A history of Canadian Yearly Meeting, abridged from the CYM Discipline.
Early history of Friends
During the Puritan Revolution in England, George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Society of Friends, became dissatisfied with the ceremonials, creeds and practices of the existing churches. After growing up in a devout family, Fox left home at nineteen and wandered for several years like many other restless seekers, questioning his Bible, ministers, and anyone who would listen. But he remained unsatisfied.
Finally, as he later recorded in his Journal: “when all my hopes in… all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, Oh then, I heard a voice which said, ‘there is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition’, and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.” The faith of John’s gospel he “knew experimentally” — that “the true light which enlightens every man was coming into the world” even in his day.
To him this was a new revelation. Yet his finding reemphasized Luther’s priesthood of all believers, and drew unconsciously from the accumulated experience of saints and mystics. Although the Puritans also re-emphasized the power of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people, Fox believed that his contemporaries were unwilling to trust the seed, which was another name he used for the indwelling light. He knew from experience, confirmed by intensive study of his Bible, that this Light or Spirit is the source of unity, joining the good in each of us to our neighbour’s good, and also identifying the evil revealed by hypocrisy.
In supreme confidence, simplicity, and strength of youth, George Fox began in 1647 to “proclaim the day of the Lord” in the Midland counties near his Leicestershire home. He attracted a group of men and women who, once convinced that “Christ has come to teach his people himself”, joined the joyous work as publishers of truth or as friends of the truth, Children of the Light, or simply Friends. Perhaps they remembered John 15:12-17, where Jesus called his followers friends. The unconvinced, however, derisively called them Quakers, perhaps because they professed to tremble before the Lord or because of the actual physical effect of the over powering intensity of their message. To find the Light they felt the need for silence which continued in their meetings for worship except when someone felt the need to share the light that had broken forth.
After five years Fox went to Northwestern England where he found whole congregations already meeting in silence without appointed ministers. He won the household of Judge Fell of Swarthmore Hall, which became the centre of the movement. There the sympathetic and influential judge, although remaining apart from the movement, protected the Quakers from the prevailing hostility against Dissenters. Margaret Fell organized relief funds for persecuted Friends and bound them together through the encouragement of letters. The Society of Friends was born in 1652, although membership was not fixed for some eighty years, and no Quaker has been found to have used the name Society of Friends in print prior to 1793.
Their numbers had increased past 40,000 by 1660, and further group action by Friends was needed for many purposes. While breadwinners were off on missions, families had to be provided for. Likewise, sustenance had to be supplied when property became distraint for non-payment of tithes and through other legal exactions. Friends’ marriages without the office of a priest, which was against statute but in accordance with common law, had to be arranged.
In 1653 William Dewsbury advised Friends to hold “a general meeting. . . once in two or three weeks, as the Lord makes way, to see that order be kept.” This was what later became the Monthly Meeting. The 1656 advice of a meeting of elders at Balby, with which our discipline still begins (see the Preface of Organization & Procedure), asserted the pre-eminence of “a measure of the light,” which should guide all business transactions.
During the last years of Cromwell’s rule, Friends emerged from sparsely populated northern England. They focused on London and other major cities in southern England, but also took their message into Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Quakers travelled abroad on missionary journeys, one such Friend being Mary Fisher, a maidservant, who addressed her ministry to the Sultan of Turkey and his court. Their first gathered following in the Americas was in 1655 among the Puritans of Barbados.
From these, and similar gatherings in the north, emerged a constellation of monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings. London became the centre but there was no formal bond between yearly meetings for over two centuries. In general, the need to protect the Society increased the influence of travelling ministers.
Friends spoke both with their words and with their lives. To a degree unusual for their times they practised equality of the sexes, equality of status, equality of ages; simplicity of clothing, speech and way of life; peace, in withdrawing from the army and in settling disputes among themselves. Suspected by the Stuarts as subversives, they published their first peace testimony in 1660, at the Restoration. These testimonies, inherited chiefly from the Anabaptist wing of Protestantism, they defended by quoting from the Bible. For this behaviour large numbers were jailed, whipped, branded, fined and deported. Penalties were uneven according to the temper of the judges and the locality, and more severe after the Church of England was re-established under Charles II. England was inching toward toleration and becoming less and less sure of the effectiveness or value of enforcing conformity; and Quaker steadfastness under persecution helped in persuading officials to permit dissenting practices.
Friends in North America
In America, the first general or yearly Meeting gathered in 1661 in relatively tolerant Rhode Island. It is apparently the oldest continuous Yearly Meeting of Friends. More new Meetings started after George Fox and a dozen English Friends visited in 1671-1672. They spent nearly five months strengthening Meetings in Barbados and Jamaica, landed in Maryland and passed through the wilderness to Friends in East Jersey, Long Island and Newport. Colonial Rhode Island Friends represent, with William Penn and the Quaker leaders in the Jerseys and Pennsylvania, the best of political Quakerism. They were willing to hold power in order to move the state nearer to the truth. Penn advised: “Keep the helm through the storm if you would steer the ship toward the harbour.”
Contact with Indigenous and African people in America led to the development of the first new testimonies based on the principle of equality. Progress was uneven and slow between 1683 and the 1750s, when John Woolman began his mission to First Nations and more especially to Quaker slave holders and slave traders. With Anthony Benezet and others he aroused Friends’ consciences, until slavery and the slave trade were abolished in the Society. Concerns for racial justice have continued ever since, although broadening awareness of new implications has been painfully slow.
A different, conservative, Society of Friends developed in the eighteenth century. Its first leaders had died by 1700 and its members were wearied by proscription and schism. Simplicity and honest dealing had brought them business success. Refusal to take oaths, as implying a double standard of truth, had cost their forebears many a prison term and much loss of property; but since 1696 Whig laws had begun to recognize their affirmations. Like many other Christians they shunned enthusiasm and were little touched by the Great Awakening or the Wesleyan revival. They followed the ways of their forebears, reasoned lethargy into virtue, but yet kept their light shining dimly. In Pennsylvania they withdrew from government in 1756 rather than administer the colony’s contribution to the French and Indian War. They kept more to themselves, bound their group together with rules, customs and much intervisitation, and balanced their birth rate with rigorous disownments.
During the imperial wars between France and Britain and in the American Revolution, the peace testimony was repeatedly tested and elaborated. Rhode Island and Massachusetts Friends sought peace during King Phillip’s War and the Dutch wars. Most American Friends sympathised with the colonials’ struggle for the rights of British subjects, but no more than at Charles II’s Restoration did they approve of revolution. They had strong religious, business, and cultural ties with England and were grateful for crown favours. Trying to be neutral, they were suspected by both sides of being spies and favouring the enemy, and were treated roughly.
Separation and expansion
By the opening of the nineteenth century, two divergent tendencies became apparent among American Friends. Both had roots in early Quaker thought, but had subsisted together without seriously disturbing the unity of the Society. One eventually identified with the followers of Elias Hicks (1717-1830), was associated with ideas of political democracy and stressed the Inward Light as the basis of salvation rather than the atonement made by Christ on the cross. Accordingly, when Hicksites referred to Christ as their saviour, they meant the Christ within rather than the Christ of history. The other was a renewed interest in Evangelical Christianity, which centres upon the meaning and influence of events in Christian history and rests heavily on Biblical authority as understood by leading ministers. Both reformist and evangelical trends reflected influences dominant in contemporary Protestant thought. Fortunately in England these tendencies produced only the small Beaconite separation. The tension between the two American Quaker groups, however, grew steadily more severe until in 1827 a separation took place in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Similar separations followed in some of the American Meetings, all the groups continuing to claim the title of Religious Society of Friends. Eastern Quakerism, weakened by separation, suffered further losses by emigration through out the nineteenth century. Proportionally large numbers swarmed into the Old North West, Ontario, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon and California.
Arthur Garratt Dorland, the historian of the Religious Society of Friends in Canada, has written: “The migration of Friends to Upper Canada was simply the fringe of this great westward movement of which those who came to this Province constituted the merest fragment.” Nevertheless, the establishment of Quaker settlements in Canada was invariably by pioneering emigrants from America but not, as is often assumed, by loyalists in the sense of United Empire Loyalists. The latter were active in their support and allegiance to the King’s party while the former, as was indicated above, must necessarily have been neutral as they remained accredited members of their parent Meetings. While earlier attempts at settlement had been made in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and at Farnham in Quebec, these were not lasting, but permanent communities were realised at Adolphustown on the Bay of Quinte and at the same time in the Niagara District, so that before the close of the eighteenth century there were organized in Adolphustown and in Pelham, the first Monthly Meetings of the Society of Friends in Canada.
These first settlements of Canadian Quakers continued in attachment to the parent New York and Philadelphia Yearly Meetings from whence they had come and, consequently, the separations which affected the Society in America produced similar results among the meetings in Canada, culminating in the great Schism of 1828. One group of Hicksite Friends was first organized as Genesee Yearly Meeting in 1834. It later became affiliated with Friends General Conference, the latter having headquarters in Philadelphia. A second group called Orthodox Friends of Canada Yearly Meeting claimed, as their name implied, to be the continuing body of Friends after the separation of 1828. It was first organized as an independent Yearly Meeting in 1867 by authority of New York Yearly Meeting, of which it was originally a part. It later became affiliated with the Five Years Meeting of Friends (now Friends United Meeting) which has headquarters in Richmond, Indiana. The third group, called The Conservative Friends of Canada Yearly Meeting was organized in 1885 following the so-called Wilburite Separation. This group was associated with similar Conservative Meetings in the United States, of which the principal centre was in Ohio, but was supported by and recognised by a majority of Philadelphia Friends. Terms referring to the three Yearly Meetings in Canada can be confusing but those used hereafter, and which were used consistently through Yearly Meeting minutes prior to union are: Canada Yearly Meeting (Five Years Meeting), Canada Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and Genesee Yearly Meeting (General Conference).
Major wars have required Friends everywhere to intensify their search for the spirit of peace in the modern world. Southern Friends were sharply tested by Confederate conscription in the American Civil War. Quaker experience in Union armies was similar though less severe. In the two World Wars larger numbers of Friends have accepted military service, more especially so in the United States than in Canada or Britain, but the Meetings have consistently upheld the traditional testimony of clearness from war preparation and participation. As war has become more comprehensive in its impact on citizens individual testimonies have included tax refusal, non-registration, alternative civilian service and non-combatant military service.
Howard Brinton has written that, “Relief work undertaken to repair damages caused by war or conflict is a natural corollary of the peace principle.” To touch briefly on this interesting and important aspect, Friends for 300 Years notes that that relief work outside the Society seems to have first occurred during the Irish War in 1690, when Quakers supplied prisoners of war with food and clothing. In 1755 the Acadians, banished from Canada, were aided by Friends of Philadelphia and, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the red and black Quaker Star was first used as a distinguishing mark. Today it designates Quaker service of all kinds all over the world. In 1914 the substitution of relief work for military service began in England with the Emergency Committee for the Assistance of Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, and Turks in Distress, The War Victims Relief Committee, and the Friends Ambulance Unit which took care of men wounded in battle. This Unit was too closely tied to the war effort to receive the official endorsement of the Society of Friends but the larger part of its members were Friends. These organizations were joined by the Friends Service Council, now incorporated into the Quaker Peace and Service department of London Yearly Meeting. Soon after the United States entered the war in 1917, the American Friends Service Committee was formed to assist conscientious objectors and send relief workers abroad. In 1931, the three Yearly Meetings in Canada decided to appoint representatives to a united Canadian Friends Service Committee. A chain of emergencies has perpetuated some of these institutions until they have become principal agencies uniting all Friends in world-wide work among those suffering in the wake of war. Gradually, however, purely relief functions have been subordinated to the goal of reconciliation.
Steps toward unity and the formation of Canadian Yearly Meeting
Rufus M. Jones (1863-1948) threw the whole weight of his winning personality into the reconciliation movement within twentieth century society. He interpreted modern trends in Christian thought through his inspirational and philosophical writings. His research on the history of Quakerism connected the Society with its mystical background. Through diplomacy and dedication he was instrumental in the organization of the Five Years Meeting (now Friends United Meeting), the Young Friends movement, and the series of World Conferences held since 1920. Canadian Yearly Meeting participates in these and in Friends General Conference and in the Friends World Committee for Consultation. These broad organizations do not draw every variety of Quaker, but they have extended the bonds of unity.
Another result of the conciliatory trend of the twentieth century has been the reunion of branches in the same areas. This movement reached formal completion in New England in 1945, just a century after the separation of the Gurneyites and the Wilburites. New York and Philadelphia re-united soon after and the two Baltimore Yearly Meetings re-united in 1967. In Canada, too, the desire for re-union had been taken to heart by some Canadian Friends prior to 1921 and it grew concurrently with the movement in America. For a number of years prior to 1928, fraternal delegates had been appointed to attend Yearly Meetings of the three branches of the Society of Friends in Canada. In fact, fully a decade before this date, little delegations of Elders from Genesee Yearly Meeting had made exploratory visits to those groups from which they had been cut off. There were some return visits and a real step forward came when Fred Ryon, pastor of Pelham Brick Church Meeting, and his congregation invited Genesee Yearly Meeting to hold sessions in their Meetinghouse in 1921. Business sessions were open to both memberships and Meetings for Worship were shared.
The desire for unity was also stimulated in 1928 when Genesee Yearly Meeting (General Conference) and Canada Yearly Meeting (Five Years Meeting) held their annual meeting in joint and concurrent sessions to coincide with a similar joint meeting held at the same time by the two parent branches of the New York Meetings on the one hundredth anniversary of the Great Separation of 1828.
Meanwhile other straws in the current gave clear indication of the direction in which Canadian Friends were going. In 1933 a number of Conservative Young Friends attended Camp NeeKauNis for the first time. Begun originally under the auspices of Toronto Monthly Meeting, the camp, beautifully situated on the shores of Georgian Bay, soon became one of the major projects of the Canadian Friends Service Committee. From now on young Friends began to take an increasingly important part in the union movement.
Young Friends, having worshipped, worked, and played together at Camp NeeKauNis over the years, were not aware of any significant differences which should keep them apart. While the Second World War was grinding slowly toward its final phase, an important step was taken toward an organic union of Canadian Friends when, in 1944, the Canada Yearly Meeting (Conservative) decided to join the other two Yearly Meetings at Pickering College in joint and concurrent sessions. A Committee on Closer Affiliation appointed to consider the question reported in 1954 that, since “unity has been a growing power over the years of our meeting together, we now accept the desire of Friends for a United Yearly Meeting in Canada…. We are now prepared to proceed with ways and means whereby this may be accomplished.” When the minute recording this decision was accepted, the Committee was further charged “to bring recommendations the following year for a basis on which to proceed as one Yearly Meeting.”
Though the decision in favour of organic union had seemed unanimous in 1954, when the Committee brought in its report the following year it met with the first openly expressed objection, principally on the ground that there could be no organic union except on some common doctrinal basis. However, the overwhelming body of opinion favoured implementing the decision of the previous year for a unified organization. The recommendations of the Joint Committee on Closer Affiliation were accordingly accepted, including a new name for the united Yearly Meeting as “The Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.” Pelham Quarterly Meeting, comprising two rural Meetings in which the Evangelical-Revivalist tradition of the 1890s was still strong, decided for the time being to stand aside from the united Yearly Meeting.
A fitting climax to the consummation of union in June 1955 was the Meeting for Worship held on First Day morning in the Conservative Friends’ Meetinghouse on Yonge Street near the town of Newmarket.
The complexion of Canadian Quakerism has changed since the end of the war from a largely rural aspect to that arising from a concentration in urban areas, where seekers from many walks of life are attracted together. The Society in Canada has also become revitalized by the new vision of many members and attenders from overseas and by a new orientation centred on the advance of Western Canada where the seeds of new Meetings have taken root and flourished.
An important difference still exists within the Society in the United States. A large majority of members in Friends United Meeting belong to Meetings that developed a pastoral system of programmed Meetings for Worship as a result of the Great Revival of the late nineteenth century. Their outreach has resulted in strong missionary work among Western Indians, and in Alaska, Latin America, Jamaica, Jordan, and Kenya. There were scarcely more Friends all together in 1700 than in the rapidly growing East Africa Yearly Meeting in 1964.
Growth of affection and familiarity among members working on common projects makes it hard to recall today the nineteenth century divisions. The accepted variety of outlook in the Canadian Yearly Meeting is the outward embodiment of inner unity. As Friends draw closer to each other they are drawn closer to God.
Developments Since 1955
In 1955, Friends in Canada took the momentous step of becoming a unified Canadian Yearly Meeting born out of the genuine desire to start life together as one family of Friends. They had lived in the tradition of the separations which took place in North American Quakerism from 1826 to 1881. By 1955, separations had been in place for 129 years covering many generations. Working together on a unified Canadian Yearly Meeting Discipline (Organization and Procedure) was the starting point of life together as one spiritual family. (The introduction of revised disciplines from parent Yearly Meetings was one cause of disunity in the past.) However, at the time of union in 1955, it was recognised and recorded that articulation of the Quaker faith amongst Canadian Friends was unresolved and this would be the underlying longing and searching of Friends as they worshipped, witnessed, and worked together in the growing fellowship of the Yearly Meeting.
Over more than three decades since unification, the work on revision of Organization and Procedure has continued. As Friends have felt led, each section has been reviewed or revised by the Yearly Meeting Discipline Review Committee, considered by Monthly Meetings and eventually approved by Yearly Meeting in session. Christian Faith and Practice in the Experience of the Society of Friends of London Yearly Meeting continues to be used for religious inspiration and reference. This volume, together with Advices and Queries and Organization and Procedure, constitutes the Discipline (Church Government) of Canadian Yearly Meeting.
The growth of fellowship among members of Yearly Meeting in spite of the great geographical distances, in Half-Yearly Meetings, in committees, in local Meetings, in service and witness and the understanding of one another as members of the Religious Society of Friends, has enabled Friends to become a nation-wide Quaker community. This has been strengthened by a number of developments. In 1972, several Meetings in western Canada (also affiliated with Pacific Yearly Meeting) became fully a part of Canadian Yearly Meeting.
Individual membership has slowly increased from 603 at the time of union, to 1157 in 1990. A considerable number of Friends are inactive or non-resident. Request for membership by convincement is steady but slow. Approximately one third of the active members serve on Yearly Meeting committees. Most Meetings have a circle of regular attenders. In the smaller Meetings there is often a lack of Friends experienced in the life of the Society of Friends. Approximately 100 members do not live close enough to a Meeting to allow for active participation. They are recorded by Home Mission and Advancement Committee as isolated Friends.
In all of the 24 Friends’ Meetings and 25 Worship Groups comprising Canadian Yearly Meeting (1990), worship takes place on the basis of silent, expectant waiting upon God in the traditional Quaker way. State of Society Reports continue to confirm that “in spite of some despondency, Friends in their Meetings are united in cherishing the Meeting for Worship based on silence as the true centre of their life together”. Rural Meetings, especially in Ontario, have continued to decline in recent years, some having been discontinued. New Meetings and Worship Groups have come into being, especially in rapidly growing urban centres across the country, such as Hamilton, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Edmonton. The innovative Prairie Monthly Meeting brings together Friends from outlying places on the Prairies. In Nova Scotia there is a Meeting in Halifax and, most recently, in Wolfville. Older Meetings such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary continue to be active. Argenta Meeting was started by Friends from California in the early 1950s. Twelve Monthly Meetings own their own Meetinghouses, which facilitate continuing opportunities for life together and for outreach.
Toronto Meeting (Canada Yearly Meeting [Five Years Meeting]) previously owned a large Meetinghouse on Maitland Street. In 1946, the Meeting moved to the present premises at 60 Lowther Ave, near Bloor St. in downtown Toronto. Today Friends are thankful for the inheritance of Friends House in the large city of Toronto, which provide accommodation for Toronto Monthly Meeting, Canadian Friends Service Committee, the Library, and Day Care Centre. In 1969, a large Meeting Room was added which enables the building to be the hospitable centre for Yearly Meeting committees and a wide variety of community organizations. The availability of rooms for overnight accommodation for visiting Friends is of great service to the Yearly Meeting, whose Office was located in Friends House until it moved to Ottawa in 1989.
The historic decision to hold Yearly Meeting outside Ontario, first in western Canada in Saskatoon in 1970, and later in the Maritimes in 1974, alternating with Pickering College, Newmarket (which for many years has been the hospitable home ground for Canadian Yearly Meeting), has made it possible for Friends and attenders from all parts of Canada to become more fully integrated into the Society of Friends. To enable Friends to travel the great distances Yearly Meeting travel budget has been constantly expanded. Funds left in trust by generous Friends in the past supplement the contributions of Meetings and individuals.
The Yearly Meeting continues its historic association with the wider Quaker community through affiliation with Friends General Conference and Friends United Meeting, and membership in Friends World Committee for Consultation (Section of the Americas). This participation brings much enrichment of spirit and of life, and often challenges Friends’ understanding of the Quaker faith. The three streams of Quakerism (which united in Canada in 1955) continue in some areas of the United States, whilst in some Yearly Meetings unification took place. In some Yearly Meetings in the United States there are pastoral Meetings and varying theological emphases, and there are also traditional Meetings based on silent worship. Evangelical Friends Alliance (now Evangelical Friends International) was founded in 1965. The appointment of a Yearly Meeting Continuing Meeting of Ministry and Counsel has deepened concern for the spiritual nurture of the Meetings, and for the pastoral care of members. It has also tackled contemporary ethical problems with which Meetings and individuals are faced.
Canadian Friends Service Committee is a standing committee of the Yearly Meeting. The Service Committee was established in 1931 and represented the wider organization of Friends in Canada across the divisions. In 1955, it became the service arm of the new Canadian Yearly Meeting. Service projects were already in existence in 1955. The strength and experience which came from participation in Friends’ war time and post-war relief and witness brought fresh impetus to the work of the Committee. Younger Friends and newcomers who had done Quaker service abroad as conscientious objectors in relief and ambulance work, along with Friends from other Yearly Meetings, participated in the work with concern and enthusiasm. The concerns, witness and projects of the Service Committee over the past 59 years have brought much life into the Yearly Meeting, at times with challenges and problems to be resolved. Service projects, peace witness, and education have been supported as Friends have felt guided and have recognized that Quaker concern is “that leading of the Holy Spirit which may not be denied.” The struggle perhaps has been to discern true guidance for projects which express a religiously-based approach to the life of our times and which are not solely philanthropic or humanitarian work.
In 1963, the Service Committee took a bold step for the Peace Testimony by accepting the offer of Diana Wright for the use of Grindstone Island on Big Rideau Lake (90 km south of Ottawa) as a Friends Peace Education Centre. Imaginative peace and reconciliation programmes took place there in which Canadian Friends attenders and many others concerned about peace (including a number from the United States) participated. These programmes included training in non-violence, French-English dialogue, Conferences for Diplomats and Quaker-UNESCO Seminars organized by the Canadian Peace Research Institute. The work would hardly have been possible without the service of Murray Thomson as Peace Education Secretary (1962-1969) and other able and concerned Friends who worked on the Island.
In 1980, there was a deeply felt need expressed at Yearly Meeting to explore and to renew the spiritual roots of the Quaker Peace Testimony, to deepen our lives as Friends and to be enabled to make a more effective and religiously based peace witness in the world. Two years later, the committee appointed by Yearly Meeting recommended that concerned Friends (Peace Elders) be released to “travel in the ministry under concern for the spiritual and religious roots of the Peace Testimony.” Much dedicated work and travel has been undertaken by these concerned Friends. After a great deal of searching and consideration, the Yearly Meeting laid down the Peace Elders in 1989, affirming the practice of releasing Friends to minister.
This retrospect of developments in the life of Friends in Canadian Yearly Meeting since 1955 reminds us of the positive, often very concrete factors which the Yearly Meeting inherited, which were created by the faithfulness of Friends in the past. It also shows us that Friends over the years since 1955 have, with God’s help, become a community of Faith and have themselves continued to build a house of living stones with their own contributions to the glory of God.
Friends have continued to work for the Kingdom of God as Jesus commanded, which expresses Friends’ longing for the salvation of the world. They have remained steadfast to this calling since George Fox’s vision on Pendle Hill of “a great people to be gathered.” Over these years, Friends have found guidance through the Presence of God in worship and, in the inward experience of each, shared in the fellowship of the Meeting, thus being empowered by the Spirit of Christ to work for those in need. Becoming a People of God, we work together for the transformation of ourselves, and, through that, of the world. Though the community of Friends in the world today is numerically small, our calling to experience that inward and shared knowledge of God as the redemptive meaning of our individual and corporate existence remains as vital as it has always been.
By Richard MacMaster
Friends began settling in the Niagara region in 1786. They were part of a larger migration “from the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, particularly the county of Sussex, in the latter state”.(1) Many incoming settlers, including some Friends, had stood loyally by King and country during the American Revolution and could be counted as refugees from the United States. Nearly all Friends who came to Niagara had taken no active part in the war and did not claim to be Loyalists. They had suffered nevertheless from double taxation and the loss of civil rights for their refusal to bear arms or pledge to defend the new nation. These penalties continued after the war. In 1778 Quakers in Chester County “in behalf of themselves and others in similar circumstances” petitioned the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania for relief stating that “being conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms, they have been fined in considerable sums for not attending militia musters” and their property seized by local collectors who gave no receipts so “the petitioners are still chargeable with the same fines.” In urging repeal of “the present disgraceful test law” in 1789, the editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette observed that: Virginia, and the governor of Canada, have already taken advantage of our folly; they invite Quakers, and other sects who are opposed to oaths, and promises of fidelity to government to come and settle among them.(2)
Other patterns can be seen in this Quaker migration. It originated in a small number of Quaker communities that had exceptionally close ties with one another. Friends who settled in the Niagara peninsula came from southeastern Lancaster County and eastern Bucks County and from Sussex County, New Jersey. Mennonites, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Anglicans also came to Niagara from these same places. During the American Revolution this had been the safest route for British prisoners escaping from internment camps to reach their own lines at New York. Sergeant Roger Lamb, for instance, recorded in his journal how “our worthy friends the Quakers” helped him and his companions across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Quite a few settlers in Ontario had sheltered these fugitives and some had suffered for it.
Friends in other parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey sent few or no members at all to Ontario. Friends moving to Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in these same years did not come from meetings in Bucks County or Sussex County. Of 84 Quaker migrants from Pennsylvania who brought certificates of membership to Hopewell Monthly Meeting in 1786-1797, Chester County meetings accounted for 52 individuals and families with certificates. Sadsbury Monthly Meeting in southeastern Lancaster County sent 15 certificates, two meetings in York County sent 10, Exeter Meeting in Berks County sent 4, meetings in Montgomery County sent 3, and Philadelphia only 2. Since the wartime experience of Pennsylvania Friends was much the same, with no regional differences in the enforcement of state laws, these different sources of Quaker migration to Ontario and Virginia are striking. Only Sadsbury sent members to both Niagara and the Shenandoah Valley. In this case Friends reflected a broader migration pattern.(3)
The pattern was already an old one. In the eighteenth century some l,260 southeastern Pennsylvania Friends followed the Philadelphia Wagon Road to cheaper, but equally fertile, land in Virginia. “The migration accelerated dramatically in the 1760’s, when 291 Quakers moved south,” the majority of them with children. Land was no longer available for more than one or two sons of Chester County farmers, but the general prosperity of the region provided other alternatives to migration, as Duane Ball demonstrated. In his study of Chester County Friends, Barry Levy showed the degree to which they were able “to diversify their children.” They had some more investments, rented more land, and followed a wider variety of occupations than their parents had. Bucks County Friends used the same strategies. They combined farming and a trade and set their sons up as blacksmiths and wheelwrights and in every other honorable occupation. Migration also relieved pressure on a now limited supply of land. This migration was also at full tide in the 1760s. Fifty Quaker families moved to Virginia. Friends in Bucks County also crossed the Delaware to settle first at Kingwood in Hunterdon County, New Jersey and later to establish a daughter colony at Hardwick in Sussex County.
Movement to new lands on the frontier again began in earnest in the late 1780s as the economy revived in Pennsylvania after a period of severe depression. With farm prices improving, tenants and small land owners could afford to move. As Professor James T. Lemon noted in his classic study of southeastern Pennsylvania:
Even Quakers and Mennonites, after two or three decades during which their holdings did not expand, felt the pressure and established new colonies elsewhere. In the more expansive early 1790s movement was considerable.(4)
As land grew scarcer and land values soared in long-settled areas of eastern Pennsylvania, sons of large Quaker families would have to subdivide their father’s farm, move away or choose another occupation than farming. Subdividing a small farm made no sense. Economic diversification and migration to other settlements of Friends worked as ways to preserve the Quaker community so long as the individual sought counsel from the meeting in making a change and did not go off on his own “in a disorderly manner.” The experience of one Bucks County Quaker family can illustrate some pressures on the meeting.
John Gillam, who came to Ontario, a landless, unmarried young man, was one of eight sons of Lucas and Ann Dungan Gillam of Middletown Township in Bucks County. His father ranked among the less prosperous farmers and paid taxes on 117 acres in 1782. One son Simon, who married in 1783, lived on his father’s farm and eventually inherited it. Other sons appear on tax lists from 1785 through 1791 as landless or as tenant farmers, paying taxes only on a horse or a cow. Middletown Monthly Meeting disowned all of Lucas Gillam’s sons except Simon and Joshua. Joshua was too young to be challenged by military service in the American Revolution. His brother Simon’s losses by distraint for muster and substitute fines were reported to the Meeting for Suffering of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, but Lucas Jr. “left in a disorderly manner and joined a military body” in 1778. He was a Loyalist. Militia fines bore heavily on poor young men and distant places appealed to those with few prospects at home. Joseph “eft his master and these parts” in 1781 as an apprentice or hired man. He later went to Ontario, according to family tradition. James and John mustered with the militia in peacetime in 1786. Thomas “left these parts as a soldier” in 1794 and joined his brother in Niagara a year later. The other Gillam brother, Jeremiah, married a wife who was not a Quaker. Daughters of the family all remained Friends; the eldest moved with her husband to Sadsbury Monthly Meeting in Lancaster County in 1787.(5)
Establishing new communities evidently ranked high in the priorities of Friends who came to Niagara. Nearly all of them chose to settle in a compact Quaker rural neighbourhood; only a few selected lands in isolation from other Friends. They came to Niagara in extended families, so the religious community had a strong family base. Quite a few unmarried young men migrated, but usually in company with older parents, married sisters and brothers. There were not many isolated individuals among the Friends or any of the other migrants. The typical Quaker settler in Ontario belonged to a network of more-or-less closely related families who had moved at least once in the Colonies before coming to Upper Canada. The settler’s immediate family included a United Empire Loyalist, usually a brother or brother-in-law disowned for taking up arms in the King’s defence. Some Quaker settlers sold a profitable farm or mill before leaving for Ontario, but the typical Quaker migrant owned insufficient land for profitable farming and many were landless or farmed someone else’s acres as a tenant. Movement to the Niagara frontier in these years began what is called a chain-migration, with other family members and former neighbours following the first-comers a few years later. In some cases this involved migration in two stages. Friends from Bucks County, Pennsylvania and Sussex County, New Jersey were also going to the upper Susquehanna valley in Pennsylvania in the 1780s and 1790s, establishing meetings at Catawissa, Roaring Creek, Muncy and elsewhere. Some of them later moved to Ontario joining kin in Pelham and Yonge Street meetings.(6)
This chain migration of extended families included men and women of Quaker background who had been disowned in New Jersey or Pennsylvania or never associated themselves with the meetings in Upper Canada. Settlements of Friends in Niagara as elsewhere had families with only this tenuous link to the Society of Friends who nonetheless participated in the life of the community. Other convinced Friends carried unfamiliar surnames into the meeting. The Quaker settlements, while compact, were not isolated from their neighbours.(7)
Friends, like other settlers, took their time in locating lands at Niagara. This enabled them to select not only fertile acreage, but land close to other Quaker settlers. Philip Frey received an appointment in December 1784 as deputy surveyor “for making surveys in the Upper District of the Province of Quebec” and began surveying in the settlements at Niagara in 1786. Major Campbell, commanding at Niagara, wrote Frey in July 1786 urging him to “come down” and begin “making a regular survey of the whole settlement” which was needed “from the number of people daily coming in from American States.Ó In October 1788 Frey sent “a plan of the settlement of Niagara” to the surveyor general, but he was asked to make a new plan with the names of each settler on his lot. Frey replied that this was difficult to do:
With respect to my insertion of each Propietor’s name in his Lot be pleased to allow me to observe that the change of property &c is as yet so frequent that it would convey but a very uncertain acco’t of each man’s settlement, therefore could not be depended upon to stand on recordÉ the people being allowed to roam about and choose situations in every respect suitable to them makes this Settlement very much scattered and it would employ ten surveyors to follow them in order to lay out their lands .(8)
Irritating as this may have been to the deputy surveyor, Friends who came to Niagara over a period of years were enabled to locate or relocate Crown grants side by side in two major settlements.
Ezekiel Dennis may have been the first Quaker to settle on the Niagara peninsula. When he petitioned for additional land in 1797, Dennis presented an order dated 12 October 1786 from Major A. Campbell to Philip Frey, deputy surveyor, requesting that “Ezekiel Dennis being intitled to 500 acres for himself and Family as a Loyalist you’l please direct him to any ungranted Lands.” He came up from Richmond township in northern Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Tax records there indicate that Ezekiel Dennis owned 15 acres of land, a horse and a cow. In 1784 the assessor noted that Dennis had a dwelling house and a family of nine. The 1786 tax list indicated that he had gone away. He evidently returned for his family and recruited others. Richland Monthly Meeting gave certificates dated 25 5th month 1788 and addressed to Friends at Niagara to Ezekiel Dennis and his brother Joseph Dennis and their families. On June 3, 1788 Ezekiel and Ann Dennis deeded their land in Richland Township to Robert Penrose. Joseph and Deborah (Webster) Dennis, their three children, and Ezekiel and Ann Dennis and their nine children traveled to Niagara in the summer of 1788 to settle on lands Ezekiel Dennis had chosen.(9)
When he settled, Ezekiel Dennis located 200 acres at Point Abino on Lake Erie in what was to become Bertie Township. Since this represented less than his original grant, he was awarded 500 acres in 1797 for himself and his family. Ezekiel Dennis may have been the first settler in what was by 1789 “the Quaker township.” On the same day as his brother Ezekiel’s request, Joseph Dennis petitioned for confirmation of his lands fronting Lake Erie in Lot 15 of Humberstone Township and additional family lands.
John Hill Sr. stated in his 1796 petition that “he came into the Province in the year 1787 and was desired by Colonel Hunter to locate lands on Black Creek” and asked to be “confirmed in 400 acres which were allowed for himself and family.” John and Elizabeth Hill belonged to Buckingham Monthly Meeting in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but were living in Bertie Township in 1797 when their daughter Elizabeth married Nathan Havens. The tax lists of Buckingham Township credited John Hill with 180 acres, two dwelling houses, five outbuildings and a family of six whites in 1784. He was assessed for only 100 acres the following year and in 1786. His land petition is evidence that Hill was one of the earliest settlers in Bertie after Ezekiel Dennis.
The Dennis family network is a good example of the patterns of Quaker migration. Ezekiel’s grandfather was Joseph Dennis who sold his land in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and moved to Sussex County, New Jersey where he died in 1770. His oldest son John Dennis, a wheelwright, remained in Rockhill Township in Bucks County and later acquired land in neighbouring Richland Township. (He conveyed 16 acres of that land to his son Ezekiel, the first Dennis in Ontario.) Charles, the second son, eventually moved to Muncy; his son Levi settled in Pelham Township.
Joseph’s third son moved to Sussex County with his father. Richland Friends gave a certificate in 1767 to Joseph Dennis Jr., his wife Hannah Lewis Dennis and their seven children to Kingwood Monthly Meeting Their eldest son, also an Ezekiel Dennis, accepted a commission as Ensign in a Loyalist regiment, the New Jersey Volunteers; he came to Niagara and settled by 1790 in Clinton Township with other Sussex County Loyalists and died there in 1810. A sister (Anne) and brother (Lewis) of the Loyalist Ezekiel Dennis also came to Ontario. Anne Dennis married Daniel Willson in 1780. They moved with their nine children to Pelham Township with a certificate from Hardwick Monthly Meeting in Sussex County.(10)
Nathaniel and Obadiah Dennis came from Sussex County, New Jersey and settled in Humberstone. Obadiah Dennis indicated in his petition in 1797 that he came to Niagara with his wife and three children in 1787. Obadiah and Prudence Dennis were among the original members of Black Creek who were included in a 1799 list of “all those who have a right of membership” but some of the others who came in 1787 had been compromised by wartime activities and no longer belonged to any meeting of Friends. John Moore, although of Quaker background, had been fined and imprisoned in Sussex County, New Jersey for helping recruits get to the British lines. Benjamin Willson had also helped recruit for the British in Sussex County as his former neighbour Nathaniel Pettit testified. John Harrit came from Sussex County, New Jersey in 1787, according to his later land petition. He brought his wife, who was a daughter of Friends, Asa Schooley, and their one child. Abraham Webster, who was one of the original overseers of Pelham Monthly Meeting in 1799, came with his wife Ann Lundy and their nine children in 1787. All of them were from New Jersey and all of them settled on lands in Bertie Township and Humber stone Township fronting on Lake Erie.(11)
Friends formed part of a growing migration from New Jersey. In September 1787 Robert Hamilton compiled a list of “Families who have this Season Come into the Settlement of Niagara” and, of 48 settlers, he identified 44 as from Jersey. None of the settlers just named appeared on Hamilton’s list or a companion “Return of Loyalists and disbanded troops” already in the Niagara district. It is probable that they came later in the year. Adam Burwell arrived in 1787 but made his first improvements only in 1788, an indication that he did not live on his land through the winter. Some migrants did come very later in the season. A group of Baptist Families left Mansfield Township in Sussex County, New Jersey in mid-November 1788 to settle in Clinton Township in the Niagara peninsula.
Some early settlers located their lands and then returned home for their families. A second migration of Friends came in 1788. Asa Schooley and his family brought a certificate with them from Hardwick Township in Sussex County affirming that “he is an orderly and peaceable man, and is a member of the Society of The People called Quakers” and dated in April 1788. They were following their married daughter and others might have come with them from Sussex County. The Dennis families from Richland Monthly Meeting cannot have left Bucks County until June 1788.(12)
These Friends formed a reasonably compact settlement within Bertie Township and adjacent parts of Humberstone Township by 1793 when Jacob Lindley, Joseph Moore and other Friends from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting visited them. Moore mentioned Benjamin Willson, Asa Schooley, John Harrit, John Cutler, Daniel Pound, and Joseph Havens as among Friends he met in Bertie Township. The visitors “went to Ezekiel Dennis’s, up the side of Lake Erie about six miles, to Point Ebino” and next day continued “on the lake shore, about ten miles, to what is called the Sugar Loaf,” and called on seven Quaker families.(13)
The Quaker settlement stretched in contiguous farms on either side of the later town of Ridgeway. Joseph Marsh lived on Lots 16 and 17 Third Concession on the Garrison Road and the road from Fort Erie to Sugar Loaf. Adam Burwell was his neighbour on Lot 18. Joseph Havens, Benjamin Willson, Daniel Pound, Joel White Morris, John Harrit, whose petition suggested he had settled on Lots 28 and 29 as early as 1787, Asa Schooley, Jehoiada Schooley, John Hill, and Azaliah Schooley owned adjacent farms to the Humberstone line. John Moore, Joseph Havens and John Cutler all owned land across the township line. Ezekiel Dennis was located at Point Abino.(14)
Ezekiel and Nathaniel Dennis, Jehoiada and Azaliah Schooley, Joseph Havens and his son Nathan, John and Crowell Willson, sons of Benjamin Willson, Thomas Doan and John Cutler were among signers of a petition from settlers at Point Abino in 1793.(15)
Not all Friends lived in this neighbourhood. Abraham Webster settled much closer to Fort Erie on Lot 8 fronting on Lake Erie. Another group of Friends lived in Humberstone Township closer to Sugar Loaf. Abraham Laing, Wilson and Elijah Doan, Titus and Enos Doan, Joel White Morris, Joseph and Nathan Havens, Asa Azaliah, and Jehoiada Schooley, John Harret, John Cutler, Amos Morris, James and Samuel Wilson were among the signers of another 1793 petition, this one from “Inhabitants settled round the Point called Sugar Loaf.” Some of them, as we have seen, lived closer to Point Abino. There was another cluster of Friends in Humberstone Township. Joseph Dennis patented Lots 14 and 15 fronting on Lake Erie, Benjamin Schooley had a grant for Lot 18 Second Concession, and Thomas and Aaron Doan patented Lots 16 and 17 Third Concession.(16)
When Pelham Monthly Meeting was established in 1799, members of these families formed Black Creek Preparative Meeting. Abraham Webster, Asa and Sarah Schooley were the first overseers. John Cutler and his children, Abraham and Ann Lundy Webster and family, Obadiah and Prudence Dennis and family, Joseph and Deborah Webster Dennis, Joseph and Ann Havens with daughter Sarah, son Nathan, his wife Elizabeth Hill Havens, and their son Daniel and Prudence Pound and family, brothers Abraham and Isaac Laing, Titus and Deborah Willson Doan and son Wilson Doan were on the initial list of those at Black Creek with a right of membership among Friends. Ezekiel Dennis brought his certificate from Richland Monthly Meeting for himself and his family. Anna Morris, widow of Joel White Morris, and Joseph Marsh each brought certificates from Rahway and Plainfield Monthly Meeting for their families. Adam Burwell and his children requested to be joined among Friends.(17)
Other members of these same families evidently shared in the life of the Quaker community, for example, as witnesses at family weddings, but never held membership in Pelham Monthly Meeting.(18)
The Doan, Harret, Havens, Moore, Schooley, Webster, Willson families and some of the Dennis family were from Hardwick Monthly Meeting in Sussex County and Kingwood Monthly Meeting in Hunterdon County. The Laings came from Shrewsbury Monthly Meeting in Monmouth County, and the Marsh and Morris families from Rahway and Plainfield Monthly Meeting in Morris County. Ezekiel Dennis and his family from Richland Monthly Meeting and John Cutler and his children from Buckingham Monthly Meeting were the only settlers from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Cutler, a widower, brought his nine children in 1789 from Buckingham Township where he was taxed for 117 acres. Adam Burwell may not have been a Friend before coming to Upper Canada in 1788, as he said he had served under the British standard as a Loyalist and married the daughter of another Loyalist Nathaniel Veal. Daniel Pound, who served in the Engineers Department with the British Army on Staten island during the war, and was originally from Mendham Monthly Meeting in New Jersey.(19)
The Short Hills Settlers
Most of the Black Creek families came from New Jersey. Quaker settlers in Pelham and Thorold Townships, on the other hand, nearly all came from Bucks County and from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Joseph Moore, one of the visitors from Pennsylvania in 1793, set out from Niagara-on-the-lake and went along the Lake Ontario shore as far as the Twelve Mile Creek in Grantham Township, where he met with Benjamin and Jesse Pauling. Both men served as officers in Butler’s Rangers but they had Quaker relations in Philadelphia. The next day they “went three miles to our friend John Taylor’s.” John and Hannah Taylor lived in Township Number 3 (later called Grantham Township) in 1790 when their daughter Anne married Joshua Gillam of the same township. The Taylors came from Sadsbury Monthly Meeting in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.(20)
John Taylor informed his visitors that “divers Friends live at a place called the Short Hills, about twelve miles off” in Pelham Township. They passed an area of woodland devastated by the 1792 hurricane and stopped on their way to see Thomas Rice and Joshua Gillam, who came from Bucks County, where both had been landless young men. Joshua Gillam was of Middletown Township, and Thomas Rice and his wife Mary belonged to Buckingham Monthly Meeting and had lived in Solebury Township before coming to Upper Canada. (21)
The Philadelphia Friends, “finding a few Friends settled in this neighborhood,” mentioning James Crawford, Enoch Scrigley and John Darling, concluded to have meeting on first day with them at John Darling’s house. James Crawford and Enoch Scrigley were also landless when they lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In his 1795 petition for land, Enoch Scrigley said he arrived in the province on October 8, 1788 with his wife Mary and six children. The Scrigleys lived in Buckingham Township, where he was listed as a taxpayer in 1786 but owned no land, and belonged to Buckingham Monthly Meeting John Darling was also from Bucks County. He married Elizabeth Canby Birdsall, widow of Samuel Birdsall, who emigrated with their children from Upper Makefield in Bucks County in 1788 and died a year later. After her first husband’s death, she kept house for her brother Benjamin Canby. The Canbys belonged to Falls Monthly Meeting in Bucks County. Elizabeth Darling petitioned for land in her own right and for her four children in 1795.(22)
Benjamin Canby, the father of these two Niagara pioneers, was a blacksmith by trade. He moved from Buckingham to Falls in 1770 and on to Upper Makefield by 1786 when he sold his 50 acres in Falls Township. Falls Monthly Meeting disowned his sons Joseph and Thomas in 1778 for joining the British army. Joseph served in the Bucks County Volunteers and Thomas in the King’s American Dragoons. Both men settled in New Brunswick. Joseph Canby joined the Quaker pioneers at Pennfield. Their nephew Samuel Birdsall, Jr. later wrote that his uncle Thomas Canby, “who was a British loyal subject, has at the close of the Revolution, retired with the British troops, and settled at the City of St. Johns in New Brunswick.” The eldest son, Whitson Canby, was disowned in 1770 for marrying out of meeting and Elizabeth Canby Birdsall in 1780 for marrying a cousin, but both later satisfied Friends and remained active Quakers. Another sister Martha married Joseph Taylor at Upper Makefield in 1788. The Canby’s, with their Loyalist connections and ties to other Quaker communities in Bucks County could be at the centre of the 1788 migration to Pelham Township.(23)
The Pelham settlers actually formed a more connected migration than their Pennsylvania origins suggest. At first glance the Pelham Friends seem removed by more than just a few miles from the Black Creek community, but many ties linked Bucks County and Lancaster County Friends to New Jersey meetings. When James Moore Jr. from Sadsbury Monthly Meeting in Lancaster County was married to Rebecca Birdsall of Hunterdon County, New Jersey in 1782, many of the wedding guests who travelled from Bucks or Lancaster would be neighbours a few years later in Niagara. Among those who signed the marriage certificate were Samuel Birdsall, his wife Elizabeth Canby Birdsall, Benjamin Canby, Ann Birdsall, who married Samuel Taylor, William Pettit and his wife Sarah Birdsall Pettit, Andrew and Ruth Birdsall Moore, Jeremiah and Mary Moore.(24)
The Moores and the Taylors from Lancaster County, the Canbys from Bucks County, and the Birdsalls from across the Delaware in New Jersey not only knew one another, but formed a single extended family. When Pelham Monthly Meeting was constituted in 1799 Jeremiah and Mary Moore, John and Hannah Taylor, John Jr. and Elizabeth Moore Taylor, Samuel and Ann Birdsall Taylor, from Sadsbury Monthly Meeting, Joshua Gillam from Middletown Monthly Meeting and his wife Anne Taylor Gillam from Sadsbury Monthly Meeting, John and Hannah Hill from Buckingham Monthly Meeting, their son Benjamin Hill and his wife Ann Moore Hill from Sadsbury, and Benjamin Canby from Falls Monthly Meeting together with Samuel and Hannah Becket from Woodbury, New Jersey and Jesse and Sarah Thomas from Merion Monthly Meeting in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania were the original members. Jacob Moore (1767-1813), son of Jeremiah, brought a certificate from Sadsbury Monthly Meeting in 1800 “some years (2 or 3) after Jacob Moore had become a member.”(25)
They all came in 1788, as far as can be established, but they did not all settle together initially. The Pelham Quaker settlement represented a deliberate choice to locate Crown lands where Friends could form a compact colony. Jeremiah Moore of Sadsbury in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania had “been a great Sufferer during the American War on account of his attachment to Great Britain,” according to his 1795 petition for land. He said he came in 1786 with his wife and eight children. Sadsbury Township assessed Jeremiah Moore for 200 acres and two dwelling-houses and counted a family of ten in 1783. His 200-acre farm was valued at £600 putting him in the top 30% of landowners. His name is on the 1787 and 1788 tax rolls, with a tenant on the land in the latter year. The assessor marked “gone” against his name in 1789. If he was in Upper Canada in 1786 looking for suitable land, the family migration was evidently completed in 1788.
Jeremiah Moore located his lands in Township 2 (later called Stamford), where the visitors from Philadelphia stayed with him in 1793. They noted that his house was “within about three miles of the great cataract” and went with him and his son-in-law Benjamin Hill to see Niagara Falls. He was still living in Stamford Township in 1795 when he asked for an additional 500 acres, which he located in Pelham Township.(26)
Solomon Moore, on the other hand, related in his 1795 petition that he came into the Province in 1788 and improved Lots 11 and 12 in the Eleventh Concession of the Township of Pelham, as well as Lot 6 in the Eighth Concession, to which latter he was in some measure forced to go for water. He received Crown grants for all these lots. Sadsbury Monthly Meeting sent a request to Pelham Monthly Meeting in 1802 regarding Solomon Moore, but as he seldom attends our meeting Pelham Friends took no action.(27)
The language of Solomon Moore’s petition suggested that land in Pelham was there for the taking. This situation did not last long. Friends obtained Crown grants for a solid bloc of south eastern Pelham Township from the Seventh to the Fourteenth Concessions, and from the Thorold Township line westward as far as Lot 9. Additional grants to Moores and Hills extending along the western edge of Pelham gave grounds for considering it, like Bertie, the Quaker township. Friends with Crown grants in Pelham Township were James Crawford, Enoch Scrigley, Jeremiah Moore, Jacob Thomas, Benjamin Hill, Jacob Moore, Solomon Moore, Joshua Gillam, Thomas Rice, John Taylor, Sr., John Taylor, Jr., Samuel Taylor, James Moore, John Darling, Elizabeth Darling, Jacob Birdsall, and John Hill, Jr.
A few Friends settled at an early date in Thorold. John Hill, John Wilson, John and Adam Dennis were among the settlers shown on a map made in 1794 by Augustus Jones. Benjamin Canby owned land in Thorold Township adjoining the Quaker settlement in Pelham.(28)
The two centres of Quaker settlement at Black Creek and Pelham drew other Friends who had taken up land in more distant communities as well as Friends who came after the first settlers.
After 1801 new settlements at Yonge Street in York County began to attract migrants from the United States and a few families from Black Creek and Pelham joined them. Before Yonge Street Monthly Meeting was established, Friends moving to Upper Canada brought certificates of membership to Pelham Monthly Meeting A substantial number of early Pelham certificates consequently belonged to settlers who never actually lived in the Niagara district, but these settlers can be readily identified. A more difficult problem is the impossibility of knowing, given the fact that Pelham Minutes mention a certificate in a given year, whether the individual had recently arrived or had sent to the former place of residence for a certificate years after coming to Canada. Benjamin Canby left Bucks County in 1788, but only requested a certificate from Falls Monthly Meeting to Pelham Monthly Meeting in 1801. An analysis of Pelham certificates is fraught with peril. Hardwick Monthly Meeting and neighbouring Kingwood Monthly Meeting in New Jersey kept up a small but steady migration to Niagara in 1790-1812. The later migrants generally settled in Pelham and Thorold, where they were obliged to purchase land in order to settle near other Friends. This was a classic chain-migration. Daniel and Anne Dennis Willson moved to Pelham with their nine children from Hardwick in Sussex County, New Jersey requesting a certificate in July 1801. She was the sister of Loyalist Ezekiel Dennis. They may have joined her relatives in Niagara somewhat earlier. His younger brother Jesse Willson married Anne Shotwell in 1790 and also requested a certificate from Hardwick Monthly Meeting in January 1801. Her parents William and Elizabeth Shotwell, both ministers among Friends, came in 1803 with two unmarried daughters and settled in Thorold Township. A son Elijah Shotwell came soon afterward with a certificate from Westbury Monthly Meeting on Long Island, New York. All three subsequently married into families originally from Hardwick. Family connections similar to this drew Friends from Buckingham Monthly Meeting in Bucks County as well as the two New Jersey meetings despite the limited amount of free land available in or near the two established Quaker communities. For them the community and family were clearly more important than access to good land at no cost. Joseph Hill married Grace Brotherton in 1798 at Hardwick and moved in 1800 to Niagara where both had relatives. In 1803 they went to Yonge Street where they could settle among Friends and obtain a Crown grant of 200 acres. Many others chose York County settlements. Contemporary Quaker migration to York County indicated free land was a factor. (29)
Other Friends took a different approach. William Man, who came from New Jersey in 1787, selected lands in Grantham Township where his descendants lived a century later; he is identified a Quaker in government documents but never in the Pelham Minutes. The Friends from Philadelphia met with others in 1793 who chose to live at a distance from other Friends and remained on their original grants. They went about two miles from Niagara Falls “to our friend William Lundy’s” where they held a meeting on first day. Lundy, who was from Sussex County, New Jersey, had grants of land on Lundy’s Lane. Robert Spencer, another Friend, owned nearby land, but Stamford Township never developed a viable Quaker settlement. Later they visited “our friend Richardson” on the Niagara River in Willoughby Township. Edward Richardson sold his land in Willoughby to Benjamin Hershey in 1795.(30)
Friends who took no counsel from their own meeting and “left in a disorderly manner” were less likely-to choose land in one of the established Quaker settlements. Chesterfield Monthly Meeting asked Pelham Monthly Meeting in 1800 about Thomas Horner, originally from King- wood, “coming to this province without concurrence of his friends.” In 1803 Pelham Friends reported that Horner had accepted a military commission and was administering oaths as a civil magistrate and disowned him.(31)
Quaker migration to Niagara reflected Loyalist sympathies, since so many of the 1786-1790 settlers had close relatives who had violated the peace testimony of Friends to take up arms for King and Country. Their deliberate choice of settlement in two compact Quaker communities, both when Crown grants were available and when land had to be purchased, is an indication of the importance of the religious community to them. Since so many Quaker settlers had been landless or had limited economic opportunity in their former communities, economic considerations played a significant part. Like other settlers who left older Quaker communities for newer settlements of Friends, those who came to Niagara were following a traditional strategy of preserving Quaker family and community values by migration. The gradual shift of migration to York County and away from Niagara reflected the desire for economic opportunity within a Quaker community.
Niagara was the destination of only a few Friends who chose migration. The movement to Niagara in 1786-1801 drew on such a small number of Friends meetings in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and on a network or related families that linked them together, that it represented a chain-migration of family members over several decades. This migration of close relatives was complete by 1820. This fact, more than the availability of cheap lands in the Ohio Valley, will explain the gradual decline of Quaker migration from the United States to Niagara.
- R. Gourlay, Sketches of Upper Canada (London, 1822), I, 134.
- Colonial Records of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1852), XV, 418. Pennsylvania Gazette, February 4, 1789. Arthur J. Mekeel, The Relation of the Quakers to the American Revolution (Washing ton, D.C., 1979), 315-319.
- Hopewell Friends History 1734-1934 Frederick County, Virginia (Strasburg, Va., 1936), 422-434.
- Larry Dale Greeg, Migration in early America: The Virginia Quaker Experience (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1980), 27, 36-38. Duane E. Ball, “Dynamics of Population and Wealth in Eighteenth-Century Chester County, Pennsylvania,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, VI (Spring 1976), 621-644. Barry Levy, Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley (New York, 1988), 241-243. James P. Snell, History of Sussex and Warren Counties. New Jersey (Philadelphia, 1881), 743-745. James T. Lemon, The Best Poor Man’s Country: A Geographical Study of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania (Baltimore, Md., 1972), 227.
- Martha Paxson Grundy made this material available to me from her forthcoming dissertation at Case Western Reserve University on Middletown Friends.
- Bruce S. Elliot, Irish Migrant in the Canadas: A New Approach (Kingston, Ont., 1988), 82-115 and passim is a classic explanation of chain-migration.
- Martha Paxson Grundy, “Are Outcasts Cast Out?: Disownment, Inheritance, and Participation in Middletown Monthly Meeting,” Mercer Mosiac, IV (Spring 1987), 41-44.
- “District of Nassau Land Board, Letter Book No. 2,” Third Report of the Ontario Bureau of Archives. 1905, 308-309, 312-315.
- Bucks County Deeds, Richland Township Tax Lists, Microfilm, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pa., E.A. Cruikshank, “The Settlement of the Township of Fort Erie, Now Known as the Township of Bertie: An Attempt at a Domesday Book,” Welland County Historical Society papers and Records, V (1938), 24-25 and 47. Elwood Roberts, Old Richland Families (Norristown, Pa., 1898), 40-42 and 62.
- Clarence V. Roberts, Early Friends Families of Upper Bucks (Philadelphia, 1925), 99-103. Land Book B, May 2, May 16, 1797, Report of the Department of Public Records and Archives of Ontario. 1930, 149. Grimsby Historical Society, Annals of the Forty, IV (1953), 49. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
- Pelham Records, Canada Yearly Meeting (hereafter CYM) Archives, Pickering College, Newmarket, Ontario. Cruikshank, “Settlement”, passim.
- Asa Schooley’s certificate is owned by Howard Schooley, Port Colborne. E.A. Cruikshank, ÒRecords of Niagara 1784-1787.Ó Niagara Historical Society. 39 (Niagara-on-the-lake, 1928), 126-8.
- Ambrose M. Shotwell, comp., Journals of Jacob Lindey and Joseph Moore or Quaker Accounts of the Excedition of 1793 to Detroit and Vicinty (Lansing, Mich., 1892), 76-77.
- Abstract Indices, Bertie No. 1, Humberstone No. 1, Welland County Registry Office, Welland, Ontario. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
- “Petitions for Land Grants, 1796-1799,” Ontario Historical Society 26 (1930), 99-100. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
- Ibid., 24 (1927), 136-137. Abstract Index Humberstone No. 1, Welland County Registry Office. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
- Pelham Minutes, 1799-1801. CYM Archives.
- Pelham Register and Marriage certificate. CYM Archives.
- Pelham Minutes, 1799-1801. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
- Shotwell, Journals, 58. Pelham Minutes.
- Shotwell, Journals, 58. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives, Ottawa. Bucks County Tax Lists, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pa.
- Samuel Birdsall, “History,” Edwin Seaborn Collection, London Public Library, London, Ontario. W.W. Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1936), I, 987. Bucks County Deeds, 1786-1787, 137, Microfilm, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pa. Esther C. Wright The Loyalists of New Brunswick (Fredericton, N.B., 1955), 267.
- James W. Moore, comp., Records of the Kingwood Monthly Meeting of Friends. Hunterdon County. New Jersey (Flemington, N.J., 1900), 14.
- Pelham Minutes and Pelham Register, CYM Archives. Shotwell, Journals, 58. Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives, Ottawa. Lancaster County Tax Lists, Penn-sylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Harrisburg.
- Shotwell, Journals, 59.
- Record Group 1, L3, Land Petitions, National Archives, Ottawa. Bucks County Tax Lists, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pa.
- Corlene Taylor and Maggie Parnall, The Mini-Atlas of Early Settlers in the District of Niagara 1782-1876 (St Catherines, Ont., 1984), 53, 62-63. Indices, Pelham No. 1 and Thorold No. l, Registry Office, Welland, Ontario.
- Moore, Records, 39-40. Pelham Minutes, Pickering College. Hardwick Register, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College.
- Shotwell, Journals, 59. Index Willoughby No. 1, Welland County Registry Office, Welland, Ontario.
- Pelham Minutes. CYM Archives.
By Lise Hansen
The Quaker quest for peace, rooted in seventeenth century England, branched into Ontario more than two hundred years later and continued to flourish and expand.
In 1661, the Society of Friends made this declaration of conscience to King Charles of England:
“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move into it, and we certainly do know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of the world.”
War and strife followed Friends to the new British colony, where maintaining non-compliance with war and its mechanisms proved difficult. Internal differences divided and reduced their membership, but Quaker commitment to peace remained. During their early years in Upper Canada, the scope of their quest was limited to philanthropy and the avoidance of military service. But during the early twentieth century, due to their effective use of conciliation and their firm belief that war is basically wrong, Quakers influenced and became actively involved with other Ontarians in addressing the causes of war. Thus, the historical development of the Society of Friends in Ontario has, of necessity and desire, included political conciliation, pacifist activism, and promotion of arbitration as a route to peace on a local and global scale.
During the first century and a half in Ontario, Quaker membership declined due to schisms and strict codes of conduct. The structure and principles of the society guided the remaining members towards a leadership role in the promotion of peace in Ontario.
The fundamental ideals of Quaker opposition to war are religious and ethical, whereas other concerns, such as economics, are subsidiary to the main positions of Christian peace and conscience.(1) In their early days in Ontario, Quaker customs of plain dress and speech set them apart from their neighbours. Codes demanding adherence to Quaker principles were strong; therefore those who diverged were disowned by their congregations or ‘meetings.’ Whereas other Protestant denominations offered “overpowering emotionalism”, Quaker meetings ideally were, and still are, quiet affairs at which men and women, as equals, seek to listen and share in a search for the truth. As arguing and voting are felt to be divisive, language is seen as a peacekeeping device in which “each insight refines the other until the group’s ideas have been blended into an agreeable and creative solution.”(2) This process starts at several constituent preparative meetings held in anticipation of the ‘Monthly Meeting.’ Representatives of all Monthly Meetings attend ‘Quarterly’ or ‘Half Yearly Meetings’ and the representatives of these meetings attend the highest jurisdiction, the ‘Yearly Meeting’.(3) Throughout the process consensus is sought; thus Yearly Meeting decisions reflect the entire membership. This process is slow and cumbersome but relatively effective in achieving unity.
However, on three occasions in the 1800s consensus could not be reached, resulting in schisms which diminished membership dramatically.(4) By the turn of the twentieth century, there were three doctrinally separate Yearly Meetings in Ontario, with a combined total of approximately twelve hundred members, less than one-quarter of their former total. Whereas each new group maintained affiliation with American Friends, they had practically no contact with Friends who had settled in the Maritimes.
Ontario Friends who later migrated to Western Canada developed strong ties with western American Friends.(5) Natural geographic access has played a more important role to Canadian Quaker associations than have political boundaries. Strong affiliations within the society do not, however, preclude strong association with the non-Quaker community; therefore the conciliatory process practiced in meetings tends to spill over into their dealings with the larger society.
The first American Quakers who settled in Upper Canada in 1784, and those who followed, were part of a great migration of Americans which lasted until the 1820’s.(6) Some pro-British Quakers fled the United States to be free of political persecution and post-revolutionary economic hardship.(7) Although not technically United Empire Loyalists, the Quakers were invited and welcomed to Upper Canada by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe because of their qualities of honesty and hard work, as well as their sense of community-building in the wilderness.(8) Although a few American Quakers fought for the British (and lost Quaker membership as a result), those who had not fought had at least not supported the revolution.(9)
Although Simcoe would have preferred to populate Upper Canada with members of the Church of England, who would have been willing to further British ideals, including a strong militia, insufficient numbers of Anglicans were available.(10) Therefore, he enticed the American peace sects – including the Quakers, Mennonites, and Tunkers – to Upper Canada with promises of the benefits of British law, an abundance of land, and respect for their pacifist ideals.
These ideals were reflected in the Militia Act of Upper Canada of 1791, which excused the peace sects from military service – but in lieu of bearing arms, the law imposed a tax on all military-aged objectors. Whereas the Mennonites felt that the tax was simply an imposition and a financial hardship, the Quakers could not reconcile payment with their religious principles as paying money for the support of war was tantamount to supporting war.(11) The Quakers, therefore, refused to pay the tax and, as a result, their goods were frequently seized and sold to cover the amount of the tax.
As an ill-will was brewing, not only between the Quakers and the government but between the Americans and the British, Quaker leaders felt a need to reassert their principles of non-compliance. In 1806, Timothy Rogers and Amos Armitage of Yonge Street Monthly Meeting met with Lieutenant-Governor Gore to advise him of Quaker loyalty to the existing government and to reaffirm Quaker opposition to war.(12) The Governor indicated his support and acknowledged the Quaker peace testimony. Nonetheless, in 1809, a law was passed authorizing military officials to impress horses, carriages, and oxen to be used for military defence – and imposing jail sentences upon religious objectors who had not paid their tax in lieu of military service.(13)
Men from the Yonge Street Monthly Meeting, which was located on a military road, were regularly jailed or went into hiding to avoid imprisonment.(14) Local meetings suffered confiscations estimated in the thousands of dollars.(15) These impressments, seizures, and incarcerations resulted in a strong, active lobby by each of the peace sects for the repeal of the 1809 statute.(16)
During the following War of 1812, the Anglican governing class of Upper Canada suspected all American immigrants of disloyalty to the Crown. Thus, settlers were, for a while, threatened with the loss of their land – and at least one Quaker lost his right to vote and hold office.(17) Yet, for the most part, despite physical and emotional hardship, Ontario Friends refused to be co-opted into this war effort.
Members of the next generation, however, found themselves embroiled in armed political conflict with the governing class of Upper Canada causing unsettling effects in the Quaker community.(18) Despite their peace testimony, several young Quakers decided to participate in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 and 1838. After years of intimidation, some individual convictions to peace principles faded in the midst of social and political injustice. A few of the Quakers who were involved in the insurrection were subsequently caught and served prison terms. One was hanged for treason.
Within the society, those who did not admit error in bearing arms were disowned by their meetings.(19) Shaken by these events, some meetings felt it was best to withdraw from external influences and a period of relative quietude followed. This stance was reinforced when, in 1849, the three peace sects received a blanket unconditional exemption from military duty by the government of Canada West, resulting in a period of decreased political activism by the Quakers.(20)
Throughout their history in Ontario, Friends had been and continued to be active in the promotion of social justice. They took a leading role in Ontario in supporting the ‘underground railway’, the mechanism which allowed American blacks to escape slavery, and helped the fugitives to adjust to their new life in Ontario. Far ahead of public sentiment, they advocated equal rights, universal suffrage, prison reform, and the abolition of capital punishment.(21) They petitioned the Canadian government for acceptance of Doukhobour refugees into Canada and for the fair treatment of Hindus in British Columbia.(22) Through promotion of social issues such as these, Friends developed expertise which would stand them in good stead in the fight for peace.
After Canadian Confederation in 1867, the first Canada Yearly Meeting of Friends, held at Pickering, Ontario, delivered a statement of the Quaker position on war, oaths, and liberty of conscience to Governor-General Monck and Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, in an attempt to maintain the exemptions contained in the Militia Act of 1849.(23) Subsequently, the new Dominion of Canada reaffirmed the Militia Law as it stood at this time.
In the new province of Ontario, Quakers resumed their lobby for non-aggression. In 1869, the Canada Yearly Meeting formed a committee to address the aggressive nationalism that appeared in Ontario’s public school text books. In 1891, each of the three Yearly Meetings in Ontario became affiliated with “The Peace Association of Friends of America,” which historian Arthur Dorland refers to as “the most important peace organization among Friends in the western hemisphere at the time.” By 1895, Quakers of Ontario were influenced by the Quaker-inspired Lake Mohonk Conference of New York, which favoured arbitration instead of war as a method of settling international disputes. In 1896, the Genesee Yearly Meeting sent a deputation to Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, urging him, among other things, to address the responsibility of public men to curb militarism.(24) These were precursors to activities in the wars which followed.
In 1899, when the British government became embroiled in the Boer War, the Quakers passed and published strong anti-war resolutions, while the only other Protestant body in Ontario to express opposition was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (whose membership included many Quaker women). Presbyterian and Methodist church newspapers actually endorsed the war.(25)
Opponents of war were labelled an ineffectual and unrepresentative body of agitators, chronic objectors, traitors, and villains.(26) Nevertheless, Friends persisted in their denunciation of strife and at the conclusion of the war the “Friends Association of Toronto” helped organize the non-denominational “Peace and Arbitration Society,” the first secular peace organization in Canada. It adopted the statement of the Lake Mohonk Conference favouring peace and arbitration. This document was then endorsed by the Boards of Trade of Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton – as well as the Farmers Convention of Ontario and several churches and civic and religious leaders.(27)
Notable among those who endorsed the statement were Quakers: Charles Zavitz, interim president of Guelph Agricultural College, and Elias Rogers, businessman and Liberal politician. The Peace and Arbitration Society eventually attracted over a thousand members, headed by William Mulock, chief justice of the Ontario High Court of Justice.
In 1907, as a response to the popular peace movement, a resolution to turn the Hague Conference into a permanent international congress with powers of arbitration was endorsed by the Ontario Legislature. As a result of the influence of the Peace and Arbitration Society, the Presbyterian Assembly condemned war as contrary to Christian morals in 1911. Methodists involved in the Peace and Arbitration Society proposed labour strikes in protest of war.(28) Thus, the early public support for the Boer War was transformed by many into revulsion for war after its conclusion.
In Ontario, principles of peace were regaining public favour; however no peace mechanism had been created to enable “Christian good-will to express itself.” The chairman of the Peace and Arbitration Committee lamented that within Ontario society peace had “been accepted generally as a beautiful abstract idea, worthy of realization, but impracticable, and war as undesirable, yet necessary and practical.”(29) The Canada Yearly Meeting then called for Quakers to take a lead in instituting a peace movement which would be “memorable in history.”(30)
Pacifists in Ontario underwent a transition and adjustment to social reality. According to historian Thomas Socknat, there are those who believe that war is inhumane and irrational and should be prevented but is sometimes necessary, and those who believe that war is absolutely and always wrong.(31) Religious groups who oppose war in the abstract but who become convinced that some wars are just fall in the first category, while sectarian pacifists like the Quakers and Mennonites fall into the second category.
Historian Peter Brock labels Mennonites as ‘separational’ pacifists who maintain their pacifist stance exclusive of outer society and thus had less influence on the peace movement. Quakers are referred to as ‘integrational’ pacifists whose ideals led to social change.(32) The Quaker transition during the Boer War and the upcoming Great War was in methodology, not in the basic principle of religious non-compliance with war and its mechanisms.
Socknat contends that “Quakers went beyond negative anti-militarism and… began to relate war to socioeconomic conditions and to encourage interest in international affairs.”(33) In 1913, the Genessee Yearly Meeting at Coldstream, Ontario expressed a need for change of the basis of its operations “to give more liberty to each monthly meeting” and hoping that Quaker effectiveness in reaching its goals would be enhanced.(34) The Canadian Peace and Arbitration Society, a wing of this meeting, called for celebration of one hundred years of peace with the United States, the formation of neighbourhood peace societies, and the observance of Peace Sunday to counter military propaganda.(35)
At Newmarket, in the same year, the Canada Yearly Meeting Committee on Peace delivered a resolution to the government and people of Canada expressing “the earnest concern of Friends” that Canada should encourage peace and arbitration both nationally and internationally, rather than to continue increasing expenditures and activity in preparation for war and ‘so called’ defense. It went on to suggest that money appropriated for the military would be better spent on the establishment of a ‘Canadian Peace Commission,’ to help eliminate distrust between nations and to help stem the tide of militarism in Canada.(36)
Quaker writer David Starr Jordan, in the same year, reported on Canadian involvement in the military. He contended that the campaign for naval defense of Canada was coincident with three allied syndicates attempting to sell armaments at enormous profits to both sides of the dispute and to drum up fear of aggression.(37)
As indicated earlier, promotion of militarism in Ontario’s schools had drawn Quaker attention as early as 1869. Cadet training had been instituted in Ontario in the 1880s and had blossomed since the Boer War. A huge cadet parade became an annual event in Toronto on Empire Day.(38) This fostering of aggression was once again addressed by Friends. The Canada Yearly Meeting contended that militarism in schools should be supplanted by “intelligent teaching as to the terrible results of war economically and morally to a nation.”(39)
Prior to 1914, massive armies had been building up in Europe and politicians declared that such action alone was a deterrent to war. However, neither massive armaments nor peace rhetoric would prove to stop the inevitable war.
Some political, church, farm, labour, and women’s groups endorsed peace and arbitration in a general sense but did not connect it with the economic structure of society, nor did they have a solid commitment to its implementation.(40) When war erupted in Europe, Ontario’s commitment to peace declined rapidly. Despite the about-face of much of Christian Ontario, the Quakers, once again, maintained their pacifist stance during wartime.
In August of 1914, when Germany declared war on Russia and invaded France, there was unrestrained enthusiasm in the streets of Toronto, as hundreds of men celebrated the war. After mobilization was announced on August 5, volunteers throughout Ontario paraded to the railway station and the crowds cheered them on. Ontario had found new heroes – and an idealized and unrealistic attitude towards the coming war.(41)
War propaganda, controlled by the government and promoted by the military establishment, helped to reinforce fears for the future of Christendom, causing Ontarians to respond emotionally. Enthusiasm for the war quickly rose, as the religious press – including the Canadian Baptist, the Anglican Canadian Churchman, the Presbyterian Record, the Presbyterian Witness, and the Methodist Christian Guardian – declared the war to be a righteous cause.(42)
By September of 1914, S.D. Chown, the superintendent of the Methodist Church in Canada declared Christianity itself to be at stake and asked Methodists to answer the will of God and enlist.(43) Dorland claims that “a few young Friends [perhaps a dozen] to whom the Peace Testimony of the Society was merely traditional, either were swept along with the popular current, or they truly believed this was a ‘just war’.” The Society of Friends in Ontario as a whole, however, never wavered in its conviction that war was not compatible with Christianity.(44)
In the midst of such war fervor, Ontario Friends continued their peace activism and worked in support of war relief associations and the freedom to abstain from war and its mechanisms.
Men who had not enlisted in the war effort were taunted as ‘slackers’ by women and children on the streets,(45) and W.B. Creighton, editor of the Methodist Guardian, asserted that “pacifists were guilty of ‘dull obstinacy’, ‘bitter prejudice’, and ‘plain stupidity’.”(46) But The Canadian Friend of 1914 continued to admonish against militarism in schools.(47) Meanwhile, the Genesee Yearly Meeting of July 1915 gave financial support to the Friends Ambulance Corps in Europe, and Edgar Zavitz was appointed as the meeting’s representative for War Victims Relief the following year.
In 1916, the same meeting reported that “the bending of religious principle had allowed poverty, excessive wealth, ambition, [and] class distinction” to develop, adding that “civilization had produced an intricate machine for cultivating production or destruction” and that the education and legal systems had “distorted Patriotism, Loyalty, and Free Institutions of Democratic Civilization.” The meeting expressed a need to influence the course of events by taking responsibility for practical application of peace principles.
Also in 1916, the various meetings that had become dissociated during the nineteenth century schisms started to correspond with each other for “closer bonds of fellowship and love”, thus beginning a united and concerted effort for a common pacifist goal. In May of 1917 the three Yearly Meetings of Friends in Ontario joined forces in the Friends Legislative Committee to attempt a more effective resistance to an anticipated conscription bill culminating in a resolution sent to Prime Minister Borden.(48) Leaders Albert Rogers, Charles Zavitz, and George Clark affirmed Quaker opposition to bearing arms and requested that Militia Act exemptions be carried over to any new measure and be extended to all conscientious objectors regardless of affiliation.(49)
Throughout the war, Ontario Friends served humanity in non-military ways. Some served in the Friends Ambulance Unit in Europe or gave financial help to relief organizations. The War Victims Relief Committee of the Society of Friends had been in France, Holland, and England since 1914. Letters from George Bycraft of Coldstream, Ontario, describe his volunteer effort in France where he and other Quakers had built over four hundred small wooden houses in northern France for inhabitants whose homes had been destroyed by war.(50) Pickering College, the Quaker school at Newmarket, Ontario, was donated until 1921 as a hospital for returning veterans.(51) Thus the Quakers of Ontario made their pacifist influence felt.
As the supply of volunteers dried up and war casualties increased, Prime Minister Borden called for conscription and in July of 1917 the new Military Services Act was passed. Once again exemption was granted to those who conscientiously objected to undertaking combatant service and were “prohibited from doing so by the tenets and articles of faith… of any organized religious denomination existing and well recognized in Canada… and to which he in good faith belongs.”(52)
Despite the Quaker appeal for inclusion of all conscientious objectors within the terms of this legislation, several churches opposed to military service were excluded.(53) As in the older Militia Act, Quaker exemption was from combatant service only, therefore a Friend might be compelled to become part of the military machine. Ontario had relatively few young Friends at the time – and most of these were farmers, who were granted exemption from military service so that they could carry on this industry vital to the country. Nevertheless, two young Friends from the Genesee Yearly Meeting who were granted exemption from combat were sentenced to one term of hard labour in prison for refusing mandatory non-combatant service.(54)
The Canadian Peace and Arbitration Society disintegrated during the war,(55) but as a precursor to their post-war activities, the three Yearly Meetings continued to work together on war-related problems.(56) During the twenties, Quakers in Ontario continued to sponsor peace societies. Friends continued to donate to relief work in Poland, France, Germany, Russia, and Austria. Some remained in Europe to help the victims of war. And in 1922, Ontario Friends Albert Rogers and Fred Haslam collected donations from across Canada ($60,000 from Toronto alone) for the American Friends’ Service Committee and the Canadian Save the Children Fund. Ontario Friends also became involved with the Conference of Historic Peace Churches, which met to discuss war issues.(57) Then, in 1926, Arthur Dorland organized the Canadian Branch of the World Alliance for International Fellowship through the Churches so that the member churches could work towards common Christian goals.
In 1931 the Canadian Friends Service Committee, a natural outgrowth of earlier endeavours, was founded at Toronto Friends House to promote global peace. The committee collected funds from Quakers and non-Quakers alike for distribution to world relief organizations. It endorsed the ideal of international co-operation expressed by the League of Nations, but called for economic rather than military sanctions as a means to peace. It also called for nations to share equitably in the resources of the world as an essential preliminary to permanent peace.(58) This body encouraged Prime Minister Bennett to appoint delegates to the Geneva Disarmament Conference in 1932, in the hope that it would encourage the various parties to try to understand their corresponding needs and conflicting viewpoints.
Arthur Dorland and Raymond Booth, Quaker leaders in Ontario, joined others to found the Institute of Economic and International Relations – commonly referred to as the Couchiching Conference – which met at Geneva Park, Lake Couchiching, Ontario in 1932. This organization was set up on the understanding that a search for the fundamental causes of war and the educational dissemination of the findings were the building blocks on which peace could be created. It attracted outspoken Canadians such as Eugene Forsey, who joined the staff the following year. Ontario Quaker spokesperson Fred Haslam later became a leading figure in the Institute.
Throughout the thirties, Peace Caravans of young Quakers promoted passive non-resistance in Ontario, Friends organizations sent leaflets to members of the Canadian Parliament advocating peace, and the Quaker organization the Toronto Peace Library promoted peace and social justice.(59) These were impressive accomplishments for a relatively small group of people.
Such promotion of peace on a global scale was made possible by the efforts of a century and a half of individuals seeking conciliation and guided by a strong conviction of conscience, both religious and ethical. Ontario Quaker activism in the early years manifested itself in a narrow focus – that is, the maintenance and improvement of the Militia Act, which allowed Quakers abstention from militia duty. While their role in the social welfare of others was significant, their pacifist influence on the province was somewhat limited. Their pacifist activism and their Christian commitment to peace by arbitration and consensus were precursors to a broader pacifist perspective that was developed during Ontario’s involvement in the Boer and the First World Wars. Practical application of this perspective resulted in the organization of the non-denominational Peace and Arbitration Society and the joining of the three Yearly Meetings in Ontario in the Friends Legislative Committee. After the First World War, as a natural outgrowth of Friends’ peace activities with outside groups, the Canadian Friends Service Committee and the Institute of Economic and International Relations were formed in Ontario to deal with global issues of relief and peace. Thus, during and after these wars, Ontario Friends increasingly involved themselves in the larger community in an attempt to influence the way in which Ontarian, Canadian, and global societies dealt with matters of war and peace.
- Friends and War: A New Statement of the Quaker Position, adopted by the “Conference of All Friends,” (Philadelphia: Friends Bookstore, 1927), page 5.
- Cavey, Verna Marie, Fighting Among Friends: The Quaker Separation of 1827 As a Study in Conflict Resolution, (Doctoral Dissertation, Syracuse University, 1992), pp. 20-43.
- Hovinen, Elizabeth J., Quakers of Yonge Street, (York University, Department of Geography, Discussion Paper Series), pp. 32-33.
- Dorland, Arthur G., History of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Canada, (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1927), p. 104. The local schism of 1812 created a short lived sect, the Children of Peace, which decimated the Yonge Street Monthly Meeting. The larger North American schisms of 1828 and 1881 had more lasting effects. In 1828, the Hicksites split from the Orthodox New York Yearly Meeting to become Genesee Yearly Meeting. In 1867, a Canada Yearly Meeting of Orthodox Friends was formed in Ontario. In 1881, the Orthodox Friends split into the Progressive and Conservative branches, each retaining the name Canada Yearly Meeting. After WW II, the Progressive, Conservative, and Hicksite branches formally united to become the Canadian Yearly Meeting.
- Haslam, Fred. 1921-1967: A Record of the Experience with Canadian Friends (Quakers) and the Canadian Ecumenical Movement, (n.p., 1968), p. 103.
- Ibid., pp. 55-57.
- Peers, Laura L., “The Not So Peaceable Kingdom: Quakers Took up Arms in the Rebellion of 1837,” The Beaver, June/July, 1988, p. 5.
- Epp, Frank H., Mennonites in Canada 1786-1920: A History of a Separate People, (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1974), p. 67.
- Ibid., p. 99.
- Ibid., pp. 70-71.
- Brock, Peter. Freedom From Violence: Sectarian Nonresistance From the Middle Ages to the Great War, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 225.
- Dorland, Quakers, p. 94.
- Brock, Freedom, p. 227.
- Reflections on the Pioneer Settlement of Newmarket by Two Yonge Street Quakers, (The Newmarket Historical Society, Occasional Papers, Volume 1, Number 2.)
- Dorland, Quakers, p. 317.
- Epp, Mennonites, p. 101.
- Peers, Peaceable, p. 6.
- Ibid., pp. 4-9.
- Ibid., pp. 7.
- Brock, Freedom, p. 225.
- Dorland, Quakers, pp. 293-312.
- Canada Yearly Meeting Report, July, 1913.
- Dorland, Quakers, p. 325.
- Ibid., p. 327.
- Miller, Carman, “English Canadian Opposition to the South African War as seen through the Press,” Canadian Historical Review, December, 1974, pp. 422-434.
- Ibid., p. 438.
- Dorland, Quakers, p. 328.
- Socknat, Thomas P. Witness Against War: Pacifism in Canada, 1900-1945, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), p. 30.
- Minutes of the Proceedings of the Genesee Yearly Meeting, at Coldstream, Ont., 1913.
- Canada Yearly Meeting Report, July, 1913.
- Socknat, Witness, p. 7.
- Brock, Peter. Pacifism in Europe to 1914. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972), pp. 474-475.
- Socknat, Witness, p. 21.
- The Genesee Yearly Meeting encompassed meetings in New York State as well as in Ontario. Canada and the United States responded to the upcoming war at different times and in different ways. More autonomy within the individual meetings allowed different responses to federal laws within each country.
- Minutes of the Proceedings of the Genesee Yearly Meeting, at Coldstream, Ont., 1913.
- Dorland, Arthur G. “Militarism in Canada”, The Canadian Friend, July, 1913, pp. 5-6.
- Jordan, David Starr “The Defense of Canada”, The Canadian Friend, Dec., 1913.
- Socknat, Witness, p. 35.
- The Canadian Friend, July 1913, pp. 5-6.
- Socknat, Thomas P., “Canada’s Liberal Pacifists and the Great War”, Readings in Canadian History: Post Confederation, Third Edition, ed. R. Douglas Frances and Donald B.Smith, (Toronto: Holt, Reinhart and Winston of Canada, Ltd., 1990), p. 349.
- Wilson, Barbara M., ed., Ontario and the First World War 1914-1918: A Collection of Documents. (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1977), pp. xvi-xix.
- Socknat, Witness, pp. 49-50.
- Marshall, David B.,”Methodism Embattled: A Reconsideration of the Methodist Church and World War One”, The Canadian Historical Review, LXVI, 1, 1985, pp. 49-50.
- Dorland, Quakers, p. 329.
- Marshall, Methodism, p. 51, and Socknat, Witness, p. 62.
- As in Socknat, Witness, p. 62.
- The Canadian Friend, Feb., 1914, p. 15, and April, 1914, p. 9.
- Minutes of the Proceedings of the Genesee Yearly Meeting, at Coldstream, Ont., 1916.
- The Canadian Friend, Oct., 1917, pp. 6-7.
- Bycraft, George, of Coldstream, Ontario, private letters.
- The Canadian Friend, June, 1920, p. 11.
- Excerpts from the Military Services Act, as quoted in The Canadian Friend, Oct., 1917, p. 9.
- Penton, James M., Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada, (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1976), p. 56. Excluded from the legislation were the Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, International Bible Students, Pentecostal Assemblies, and Plymouth Brethren. Exempted from military duty were the Seventh Day Adventists, Christadelphians, Quakers, Western Mennonites, and Doukhobors. Ontario Mennonites had lost their exemption in a 1904 change to the Militia Act.
- Dorland, Quakers, pp. 332-333.
- Allen, Richard, The Social Passion: Religion and Social Reform in Canada 1914-1928, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971), p. 320.
- Haslam, Record, p. 22.
- Ibid., p. 83.
- An Alternative to Sanctions: A Statement of the Canadian Friends’ Service Committee (pamphlet published in 1935).
- Ibid., pp. 49-50.