History


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On 22 May 1784, around twenty Mohawk families who had been exiled from their ancestral homelands in the Mohawk Valley (in New York State) landed on the shores of the Bay of Quinte to make their new home in Tyendinaga.  After five years of upheaval from the time they left the Mohawk Valley in 1779, the first Mohawk settlers of Tyendinaga went to work building a new community.  An information plaque near the Cairn provides some history of the first church:  "The cairn site is a memorial to the landing in 1784 and to the location of the community's first church, St George's Church.  For those following the way of the Church of England, the construction of a church was a challenge and a priority.  The Church of England had been an important influence in the lives of the Mohawk people in the Mohawk Valley for decades.  The first church was completed in about 1794 and enlarged about 1799.  It was both a place of worship and also a community hall for meetings and celebrations.  The Heritage Trail is based upon an original pathway to the old church site, one of many used by Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte in the very early years of the community.  Later, the pathway came to link the old Church site with the new Church, Christ Church, which was consecrated in 1843.  Our community therefore has used this trail for over 200 years."  The first full-time Rector of the Parish, the Reverend Saltern Givens (1831-1850), was likely the first to live in the old rectory north-west of the log church, about halfway between the Cairn and the current church.


Christ Church (1843)

In the Regency period (reign of King George IV), there was a spate of church building in Upper Canada.  When one combs through the records of churches who built new buildings in the period, however, there is little mention of the architect next to the accolades paid to the chairman of the building committee or to the generous benefactors of the project.

Thanks to his own autobiography, we know something of the architect John George Howard, who built churches all over the province.  He arrived at York (later Toronto) in 1832 from London and began to look for patrons.  After an audience with the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Colborne, Howard was offered the position of drawing master at Upper Canada College.  After some time, wherein he also worked on plans for St James', York, he was commissioned to design a church for the parish of St John the Evangelist, Peterborough, a church in the romantic Gothic idiom.  According to one source, "unsophisticated Upper Canadians were as pleased with his Gothic style as they were impressed by his heraldry, and they were completely untroubled by the doubtful authenticity of both."

Howard's important churches include Holy Trinity, Chippawa, 1840; St Paul's, Yorkville, 1841; Snake Island, 1842; St John's, York Mills, Christ Church, Tyendinaga, and Christ Church, Holland Landing, 1843; and Holy Cross, Wikwemikong, 1844.  There is also evidence that he was the architect for All Saints', Tyendinaga, 1858.  It is noted that the best example of Howard's altar designs remains the memorial altar in All Saints', Tyendinaga.  It was designed in 1851 with a breadth and simplicity suitable alike to the scale of the church and the quality of the wood; and it has the dignity inherent in the intention of a parish commemorating a beloved rector.  (Note:  the photo shows the altar in the original configuration, with the retable placed atop the mensa.  Today, the altar is removed from the "east" wall.  The retable sits atop a memorial table in front of the dossal and is surmounted by a stepped piece which holds the cross and candlesticks.)

When they were built, the churches of St John, York Mills; Christ Church, Tyendinaga; and Christ Church, Holland Landing, varied not at all in form and but little in detail.  All three were originally square-ended hall-churches with four windows to a side.  Christ Church, Tyendinaga, was differently-buttressed, having diagonal instead of angled corner buttresses.  The bell tower was built in three stages, with bracketed set-offs, and was crowned with stepped crenellations which have since been rebuilt.

Christ Church, Tyendinaga, has been called Howard's "major church building" and was commended in 1846 by Sir Richard Bonnycastle of the Toronto Society of Artists in his book Canada and the Canadians:

     A church has recently been erected by them [Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte] on the Bay of Quinte, in the Township of Tyendinaga [now Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory]....It is of stone, with a handsome tin covered spire, and replaces the original wooden edifice they had erected on their first landing, the first altar of their pilgrimage which was in complete decay.
     They held a council, and the Chief made this remarkable speech after having heard all of the ways and means discussed:  'If we attempt to build this church by ourselves it will never be done, let us therefore ask our father, the Governor, to build it for us, and it will be done at once.'
     It was not want of funds but want of experience he meant:  for the funds were to be derived from the sale of [First Nations] lands.  The governor, the late Sir Charles Bagot, was petitioned accordingly, and the church now stands, a most conspicuous ornament on the beautiful Bay of Quinte.
     They raised one thousand pounds for this purpose; and proper architects being employed, the contract was entered into for 1 037 and was duly accepted....The first stone was laid by S P Jarvis, Esquire, Chief Superintendent of Indians in Canada, and the Archdeacon of Kingston, the truly venerable George O Stuart, conducted the usual service which was preceded by a procession of [Mohawks], who singing a hymn, led the way from the wharf where the clergy and visitors had arrived from the steamer...they reached the site of their new Temple...I saw this edifice lately:  it is Gothic with four lancet windows on each side, and buttressed regularly.  Its space is 60 feet by 40 feet with a front tower projecting and the spire, very pointed and covered with glittering tin, rises out of the surrounding woods from a lofty height of 107 feet.  It is certainly the most interesting public building in Canada West.

Unfortunately, in 1906, the spire was struck by lightning and the interior of the church was badly damaged by the resultant fire.  The greystone font still shows horizontal cracks induced by the exposure to extreme heat.  The treasured coat of arms of George III over the west door, which had been in the direct path of destruction, was replaced by new Royal arms, a gift to the Mohawks of Tyendinaga from King George V.  The fire and subsequent rebuilding explain the incongruity of the building as it stands today--the roof and ceiling are no longer Howard's.

One of Christ Church's most interesting features escaped the fire.  This was the screen designed from the much shallower chancel originally beyond it.  Supported on clustered colonettes, the three shallow arches once neatly framed the pulpit (entered through the Gospel arch), the altar (surmounted by the Triptych), and the reading desk (entered by the Epistle arch).  The choir originally occupied the central pews of a west gallery, or choir loft, for which borrowed light had been provided.

Christ Church, Tyendinaga, standing proudly on its height, was destined to be John Howard's finest ecclesiastical monument.  Although he discussed cathedrals with both Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops of Toronto, he was overshadowed by the frenzy of Gothic building that would soon make its way over from England and which would dominate both cathedrals in Toronto.

The cornerstone reads:  "John Howard, Toronto, Architect.  George Browne of Kingston, architect having undertaken the supervision of the works and John B Pringle being the builder."

With profound thanks to Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson for the use of their work Hallowed Walls:  Church Architecture of Upper Canada, Clarke, Irwin & Co Ltd, Toronto, 1975, pp 91-104.


All Saints' Church (1858)

All Saints' was consecrated in 1858 and is reputed to be another of John Howard's designs (see the history of Christ Church above).  The church was largely unchanged for its first 130 years until 1988, when a large parish hall, called the Queen Anne Parish Centre, was built on.  The new parish centre contained amenities the church was lacking:  a kitchen, washrooms, office, classrooms, and a large gathering space.  Inside the church, near the front door is a beautiful stained glass light with Mohawk clan symbols and an inscription, donated by the Ladies Guild.  In 2010, the shingle roof on the church and hall was replaced with a steel roof which should last into the mid-21st century.

 


Holy Trinity Church (1877)

Holy Trinity Church was deconsecrated and the congregation disestablished on Sunday 21 October 2007.  As a part of the Anglican Parish of Tyendinaga at the time of its closing, its history is included here for posterity.

The congregation at Shannonville was established in or around 1854, the date the first church was built on the north side of the Salmon River.  Sadly, on 15 April 1876, the church was destroyed by fire.  A new church, built of limestone, was built on the current site south of the river using insurance monies and subscriptions from parishioners and consecrated in 1877.  The original building committee was composed of Mr Appleby, Mr J Leverton, Mr W Leverton, Mr Campbell and Mr Kemp.  Through the efforts of this committee, Holy Trinity began to grow.

The first meeting of the Vestry of the new church was held 21 March 1878.  In the same year, Mr A L Roberts donated the stained glass window above the altar in memory of his daughter who died in 1870 and the incumbent, the Rev'd W Lewin, gave the font in memory of his wife, Maggie.  The altar cross was given in memory of Frances Ballance and William M Sexsmith by their daughter Anna Belle in 1908.  In 1915, the Rev'd Alfred Bareham died in the service of the parish.  The stained glass window of the Shepherd and the sheep in the front window on the Gospel side of the church was given in memory by his family.

Some years later, in 1940, Mrs Huff placed a Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes (neither of which still exists) in memory of her sister Anastatia Artis Gleason, RN, who served with the American Expeditionary Force in France during the First World War.  The large alms basin was given in memory of William and Jessie Bell by their family.  On 27 December 1942, Mrs A Mark tendered her resignation from the Sunday School after forty-three years of faithful service.

In 1950, Mrs Beatrice Jones gave money to build an altar for St Margaret's-on-the-Hill, Belleville and the existing altar made by Mr Willis Wilson was later given to Holy Trinity along with altar linen.  The old wooded processional cross was made and presented by Mr Wilson, as well.  Originally, Holy Trinity was heated with a box stove which was later converted to an oil burner system.  In 1953, an oil furnace was installed in memory of Letitia Mark.

Through the efforts of the Rev'd Elmer Brown, pews were given to Holy Trinity by the Parish of St Thomas, Reddendale.  The burses and veils in seasonal colours were bought with money given by Mr Douglas Kent.  Because of a bequest by Mr George Stanley Vandervoort, it was possible to purchase a new, small electric organ in 1968.  This was dedicated as a memorial to Mr Vandervoort and the Rev'd Everett P Smith.  In 1969, Trinity Hall was acquired.  This was the old Juby Poolroom and Barbershop, purchased at a reasonable cost.  It proved, during its time, to be a valuable place for meetings and other activities.

In 1977, the centennial of the church, the Anglican Church Women were very strong at Holy Trinity, although in the last forty years of the church, the ACW gradually ceased to exist in Shannonville.

Over the next forty years, Holy Trinity saw gradual decline in its membership.  Many of the historic families died or moved away.  As a small rural church, Holy Trinity was unable to sustain full-time ministry anymore and was aligned with a number of other churches, including St Margaret's, Belleville, St Mark's, Deseronto and the Parish of Tyendinaga.  In the late 1990s, with the resolution of the Turton-Penn land claim, the village of Shannonville became part of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.  The Band assumed ownership of the church land and building and the congregation paid rent as the sole occupant of the building.

In 2004, due to the continuing lack of hospitality facilities (washrooms, a kitchen, a place to gather for fellowship), the congregation successfully petitioned the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte administration to build a hall on the west end of the church in a style that would match the original building.  The photo shows the building as it looked in 2007, looking west with the church in the foreground (up to the tower) and the hall in the background.

In early 2006, the Parish of Holy Trinity, Shannonville, amalgamated with the Parish of Tyendinaga.  This formalised the relationship of the three congregations, which were now all under the leadership of the Rev'd Bradley Smith.

Although there were approximately twenty faithful members of the congregation remaining, it was difficult to fill the required leadership positions and it became evident that the congregation was experiencing ministry fatigue.  In early 2007, upon reviewing the financial realities of the church and the declining membership of the congregation, it was decided that the most prudent course of action was to petition the Bishop to deconsecrate the church and disestablish the congregation.  On Sunday 21 October 2007, the territorial archdeacon, acting for the Bishop, officiated at the service of deconsecration, bringing to an end the long and faithful ministry of Holy Trinity Church, Shannonville.  Although the service was sorrowful, it was also hopeful, in that the members of the congregation recognised in their ordeal the essence of the Christian faith:  in death there is life.  As followers of Jesus, the people knew that their gifts were being called into service in other parts of God's Kingdom.

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