Old Hay Bay Methodist Church
Part 1

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 covenant 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.

Each family was provided with a tent, some clothing, farming implements and tools, and a cow. They would live in the village of tents during the summer until their lots were surveyed. The British government had promised them support for three years.

Their first ‘need’ for religious ceremonies occurred within days of arrival, at the death of a young child, who was buried beneath a tree. The first burial in what would become the “Loyalist Cemetery”. The cemetery was restored by the St. Lawrence Seaway and the United Empire Loyalists, and is located inside the United Empire Loyalist Heritage Centre and Park and is open during the summer to visitors.

Early Upper Canadian Methodism Records show Charles Justin McCarty was a martyr and was preaching in Upper Canada in 1788. When he attempted to obtain land and settle in the area, he was rejected by the land boards as not a loyalist.

He continued to preach, but increasing came under verbal attack from John Stuart, an eminent Church of England/Anglican Minister and a member of the land board. Stuart referred to McCarty, as an “an illiterate Irishman” and said he was “a man of infamous private character.”

In April 1790, while attempting to obtain land again, McCarty was arrested and charged as a “vagabond, imposter and disturber of the peace.” His trial began on April 13, 1790 in Kingston. When the trial was over McCarty was ordered to leave the country!  He left, and then returned, only to be arrested again. At the end of the second trial, he was ordered deported.  He was taken by bateau and left on an isolated island in the St. Lawrence River, never to be seen again.  McCarty had preached in Adolphustown, and one of his arrests took place at the Tavern owned by future subscriber Conrad Van Dusen.

McCarthy was not a loyalist and that may have been his biggest sin.

Outdoor Church Service

Outdoor Church Service

Even before they had left the 13 colonies, many Loyalist had heard of and had attended a Methodist service. Some had become disillusioned with the Church of England, for it was a large, cumbersome, institution which was slow to adapt to the changes of new settlements. Methodism was much more agile, with the only requirement for a Methodist meeting/service was someone willing to preach and a few others willing to listen.

In 1790, William Losee came to the Adolphustown area from the New York Methodist Conference and preached within the homes of John Carscallen in Fredericksburgh, the Van Dusen Tavern in Adolphustown, and at Paul Huff ‘s home on the South Shore of Hay Bay.  Losee had known some the settlers when they lived in New York State. He was not an ordained Minister, or to use the Methodist term, an Elder, but was admitted on trial into full connexion and then elected to deacon’s orders in 1791, which entitled him able to be called, “the Reverend William Losee.” His, and his wife’s, grave marker are in the Old Hay Bay Church cemetery. They were moved here, from New York State.

During one of the moving sermons by Losee at the Van Dusen Tavern, it is recorded that Conrad Van Dusen found God. To prove his love took an axe to the tavern sign and never replaced it. Casper, younger brother to Conrad would also find his faith in God at Losee’s services.

Circuit Rider

Circuit Rider

When Losee returned to the New York Conference in 1791, he asked for permission to become the circuit rider for the Adolphustown area.  The year of John Wesley’s death was the birth of Methodism in Upper Canada. There had been Methodism classes in Augusta Township in the 1770’s with the Hecks, and in Nova Scotia as early as 1781 with William Black. But now, Methodism was growing in the hearts of the new settlers.

When Losee returned he found his converts had out grown their log houses and had moved “meetings” into the Huff barn.  On February 3rd, 1792, ‘’The Covenant of 1792” was written with the commitment of building a ‘meeting house’.  The building was to measure 30x36 x two stories high. This house of worship would be bigger than any known residence in the area and located in a field as a focal point for future camp meetings. The shutters were single doors so that they could be closed quickly for protection if needed. Fancy details were not there as the desire of the early Methodists was to be plain and as sparing as possible. This building was a symbol of their commitment to the future. The governance was by the founders and trustees.  The Methodist faith based out of the newly formed USA, was not permitted to own land in Upper Canada. The ‘meeting house’ was built on land owned by the Huff family.

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.

In Part Two you will get a brief bio on all of the founders.

1878 sketch

An 1878 sketch of the church

Old Hay Bay Church

Old Hay Bay Church

Part II
The Subscribers of the Meeting

Please read within a historic context. You will read terminology that was accepted before but may not be now.

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.”

Joseph Clapp, born 1762, and died 1813 was a Quaker living in Adolphustown until 1808 when the family moved to South Marysburgh. He was not a Loyalist.

Daniel Dafoe was born in 1769 of Swiss roots and was baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church, in NY State. He was the youngest of the subscribers, only twenty-three years of age. He died in 1845.

Henry Davis, born 1753, died 1831, was a military man, who purchased a farm in 1797 that stayed in the family until 1966. His mother-in-law Margaret Gurmandy Huffnail was buried at the “Old Methodist Chapel” at Hay Bay.

Andrew Embury, born 1757-and died 1844, was a nephew of USA Methodist founder Philip Embury. This is the same Embury family connected to the Blue Church, Prescott, Ontario. Descendant of this family live in the area.

Arra Ferguson, 1769-1853, was a military man, and was involved with OHBC and the Methodist White Chapel in PEC. In 1818 Arra was asked, because of his beautiful penmanship, to write the deed for Hay Bay church on the site donated by Paul Huff.

Peter Frederick was a blacksmith. According to a historical review of Adolphustown, (written 1909) he made the hardware for the original church. His children received their land grants in Hastings County and moved to that area. Player wrote this about Peter “he wavered in his religion, but returned to the Lord, and died happy.” Peter is buried in cemetery at the Hay Bay Church, and in celebration of the 225th Anniversary, in 2017; his stone was refurbished and stood back up, after spending years buried.

Christopher German, born 1767 and died in 1840. He joined the military at the age of 15, just a boy. He was awakening to God, became a licensed minister in 1834 and remained one until his death.

John Green, was born in 1746 and settled across the water in Marysburgh, Prince Edward County. His brother, William Green was born in 1742 both lived near John. Both had military backgrounds.

Henry Hover, born in 1763 he showed an early interest in religion. He had been a prisoner of war and was sixteen when the Declaration of Independence was signed. His family came from Holland to USA. He died in 1842.

Paul Huff, born in 1747 and died in 1818, he was the owner of the land the church was built on. The first camp meeting in 1805 was held on the Huff farm.  The deed for the church was not registered. In 1910, when The Methodist Church of Canada purchased the property and took legal entitlement for the first time. The property Paul Huff though he had transferred to the church was really owned by successive proprietors of the farm.

Wm Ketcheson Sr UE painting

Wm Ketcheson Sr UE painting

His brother Solomon Huff, born 1751 and died in 1828.  There is no proof of military service prior to 1783, so Solomon and his descendants cannot claim U.E.

William Ketcheson, born in 1759 and died in 1848. A UEL, he is the only subscriber we have a picture of. The family was from Yorkshire, England. It is said that all Canadian Ketcheson’s are related to him. His wife Mary Rull embraced Methodism.

Elizabeth Roblin, born in 1754 and died in 1815, was the widow of Philip Roblin, 1750-1788 She gave 12lbs, the second highest donation. She was 38 and raising 8 children from the ages of 4-14 at the time when she gave.  She later marries one of her boarders, John Cannifton and settled in what is now the village of Cannifton.

Peter Ruttan, born in 1742and died in 1827, he was known as ‘Noisy Pete’, because of his out bursts in worship. The younger brother William, was born in 1758 and died in 1843. They were French Huguenots, and were raised in the Dutch Reformed church. Some descendants believe Peter was buried in the church cemetery. William was buried at St. Paul’s Anglican church, now know as St. Alban’s cemetery in Adolphustown.

Rev. Daniel Steele, was Methodist, and participated in the first camp meeting in August 1805 at OHBC, attended by over 2000 people. He was a ‘local preacher’, who visited the sick and buried the dead.

Conrad Van Dusen, UEL, was born in 1751and died in 1827.  was a military man, and his family from Brussels to New Amsterdam in 1636 (New York City) and then to Upper Canada. He often opened his home for religion services.

Casparus (Casper) Van Dusen was born on April 19, 1761, in Dover Township, which was twenty miles east of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County, New York State. Records show that Casper married after arriving in Adolphustown. He was married on February 16, 1786 to Hannah M. Shorts, U.E. who was born January 23, 1766.  When Casper and Hannah moved to Sophiasburgh, Casper became involved with another Methodist meeting house. His name is on the on the original deed for The White Chapel, also known as the Conger Chapel. Casper died in 1838.  He and his wife Mary are buried at the White Chapel Cemetery.

Old Hay Bay Church 2012

Old Hay Bay Church 2012

The Founders were a diversified group, with one goal: To build for their families, future generations and the community a large meeting house.

Many family lines are from founders to today’s custodians and trustees. The journey started then is now our journey to continue. It is our role to merge the past with the future, just as the founders did over two hundred years ago.

Inside view of Old Hay Bay Churchfrom balcony

Inside view from balcony





Part III

Methodism was growing in popularity in Upper Canada.  The more informal alternative found many adherents: perhaps, because the services were livelier, congregant were encouraged to show their emotions and the services were filled with songs. These gatherings also provided a welcome relief from the endless labour of carving a new life in the wilderness. For many of the scattered settlers it was the only time to visit and share with others.

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.

The sanctioned church of Upper Canada was the Church of England, or Anglican parishes. The settlers were familiar with this structure as the Anglican Church was the sanctioned church in the Thirteen Colonies. Reverend Langhorn was the Anglican minister preaching in the same area out of the Bath circuit at this time. He followed the Anglican rule and had “refused to bury unbaptized children.” This strict interpretation of Church of England ritual did not provide the adaptability that a new settlement required. The deaths of infants and young children could happen quickly and unexpectedly in this new and vast wilderness.

Neil Semple, in his book “The Lord’s Dominion The History of Canadian Methodism” states that Methodists were not of the world, but they were in the world. They were to “do no harm, no swearing, and no Sabbath breaking”.  The following were to be discouraged:  drinking, quarrelling, fighting, uncharitable conduct, self-indulgence, sloth, costly apparel, exploitation of others, indebtedness and litigation.  Methodists were expected to employ fellow members, buy from each other and assist in each other’s businesses.  Within their communities, both rural and urban, they were to exhibit Christian charity, support their Ministers, construct and maintain their churches.  They were to assist the poor, especially widows and orphans, and the means to do that included sharing food, clothing and other necessities of life to fight against poverty.

John Wesley’s Rule for Christian living was summarized in seven simple sentences, which were often posted inside the church and often people’s homes:

Do all the good you can
By all the means you can
In all the ways you can
In all the places you can
At all the times you can
To all the people you can
As long as you can.

Upper Canada’s government finally permitted the ownership of the land in 1811, and meeting house was legally moved to a Board of Trustee. The Huff family donated the land “in consideration of the love, good will, and affection that we have for the Methodist Episcopal Church.” Records show that the ‘meeting house’, was also used as a local Government Court house, and the Good Templar’s Lodge Room, part of a strong temperance movement in the area.

During the war of 1812 (1812 – 1814) the American Methodist organization would not send ministers into Canadian churches.  During the war, the church was used as barracks for local soldiers and the lay leaders continued to share the word of God.

In August 1819 a large camp meeting was being held on the fourth weekend. Once again families came from great distances, by road and by water.

Early arrivals to the church had started a prayer meeting, included was the wording, “it might be a day long to be remembered.”  The prayer stopped as the screams came from the shore line.

On that Sunday morning a large boat carrying 18 people from the north shore of Hay Bay was travelling to the service. The boat was owed by Barnard Cole, and on board was his wife, Isabella Blakely, their son Conrad and daughter Mary. It said the boat was about 100 feet from shore when it took on water and started to sink. It was rare for people to know how to swim, and especially difficult in their Sunday best clothes. The screams were heard from within the church and many rushed out to witness the drowning of family and friends. Ten youth drowned that day, and the service became a time of grieving, with plans for a mass funeral the next day. Willing men agreed ‘to work on Sunday’ and started creating the pine boxes needed for the children.

All the youth were buried in the church cemetery.  Mary Cole, Barnard’s daughter was buried on the north shore near the family farm. There are markers in the cemetery to honour all of the children. A famous poem lists all of the children: John and Jane German, Peter Bogart, Mary and Jane Detlor, Matilda Roblin, Betsy McCoy, Betsy Clark, Huldah Madden and Mary Cole.

Every year, since 1912 the Old Hay Church hosts its pilgrimage service on the fourth Sunday of August. The date honours the residents of the area in 1819, as a reminder of the tragedy, and the overwhelming strength of the faith of those settlers who suffered such a great loss.

At the 2019 Pilgrimage service a Memorial was held with special music, moments of prayer, scripture and silence to commemorate the families involved with tragedy.

In the 1820’s the weekly Sunday School performed a much needed, social function by providing education for the illiterate children of any family who wished for their children to read.  A report in 1828 in the Kingston area, stated, “We can with confidence say that there were many who were sought out and brought to the school without knowledge of the alphabet, who are now in the Bible and Testament classes. “(United Church Archives)

The “Canadian Methodists” separated from the American Conference and formed the “Methodist Episcopal Church” in Canada in October 1828. Most of the “Methodist Episcopal Church” joined with the British Wesleyans in 1833 to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada. These groups would fracture for a brief time in the early 1840’s, but reunited again in 1847.

During the 1830’s the Christian Guardian, fore runner of today’s United Church Broadview, was giving examples of the temptations that the Methodist members were to avoid. The list included: the ball chamber (dancing), the theatre, the gaming-house, the cricket grounds, the horse race, the house of ill-fame and the grog shop, as alcohol was believed to be the “root of all personal degeneration.”

Many of these requirements were not as hard to follow in the rural areas as it was too far to travel to the theatre or horse racing.

Appropriate dress was also important, especially for women who were “warned against fancy dress, jewelry and a particularly frivolous Behaviour.” Men were also to dress plainly, without ruffles and adornments.

By 1835 the congregation has out grown the current building and an expansion was done. The original back wall pillars are still there. The roof line was changed, but the windows remained flush for the closing of the shutters, and the front door remained, in Methodist tradition, facing the noon day sun.

The patterns of Sabbath worship, quarterly meetings, Sunday School and additional meetings for Temperance, Missions, Bible Society and prayers continued for many years.

The Rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada heightened the litigation over Methodist property and the distribution of the remaining clergy reserves amongst active churches.

In 1840 the Bay of Quinte circuit was divided and Hay Bay church joined the Bath circuit.

The population was growing in the area, as the successful farms created work and increased prosperity. In 1860 it is decided that a new modern church would be more appropriate. This decision appeared to contradict the principle that “Methodist Christianity did not teach either public or private ownership of wealth, but it insisted upon the Christian stewardship.”

The decision was made to build a new brick structure on the 8th line of Adolphustown and the church was no longer needed. The meeting house was sold to Percival Platt for $50.00 and started its life as a barn. The interior was gutted and used for grain storage. For future generation it meant the Platt family kept the post and beam structure and roof in good repair and the grain polished the wooden floors.