Cataraqui United Church - History
Early Church History, Buildings and Finances
Original Deed to Parsonage 1851
Original Pipe Organ
‘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
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.
Church Buildings and History
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.
Church Policy and Finance
It has always been a problem to obtain enough funds for church upkeep and ministers’ salaries, especially in a relatively small, largely rural church. As early as 1861, a method was devised to increase the church’s income. This was the charging pew rents, even though this was against the policy of the Methodist Church. In 1877, the rent per year was$30.00. After paying the fee to the sexton, the person renting the pew received a receipt which included on it how long the pe was rented. The issue of Pew Rents caused some dissension within the church, about the time of the Methodist Union. The Methodist Episcopals objected to the payment of the rents, but the system remained in use. In 1893, the Board of Trustees introduced ‘weekly giving’, from which the envelope system arose. However it wasn’t until a congregation meeting, February 25, 1949, that it was formally moved that the envelope system be adopted.
When finances were low, it was usually the minister’s salary that suffered first. Sometimes the minister’s salary consisted only of the money that was left over after the bills were paid. However, in 1893, the Reverend Francis Chisolm was promised $750.00 a year. (We don’t know whether or not he received it.) Needless to say the ministers’ salary has risen since then. Various groups have given the church moral and financial support. Without them Cataraqui would not be the church it is.
Uses for the money, of course, have been plentiful. With the importance of music to the Church, an organ was a priority. In the winter of 1881, a second-hand organ was obtained from one of the churches in Napanee, and Edward Cooke brought it to the church on a sleigh. In 1922,
Professor E. Madrand was hired by the Cataraqui charge and became the
The organ had a lovely tone, and served the church for almost
seventy-five years. Because it was a box pipe organ, the bellows were
manually operated and an energetic young boy was hired for $5.00 per
year to do the pumping. Sometimes the task of pumper was taken on by
the minister’s son, as was the case with Rowe Seymour. This youth
inscribed a memorial in his father’s Methodist Hymn and Tune Book:
‘August 14, 1938. Pumped in the absence of Jack Smith and was it
The pumper sat behind a green curtain and kept an eye on the
pressure indicator. He had nothing to do as long as the gauge remained
constant, but once the pressure began to drop he was to start pumping. Woe to the young pumper who dozed off or daydreamed and let the pressure go down, for he would be reminded too late, when the congregation rose, the organist began to play... and no sounds emerge from the organ. A new electric organ was installed in January 1954, and the old pipe organ was removed in July 1954 The 'Hammond Organ' was dedicated March 29th, 1987 in loving memoryof Edward and Mildred Riley.
Other changes the Church has
experienced over time include the re-painting
and re-decoration of the interior of the church,
which was completed December 13, 1953
(for the anniversary service). The old
decoration consisted of scripture passages;
over the pulpit on the wall was
‘Holiness becometh thine House O Lord’,
and above the entrance door was
‘Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary’.
Of course a church that was built in 1881 has need of constant repairs and renovations to keep it serviceable. Many of the repairs were and are done by members of the congregation, not only saving the church money but also giving the congregation a deeper interest in the church itself. Many of the conveniences society now takes for granted were major accomplishments in the church and parsonage. For example, acquisition of electric lights in the church in 1922, of water (which led to a bathroom addition, and kitchen renovations) in the 1960′s, (something that had been impossible before that due to the close proximity of the graveyard), the renovations of the basement, and the modernization of the church interior itself. All these were achievements for the church.
A brief list of some recorded projects and expenses:
- the first telephone was installed in the manse in 1916
- at a meeting January 31, 1951, it was moved that the
pumper for the organ be paid $5.00 quarterly
- the new oil furnace was installed January 6, 1952
- the old slat walk was taken away from the front of the
church on August 28, 1952. The concrete steps and walk
were finished on September 20, of that same year
- the new communion table was dedicated in March 1953
- a baptismal font was put in the church on May 7, 1955
- oak offering plates were first used at the Mother’s Day
Service in May 8, 1955
- a new chalice was used for the first time at communion
service December 9, 1962
- water was installed in the church for the first time in June 1963
Despite the fact that people had been worshipping at the same site since the 1790′s and that Waterloo-Cataraqui was a thriving church by the mid 1800′s, the minister still had to resort to
boarding with the families of his congregation. The Waterloo-Cataraqui Church
(the name had been changed from Waterloo due to confusion with the city of
Waterloo in western Ontario) needed a parsonage. In 1851, a blacksmith named
William Jackson donated the land for a parsonage while the money for
construction was given by an unknown donor, on the condition that it be built
according to his wishes. It is not known for certain when the exact date of
construction of the manse was, but it has been estimated to be about 1851.
The original parsonage was small; it contained a kitchen in the basement and
a first floor above that with a cottage roof. The front lawn was an enclosed
vegetable garden; two mountain ash trees flanked the gate which opened onto a
path leading to the front door.
Renovations on the building were undertaken upon the
insistence of a new minister, Reverend Francis Chisholm, in
1892, when he refused to live in the parsonage until it was
enlarged. He and his family lived in an apartment over Johnsons’
Grocery (an old stone building which stood at the foot of
Sydenham Road) until the building was ready to live in. The
addition of a second floor and a kitchen wing made the manse
one of the largest homes in the Waterloo Circuit. By the year
1960, the old parsonage was badly in need of repairs. The
Official Board debated at some length whether it would be better
to spend thousands of dollars on the old building, or to sell it
and buy a new one for the minister. A joint Board of Trustees,
representing both Cataraqui and Westbrook, obtained the consent of the Kingston Presbytery to sell the property, and it was sold to Mr. & Mrs. J.A. Wright. (Mr. Wright was an elder and member of the Cataraqui United Church.)
The new parsonage or ‘manse’ (to use the approved United Church term) was purchased from Reverend Nicholas Bosko, a retired Free Methodist minister. The manse was a neat three bedroom bungalow located on a spacious lot just two miles north of the church. In 1960, Reverend W. Sparling became our first minister to move into the new manse and five years later the manse mortgage was burned. Cataraqui United Church no longer owns a manse. It was sold 1984, and the minister is now paid a housing allowance instead.
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.
Most of the body of this history came from Years to Remember, a small book produced by the Youth Group of Cataraqui United Church in 1978. Central contributors included Brenda Smith, who later became Church Secretary.
Additional information may be found in writings in the Queen’s University Library, including works by the Kingston Historical Society, A History of Cataraqui United Church, a Bachelor of Divinity Thesis (1963), by Rev. J.W. Lamb, and other information, as well as many of the photos used here were drawn from several books by Rev. Doreen O’Brien (Hooper). This page has been edited and re-formatted by Rebecca Smith with the assistance and cooperation of Tim Milley, Jill McCreary, Debbie Smithyman and Joan Bruce.
Cataraqui's long history stretches back to the 1700s.
Look here for more information about the Church building and congregation which calls Cataraqui home.
The Parsonage - Ileen Cassidy is on the lawn
Below: Interior of Cataraqui United Church prior to the installation of electric lights in 1922.