Reverend Washington Christian

Section Q, Lot 15 (south)
Toronto Necropolis

Christian was a Baptist minister, born around 1776, probably in Virginia. Leaving an itinerant ministry in New England, Christian moved in 1825 to York (Toronto) in Upper Canada, where he ministered to a small congregation of blacks and whites, and seems to have been the first Baptist pastor to officiate regularly in the provincial capital. By 1827 he had secured a permanent meeting-place, the rooms of St George’s Lodge. By 1834, Christian’s flock seems to have been made up entirely of blacks and the place of worship was known as the “Negro Chapel.” In 1837 Christian reported a membership of 66 to, the nearest Baptist church organisation, the Haldimand Association centred on the Bay of Quinte. His congregation in the 1820s was probably composed mainly of descendants of slaves brought into Canada between 1763 and 1793. The building of the March Street church coincided with the influx of blacks from the United States, following a disturbance in 1829 in Ohio. In 1841 Christian built a new church, at the corner of Queen and Victoria streets. A visit by Christian in the winter of 1843–44 to Jamaica was important since “through the liberality of the Baptists in Jamaica the chapel is free from debt.” The organisation of a Sunday school, a junior temperance society, and a library followed, and until his death in 1850 Christian remained in charge of the congregation, which, from the late 1850s, called itself First Baptist Church. Washington Christian died on 3 July 1850 in Toronto, and was buried in Potter’s Field. 12 years later he was re-interred beside his wife, Ann, in the Necropolis.

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