Christ Church and the Queen Anne Silver

Christ Church Anglican, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

Photo: Christ Church Anglican, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory


Kathryn McLeod

Indigenous heritage, Buildings and architecture, Community, Cultural objects

Published Date: Sep 10, 2009

Located in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory on the Bay of Quinte, Christ Church houses a silver communion service dating to 1712. This remarkable service represents an intersection of spiritual and political alliances that led to the creation of the Tyendinaga Territory in the late 18th century and to the construction of Christ Church some years later. It also serves as a reminder of the important connection between Ontario’s First Nations and Loyalists.

In 1710, a group of Mohawk chiefs from upper New York travelled to England to inform Queen Anne of their desire to become Christians. In response, the Queen arranged for construction of a chapel for the Mohawk people at Fort Hunter in the Mohawk Valley, New York. In 1712, she presented them with an eight-piece silver communion set for their new place of worship.

In 1775, at the start of the American Revolution, the communion set was buried at Fort Hunter to protect it from looting. Like most Mohawks, the Fort Hunter community sided with the British in this conflict. Captain John Deserontyon, the Fort Hunter chief, was part of a group that escorted the British forces’ Colonel Guy Johnson to Lachine.

When hostilities ceased in 1783, the Mohawks were angered to learn that no provision had been made in the peace agreement for the return of their ancestral lands in New York. Deserontyon, Joseph Brant and other Six Nations representatives took their concerns to Governor Haldimand, who encouraged them to settle on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

Brant chose to settle along the Grand River, but Deserontyon and his people took up Haldimand’s offer to relocate to the Bay of Quinte. First, however, he returned to Fort Hunter and dug up the silver communion service, finding seven of the eight pieces intact. When he and approximately 100 Mohawks arrived on the shore of Lake Ontario just west of what is now Deseronto on May 22, 1784, they held a service that included a flag-raising and a display of the silver.

By 1785, the community began construction of a small log church. When complete, it housed three pieces of the communion service; the remaining four went to the Grand River Mohawks. In 1798, the church was rebuilt, enlarged and furnished with an altarpiece containing the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments in the Mohawk language, as well as a royal coat-of-arms and a bell–all gifts from King George III.

A new, more permanent Gothic revival limestone church was constructed by 1843. It was rebuilt in 1906 following a fire that destroyed much of the interior, including the coat-of-arms, which was later replaced by Rev. Herbert Pringle. A carving of a wolf’s head over the west door represents the Mohawks’ Wolf Clan.

Today, the gifts of King George III and subsequent monarchs remain on display at Christ Church. The communion silver is brought out on special occasions, serving as a tangible example of the relationship among the Mohawk people, the British Crown and the land that is now Canada.

To honour its historical significance, Christ Church has been recognized as a National Historic Site and by a provincial plaque.