Through a Canadian stained glass window – Robert Addison, the First Resident Missionary of Niagara

by Abby Mulvihill

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The window’s inscription reads: The Reverend Robert Addison, the rst Resident Missionary of Niagara, receives a bond for his upkeep from Col. Butler and Hon. Robert Hamilton.

In this window the Reverend Robert Addison, the first Resident Missionary of Niagara, receives a bond for his upkeep from Colonel Butler and the Honourable Robert Hamilton. In the window’s upper corner, his church is being burned in the war of 1812.

Robert Addison was born in 1754 in England and died in 1829 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Upper Canada.

After receiving a Masters from Cambridge, he served as a curate while in England. But since his career went nowhere in England, he applied to be a missionary with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

He started his work in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1792 in a small village where most people were Presbyterian or Congregationalist.

In addition, Robert was responsible for the whole of the Niagara peninsula, as well as having a duty to the Six Nations settlement in what is now Brantford. In 1809 he finally had a church, St. Mark’s, but this was burned in the War of 1812.

Although promised an income and rectory by his congregation, it did not materialize, but by 1796 he was receiving an allowance from the government. He also often served as a military chaplain.

Although he managed to meet his current bills, he was worried about destitution for his family after his death. So he mixed his clerical duties with land speculation, a common enough activity at the time. By 1830 he owned over 31,000 acres and was one of the largest landholders in Upper Canada.

By 1807 Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore had mistakenly linked him with critics of his administration; however, Robert’s honourable conduct during the War of 1812 thoroughly demonstrated his courage and loyalty. His parish came under American attack, but he did not leave his parishioners. He officiated at the funeral of Sir Isaac Brock.

Robert and John Strachan started public education in Upper Canada.

He served as Grand Chaplain of the Masonic Lodge, as well as on Niagara’s public library board. At least once he chaired the district’s Court of Quarter Sessions.

By his efforts, churches were built in Grimsby, Chippawa, Queenston, Fort Erie and St. Catharines.

Abby Mulvihill, one of the newer members of the Church of the Ascension Hamilton, has been involved with the Fundraising Group and the Sunday School, as well as sharing the responsibility of being a projectionist at Sunday services.