In 1883 a group of Christian bible scholars met for the first time at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, near Niagara Falls and established the principles of Christian fundamentalism. It was here that the Niagara Bible Conference gathered every year from 1883 through 1897 (with the exception of 1884). It met at the Queen's Royal Hotel and its pavilion. James Brooks, in his Truth magazine describes the meeting of 1892 as one
"more largely attended than ever before. Often every seat in the pavilion was occupied, and the porches were filled with eager hearers of the Word. The place too becomes more beautiful as the years go by, and it would be difficult to find a spot better suited to the quiet and prayerful study of the Sacred Scriptures. The building in which the Conference meets, overlooking Lake Ontario and the River Niagara, and surrounded by green trees, is secluded from the noise of the world; and so excellent were the arrangements for the accommodation of the guests, both in Queen's Royal Hotel and in the boarding houses of the village, that not a word of complaint was heard from any one." Some of the scholars who were present, known as the founding fathers of Fundamentalism, were W.E. Blackstone, Charles Erdman, James H. Brookes, William Moorehead, A.J. Gordon, A.C. Dixon, C.I. Scofield, and J. Hudson Taylor (who founded the China Inland Mission).
The messages generally centered on the doctrines of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, missions and prophecy. Premillennialism was defended and taught. Article XIV of the 1878 Niagara Bible Conference Creed states,
"We believe that the world will not be converted during the present dispensation, but is fast ripening for judgment, while there will be a fearful apostasy in the professing Christian body; and hence that the Lord Jesus will come in person to introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and that this personal and premillennial advent is the blessed hope set before us in the Gospel for which we should be constantly looking." Some of the contributions of the Niagara Conference were:
- The conference spawned new missionary activity and evangelism
- The conference contributed to the rise and spread of a large Bible conference movement (such as the Northfield conferences)
- The conference had a significant impact on the rise of the Bible institute and Bible college movement
- The conference gave early expression to Fundamentalism's emphasis on concentrated Bible study
- The conference precipitated a vast amount of Fundamentalist literature, especially on the subjects of prophecy, the Person and work of Christ, the Holy Spirit and missions.
David O. Beale, In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850