A History of Washington United Church

and Its Community From 1803

The history of the Washington United Church and the Annis families that resided in Scarborough, Ontario are so intertwined that it is almost impossible to speak of one without mentioning the other.
An earlier history of the region, and in particular the land that the church stands upon, will permit us to see how the family of Charles Annis (1738-1804) and their descendants had such a powerful influence upon the community.
The following booklet was printed by Washington United Church and written by Anne Marie Ellis. The contents have been edited because of space limitations. It has been used with permission.

Note: This author's visit to Washington Church and the adjacent cemetery was met with great kindness and cooperation from the representatives of the church. It will remain with me as an educational and inspiring visit, thanks in no small part to these wonderful people.
The church is currently called Scarborough Bluffs United Church.
(Until December 2006) 1 McCowan Road
(Kingston Road and McCowan)
(After December 2006) 3739 Kingston Road
(Kingston Road and Scarborough Golf Club Road)


After the American Revolution a large group of immigrants, about 5,000 in number, left the United States to come to Upper Canada. These United Empire Loyalists wished to remain loyal to King George III and settled on crown land being given in the forest wilderness of what is now Southern Ontario. Thus, the beginning of white settlement in this province is often dated at 1784.


At this time in the area now known as Scarborough, no white person lived in the entire vast forest wilderness. Indians roamed the land, hunting, planting and fishing for salmon at the mouth of the river called “La Riviere Rouge” by the French voyageurs.


The area of Scarborough was too remote to be included in the cessions to the British of the “Toronto” area by the Mississauga Indians. The Iroquois had claimed the area as a hunting ground even after the Treaty of Paris in 1763.


By this time the township was known as “Glasgow”, and John Graves Simcoe was the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. When his wife, Elizabeth, first sailed east from “Muddy York” (Toronto), she was surprised that the beautiful bluffs south of where the church now stands reminded her of the cliffs of Scarborough, England. She persuaded her husband to rename the township “Scarboro”, (spelled in this manner).


John Graves Simcoe assigned the task of surveying Scarboro and also sent a group of soldiers to protect the survey crew from wild animals. Augustus Jones, the surveyor, needed a location for his headquarters that was central and had access to water for transportation. He chose to build a cabin on what is now the Guild Inn property. This cabin was one of the first buildings in Scarboro.


Dr. Nathan Bang came from New York State and held the first regular Methodist Church services in York in 1802. In 1803 he became the first “saddle bag preacher” to ride the circuit route over hazardous paths to Scarborough and preach in the community.


A United Empire Loyalist, William Osterhout, chose the lot on which Augustus Jones had built his cabin as his crown land grant. Elizabeth Osterhout, William’s wife, as her crown land grant, chose the lot on which the church now stands.


The Annis family acquired the above-mentioned property and no further records are available regarding the Osterhouts.
It was in this year that Levi Annis (1781-1855), {Charles, John, Abraham, Cormac} built the Annis Inn, which became a gathering place for the local people when the circuit riding preachers came to the area.

Image: Washington Church 1838

Washington Church 1838


The first church building was erected on The Kingston Road. This road was paved with planks; a boon to traffic, and the Annis Inn remained further south on the old “Front Road”. In order to pay for the roads, toll gates were established and one toll gate was located directly in front of the church.

Image: Toll Gate


By 1865, the congregation had prospered. Under the ministry of the Rev. J. P. Lewis, the log and frame church became a three point “circuit” with Wexford (later Zion) and Highland Creek (now Centennial Rouge United). These two churches erected buildings similar to Washington.

Image: Elizabeth Annis

Washington Church 1885


As the congregation continued to prosper and grow, the original log and frame building was replaced in 1885 by a splendid red brick church with a high square tower. This church seated approximately 140 people. (The population of Scarborough was at that time was about 4,000.) Horses, which had drawn the wagons in the summer, or sleighs in the winter, were tethered in a large wooded shed on the west side of the church during service.


The red brick manse standing beside the church was bilt on land which was donated by David Annis, son of Levi and Rhoda Annis.


In 1960, it became obvious that the old red brick church was too small and inadequate for the congregation. A building committee drew plans for an appropriate new sanctuary and efforts were made to incorporate some minor portions of the church’s heritage in the new building. The original stain glass windows that were dedicated to early families in the congregation were carefully removed and now form a wall of the present sanctuary. The Annis family is represented by the window shown below.

Image: Annis Window

Annis stain glassed window

Image: Annis Window

Annis stain glassed window detail
It reads: "This window was erected by the members of this congregation as a tribute
to many years of service rendered by the The Annis Family

Image: Washington Church Bell

The church bell from the 1885 building has been preserved and is displayed in the front of the current building


A great historic discovery was made in April, 1990. The deed to the Washington Church Cemetery and the church property was found by the trustees in a cardboard box. The document is in remarkable condition and a copy is now framed and hanging in the church corridor leading to the sanctuary.

Image: Levi Annis Deed

The church had used the cemetery since 1825 and the first building was erected in 1838. However, this deed officially and legally transferred these parcels of land from the farm of Levi Annis to Washington Methodist Church in November 1841.

Image: Washington Cemetery Plaque 2

Plaque on the left pillar at the entrance to Washington Church Cemetery

Image: Washington Cemetery Plaque

Plaque on the right pillar

Washington Methodist Church Cemetery

Levi Annis (1781-1855) and his wife, Rhoda Conant, were the first Europeans settlers on this acreage stretching from Kingston Road to Lake Ontario in Lot 16, Concession C. In 1808 they opened as Inn on this farm where circuit-riding preachers held services. This was the beginning of the congregation of Washington Church. Named in honor of a local evangelical lay preacher, Stephen Washington in 1838. The first frame church was built facing Kingston Road on land donated by Levi Annis. The early Annis pioneers used this site as a family burial ground and donated it to the church in 1875. Many of the congregation’s early, hard-working and devoted adherents are buried here. Some of their descendants still live in this community.”


Ministers of Washington United Church

The following ministers and lay preachers served Washington as circuit riders or preached in the community, visiting about once every six to eight weeks.


1803 - Nathan Bangs, William Anson, Seth Crowell

1805 - Robert Corson

1808 - M. Pickett, John Reynolds

1810 – Joseph Lockwood

1811 – Andrew Prindle

1812 – Joseph Gatchel

1813 – Thomas Harmon

1815 – John Rhodes

1817 – David Culp

1818 – James Jackson, W.W. Rundle


The following circuit riders came to “Scarboro”, that is, Annis’ Inn, which was not yet an official station, only a “preaching place”. They were able to preach more regularly than the group mentioned above.


David Yeomans, David Culp, Daniel Stephenson, John Ryerson, William Slater, William H. Williams, Joseph Atwood, James Richardson, Egerton Ryerson, Cornelius Flummerfeldt, John Carroll


In 1833, with the population of Scarboro growing, “Markham” became a circuit and “Scarboro” (which was Washington) was one of its stations. From 1833 to 1865, the following drove or walked to Annis’ Inn and after 1838 to Washington’s lot and frame church to preach.


Robert O. Wilson, William McFadden, Thomas Campbell, Thomas Jeffers, Daniel Madder, John Potts, James Graham, James Norris, George L. Haig, John N. Lake, Andrew B. Chambers, Edward Harris, Norman McHardie, Daniel F. Gee, John C. Wilson, John Carroll


In 1865, Washington became a circuit with Wexford and Highland Creek. The following ministers and local preachers were active in the church


Joshua P. Lewis, David L. Brethour, Alexander Harris, Thomas Jeffers, John H. Robinson, William E. Smith, Charles V. Luke, James Medcalf, Jeremiah W. Annis, Michael Fawcett


After the union of the Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists and the Episcopal Methodists in 1884, the following served Washington Methodist Church.


1883-1885 - Thomas Reed

1885-1887 – Matthew Conron

1887-1890 – John J. Riddett

1890-1893 – Frank Keam

1893-1896 – George W. Stephenson

1896-1900 – John Vickery

1900-1904 – Reuben Toye

1904-1908 – John H. Oke

1908-1912 – Robert Beynon

1912-1916 – Edmond T. Douglas

1916-1920 – Reuben S. Fralick

1920-1922 – William H. Learoyd

1922-1933 – John S. Humphries


After Church Union in 1925, Washington United Church was served by the following ministers.


1922-1933 – John S. Humphries

1933-1937 – James C. Torrance

1937-1953 – George H. Dix

1953-1964 – Stephen J. Mathers

1964-1972 – William H. John

1973-1977 – Robert K. N. McLean

1978-1980 – Edward J. Furcha

1980-Present – C. Glenn Tenpenny



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