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.