Strand A. Heritage and Identity, Communities in Canada, 1780-1850
Quaker is a Christian denomination. Quaker values include simplicity, equality and peace.
The history of Newmarket dates back to 1801 with a man by the name of Timothy Rogers, a Quaker from Vermont. Rogers was part of the quick geographical growth of North America Quakerism in the years following the American Revolution.
The Quakers left the United States as a result of difficulties they encountered, including abuse and having their property taken away, when this peaceful group refused to take part in the rioting and bloodshed of the American Revolutionists.
On April 24, 1800 Rogers set out to York (Toronto), Upper Canada. He explored the area around the Holland River and up to Lake Simcoe to find a suitable location for a Quaker settlement. These settlers were attracted by the availability of free land being offered by the provincial government. After surveying the land, Rogers applied to General Hunter and Chief Justice John Elmsley, and received a grant for forty farms of 200 acres each. Rogers secured forty 200-acre lots along the East Holland River, reserving lots 92-95 on the west side of the Don Trail for his family and lot 95 on the east side for himself. He then contracted to bring forty families who would travel approximately 500 miles by land to get here.
On February 15, 1801 Rogers and his family left Vermont in the dead of winter. They travelled by sleigh encountering a long and dangerous journey. In May 1801, the families arrived to the Newmarket wilderness, where no other settlers were, and began the difficult task of clearing the land for their homes and farms. The settlers were given two years to clear and fence 10 acres and build their homes. These homes were 16 feet wide by 20 feet long made of logs with a shingled roof. In addition, each family was expected to clear 35 feet in front of their property, half of which was designated as a public road (Yonge Street).
In this new wilderness, there were wolves, bears, deer, foxes, lynx and raccoons. Food consisted of fish, deer, wild duck and geese. Rushes that grew in the forest made good food for cattle and horses.
The Quakers met many Indigenous people in Newmarket who were helpful, and were agreeable to trade with them. They traded baskets, brooms, trays, ladles, fish, venison, duck, geese, maple sugar, cranberries, other berries, furs and skins.
A large mural on the wall of Eventmarkt, facing the Fairy Lake falls on Water Street in Newmarket, depicts what the first meeting of Quakers, fur traders and the Indigenous peoples may have looked like.
Many of the early Quaker settlers made a mark on the economy of Newmarket. They began as farmers but became local politicians, merchants and lawyers.