbury. Such an extensive territory would be no sinecure under ideal traveling conditions, but the saddle-bag preacher, along with one or two assistants, was expected to cover his Circuit in from two to four weeks.

So it was that, with no churches at their disposal, the Circuit Riders visited the settlers in their homes and held services for worship and prayer. Space does not permit us to recount the details of their individual efforts, but among the saddle-bag preachers who carried on their work so effectively in this area were the Reverends William Case, Peter Jones, Ezra Adams, James Hacking (a Congregationalist), Robert Corson, William Corson, Thomas Fawcett, Thomas Crawford and David Culp. Revival camp meetings were important features of their mission, and the records tell of as many as 150 converts being brought into the church at one service.

It should be mentioned that among the early preachers who served in Ontario were William and John Ryerson, brothers of the Dr. Egerton Ryerson who established his reputation as an educationalist in Upper Canada.

Methodism developed in eighteenth-century England from the teachings of John Wesley. It is evangelical in nature. Methodism came to the Province with the earliest settlers. The Methodists were quick to send missionaries among the emigrants. It had numerous sects, of which the most prominent are the Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, New Connexion Methodists and the Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1884, these groups had united, and in 1925 the Methodist church merged with the Congregationalists and most of the Presyterians to form the United Church of Canada, which is now the country’s largest protestant church.

The Methodist Church, Canada (1884-1925) was formed by a merger of the Methodist Church of Canada with 3 smaller Methodist bodies…The Wesleyan, the Primitive, and the Methodist New Connection, were amalgamated into one body in 1874, and became the Methodist Church in Canada. The Methodist Episcopal Church which was sponsored by American Bishops until 1832, kept their identity until 1883, when they united with the Methodist Church in Canada.


At the time of their merger in 1884, the four uniting churches reported as follows:

Methodist Church in Canada, 128,644 members;
Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada, 25,671 members;
Primitive Methodist Church, 8,090 members;
Bible Christian Church, 7,398

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Caledonia History
When Ranald McKinnon arrived in Bryant’s corners in 1835 as a contractor on the Grand River Navigation Company, there wasn’t much here except a tavern and a couple of log houses. The place did not have much going for it other than it was located on a trail running down the Grand River. McKinnon was here to work on a dam and a lock that were to be built here for the Grand River Canal, which would allow shipping to move down the river to the Welland Canal feeder at Dunnville. In addition, he took the opportunity to build a couple of mills, which would use the waterpower created by the dam.

Born on the Island of Mull in Scotland in 1801, McKinnon emigrated with his family to Delaware County New York in 1805 and then to Canada in 1820. Later, Ranald found work on the construction of the Rideau Canal and he used the experience he gained there to built the dam and lock here. This was to be the last lock and dam on the main stretch of the river. Additional locks and a cut were later made at Brantford but the first phase of the plan was to have five dams and five locks, and four of each had been finished by the time McKinnon got here. The company had laid out a village, called Seneca after the township, at lock 4 just downstream and Jacob Turner, who had been the contractor there, had already set about building a sawmill. Squire McKinnon, as he was called later, intended to do the same here, even though he had no experience in operating a mill. His mill was built on the east bank just south of the present railway bridge. The mill was next to the lock. The dam across the river was just north of the present dam (actually a weir). A flume that fed water from the upriver side of the dam to the mill can still be seen. The village laid out around the mill, lock, and dam was called Oneida.

Meanwhile, James Little, a friend of Hamilton Merritt and an employee of the Grand River Navigation Co., had built a home and a store in Seneca. Little was an Ulsterman and was born in Londonderry in 1803. In 1836, he heard that a road was to be built from Hamilton to Port Dover and that it would cross the river over a bridge to be built near Oneida. In anticipation, he bought land on the west bank of the river and built a hotel there. The hotel, called the Haldimand House, is still there, although a little worse for wear. After the Hamilton and Port Dover Plank Road went through, Little expanded his interests, building mills on the south side of the river, property on the north side, and lumber mills everywhere. By the 1860s, the lumber industry in southern Ontario was in decline so he moved his interests to Quebec. Later in life he became a tree conservationist and was responsible for many of the regulations for preventing forest fires.

The Hamilton and Port Dover Plank Road, now Highway 6, was completed in 1844 and by then Caledonia had been established, incorporating the villages of Oneida and Seneca and the small community on the west bank. The name Caledonia was given to the town by Squire Ranald McKinnon in recognition of his country of birth. Caledonia is the poetic name for Scotland.

…from “One-day trips through the history of Southwest Ontario” http://www.herontrips.com/

Grace United Church was erected in 1877. After the union of the Wesley Methodist Church (Seneca Village) and the Methodist New Connexion Church in 1874, the members of the Seneca Methodist Church decided to build a new church in Caledonia.  Lot 16 on Caithness Street east was selected and purchased for $500. The architectural firm Messer, Mellis and Son of Brantford were hired at cost of $90.

On the 25 of September 1877, the cornerstone for the brick church was laid. There was a handsome pipe organ installed in the church.

The original building stood until 1905, when a new addition was added at the front and rear.

In 1955, another addition was added to the east side.


1859-1860 Rev. William Bothwell

1864-1865 Rev. George Henry Cornish

1871 Rev. John Wesley Savage

1874-1876 Rev. William Willoughby

1875  Rev. William Byers

1881  Rev. John G. Bigney

1889-1891 Rev. Charles Wesley Cosens

1892-1894 Rev. Thomas W. Jackson

1895 Rev. William W. Sparling

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I.    Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II.    Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III.    Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV.    Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V.    Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make on clear melodious sound.

VI.     Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII.    Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

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Most of the early Methodist preachers in Canada were American, many of them loyalists. But in 1814 or so the British Wesleyans sent some preachers to Britain to a post in Nova Scotia, at the request of the people in that area, but to the distress of the American Methodists. Over the next while more and more British Weslyans came. By 1817 there were some 166 followers of the Weslyans and about 3,301 followers of the American Methodists. By 1820 those numbers had grown to 744 British Weslyans and 5,991 Methodist Episcopals. (Oliver, 113)

In 1820 American Methodists in the Upper Canada were petitioning the American Conference to get the British Weslyans to stop competing with them. A number of them also wanted to have a separate annual conference for Canada. The former of those issues was dealt with first and an agreement was made that the American Methodists gave up Lower Canada to the British Weslyans and the British Weslyans gave up Upper Canada (with the exception of Kingston, which was a military location, and therefore had a lot of British soldiers). (Oliver 113)

The first Canadian Conference met on August 25, 1824 and a Missionary Society was formed as an Auxiliary to the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. By May 1827 the American General Conference decided to withdraw jurisdiction from the Canadian Methodists and in 1828 the first independent Canadian Methodist Conference met. (Oliver, 114)

However, this separation from the American church caused some disagreement over whether the agreement with the British Weslyans still stood. The British decided it didn’t stand, and they sent missionaries to Upper Canada. (Oliver, 117)

In 1833 the Articles of Union joined British and Canadian churches, making Canada a frontier of the British church. Indian Missions were not to belong to the English society. I. K. Mabindisa credits the British interest in Indian missions as having been largely because of Peter Jones, a Mississaugan missionary who made a fundraising trip to England in 1831. (Mabindisa 102)

Anyway, the union of the two churches brought up more disputes and at the first conference of the Union there was a question about the ordination of local preachers. Five days after that conference ended some dissenters met nine miles North of Toronto claiming to be the legal conference of the Canadian Methodist Episcopal Church, and that those who had joined the British had actually seceded. (Oliver, 118) Because this lead to questions of ownership of church property the issue lead almost to violence and eventually went to court. Chief Justice John Beverly Robinson decided the case in favor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. (Pidgeon, 12) Or, in other words, Chief Justice Robinson decided that the Canadian Methodist Episcopal Church had left the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and not vice versa.
So, at this point in the story, there was the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, with its ties to Britain and the independent Canadian Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as several other splinter fractions.

Within the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada there grew up some new conflicts, some of them being over money. In 1840 the Union broke up, with the British maintaining possession of Indian Missions. Memberships to the church decreased and by 1847 they had negotiated to reunite. (Oliver, 124 – 126)

In 1840 the Wesleyan Methodists of Britain were invited into the Hudson’s Bay territories. James Evans became the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Missions in the Hudson’s Bay Territories and took both Peter Jacobs and Henry Bird Steinhauer with him. Robert Rundle traveled out into the west where he worked for eight years. Benjamin Sinclair, a native teacher, joined Rundle in 1847 at Edmonton, and then established the Woodville mission at Pigeon Lake. (Dempsey, vii)

In 1853 the British Conference offered the job of the western missions to the Canadian Conference, promising to continue supporting it financially. The Canadian conference sent out John Ryerson and then Thomas Hulburt (to Norway House), Robert Brooking (to Oxford House) and Allan Salt (to Rainy Lake). Rev. Thomas Woolsey was sent in 1855 to Fort Edmonton and Pigeon Lake. (Dempsey vii – viii)

Heaven is Near the Rocky Mountain. Edited by Dempsey, Hugh A. Alberta. Glenbow Museum. 1989
Mabindisa, I.K. The Praying Man: The Life and Times of Henry Bird Steinhauer. University of Alberta. 1984.

Oliver, Edmund H. The Winning of the Frontier. Toronto: The United Church Publishing House. 1930.

Pidgeon, George C. The United Church of Canada: The story of the Union. Toronto: Ryerson Press. 1950.

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British Wesleyans

In the 19th century, major fur trade routes in Canada ran from the Western prairies along the North Saskatchewan River via Lake Winnipeg to York Factory on the shores of the Hudson Bay. Just as the trade routes for furs ran from the Western prairies to Britain, so to did the lines of communication for these missionaries.
The first Methodist missionaries to the Canadian West came directly from Great Britain. Governed from England, these first missionaries carried no intention of helping to establish a Canadian state or desire to transform Aboriginal peoples into Canadians. While their teaching and counselling promoted settled communities and was grounded in a 19th century Victorian understanding of “civilization,” it also recognized that traditional means of gathering food needed to be augmented with crop cultivation to ward off famine.

In England, Methodist ministers journeyed from town to town, preaching in fields and village squares. Methodist missionaries in Canada also travelled, seldom having a permanent residence. Often the mission buildings were left empty as the missionaries travelled with bands of Aboriginal people.

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1875 Whitby Methodist Church

At the time of the coming of the Loyalists to the settlements along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, the Kingston – Bay of Quinte region, Niagara area and along the shore of Lakes Ontario and Erie, many brought a firm commitment to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and his followers in the Thirteen Colonies.

In 1791 William Losee received permission from the New York Conference of the American Episcopal Church to pay a second visit to the Bay of Quinte area. The purpose of this mission was to establish Methodist circuit organization. Within a year of his coming, this twenty-seven year old lay missionery had directed the founding of the first of two Methodist churches in Canada: one at Hay Bay (still in existence) and the second at Ernestown near Bath. These two chapels, as they were called, were built on the Kingston Circuit – the first circuit to be organized by the Methodists in Canada. More circuits were added in proportion to the growing membership until in 1798 Upper Canada became a separate ecclesiastical district having eight circuits, each with its own preacher and almost two thousand members.

The Smith’s Creek Circuit began around 1805 and was so called from the name of a stream which runs through the Township of Hope and empties itself into Lake Ontario at Port Hope in Durham County. Until 1817 the circuit comprehended a part of Prince Edward District with the Belleville Country and all the road from the Trent to the border of the Yonge Street Circuit. Methodist Episcopals in Belleville area first met together as a gathered congregation in 1810. Their first meeting place was not a duly constructed church building on Crown Lot 18 on the west side of Pinacle Street between Dundas Street and the Market Square.

In 1817 the Belleville Circuit began in its own geographical right. It covered the Town of Belleville, Thurlow Township and continued west including Sidney and Murray Townships. The Hallowell Circuit also broke out of Smith’s Creek in that year and co0ntinued until 1850 when it changed its name to the Picton Circuit. The Cobourg Circuit took over the rest of Smith’s Creek Circuit.

The Bay of Quinte Circuit was formally known as the Cataraqui Circuit. The circuit received its name for the Bay which separates the County of Prince Edward from the Hastings and Lennox Counties. It began early, in 1795, with 265 members and grew to as many as 930 members in 1826. This circuit was divided into the Bath and Napanee Circuits in 1840 and had a membership of 721. According to available church records, this circuit covered Frederickburg, Napanee, Richmond, Tyendinaga, Ernestown, Camden and Amherst Isle.

The Napanee Circuit began as aforementioned in 1840 and kept its membership over the next thirteen years around the 600 mark. It covered Fredericksburg, Napanee, Richmond, and Tyendinaga

Relations between the Canadian and American Methodist communions were adversely affected because of the political climate in the post-war years. The First Canada Conference held at Picton in 1824 voted to petition the American General Conference for Canadian independence and at a meeting in Pittsburg on May 1, 1828 the Canadian petition was formally accepted. The Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada began in that year.

From Earliest Methodist Records  – Quinte Senior Loyalists of the UEL Association of Canada

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Winterbourne Methodist Church

Winterbourne Methodist Church

The congregation was at first on the Berlin Circuit (established in 1819), which separated from the Dumfries Circuit in 1854. Rev. Matthew Holtby was the first minister; the first church, of logs, was built in 1845 and replaced in 1856 by a new stone church. The congregation was later part of the Elmira Circuit, along with Conestogo, until 1915 when it was closed because of a decline in the size of the congregation. Members then worshiped in either Conestogo or West Montrose.

The Methodist cemetery is located in Winterbourne, on the south side of Peel Street. A plaque erected by the Winterbourne Women’s Institute in September 1972 states: “The Methodist Church made of field stone, formerly on the adjoining lot, was built in approximately 1856, closed in 1915 and taken down in 1927.”

…from Waterloo County Churches – A Research Guide to Churches Established before  1900 – by Rosemary Willard Ambrose

The records have not been found. However, Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms for Waterloo County 1858-1869 are in an indexed card file at the Kitchener Public Library.

References: Davis 1948:14; Devitt, WHS 1947(35):45; Dunham 1941; R. Taylor 1986.

In the 1860′s Winterbourne was a mission project of Trinity Methodist Church in Waterloo. When the Rev. Andrew Miliken was preaching with all the gusto he could muster to win souls for the Lord, a little black animal with a white strip down its back, rushed into the room and disrupted the meeting. Even the offering was forgotten in the haste that day to vacate the room.

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Elmira History
In 1834, Edward Bristow bought land from David Musselman and settled just south of the present town. In 1843, he opened a store that included a tavern and the place was called Bristow’s Corners. The village didn’t get its present name until 1853. Even then, the post office was called West Woolwich; it wasn’t called Elmira until 1867.

Joel Good immigrated to Canada from Pennsylvania as a two-year-old in 1818 and grew up on his father’s farm a mile north of Waterloo. He became a surveyor and, perhaps as a consequence, he obtained the land on which Elmira stands. It was Good who surveyed and laid out the town. By 1869, Elmira had a population of 450. The presence of both major railways, the Grand Trunk and the CPR, helped to make Elmira prosperous, so that, by 1891, the population was over a thousand.
…from “One-day trips through the history of Southwest Ontario” http://www.herontrips.com/


In 1836 Samuel Fear, a native of Somersetshire, England and a probationer of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, began holding church services in Elmira. Formal organization of a congregation was in 1848. Early services were held in a small log schoolhouse on Church Street. At this time Elmira was on the Guelph Circuit of the Wesleyan Methodist Church; later, in 1851, the congregation was placed on the Elora Circuit. Property was purchased on Church Street in 1855 from Jonas Winger and a small red brick church was built. Services were held in this building for eighteen years, during which time it was known as the Church Street Methodist Church. In 1873, when a new church building was erected on Arthur Street North, the name was changed to Wesley Methodist Church. Dedication of the new church was on January 1, 1874. The Elmira Circuit had been formed several years before this, in 1871. Conestogo and Winterbourne, as of 1877, were on the same circuit.

In 1903, more space was needed; the sanctuary was remodelled and a vestibule was added. On June 10, 1925 the Methodist and Congregational churches and some of the Presbyterian churches united to form the United Church of Canada. Wesley Methodist Church became Wesley United Church in 1927. In the same year, West Montrose was added to the Elmira Circuit. Considerable damage was caused by a fire in 1934, but the congregation of Gale Presbyterian Church generously provided space in their church for the Wesley congregation until the damage was repaired and the church redecorated.

Property was purchased in 1957 at the corner of Arthur and First Streets on the south side of town for the location of a new church. The sod was turned on June 28, 1959 and the church was dedicated on May 15, 1960.

Wesley was placed on a two-point charge with West Montrose for a short time beginning in June 1970. In February, 1971, the Wesley congregation agreed to amalgamate with Zion United Church (formerly Zion Evangelical United Brethren), Elmira, and the joint congregation was named Trinity United Church as of July 1, 1971. The last meeting of the Wesley United Church session was on June 19, 1971.

The church building of 1873 was sold in 1960 and demolished in 1975. Its site is now occupied by Freiburger’s Food Market. The 1960 red brick church was sold to the Elmira Missionary Church after the 1971 union with Zion.

…from Waterloo County Churches – A Research Guide to Churches Established before  1900 – by Rosemary Willard Ambrose

Baptism dates: 1906-1971 Location of records: Trinity United Church
Marriage dates: 1896-1971 Location of records: Trinity United Church
Burial dates: 1907-1971 Location of records: Trinity United Church

The church history states that the early records were missing as of the date of its publication (1948). Some records are said to be at the United Church Archives, but are not listed in the catalogue. Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms for Waterloo County c.1830-c.1874 are in an indexed card file in the Kitchener Public Library. The Session Minutes 1947-1971, and Membership lists 1906-1941 are also at Trinity United Church.

References: Getz 1964:41; Klinck, WHS 1927(15):293; Moyer, K.A. 1977:1-2; R. Taylor 1986; Uttley, WHS 1933(21):25; Winterbourne W.I.
Church History: Davis, Mrs. E.C., and Mrs. Edgar Rahn, eds. Milestones. Historical Narrative of Wesley United Church, 1848-1948, 1948.


1873 Rev. William Mills

1878 Rev. John W. Cooley

1884 Rev Henry Berry

1886-1888 Rev. Thomas J. Snowden

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Conestogo Methodist Church

Conestogo Methodist Church

CONESTOGO, a thriving village in Waterloo County, Ontario at the confluence of the Conestogo and Grand Rivers, 2 1/2 miles from St. Jacobs, on the G.T.R.. 4 miles from Elmira. It contains 3 churches, flax and grist mills, 1 branch bank, 1 telegraph office, 1 hotel, 2 stores, blacksmith, waggon and tailor shops, a saddlery and 2 brick-yards....from Lovell’s 1906 Canada Gazetteer

Church History

Originally a mission operating from Berlin, possibly as early as 1840, the church congregation was organized in 1864. It is reported that the first services were held at Captain Thomas Smith’s home. In 1864 the Conestogo congregation purchased a frame building from Isaac Gole (for $200, and reportedly paid by the missionary, Jacob Freshman) and services began under the guidance of the missionaries from the German Wesleyan Methodist Mission in Preston. In a letter published in the Christian Guardian of November 26, 1867, Rev. Charles Freshman, who was stationed in Preston at the time, wrote that the new Conestoga [sic] Church was to be dedicated by him on December 21, 1867. The congregation was part of this Mission until 1877 when it was joined to Elmira in a Parish.

A new building was erected in 1878 (for $1,200), and opened on October 27, 1878; the dedication service was conducted by Rev. E.B. Ryckman of Guelph. The church is reported to have been built with assistance from the Presbyterians in the area. The first Methodist minister in the new church was Rev. John W. Cooley who also ministered to Wesley Methodist Church in Elmira.

Although the official date of the formation of the United Church of Canada was in 1925, it was not until 1927 that this particular Methodist congregation joined the Union. In 1948 Conestogo was on the Elmira Circuit which was a three-point charge made up of Elmira, Conestogo, and West Montrose. Improvements made to the church from 1952-1957 included a useable basement, an oil furnace and new stained glass windows.

Conestogo became a two-point charge with St. Jacobs in June 1970. In 1992 it is believed that Conestogo is an independent charge although only with a half-time appointment.

…from Waterloo County Churches – A Research Guide to Churches Established before  1900 – by Rosemary Willard Ambrose

Baptism dates: 1874- Location of records: at church
Marriage dates: 1874- Location of records: at church
Burial dates: 1874- Location of records: at church

Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms for Waterloo County c.1830-1875 are in an indexed card file at the Kitchener Public Library.

References: Davis 1948:14-15; Devitt, WHS 1947(35):44; Freshman 1868:283; Miller, WHS 1981(69):146-150; R. Taylor 1986; Winterbourne W.I.; Woolwich 1988:1


Conestogo Methodist Church
The Conestogo  Church is associated with the early Methodist congregation of the former Village of Conestogo. The building was the first Methodist church in the area and was constructed by its congregation in 1878.

The Conestogo  Church is a relatively unaltered example of vernacular church architecture of the early 19th century. Built of red and yellow-brick, the church is small in scale and simple in form, which adds to its rural village charm and character. Gothic influences are evident, such as the steep gable roof with ornate bargeboard and the paired lancet-windows, which represent the workmanship of that era.

Conestogo United Church, located at 1790 Sawmill Road, is situated on the northwest corner of the intersection of Harriet Street and Sawmill Road, in the Village of Conestogo, within the Township of Woolwich. The property consists of a one-and-a-half-storey red and yellow brick church that was constructed in 1878.



The property was designated by the Township of Woolwich in 1980 for its historic and architectural value or interest
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Conestogo United Church include its:
– red and yellow-brick construction
– steep gabled rooflines over the church and entranceway
– ornate bargeboard underneath the roof eaves
– symmetrically placed, paired lancet windows and sills on the east and west elevation and façade
– half-storey protruding entranceway
– yellow-brick buttresses on the east and west elevations

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The church is still located on the northwest corner of Lot 30, Concession 3, Southwest Wilmot Township, about four miles from New Hamburg. Organized in 1861 as a Primitive Methodist Mission, the congregation would have been a mission of the Blenheim station of the Hamilton District in the beginning. In 1864 Blenheim and Galt (which in the previous year had been in the Guelph District) were joined in the Hamilton District. Galt ceased to exist as a station in 1865 but Blenheim remained as such until c.1883 when Plattsville replaced Blenheim as a station in the Hamilton District. Early pastors were John Lacey (1864), William Codville (1865), Thomas Dudley (1866-1867) and Stephen W. Keetch (1868-1869).

In 1884 all Methodist churches joined together to form the Methodist Church of Canada, and in 1886 the Bethel congregation was placed on the Bright Circuit of the Niagara Conference. In the spring of 1890 the Annual Meeting of the Galt District, Guelph Conference of the Methodist Church considered a motion to have the boundaries of the Guelph and Niagara Conferences changed and that, accordingly, Bethel Church be added to the New Hamburg mission of the Galt District, as Bethel was “only 4 miles from New Hamburg.” Before this Bethel had been on a circuit with Washington and Chesterfield. An addition to the church was built in 1953. The Congregation observed the church’s 100th Anniversary in June, 1961, and its 110th on June 6, 1971. However services were discontinued at the end of that month, and the building was then sold to a Mennonite congregation, to become Grace Mennonite Church.

…from Waterloo County Churches – A Research Guide to Churches Established before  1900 – by Rosemary Willard Ambrose

*Baptisms 1857-1878 and Marriages 1858-1879 for the Guelph-Galt Primitive Methodist Mission are at the United Church Archives and could possibly contain references to members of the Bethel congregation. R. Taylor reports that there are “no Bright records at” the United Church Archives (1986:80).

References: A. Bean, WHS 1983(71):95-96; E. Bean, WHS 1983(71):97-98; I. Bean, WHS 1983(71):90-95; Hopper 1904; Methodist Church; Primitive Methodist Church; R. Taylor 1986; Wilmot 1967:118.

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