St Augustine’s Church is the center of the Roman Catholic Church in Dundas. The Church was originally founded in 1827 as a small wooden chapel on the south west corner of King and Sydenham Streets (Market Square). It remained as such until 1863, when a great fire broke out which destroyed the church and parts of the surrounding area. Father John O’Reilly already had plans to move and make the church bigger, and this fire accelerated those plans.
The Church was rebuilt the same year on Sydenham Street, however, it was not until 1885 that the iconic tower was added onto the front of the church. This tower was largely completed thanks to a donation from Patrick Banon in 1874, who donated $500 specifically for the purpose of constructing a bell and tower. In 1885, another catastrophe happened when the turrets of the tower were struck by lightning, resulting in shorter turrets being built.
The church originally did not have a priest regularly present. Rather, the head priest was responsible for the wider region including towns such as Hamilton, and would travel around performing services as the weather permitted. In 1827, Father Campion was the first partial placement priest. During this time, the population of Dundas was around 500 people, and 125 of them were Roman Catholic. Furthermore, with no other Roman Catholic Churches in the area, people sometimes came all the way from Brantford and Hamilton to receive services. Sir Allan MacNab and his wife, for example, attended the opening of the rebuilt St. Augustine’s Church in 1863.
The church today currently stands and is still a Roman Catholic parish. Outside of religious reasons, the church is also visited for its aesthetic value, and walking tours of the city will often pass by it to take in the beautiful architecture. The Church recently underwent renovations.
Thank you to the students from McMaster University Department of History for their assistance with this project.