Uxbridge Quaker Heritage

The Roots of Uxbridge Quakerism

The seed from which Uxbridge Quakerism grew was planted by young George Fox of England in the mid 1600s. The 19-year old had become disillusioned with the way in which professing Christians were failing to live up to the standards they preached. He spent several years in search of spiritual help, and challanged many religious forms and beliefs. Others who favored some degree of religious liberty met informally with him to pray or preach at appointed times and places. Instead of holding traditional services, they waited together in silence to receive from within Divine directions which prompted them to speak.

The Beliefs

This new movement grew from 1648 to 1650 under Fox's leadership. He and his followers believed in:
 - The immediacy of Christ's teachings and guidance, and the inspiration which came from an "inner light".
 - Developing a life of plainness, seriousness, and discipline while applying Christ's teachings to the whole of life. Plain clothes were worn in revolt against showy dress, and plainness was extended to household items such as furniture.
 - That war was looked upon as contrary to the will of God, and oath-taking was forbidden.
 - That God might use any one of the worshippers as a minister, they had no ordained ministry.
 - That special buildings for worship were irrelevant.
 - That all men and women were equal in the eyes of God.

These same beliefs continue to be followed today by Quakers around the world.

Why the Name "Quakers"

George Fox said in a trial at which "Justic Bennett of Derby first called us Quakers because we bid them tremble at the word of God". Another suggestion was that they trembled or "quaked" at Meetings, and showed other manifestations of religious emotion. Quakers are also called the members of the Society of Friends.

The Trek to America

Between 1655 and 1662, about 60 Quaker missionaries arrived in America where they made converts and established Meetings. The hope of forming a conlony free from the ongoing persecution, and in accord with Quaker convictions, led to the establishment of Pennsylvania, the Quaker State, in 1682. Quakers from England, Ireland, Wales and other countries moved into the new colony which was centred around Philadelphia.

The Quaker Organization

 - Weekly or preparative Meetings were held in a community on Sunday.
 - Mid-week Meetings were set up for an hour of worship.
 - Friends from neighbouring Meetings would get together at Monthly Meetings to report on affairs and conduct business.
 - Representatives from monthly Meetings would meet at Quarterly Meetings which brought Friends from a larger area. Quarterly Meetings were held in homes, and were also social occasions and times for entertaining friends and relatives from a distance.
 - Quarterly Meetings would then report to Yearly Meetings which would take in an even larger section of the country.

Facing the Frontier

In America, the Quakers were faced with the hardships of being pioneers, and in making homes and farms out of the forest. When England and America went to war, the Quaker's belief in peace forced him to find ways to stay out of the whole affair, often without success. Incoming settlers of other religions posed a problem with their new ideas, and even with the chance of marrying into another group. Thus, the Quakers tended to move nearly every generation to a new frontier where they could live as a close-knit community without interference. At first, they moved away from the Philadelphia area to new lands north and west along the valleys of the Susquehanna River. Then, the call to move took them to Ohio or to southern Ontario in Canada. Sometimes, families split with a part going to each location. This moving eventually brought a few Quaker families to Uxbridge Township.

Catawissa, Pennsylvania

Many of the Quaker families who came northward were from the Catawissa area. Between 1802 and 1804, a number of Quakers in the Catawissa area asked for certificates to move to Ontario or Ohio, and by 1808 the Catawissa Meeting had been laid down or closed.

North to Yonge Street

Whitchurch and King Townships
By 1800, settlement was moving from Little York (Toronto) on Lake Ontario up and over the hills along a new road called Yonge Street. Timothy Rogers, a Quaker from Vermont, came north in 1800 to explore the area, and in 1801, he received a grant of forty farms, each containing 200 acres, and arranged to bring forty Quaker families from Pennsylvania. The new homes were in Whitchurch and King Townships.

Samuel Lundy from Pennsylvania took a grant for 20 families east of the Roger's settlement. These Friends soon formed the Yonge Street Meeting and another one west of Pine Orchard.

Pickering Township
Timonthy Rogers arranged for a second settlement in Pickering Township where he later lived, and a Meeting was set up there also.

Uxbridge Township
The search for more land led eastward to Uxbridge Township where a third settlement of Friends was established making a triangle with the other two groups.

Uxbridge Quaker Settlment

Several of the Quakers who settled in Uxbridge arrived in 1805, and others came in the next few years. Uxbridge Township was surveyed in the winter of 1804-05. Only 8 settlers received free land grants in the township, and six of those were Quakers. Others had to buy their land from absentee owners. Because of this, and Crown and Clergy Reserves, they had difficulty getting land next to each other, and found themselves scattered across the north-east corner of the township. They used horns to communicate in the virgin forest.

Quaker Weddings

Quaker weddings were performed by the couple themselves in the presence of Friends, each pledging love and devotion with Divine assistance until death departed them. Silent worship followed the ceremony, and a brief sermon or prayer. The certificate was signed in the presence of the assembly and by witnesses. Platform Friends then shook hands and the ceremony was over.

The Founding of Uxbridge

The Friends Meeting House

Other Links
The Religious Society of Friends
The Canadian Heritage

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Reference: Historical Highlights of Uxbridge-Scott by Allan McGillivray
Reference: Uxbridge Quaker Heritage By Allan McGillivray
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