In this month’s Founders and Builders Series, we introduce you to Sandra Fuller. Sandra served as secretary for a number of years and has written many articles for the Canadian Quaker History Journal and the CFHA Newsletter. Her work has contributed greatly to the success of CFHA.
By Ruth Jeffery-Maclean
Sandra McCann was born and raised in Newmarket, Ontario. She is a descendant of early Quaker settlers, Ezekiel & Keziah (Harvey) James, who emigrated from Pennsylvania to Upper Canada in 1803 and settled on Yonge Street, Whitchurch Township. Many Quaker traditions regarding home-making and education for women were passed down to her through her mother and Quaker great-grandmother, Rachael James, born and raised in the Quaker Settlement on Yonge Street. A family jest was to ask, “Did you know that Jesse James is buried in the Quaker yard on Yonge Street?” Of course, it is not the notorious outlaw, but the brother of her great-grandmother who is buried there!
While she was growing up, although her family was no longer in membership with Friends, Sandra spent a great deal of time with Quakers. One of her friends is the granddaughter of William Ira and Martha (Bond) Moore. William Ira Moore (1862-1912), born in St Vincent Twp, Grey County, was one of the Quaker ministers who pioneered Friends Meetings in Western Canada. His daughter, Marjorie, was one of the mainstays of the Newmarket Friends Meeting. Through her friends, Sandra was frequently involved in activities with Young Friends, went to Camp NeeKauNis, and feels at home amongst the Quaker community.
Quaker history has always found a way to seep into Sandra’s life. While Sandra was growing up, Ethel Willson Trewhella, a Quaker writer of early local histories, including the Yonge Street Meeting House (1937), lived at the end of their garden. Wearing her plain dress, pinafore, and frilly cap, Mrs. Trewhella spent many hours standing at the back fence with Sandra’s mother recounting past events which she had learned from her research and often said, “What stories these fence posts could tell.”
After graduation from Grade 13, Newmarket High School, Sandra studied at the University of Toronto where she received a four-year Honours degree, B.A. in Modern History. She went on to acquire a Bachelor of Education, and taught in secondary schools in Orillia and Aurora. After marriage to Paul Fuller whom she met at U of T, they lived in a heritage home in Unionville while raising a family of two children, a girl and a boy. Heritage preservation became a major interest when they organized Unionville Festival in order to save the Historic Main Street of Unionville. Through membership in the University Women’s Club, Sandra became acquainted with women who inspired investigation into topics such as women’s issues, and heritage preservation.
After leaving the teaching field, Sandra began her career as an archivist. She added to her education and training by studying for a M.A. in history, and acquired Certification in Archival Practices. In addition, she took several courses in architectural history. As archivist, she has been employed by the Archives of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Ontario, George Brown College, the University of Toronto, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Canadian Quaker Archives.
In the 1990s, members of the Records Committee with chair Arnold Ranneris were confronted with the necessity of grappling with the accumulation of Quaker records which were stacked in the vault in Pickering College. With several points of view holding sway, the on-going question of ownership of the records required taking the right direction in thinking. As owners of the records, Canada Yearly Meeting is responsible for their care. In order to preserve and arrange the records, and make them available to researchers with finding aids, Sandra was instrumental in obtaining grants moneys from the Archives Association of Ontario (AAO). As a start, some of the Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) records were processed. To make progress with new procedures, Sandra gave freely of her volunteer hours. Records Committee members, Rosemarie McMechan and Winnifred Tanner, also spent many valued volunteer hours in the vault.
She has been a long-time member of the Newmarket Historical Society. In 1980, Sandra was a founding member of the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee (LACAC), renamed the Heritage Newmarket Advisory Committee. She became involved in a number of quests for preservation of historic buildings and places by means of designation under the Ontario Heritage Act. Among them were the Yonge Street Meeting House, the Hicksite Friends Burying Ground, and the Doan House. For many years, it was thought that the historic Quaker house might be moved from its location on adjoining property directly south of the Yonge Street Friends Burial Ground to be used in conjunction with the Yonge Street Meeting House. Finally, the Town reached an agreement in 2001 to move the building north on Yonge Street to serve the community as Doane House Hospice.
In 1998 Sandra received recognition from the Ontario Heritage Foundation in appreciation of her heritage conservation achievements. For a period of 36 years, she served on the municipal heritage committee until 2016. For her, it was heartbreaking that, after many decades of working to save historic buildings, she was not able to save her own family Quaker house where her mother was born. The James family timber-frame house built c.1825, already transformed into office reception on the main floor and apartment on the second floor, might have been used by Quakers or other local heritage organizations. In 2014, the house was destroyed in order to make way for a parking lot.
Sandra has been involved with the Canadian Friends Historical Association (CFHA) since 1980 and served as secretary for a number of years. Any organization needs people behind the scenes to run to and fro, and Sandra was always one of those “go to” people who was ready to do just what was needed in preparation for the Annual General Meetings. She was often known to be burning the midnight oil, cutting and pasting brochures and creating newsletters, as well as ordering buses, phoning members, and hand-delivering newsletters. She assisted in the publishing and distribution of the Newsletters and Journals. Doing research and drawing attention to little known events in Quaker history by writing and contributing articles to the Canadian Quaker History Journal and the CFHA Newsletter has been a source of satisfaction.
Sandra is grateful for the friendship and encouragement of Jane Zavitz-Bond whose vast knowledge of Quaker history directed her to sources for research and suggestions for writing biographical accounts of many Quakers whose stories needed to be told. For many years, they worked together on many important issues. With others interested in Quaker history, they enjoyed travel to attend biennial meetings of Quaker Historians and Archivists.
When I asked Sandra if there was anything in particular that stood out in her memories of the Canadian Friends Historical Association, she didn’t take long to reply. It was the anniversary year in 2001 – the Canadian Friends Service Committee and Camp NeeKauNis, both established in 1931, were celebrating 70 years, and CFHA established in 1971-72 was about to celebrate thirty years. In order to recognize these milestones in Canadian Quaker history, CFHA decided to hold the Annual General Meeting at Camp. Possibly because the venue at Waubaushene attracted a poor attendance, the meeting was initially a disappointment. In retrospect, however, Sandra describes it as one of the better AGMs because it recognized and valued those who had contributed outstanding services to Quaker causes in the 20th century, and it provided a venue for a wonderful reunion for the honoured guests – Murray Thomson, Kathleen Hertzberg, Jo Vellacott, Doctors Ed and Vivian Abbott, Peter and Rose Mae Harkness – a phenomenal coming together. It was a different level of gathering altogether. Participants enjoyed supper by the fire on a beautiful fall weekend. Moments like these bring us full circle. Sharing and caring and feeling the Light.