Richly rooted in Canadian history, the beautiful little Anglican Church in Riverside Heights stands as a monument to the staying power of the strong United Empire Loyalist stock who arrived on the nearby shores of the old St. Lawrence River in 1784. This church building, was built 100 years ago, the gift of Edwin Canfield Whitney and his wife, Sarah (Crysler) Whitney. Originally constructed on the site of an 1835 church, which in turn had been built on the site of an earlier 1792 church, this tiny architectural gem was saved from the ravages of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957, and re-constructed nearby on its present site.
From the beginning, the story of the Christians who have worshipped in these buildings, and in the adjacent sister Lutheran churches, has been closely linked with the history of Upper Canada, with the struggle to blend a nation of people from many backgrounds, and with the challenges of living off the land, making a living, establishing communities, and becoming prosperous. Often times, it has seemed that the story would end in failure, but the little churches of Riverside have survived and stand firm, ready to continue to be the houses where God's people worship and from where they go forth in service to their Lord.
When I arrived in this parish in 1996, I began to hear the stories of the history of the Riverside churches. I say “stories ”, because clearly, there was not one story, but several. What was particularly intriguing was the fact that there is significant disagreement between the stories. Since then, I have been trying to find out the real story. I dare not be so bold as to say I have uncovered all that is true but I have found some new information which I have not seen published before. This humble effort does not presume to be the definitive story, but hopefully, it will be another step in discovering the real story. I pray that it will not be a source of further confusion!
I am indebted to those who have carefully, and to the best of their ability, recorded the stories as they have believed them to be true. That is all any of us can hope to do. I am also indebted to those who carefully preserve valuable archival material. In particular, I want to say thank you to the staff of the Archives of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, where much of the valuable primary documentation is housed. I am also thankful for the good people of Holy Trinity who have encouraged me to write this account of the story of their Church. It is not the exhaustive story of the people who have been the members of this congregation but they are included. Time has not permitted me to research all the family histories and all the personal involvement of the faithful.
May this effort be to the glory of God and further the work of the Kingdom here in this place.
The Rev. William R. Byers, Incumbent
May 26, 2002
Editor's note - This history was written by the then incumbent of Holy Trinity in commemoration of its 100th anniversary.
I am attempting to locate the original photos and will replace them if they can be found.
The American Revolutionary War came to its conclusion on October 19, 1781. The Treaty of Versailles was signed permitting the rebel colonists to negotiate peace with England and the Act of Separation was signed. In February, 1782, the Act of Evacuation was proclaimed by the United States Congress. It required all Crown Loyalists who refused to take the American Oath to leave the country, forfeiting all their material possessions and properties. A convoy of disbanded Loyalist soldiers and families, under the command of Brigadier-General, Sir John Johnson, left Montreal on July 10, 1784 for New Johnstown (Cornwall) and Kingston. Others followed spreading out along the front. In November 1784, the first Loyalists, about 440 in number arrived at Riverside. Imagine, if you will, what that must have been like.
Soon after, this group of United Empire Loyalists, who were settled in the townships of Williamsburg, Matilda and Osnabruck, began a community effort to build a Church at Riverside or East Williamsburg as the area was known for some time. Lack of funds and the inability to obtain an ordained pastor seems to have hampered the effort. Many of these settlers were of German descent, Palatinate refugees, who had been displaced earlier from their homes in Germany and had been forced to travel to England before moving on to America. Naturally, these settlers wanted a Lutheran pastor who could speak German. They petitioned the Governor of Quebec for permission to build a church on the centre Commons in Williamsburg Township. Secondary sources list various dates ranging from 1788 to 1793 as to when this frame church was built. It was known originally as Zion Church. This Church was built by Colonel Henry Merkley, Master Builder.
James Croil in his James Croil in his “Dundas : or, A Sketch of Canadian History” (1861) states that the Lutherans of Williamsburg, in the year 1789 commenced to build a frame church 60 feet by 40 feet in size, on the centre commons. This church, Croil goes on to say, was located on the very site of the edifice occupied by the present (1861) Church of England. Hazel Mae Schwerdtfeger in her book, “Memoirs of Reverend J. Samuel Schwerdtfeger” (1961) describes the first church as follows : “Built in the Dutch style, the church went neither to the extreme of plainness nor to that of fancy design. The windows and doorways were arched, and the massive beams were of white oak. The walls were bare of any paint or varnish, and there were no stained glass windows or cushioned seats with curved backs. The pulpit was high, with a sounding board over it.” The winter, setting in earlier than usual, did not allow the frame to be raised that season. In spring, it was commenced anew and the work went on rapidly.“Dundas : or, A Sketch of Canadian History” (1861) states that the Lutherans of Williamsburg, in the year 1789 commenced to build a frame church 60 feet by 40 feet in size, on the centre commons. This church, Croil goes on to say, was located on the very site of the edifice occupied by the present (1861) Church of England. Hazel Mae Schwerdtfeger in her book, “Memoirs of Reverend J. Samuel Schwerdtfeger” (1961) describes the first church as follows : “Built in the Dutch style, the church went neither to the extreme of plainness nor to that of fancy design. The windows and doorways were arched, and the massive beams were of white oak. The walls were bare of any paint or varnish, and there were no stained glass windows or cushioned seats with curved backs. The pulpit was high, with a sounding board over it.” The winter, setting in earlier than usual, did not allow the frame to be raised that season. In spring, it was commenced anew and the work went on rapidly.
This was probably the earliest Protestant church built in the
colony, and the first purpose-built house of worship in the present
Diocese of Ottawa, but it was built primarily by Lutherans.
Lutheran pastors serving this congregation included:
The Rev. Johann Samuel Schwerdtfeger 1791-1803
The Rev. Frederick Augustus Meyers 1804-1807
The Rev. Johann Gunter Weigandt 1807-1835
According to a brief history compiled by the late George F. Jowett, The Rev. Johann Samuel Schwerdtfeger was an eminent Lutheran Pastor. He was born in Bavaria, educated in Germany, and served in the United States. As a Loyalist he had endured imprisonment for declaring his satisfaction with British rule. He was a pacifist and although he had not served in the Loyalist forces, his loyalty to the Crown was well-known and he was granted United Empire Loyalist status. In the fall of 1791, Jowett records, he arrived with his wife and eight children by covered wagon.
During those early years, it appears that the first church was built as a co-operative, community effort with a congregation of Anglicans, German Calvinists (later Presbyterians) and German Lutherans worshipping together under the leadership of The Rev. Samuel Schwerdtfeger, a Lutheran pastor. The first worship service in the new church occurred on September 17, 1792. Services were in both English and German. In 1793, the Lutheran congregation applied to the government of Upper Canada for a charter but instead, got only a “leave of occupation.”
Rev. Schwerdtfeger was a brilliant man, highly educated in his native Germany. He served a short term in the Lutheran Church in London, England. There he became familiar with modifications in the Lutheran service as it had been influenced by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. This modifed service was used with the Halle hymnal. He emigrated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he encountered strife between the various Lutheran congregations. He was successful in bringing peace amongst the various parties. While serving in Lancaster, he met a young man who was destined to be a powerful influence in Upper Canada and the Anglican Bishop's first Commissary. This man was Charles James Stuart, a teacher who would later become The Rev. Charles James Stuart, DD. Their friendship was deep and lasting and later when Stuart was serving in Kingston, Schwerdtfeger would be at Riverside. Stuart was the first Anglican clergyman serving in this area. He was officially appointed by the Crown to serve Upper Canada. He served the garrison at Kingston and was Chaplain Royal to the King’s Royal New York Regiment. Known as the “Padre on Horseback”, he served the Anglican settlers from Kingston to Cornwall.
It appears that the residents of the three denominations at Riverside worshipped together until each group was able to have its own church and clergyman. The first break came in 1795 when the Calvinists received a grant of 70 acres of land from the Crown in North Williamsburg. Under the leadership of The Rev. Ludwig Broeffle, they built the first Presbyterian Church in Dundas.
Rev. Schwerdtfeger died in 1803 and was succeeded by Frederick Augustus Meyers, a Lutheran student minister, and the son of a Lutheran Pastor from the Bay of Quinte area. Meyers left in 1807 to go to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to complete his education. In 1814, Meyers came back to this area as a Lutheran Pastor and served the congregation he had begun in Matilda township while there as a student minister. In 1827, he was ordained as an Anglican priest and became the first Anglican priest to serve the Anglican Parish of St. John the Baptist in Matilda (now situated in Iroquois). He remained there until his death in 1832.
In 1808, the Rev. J.G. Weigandt (whose name came to be spelled Weagant), the son-in-law of The Rev. J.C. Schwerdtfeger, accepted a call from the Lutheran congregations of Williamsburg and Osnabruck, and arrived at Riverside. He had previously served the small Lutheran flock along the Bay of Quinte and was well acquainted with The Rev. Charles James Stuart and the Meyers family. The development of Lutheran churches in North Williamsburg and Osnabruck depleted the Lutheran membership at Riverside (East Williamsburg). Finances were difficult for everyone in those days. The clergy often did not receive the promised subscriptions from their parishioners who were often very poor as well. The Anglican clergy in the colonies were better off than their confreres in other churches because of the assistance given to them by The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel located in England. This period of great political unrest made life difficult for the struggling young communities in this region.
Upon arrival in Williamsburg in 1808, Rev. Weagant found that the Commons in the front of the centre of the township was divided lengthwise with the west side used by the Presbyterians and the east side belonging to the Lutherans. The land was then (with the consent, apparently of all concerned) divided crosswise into “camps” or blocks and some was left undeveloped. These blocks were divided between the Lutherans and Presbyterians. Weagant records that at that time it was decided by all that should one of them not have a resident minister, then the entire Commons would be for the use of the residing clergyman. This happened after the Presbyterian minister, Rev. Mr. Broeffle died and his widow remarried and moved to another place. Thus, the Commons came entirely under“Lutheran occupation” and was used for the benefit of the congregation and their minister.
In early 1811, Weagant complained to his congregation that he could not subsist on the meager stipend they could provide and that he would have to leave and go elsewhere to make enough to support his family. They indicated that they did not want him to do that and wanted to try to force those in arrears to meet their subscriptions. Weagant did not support such pressure tactics. Having previously consulted with the Churchwardens, the next Sunday he stated that as he was a Hanoverian, a King’s subject born, having received his education in the royal University of Gottingen in the Kingdom of Hanover and as they had been in the habit of having their children (who could not read German and did not understand sufficiently the German language) instructed in the Church Catechism by their former ministers (Schwerdtfeger and Myers), he would make application to the Lord Bishop of Quebec that he should be received as a Minister of the Church of England.
This, Weagant records, the congregation unanimously accepted. Weagant then wrote to the Bishop, who, in turn, agreed and asked that the congregation forward to him a letter indicating its support. The congregation was informed publicly in church of the Bishop’s response. The congregation eagerly responded to the Bishop, according to Weagant, especially since it would relieve them of the responsibility of raising much of his stipend. A letter to the Bishop was drawn up and signed by seven leading members of the congregations of Williamsburg and Osnabruck. With this letter in hand, Weagant went to Quebec and was ordained a Deacon by Bishop Jacob Mountain on October 18, 1812. He was ordained a Priest on February 24, 1814.
On November 11, 1811 Bishop Mountain signed the document receiving the congregation and their pastor into the Anglican Communion. The name of the church was changed to St. George’s Anglican Church. (Weagant seems to suggest that the Church had been called St. George's Lutheran Church previously.) Naturally, not all the Lutherans were happy with this change. However, Weagant said that the congregations strongly supported the move and that only one person objected. Those chosen to be Vestrymen were John Crysler, Esq.; Henry Merkle, Esq.; Jacob Weegar, Esq., Captain H. Merkle, Lieutenant J. Merkle, Christian Hanes, Andrew Snider, Samuel Schwerdtfeger and Rev. J.G. Weagant. It was also agreed that the Book of Common Prayer and the Holy Bible would be the only books used in the church..
During the Battle of Crysler’s Farm in the War of 1812, the church was used as a hospital to shelter wounded men, and hence became known as the “Battle Abbey of Upper Canada.” The New Brunswick Regiment, the 104th, famous for their “dash” through deep winter snow from New Brunswick to aid Sir Isaac Brock’s army at Niagara, arrived in time to participate in the battle of Crysler’s Farm, and was bivouacked in and about the Church. A sometimes bitter dispute over the ownership of the church building continued from 1811 until 1833 between those who were now Anglicans and those who remained Lutherans. Weagant maintained that the glebe with its buildings became now the property of the Church of England. In 1814, the Lutherans invited Rev. Meyers to return. At first, Weagant refused to allow the Lutherans permission to use the Church for worship but eventually, a compromise was reached and they were allowed to use it every second Sunday when there were no Anglican services. In 1821, Meyers also became an Anglican and brought the congregation in Matilda with him into the Anglican Communion.
Over time, some of those who originally supported Weagant’s move to Anglicanism became disillusioned and an “opposition party” came into being. After being without a pastor for several years, the Lutherans called the Rev. Herman Hayunga to be their pastor. To say that Weagant and Hayunga developed an antipathy for each other is somewhat of an understatement from the sample of correspondence available for modern perusal.
In his letters, Rev. Weagant referred to the fact that the Book of Common Prayer had been used when services were held in English by both of his Lutheran predecessors, Rev. Schwerdtfeger and Rev. Meyers. He continued to insist that all English services held at the church use the Book of Common Prayer and became incensed when Rev. Hayunga would not use the Book of Common Prayer. Hayunga and his supporters, on the other hand, became adamant that the Church and its property belonged to the Lutherans and should be returned to them. By 1826 accusations and counter-accusations, petitions and counter-petitions were flying back and forth between the local parties, the Anglican Bishop and the Government of Upper Canada over which group rightfully owned the glebe property, the church and the parsonage. It was not the first time that the title to the glebe property came into question. For a time there was a struggle between the Anglicans and the Presbyterians of Osnabruck, a tension which harkened back to the days when the Lutherans and Presbyterians shared the glebe until the death of Rev. Broeffle. In fact, no one had clear title to the property as no land grant had ever been ceded.
In 1827 both the Anglicans and Lutherans petitioned The Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Sir Peregrine Maitland, for a solution to the impasse. Neither these documents nor the resolution have been found but correspondence indicates that the two groups were instructed to find a way to share the property equitably and amicably. The Anglicans offered to the Lutherans to either buy or sell all the rights to the property either party might have for the sum of 200 pounds. The Lutherans rejected the offer maintaining their right to the entire property. As the rhetoric escalated the Bishop obviously felt that something else had to be done. First, an Assistant Curate was sent to assist Rev. Weagant as he was now aging and in failing health. In 1830, The Rev. Frederick Mack arrived to help with the work in Osnabruck and Williamsburg. How long he remained is uncertain. In 1832, the Bishop sent another Assistant Curate, The Rev. John Gerbrand Beek Lindsay.
A petition from the Protestant Episcopal Congregation (Anglican) of the Township of Williamsburg to Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, was responded to on October 20, 1832. The Legislative Council felt that the compromise offered by the Anglicans but rejected by the Lutherans in 1828 was equitable. The judgement required the glebe to be divided in two with the Anglicans keeping the part with the church, parsonage and buildings for their sole use and benefit. The Lutherans were to have an equal share of the land. The rationale for the decision was the observation that a “great majority of the congregation voluntarily applied to the late Bishop of Quebec to be received with their clergyman into the bosom of the Church of England.“
By March 1833, the Churchwardens were agreeing with the Bishop that it was time for the ailing Rev. Weagant to step down in favour of Rev. Lindsay. It seemed the only way to reconcile with the Lutherans. In 1833, the Church of England obtained legal title to the church and its surrounding glebe property which the Anglicans had held since 1811. Weagant was reputed by some to be “a strong, forceful character, well suited to deal with the troublesome affairs of the time.”
The Rev. John Gerbrand Beck Lindsay succeeded Rev. Weagant in 1835. He was said to have been endowed with quiet, firm strength, great patience and forbearance. He was “oil” on the “troubled waters”. He and Rev. Hayunga even liked each other. A letter from Rev. Hayunga to Rev. Lindsay confirms that The Bishop and Rev. Lindsay graciously offered the Lutherans the use of the Church for worship but Rev. Hayunga politely declined saying “it is very inconvenient for them to avail themselves of the episcopal permission to make use of the Church.” Immediately thereafter, Lindsay undertook the dismantling of the now dilapidated church building and its rebuilding in a different style. Nearly all the timber of the first, being white oak, and sound, was used again in constructing the second. The arched window-frames of the old church were also incorporated into the new church. The second church, named Trinity Anglican Church, rose quite literally out of the ruin of its predecessor. It was a lovely, white, frame building. At the same time Rev. Lindsay, through his energy and devotion to duty, is credited with building a strong Anglican congregation. He moved on to Cornwall in 1844 and died there in 1845, aged 37, while diligently serving a group of recently arrived immigrants who were suffering “the fever”. Shortly after, his four sons were drowned while skating on thin ice on the St. Lawrence River..
The Rev. Dr. Edward Jukes Boswell succeeded Lindsay. In 1857, he was responsible for the establishment of the first St. James’ Anglican Church on the site of the present St. James’ Church, in the new village of Morrisburg. Trinity Church now had a daughter! In 1862, Trinity became part of the new Diocese of Ontario and part of the Parish of Morrisburg until 1866 when the name was changed to the Parish of Williamsburg. From 1874-1875 it included a congregation known as the German Mission. The present rectory was built in Morrisburg in 1874 and in 1878 a tower (the present one) was added to Old St. James’.
In 1878, during the incumbency of The Rev. Charles Forest, a correspondent for the Dominion Churchman (Nov. 21, 1878) reported that he had visited the Morrisburg area in 1874 and again in 1878 and had noticed a vast improvement in the interior of Trinity Church, Williamsburg, the second oldest Anglican Church in Ontario. “Once it was filled with great square pews, but these have all been swept away, and their place supplied by seats, free and open. The hideous side-galleries have been taken down, but the western one still remains. Although there is no structural chancel, a quasi-sanctuary has been made with good effect. The altar is of good dimensions; the sacred monogram “I.H.S.” is embroidered on the frontal. There is a proper re-table, on the front of which are the words &“Holy, Holy, Holy”. A new pulpit, a handsome chandelier, and a stained glass window, testify to the liberality of certain parishioners. The congregation of Trinity Church is to be congratulated in the advance in reverence and decency visible in their “House of Prayer”. A large font placed near the western entrance, and a credence in the chancel are yet required. ”
A later Incumbent, The Rev. Clarendon Lamb Worrell (1884-1886) became the sixth Bishop of Nova Scotia and Primate of Canada. A re-alignment of parishes in 1887 left the Parish of Williamsburg consisting of Trinity Church, Riverside, St.George’s, Gallingertown and St.Paul’s, Aultsville. The parishes were re-con&figured in 1899 at which time Trinity, Riverside again became part of the Parish of Morrisburg.
The last Rector to live in the Riverside parsonage was The Rev, Montague Gower Poole (1886-1898). Rev. Poole found the parsonage in a shocking state. From then on, the Rector and his family have always lived in Morrisburg.
The next Incumbent, The Rev. George S. Anderson, might well be described as a “builder of churches.” He had begun his ministry in Morrisburg in 1892 and almost immediately assumed the responsibility for overseeing the construction of the second St. James’ Church, salvaging as much stone and slate as possible from the first church. The tower, constructed in 1878 was incorporated into the new St. James’. In 1899, Rev. Anderson became Rector of the newly re-aligned “old Parish of Morrisburg.” Not only had “old St. James’” served its purpose, but so had “old Trinity.” Repairs were badly needed on the wood frame building, the membership was badly diminished due to the prosperous growth of Morrisburg, and finances simply were not available to build a new church or repair the old one. The wealthy Whitney/Crysler family was now located in Ottawa but retained their strong interest in Trinity Church. Edwin Canfield Whitney and his wife Sarah Crysler Whitney were millionaires and generous philanthropists. They welcomed the opportunity to donate a new church to the glory of God and in loving memory of their parents and United Empire Loyalist forbears. Mr. Whitney’s parents were Richard Leet Whitney (1805-1883) and Clarissa Jane Fairman (1809-1891). Mrs. Whitney’s parents were John Pliny Crysler (1801-1881) and Mary Wesley (1812-1864). The stained-glass windows over the Altar in Holy Trinity are memorials to these people.
Mr. Benson S. Wickware, master builder, of Morrisburg was engaged to build the new church. Mr. Wickware had recently completed the building of the “new St. James’” and other fine buildings in the area. The “new Trinity Church”was built of stone in 1902, using the design of “new St. James’” in scaled-down form. A further endowment which continues to provide for the on-going support of the Church was given by the Whitney family. The church was consecrated in 1904 at a magnificent ceremony presided over by The Right Reverend John Charles Hamilton, D.D., first Bishop of the recently formed Diocese of Ottawa (1896). Prominent officials including The Governor General, Lord Minto, Members of Parliament, Officials from the U.S.A., and distinguished clergy and laity of the Diocese attended.
Mr. Whitney’s brother, Colonel James Pliny Whitney, member of the Provincial Legislature for Dundas and soon to become Premier of Ontario, and members of the Whitney family, were in attendance. Premier Whitney was knighted and became Sir James Pliny Whitney in 1908. When Premier Whitney died in 1914 he was interred in the family plot with its massive Crysler & Whitney monuments. The Province of Ontario erected a magnificent monument to his memory. These monuments are now located in the present churchyard. The new church retained the name Trinity Anglican Church and acquired a new name as well, “Whitney Memorial Church.”
The Rev. Canon G.S. Anderson was succeeded by the scholarly Archdeacon Charles Oliver Carson in 1914. He served a long incumbency in the parish until his tragic death in 1931. One Sunday afternoon, while turning his car through the lichgate upon arriving to take service at Holy Trinity, his car was struck broadside by a speeding driver. He died a few minutes later beside the lichgate. The sad irony is that this is one of a very few lichgates in Canada. The lichgate preserves the ancient and historic custom of clergy welcoming people under the canopy of the lichgate onto consecrated ground. It is a replica of an earlier lichgate and was the gift of Robert N. Cox, a friend of Edwin C. Whitney.
Archdeacon Carson was succeeded by The Rev. S.B.. Holmes in 1931. He served until 1938, through the years of the Great Depression. He was succeeded by The Rev. George Oliver Davies, a well-loved man who served until his retirement in 1957, just as the great Seaway works were underway.
In retrospect, The St. Lawrence Seaway Hydro Electric Power Project jointly completed by Canada and the United States of America, was probably the biggest disappointment for the people of Trinity Church. One senior member recently remarked that the Seaway not only took our homes and our farms, it took our people as well. She looks back at that time with regret and disappointment. The promised prosperity did not materialize. The growth in the communities that was predicted did not take place. From Cardinal to Cornwall the river front was disrupted. Towns, villages, hamlets, homes, farms, businesses, factories, churches, cemeteries, historic sites and public buildings were all slated for demolition or removal to new locations.
To protect the Anglican Church properties in the Diocese of Ottawa Bishop Jefferson created the St. Lawrence Seaway Anglican Church Properties Committee. The Bishop appointed to the committee, Archdeacon Clarke of Cornwall as Chairman, Canon Linley Macmorine of Wales as Secretary and George F. Jowett, People’s Warden of Trinity Church, Riverside as Lay Representative. Representing Ontario Hydro were Dr. Rothwell, Chief Property Officers H. Hustler and A. Lampert, Chief Architect K. Candy, Chief Engineers H. Jackson and G. Estes and J. Gormley, Recording officer. The Honourable G. Challies and Dr. Carroll represented the Parks Commission, cemeteries, monuments and historic restoration with J. Smart, overall field organizer. All churches in the path of the Seaway were demolished except two. The Ontario Parks Commission sought to obtain Christ Church, Moulinette for its historic background, and unique colonial architecture. It was successfully acquired and transported to Upper Canada Village where it still stands as a proud monument to all the demolished churches.
The other church earmarked to be saved for its great historic significance was Trinity Church, Riverside. Three meetings were held at Trinity Memorial Church on January 12, March 14 and March 21, 1955 to deal with the issues put forth by the upcoming development of the Seaway. Each meeting was chaired by the Rector, The Rev. G. Oliver Davies, with Sherwood Stoddart as Rector’s Warden, George F. Jowett as People’s Warden and Donald Prunner, as Vestry Clerk.
Originally, the building was thought to be immovable due to its stone construction and earmarked for demolition. Hydro officials suggested that the building be replaced with a modern building. Public opinion demanded its complete preservation. In fact, several questions were placed before the congregation. The first was “Are you in favour of transferring the present Trinity Memorial Church over to the Ontario Hydro Commission, to be used as an interdenominational Chapel, in the proposed Crysler Memorial Park, and receive a new Church in return?” The congregation voted unanimously “No”. The second question was “Which do you prefer - a new Church built, or, the present Church taken down and restored on a selected site?” The congregation voted unanimously - “We prefer our present Church taken down, and restored on a selected site.” The third question was “If a compromise could be agreed upon, would you be in favour of placing our present Church within the Crysler Memorial Park, providing it was permitted to retain its present status as a functioning Church of England, with an Anglican congregation?”. The congregation voted unanimously “No.”
At that time the plan was to situate the Crysler Memorial Park about five miles east of the Battle of Crysler’s Farm Monument which would place it on the doorstep of the proposed new No. 1 townsite (Ingleside) which was also slated to have an Anglican Church serving the combined congregations of Aultsville and Wales. The people felt that this would split congregations, would be too far distant from the present location, would leave too great a gap between Holy Trinity and St. James’ and would move the Church from its historic location in Dundas and place it in a “foreign” site in the County of Stormont!
The next question was “Where would you like Holy Trinity Memorial Church to be located when moved?” The congregation voted unanimously - North and East, but positively remaining within the township, and parish of Williamsburg. The exact location was to be finally determined when it was actually known where the two roads would exist. The next question was “When the Church is in process of rebuilding, are you in favour of developing improvements, such as: (1) sanitation, with lavatories for both sexes, and one for the children, (2) a serviceable cloak room, (3) a larger, and better equipped kitchen, (4) a storage room, (5) an underground oil burner tank chamber?” The congregation unanimously voted “Yes.” but expressed concern about whether or not Hydro would pay for these improvements.
The next question was “Where will the congregation of Trinity Memorial Church worship while the Church is being restored?” The congregation favoured attending St. James’, Morrisburg though certain provisions must be made in order that Trinity Memorial Church retains its own functioning program, with a share in costs agreed upon to apply to St. James’ during the interim. It was suggested that a joint meeting of both vestries take place to amicably decide these matters.
Mr. Jowett, with the support of the United Empire Loyalist Association, and other patriotic and public groups, mounted a campaign to have the church taken down, stone by stone and timber by timber, and re-constructed exactly as it had been on a new location in the new community of Riverside Heights.
Members of the Whitney-Crysler families and the Munro Family and others who were members of the parish resulted in the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission generously consenting to this unique plan of re-construction, even though it would cost over $171,000.00, more than double the appraised value of the building. The fact that Trinity Church was a “memorial” church probably saved it from demolition.
The architectural firm of Burgess & McLean, Ottawa was selected for Trinity Memorial Church on July 19, 1955 to prepare an appraisal of the Church for Ontario Hydro. The appraised value was determined to be $85,000.00. Next the present location was selected and tenders were advertised by Ontario Hydro. Mr. K. Candy, Chief Architect for Ontario Hydro called a meeting at the Jowett residence on July 11, 1957 and the contract was awarded to the firm of John Entwhistle, Contractor, of Cornwall with the lowest bid of $132,611.00. All costs were borne entirely by Ontario Hydro. George Jowett was then asked to serve as the project supervisor for the church restoration to scrutinize sketches, plans and contracts, make reports to the Architect, oversee construction and work with the builder and Ontario Hydro. Things went well at first, until an unfortunate fire, which completely destroyed the building on the church site which contained the plans, records, and tools.
The last service in Trinity Memorial Church was held on September 21, 1957, the church furnishings were recorded and removed to safe keeping at the Jowett home, and demolition began soon after. The pipe organ, which was one of the first installed in a church in Upper Canada was donated to the Ontario-St. Lawrence Parks Commission for preservation in Upper Canada Village. Each stone was carefully numbered during the dismantling. The newly re-constructed Church was completed in October 1958 and the Consecration Service took place at 8:00 p.m. October 15, 1958. Later two blocks of land directly north of the church yard were given by Ontario Hydro. This land was designated on the development plan for Riverside Heights as the site of the proposed shopping centre. Mr. Jowett’s final report was full of praise for the Bishop, the Officers of the Diocese, the representatives of Ontario Hydro, the Architects, and especially for Mr. Entwhistle, the builder. There can be no doubt that George Jowett deserved a great vote of thanks as well.
Attention can now be shifted to the future of the Cemetery. The questions were more difficult to answer for a variety of reasons. The questions asked were: (1) Do you wish to retain the layout of the Church grounds, keeping all the historic monuments? (2) Are you in favour of granting the desire of the Ontario Hydro Commission, the privilege of moving the Pioneer headstones, and the monument of Sir .I.P. Whitney, into the Crysler Memorial Park? (3) Do you wish to retain a Church cemetery? (4) Would you prefer to follow the modern trend which inclines to a Church without a connected cemetery? (5) Would you be in favour of joining an Anglican section in the proposed interdenominational cemetery to be located in the St. Lawrence Parkway?
The questions were not all answered directly because the congregation was concerned that it could not finance the care of the cemetery (this was apparently already a problem). Furthermore, the Pioneer Cemetery was not the responsibility of the Anglican Church as it was originally a joint cemetery for the interment of Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians. They doubted, therefore, that they had any legal right to decide the question, except as it pertained to their own dead. On the other hand, some families had died out and both the Lutherans and the Presbyterians had refused to give support when asked by the Anglican Cemetery Committee. According to the Ontario Cemeteries Act the township is obligated to care for a Pioneer Cemetery but it had always refused. They, therefore, wanted to know “In whom, then, is the authority vested to decide?” Furthermore, since the Hydro Commission had stated that it must deal personally with every lot holder and respect their desires, it left Trinity Memorial Church Cemetery Committee and the congregation without any say as to what may happen to the cemetery even if they decided to keep it. They wondered what say, if any, they would have concerning the Sir J.P. Whitney Memorial since it was erected by the Province of Ontario? What would the other Whitney and Crysler relatives say when interviewed? It seemed that in many areas their jurisdiction appeared to be neutralized. There was concern that if the monuments and the Pioneer cemetery headstones were transferred by legal request, the Church would be deprived of the historic value of its cemeteries, leaving it no alternative but to abandon the idea of perpetuating the historic scene in all its features.
In general, the congregation stated that it was not too much concerned one way or the other in what was determined concerning the Cemetery and monuments. However, they were determined to keep the same amount of ground, and if possible more, surrounding the Church to provide a better, safer drive-in entrance to the grounds, space for a growing congregation to develop a parish hall and a rectory, and space for a future cemetery should one be required. In conclusion, the congregation decided to leave the whole matter concerning the cemeteries and historic monuments to the discretion of the Diocese of Ottawa.
The Ontario Parks Commission wanted to place the huge Whitney and Crysler monuments and the Government of Ontario monument to Sir J.P. Whitney in Upper Canada Village. This was overruled because the monuments were deemed to be an integral part of the original memorial in accordance with the agreement officially made between the Church and its donors at the time of the dedication in 1904. The monuments were moved to the present churchyard at an estimated cost of $34,000.00. This included the Munro monuments. Colonel J. Munro was a famous officer of the 1st Royal Yorkers and formerly a British officer of the 48th Regiment. He fought through the Seven Years War in the conquest of Canada. At one time he was a wealthy merchant in Schenectady and Albany, New York. He declared for the Crown when the rebellion broke out and lost all his possessions by confiscation. Upon his arrival in Canada he was appointed an Official of the Crown in this area. He prospered and was elected to the first Parliament of Upper Canada for the riding of Dundas.
He was a member of the first church. The Munro family monuments are in the present churchyard surrounded by their original ornamental iron fence.
The rededication service of the restored Church occurred in October 1959 and was presided over by The Right Reverend Ernest S. Reed, Bishop of Ottawa. The church was packed and the resplendent old church was re-named Holy Trinity Memorial Church. The church had been taken down stone by stone, and re-constructed about one mile north and a quarter mile east of its previous location, but still on part of the original Crown Land Grant which was to serve the original band of United Empire Loyalists in co-worship and was eventually given to the Anglican Church. The old historic memorials were replaced within the church and the ancient stone foundations were used in the reconstruction. The old Celtic Cross still adorns the peak of the fine copper roof. A memorial box, placed within the original dating stone was recovered and replaced after other papers covering the restoration were inserted along with present coins of the realm.
Another interesting event took place on June 24, 1964. On this day Mr. H.S. Honsberger, President of the Dominion Council of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada announced that the Council had approved the naming of Holy Trinity Memorial Church as an official United Empire Loyalist Memorial Church. Bishop Ernest S. Reed officiated at the ceremonies attended by a large congregation. The ceremony attended by a wide range of Loyalist descendants was a fine example of Christian unity.
In 1966 a United Empire Loyalist Museum was opened in the basement of Holy Trinity. The Museum was named The Lichgate Parish Museum and displayed a variety of artifacts, documents and relies that pertained to the pioneer period as well as an impressive array of exotic memorabilia from the rich and famous. In addition, there was a huge map of the area showing the region before the arrival of the Seaway. This museum was the achievement of Miss Phyllis Jowett and Mr. Edward Munro. The museum continued for a few years.
In 1974, the Parish of Morrisburg with its two sister churches, St. James’, Morrisburg, and Holy Trinity, Riverside Heights, was amalgamated with St. John the Baptist, Iroquois and became the Parish of Morrisburg-Iroquois. For many years the congregation at Holy Trinity has been quite small, but always very loyal in support of their Church and the work of the Gospel in this place and beyond. For several years only one service was held at the church each month with services every second week during the months of July and August. More recently, a service is held on the first and third Sundays of each month at 11:00 a.m. and on feast days. An annual joint service of the three congregations in the parish is usually held in late June or early July. For several years the Morrisburg Co-operative Nursery School occupied the basement of the Church.
In recent years the interior of the church has been painted a blend of cool green shades and a new electric piano was purchased in 2001 to replace the now outdated and defective electronic organ. There has been some growth in the congregation in the past five years. There are currently 25 families and individuals on the congregational membership list and 50 members in the congregation.
Average attendance at Sunday services in 2001 was 24. On Trinity Sunday, May 26, 2002, Holy Trinity Memorial Church will celebrate its 100th Anniversary with a service of thanksgiving and re-dedication. The Right Reverend Peter R. Coffin, Bishop of Ottawa will preside.
The Rector’s Warden in this Centennial Year is Glenn Wells and the People’s Warden is Isobel Tuttle. Carol Walsh is the Deputy Warden; Joan Wells is the Synod Member; Hazel Prunner is the Treasurer; and Susan Bradley is the Organist. The present clergy team consists of the Incumbent, the Rev. William Byers and the Assistant Curate, The Rev. Patricia Martin. Holy Trinity is a vital part of the three- point Parish of Morrisburg-Iroquois with its sister churches of St. James’, Morrisburg and St. John the Baptist, Iroquois.
As this congregation begins its second century in this building and its third century as part of the Christian presence in Riverside Heights and the eastern part of old Williamsburg Township, it seems timely to contemplate for a moment upon the future. The past has been steeped in history - so many important intersections with some of the key events of Canadian and North American history can be discerned. There have also been several times when one might have expected the last parishioner to pull up stakes and leave. Just as all has sometimes seemed lost, God’s gracious hand has reached down and gently urged the little flock, with its tiny house of worship, to take heart and journey on. Always at least a few have remained faithful. Such is still the case.....
So what might we hope for this Christian community in the future? In 2001, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada entered into a state of “full communion.” What could this mean for the people of St. John’s Lutheran and Holy Trinity Anglican Churches? Might this be an opportunity for healing and the possibility for new, creative forms of shared ministry in this community?
There is much history to celebrate along this St. Lawrence River. History is important. We need to learn from the past if we are to profit in the future. However, is it possible that we have concentrated too much on the past and not enough on the future? As one of my fellow priests reminds me so frequently, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery; today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.” Is it now time to celebrate the gift of the present and look forward with expectation and excitement to the mystery of the future? If God has remained faithful these many years, is there any reason to believe that God will not continue to remain faithful in the future?
The Rev. Johann Gunter Weagant 1811-1835
*The Rev. Frederick Mack 1830 -
The Rev. John Gerbrand Beek Lindsay 1832-1844
The Rev. Edward Jukes Boswell 1844-1862
The Rev. Edwin Loucks 1862-1874
The Rev. Charles Forest 1874-1881
The Rev. James William Walter Finlay 1874-1875
The Rev. Arthur Jarvis 1881-1884
The Rev. Clarendon Lamb Worrell 1884-1886
The Rev. Montague Gower Poole 1886-1898
The Rev. George Spooner Anderson 1899-1914
The Rev. Charles Oliver Carson 1914-1931
The Rev. Sydney Baker Holmes 1932-1938
The Rev. George Oliver Davies 1938-1957
The Rev. Leonard Charles Scott 1958-1961
The Rev. Cyril Wall Earle 1961-1973
The Rev. Francis Nelson Gooch 1974-1982
The Rev. David Stuart Crawley 1983-1989
The Rev. Harry Hamilton Brown 1989-1996
The Rev. William Robert Byers 1996-2002
The Rev. Patricia Anne Martin 2000-2002
(This list of clergy serving this congregation has been prepared by the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Archives.)
* This entry is not contained in the list of clergy provided by the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Archives but is gleaned from correspondence in these Archives. It is not known how long The Rev. F. Mack was present assisting The Rev. J.G. Weagant.
Carter, J. Smyth. The Story of Dundas. Iroquois: The St. Lawrence News
Publishing House, 1905
Croil, James. Dundas or A Sketch of Canadian History. Montreal: B. Dawson & Son, 1861
Morgan, Eleanor Wickware. Up The Front - A Story of Morrisburg. Morrisburg: The Morrisburg Leader, 1964
Porter, C.J. St. James’ Church, Morrisburg, Ontario, 100th Anniversary. Morrisburg: St. James’ Church, 1994
Schwerdtfeger, Hazel Mae. Memoirs of Reverend J. Samuel Schwerdtfeger. New York: Carlton Press, 1961
VanderBaaren, K. St. John ’s Church, Riverside Heights, 200 Years. Morrisburg :1984
A good selection of original correspondence is safely cared for by the staff of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Archives at Christ Church (Anglican)
Cathedral in Ottawa. This includes correspondence of The Rev. J.G. Weagant, The Rev. H. Hayunga, Mr. George F. Jowett, and others.
An unpublished document entitled A Concise History of Holy Trinity Anglican Memorial Church, Riverside Heights, Morrisburg, Ontario, Canada, which was written by George F. Jowett. This history is undated.
The Report on the Special Vestry Meeting of the Congregation of Holy Trinity Memorial Church, Riverside, January 12, 1955
The Final Report Concerning the Rebuilding of Trinity Memorial Church from October 1954 to October 1959, written by George F. Jowett, dated October 8, 1959.
Other information was gleaned from a collection of newspaper articles from various times and places.
Financed by millionaire philanthropist, Edwin Canfield Whitney and his wife, Sarah Crysler, Holy Trinity Anglican church was built in 1902, to replace the previous wood church that was badly in need of repair. The couple welcomed the opportunity to donate a church in memory of their parents and United Empire Loyalist forbears and to this day, the church receives financial support from a Sarah Crysler Whitney endowment.
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Riverside Heights (Morrisburg, Ontario) is an intimate building devoted to faith and fellowship. This site is intended to grow, adapt and interact with parishioners and visitors alike. All are welcome at the Lord's table.