Project Canterbury

Colonial Church Histories

History of the Church in Eastern Canada and Newfoundland

By John Langtry, M.A., D.C.L.,
Rector of S. Luke's, Toronto, and Prolocutor of the Provincial Synod of Canada

London, Brighton and New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1892.

Chapter I. Introduction

As the result of the capture of Quebec by General Wolfe, France ceded to England, at the Treaty of Paris, 1763, the whole of North America lying to the north of the Alleghany Mountains. The boundary in the west between the British possessions thus gained, and the province of Louisiana ceded by the same treaty to Spain, was never determined, and nobody at that time thought it worth determining. The territory was regarded as an impenetrable wilder ness, of no use, except as a covert for fur-bearing animals. Thirteen years later, by the revolution of the thirteen Atlantic States, England lost the whole territory lying to the west of the provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, and to the south of the St. Lawrence, Lakes Ontario and Erie, and all the territory west of the Detroit River, lying to the south of the 45th parallel of latitude.

The country that was left to England was not regarded by either side as being of any great value. [9/10] Subsequent events have, however, proved how utterly mistaken the men of that time were, both as to the extent and importance of the country. It is not easy for Englishmen, or indeed for citizens of the United States, as is being constantly manifested, to take in the extent and productiveness of this great land known as British North America. It is almost speaking in an unknown tongue to tell the inhabitants of a sea-girt isle of a few hundred miles in extent that there is a railway running almost in a straight line due west from one ocean to the other, 3668 miles in length, wholly within British territory; and that to the north and south of that line there lies a territory varying from 200 to 800 miles in depth of as fertile and productive land as is to be found anywhere under the sun. The general impression about the country in Europe is that, however great it may be in extent, it is yet a land of perpetual ice and snow, in which civilized men will always find it difficult to live. The absurdity of this notion will be apparent at once, if we recall the fact that almost the whole of this land lies in a latitude south of that of Edinburgh, while the latitude of Amherstburgh, the most southerly Canadian town, is almost identical with that of Rome. The latitude of Toronto is somewhat south of that of Florence; while Winnipeg is in the same latitude as Paris. It is true that the heat in summer and the cold in winter are very much greater in America than in the same latitudes in Europe, but the mean temperature is almost the same; and those who have had experience of the climate of England and of Canada, will almost without exception give the preference to Canada, as the extremes of heat and cold in a bright dry climate are more endurable than the winter rains and chilly east winds of England.

The loss of the United States was for a long time regarded as being practically the loss of the British [10/11] possessions in North America. The land was looked upon as pretty well useless for purposes of settlement, and so in after years British statesmen gave away a territory as large as all Europe, west of Russia, without any compensation or constraint, in mere contempt for what they regarded as a worthless country. This feeling so widespread at first has lasted down to our own time, and accounts in no small measure for the fact, that British capital and British subjects flow with an ever-increasing volume into the United States, and develop the resources of that alien land, while the far more productive soil, richer mineral resources, and more extensive timber lands of Canada, have been left unreclaimed for lack of money and men to develope them.

After the conquest of Canada, this feeling was so universal that no English settlements of any importance were effected till after the end of the revolutionary war. Then large numbers of those who had settled in the thirteen colonies, and who remained loyal to the British Crown during that struggle, emigrated to Nova Scotia and Canada. Bands of these United Empire Loyalists, as they have been called, moved from the different States into the British territory lying nearest to them; and thus considerable U. E. settlements were formed in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and in Upper and Lower Canada. Perhaps the largest settlements were formed in the Eastern Provinces, as they were accessible by sea, while Canadian lands could only be reached by long journeys through the almost roadless forests.

It has been maintained in modern times, that these self-expatriated heroes acted under altogether mistaken notions of their duty, and that their action has been stripped of all its high significance and nobility by the indefensible motives which dictated it.

It is, however, certain that they did not act in [11/12] obedience to any mere sentiment. They were inspired no doubt with enthusiastic loyalty to the Crown and realm of England; and for that loyalty, as the violence of the Revolution increased, they were proscribed and banished, their property confiscated, and in some cases even their lives endangered. They had no choice but to emigrate, or violate their conscience and their oath; and so vast multitudes of men, women, and children abandoned all their worldly goods, possessions and interests, and set out to carve out for themselves a new home in this unknown land. We would therefore only say in answer to this shallow and disloyal philosophizing, that even if they may have been mistaken in their convictions, they yet acted in obedience to noble and self-sacrificing sentiments, and nothing can ever rob their conduct of its heroism and glory. No land under the sun has had a nobler race of progenitors than our own Canadian realm. No race ever began with a set of men of higher principles, or of more inflexible adherence to righteousness and truth.

No class perhaps fared so badly in the Revolution as the clergy of the Church. That they were the upholders on this continent of an Institution that in England was part and parcel of the State, was of itself sufficient to make them the objects of suspicion; but it was also true that in the beginning of the conflict, they almost, without exception, espoused the British cause. In most cases they held on to their parishes as long as they were permitted, or found it at all safe to do so. Their sufferings were in many cases most severe. They were mobbed, whipped, shot at, imprisoned, fined, and banished. Their property was confiscated or wantonly destroyed; their services disturbed, their altars defiled, their churches wrecked, and their writings burned; some of them died of poverty and exposure. The Rev. Dr. Carver writes [12/13] to the Society from Halifax, that he and several other clergymen had been obliged to leave Boston at a moment's warning, with the loss of all their property. The Rev. Dr. Byles came to Halifax with five motherless children, and for a time was deprived of all means of support. "The Rev. Jacob Bailey writes that for three years past he had undergone the most severe and cruel treatment. He w T as seized by the Committee, and after being treated with the utmost abuse, was ordered to appear before the General Court at a distance of 180 miles, in the midst of winter. On his way to preach and baptize, he was assaulted by a violent armed mob, who stripped him naked in search of papers. He was then confined a close prisoner to his house for many weeks. At last he escaped in the night, and wandered about Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, and was persecuted by the Sheriff for not taking the oath of abjuration; and when at last he and his family were able to escape to Halifax, they were destitute of money, and had not clothing enough to cover them." And so the story goes on. (The Rev. A. W. Eaton, just published.)


The province of Nova Scotia was formally ceded to the British Crown by France in the year 1713. The inhabitants were all French Roman Catholics for a long time after the cession. Gradually, however, a few English residents settled at Annapolis Royal, where a military chaplain was occasionally stationed; but there was no regular mission of the Church of England till 1749. In that year the English Government determined to found six townships in Nova Scotia for English settlers, and a letter was addressed [13/14] by the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations to the S. P. G., notifying them of his Majesty's intentions to set apart a spot for the erection of a church in each of the proposed townships; and further, that 400 acres of land adjacent thereto would be granted in perpetuity to a minister and his successors, and 200 acres in like manner to a school master. They were further notified that each clergyman sent out with the persons who were to form the first settlement should receive a personal grant of 200 acres for himself and his heirs; and each school-master 100 acres, and 30 acres additional for every person of which his family should consist; and further, that they should be subsisted during their passage, and for twelve months after their arrival, and furnished with arms and material for husbandry, building their houses, &c., in a like manner as the other settlers. They also inform the Society that all the inhabitants (except the garrison at Annapolis), amounting to 20,000, are French Roman Catholics, and they suggest that some of the ministers and school-masters be able to speak French, with a view to propagating the Protestant religion among the French settlers and their children. [In 1755, the Acadians, that is the French settlers in the country, because of their persistent disloyalty, were deported from the country and distributed among the English plantations. A proclamation was issued offering their lands to New England settlers. Many people of good family and means accepted the invitation. These were almost without exception Congregationalists; most of them, or their descendants, turned Baptists--the explanation of the large Baptist population of to-day. The proclamation with regard to the depopulated lands was circulated in Germany and Switzerland. Its liberal offers to settlers accounts for the large German immigration of this time.]

This was an exceedingly liberal offer from the Crown. The Society at once resolved to send six clergymen, and as many school-masters, as soon as the [14/15] settlements were formed; and they concluded by urging the Government to set apart land for the support of a bishop of the Church of England. The Rev. William Tutty and the Rev. Mr. Anwell were the first missionaries sent out with the first settlers to Halifax in 1749. Mr. Tutty had to officiate under the trees until the first church, St. Paul's, was erected and opened on the 2nd of Sept., 1750. Five hundred Protestants of the Confession of Augsburg had recently arrived in Halifax. In a body they attached themselves to the Church of England, and were received to Communion; so that in 1752 more than one-half of the entire population belonged to the Church, and there were now over 600 communicants, where two years ago there was not one.

The Rev. John Breynton was sent out the next year to minister, according to the agreement, to the settlers in the townships. He soon established a school in which we are told there were 50 orphans, besides other children. Mr. Tutty died in the next year, and when his successor, Mr. E. T. Wood (formerly of New Jersey), was removed to Annapolis, Mr. Breynton became Rector of Halifax, which had now grown to be a town of between five and six thousand inhabitants. The French priests were about this time withdrawn, and Mr. Breynton set himself to provide for the religious instruction and care of the Indians who had been gathered into the Roman Church, but were now left to themselves. He also mastered the German language, so as to be able to minister, in their own tongue, to his parishioners of that nationality. He mentions in one of his reports to the Society that he had ministered the Lord's Supper to five hundred men of Baron de Seiltz' Hessian regiment, whose exemplary and regular behaviour, he says, "did them great honour." At the solicitations of the leading men of the province, [15/16] the honorary degree of D.D. was conferred on Mr. Breynton by the University of Cambridge.

A Dissenter who had been reconciled to the Church speaks of him as a man who had deservedly gained the good-will and esteem of men of all ranks and persuasions, and as preaching with an eloquence of language and delivery far beyond anything he had ever heard in America.

Another distinguished missionary of these pioneer days was the Rev. John Baptiste Moreau, formerly a Roman Catholic priest, Prior of the Abbey of St. Matthew at Brest. He had been received into the Communion of the Church of England, and was appointed to minister to his own countrymen He officiated for the first time on the 9th of Sept., 1750, in the French tongue. The German contingent above described were placed under his care, and so he reports himself as having a congregation of grown persons and 200 children. In the year 1753 almost the whole German population removed from Halifax to Lunenburg, and Mr. Moreau accompanied what was by far the larger portion of his flock. A terrible mortality had befallen these people before their removal. In two years Mr. Moreau reports that three-fourths of his entire congregation had died. He continued his arduous labours, ministering in three languages to his congregation, and extending his care to the Indians, several of whose children he baptized. In the year 1770 death called him away from his ministry of great anxiety, and abundant blessings.

The Rev. Paulus Bryzelius, a Lutheran minister, who had been ordained by the Bishop of London, was put in charge of the German mission at Lunenburg. His brief ministry of about five years in all had been very successful. He reports 129 children as having been baptized by himself; 40 young people are [16/17] reported as having been brought by him to communion on one Easter Sunday; and on the next, over 30. There were 201 communicants in his mission when his last report was made. In 1771 a considerable body of the Germans separated themselves from the Church and erected Calvinist and Lutheran meeting-houses. They applied to Dr. Muhlinburg, the President of the Lutheran Synod of Philadelphia, to send them a minister, but that gentleman discouraged their design, and urged them to continue in the Church, as best able to provide for their spiritual needs. For this the Corresponding Committee of the S. P. G. sent Dr. Muhlinburg a vote of thanks, and a request that he would send them a schoolmaster qualified to assist Mr. Bryzelius in his work among the Germans. The Rev. Peter de la Roche was in charge of Lunenburg in 1773; he was a zealous and hard-working clergyman, his position was rendered very difficult by the vexatious national jealousies that existed in his congregation. He at once addressed himself to the study of German, and by the year 1775 was enabled to officiate in three different languages. During the American War he was frequently reduced to great extremities by the scarcity of provisions, and the small assistance he received from the people.

The Rev. Thomas Wood was one of the most active of these early missionaries. He went on a journey of exploration into the interior of Nova Scotia as early as 1762. He says he was cheerfully welcomed by the inhabitants, and mentions a fact which shows that the old Gallican clergy had not yet begun to learn the ways of their modern Ultramontane successors. He tells us that during an illness of several weeks he constantly attended the Abbé Maillard, the Roman Catholic Vicar-General of Quebec, and at his request, the day before he died, read for him the [17/18] Office for the Visitation of the Sick in presence of many of the French, and that then he buried him, using the Burial Service of the Church of England in French. After a short interval Mr. Wood was removed from Halifax to Annapolis. While there, he applied himself to the study of the Micmac language, and was enabled in 1766 to publish the first volume of his Grammar, and a translation of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer in that language. He frequently ministered to the Indians in their own tongue. On one occasion he was conducting such a service in St. Paul's Church, Halifax, the Governor and many of the principal inhabitants being present, when a Chief came forward, and kneeling down prayed for the prosperity of the province, and the blessing of Almighty God on the King, the Royal Family, and the Governor. Mr. Wood explained his prayer in English to the congregation. When the service was ended, the Indians returned thanks for the opportunity they had had of hearing the prayers said in their own language. Mr. Wood acquired great influence over them, and this was greatly increased by the Abbé Maillard's confidence manifested towards him before his death. He was frequently sent for both by the Indians and the French to baptize their children and visit their sick. It would seem, however, that his efforts on behalf of the Indians were not properly supported. No mention is made of the appointment of any missionary after his death to carry on the work so ably begun, and so the Indians at the beginning of the present century had entirely relapsed into the Roman Communion, to which they still almost without exception adhere.

Mr. Wood remained permanently stationed at Annapolis till his death in 1778. He lived in harmony with the members of the various denominations; the greater part of the Dissenters in his [18/19] mission attending his ministrations. In 1771 the inhabitants of the townships invited a missionary from Massachusetts to come and settle among them. In their letter they stated that most of them had been educated and brought up in the Congregational way of worship, and therefore should have chosen to have a minister of that form of worship, but that the Rev. Mr. Wood, by his preaching and performing the other offices of his holy function occasionally amongst them, had removed former prejudices that they had against the form of worship of the Church of England, and had won them to a good opinion thereof, inasmuch as he had removed all their scruples of receiving the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in that form of administering it; at least they said, "many of us are now communicants with him, and we trust and believe more will soon be added."

In addition to the missionary journeys above referred to, Mr. Wood, at the request of the Governor, had in 1769 made a missionary tour into New Brunswick, among the settlements along the St. John river. This was fourteen years before the arrival of the Loyalists at Pan-town or St. John, and so Mr. Wood found but very few English-speaking people in the province. The population consisted for the most part of French and Indians. In his report to the S. P. G. of his journey, Mr. Wood tells us that he made his way up the river to the Indian village of Okpaak, the farthest settlement, situated on the right bank of the St. John river, about six miles above the present site of Fredericton. On his way up to St. John he per formed service both in English and Indian, but found that most of the children had been baptized by the Roman priests. At Maugerville he had a congregation of over two hundred persons, but most of them were Dissenters, who had moved in from the United States, and had a minister of their [19/20] own among them. Mr. Wood baptized only one person.

He, however, expresses the conviction that if a missionary of prudence were sent to labour among them, their prejudices against the Church could soon be overcome. He also expresses the conviction that if a young man could be appointed missionary at Gagetown, Bruton, and Maugerville, who could speak the Micmac language, all the tribes of this place would soon become Protestants; that is, provided, as he complacently adds, that no Romanish priest was allowed to be among them. The Indians had received him with great kindness, and joined reverently in the service which he conducted among them in their own language. He was a hard-working missionary and a great scholar. After a laborious and successful ministry of over thirty years in New Jersey and Nova Scotia, he died at Annapolis in 1778.

The Rev. Joseph Bennett was first appointed a travelling missionary, with head-quarters at Fort Edward (now Windsor), in Jan. 1763. He reported his mission in prosperous condition in 1769. The prejudices of the Dissenters were beginning to wear off, and his hearers at Windsor and Falmouth and doubled their number within two years. In 1775 he was appointed travelling missionary on the coast of Nova Scotia, there being several thousand inhabit ants now settled along the Atlantic shore. Mr. Bennett continued his itinerant labours for a number of years, exposing himself frequently to the most distressing hardships, having to pass through track less woods and ford dangerous rivers in order to reach many of his stations. Year after year he penetrated the numerous bays and harbours on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, and those of the Gulf shore. On one occasion his schooner was wrecked and became a total loss. On another he was lost all night in [20/21] the woods, which were still infested with wolves and bears.

The American Declaration of Independence was made in 1776, and then the settlement of the land by refugees began in good earnest. Many crossed the border at once on the conclusion of the war. In 1783 large numbers of these exiles arrived at St. John (then called Parrtown), and among them were several clergymen. The S. P. G. undertook to provide for them, and in this work the Society was ably assisted by the Government. Dr. Cook, who had laboured at Shrewsbury, New Jersey, was appointed to St. John, and Dr. Bardsley, formerly a missionary at Poughkeepsie, to Maugerville. Dr. Cook seems to have been a leading man among the missionary clergy of that time. He had received an English University training, and had no little colonial experience. He had been a missionary in New Jersey before the breaking out of the war, and being obliged to go to England on some matter of business, never returned to the United States. In 1785 he was appointed missionary to New Brunswick; he spent two laborious weeks in reaching his destination at St. John, which was two hundred miles from Halifax by the circuitous road he had then to travel. He was received with great kindness by his congregation, whom he describes as very indulgent. Some time before his arrival, a wooden house, 36 x 28 feet in dimensions, had been purchased and roughly fitted up for a church. It was still very unfinished and inconvenient. Under Dr. Cook's energetic directions it was soon made fairly suitable as a house of prayer, or rather perhaps of preaching, as one of the chief parts of the new equipment was the erection of a gallery. It was used as the church of the town until 1791. Dr. Cook took a long missionary tour to St. Andrew's, which was already a town of two hundred [21/22] houses, and to other more remote settlements; and as no missionary was resident within reach, Dr. Cook baptized sixty children on his first visit, and twelve more before his return. Owing to severe weather his journey was greatly impeded. He had a rough and perilous passage, for he could only then travel by water.

Church matters were now favourably progressing in St. John, and before long a considerable congregation was collected, fifty of whom were communicants. The seat of Government was removed from St. John to Fredericton, and Dr. Cook was also removed. In writing to the Society, he congratulates himself on having left his successor in possession of a decent, well-furnished church, with a very respectable and well-behaved congregation. In Fredericton he conducted the services of the Church in the King's provision store, which seems to have been used as a sort of public hall, all sorts of gatherings being held in it. Fredericton was very small, and the people very poor, the congregation seldom exceeding one hundred. With the aid of the S. P. G., the Government, and Governor Carlton, Dr. Cook set about the erection of a church, which was finished in 1790. He lived on the opposite side of the river from that on which his church was situated, and returning to his home with his son, in a bark canoe, on a stormy night on the 23rd of May, 1795, they were upset, and both father and son were drowned. Bishop Inglis reports, that "never was a minister of the gospel more beloved and esteemed, or more universally lamented in his death. All the respectable people, not only of his parish, but of the neighbouring country, went into deep mourning on this melancholy occasion."

The Rev. Mr. Eagleson, formerly a Presbyterian minister, had been lately ordained by the Bishop of London, and was appointed in 1769 to the mission [22/23] of Fort Cumberland. In 1778 the garrison of this place was besieged and captured by an American Revolutionary force. Mr. Eagleson was taken prisoner, and carried away to New England. After six months imprisonment he effected his escape and returned to his mission, where he continued to labour till 1778 or 1779. In the mean time he made a missionary tour through the Island of St. John, now called Prince Edward's Island, and preached to the few settlers in most of the places where important parishes have since grown up. He seems to have been the first clergyman that visited that island; he describes the people as being overjoyed at his coming.

This fairly ends the history of the Non-Episcopal period of the Church of England in Canada. Though it had accomplished great things, it was still but a feeble plant. The American Declaration of Independence was made in 1776, and several years after this date there were only eight clergymen in Nova Scotia, and only two in New Brunswick; while in Canada there was not one. In 1786, the year before Bishop Inglis appointment, these had increased to ten in Nova Scotia and six in New Brunswick, two in Newfoundland, two in Canada, and one in Cape Breton.

One of the first steps of the Nova Scotia Legislature, by an Act passed in the thirty-third year of George II., was the establishment of religious worship according to the Liturgy of the Church, established by the laws of England. This was declared to be the fixed mode of worship in the province; and the place where such Liturgy should be used, should be respected and known by the name of The Church of England, as by law established. Ministers were by the same Act required to produce testimonials from the Bishop of London, to assent [23/24] to the Book of Common Prayer, to subscribe to the orders and constitutions of the Church, and the laws established in it. The Governor was directed to induct the minister into any parish that should make presentation of him. The Governor and Council were empowered to suspend and silence any other persons assuming the functions of ministers of the Church of England. The second clause of this Act declared all Protestant Dissenters, and subsequently all Roman Catholics, to be free to erect their own places of worship, appoint their own ministers, and be free from all rates and taxes for the support of the Established Church of England. This Act has left its mark upon the Church in the Maritime Provinces to the present time; for while in all the Dioceses of Canada, the Bishop exercises the entire patronage, except when the same has been provided for by some private arrangement, in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the entire patronage is in the hands of the parishioners.

The custom that was established in the formation of the six townships of Nova Scotia with regard to the grant of 400 acres of land for the endowment of a church, and 200 for a school-master, was extended to the whole country, including New Brunswick, during the first years of its settlement. Many of these lands have been brought under cultivation, and have become valuable glebes.

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