For some years after the conquest of New France the Roman Catholic Church continued to minister to the Colonists almost without a rival After a time, however, we find ministers of other Churches entering the Provinces, and beginning that humble work from which sprang several strong denominations. Within five years of the fall of Montreal, we hear of a Presbyterian Minister conducting services in the Jesuite College Quebec. In 1782 the first sermon by a Methodist Minister was preached in Halifax. Two years later the Rev. John Stuart, the father of the Upper Canada Church (Anglican), began his work. The year 1786 saw the erection of the first Protestant Church in Upper Canada, built by George III. along the Grand River, near where the City of Brantford is now located. This church was built for the loyal Mohawk Indians. It is still standing and is a precious historic landmark of the Mohawks of our own time. By the close of the century, three churches, the Anglican, the Presbyterian, and the Methodist, had gained a foothold in all the Provinces. Let us see what progress the church had made in our own county. The first regular religious service in the Township of Grimsby was the Church of England, performed by Judge Pettitt in 1787, in his own, and occasionally in his neighbor’s houses, until the building of the log church where the stone church was built in 1812. The second church (Methodist) was built in 18o/ on the mountain near Thirty Mile Creek. The first resident Methodist minister was Rev. Elijah Warren of Smithville, in 1818. The Weslyn Methodists at this time held their services in the old Court House at Smithville. In 18/i they built a small frame church on the sight of the present Methodist Church. Smith Griffin preached in those early days and the settlers came to worship dressed in top boots and homespun clothing. Several descendants of the Griffin’s became ministers of the Gospel. Most of the settlers at this time were either Methodists or Tunkers. Ned Griffin was buried in this Methodist cemetery. In the year 1882 this old frame church was replaced by the beautiful brick church which the village has today. The following is an extract of a letter dated Smithville, August 16th, 1882, written by Mr. Hugh Bridgman, a clever local preacher of this church, to the Rev. J. M. Van Every, an ordained minister of the Methodist Church, and a former resident member of this old Smithville church. It reads:”We are engaged in building a new and beautiful commodious church in old Smithville, in place of the old delapidated one in which we used to worship, and where we had good times, and souls were converted and now are bright and shining stars doing good in the world. Go on, Brotherfor you are one of that number.”
As a small lad I attended Sabbath School in this Church with Mrs. Hugh Bridgman (Ann Field) as teacher. Mr. and Mrs. Bridgman were life workers there, faithful to the end and have both gone to their reward. In the year 1862. the Universalist Church was built. It was located two Lots beyond the residence of Mr. Frank Hays. The first minister of this church wag’ the Rev. Mr. Lavelle. A large congregation worshipped here for many years. Death and removals brought the membership down to a few families and some few years ago the property was sold and the old church which had been a religious landmark for many years was torn down. The Episcopal Methodist Church was located on the present sight of the Presbyterian Church. It is spoken of as ‘The Old White Church,’ a frame building, plain and simple in its structure. It contained but one centre aisle with wooden benches on either side, and had no organ. In 1886 this church was sold to the Presbyterians who built the present brick church. The Episcopal Methodists united at this time with the Weslyans. About 1816 the Rev. D. W. Eastman, the Pioneer Missionary, became a resident minister in the Township. Mr. Eastman’s work in Presbyterianism in early days is recorded in another chapter. Some time previous to the year 1876 the sight for the present Catholic Church was donated by Mr. Martin Lally. Here a neat little church and comfortable Priest’s home were built.
Services are still held there. The disciple Church was standing in 1876. While we believe that the Anglican was built at a later date. Both of these churches still have regular services within their sacred walls. Smithville has, generally speaking, a church-going population, and her members take pride in keeping their houses of worship simple, yet suitable for the purpose for which they were dedicated.
These various churches, by the Grace of God, as instruments in His Hands, have sent forth Missionaries, Ministers and christian workers by the hundreds, who have sown the seed during many years and we feel sure that many Golden Harvests have been garnered in, as the result of their zeal and faithfulness.