The Canadian Quaker Highlight series features the stories of Friends whose lives are part of the Canadian Quaker experience.

Anna (Engeltie, or ‘Angelica’) Solmes was born in Dutchess County, New York, in 1774.[1] Anna immigrated to Upper Canada in the late 1790s after her marriage to Jacob Cronk. Jacob Cronk, alongside his father Abraham, had already spent a number of years in Upper Canada before his marriage to Anna. Historian Margaret McBurney recalls, “In order to finance a trip to the United States to bring back his bride, young Jacob had to sell part of his land and spend the winter working in Adolphustown cutting cordwood for four dollars a month plus board.”[2]

Anna and Jacob quickly integrated themselves into their nearest Quaker meeting. Jacob was accepted by the Adolphustown Monthly meeting in 1798, and Anna a year later. The couple’s dedication to their faith was strong. Anna became an elder in 1804, and by 1807, Anna and Jacob began hosting an indulged meeting in their Sophiasburgh home. This meeting later became the Green Point Preparative Meeting in 1811. The couple also hosted a number of travelling Quaker ministers, including Rufus Hall in 1798, Elias Hicks in 1803, and Phoebe Roberts in 1821. During her travels, Roberts described the Cronk family as “valuable friends,” noting they were “very wealthy people and appeared to live in much harmony.”[3]

Anna’s active involvement in the Upper Canadian meetings is evident throughout meeting minutes. Anna was a regular attendee of the Canada Half-Yearly Meeting from its inception in 1810 and was often chosen to attend the New York Yearly Meeting as a representative. Her presence is peppered throughout meeting minutes as part of numerous committees formed to look into schools, troubling issues, establishing new meetings, and visiting members.

Like many nineteenth-century women, Anna experienced significant heartbreak in her life. Anna and Jacob were vocal proponents of the Hicksite faction during the 1828 Orthodox-Hicksite schism that affected Quaker meetings across North America. The Orthodox West Lake Monthly Meeting minutes accused Anna of being “instrumental in setting up separate meetings in conformity with Elias Hicks,” and allegedly “pushing the half years meeting clerks, and afterwards denying it in the face of the monthly meeting.”[4] Already in her mid-fifties, Anna suffered through the devastating separation of a community she had been actively involved in for over thirty years. A decade later, Anna’s only son Samuel died in 1841. Samuel left behind his wife Eliza and his own young son.

Anna’s Quaker faith remained a central tenet in her life. In the Hicksite West Lake Monthly Meeting, Anna continued on as an overseer and elder, even travelling on a religious visit with Margaret Brewer in 1836 to Friends in Philadelphia and New York.[5] Anna was active in the West Lake meeting into her old age, and was last recorded as an elder in 1860, just three years before she died at the age of eighty-nine.

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A photo of the Cronk home in Sophiasburgh (photo found in Margaret McBurney’s Homesteads, 54).

[1] Information on Anna Solmes and her family can be found in the Herbert Clarence Burleigh Fonds, folder 2324, box 12.2, file 5.

[2] Margaret McBurney, Homesteads: Early Buildings and Families from Kingston to Toronto (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), 52.

[3] Leslie R. Gray, ed. “Phoebe Roberts’ Diary of A Quaker Missionary Journey to Upper Canada.” Ontario History 42 (1950): 24.

[4] West Lake Monthly Meeting Women (Orthodox) 1828-1851 (C-4-1), 15 January 1829.

[5] West Lake Monthly Meeting Women (Hicksite) 1825-1851 (H-11-5) 18 May 1836.


Robynne Rogers Healey · July 29, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for this wonderful introduction to Anna Solmes Cronk, Sydney. I’m looking forward to introducing folks to interesting Quakers in Canadian history. This is just the first installment. We are going to try to highlight some lesser-known Quakers, many of them women. If anyone has an interesting historical Quaker they’d like to write about, we would love to hear from you!

    Sydney Harker · July 29, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you, Robynne! It’s exciting to be able to highlight the stories of various Friends.

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