Registers of the United Anglican Mission of Williamsburgh, Matilda, Osnabruck, and Edwardsburgh 1790-1886
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Registers of the United Anglican Mission of
Williamsburgh, Matilda, Osnabruck, and Edwardsburgh 1790-1886
Quill
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The Anglican Mission and the Transition from Lutheran to Episcopal

The townships of Williamsburgh, Matilda, Osnabruck and Edwardsburgh were first settled in 1784 by disbanded loyalist soldiers and their families. A large number of the settlers were of German descent and they formed a Lutheran congregation and held meetings for public worship. In 1787 they secured a "Book of Sermons" and a hymn-book from Philadelphia, which were used under the direction of a lay reader until they built a church and obtained their first pastor.

Initially these townships were located in the Montreal District, later called Lunenburgh District in the Province of Quebec. In 1791 the Province of Quebec was divided into Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec), and counties were established in 1792. Williamsburgh and Matilda are in the county of Dundas County, Edwardsburgh in Grenville County, and Osnabruck in Stormont County.

In 1789 the Lutheran congregation built a church on centre commons in Williamsburgh and Rev. Samuel Schwerdfeger, a native of Saxony, answered their call for a pastor. He began to officiate in June 1790. Schwerdfeger had emigrated to America in 1753 and had served as pastor of congregations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Schwerdfeger dedicated the church "Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church". A second Lutheran church was built on the centre commons of Matilda in 1792, close to the St. Lawrence, where Rev. Schwerdfeger also ministered in addition to the congregation at Williamsburgh. In 1795 a third church was built at Osnabruck through the joint efforts of Rev. Schwerdfeger, and Rev. John Ludwig Broeffle, a Presbyterian minister. Rev. Schwerdfeger continued to minister to all three Lutheran congregations for over 14 years, until his death in 1803.

The second pastorate began in 1804 with Rev. August Friedrich Meyer, son of Rev. Frederick Myers the first pastor of the Bay of Quinte parish. He also ministered to all three congregations.

In 1808 Rev. John Gunter Weagant, son-in-law of Rev. Schwerdfeger, became pastor and continued to minister to all three Lutheran congregations at Williamsburgh, Matilda and Osnabruck. He was a native of Hanover and school-fellow of Rev. Meyer. In 1812 he was re-ordained into the Episcopal church, but initially continued to minister as a Lutheran pastor. When Rev. Weagant’s apostalization to the Church of England became known, the Lutherans feared they would be absorbed into the Episcopal church. The invitation for the congregation to unite with the English Church was accepted by a few families, but the great majority initially stood aloof from the proposed arrangement.

Generally speaking church affairs were much neglected from 1812 to 1814, partially due to the war of 1812. In 1814 the Lutheran congregation induced Rev. Meyer to return to Dundas to minister to them. Some difficulty arose, as Rev. Weagant refused to vacate the parsonage and glebe, and prevented the Lutherans from using the church. Myers preached in the homes of his flock until by agreement Lutherans secured the use of the church for a portion of the time. The Lutheran church at Williamsburgh became known as St. George’s.

In 1817 Rev. Myers also conformed to the Church of England and settled at Iroquois in Matilda. He continued to officiate at Matilda as an Episcopal minister until his death in 1832. Rev. Weagant continued to minister to the Episcopal congregations at Williamsburgh and Osnabruck until he resigned in 1835.

The remaining Lutheran congregation were without a pastor until 1824 when Rev. I. L. Senderling briefly laboured as a missionary. In 1826 Rev. Herman Hayunga accepted the call and organized two congregations. The second congregation, in union with Presbyterians, founded St. Peter’s Church, North Williamsburgh in 1827. In 1833 the Lutherans in Williamsburgh rebuilt a short distance above the old church, which was consecrated Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Church. The original Lutheran congregations at Matilda, Williamsburgh and Osnabruck had now ceased to exist.

Rev. G. Beck Lindsay was the Missionary for Williamsburgh, Edwardsburgh and Matilda from 1832-44. In 1836 the original church in Williamsburgh was rebuilt. From 1845 to 1862 Rev. Edward J. Boswell ministered, and Williamsburgh became a parish during this time. In 1857 a new church was erected at Morrisburgh, and in 1865 the original church at Matilda was sold, it’s materials were used in the construction of two small rough-cast houses near the G.T.R. station in Iroquois. Rectors that followed Rev. Boswell to minister at Williamsburgh included Rev. E. Loucks, Rev. Charles Forest, Rev. Arthur Davis, and Rev. Clare L. Worrell.

Bibliography:

  • Johannes Helmut Merz, "They Spoke German in the Lunenburgh District, Upper Canada, 1784-1800", (J. H. Merz: June 1991)
  • J. F. Pringle, "Lunenburgh or the Old Eastern District," (Cornwall: Standard Printing House, 1890); (reprint, Belleville: Mika, 1972)
  • J. Smyth Carter, "The Story of Dundas from 1784 to 1904," (Iroquois: The St. Lawrence News Publishing House, 1905); (reprint, Belleville: Mika, 1973)

Further Reference:

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