Fort Wellington Days

Our History: 18th Century Beginnings

After the American Revolution (1775-1783), the region was opened up to loyalists and others who had sided with the British during the Revolution. Land was parcelled out to in recognition of their services to king and country during the American Revolution. For instance, the Mohawk military and political leader, Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) and his followers were given land in what is now southwestern Ontario. United Empire Loyalists were given land in what is now eastern Ontario.

Settlement first began along the "front" - along the St. Lawrence Reiver and then moved inland. The first church services were held under canvas on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Soon log churches were built and eventually replaced with stone and brick buildings.

Eventually, enough people settled in the region for the region to become a distinct entity: Upper Canada (Quebec became known as Lower Canada). While the number of settlers in Upper Canada had increased due to the influx from the States, Presbyterian clergy would come from Scotland - and not many did during these early years.

According to Rev. Dr. Donald MacMillan's book, The Kirk in Glengarry, John Bethune is the Father of Presbyterianism in Upper Canada. He writes:

To John Bethune, (1751-1815), must be given pre-eminence in any history of the Church in Glengarry. The pioneer Presbyterian pastor in Montreal and the first Protestant clergyman to settle in the Glengarry area, he was the only resident Presbyterian minister in Upper Canada when it was set up as a separate province in 1791, and for nearly a quarter of a century was the only ministerial representative of his branch of Presbyterianism, the Church of Scotland...

Soon after his arrival in Glengarry in May, 1787, churches or other places of worship were built or provided in five communities adjacent to the St. Lawrence River...

If Glengarry may be called the "cradle of Presbyterianism in Canada", there is even more reason to describe John Bethune as "the Father of Presbyterianism" in the new province.
(p.13)

Churches built during this period include:

  • a church in Williamstown (1787);
  • St. John's Presbyterian in Cornwall (1787);
  • St. Andrew's Presbyterian in South Lancaster (1787);
  • St. Matthew's in Woodlands (1795); and
  • (not sure where the fifth one mentioned was)

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