Exploring Uxbridge's Quaker Roots
Updated: Jul 6, 2022
By: Evelyn Mang
With the reopening of the Uxbridge Historical Centre approaching quickly on August 7th, our team has been revisiting the stories of the settlers who planted roots in Uxbridge over 200 years ago. The original settler families who came to Uxbridge were Quakers who can also be referred to as “Friends,” as the organization was originally known as the Religious Society of Friends.
The history of Quakers in Uxbridge began in 1801-1806 when Quakers from Pennsylvania were brought to Whitchurch Township. After arriving in the area, they soon learned of a nearby area called Uxbridge that was bring surveyed and began their settlement. The first Uxbridge settlers consisted of fourteen Quaker families, including some of the most influential figures known in Uxbridge history such as Joseph Gould and Ezekiel James.
Pictured here is Joseph Gould, one of the prominent Quakers in Uxbridge's history.
Quakers belong to a Christian religious denomination rooted in a central belief that an inner light of God’s presence exists in everyone and God’s messages could be received by all people. Church services were often conducted in silent prayer with Friends waiting to receive messages from the Lord. This silence would only be broken when a member was moved to share a message they received.
Friends in Uxbridge formed close ties with one another, a tradition modern Uxbridge residents have continued in our community. In fact, the fourteen families that originally settled in the area hosted church services in their homes before the first Uxbridge church was built in 1809.
Friends had strong values, some of which were viewed as progressive for their time. As Quakers held strong values of equality, they saw women and men as equals and allowed female ministers to serve from an early period. An Uxbridge resident by the name of Alma Gould, born in 1854 and the daughter of Joseph Gould, was an influential Quaker. Alma dedicated herself to spreading Quaker beliefs and served as a Minister among Friends in Uxbridge for 11 years. She later travelled to Western Canada to further spread the doctrine of Quakers, joining a Quaker village in Manitoba.
This photo is an example of typical Quaker dress, similar to what female Quakers would wear in the late 1800s.
Other examples of Quaker ideology include their pacifist beliefs and recorded opposition to war, with some going so far as refusing to enlist in the military. In the war of 1812, a Quaker living in Uxbridge named Moses Hambleton refused to aid the war effort and was imprisoned in York, now known as Toronto, with his son who soon became ill and died in prison.
Education was another strong value of Quakers who wanted their children to be literate as reading would allow them to read the bible and become more employable in developing fields such as business. One of the first Quakers to arrive in Uxbridge, Ezekiel James, valued education so deeply that he built The James School, located on UHC grounds, at his own expense in 1817.
This original schoolhouse was taken down and rebuilt in the 1850s to add a proper foundation. Unfortunately, the second schoolhouse burned down in 1924 and the construction of a third schoolhouse made from bricks commenced. The school was in use until 1969 and soon The Uxbridge-Scott Historical Society opened the museum on-site in 1972.
Despite the strong influence Quakers had on the township of Uxbridge, there were never more than twenty Quaker families residing in the area. Over time, Quakers moved to other places such as Pickering, Whitchurch, and The United States. By 1883, eighty years after Quakers began settling in Uxbridge, there were 1,830 residents in Uxbridge and only five were Quakers.
Although you may not find practicing Quakers in Uxbridge today, there are still descendants of Quakers who settled here. Some Uxbridge residents have last names such as James and Gould, signifying Quaker ancestry.
Quaker’s lasting impact on our community is still apparent through the landmarks they built, a few of which can be visited at the Uxbridge Historical Centre. Some of the buildings with Quaker ties include The James School and the Gould-Carmody house, respectively built by Ezekiel James and Joseph Gould, both prominent Quakers in Uxbridge history. The Centre also has an exhibit on Quakers located in Scott Township Municipal Hall.
Pictured here is Alma Gould, Joseph Gould's daughter, another one of the prominent Quakers in Uxbridge's history.
The close-knit connections the first Quakers created in Uxbridge have not been lost and are reflected in the modern community we now live in. More information and artifacts from Uxbridge Quakers are available for viewing at the Uxbridge Historical Centre, opening to the public on August 7th.