Originally called St Paul's, this chapel was the first Protestant church in Upper Canada and is now the oldest surviving church in Ontario. It is one of two Royal Chapels in North America but the only one located on a First Nation Territory.
Built by the Crown in 1785, it was given to the loyalist First Nations, primarily Mohawks, but accompanied by Onandagas, Cayugas, Senecas, Oneidas and Tuscaroras who had supported the British during the American Revolution. They were led by Thyendenaga, Joseph Brant. Their choice cost them their lands in New York. To compensate for the loss, the Mohawks and such others of the Six Nations who accompanied them were granted 950,000 acres on the Grand River. Although the Chapel has undergone many alterations, it stands as a reminder of the important role played by the Loyalist First Nations in the early settlement of Ontario.
The first Chapel of the Mohawk was built at Fort Hunter in 1712 during the reign of Queen Anne.
Representatives of the Five Nation Confederacy (the Tuscaroras were to join the Confederacy after this event) made an historic visit to her Court , having travelled from their home in the Mohawk Valley in what is now upstate New York, USA. They pledged their loyalty and friendship to the Crown, and while there, among the many discussions that took place, they made a request for a Chapel and Priest.
Consequently, the Queen Anne Chapel was built, and a Minister was provided through the New England Company. Upon completion of construction, Queen Anne presented her Chapel of the Mohawks with a Bible, Silver Communion Service, prayer books and other furnishings.. This Chapel was destroyed in the aftermath of the American Revolution.
During this war, many of the now Six Nations people, under the leadership of Captain Joseph Brant, chose to ally themselves with those in the Thirteen Colonies who remained Loyal to the British Crown. Other individuals from the Confederacy supported the rebels, while some preferred to remain neutral. The unity of the Confederacy was challenged as a result. Upon the defeat of the British Crown Forces, and the formation of the United States of America, the loyal Six Nations people, rather than swerve from their loyalty to the Crown, and having suffered severe military and economic losses from American troops, chose to abandon their homelands in their beloved Mohawk Valley, and moved North into Canada, a British Crown colony.
Through the terms of the Haldimand Treaty of 1784, Joseph Brant secured a land grant in what was then Upper Canada for the native loyalists. This grant was for a tract to be six miles wide on either side of the Grand River from its source to its mouth. Brant also negotiated for and received a Church, the present St Paul's, Her Majesty's Chapel of the Mohawk, built upon the banks of the Grand River in 1785, in the reign of George III. The Mohawk Chapel, as it is commonly known, stands as a shrine for the Six Nations as a symbolic link between the Crown of England and the people of the Grand River Valley.
Mohawks, led by Joseph Brant, established a village of some 400 inhabitants by 1788. The community was situated at an important crossing point on the river ("Brant's Ford") and prospered as a resting place for travellers on the "Detroit Path", a trail linking the Niagara and Detroit rivers. Increasingly, European settlers encroached on Six Nations' lands. In 1841 the government moved the Grand River people to a section of their land south of the river. Of the Mohawk Village, only the Chapel remains.
During the Revolution, the Queen Anne Bible and Silver were buried for safekeeping on the farm of Boyd Hunter. These treasures were recovered and returned to the Mohawk Chapel upon its completion in 1785. The church was dedicated to Saint Paul in 1788 by the Reverend John Stuart. At this time the Communion Silver was divided between the Grand River Mohawks and the Bay of Quinte Mohawks. The Mohawk Chapel Communion Silver and Bible are now in safekeeping. Until 1970 and the closing of the Mohawk Institute, they were kept in the school safe in custody of the Chaplain, and the Communion Silver was used during the regular Communion Services at the Chapel.
Until the arrival of visiting missionary Rev Robert Addison, of Niagara-On-the-Lake, the Chapel services were conducted by Mohawk lay readers. This continued until the arrival of the Rev. Robert Lugger in 1827. He was sent out by the New England Company, who continued their support and interest in the Six Nations people in their new homeland. In 1830, the second Anglican Bishop of Quebec, The Right Reverend Charles Stewart, consecrated the Chapel. Until 1833 The Mohawk Chapel was the only Protestant Church on the Grand River.
By 1841, the tides of occupation, development and politics squeezed the First Nation population from the Mohawk Village and it was "surrendered" to the Crown. The people migrated to what was to be defined the Six Nations Reserve, south-east of Brantford. The Chapel and lands surrounding it remain within Six Nations ownership however. The congregation slowly disappeared, as other Churches had been built in Brantford from 1807 onward. The Six Nations shifted their attendance to the new Kenyangeh Church, also St Paul's Anglican, located on the Reserve. In time, four additional Anglican parishes were established on the Reserve.
By 1831,the Mohawk Institute , a school for Six Nation boys and girls, had been built by the New England Company, and The Chapel came into use over the years mainly as a school Chapel. The Principal of the school and the Chaplain of the Chapel were usually the same person.
The Chapel slowly fell into a state of disrepair until in 1869 a major renovation was necessary. In 1904 it was given Royal designation by Edward VII. Further restorations were made in 1939, in the 1960's, and again in 1975-1976. In 1983 extensive renovations to the Chapel were completed in anticipation of the Six Nations Bicentennial and the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip the following year. At this time a fund for the perpetual care of the Chapel was established. In 2009 a major stabilization of the roof and floor structures took place, and in 2012 the Chapel was made a fully accessible site.
In 1850 the remains of Captain Joseph Brant were moved from the original burial site in Burlington to a tomb situated beside the Mohawk Chapel. The remains of Brant's son, John Brant, also rest in the tomb.
Next to Brant's tomb is a boulder, bearing a memorial to the Indian poetess, E. Pauline Johnson, who was born at Chiefswood on the Six Nations Reserve, and who attended services in the Chapel.
At the rear of the Chapel there is an observation deck that allows a view of the ox-bow in the Grand River, where the people disembarked from their canoes when they came to the Chapel Services.
Eight stained glass windows were installed in the Chapel in the years 1959 - 1962). Each window depicts an event in the history of the Six Nations people, from the formation of the original Confederacy prior to contact with European nations, through the events leading to the building of the Chapel and the re-settlement in the Grand River Valley.
St Paul's, Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, is within the Anglican Diocese of Huron. The Chaplain is appointed by the Bishop of Huron.
The Chapel is supported by the donations of its visitors and from functions such as weddings and memorial services. We welcome any support you can provide either by donation or by advocating the historic significance of this Chapel to your friends as an historic site not to be missed.
We invite you to visit this historic site and partake of its peaceful and spiritual atmosphere.