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There Were Many Quakers

Among the Pioneer Loyalist Settlers

Of the Old Midland District

Elias Hicks' Kingston Visit

Meetings at Kingston

Written for the Whig by T.W. Casey, Napanee


   Among the pioneer loyalist settlers of the old Midland district there was quite a respectable percentage of Quakers, mostly from Duchess county and other portions of New York state along the banks of the Hudson river. The largest numbers of these were located about Adolphustown and in Prince Edward county. Kingston township had also some excellent representatives of that once much respected body. Some years ago I gave some facts, through the columns of the Whig, of some of these. The following additional facts that have come in my way since may be of interest to some readers, at least:


   It was then stated that the first regularly organized society of Quakers in Upper Canada was formed at Philip Dorland's house, Adolphustown, in November, 1789.  A delegation was present from the monthly meeting at Nine partners, Duchess county, New York, to assist in the organization of that "preparative meeting", and from what sprang out the parative meetings of the regular formation of societies at Kingston, West Lake, (now Bloomfield), Farmersville (now Athens), and other parts of this province.


   The first Quaker meeting house built in Upper Canada was on John Dorland's farm, on the south shore of Hay Bay, Adolphustown, in 1799. It was located a mile or two west of the first Methodist meeting house in Upper Canada, built in 1791. The remains of both these historic old places of worship are yet standing, but they are now in a dilapidated state, and have not been used for religious purposes in many years. The dwelling house where Sir John Macdonald, Mrs. (Prof.) Williamson and other members of that family spent some of their early years, was located between these two house of meeting, and they were the only places of religious worship within miles of there at that time. It is quite probable that they frequently attend the services at both these places during these years - and attended few, if any, others.


   There is a record in the early minutes of the appointment of a committee to assist the Friends at Kingston to organize a preparative meeting. That no doubt meant Kingston township, as nearly all the members were about Waterloo,  (now Cataraqui) and west of that. At one time a meeting house was built and used for some time at Waterloo, but the society never became large.


   There is a record, too, of a subscription started at Adolphustown to assist the Friends at Kingston to procure a burying ground at Waterloo for the Friends. That was about 1802. I am informed the ground was then procured and has been ever since used. It is now incorporated with the Cataraqui cemetery, the north end corner, and that it was the nucleus of the present cemetery.


Elias Hicks' Kingston Visit


   Elias Hicks, early in the last century, became a prominent man with the Quakers, and visited and labored among the societies within reach, wherever they then existed. His doctrine and teachings savored largely of Unitarianism, so that it caused a very serious division in the entire ranks, and ever since the respective branches have been known as the "Hicksite" and "Orthodox" Quakers. He visited Upper Canada in 1803, probably before an open split took place. He came from his home at Long Island, near New York, for that purpose, and at that time it was a formidable journey of three weeks, on horseback, most of the way through the wilderness.


   A book has been published giving a journal of his journeyings, and from it the following extracts may tend to show what changes have taken place in the past ninety-eight years. Of the methods of crossing at Kingston at the time he wrote as follows:


   "We got well to Adolphustown on the third day, evening, the 3rd of tenth month (October), having rode about four hundred and ten miles, and crossed the great river St. Lawrence, which appeared to be dangerous passage. We crossed its two branches, an island lying in the middle. Each branch was nearly five miles over. We passed the latter in the middle of the night, by the light of the moon, in two small flat bottomed boats, one of them so small as to carry only one horse. This latter passage lay open to Lake Ontario, and the wind being from that quarter, caused the swell frequently to wash into our boats, so we had considerable labor to throw out the water as fast as it came in; but my confidence was in Him, who hath the winds and waves at His command. This kept out fear, and we got safe over about one o'clock in the morning."


   There was no royal road between New York and Kingston at that time, making the trip in twenty-three hours and by palace cars and palatial steamers. It required nearer twenty-three days and crossings such as here described.


Meeting at Kingston


   Here is Elias Hicks' experience of meetings at Kingston township and town at that time:


   "Our sixth day (Friday) we attended Friends' preparative meeting at Kingston (township); and on the seventh day, we had a meeting in the town of Kingston, in the court house, the first Friends meeting ever held in that place. The people appeared to be much unacquainted with order of our meetings, and some of the principal men seemed at a loss how to behave themselves in time of silence, but during the communication they were generally quiet and solemn, and the truths rose into victory, furnishing doctrine, clothed with divine power, and carrying conviction to most present. The next day, the first of the week, we again attended Friends' meeting in the house of the widow Brewer; they not having any meeting house in this place. In the afternoon we had an appointed meeting in the west part of the township, on the bay, which was held at the house of John Everett, a man not in strict profession with any religious society. These were both seasons of heavenly refreshment; the life ran as soil over fall; many hearts were much broken and contrited, under the modifying influence thereof."


   He gives also a journal of his visits to Adolphustown and into Prince Edward county and then refers to the homeward trip across from Kingston as follows:


   "We rode directly to Kingston (from Adolphustown) about thirty-five miles, and there took boat immediately, and crossed on branch of the St. Lawrence river that evening. We likewise crossed the island, which lies between, before dark, it being about five miles over; but as the wind was unfavorable, we did not cross the other branch until next morning. We lodged in a small house, the only one on that side of the island. Our accommodations were very poor, having to be on the floor and on benches, but having the best of company, peace of mind, and a firm trust in the divine blessing, it kept us comfortable and pleasant."