The March number of the Canadian Methodist Magazine contains an interesting and valuable paper from the pen of our townsman, Mr. Allan Ross Davis, C.E., on "The Cradle of Upper Canadian Methodism," which is the Township of Adolphustown and other points in this county. The facts given are of much historical value, and as some of them may be new, especially to the younger readers of THE BEAVER, we will give a summary of them here: -
It was on the 16th of June, 1784, that the first landing of pioneer U.E. Loyalists took place at Adolphustown, on the lot now owned and occupied by David W. Allison, Esq. They began at once to locate on the lots assigned them by the government and to clear away the heavy forest and erect for themselves rude homes. The people were of a hardy and intelligent class and came, nearly all, from the State of New York, having left there the year before in small boats, and remained during the winter at Sorel, not far from Montreal, slowly toiling their way up the St. Lawrence and Bay of Quinte in the open boats in the spring, reaching their destined homes in this county at the time specified.
They resided in their new homes for over five years before the Gospel was preached to them, or the Missionary face was seen. In 1790, William Losee, a young Methodist preacher, then on trial in one of the New England States, made a visit to his relatives on the Hay Bay, and preached at Vandusen's tavern in Adolphustown and in the houses of a number of the residents, here and there. He returned to his conference at Albany the next summer, and the people sent by him a generally signed petition to the Methodist Conference, asking that a missionary be sent to them. This petition was favorably acted upon and Rev. Darius Dunham and William Losee were sent. Mr. Dunham was appointed to a circuit extending from Kingston west, including that village, and Losee was assigned to a circuit extending along the banks of the St. Lawrence from Prescott to Kingston.
While Losee was at his preliminary work subscription lists were prepared for two "chapels," which were the first Methodist churches erected in the Province of Upper Canada. These lists were got up about the same time and the work on these two pioneer churches was begun, in the year 1792. The first of these was located on "the northwest corner of Paul Huff's lot of land, No. 18, third concession of Fourth Town. That is where the remains of the old Methodist church in Adolphustown now stand. The second one was begun the same year on Col. Parrott's farm, on the shore of the Bay of Quinte east of Millhaven, where a Methodist church now stands. After the frame had been put up Col. Parrott moved to the fourth concession of Ernesttown, and the frame was taken down, removed and re-erected there. It stood on the spot now occupied by the brick Methodist church, on the Napanee and Kingston road, midway between Morven and Odessa, in the vicinity of the former residences of our townsmen, J.M. Parrott, Esq. and Mr. James Fellows.
The old Adolphustown church, which has now become so historic in the history of Canadian Methodism, is most particularly described in Mr. Davis' paper. It was originally a building 36 x 30 feet, with a square roof, two stories and a gallery on three sides. In 1830 it was considerably enlarged and remodelled, and the remains of it stand to day as it was completed at that time. It was used regularly as a place of worship until 1862, when a new one was built in the second concession, where the fine Centenary Methodist church now stands.
The old church was also used as a court house in the nineties of the last century, before any regular court houses were yet built in the Province. At that time, and for years after, the high courts for the entire Midland district, extending form Kingston to Cobourg, were held half yearly, alternately at Kingston and Adolphustown. It is stated that some of the officials strongly protested against its use for court purposes, lest the "house of prayer" should be made "a den of thieves." The historian is particular here to explain that it was the prisoners and not the lawyers that were thus objected to!
Then, in 1813, the old church was pressed into another public service. That was the time of the great American war and a lot of soldiers and volunteers were quartered along the bay, to protect it from American invasion by water. During the winter houses for shelter were scarce and both it and the Quaker meeting house, two or three lots distant, were pressed into service for soldier's barracks. It may here be remarked that the Quaker meeting house, the remains of which are still standing, was probably the first of its class built in this Province. It was erected about the first of this century and stands in a fair state of preservation yet, though it has not been used as a place of worship for many years. A large number of the early settlers were Quakers.
The subscription list of the old Adolphustown church still remains and is now historic, being the first of many thousands of that kind in Canada. Its signers were all U.E.L. pioneers and their descendants are now scattered all over the Dominion of Canada. They were: Paul Huff, Peter Frederick, Elizabeth Roblin, William Casey, Daniel Steel, Joseph Ellison, William Green, William Ruttan, Solomon Huff, Stophel German, John Green, Peter Ruttan, Joseph Clapp, John Berringer, Conrad Vandusen, Henry Hover, Casper Vandusen, Arra Ferguson, Daniel Dafoe, Andrew Embury, Henry Davis, William Ketcheson.
THE FIRST METHODIST CLASSES
William Losee was not an ordained minister at the time of his first year's work, but he began to regularly organize classes during the early part of his second year's work. This was the foundation of organized Methodism in Upper Canada. The first class was organized in Paul Huff's house, Adolphustown, on Sunday, February 20th 1791, and William Moore, one of the honored residents on Hay Bay shore, was the first class leader. The second class was organized the next Sunday, February 27th, at Col. Parrott's on the bay shore east of Millhaven, where a class has always since existed. The third class was formed Wednesday, March 2d in the house of Samuel Detlor, in Fredericksburgh, on or adjoining the farm now owned by Mr. John Dunbar of this town. This was in the vicinity of the homes of the Detlors, Chamberlains, McCays and others whose names were intimately associated with early Methodism in this country.
REV. DR. DUNHAM
Rev. Darius Dunham was the first ordained Methodist preacher in Canada, came in 1792, having been appointed by the conference of New York. He was then a young man, and the account off his trip from Albany to Kingston is an interesting narrative indeed, giving a good idea of the inconveniences of travel at that time. A trip that is now easily accomplished in less than a day, then occupied over two weeks, and involved very serious hardships. An open boat had to be rowed or polled along up the Mohawk river, then through the chain of lakes and the river leading to Oswego, and then around the lower end of Lake Ontario to Kingston and up the bay. Mr. Dunham always remained in Canada. He married a daughter of Samuel Detlor of Fredericksburgh, but as children began to accumulate to them he found the hardships of an early itinerate Methodist preacher's life too great, and retired to a farm in Fredericksburgh on the "Little Creek" where he lived and died. He was a physician by education and for years practiced his profession. Many old readers of THE BEAVER still well remember 'old Doctor Dunham', he, probably the best known family doctor in this section for years. He continued to preach, more or less to the end of his days. He lies buried in the ""Switzer Chapel" burial ground. He was the father of the late Fletcher and Ephraim A. Dunham, both well known residents of Napanee years ago, also of Mrs. Jacob Peterson, formerly of Fredericksburgh, and Mrs. Charles Chamberlain, formerly of Richmond. The family are now all gone.
From these small beginnings sprang up the Methodist church in Canada, now numerically the largest and the most wide spread in its operations of any in the entire country. The first solitary "Chapel," the subject of this paper, still stands; now there are 3,211 such churches in Canada, with an estimated value of some ten million dollars. The older people about here still well remember the first Methodist preacher; now the church records contain the names of 1,996 in the active work in Canada. A hundred years ago the first three classes were but recently formed, with an aggregate of 42 members, not, the enrolled membership in Canada is we believe, 260,953. Truly "the little one has become a thousand the small one a great nation."
Mr. Davis has done well to collect and present in so readable a form the important facts of these early beginnings in "the cradle of Methodism," which should be well understood and remembered by all residents of this section of country.