Hamilton_Bethesda United Church Cemetery – Revised to 2009


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Other Known Names: Shaver Settlement Methodist Church Cemetery

Street Address: 584 Garner Road West

Location: Lot 37, Concession 4, Ancaster

Type of Cemetery: Religious (Methodist/United)

Responsible Agency: Bethesda United Church Cemetery Board

Status for Burials: Open for burials          Plot Plan: None

Size:         Small, 210 monuments

Signage: Church Signage

Fencing: Iron railings and hedgerow with open section Monument Types:    Flat and upright

Monuments of: Marble and granite

Bethesda United Church was built in 1795.

Ancaster, Ontario, displays a Heritage Award 1793 plaque, a fine old place of worship.

This cemetery contains the gravestone of John Shaver. Dated 1795, it is the oldest known gravestone in the Hamilton area.

Date of Opening: 1795


The earliest recorded burial at this site is of John Shaver (1739-1795), a United Empire Loyalist originally from Germany who was among the first settlers to come to Ancaster. The site was used as a family plot and later as a communal church plot for the Shaver Settlement Methodist Church. The church initially met at the home of

William Shaver (1771-1830) before moving to the nearby Bethesda School. In 1860 the land containing the existing burials was donated by Horace Shaver (1840-1898) to the Trustees of the local Methodist Church. Since the transfer of ownership, the cemetery has been used for the burial of congregation members, and has been a Methodist and subsequently a United Church Cemetery. It is still open for burials and is owned and operated by the church.

Wilhelm Schaeffer, his wife Katrinka and their sons left the Electorate of Hanover, Germany for America seeking to avoid the turmoil of politics and religion there.

They had nicely settled in the British colony of New Jersey, when the Revolutionary War began. Involved, they fought in the British Butler’s Rangers. When it ended, these Royalists/Loyalists were persecuted and driven from their homes. Friends and families fled and scattered.

Some went westward. Wilhelm and his wife had died.

John, the eldest son, with his second wife and children & his son William E, set their footsteps north to Canada where Loyalists were granted free land. Crossing the Niagara River near (now) Lewiston they continued up the Mohawk Trail to the Township of Ancaster, in 1793. John and William had their lands near each other, of which we know the location.

When John died in 1795, he bequeathed land and money to build the Bethesda Church which we have for many years attended for Reunions.

Reunions began as dinner parties attended by family. When the children of John and William married among neighboring families, the gatherings, begun in the late 1780’s, became picnics and the word carried to distant relatives who came from the United States seeking family.

Hosted for many years on William’s farm or on the Hamilton Escarpment it was well attended.

Wagon ride - 1937 ReunionWagon ride – 1937 ReunionWhen William died, no-one wanted to take up the responsibility of organizing these Reunions, so there were few until the president George W.Shaver and a committee made plans for a great two-day Reunion in 1937. Well attended by upward of 1000, a door-sized Family Tree was unveiled, oxen pulled a wagon of folk, games and an airplane soared.

Since then, families of William’s siblings have joined the Shavers, with the same name designating them as former immigrants in common.

Since 1937, the Reunions were held yearly, except during the war years. All are welcome. Many families have intermarried with Shavers. Some have returned to live in the US but keep contact with us here. It is always a pleasure to meet new attendees.