The Sharon Temple is located in Sharon, ON. It was built in the 1800s by the Children of Peace. I am not going to attempt to provide a comprehensive history of either the Temple or the Children of Peace. But I will touch on my ancestors’ connection to both. Should you wish to know more than I write of here, the Sharon Temple National Historic Site & Museum has a wealth of information on the subject.
The Children of Peace was an offshoot of the Quaker movement. They were led by David Willson, an American who migrated to Canada in 1801. Born a Presbyterian, he was eventually admitted as a Quaker. Following a spiritual transformation, he began preaching during the War of 1812. Around that time he left the Quakers and ultimately formed his own spiritual community, known as the Children of Peace. He sympathized with the movement for political reform in Upper Canada and Willson and some of his followers ended up being involved in the Rebellion of 1837.
The Sharon Temple was built between 1825 and 1831. It is a stunning piece of architecture, incorporating an Ark of the Covenant, inspirational Banners, Pipe and Barrel Organs and Jacob’s Ladder. The Temple represents the Children of
Peace’s vision of a society based on the values of peace, equality, and social justice. Built in imitation of Solomon’s Temple, it was used once a month to collect alms for the poor. There were two other meeting houses Sharon, which were used for regular Sunday worship.
From what I have been able to determine, most of my ancestors who lived in the area were not actually Children of Peace but at least some of them were Quaker.
My great-great-great-great grandparents Harrison Haight and Agnes Doan settled in Little Britain in the 1830s. Harrison was born in 1797 and he died in 1877. Agnes was born in 1799 and died, according to the best information I have found so far, in 1842. Information that the Temple Museum Society has collated suggests that Agnes was a member of the Children of Peace until she married Harrison in 1818. At that time she was disowned.
Family lore has it that at some point in the 1840s Harrison decided that the world was going to end. He gave away many of his possessions, put on his best night dress, and climbed on to the roof of his home. I suspect he may have felt rather foolish when climbing down the following morning and trying to reclaim his belongings. I will probably never know whether this story is true or not, but it is true that many followers of William Miller, an American Baptist preacher, believed that the world was going to end on October 22, 1844. So, there is at least the possibility that Harrison was one of the many who came to believe Miller’s assertion that the world would in fact end on that date.
Sharon Burying Ground Circa 1813
Community burial place containing members of the Children of Peace, builders of the Sharon Temple. Tombstones dating to the 1820’s include that of their founder David Willson.
Agnes’ parents – Mahlon and Rebecca Doan – are buried at the Sharon Burying Ground near the temple. Mahlon and Rebecca emigrated from Pennsylvania to Yonge St. in 1808 and joined the Children of Peace in 1813. Mahlon farmed and was a carriage maker by trade. Many in the Doan family immigrated to the area at the same time as Mahlon and Rebecca. In fact, Mahlon’s brother, Ebenezer Doan, was the master builder for the temple. (For more information on the Doans, the Temple Museum Society has a Genealogy page with a section on the family. It’s a good starting point for further research.)
Deceased Feb. 20, 1852. Aged 81 years & 6 mo.
With stedy steps I did persue, My lifetime or my journey through And when my seeing eyes did close My soul did rest in sweet repose Of all the griefs I ever bore I tast I feel I see no more.
Erected by Judah Doan.
Wife of Mahlon Doan deceased who departed this life Septr 5th 1852, Aged 79 years and 24 days.
My spirit went before to rest, While I laid on my dying bed, And often hath my soul been blest And I in peace laid down my head. Dear children my last days attend Nor never let my mind decay For heaven above hath been my friend And peace hath blest my dying day.
Erected by Jonathan & Enos Doan
My Summerville great-great-great grandparents – Christopher and Elizabeth – are also buried at the Sharon Burying Ground. To the best of my knowledge (and according to information available from the Temple museum) they were not members of the Children of Peace. Their daughter Jane Summerville, my great-great grandmother, married Harrison Thomas – the son of Reuben Thomas and Melissa Haight (Harrison and Agnes’ daughter). Jane and Harrison are also buried in the Burying Ground.
Died Mar 31 1901; Aged 79 years 1 Mo.
Not lost but gone before
Mother is done
In memory of Elizabeth
Wife of Chris. Somerville,
Who died Nov 2, 1886; Aged 66 years
Thou art gone to the grave, but we will not diplore thee Tho sorrow and silence encompass the tomb, The Saviour hath passed thro its portals before thee, And the image of his face was thy guide thro’ the gloom.
As a side note, on the site of the Sharon Temple museum is a little log house. The house was moved there from Holt, Ontario. It’s a rather non-descript, very simple home. It is the closest I have ever come to a time travel machine. My great aunts maintained that their mother, my great-grandmother, had been born in that cabin in 1875. Gertrude Ethel Thomas was the daughter of Jane and Harrison Thomas. When we were there several years ago we were lucky enough to be able to go inside the cabin. It was incredible to stand there and imagine that this was where my great-great-grandparents lived and where my great-grandmother had been born. The cabin – and the whole Sharon Temple site – really allowed me to feel connected to my heritage in a way I had not felt previously.
This post is my submission to the September 4, 2011 Carnival of Genealogy 109, Our Ancestors’ Place of Worship.