This guest post is contributed by Doug Smith. Doug Smith volunteered on the transcription of the minute book of Tecumseth Preparative Meeting 1869-1899 (O-8-6) (PDF), as can be found in our Transcriptions page. Here are some of his reflections based on reading the minute book and his own knowledge of the area. 

Plaque of the Dunkerron Quaker cemetery.

Plaque of the Dunkerron Quaker cemetery. Image from

Friends gather to worship in their Meeting Houses. They do Meeting business there and obviously socialize. Although members may live some distance away, they are said to come from their Meeting, in this case from Tecumseth Preparative Meeting. 

Researchers might prefer the Lot and Concession of a family, where births and deaths occur. What we learn from this document is that Friends set their sights on the Meeting House. Weddings happen here, and social life revolves around the pulse of Quaker worship as much as of the seasons. Indeed, Joseph John Kiteley is appointed “to dig graves,” a measure of permanence. 

Preparative Meetings are devolved from Monthly Meetings. As the minutes show, the MM has considerable authority and is equally devolved from the Yearly Meeting and so on, even to the Philadelphia YM or the London YM. These levels of organization produce Minutes, Directives, Devotional Tracts, Assessments and a set of querulous Queries, which are a study in themselves. All of these elements are seen and revealed in the Minutes. 

Much else can be deduced (and, with caution, inferred). 

In the Tecumseth Minutes [TPM] evidence is available to link with the larger history of the area, add specifics to government documents and confirm family connections and history. Equally the minutes are a stark, often awkwardly formal documentation, too sparse to be a genealogical goldmine. 

Here is a sample of what can be gleaned both personal and general from these pages.

TPM is a spin off from Yonge Street Monthly Meeting. Two members are appointed to attend the MM “and to report.” TPM would meet on Wednesdays, the time apparently designated by MM as 10:00AM. This schedule is not held rigidly, as the reading will show. 

Here is the geographic difficulty Tecumseth representatives faced. Three possible routes to Meeting can be seen. The shortest route is to take highway 9 south of Dunkerron east to Yonge Street and south a piece to the Meeting House. That counts as some 18 kilometres, which takes 22 minutes as the car drives. Horse and buggy are another matter, as is the realization that Friends were living in 19th century conditions. If you have Googled the map, the presence of the Pottageville Swamp looms. It bestrides the easy route to Meeting. A more southerly passage on the Lloydtown line to Kettleby is no more promising. In winter, the route would be possible, but several instances in the minutes show that “impassible roads” and Simcoe County’s well-documented spring blizzards and floods make the shortest route adrift or a quagmire. That most roads throughout Ontario were a quagmire is well understood.

The north route makes sense when conditions required, but it is 22 kilometres at least. North on 27 is Bondhead, the Post Office, where a traveler would go east on 88 and find the bridge at Bradford over the Holland River down to Holland Landing, where Yonge Street begins, and thence to Newmarket and the Meeting House. Sunday is a good time to travel and evenings paced by a prime horse or team would be pleasant. 

The isolation is real for this small community of Friends. The minutes show them under long-term leadership but an ever-diminishing membership. The self census of 1871 and 1875, the only detailed reports recorded, show a heavy drop in members. From 106 the complement falls to 44. One wonders to where and why 62 Friends left the fold. Yet their urge to carry on is poignant. 

Assessment reports show a dedication to local needs and to principles of a global calling. Cash amounts are collected on a progressive basis, it appears, and suggest a frugal but growing economy.

By the 1890s the minutes become spotty, meetings are not held, representatives more often do not make it to MM. The Men’s and Women’s meetings combine and switch to Sunday meetings. 

And then the Minutes stop. 

More directly and personally, figures show up. Peter Doyle stands out almost until his death in 1888. His land is used for the cemetery and the Meeting House. His firstborn is buried there as is his first wife, Phoebe Minn, before the House is built. Peter is “in care of the House” institutionally. He seems to hold out for his $12 fee for service, with the Committee charged with “finding a Friend to care for the House” taking as long as three months to reappoint Peter. The fourteenth time Peter is faced with the care of the house, the decision is deferred eight times until Peter is removed and Jacob Doyle is appointed. Peter is 82 years old.

As his name fades away, another long-time caretaker is found. Jacob Doyle, already established as Clerk, takes on the role at $6 per annum, or “50 cents per month” as he must have preferred.

Jacob is the only lived child of Peter and Phoebe. His story goes beyond the Minutes and is recorded as a bachelor of dedication, wealth and generosity. 

There are a number of Hughes men who contribute to the community. Amos Hughes teams with Peter Doyle regularly as representatives of TPM to MM. His name disappears suddenly, as does his presence on the census. Has he returned to Pelham or even New York? Then, Samuel Hughes appears on the record.

In addition, new members are installed as their requests are recorded. 

Here a simple wisdom is shown. Rookies are welcomed and in a moment are teamed with veterans to represent TPM at MM. Commitment is strengthened and a new member is introduced to the larger parent Meeting. The six new members recorded between 1873 to 1888 is sparse growth indeed. They, of course, represent families, but the dwindling character of the experiment is felt.

As a last reflection, the case of Henry Doyle is curious. Henry is the 6th of Peter’s five boys and two girls. Rachel Haight, of American stock from the Haights of Pickering Township by Duffin’s Creek, marries Peter at MM in 1836 and carries on the frontier tradition with energy and success. 

Their first born, John Haight Doyle moves to Pilkington Township near Elora, and breaks the bush there. Margaret [Doyle] Wilson researched her great-grandfather and notes that he became Methodist. Elora was well away from his co-religionists. The need for a religious community placed them in the hands of the burgeoning, evangelical Methodists, where John is active. His first born, John Alan, becomes a Minister in the Great North West, covering the Prairie region.

Henry stays in Tecumseth Township to take over the homestead and the adjacent farm. He shows in the minutes as a mature adult, active as Clerk, on committees, representative to MM, organizing various assessments, even caring for the House and a repair project. The Homestead is parts of Lots 24 and 23, Concession 3 Tecumseth. Immediately south on Lot 23 Concession 2 another Irish family is settled. 

James Manning is the son of Joseph, an Anglo-Irishman who was “a pay master of the forces in Ireland” and a Methodist. Now there’s an incentive to emigrate, as the Pale becomes unsafe after the Great Rebellion of 1798. James is an Evangelical Wesleyan Methodist preacher with energy. He builds the Dunkerron Methodist community, represents the church in General Conference and sends three sons into the ministry. 

James has a daughter, Ann Jane, or “Annie”, who lives, as the farmers say, “within buggy distance.” Henry and Annie are married in 1875. Peter Doyle resisted the Hicksites. John has gone Methodist and Henry has married one. But Henry is not disowned. He carries on, showing frequently in the Minutes as active and an office holder. There is the curiosity. Certainly, Annie does not convert. She dies at 35 and is buried in the Dunkerron Methodist Cemetery beside the new red brick Methodist Church.

Henry marries again, ten years later, returning to an Orthodox Quaker family, with Jennie Lynd. Henry’s eldest, Manson Doyle, only ten when his mother is taken, is said by his daughter “to have broken his father’s heart” and became a Methodist Minister, although he married a West Lake MM Quaker, Augusta Belle Saylor. Manson journeyed west, as well, and became an energetic builder of Union, after which he became Youth Secretary of the United Church until age 75.

But Henry was never “disowned,” as so many Quakers were for “marrying out.” He is buried in the Tecumseth PM burial ground with Jennie Lynd. Nearby are Joseph and Peter and Rachel, representatives of the faithful Orthodoxy.

“Tecumseth Prep meet of Friends Held 7 mo 4th 1888: It was proposed & united with that this meeting be held in joint scession after this month.”

Simply, without flourish or regrets, the Meeting begins its final years, exactly 5 months after Peter’s death.

The Joint meetings carry on until 1898. Names such as Susannah, Delia, and Martha Ella Hughes appear as William Chantler and Margaret, the newer Friends, take on responsibility. By 1895 Annie Molison is in “care of the House” for $6 per annum. Henry’s last reference is 11-4-1885, although he is an energetic 37. Jacob Doyle remains active to the end. 

A comparison to the Yonge Street MM minutes will build on these insights. Good stories never end.


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