The History of Methodism in Canada

There are some 3000 books in the Ryerson Press Collection. The first, by George Playter (1811-1866), is The History of Methodism in Canada. Published in 1862 by Anson Green at the Wesleyan Printing Establishment located on King Street East in Toronto, the book is an account of the “rise and progress of the work of God in Canada and among the Canadian Indian tribes, and occasional notices of the civil affairs of the province.”

Playter documents the rise of Methodism in Canada from the late 1700s to 1828. He notes that in 1777, an influx of those loyal to Britain following the American revolution began to move north and settled along the Bay of Quinte, the Niagara River and on the banks of the Detroit River.

But the first Methodist preacher in Canada was a Commissary of the 44th British Regiment named Tuffey who was posted to Quebec, Lower Canada, in 1780. And he was followed by Mr. Neal at Niagara in Upper Canada in 1788.

During this period, soldiers were granted land parcels and many remained to take up farming. The population in Lower Canada at this time was approximately 120 000; Upper Canada’s population numbered about 10 000. Loyalists moved north and while some belonged to the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Luther or Baptist Church, a few were Methodist. These religious sects were scattered over Upper Canada.

Many emigrants had been stripped of property during the American revolution. The Government of the day assisted many with provisions, farming utensils and clothing for up to two years: “families lived for days on the drink of boiled beech leaves, slippery elm bark or on wild leeks…”

During the early 1800s circuit preachers began visiting many communities as well as many native tribes to spread the Methodist gospel. 

  • 1780 Commissar Tuffey preaches at Quebec
  • 1784 Settlement of Upper Canada begins
  • 1788 George Neal preaches at Niagara
  • 1792 Col. John Simcoe becomes first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada
  • 1812 United States declares war against Great Britain
  • 1815 General Isaac Brock dies
  • 1817 First Methodist Conference in Canada
  • 1826 Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church established
  • 1827 Dr. Strachan publishes a Chart of the Religion of Upper Canada
  • 1828 10 Indian missions in Upper Canada established, 1200 baptized
  • 1828 Canadian Methodist body becomes independent of United States
  • 1829 Egerton Ryerson begins his circuit preaching

The History of Methodism in Canada, 1862



About The Ryerson Press Archive

My name is Clive Powell. I worked for McGraw-Hill Ryerson for 35 years. Recently I was asked to find a home for 3000 publications that represent the Ryerson Press Archive. I am happy to share my discoveries.
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