The Beaver has made frequent allusions to the fact that those of the early settlers of this country, who desired to get married, found a good deal of difficulty in doing so, because of the scarcity of ministers legally authorized to solemnize marriages. We have alluded to the fact that for some years, beginning with 1786, the Rev. John Langhorn, of Ernesttown, was the only regular Church of England Minister in the province west of Kingston, and he would only solemnize marriages in one or other of his regular churches, at Bath or Fredericksburgh, and even there before the hour of 11 o’clock in the forenoon. some of those who were married by him in those early years found it necessary to tread many long and weary miles to reach there at all, and especially at so early an hour in the day. And yet he married many hundreds of people between that year and 1813, the year he returned to his native land.
We have also mentioned the fact that the Rev. Robert McDowall was the first regular Presbyterian minister west of Cornwall, and from the time of his arrival in this district, in 1798, to the end of his active ministry, he is said to have solemnized at least two thousand marriages.
We have published too, the fact that beginning with 1794, the Rev. John G. Wigant, the first Lutheran minister in this district, married a large number of person, and especially those who were adherents of the Lutheran denomination. Allusion has also been made of the fact that there is still, at Picton, and authentic list of a large number of marriages celebrated by Stephen conger, a justice of the peace, in the absence of any legally authorized minister in Prince Edward county to do so.
All that time in these counties, and in other sections of the Province, there were a number of regularly ordained Methodist ministers at work in the various sections, but the law did not authorize them to do so. Darius Dunham first began his regular ministerial labors in this province in 1792, and continued to live in the province until his death, in 1825, and yet he and his many colleagues in all that time were not allowed to perform the marriage ceremony, even among their own people. It will be seen from what follows that it was not till 1831 that the Methodist and some other ministers were legally authorized. Several bills had passed the Upper Canada Assembly (elected by the people) before that time, but they were always rejected by the Legislative council, a body appointed, as our dominion Senate now is, by the government, and made up largely of members of the Church of England and of old school Tories. At that time there were over fifty Methodist ministers regularly at work in the province, with between 10,000 and 12,000 members.
MR. TASKER’S STATEMENT
The Ontario Historical Society has just published a very interesting and valuable summary history of the U.E. Loyalist settlement at Long Point, on Lake Erie and adjacent localities, written by L. H. Tasker, M.A., of Niagara Falls Collegiate Institute. It also contains some very interesting information in regard to general matters relating to the early pioneers. There is a chapter on the early marriage laws, from which we take the following extracts. The information is valuable, and we have not seen it so completely compiled elsewhere.
“There were but few clergymen in Upper Canada in the early years of the century. Mr. Addison (Church of England) of Niagara, was the nearest minister to Long Point. Consequently, almost any person who held any public position whatsoever was called upon to perform the ceremony; as for example, the captain of a regiment , a colonel, adjutant, magistrate or sheriff. In a letter of Lieut. - Governor Simcoe’s to Lord Dundas, dated November, 6th, 1792, he calls attention to the necessity of a bill to make valid marriages contracted in Upper Canada and to provide for them in the future, and he enclosed a bill for the purpose framed by Chief Justice Osgood, and a report on the same subject submitted by Mr. Richard Cartwright (grandfather of our Sir Richard).
“To avoid complications which might have resulted by illegal marriages, the Parliament of Upper Canada, in 17--, passed an act to confirm and to make valid certain marriages, heretofore contracted in the country now comprised in the Province of Upper Canada, and to provide for the future solemnization of marriage within the same. It was further enacted that the contracting parties which do not live with eighteen miles of any minister of the Church of England, may apply to neighboring Justice of Peace who shall affix in some public place a note for which he shall receive one shilling and no more.
LAW FURTHER EXTENDED
In 1798 another Act provided that ministers of the Church of Scotland or Lutherans, or Calvinists could perform the ceremony, if one of the contracting parties had, been a member of that church for at least six months. This clergyman had to provide his qualification before six magistrates at Quarter Sessions, appearing with at least seven members of his congregation, to bear witness to the correctness of his oath.
“In 1818 a further act made valid the marriages of those who had in any way neglected to preserve the testimony of their marriages.
“in 1831 another act confirmed marriages contracted before any Justice of the peace, magistrate commanding officer, minister or clergyman, and at the same time it was provided that it should be lawful for Ministers of the Church of Scotland, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Baptists, Independents, Methodists, Mennonites, Tunders, or Maravians, to solemnize matrimony.
PUBLISHING THE BANS
Until 1814 no licenses were used. In that year, on the 31st of May, the Government appointed five persons as issuers of marriage licenses. The ordinary method was to publish the banns for three successive Sundays. This notice was to be posted in some conspicuous place, generally on the door, for there were not many churches at that time. The young people, in their anxiety to avoid publicity, would sometimes put the notice on the inside of the door, while another way was to take two or three immediate friends, sworn to secrecy, and simply hold it to the door for a few minutes each Sunday, three Sundays in succession. The purport of the notice was as follows, the words being subscribed by a magistrate: “Know all men by these presents, that A.B. is desirous of taking to wife C.D. If any one knows any just cause why the ceremony should not be duly performed let him give notice to Magistrate X.Z. on or before -- -- -- .
MR. CARTWRIGHT’S CIRCULAR
Richard Cartwright was appointed a member of the First Legislative council of Upper Canada and took an active part in its proceedings. He appears to have taken an active interest in having the marriage law amended and prepared a report which has already been alluded to in this paper. It was as follows. We have not seen it published until in the paper now being referred to. We give it verbatim;
“Report on the subject of marriages and the state of the Church of England in the province of Upper Canada, humbly submitted to His Excellency Governor Simcoe.
“The country now Upper Canada was not settled or cultivated in any part except the settlement of Detroit, till the year 1784, when the several Provincial corps doing duty in the province of Quebec were reduced, and, together with many Loyalists from New York, established in different parts of this province, chiefly along the River St. Lawrence, and the Bay of Quinte. In the meanwhile, from the year 1777 many families of the Loyalists belonging to Butler’s Rangers, the Royal Yorkers, Indian Department and other corps doing duty at the upper posts had from time to time come into the country, and many young women of these families were contracted in marriage, which, there being no clergyman at the posts, nor in the whole country between them and Montreal. The practice in such cases usually was to go before the officer commanding the post, who publicly read to the parties the Matrimonial service in the Book of Common Prayer, using the ring and observing the other forms there prescribed, or if he declined to, as was sometimes the case, it was done by the adjutants of the regiment. After the settlements were formed in 1784, the justices of the Peace used to perform the marriage ceremony till the establishment of clergy men in the country, when the practice adopted only from necessity hath been discontinued in the districts where clergymen reside.
NOT BAD IN MIDLAND DISTRICT
“The two lower districts have each of them a Protestant clergyman since 1786; it is but a few months since this (Nassau or Howe) district hath been provided with one; and the western district, in which the settlement of Detroit is included, is to this day destitute of that useful and respectable order of men; yet the town of Detroit is and has been since the conquest of Canada inhabited for the most part by Traders of the Protestant religion who reside there with their families, and among whom many intermarriages have taken place, which formerly were solemnized by the Commanding Officer, or some other layman occasionally appointed by the inhabitants for reading prayers to them on Sundays, but of late more commonly by the magistrates, since magistrates have been appointed for that district.
MARRIAGES NOT VALID
From these circumstances it has happened that the marriages of the generality of the inhabitants of Upper Canada are not valid in law, and that their children must stricto jure be considered as illegitimate and consequently not entitled to inherit their property. Indeed this must have been the case, in my opinion, had the marriage ceremony been performed even by a regular clergyman, and with due observance of all the forms prescribed by the laws of England. For the clause in the act of the 14th year of His Present Majesty for regulating the Government of Quebec, which declares “that in all cases of controversy relative of property and civil rights, resort shall be had to the laws of Canada as the rule for the decision of the same,” appears to me to invalidate all marriages not solemnized according to the rites of the Church of Rome, so far as these marriages are concerned as giving away title to property. Such being the case, it is obvious that it requires the interposition of the Legislature as well, to settle what is past as to provide some regulations for the future, in framing of which it should be considered that good policy requires that in a new country at least, matrimonial connections should be made as easy as may be consistent with the importance of such engagements.
“Having pledged myself to bring this business forward early in the next session. I am led to hope that your Excellency will make such representations to His Majesty’s ministers as will induce them to consent to such arrangements respecting this business as the circumstances of the country may render expedient. Measures for this purpose having been postponed only because they might be thought to interfere with their views respecting the Clergy of the Establishment. Of this church, I am myself a member and am sorry to say that the state of it in this province is not very flattering. A very small proportion of the inhabitants of Upper Canada have been educated in this persuasion and emigrants to be, expected from the U.S. will for the most part be sectaries or dissenters; and nothing prevents the teachers of this class from being proportionately numerous, but the inability of the people at present to provide for their support.
PROVISIONS OF THE DISTRICTS
In the Eastern district the most populous part of the province, there is no church clergyman. They have a Presbyterian minister (Rev. Mr. Bethune, of Williamsville), formerly Chaplain of the 84th Regiment, who receives from the Government £50 per annum. They have also a Lutheran minister who is supported by his congregation, and the Roman Catholic priest, settled at St. Regis, occasionally officiates for the Scots Highlanders, settled in the lower parts of the District, who are very numerous, and all Catholics. There are also many Dutch Calvinists in this part of the province who have made several attempts to get a teacher of their own sect, but hitherto without success.
In the Midland district, where the members of the church are more numerous than in any other part of the province, there are two church clergymen (Rev. John Langhorn, Ernestown; Rev. John Stuart, Kingston); who are allowed £100 sterling per annum each by the Government, and £50 each by the Society for the Propogation of the gospel. There are here also some itinerant Methodist preachers, the followers of whom are numerous. And many of the inhabitants of the greatest property are Dutch Calvinists, who have for some time past been using their endeavors to get a minister of their own sect among them.
“In the Home District there is one clergyman who hath been settled here since the month of July last. The Scots Presbyterians who are pretty numerous here, and to which sect the most respectable part of the inhabitants belong, have built a Meeting House, and raised a subscription for a Minister of their own, who is expected shortly among them. There are here also many Methodist and Dutch Calvinists. In the Western District, there are no other clergy than those of the Church of Rome. The Protestant inhabitants here are principally Presbyterians.
“From this statement Your Excellency will be able to draw the proper conclusions; and to judge how far the establishing of the Hierarchy of the Church of England in this province may be proper and expedient.
“I have the honor to be, with the most profound respect, your Excellency’s most humble servant,
Newark, October 12 1792