Chatham, Ontario's First Resident Anglican Clergyman

The first resident Clergyman was the Reverend Thomas Morley, who came here about the year 1827. He probably visited this place as a travelling missionary before that time. He was a missionary to the Grand River Indians in 1822 and from that field of labour, like other early missionaries, perhaps visited the settlers here from time to time.

The oldest written records if the parish are in a book begun by Mr. Morley in 1829. It is inscribed upon its first page in Morley's handwriting as follows, ''A Register-book for the town of Chatham and its vicinity, of Marriages, Baptisms and Burials for years 1829, etc., Rev. Thos. Morley, Missionary."

Mr. Morley was a man of huge size, but very active in his missionary labours. His wife and invalid child never lived here, but in a place called Hallowell in the State of Maine, where he was in the habit of spending a few weeks every summer. He died suddenly from heart failure in the house of a friend at Amherstburg in the year 1836.

During Mr. Morley's ministry here, in 1828, the parish was visited by Dr. Strachan, probably in all capacity as Archdeacon, on a tour of inspection of the missions of the Church, for he had not yet become Bishop of Toronto. Of his visit Dr. Strachan says that he found the Church in a picturesque situation in the midst of a thin grove of pines and "a decent country congregation." "The horses tied to the branches and the group of wagons and carts in different places pointed out the religious edifice." "Preaching in a wilderness,'' wrote the Archdeacon, "to a congregation collected from a great extent of country, which on a cursory view, seems almost uninhabited, arriving one by one, two or three, from all sides, through paths almost undiscernable, thus assembled to worship God through the merits of a crucified Redeemer, we become sensible of the power of the Gospel. Several persons of colour composed part of the congregation.''

There is a very interesting account by Dr. Strachan of his travel on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 1st and 2nd, 1828, across the country to the Talbot Settlement. It is quoted by Judge Ermatinger in his book, "The Talbot Regime."


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