Wellington County Methodists 1825-1925


Norfolk Street Methodist Church 1906

Norfolk Street Methodist Church 1906

Norfolk Street United Church of Canada was constituted a congregation of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada West in 1836. There had been Methodists living in and around Guelph from it's founding by John Galt in 1827.

The first minister was Samuel Fear. The Sabbath school was formed July 17, 1836, and the original book of rules relating to the school itself, as well as its constitution, is still on hand.

Rev. Lewis WarnerOn April 23rd, 1855, under the leadership of Rev. Lewis Warner, the cornerstone of the present sanctuary was laid.

On Sunday, March 2, 1856, the new premises were dedicated.

1856 Deed to the property

1856 Mortgage to the property

The limestone church - 50 by 80 feet, was one of the largest in southwestern Ontario at the time. It remains the oldest extant house of worship in continuous use in Guelph.

Several noteworthy Canadians have been directly connected with Norfolk Church in one way or another.

They include Rev. James Evans, creator of the script employed first in writing the Cree language and, later, other aboriginal tongues, Lester B. Pearson, George Drew, Rev. Thomas Crosby and Edward Johnson, tenor soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Company.


Renovations - In 1868 the walls and ceilings were frescoed and the church refitted, the congregation worshipping in the drill shed. Gas replaced coal oil in the church in 1874, and the sexton's house in the church lane was built in 1875.

In 1986 the congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary with several ministers and organists returning as guests. Among many events staged was the dedication of memorial stained glass windows and flags of all levels of government.

The Begining of Things

by: A.E. Byerly, 1935

The oldest reference to the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Wellington and Waterloo is found in the Conference report at Hallowell, August 25, 1824. At that time there was circuit known as Dumfries, this no doubt covering the neighbourhood of Dumfries Township. The missionary preacher was Robert Corson. He was the next year admitted in full connection with the church and ordained. In the Dumfries circuit at that time there were 120 Methodists.

As early as 1834 the Methodists, including such leading men as J. H. P. Maddock, Dr. Orton, the Days and others, were holding services in Guelph. Samuel Fear, a local preacher, and a weaver by trade, conducted services in 1836-37. Some years later (1848) he was ordained into the ministery.

The present church was built in 1855, the corner stone being laid by John McLean, noted Hudson Bay factor, who was then manager of the Bank of Montreal.

On the corner where the church stands there was, in the early 1850's, a private school conducted by the Misses Unsworth.

One of the first, if not the first of the Methodist families in Guelph was that of Hezekiah Hall, generally known as "Yankee Hall", a carpenter and builder whose home was at the disposal of the early Methodist Circuit riders for meetings. One room of Mr. Hall's home was sufficient to accommodate the little band. On Sunday afternoon Miss Fanny Harrison, who sometimes attended the meetings, would gather a few of the children together and teach them to read in the New Testament.

In 1832 to 1834 there was a influx of English immigrants and this provided the incentive for Dr. Orton, J.H.P. Maddock, John Kirkland, The Days and others to form a Society shortly thereafter. In approximately 1835 the Society sent to Nottingham, England, the birthplace of the majority of Methodists in the Guelph area and acquired the services of Samuel Fear, weaver and preacher, together with his brother-in-law James Hough who became a cornerstone of the Society. They met in a little red chapel on Nottingham St. and fluorished under the ministry of Samuel Fear who became an officially ordained minister in 1847. One strict successor of Mr. Fear wrote "invalid" across the records of baptisims performed prior to his ordination.

In 1855 Acton Burrows says: During the winter of 1854-5, an energetic effort had been made to raise subscriptions for the erection of a commodious stone church, on the corner if Norfolk and Cork Streets. These efforts had been so far successful, that in April of this year (1855)a sufficient sum had been raised to warrant the commencement of the building, and on the 23rd of April the foundation stone was laid. A short service was held in the church then in use, immediately adjoining the site of the new building, after which the congregation adjourned to where the cornerstone was to be laid...by Mr. John McLean... Addresses were then delivered by Mr. John McLean, Mr. William Day, Rev. Lewis Warner, pastor, and Rev. G. Goodson, of St. Catharines, former pastor...The estimated cost of the building was 2,400 pounds, the contractors being, for the stone work, Mr. Freeman, and for the woodwork Messrs. Hatt & Robinson.

This church was finished on March 2, 1856.

The Town of Guelph Directory of 1873 gives this description: Wesleyan Methodist Church. This substantial edifice was built...at a cost of $15,348...the number of seats being 960...The interior if the building is handsomely frescoed...It numbers 350 members, and the congregation has been increasing in such proportion, that it is intended to erect a second edifice in another part of Town. The pastor is the rev. J.B. Howard. The Sabbath School in conjunction with the church numbers 350 pupils, of which M.A, Keables is superintendent; J.D. Hutton, Secretary, and E. Stannard, Treasurer. It has 29 teachers and a library of 600 volumes.

From the Guelph Mercury files: March 3, 1870 Wesleyan Methodists build new pasonage on Liverpool Street, 1876 Jan 19 Wesleyan Church corner of Dublin and Suffolk Streets opened officially. June 21, 1890 Reception to Rev. James Hannon, D.D., newly appointed pastor of Norfolk St. Methodist Church.

The Guelph Herald 1876 gave this description of renovation and expansion changes to Norfolk Street Methodist Church: The architect was Mr. John Hall, Jr. and the highest credit is deservvedly due him. The alterations embrace a wide area, extending from the basement to the topmost point of the tower. The tower has been built 24 feet higher, of cut stone laid in cement, and the windows in it are finished with Gothic tracing...The whole is covered with galvanized iron, and the battlement adds much to the appearance of the church...On the side facing Cork St., a new entrance has been made...A rear addition has also been erected, 18 X 46, and built in stone in accordance with the general style of architecture of the church.

From the 1911 Encyclopedia

Guelph, a city of Ontario, Canada, 45 m. W. of Toronto, on the river Speed and the Grand Trunk and Canadian Pacific railways. Pop. (1901) 11,496. It is the centre of a fine agricultural district, and exports grain, fruit and live-stock in large quantities. - It contains, in addition to the county and municipal buildings, the Ontario Agricultural College, which draws students from all parts of North and South America. The river affords abundant water-power for flour-mills, saw-mills, woollen-mills and numerous factories, of which agricultural implements, sewing machines and musical instruments are the chief.

Membership: 1836 - 32; 1837 - 122; 1846 - 155; 1856 - 265; 1866 - 299; 1876 - 562; 1886 - 319; 1896 - 610; 1897 - 582; 1898 - 582; 1899 - 580; 1900 - 611; 1901 - 623; 1902 - 642; 1903 - 642; 1904 - 650; 1905 - 680;

Ministers 1825-1925

Church Choir

Sunday School

Early Members and Pewholders

Cornerstone 1855

Religious Affiliation in Guelph, 1840-1851

1901 Year Book


Ladies Aid Society

Women's Missionary Society Auxiliary

The Mission Circle

The Epworth League

The Young Men's Association

| HOME | Early Methodism | Ministers | Families |Churches |
| Early Members | Sunday School | Townships |
| Queen's Bush Settlement | | Egerton Ryerston |
| Items of Interest | Links | Sources | Norfolk St. Methodist Church - Guelph |

Canadian FlagCreated and maintained by: Ken Russell
Questions? E-mail:
[email protected]

Last Updated 05/24/05