| Dec 08, 2005

Feature Article - December 8, 2005

Home | Local Weather | Editorial Policy

Feature Article

December 8, 2005

. | Navigate | .

ArchiveImage GalleryAlgonquin Land Claims

Gray MerriamLegaleseGeneral information and opinion on legal topics by Rural Legal ServicesNature Reflectionsby Jean GriffinNight Skiesby Leo Enright

Quaker roots in the Parham, Wagarville, and Tichborne areas

by Sylvia Powers

When the first exhausted band of Loyalist refugees arrived by bateau at Adolphustown in June of 1784, some members of the Religious Society of Friends, known as Quakers, accompanied them. These families had also had land and goods confiscated and many were in danger of losing their lives had they remained in the new United States of America. Their crime was refusing to join the rebel army and giving aid to their Loyalist neighbours. At least one, Thomas Dorland, had joined the British as a soldier despite the pacifist position of Friends. Consequently, when land was being granted to the Loyalists, he received a large enough grant to assist the other Quakers.


Sharing each other’s sufferings in the long journey to their new home meant that a close bond developed between the Loyalists and the Quakers. Some Loyalists such as Abraham Cronk must have been influenced by the Friends since a descendant, Jacob Cronk, donated land in Moscow for a Quaker Meeting Place in the 1800’s.

Descendants of the early Quakers spread to Prince Edward County, Colestream, Wooler, Camden, Athens, and other parts of Ontario and Quebec. Many Friends whose surnames are found in Central Frontenac today are listed in the Quaker census of 1828, the Camden censuses of 1861, 1891, and the Hinchinbrook(e) census of 1911. The names of Barker, Babcock, Hawley, Cronk, Card, Peters, Brown, Pero, Meeks, Craig, Palmer, Viely, Hartin, Vanvalkenburg, Asselstine, and Whan appeared as Friends more than a century ago.

In 1992, I started to discover my own Quaker ancestors. Jarvis Macomber and his wife Christina Sherman were married under the care of Friends in Dartmouth, Massachusetts before they moved to Canada in 1805. Both the Shermans and Macombers had been weighty Friends for over a century. In Canada, the name changed to McCumber. Their son, Edward, married Sally Card, whose family may have been among the many Cards who had joined the Quakers.

The biggest surprise turned up with the 1911 census of Hinchinbrooke. Several families in Parham, Tichborne and Wagarville listed themselves as Quakers. The Families of Titus Wagar, Robert McCullough, Cecilia Cronk, Allen Wagar, John Switzer, Terense Switzer, Charles Cox, Henry Hicks, Daniel McCoud, Harrie Babcock, and my great-great grandparents, Philip and Aurora Wagar listed themselves as Friends.

Prior to 1967 my own knowledge of Quakers was limited to high school history books that spoke of the Religious Society of Friends in England in the 1600’s and the settlement of Pennsylvania by William Penn, a Quaker. Images of men with hats and women in long black and grey gowns would spring to mind. I had the impression that this was an historical sect that had faded away with the passage of time.

In 1967 I met some Canadian Quakers for the first time and learned that Quakerism is very much alive in Canada. Friends had shed their long grey clothes and plain speech (saying “Thee” instead of “you”). They now enjoyed art and music and looked like ordinary people. While there are many evangelical Friends in the world whose services seem indistinguishable from other churches, in Canada and England the majority of Friends follow the unprogrammed tradition. Meeting is begun in silence. From the gathered stillness, some Friends may be led to speak or sing.

Friends of all traditions believe that there is a part of God in all persons. Therefore, they abhor all war and other forms of violence. Even creeds are divisive. Therefore there is no creed that all Friends accept. Friends accept that each person has his/her own relationship with God. During the wars, Friends served in humanitarian ways. Through the ambulance unit they rescued the wounded on both sides of the conflict. Relief packages were delivered to both sides of a conflict.

I think that the reason there were so many Quakers in this area in 1911 was because people could sense the impending war and wanted to prevent it in some small way. But why did it fade away even from our collective memory? I could speculate on the reasons but would appreciate hearing from some of the descendants of the people calling themselves Friends. Did you know that your great-grandparents were Friends? Do you recall any Meeting House in this area? If you have any comments, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 613-225-6377 or 484-6377. Better yet, join us once a month at the Land O’ Lakes Worship group and experience why your ancestors chose this form of worship. Time is at 3 p.m. on Sunday to allow you an opportunity to attend your regular church service first. Phone 375-8256 for details. All will be welcome.

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.