History of the H.M. Royal Chapel of the Mohawks: A Mohawk National Historic Site Established 1785

Royal Visit to the Mohawk Chapel, 1-October-1984. The visit was to unveil a plaque recognizing the first Protestant church built in Ontario (1785). The Queen is picture with Premier William Davis (left), Chief Wellington Staats (centre right).

Iroquois People and the American Revolution

Royal Chapel of the Mohawk, Logo

In 1771 many Mohawks had to leave their homes in the Mohawk Valley as Europeans began to encroach into their territory. A smallpox epidemic also swept through the area. The American Revolutionary War would only add to this dilemma. Therefore, in 1775, Joseph Brant travelled to England to meet King George III to plead the case of Rotinonson:ni as allies to the Crown. Brant wanted protection of their lands against encroachment but he could only get a promise to address such issues after the War.

After the War, the Mohawks who remained loyal to the British Crown were forced to leave their homeland and relocate to Upper Canada. Through agreements with Sir Frederick Haldimand, lands were reserved for the Native allies as compensation for their loss in the Mohawk Valley. Frederick Haldimand was the Governor of Canada from 1777 to 1786.

Joseph Brant

Joseph Brant known as Thayendanegea, was a diplomat and warrior who lead his followers across Lake Ontario. He was a member of the Wolf clan, born on the banks of the Ohio River in 1742. Joseph Brant was sent to the Indian Charity School in Connecticut while a teenaged young man. He became a Christian and translated the Bible into Mohawk. Between 1765-1771 Brant acted as an interpreter and engaged in political missions to the western nations.  In 1784 after the Haldimand Proclamation was issued Joseph Brant led a group of Six Nations people to what is now Brantford. In 1785 the Mohawk Chapel was built.

Haldimand Treaty of 1784

On October 25, 1784, the Haldimand Proclamation was issued which reserved land, six miles from both sides of the Grand River, from Lake Erie to the source of the River, for the Mohawks and “such others of the Six Nations Indians” who allied themselves with the English in the Revolutionary War and continued to seek the protection of the Crown. The reserved lands amounted to approximately 950,000 acres. Each Nation set up one or two of their own villages along the Grand River. From 1784 to 1785 about 1200 Rotinonson:ni made their way across the Niagara River to their new homes.

Queen Anne Bible and Silver

Queen Anne commissioned the building of Fort Hunter in 1711 which would house a chapel within. She also provided a silver communion service and bible for that chapel along with other furnishings. The Queen Anne silver bears the inscription “The Gift of Her Majesty Anne by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland and her plantations on North America, Queen to her Indian Chapel of the Mohawks.” By 1781, the Chapel was plundered by American Revolutionary forces. Prior to that, the Communion service had been removed and buried by Mohawk warriors until after the war when it was retrieved and taken to Upper Canada to be divided between Six Nations and Tyendinaga Mohawk, who settled near Belleville, Ontario.

Rev & Chaplin History

The First Missionaries

The Rev. John Stuart, Kingston 1788-1790
The Rev. R. Addison, Niagara on the Lake 1791-1821
The Rev. R. Leeming, Ancaster 1818-1826
The Rt. Rev. Chas J. Stewart, D.D., missionary, later the Bishop of Quebec 1818-1836

The Chapel Incumbents

The Rev. R. Luggar 1827-1837
The Ven. A. Nelles 1837-1884
The Rev. R. Ashton 1885-1914
The Rev. C. M. Turnell, M.A. 1915-1917
The Rev. H. W. Snell, B.A. 1919-1945
The Rev. Canon W.J. Zimmerman, M.A. B.D. 1945-1981
The Rev. John Stables 1982-1999
The Rev. Norm Casey 2000-2003
The Rev. Larry Brown 2004-2016
The Rev. Roselyn Elm 2017-Present

Royal Designation

In 1904, St. Paul’s became known as Her Majesty’s Chapel of the Mohawks. It was given its designation as a Royal Chapel, as a form of recognition for the long-standing alliance between the Rotinonson:ni (literal meaning: Those men building an extended house) people and the British, as borne out of the unheralded contributions that the Rotinonson:ni made to the history of Canada.

While no longer housed at the church, on special occasions a silver communion set given to the Mohawks by Queen Anne in 1711 is displayed and used. As well there is triptych in the Mohawk language given by George III, a royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom and church bell given by George V, and a bible given by Queen Victoria.

Queen Elizabeth has given two gifts: a communion chalice in 1984 commemorating the coming of the Loyalists (which included the Mohawks) and a set of eight silver hand bells in 2010. Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks is a simple wooden structure built in 1785 and given to the Mohawk Loyalists led by Joseph Brant. Joseph Brant’s remains were moved to the chapel from their original resting place in Burlington in 1850.

Prince Arthur met with Chiefs of the Six Nations at this chapel in 1869. It was elevated to the status of Chapel Royal in 1904 by King Edward VII. In 1919 December 22 Prince Arthur holding the office of Governor General of Canada planted a Three at the foot of Joseph Brant Tomb. On this day Prince Arthur (Governor-General of Canada) was customarily adopted into the Mohawk Turtle clan.