Historic Beaverdams Church (1832) serves as an important testament to the resilience and fortitude of the people who have lived in this corner of the Niagara region for thousands of years.
A sleepy village located in the City of Thorold, Beaverdams only hints today at its historical importance. Long before it hosted the first post office for the entire Township of Thorold, it was the location of an important crossroads in an established network of Native trails – where a north-south route between Lakes Ontario and Erie intersected an east-west artery that followed the upper edge of the Escarpment from Niagara Falls to Burlington Bay.
The village of Beaverdams’ first European settlers were those loyal to the British Crown, people who fled the American Revolutionary War of the late 18th century and sought to build new lives. A generation later, as these new communities began to thrive, local farmer Hiram Swayze deeded an acre of his land on Beaverdams Creek to fellow Methodists for the building of a church.
One of the church’s first preachers 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 meetinghouse 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 was recognized by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario in 1965 and was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1994.
In 2010, the United Church of Canada sold the building to the City of Thorold in order to realize the restoration of this important landmark. Recognizing that this process would be better facilitated at the grassroots level, the building was then sold to the Friends of Beaverdams Church in late 2014.
Incorporated in 2013, the Friends received charitable status in late 2014 and have been able to coordinate a program of restoration that by the middle of 2016 includes: foundation stabilization, replacement of the roof, and resettlement of resident honeybees. Following a statutory archaeological survey in the summer of 2016, work is expected to begin on restoring the foundation in the autumn.
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.