John Wesley Cotton, “The Methodist Church at Beaverdams” c. 1913 (Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library)
The historic village of Beaverdams is located in the City of Thorold at what was once an important crossroads in the Niagara Peninsula, linking Lakes Ontario and Erie with Burlington Bay. The community originally attracted United Empire Loyalists who created new lives in the region after the American Revolutionary War of the late 18th century.
A generation later, communities began to thrive, and it was local farmer Hiram Swayze who – guided by an optimism borne of peace and prosperity – sold an acre of his land on Beaverdams Creek to fellow Methodists for the building of a church in 1832.
One of the first preachers at the church was Egerton Ryerson, the father of public education in Ontario. Although regular services ceased after 1890, Trinity United Church in Thorold hosts an annual Beaverdams Heritage Day each year to commemorate this building’s rich history every June.
The two-storey frame church is characterized by a New England meeting-house style construction, an almost a square plan, paired entrances for men and women, arched ceiling and flanking galleries (concealed in the 1890s) and minimal – but skillfully wrought – ornamentation. Today, it is one of the oldest Methodist churches still standing in Ontario.
The church received formal designation by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1965 and is also protected under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Visitors come each year to this popular destination to explore the adjoining graveyard and to take in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding Lake Gibson Corridor, uniquely showcasing flora and fauna associated with the Carolinian vegetation zone of the Niagara Escarpment.