Growing up in Brantford, our family would occasionally visit Mohawk Chapel. It was a must-see stop for visiting friends and relatives. I also remember the late 1970s community fundraising drive that helped restore the Chapel. And, in 1984, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were there to celebrate the Six Nations Bicentennial. My last visit was in 2007 when I stopped by for a visit with a business colleague. While there, a wonderful woman from the Six Nations, in traditional dress, escorted us around the site. The story she shared was an important reminder of the Chapel’s rich heritage and significance of the Six Nations to Brantford’s cultural history.
My family’s interest in the Chapel, also the site of the Mohawk Village that was established there in the late 1700s goes back many years. Around 1915, my great-grandmother Frances Mitchell produced this watercolour. The Brantford Centennial edition (1977) from the Brantford Expositor includes this entry:
“A Mohawk village was established in 1785 in part of the Grand River country that was eventually to become Brantford. St. Paul’s, Her Majesty’s Chapel of the Mohawks and other buildings were erected, including 15 to 20 homes built of log and frame, a school, a sawmill, and a grist mill. Joseph Brant lived in one of the houses— the large one at the upper right in this watercolour impression by the late Frances Henderson Mitchell, wife of Brantford’s first automobile dealer, Charles J. Mitchell.
This watercolour is based on a sketch by a Mrs. Brown and was done about 1915 by Mrs. Mitchell. Executors of the estate or her son, A Gordon Mitchell of Brantford have granted permission for this first time publication of the watercolour. Mrs. Mitchell, a native of Ingersoll, resided in Brantford most of her life and died here on Sept. 7, 1943, at the age of 78. In 1931 she won the $100 first prize in the annual Canada-wide Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire Christmas card design contest. Mrs. Mitchell also worked in oils, pastels and charcoal and was an ardent painter of fine china, a craft which she taught for many years in Brantford. The two storey council building – ‘Big House’ or Ji-ka-non-so-deh-go-neh according to the sketch, is at the left of the painting.”
I understand that the above-mentioned Mrs. Brown, an elderly woman by 1915, based her sketch on childhood memories of the village. The Frances Mitchell watercolour and Mrs. Brown original pencil sketch are cherished family heirlooms. The Chapel is a National Historic Site. Please see History of Mohawk Chapel for more information.
Pantheon | John Ecker