On Sunday, October 23, the Queenston United Church will celebrate the 163rd anniversary of its founding. Not many churches in Canada, and fewer still in Ontario, can boast of such a long eventful career. An historical sketch, compiled from the records of the late Rev. S. A. Laidman, M.A. Ph.D., D.D., gives this information:
"On October 7, in the year 1786, there crossed the Niagara River, by small boat, Queenston's first Methodist preacher, Major George Neal, a British officer who had participated in the Revolutionary War in the south in 1776, and had found conditions following the war not suited to his tastes, or to his religious beliefs, and accordingly had made his way, by devious means to the border and crossed the Niagara River to Canada, landing at Queenston.
Forbidden to Preach
His deep religious beliefs, and his determination to spread religion throughout the new land, caused him to open Bible classes at the village of Queenston. The British officer in charge of the militia post in Queenston, fearing this a means of spreading seditious propaganda, forbade him to preach, but thirty days after this officer had given the order, he was stricken and died, leaving Neal with a free hand.
First Church in 1801
He met with Christian Warner whom he appointed his first class leader, and together they established organized classes at Queenston, Drummondville, Warner's Settlement (west of St. Davids) and at Old Niagara, and in 1801, built and established the first church in the district at the Warner Settlement.
Neal married the daughter or Conrad Cope, who later moved west of Dundas and founded Copetown, and Neal himself, with his wife, moved to Port Rowan, at which point now stands a memorial church in his honor.
Organized in 1778
The first Methodist Society in Upper Canada was established along the Bay of Quinte in 1778 by Paul and Barbara Heck at Cataraqui and nearby in Lossee in 1792 the first Methodist church in Upper Canada was built. The second circuit established was that of Oswegotchie, between Prescott and Cornwall by Darius Dunham in 1792.
The third circuit to be established was Niagara in 1795 and which circuit was the first in Western Canada and in June 1795, Darius Dunham, who had established the Oswegotchie circuit, was appointed the first minister.
The circuit of Niagara, with headquarters at Old Niagara, extended from Toronto, west to Ingersoll south to Long Point, and included all the Niagara Peninsula. In this large circuit in 1795, there were 65 members, a great number of whom were from Queenston.
Church Built in 1862
In 1862 Queenston Church was built. The following is copied from the original. "We, the undersigned agree to pay to a building committee, composed of Messrs. Bradley, Durhan, Geo. Prest, R. Sheppard, the sums opposite our names for or towards the building of a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Queenston. The church shall be of such size and shape as the building committee deem suitable but not to exceed $700 and the money to be paid as the building committte require it.
Thos. Cobb, Supt. Feb. 21, 1862.
Mr. Durham Sr. $100; Mr. Bowland $50; Mr. Willon $25; Mr. Bradley $25; Mr. R. Sheppard $10; Rev. T. Cobb $10; Mrs. Durham $10; Miss Jane Durham $5; Miss Margaret Durham $5; Miss Sophia Chubbuck $5; Henry Sheppard $10; B. C. Fairfield $5; John Durham $10; John Chrysler $2; Miss Elizabeth Peterson $5; Jas. Fairlie $1; Mary Ann Arnold $1; Francis Henry $5; Geo. Shrimpton $1; A. Correll $1.
Total collection $515.38.
Notable incidents in the history of the church were the dislodgement from its foundations by a carload of stone from the street railway on Feb. 8, 1894. This was later repaired. In 1939 the interior of the church was rebuilt and in 1949 the exterior was painted.
At the coming morning service to be held at 11.30, the Rev. W. D. Spense of St. Catharines will be the guest speaker.
At the evening service, the Rev. Sydney B. Stokes, D.D., of Lundy's Lane United Church, Niagara Falls will preach. The ladies' quartette of St. Davids will assist the Queenston choir at the evening service.
On Monday, October 24, the congregational pot luck supper will be held in Laura Secord Memorial School beginning at 6:30 o'clock.
Some hundred and thirty names could be mentioned of preachers and leaders in the Queenston church since its founding in 1786, but those more familiar to the people of this generation are: 1908-10, S. A. Laidman; 1911-13, W. G. Bull; 1914-17, J. E. Todd; 1918-21, G. C. Raymer; 1922-23, J. W. Kitching; 1924, J. W. Aikens; 1925-26, F. J. Fydell; 1927-30, C. R. Albright; 1930-33, N. E. Bowles; 1934, W. C. Lundy; 1934-36, J. W. Stewart; 1936-38, J. M. Copeland; 1938-40, W. J. Van Gorder; 1940-46, Douglas Gordon; 1946-47, Edward Shaw; 1947, H. R. Stevenson.