Our History

(2) 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 modified 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.