Since October, the blog has featured articles about Coldstream from both Donna Moore and Dave Zavitz. We continue this week with an article by Dave Zavitz on Benjamin Cutler, an influential Friend who settled in Coldstream.

Benjamin Cutler, born 1779 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was the fourth generation of a family who had emigrated from Britain. His family was one of the group of Friends who came to Upper Canada following the American Revolution seeking religious freedom and better access to land. The group settled in Bertie Township, Ontario near Fort Erie. Benjamin married Sarah Marsh (1793–1878) in 1808, sister of John Moor Marsh. Benjamin and Sarah were active members of Pelham Monthly Meeting, serving on committees early on in their marriage. and in the Lobo (Coldstream) Preparative Meeting.

Photo of Benjamin Cutler courtesy of Dave Zavitz. This photo can also be found in the London Public Library.

Benjamin invested his money wisely in land holdings. As his family grew, he realized that he needed more land to leave to his family. Around 1832, he visited his nephews, Jesse and Jonas Zavitz, on the 11th Concession of Lobo Township (Charlton Drive). They were the sons of his sister, Letitia, and her husband Samuel Zavitz. His daughter, Margaret Ann, had married John D. Harris and had purchased Lot 3 Concession 11. While visiting, he saw the land around Bear Creek (Sydenham River) and thought that it would be a good place for his family. Soon after, he returned to Bertie Township to present this proposition to his family. In 1837, at about sixty years of age, he sold his large land tracks in Bertie Township and prepared his family to move to Lobo Township.

He purchased two hundred acres on both sides of the Bear Creek on Lot 9 Concession 9 Lobo Township. He built a grist mill and sawmill on the shore of the river. His sister Sarah and her husband John Moor Marsh came with them and purchased four hundred fifty acres down river from Benjamin. John also built a dam and mill. Since there was no close source for the goods they produced, local people flocked to the mills. They were hard pressed to keep up to the demand.

While visiting the village of London, Benjamin and John saw the plans of a house they liked. They proceeded to build identical houses down the road from each other along what was later called Quaker Lane. Their mills provided the lumber for the frame and clap board construction. John’s furniture factory, built on the small creek entering the river from the north side, provided needed furniture for the homes.

In 1843, Daniel Zavitz followed his sister Sarah Marsh to Lobo purchasing one hundred acres on Lot 7 Concession 9 at the west end of Quaker Lane.

The Quaker community had grown, and meetings were held in their homes until 1849 when they could no longer house all the participants. At this time Benjamin and John donated land and a log meeting house was constructed near the south end and on the south side of Quaker Lane. Benjamin took a leadership role in Friends Meeting as well as serving several terms as Reeve of Lobo Township.

The little hamlet soon blossomed and other businesses were established (a general store, blacksmith, wooden factory, tailor etc.). By 1859 the meeting had outgrown the log cabin and it was decided to build a permanent larger structure. The bricks were purchased from the Rutherford Brick Yard in Poplar Hill. Caroline (Carrie) Cutler Zavitz donated one half acre to expand the church yard and burying ground.

Benjamin and Sarah had thirteen children who came to Lobo with their parents. Several died young but others married and purchased land in the township. Benjamin and his family connections helped settle the area and established the hamlet of Coldstream, Ontario. Their descendants are still part of the Coldstream community. Today, most of the businesses are long gone but the hamlet continues to grow with new houses, municipal offices, a road yard, and fire station.

The vision of this strong-willed man led to the development of this part of Lobo Township. He helped establish a close-knit Quaker community that still exists today. During a visit from Baltimore travelling minister Rebecca Price, she dined at the Cutler’s home and wrote she “enjoyed a conversation of so good a Friend.”[1]


[1] Rebecca Price, Memoranda and Reflections of Rebecca Price: A Recorded Minister Belonging to Baltimore Quarterly Meeting of Friends (Philadelphia, PA: William H. Pile’s Sons, 1896), 94.


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