The Christmas season is upon us once again. It will be a different Christmas than many of us have imagined, but the spirit of Christmas will always be with us as we journey through the coming weeks.
It has also been a very different year for Old Hay Bay Church, and for all of the volunteer trustees and custodians who in previous years have given so much of their time and talents to its care.
In 1792 many people had a vision for the future and worked as a community to build this sacred place. If the walls could talk, they would tell us about the many milestones it has experienced: weddings, baptisms, singing and laughter and the tears of sudden deaths, rebellions, wars and plagues.
This summer the church had a “closed” sign on the front of the building. But that did not stop the visitors from stopping by and wandering around the grounds. Many peered into the windows and wondered what great stories they didn’t get to hear. Others stood at the shoreline and drank in the peacefulness the bay can offer, while others journeyed into the cemetery and read the names and dates of those honoured there. Covid -19 could not stop the draw that many people have to the church and its surroundings.
Each year the church reaches deep into the hearts and souls of many. Some are connected by ancestors. Some are connected by love and passion and a sense of calm that the church will share with all. Although the annual pilgrimage service did not take place, clergy and non-clergy shared their gifts through words, music and songs. Virtual sermons and music videos were recorded at the church. This continued dedication helped many as we said our final good byes to two former trustees this year.
In the absence of custodians and regular visiting hours, progress continued on the general upkeep and the restoration of the church and grounds. Support continued to come in through new volunteers and financially.
In our hopes for the future the Board will continue to care for the church and its artifacts, the cottage and the cemetery.
This year and the coming Christmas season have reminded us of what is most important to ourselves and to our family and friends. When we think of the gifts we have been given and the gifts we wish to share we realize that the material items have a place, but not the most special place in our hearts. Although this may seem like a contradiction, we are asking that you think of Old Hay Bay Church as one of those special memories and honour that memory with a gift to the church. Maybe there is someone on your list that would appreciate a gift to the church in their name. Maybe, it is the gift you give yourself. A gift for the present and for the future. A commitment to another 228 years of a special place for generations to come.
All gifts over $20.00 will receive a tax receipt and can be allocated to the General or Restoration Fund. We are on Canadahelps.org or donations can be mailed to our treasurer: Harvey Nikkel, 1400 Benn’s Point Road, Napanee, Ontario. K7R 3K7.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees we wish everyone a safe and blessed Christmas season.
- - - - - - RESTORATION PROJECT PHASE 1 and 2 UPDATES - - - - - -
Final inspection is done, and Phase 1 is now completed except for painting 1792 numbers over the front entrance,
which will be done as we are able in 2020.
We are looking forward to Phase 2, the Interior Renovation may be started in 2020 but the majority will be rescheduled for 2021, 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
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.
ALL EVENTS ARE POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
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.
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 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 – Sandra F. Seabrook
In memory of my brother, Ross Cameron Clark.
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 – Kathy Staples: Kingston, ON
I have been a Board Trustee since 1991. During that time I have organized the custodians’ schedule; booked tours and weddings; and have been Treasurer.
Old Hay Bay Church is an important part of Canada’s heritage as well as being an integral part of Adolphustown, Ontario’s history. Being Chair of this area’s Bicentennial Celebrations in 1984 I saw how important these roots were to people. The church is a special, sacred space where many souls experience renewing, energizing and a sense of hope for the future as they see how past generations survived.
In Memory of Margaret A. Fitzgerald
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.
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!
Supporter – Harriet Lehman
Donation in honour of Elizabeth Roblin and Solomon Huff – 6th Great Grandparents of my son, Theodore Fennell.
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.
Custodian – Kathy Staples, Kingston, ON
Old Hay Bay Church is an important part of Canada’s heritage as well as being an integral part of Adolphustown, Ontario’s history. The church is a special, sacred space where many souls experience renewing, energizing and a sense of hope for the future as they see how past generations survived.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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 – 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.
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!”
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 – 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.
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
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 – 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.
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 – 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!”
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
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
In Memory of Joyce & Garth Legge
Margaret (Peggy) Milson via Canada Helps
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
Supporter – Kawartha Branch of the UELAC
Supporter – Valerie Ruttan: Harrowsmith, ON
In honour of my husband’s Ruttan family connections.
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.
Supporters – Four Winds Presbyterial
Four Winds Presbyterial donated and challenges other Presbyterials to do the same.
Supporter – Randy Anderson: Kimball, MI, USA
As a direct descendant of Andrew Embury and Jane Bell I am privileged to support this project.
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.
Supporter – Centreville Memorial U.C.
Centreville Memorial U.C. moved their July service to OHBC and had a picnic lunch. Their donation is appreciated.
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
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.
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.
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