Old Hay Bay Church is now
CLOSED for the season.
See you in the spring of 2023!
Old Hay Bay Church
In this season of sharing the Board has a special gift for you.
We are sharing some of the Christmas memories
from the diaries of the church.
1792, December 23
This is my first Christmas. Such love of this new land and hope for the future is on the faces of all who come here. A beautiful blend of cultures, talents, and religions have come together for the peace and joy of the season. The meeting house is filled with the spirit of Christmas.
1812, December 22
The soldiers are here. The conflict between nations continues. Inside my walls they feel the safety and peace I offer them. I hear them share their hope for the future and the wish to go home to their families. I hold them close.
1835, December 24
I am bigger this Christmas. More windows and a new roof line. The material changes needed to house my growing congregation. The love of God continues to expand in this community. Our joyful songs of Christmas fill the room from floor to balcony.
1860, December 25
Oh, how life has changed. I am empty. My family no longer comes here to share their dreams, love, and hope through their faith. How could they leave this sacred place? I will wait for them to return.
1885, December 21
I have been sheltering grain for decades. In my heart I am still the Methodist Meeting House, but now the locals call me Platt’s barn. I think there is hope for my future. The winds of change have brought visitors who say my true calling is still alive. The spirit of the season runs deep in their souls.
1910, December 20
The winds of change are alive in the Methodist Church of Canada who bought me back! The songs will be sung again. The knowledge of being a special place had sunk deep into the timbers that keep me strong. I share my joy and hope for the future.
1952, December 23
I share my land with a new building. A quaint cottage to shelter the visiting United Church Ministers who share my history with all who visit. The love grows as many pilgrimage to this place.
1963, December 25
What a wonderful year of faith, love, and hope, and so many visitors. She does not know it yet, but I crept deep into the heart of a young girl who visited this summer. There were three generations of her loving family. So many people are dedicated to my past, present and future.
1992, December 24
Two hundred years old and thousands of people have passed through my doors. I continue to offer peace through quiet reflection, and voices raised in song. Some search me out and others have stumbled upon me and returned time and time again. I continue to spread my spirit to all who sense my presence.
2022, December 2
Oh, what a year! Visitors, custodians, wedding parties, and church services. Visitors arrived by water and by road. They raised their voices and shared their faith, hope and love with others. My spirit lives on….and the young girl, she’s back.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas. A sincere thank you to all those in the past, the present and the future who have supported the meeting house. May your memories of “Old Hay Bay Church” bring you hope, peace, love, and joy throughout the year.
Submitted by Elaine Farley, Chair of the Board of Trustees
DID YOU KNOW?
Old Hay Bay Methodist Church
Please read within a historic context. You will read terminology that was accepted before but may not be now.
Methodist services had many prayers. This opens with a historic Wesleyan Covenant Prayer:
"I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will: put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the convenient now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen."
Who were the people who built this church and brought Methodism to Upper Canada?
On June 16th, 1784 United Empire Loyalists from Major Van Alstine’s military regiment arrived in the Township of Adolphustown, on land that is now the United Empire Loyalist Park in The Town of Greater Napanee. It was a wilderness that had been quickly surveyed the previous fall, but not divided into lots, while the future residents waited in Sorel, Lower Canada, now Quebec. There were 258 people of all ages, who quickly made camp. The group contained a wide diversity of: military rank, counties of origin, religious beliefs and skills. Their loyalty to British rule had bound them together, with a strong sense of community and a will to survival.
The Subscribers of the Meeting
There were 22 original financial subscribers, known as the founders, being 21 males and one female. They were representatives of the 165 members of the first congregation.
Here are some brief facts about the founders, to show how diversified the group was. They came together in faith to build a house of God. Many of the names are still in the vicinity of the church.
Joseph Allison was born in 1754, in Haverstraw, New York, now Rockland. He was the first generation born in the Thirteen colonies from England. He had a good business in the “carrying trade”, meaning general stores. He died in 1840. Part of his land grant, is the now UEL Loyalist Park, and descendent still live in the area.
John Bininger was born in 1757, the Loyalist son of a Wesleyan Methodist Minister. He was a teacher to the Mohawks, in Tyendinaga. He died in 1817.
William Casey, born in 1760, was a Master carpenter, son of a silversmith. He died in 1842. One of William’s great-grandson was Orrin Robinson Casey, of the famed poem “Casey at the Bat.”
In late September 1805, Preachers William Case and Henry Ryan arranged the first camp meeting in Canada to be held on Paul Huff’s property. The “hell fire and damnation preaching”, powerful singing, and prayer meetings sparked a revival that spread throughout the area.
One of the ways members proved their faith was to offer and encouraged true forgiveness to everyone.
- - - - - - RESTORATION PROJECT PHASE 2 UPDATE - - - - - -
Phase 2 - the Interior Renovation was rescheduled for this year: 2022, conforming to Covid-19 guidelines.
Over the next couple years, the wood will grey down, at which time we will seal the colour at the right time.
It's Happening, but we need $300,000 to do it!
Back in the 70’s, The Board of Trustees of Old Hay Bay Church commissioned the restoration of the Church, focusing mainly on the wood clad siding. Here we are, decades later, and again we see that much needs to be done to preserve the Church, inside and out, as well as our sixty-five year old custodians’ cottage. This Grand Old Lady has endured for 225 years and, as Trustees, it is our responsibility to maintain it, for future generations, but we need your help. The Restoration Committee is seeking grants and private donations to enable this to happen.
“This simple church, built in 1792 by United Empire Loyalists, recalls the early days of Upper Canada settlement. The Methodists’ evangelical zeal was expressed, not only in religious practice, but also in their contributions to Upper Canada’s early social and political development. Stationed on the earliest Methodist itinerant circuit, this site was the location of the first camp meeting in Upper Canada in 1805. The church was enlarged in 1835, and remains the oldest surviving Methodist building in Canada.” – Parks Canada
You can also donate by sending a cheque or post-dated cheques, made payable to:
Old Hay Bay Church
c/o Harvey Nikkel
1400 Benn's Point Rd.
Napanee, Ontario K7R 3K7
Donations of $20.00 and over will receive a tax receipt.
Restoration Questions and Information: Click here to contact us.
General Information about Old Hay Bay Church: Click here to contact us.
OLD HAY BAY CHURCH - In The News
March 2021 - Canada's History - Unadorned Sanctuary
June 2020 - Press Release re: Covid-19
Spring 2018 - Community Heritage Ontario
February 25, 2018 - Kingston Whig
February 7, 2018 - Napanee Beaver
Welcome to Old Hay Bay Church
Old Hay Bay Church is the oldest surviving Methodist building in Canada. It was erected in 1792 by settlers, including United Empire Loyalists, who had recently arrived and established the community of Adolphustown (in modern-day Greater Napanee). Here, one can imagine, travelling saddlebag preachers thundered forth in their sermons. Here local residents gathered for worship and fellowship at Canada's first Methodist camp meeting in 1805.
The building was enlarged in 1835, used as a farmer’s barn when the congregation built a new church in Adolphustown, c. 1860, and reacquired for church use in the early 20th century by the Methodists, (continuing, after union in 1925, as The United Church of Canada). In 1957, the church was officially recognized as an Ontario Historic Site, and later in 1992 received the American Methodist designation. Likewise, the church, land, and its nearby cemetery were designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2001.
An annual worship service is held in the church on the fourth Sunday afternoon every August.
2017 marked the 225th Anniversary of Methodism with a special celebration.
CLOSED FOR THE SEASON
See you in the Spring of 2023 !
In honour of Rev. Kenneth James Crawford
In honour of Rev. Kenneth James Crawford, former trustee and loyal supporter of Old Hay Bay Church – by Stuart & Mary Crawford
Supporter – Mae Vaivods: Chatsworth, ON
Enclosed find 5 cheques in the amount of $XX each as my contribution to repairs of Old Hay Bay Church. My ancestors were the Ruttan brothers who were two of the founders of the church.
Custodians – Rosella Donaldson and Kevin Macfarlane, Belleville, ON
Kevin feels it’s important to preserve original old buildings of Ontario, of which there are very few, and to interpret local church history, and genealogy. I became a volunteer because I knew I would be a capable interpreter after years of Farmers’ Markets and now a B&B – I like people!
Supporter – Trinity U.C. AOTS Men’s Club: North Bay, ON
At our Saturday meeting we had a presentation on Old Hay Bay Church by one of the custodians of Old Hay Bay Church.
Supporter – Sandra F. Seabrook
In memory of my brother, Ross Cameron Clark.
Supporter – Patricia Brush
The article from the U.C. Observer arrived on Facebook. Such a beautiful church! All blessings to you as you proceed through this restoration.
Supporter – Cloyne and District Historical Society
Our organization was most interested in the story about your restoration project for this historic church which was in the Napanee Guide.
Part of our mandate is “preserving the past for the future”. We generally confine our efforts to artifacts and archival items for our local area, but this is not just a provincial, but a Canadian historic site.
We wish you every success with this endeavour.
Shirley Sedore, President
Cloyne and District Historical Society
Supporter – Harriet Lehman
Donation in honour of Elizabeth Roblin and Solomon Huff – 6th Great Grandparents of my son, Theodore Fennell.
Supporters – In honour of Paul Huff
The Huff Family Association contributed in honour of Paul Huff who donated money and land for the building of OHBC.
Elaine Farley: Athens, ON
When I approach the Old Hay Bay Church I am reminded of and connected with my ancestors. The cemetery is a quiet place to sit with the spirit of a paternal ancestor who helped build the church. As I look out over the bay I am reminded of the tragedy that two more of my Loyalist families endured. This ‘meeting house’ is part of a spiritual legacy that I will work to honour for future generations. It is home.
Custodian, trustee, chair of the Restoration Committee
Supporter – Mary Houston, Niagara Falls
Mary Houston, Niagara Falls, writes “My husband and I had a delightful tour given by the guide assigned for the week. We had visited the OHBC twice before while on a camping trip but learned so much more this time. All the best with the restoration of this architectural and religious gem.”
Supporter – Jean Rae Baxter: Kingston, ON
As a writer, I honour our Loyalist heritage through fiction. A more concrete contribution to the preservation of our heritage is this modest donation to maintain the Old Hay Bay Church.
Custodian – Marion Egan, Enterprise, ON
I became involved with Old Hay Bay Church because of a love of history of the area that I wanted to know more about, i.e. the United Empire Loyalists and the love of my church.
Local Volunteer – R. Staples
I hope the community really steps up and gets the funds together. We need to start celebrating who we are and where we came from. The Hay Bay Church is a really great monument to the origins of rural life in brand new land!
Local Student Volunteer – Colby S.
Upon helping to close up OHBC for the winter, a group of visitors arrived. He reopened the church & when asked why, gave this reason:
Showing people history is important. I often read about history and am amazed at the parallels to what’s happening right now. Showing an old church to a couple of people might not be a lot, but sometimes in history, you need a spark to light the flame.
In Memory of: Jack, Elsie and Roger Sears
My family is related to the German family through Tunis Snook and Hannah Buck. Stophel “Christopher” German U.E.L. and wife Catherine German (Van Order), sister of Elizabeth Van Order, U.E.L, mother of Mary Snook (Burnett). Their children John German (21), Jane German (19) were victims of the Hay Bay Drownings of 1819.
Andrew Sears, Scarborough
In Memory of Owen Ketcheson of Moira, ON
“Owen was an active community worker and had served as reeve, mayor and county warden. He was a 4-great grandson of William Ketcheson, one of the original sponsors of Hay Bay Church.”
Gayle & Grant Ketcheson
Supporter – Ruth Crawford: Wellington, ON
Thank you for sending me the information about the restoration of the Old Hay Bay Church. I’m so pleased that I can help! I wish to honour the memory of my 3x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Roblin Canniff. For years I have felt a special affinity towards her and her involvement in that community, and am always searching for stories about her amazing life.
Supporters – John Grenville & Sue Bazely
We met when I was working for Parks Canada and we did the national historic site plaque unveiling ceremony in September 2001.
I have always seen the Old Hay Bay Church as one of those places that had a special impact on me, partly because of what the site evoked but, I think, mostly because of the dedication of the people. My wife . . . did some work on the cemetery in the 1990s while working with the Cataraqui Archaeological Research Foundation.
We would like to support the conservation efforts.
In Memory of Margaret A. Fitzgerald
Supporter – Hastings County Historical Society, Belleville, ON
The Hastings County Historical Society firmly supports the project launched by the trustees of the Old Hay Bay Church National Historic Site to repair and refurbish the church building to ensure its long-term viability.
There is no question, in our minds, that Old Hay Bay Church is a key asset to our region and must be maintained. Equally, being a 225-year-old wooden structure, it naturally requires renovation. The trustees are working very hard to meet these goals and their efforts warrant the full support and financial assistance of our whole community.
Richard M. Hughes, President
Custodians – Jan and Dave Orr, Lansdowne, ON
From the peaceful feeling inside the church, to the wonder of God’s nature all around the property, my husband and I renew our spiritual selves each year when we are caretakers at Old Hay Bay Church.
Supporter – Kawartha Branch of the UELAC
Supporter – Centreville Memorial U.C.
Centreville Memorial U.C. moved their July service to OHBC and had a picnic lunch. Their donation is appreciated.
Supporter – Randy Anderson: Kimball, MI, USA
As a direct descendant of Andrew Embury and Jane Bell I am privileged to support this project.
In Memory of Joyce & Garth Legge
Margaret (Peggy) Milson via Canada Helps
Supporter & Visitor – Margaret Cobourn Robinson: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA
We enjoyed the reunion last summer. Because of this I wanted to donate to the beautiful Old Hay Bay Church.
My grandfather Dr. David Allison grew up in what is now the UEL Museum. I toured it years ago with my Mother – as we would vacation every summer at Graham Manor in Bath.
Supporter – Wanda Stride
I wish you and the board all the best as you work so hard to preserve a part of Canadian history, and our own spiritual story.
Wanda Stride, Presbytery Chair, Bay of Quinte Conference, United Church of Canada
Supporters – Addison United Church, Addison, ON
The Addison United Pastoral Charge has been offering its support to the Old Hay Bay Church for many years.
Congregation members have planned day trips to the church when the congregation’s members Ray Bower and Elaine Farley have been there as custodians and I am sure that this is reflective of previous and current custodians. Addison is also pleased to have its member Elaine on the Board of Trustees and its current fundraising campaign.
Several of the pilgrimage services have been attended by members and their families. The one that was most memorable was the 2017’s 225th Anniversary of the church which was preceded by the Bay of Quinte’s UCW Presbyterial 55th Service and Communion. We even organized a bus and members of other United congregations joined us on that day as well.
The charge has also done a Sunday service around the history of Methodism and the church and receives updates on events of the OHBC church.
When the United Church Women put out a call to support the rebuilding of the windows, the UCW and the congregation responded by making financial donations.
The Addison United Pastoral charge supports the historic significance of the Old Hay Bay Church. We need to do all we can to preserve our roots and faith and will continue to attend events and support the efforts of the Hay Bay Board of Trustees.
Robin Hoy, Admin Chair on behalf of the Addison United Church Council and its congregants
Visitor: Ron Orr
We first attended on Aug 26, 2018 for the Annual Pilgrimage Service and was intrigued with the history. Wishing you every success in your restoration project.
Supporter – Valerie Ruttan: Harrowsmith, ON
In honour of my husband’s Ruttan family connections.
Deputy Reeve – Marg Isbestor
One of our “historic gems” in Greater Napanee/Lennox and Addington. I was sorry to miss the kick off….can’t seem to be more than one place at once….support this cause when and where you can…many thanks to those who are working hard to restore such an important building and story.
Supporter – Robert D. Watt
Thank you to you and the other trustees for taking on this big project and helping to ensure the life of this important building for generations to come.
Captain Peter Ruttan, one of the Founders who served with the Loyalist Regiment, the 4th Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, and who came to Adolphustown in 1783, was my sixth great grandfather on my mother’s side, and I am making this donation in memory of his contribution to the building of the Church.
With best wishes for the success of the campaign and with renewed thanks for your own work.
Robert D. Watt, LVO, AIH,
Rideau Herald Emeritus in the Canadian Heraldic Authority,
Chancellery of Honours, Rideau Hall
Custodians & Supporters – Sandra and Paul Sales, Ottawa, ON
My husband, Paul Sales, had heard of Old Hay Bay Church because of his travels through the Bay of Quinte area for the United Church of Canada. On one of these trips, I went with him and happened to sit beside Kathy Staples at lunch after a church service in Adolphustown. In talking to Kathy, I told her about my family research into an ancestor who had joined the Methodist church in the 1830s and that I would like to know more about the history of Methodism in Upper Canada. She told me about Old Hay Bay Church and the volunteer custodians who welcome visitors every summer. Kathy then offered to drive us to the church so that we could see it. From that point, I was hooked. I had a number of years’ experience working at a historic site in Kitchener and felt that Paul and I could help out, so two summers ago, we spent our first week at Hay Bay.
We enjoyed the visitors we met. Old Hay Bay Church is off the beaten track, so visitors who arrive there often have made a point of finding it because of a family connection, or a love of the United Church, or they like searching out historic sites. They often already have a basic knowledge of Methodism, United Empire Loyalists, and/or the founding families of the Hay Bay Church. Even if visitors are hearing the history for the first time, it’s not unusual for us to find ourselves talking to them for an hour. Because Paul and I think this historic site is a valuable symbol of a social movement that built community in remote settlements, and played a large part in the type of politics and education adopted by Upper Canada, we are not hesitant in sharing our enthusiasm for the church’s long history and making clear that we would value visitors’ financial support. Once they spend time in the building and begin to understand its role in Upper Canada history, they usually oblige. The two of us are convinced that we are making a valuable contribution and are looking forward to our third year on the edge of Hay Bay.
Custodians – Barb and Gene Refausse, Trenton, ON
I like meeting people from far and wide who come there to learn more about their ancestors or just the history of the church and area. Apparently I (Barb) am related to one of the founders, namely Daniel Dafoe.
Supporter – Sally Rhyndress: Napanee, ON
Each year I look for a charity to which I can donate at Christmas to honour some relatives and friends. Most of us of a “certain” age do not need more “stuff” and a donation to a charity seems a worthwhile way of remembrance. When I saw your notice in this month’s Observer, I knew that your “repairs” fund would be perfect for our brother-in-law – one of your Trustees who handles maintenance.
Visitor – Nancy Payne, Lindsay
Nancy Payne, Lindsay: “I’m so glad I finally visited Old Hay Bay Church earlier this summer. It’s a beautiful, historic spot, but as a lifelong United Church member who’s visited many historic churches, it felt truly special to experience a part of my own church’s history. Thank You!”
Supporters – Four Winds Presbyterial
Four Winds Presbyterial donated and challenges other Presbyterials to do the same.
Supporter & Custodians – Jim & Joan Smiley, Lindsay, ON
We have been Custodians since 2011 and are now proud members of the Board of Trustees. Old Hay Bay Church, with its Methodist/UEL history, Meeting House uses in the 1800’s, its unique architecture and its part in the creation of Upper Canada causes us to want to do our part to sustain this important glimpse into our past. In addition, the Church serves as a spiritual retreat while enjoying the sharing of its history with the many visitors we encounter every summer.
Supporter – Dennis Mills, Napanee
Dennis Mills, Napanee: “I saw the notice in the L&A Historical newsletter – a good reminder for me that this is a very important part of our cultural heritage!”
Custodians – Ed and Judi Rose, North Bay, ON
Judi and I enjoy welcoming tourists who discover a little about Canada’s history, visiting with the people who come from near and far to visit the area to learn a little about their ancestors, Methodist history in Canada or to just see a building that was built in 1792.