For many of us in Canada and around the world, this holiday season will look a little different from past years. As we prepare to celebrate apart from our loved ones and many of our traditions are put on hold, we look forward to Christmases in the future where we can again gather safely.

Many of the early Quakers in Canada also faced challenging Christmas seasons. Bad weather, illness, and long distances kept families and friends apart. A glimpse into some of these challenges can be found in the letters and diaries of Deborah Mullet (1804 – 1892). Deborah emigrated from England to Canada in 1821 with her family when she was seventeen years old. Her family settled first in Adolphustown and later Amherst Island. In her article on the Mullet family and the Quaker Atlantic, Robynne Rogers Healey discusses Deborah’s initial struggles to adjust to her new life in Upper Canada and her desire to return home.[1] After four years of living in Canada, Deborah wrote to her grandmother in Bristol about their Christmas. The Mullett family had hosted two young men from Ireland at their table and Deborah stated they enjoyed “two of the fattest geese I have ever seen and a fine large piece of roast beef.”[2] While Deborah wrote to her grandmother that she was thankful for the health of her family that winter, she spoke of how she missed the society she used to keep and their former meeting in Bristol.

Deborah eventually settled into life in Canada. Her first marriage to Consider Haight gave the couple six children before his death in 1838. Twelve years later, Deborah married Vincent Bowerman at the age of forty-eight. Both Vincent and Deborah were active members of the West Lake Preparative Meeting (Orthodox). Deborah continued to write throughout her life. Though her diary entries are considerably shorter than her letters, they offer important details about her life. Christmas in 1875 brought “thunder and lightening with rain, no sleighing,” though Deborah writes her grandchildren were delighted with their presents.[3] Three years later, she recorded the weather on Christmas day as stormy, with the surrounding roads blocked due to the storm. Christmas 1888 was a quiet affair. At the age of eighty-four, Deborah wrote that her and her daughter Lydia spent the day alone, writing: “not a very pleasant day, hope it may be better next time.” However, her and Lydia did enjoy a large goose for dinner, and days later received cards from her family in England. Though it was a solitary affair, Deborah made note of both life’s misfortunes but also of life’s little joys.

In a year filled with uncertainty, may we find joy in better days ahead. In light of a busy (and mostly online) end of year, Robynne and I will be taking a short break from the blog this December, but we look forward to coming back in the new year. We wish you a safe and peaceful holiday season. May the roads be clear and the weather bright!


[1] Robynne Rogers Healey, “ ‘I am Getting a Considerable of a Canadian they Tell Me’: Connected Understandings in the Nineteenth-Century Quaker Atlantic,” Quaker Studies 15 (2011): 233.

[2] This quote comes from Deborah Mullet’s letter to her grandmother on 21 January 1825, the sixth letter in the “William Mullet Family Letters, Canada-England, 1821-1830,” transcribed by Thomas Sylvester and available in the Canadian Quaker History Journal 63 (1998): 27-40.

[3] Deborah Mullet’s diaries (#1, 1874 – 1882; #2, 1887 – 1892) are at the Prince Edward County Archives. They were transcribed by Lydia Wytenbroek in 2008 and are available on Randy Saylor’s website.

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