A Brief History
earliest history of Sheffield United Church begins with the story of
the man who founded the village of Sheffield, Rev. John A. Cornell.
Cornell grew up in Dutchess County and Columbia County, New York, but
at the age of 18
migrated to Upper Canada. He came first to Beverly Township
(near Christie's Corners), and then Waterloo Township. In 1809 he
along what is now Highway 8 to Beverly Township, to the heart of the
future village of Sheffield.
started out as a pioneer farmer, but leading up to the year 1812, he
underwent a dramatic religious awakening, and in 1812 became an
independent preacher. He held church services in his home and barn, and
preached in many locations in Beverly Township, Waterloo Township, and
beyond. In 1834, the first church building was constructed at the
present site of the Sheffield United Church.
preachers had been active in Upper Canada since the 1780s, and a
Wesleyan branch had developed in the Sheffield
area, which was serviced by preachers based from St. George. In 1846,
the Sheffield Methodist congregation built a stone church just west of
the village. In 1891, they built a larger, red brick building
In 1854, John A. Cornell advised his independent
congregation at Sheffield to join the United Brethren in Christ
denomination. After 42 years as a preacher, Cornell was nearing the end
of his life and wished to see his congregation continue under the
guidance of a denomination with similar doctrines. When his
congregation accepted, they became the first United Brethren church in
Canada. In 1894, the United Brethren congregation built a new church of
stone (the present United Church). In 1916, this congregation joined
the Presbyterian Church of Canada.
both the Methodists and Presbyterians in Sheffield voted to join with
each other in the new United Church of Canada (with the exception of a
large minority of the Sheffield Presbyterians). The new United Church
congregation chose to worship in the stone church, and the Methodist
brick church was eventually sold to the Presbyterian group.
Our History Book - "The First
Sheffield" - is available for $20.