Cataraqui United Church

Tradional Worship Wrapped in Casual Style

History of Cataraqui Church;
              from Pioneer Chapel to Canadian Heritage Site

Today Cataraqui United Church is a 'family style" community of faith where we seek to reach beyond our walls to share worship, witness, and service in the world.Our roots are in a band of displaced settlers who migrated here following the American revolution to escape violence and discrimination.  To this day we are mindful of the plight and needs of the many who still face such trials in life and seek to serve in faith beyond these walls which have sheltered us for over 225 years

‘In The Beginning…
        In 1784, Captain Michael Grass was one of four officers commissioned to bring British Loyalists from the newly formed United States to Canada, so that they might continue to live under English rule. They came and settled in what is now called Cataraqui,
although the area was then known as Sandville and later as Waterloo (in honour of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon).  

The settlers were Methodists and they brought their faith with them to Waterloo. Although they didn’t have a church, they gathered for worship in each others’ homes. It was the custom for circuit preachers to visit the different communities and lead worship services, and Waterloo was no exception. A Mr. Lyons and a James McCarty were the first two Methodist circuit riders in the area, but it was William Lossee, the area’s third travelling ‘preacher’ who concentrated his ministry in this particular area. In 1790, Bishop Asbury of the American Methodist Episcopal Church commissioned William Lossee to range at large in Upper Canada. Following several preaching expeditions at Adolphustown in the Bay of Quinte area, William Lossee returned to the United States and gave the New York Conference a petition from the Quinte area settlers concerning appointing him as preacher for that area. This man of about 26 or 27 years of age, of solemn face and voice, who always rode at a gallop, began his work here in February of 1791.

         Lossee’s circuit was an expansive one, reaching from Cornwall in the east to Prince Edward County in the west. He was the first ordained Methodist Deacon in Upper Canada. It has been suggested that it was during William Lossee’s years in this area that the very first church was built on what is now the Cataraqui site and that it was probable that he was the first to preach there. It was during this period (about 1791-1792) that the first church was built. 

        There are several reasons for the church being built on the Waterloo site. At the time there was an abundance of pine trees in the area which could be used in construction and sandy soil provided for a good burying ground. Also, in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, Waterloo was a very active settlement, and a stopping place for travelers on their way to Kingston. Located at the junction of the Old York Road and the Loughboro Road, it was a central spot for rural people to meet. The site was only three and a half miles from Kingston, so it was also within range of city dwellers. However, one of the chief advantages of the site was a willing land donor in the name of John Ferris.
       John Ferris was one of the original loyalist settlers to come to the area with Captain Michael Grass. Although he donated the land in 1798, the deed was not secured until 1832. The first church had Methodist beginnings. At first called the ’Waterloo Chapel’, it is believed to be the third Methodist Church built in Upper Canada. It was a frame building constructed about 1792 and served the congregation for almost thirty years before it was demolished and replaced by a new stone church in 1824. Once a church was built, the community had a place to come to worship, but the ministers (largely circuit preachers) had to live with members of the congregation in each of their charges. In 1851, a blacksmith named William Jackson donated the land for a parsonage

         The original church is believed to be a frame building constructed about 1792, although there are conflicting sources which have the date ranging from 1792 to 1798. Although it was rather crude and roughly built, it served the congregation well for almost thirty years before it was demolished and a new limestone church built to replace it in 1824. This stone church had a gallery built into it, but when the church was repaired in 1867, the gallery was removed. Over time, the stone church deteriorated. Therefore in 1881 a new red brick church was built to replace it. During the period of its construction, the congregation worshipped in the Township Hall, located just south of the Church. Lewis Johnston Day donated a piece of land to the church in 1861, which was used for parking horses and buggies during Church Meetings. Later, sheds were constructed there to house the vehicles the
parishioners brought to church.  

With the amalgamation of the Methodist Church with the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches in Canada, Cataraqui Church became a congregation of the United Church of Canada. There has been a church standing on the crest of the hill, on the west side of Sydenham Road for over two hundred years now. Those first pioneers built better than they knew, for in building the church, they also created a feeling of fellowship that has lasted to this day, and will continue to survive into the ever-changing future.

In 2018 Cataraqui United Church and it's surrounding Cemetery were designated by legislation under the Ontario Heritage Act and the City of Kingston as a Heritage Site of Significance.

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