In glancing over the history of Oshawa and the vicinity surrounding it, there is no character which rests upon the eye more picturesquely than that of the Rev. Robert H. Thornton. As we contemplate this cultured and refined gentleman of Scottish birth, a missionary of the Presbyterian Church, looking over a field of work, in what was then in 1833 an unbroken wilderness, one cannot but admire the courage, assiduity, and devotion with which he set about the task before him. It did not take him long to classify the prevailing evils of the day, drunkenness, illiteracy, and immorality. Few men, in our county, ever assailed these evils with greater skill ; and none succeeded to a greater degree in mitigating them, than did the subject of this sketch.
The Rev’d Robert H. Thornton, D.D., was born in April, 1806, in the Parish of West Calder, near Edinburgh, Scotland, died in Oshawa February 11, 1875. He attended the school of his native Parish until about 14 years of age ; he then went to a private Academy kept by his brother in Falkirk. From Falkirk he went to the University of Edinburgh, and studied under the celebrated men who occupied the chairs of the University at that time ; among them was the celebrated John Wilson, better known as Christopher North, Professor of Moral Philosophy. On the back of one of Christopher North’s tickets certifying attendance we find the. following: “Mr. Robert H.. Thornton was a regular, attentive, and most able student in the Moral Philosophy class during the Session of 1828 and 1829, John Wilson.”
In addition to the ordinary literary course, we find tickets of attendance for lectures on Chem istry, Practical Pharmacy and Mineralogy. After completing his literary course at Edinburgh he studied for some time at St. Andrews, and finished his Theological studies at Glasgow, where the Rev. Alexander Kennedy, of Dunbarton, was his fellow student. Among his papers we find the following :
“Edinburgh, 12th April, 1833.
We hereby certify that the Rev. Robert H. Thornton is a regularly educated and ordained Minister of the United Secession Church ; that he is a person of approved talents ; * * * that he is sent out by the Committee of the United Associate Synod for Foreign Missions to preach the . Gospel in Canada.
Wm. Peddie, John Brown, D.D., Secretary. Chairman.
On the 16th of April, 1833, he was married in Edinburgh to Margaret Thompson, youngest daughter of the late Joseph Thompson, of Malalenny Grove, whom he survived just one year and one day. On the 8th of May following they sailed from Greenock. Accompanying them was his brother-in-law, Mr. Alexander Burnett, of this town. After a passage of seven weeks they landed at New York, and reached Rochester just in time to spend the 4th of July. They intended to proceed to Toronto, but the boat only went to Cobourg. At that place he left his young wife and made a three months’ tour westward. What the country was in those days we learn from a series of anonymous articles which he contributed to the Canadian Presbyterian Magazine in 1854, the manuscript of which is among his papers, he says :
“In the present altered aspect and circumstances of the country, it must be difficult to conceive the realities of the case twenty years ago. With the exception of a narrow strip, far from continuous, along the Southern frontier, Canada was then a vast wilderness. Enterprising settlers had, indeed, in many cases, pushed their way many miles inland, but their ‘clearings’ were so small, ‘so few and far between’ as scarcely to interrupt the wilderness monotony. A few localities were here and there, even then giving promise of the future in the widening grain fields and increasing dwelling places ; but such localities were separated commonly by many miles of dense and dreary forest ; and as for roads, with a few exceptions, they were yet in the future. The emigrants, and the missionary too, were at first cheered by hearing of certain lines of roads in a direction they wished to move, but judge of the surprise felt when a road was found as Nature’s hand had framed it, and was ‘made’ merely by the cutting or partial clearing of the trees which had covered its surface. To keep these few highways, such as they were, was incompatible with the objects of the missionary and the nature of the work. We had to wend our way through forest paths, from clearing to clearing, where the only mode of locomotion was on foot. We had then, not only ‘no certain dwelling place,’ but no certain field was before us. And one of the greatest peculiarities of our condition was that we had to ‘go forth’ like Abraham, ‘not knowing whether we went.’ Avoiding everything like inroads upon the few localities where the Gospel had obtained a footing, by the formation of small churches, we proceeded in quest of Presbyterian settlers, without the least direct information as to where they were to be found, or whether we should be desired. Committing ourselves to God, we first advanced where He broke up our way. The first members of our church in Canada were thus most emphatically ‘a people sought out.’ Long may she be distinguished as a ‘city not forsaken.’ ”
In he fall of the same year he received a “call” from a number of families in the Township of Whitby. This he accepted with the understanding that he was still to continue his missionary labors. Of the 25 members who gave that call, none remain in 1875 but Mr. and Mrs. McGaw, senr., of Oshawa. His sphere of labor there extended from Scarborough on the west to Cobourg on the east, and northward as far as hardy Scotch-men had penetrated into the “forest primeval.” On Morris’s hill, Lo. 20, Con. I., stood a building known for many years as the Baptist Church, which served for holding political meetings, for a town hall, and for preaching the Gospel on Sabbath. In this building the infant church assembled, and regularly worshipped from 1833 till 1837. In the latter year, what must have been for the times a magnificent brick church was built a mile and a half west of this town in the Union Cemetery, with a view of being central for the township. Like many of our churches of the present day, it does not seem to have been paid for, for we find that in 1842 the Pastor went to the States to endeavour to collect money to pay the debt. We find among his papers the following letter :
“Syracuse, Nov. 14, 1842.
“The bearer of this letter, the Rev. Mr. Thornton, of Whitby, W. Canada, has spent the Sabbath with us and preached to our respective congregations, to their very great gratification, and we trust profit. We have done what we could for his little church, and receiving our impressions of the character of the church from the character of the amiable and able minister, we have, unsolicited, put this letter into his hands, that we might commend both him and the cause of his beloved church, to the kind regards of our brethren, to whom he may find it expedient to make known the object of his mission.
J. W. Adams,
D. C. Lamoins.”
From, this time onward he always preached three times on Sabbath, in the forenoon in the Brick Church, in the afternoon in one of the back stations (Columbus or Brock), and in the evening either at Whitby or Oshawa. This arrangement, however, was frequently interrupted by lengthened missionary tours. He never hesitated to undertake a journey however long, roads however bad, and any storm however great, deterred him not from keeping his appointments. Where his horse could not go he went on foot. His people were ever ready to acknowledge his disinterested labors among them. In 1855 his health began to suffer, and a number of friends in his congregation, with others in the neighbourhood, “resolved to present him with a sum of money in token of respectesteem for his character, and of their appreciation of his long, faithful, and laborious services as a minister of the Gospel.” The result was that in less than two weeks they raised $620, and urged him to visit his native land. Accompanied by Mrs. Thornton, he spent four months in Scotland and returned much invigorated. The year 1858 was his 25th anniversary as minister of that church. A public meeting was held in the church, and an address was presented to him, of which the following was the concluding paragraph :-
“While so continuing to discharge your high duties, you have declined many offers of advancement and worldly profit, that would have taken you from us ; you have made personal sacrifices for our sakes ; you assisted us through early trials when it was easier to have left us to struggle without help, and our present continuance as a church is due under Providence, to your continued labors in our behalf. It is not often that a congregation is favored with the continued ministrations of one Pastor for so long a period, and our happy lot is to us a cause of gratitude and thankfulness to the Giver of all Good.” Signed on behalf of the congregation.
John Michael, Alexander Burnett, William Tempest.
After the soiree, a committee consisting of John Boyd, Philip Taylor, and John Agnew, presented him with a very kind address and $200. In 1859, the college of New Jersey (Princeton) conferred the degree D. D. upon him. The Globe of that time has the following :
“Princeton is beyond comparison, the very highest among the Presbyterian Colleges of the United States, and never conferred any of its honors more worthily than in the present instance.”
In 1862 the old brick church was vacated for one in Oshawa, at the corner of Simcoe and Bruce streets, which in 1899 was replaced by the church at present occupied by the congregation.
We have only spoken of his labors as a minister, but his exertions in the cause of education were no less unremitting. In the early days the few school books that were in the country were from the neighboring States, and were filled with sentiments intensely anti-British. To remedy this, he found time to publish the “Instructive Reader,” which only gave place to the “National School Series.” He was among the members of the Board of Education of the old Rome District, and when Ontario was set off as a County he was the first Chairman of the Board of Education, and continued a member of that Board until his death. He was the teacher’s friend, stimulating and encouraging him, sympathizing with his difficulties, and ameliorating them as far as lay in his power. The teachers at various times acknowledged his labors in the cause of education. On the 28th of January, 1858, the teachers held a meeting in the church, which the Vindicator of that date called the largest audience of the season. Amongst others Dr. Ryerson was present, and referred in the most complimentary terms to the valuable assistance rendered him in working the system of education by Dr. Thornton. On this occasion Mr. McCabe, on behalf of the teachers presented him with a purse containing $300. Besides what he did in a public way, he assisted many privately in their studies, who are now occupying prominent positions in the county.
In another field Dr. Thornton won a reputation that will not soon die. Before coming to this country he had seen and felt the necessity of temperance reformation, and had joined the moderation societies of those days. They soon gave way to total abstinence societies, and the Doctor became a steadfast adherent of the principle. He thought it a part of his duty as a minister of the Gospel to preach temperance as well as righteousness, and faithfully did he perform that duty. He was not content to let his voice be heard solely in the pulpit, but in addition gave the first temperance address delivered in this section of country, and established what has since become known as the “Old Temperance Societies.” Although not predisposed in favor of regalia or passwords, he early saw the benefits of the Sons of Temperance, and became one of the first members of Oshawa Division, a membership that was retained for many years. He was, from its commencement, a Vice President of the Ontario Prohibitory League. He however attached little value to these honors, and it was not their stimulation that urged him to work. He was the father of the movement in this and adjoining counties, and the sobriety which characterizes this country is largely due to the early and zealous labors of Dr. Thornton.
It is to be regretted that his sermons and nearly all his manuscripts, dating back forty years, are written in a short hand, known only to his son, now in Scotland, and to him but partially, and therefore many interesting facts and incidents cannot now be obtained. We hope, however, yet to give more in future issues, and to this end we should be glad to receive communications from old settlers who must remember much that would be worth recording.
Of the character of Dr. Thornton we need not dwell at length. Naturally reserved, he had a warm heart, and contrary to what a first acquaintance might anticipate, his sympathies were easily touched, and many a young teacher especially has received a kindly word and suggestion when he little expected it, from the apparently strict Superintendent. He was a good citizen and loyal subject. He felt the evils of a state church, and strongly opposed the Family Compact, yet he opposed any attempt at severing this country from the British Crown. He however labored in a legitimate way to remedy the political evils under which the country labored in the early days, and was always a consistent advocate of real reform. He was not only a well read theologian, but also kept abreast of the standard culture of the day. One of his last public acts was the deliverance of a thoughtful lecture before the Oshawa Y.M.C.A., combatting the errors of the development theory. His prominent character was devotion to duty wherever he felt it lead him, and there is no doubt that it was his too great faithfulness to it that brought about his death.
Of the high esteem in which he was held the services connected with his funeral were the evidence. His congregation wore mourning, the places of business were closed, and a lengthy cortege followed his remains to the Union Cemetery.
Dr. Thornton’s successors were Rev. Dr. Hogg (now of Winnipeg), who ministered to the congregation from 1875 to 1879 ; Rev. S. Eastman, 1879 to 1898 ; Rev. James Hodges, 1898-1913 ; and Rev. Geo. Yule, 1913.
From British American Presbyterian, Toronto, March 5th, 1875 :
“At the earnest solicitation of a number of Presbyterians in the Township of Whitby, Mr. Thornton made that locality the centre of his ministerial labours, but his diocese extended far to the east and to the west ; and as far north as settlers of Presbyterian proclivities were to be found. No bishop could more assiduously seek out and tend his widely scattered flock. In a letter of instructions from the mission committee in Scotland, we find the following among a number of most judicious counsels : ‘Wherever you settle, your labors are not to be confined to the audience assembling in your stated place of worship, but you are to preach and exhort as often as possible at stations in the vicinity.’ With this as with all portions of their instructions, he yielded what may be termed an excessive compliance. He grudged no cost of time and toil in fulfilling his sacred commission. He did not confine his labors to the `vicinity’ of his home, but ‘went everywhere preaching the gospel,’ in the several counties bordering on Ontario. It may truthfully be said, that he was the father of all the now flourishing Presbyterian congregations in that whole district of country. Here we gladly avail ourselves of a letter, just received from John Ratcliff, Esq., a much esteemed elder of the church at Columbus, who was long and intimately associated with our departed friend in Christian work. Dr. Thornton’s character and abundant labors are so well and cordially given, that we cannot refrain from inserting it, even without asking the consent of the writer, but we feel confident that both he and the readers of the Presbyterian will forgive us.”
Columbus, Feb. 15th, 1875.
Rev. and Dear Sir :You ask me to give you some items connected with the life and labors of our dear departed friend and revered father, the late R. H. Thornton, D.D. Having been intimately acquainted, and in an humble measure associated with him in some efforts, for the benefit of the community for more than forty years, I have great pleasure in complying with your request.
Dr. Thornton settled in Whitby Township in the Fall of 1833, (not 1834 as stated in the Globe). and from the first, he took a lively interest in all that pertained to the advancement of the community, in morality, in intelligence, in temperance, and in religion. At that time the Sabbath was far from being well observed by the settlers. But by his constant and earnest appeals to the conscience he did more than any other man in the locality to stop the desecration of the day sacred to rest and spiritual enjoyment.
The free and easy drinking habits so common then in new settlements, found in him a constant and consistent opponent, and the cause of temperance a most zealous and powerful advocate. In every form, and by every legitimate means, he sought to abolish the drinking customs of the day. The idea of a public open air demonstration being mooted, two or three met with him ; We named a committee, obtained the use of McGregor’s Grove, about the place where the mansion of the Hon. T. N. Gibb’s now stands, and called forth such an assembly as overtasked the capacity of the then small village of Oshawa,to allay their hunger, though there was plenty of water to quench their thirst; and although a haevy thunder storm spoiled the closing procession to Whitby, such an impetus was given to the cause of temperance , that it was felt for many a day.
The cause of education early engaged the attention, and called forth the efforts of our departed friend. Long before any official legal enactment had put in operation the machinery whereby our schools have attained their present high standing, he, by personal instruction of those who longed to be useful, by lectures, and by visits, and also by publishing a series of progressive school-books,did much to lay the foundation of our splendid institution of to-day.
But it was as a minister of the gospel that he was most honoured to do service for the Master. At the time of his settlement, there was no Presbyterian minister between Port Hope and Toronto, and when we take into account the state of the roads, and the hardship of travelling in those early days, we can only wonder that one who was not over robust, should have been able to accomplish so much. Indeed, it was remarked by some that the long, rough rides over almost impassable roads seemed to invigorate his then slender frame, and to toughen his constitution. No state of weather or roads ever deterred him from keeping an appointment if horse or man could push through. Even when the roads were nearly bottomless, he was hardly ever behind the appointed time. His labors not only embraced the township of Whitby, where there are now five Presbyterian churches, but extended into the townships of Pickering and Darlington, where there are now numerous flourishing congregations. Indeed, without any figure of speech, he may truly be called the father of Presbyterianism in this region. Often in the new settler’s log house, by the open wood fire in winter, or in the rude barn in summer, did he proclaim with great faithfulness the unsearchable riches of the grace of God. He often cheerfully shared the single-roomed cabin of the hardy settler. One word with reference to the social character and manners of the Rev. Doctor, and I must close this meagre sketch. No man was ever more misunderstood by those who did not open their hearts to him. By such he was esteemed proud, distant, and cold in manner, when it was only a natural diffidence which he both felt and deplored, but which he found impossible to shake off. But to those who understood him, who opened their hearts and affections to him, he was the most cherished of friends, and his visits to them were seasons of rich and varied enjoyment. His genial nature attached him to old and young, and his stores of all kinds of knowledge furnished an intellectual feast that those who had once tasted longed to have repeated. In the home relations of husband and father he was most exemplary. The sympathy of feeling between him and his beloved partner was very close and tender, and the filial reverence of his children was inspired by his entering freely and fully into all their joys and sorrows, and giving them the full tide of his great affection.
The community at large have lost in him one who has done more to mould habits of thought and springs of action than any other single individual. A thorough scholar, with a strong will and firm principles, could not fail to influence very strongly those whose opportunities had not been equal to his, and whose time .to attend to intellectual culture was limited by the pressing engagements of secular life. Many have been stimulated to intellectual exertion through his means, and many led to embrace the Saviour through his clear, logical and faithful presentation of divine truth. “He rests from his labors, and his works do follow him.”
Believe me to be, reverend and dear sir, yours faithfully, John Ratcliff.
“It is but justice to the departed, and may prove useful as an example, to state that Dr. Thornton and his kind-hearted helpmeet were noted for hospitality, and had ample opportunity, especially in former years, for the exercise of that Christian grace. For thirty-eight years they resided close by the Kingston Road, the leading highway of the Province ; and as the doctor was widely known and highly respected, few days elapsed without having a call from some friend or friends passing that way ; and they never failed to receive a kindly welcome and hospitable entertainment. It was a wonder to many how he, with so limited an income, could bring up a large family, giving them a good education, and exercise such large hospitality. But there is still wonderful outcome in the handful of meal in the barrel and the little oil in the cruise, to those who fear and serve the Lord ; and this blessing usually comes, as it did in this case, through the medium of that ‘favor from the Lord,’ viz., a good wife.”
THE THORNTON PRESENTATION
On Friday evening last, the 22nd instant, one of the largest audiences of the season assembled in the U.P. Church to witness the ceremony of presenting Rev. R Thornton, Local Superintendent of Schools for the Township of Whitby, with a magnificent Purse containing the sum of $300, by the friends of education in the Township. The presentation was the first order of the evening, and was made by the Chairman of the Association, Mr. Wm. McCabe, of Whitby. We give the address and reply in full, as copied from the Times. Tea and cakes and music then occupied a portion of time, during the discussion of which the Chief Superintendent of Schools, Rev. E. Ryerson, D.D., entered and took his seat on the platform, along with the Rev. Mr. Lowry, of Whitby, and the Rev. J. Climie, of Bowmanville. The Secretary, Mr. J. H. Greenwood, read communications from Rev. Wm. Ormiston, Dr. Taylor, Mr. Robinson and others, accounting for their not being present.
The Chairman then called upon the Rev. Mr. Lowry to address the audience, who did so, briefly Mr. Climie next spoke ,and then gave way to Dr. Ryerson, who made the speech of the evening, giving much information respecting the Common School system of Canada, and referring in the most complimentary terms, to the valuable assistance rendered him in the working of the system, by such men as the gentlemen whom the people had met that evening to honor. The Rev. Mr. Thornton was then called upon, and spoke for a short time with reference to the cause of education, and the progress which had been made in the Township of Whitby, after which he proceeded to cut up one of the two huge four-storey cakes which stood before him on the table, which was distributed throughout the audience. The usual complimentary votes of thanks were then passed, to the Chairman, the Oshawa Band, and the waiters ; the band played the national anthem, and the people retired to their homes.
The amount in cash taken at the door, besides the tickets otherwise sold, was $71.90. The receipts of the Soiree, it is thought, will be quite sufficient to pay all expenses, and leave the balance over, to be applied to the purposes of the subscription.
To the Rev. R. H. Thornton, from his friends in the Town and Township of Whitby, and the Village of Oshawa.
Rev. and Dear Sir,
Actuated by a desire to give a united expression to our individual feeling of highest approval of the unwearied energy and preseverance which you have for the last nineteen years exercised in the cause of Education, and as Superintendent of the Schools in the Township of Whitby, we have invited yourself and our mutual friends here this evening. You have, indeed sir, good cause to look back and review your career as Superintendent with laudible pride and very great satisfaction.
To you, sir, and your fellow commissioners of the olden time, we are indebted for a system of education much superior to that of other less favored localities. For the patience and hope which sustained you in that, the first step of our present noble system, we return our heartfelt gratitude.
We cannot estimate too highly the perseverance which overcame the difficulties and discouragements of this period, which would have been insurmountable but to one impelled by a determination never to yield in a good work.
Pleasing must it be, sir, to you, to contrast the present with pastthe present, which is the glory of Canada, and in many respects a model for the other countries. Gratefully would the Teachers at present engaged in the Township remember your untiring exertions and solicitude on their behalf, and would sincerely thank you for the friendly advice, ready sympathy, and kind encouragement so frankly and affectionately bestowed.
And now, sir, we beg your acceptance of this purse, with its contents, as a small token of the estimation in which we hold your services.
We desire to convey to your excellent partner our heartfelt expression of friendly affection.
May you both, with your family, receive at all times, as we feel assured you will merit, the warm esteem of kind and sympathizing friends.
In conclusion, we sincerely trust that you may long be spared to continue those valuable labors which have hitherto reflected so much credit on yourself, and conferred so much benefit on your country. –
On behalf of the aforementioned parties. Township of Whitby, Jan. 22nd, 1858.
MR. THORNTON’S REPLY
My Dear Sir,–I feel quite unable to respond in any adequate manner, to you and the numerous friends you represent on the present occasion. While I highly appreciate the sentiments which have been conveyed to me in your address, I feel so humbled to think how little I have merited the noble tribute you have paid, and how little I am entitled to the flattering encomiums you have bestowed, that I have no language capable of expressing my grateful emotions.
I have, it is true, labored long and earnestly for the advancement of education in the Township with which I deem it an honor to be identified and I rejoice to know that so many are ready_ to acknowledge that my efforts have been crowned with some measure of success. But, sir, I assure you and those around me this evening, that neither the bodily toil nor mental anxiety for a long while inseparable from my position, were sustained under an expectation of any return of this kind. Whatever might be the discouragements, I felt ever impelled onwards from a strong sense of duty, arising from my conviction of the vast importance of education generally, and from an ardent desire to secure some good amount of so inestimable a blessing to the numerous youths of this important Township ; and the longer I labor in this cause, the more am I convinced that there are few objects of greater value to which any patriot or philanthropist can devote his efforts. I am well aware that I have been regarded by some of my friends as somewhat of an enthusiast in this matter. Be it so ; I am sure that it cannot be denied that the cause is at least worthy of it. And besides, sir, whoever can estimate the former state of things, in the general absence of anything deserving the name of education, the prevalent apathy in regard to it, with the low qualifications and narrow views of the majority of our earlier teachers; will at once see a combination of circumstances fitted to repress the zeal and clog the energies of any one less untiring than an educational enthusiast. And now, when obstructions have been so generally removed, we can turn our attention to the good accomplished by education in the qualification of many who have already entered on the busy stage of this world’s duties, and in the excellent state of our schools, training up so many more. When we contemplate all this, who will hesitate to admit that it is good to be zealously affected in good things ? Regarding education as including every means by which an intelligent being may be trained to knowledge and virtue, qualified for acting an honorable and respectable part in the world, and prepared for that immortal existence to which all are destined, I cannot but regard our Common and Grammar Schools as among the most valuable institutions which any civilized community can possess. And I assure you that I have no higher satisfaction than to think that my lengthened efforts to raise the status of these elementary institutions, and to enhance their value in the estimation of the community, have been in any degree appreciated. That they are appreciated, this meeting, and this substantial token, compel me to feel. And valuable as your gift is, intrinsically, and specially in times like these, I assure you that I estimate far more highly your good wishes and generous approval of my labors in the public service. I do look back, sir, as you think I may, with some degree of pride and satisfaction on comparing the past with the present state of education among us ; but my crowning satisfaction is, to see our schools, by means of that system which you justly deem the glory of Canada, placed on a footing which will not only secure what has been attained, but will make our present advancement only a faint prelude of, I trust, a yet higher eminence in our educational institutions, and, in the fullest sense, of an educated community.
That so important and influential a portion of the community as the Teachers are, should appreciate my services, and I think of them so favorably, is to me at once gratifying and encouraging. At the commencement of my labors, I found the Teachers, as a class, too generally despised, and often ignobly treated ; and convinced that one essential element of the Common Schools’ prosperity is the respect of the Teacher and the sphere of his labors, I have ever anxiously sought to prompt them to merit this respect ; and I have long been able to advert with satisfaction to the general excellent character and efficiency of the Teachers of this township, and the two municipalities embraced in it. To furnish them, as they are pleased to say I have done, with friendly advice, ready sympathy, and encouragement, shall still be my object, as I have in times past felt it to be simply my duty ; and often have I been gratified in following the course of several who were once in your ranks, and whom I can remember having aided and encouraged, who are now filling, with credit to themselves, useful and, if possible, still more responsible situations. That the Teachers of Whitby may ever be distinguished by a laudable ambition to excel in their noble and arduous profession, and labour to promote the public good, by training the future men and women of this section of the country, is my earnest desire and hope. If they would do so, they must be enthusiasts too, and I rejoice that not a few of them are. And here I cannot let pass the opportunity to notice a; circumstance which has been forced upon my attention a Chairman of the Board of Public Instruction for the County, viz. that the schools of Whitby (including the Corporations) have already furnished a large number of the Teachers in the County. I would say to them, persevere in your noble work, and rear, as I trust you are still doing, not only the Teachers of Ontario, but the Professors of the Colleges, enlightened Judges, large-hearted Legislators, and Christian Ministers of Canada.
For all their readiness to co-operate with me in the advancement of education, and for the respect and attention manifested to myself. I return then my hearty thanks. And I have also most gratefully to acknowledge for myself, my partner in life, and our family, the very kind wishes which have been so cordially expressed in our behalf.
Discipline of Congregation
An isolated case taken from the minutes of the Session of the Elders in 1835, will serve to illustrate some of the difficulties which confronted Dr. Thornton in his methods of dealing with the easy notions of society, which obtained at that early date in our history.
The Session then took into consideration the case of Jean ( ) whose conduct previous to marriage with James ( ) was deemed irregular. It was agreed that a member of Session call upon her and converse with her on the subject and advise her as to the proper steps to be taken to be free of the scandal. Concluded with prayer.
Dec. 6th, 1835. The Session met previous to public worship and heard the minister’s report of the following individuals ; Samuel Hill, Helen Hepburn and Andri Nicol, and Alex. Pringle. As nothing was known why they should not be proposed as applicants for admission the minister was authorized to publish their names the same day to the congregation. Concluded with prayer.
Dec. 13th. The Session met and was constituted the Moderator and Messrs. Dow, Matthewson, Way and Water being present.
The Session proceeded to hear Mr. Dow’s report with respect to Jean ( ) and from the intimation of her readiness to appear when called on it was resolved to appoint a meeting on Monday for that purpose at the Court House. Mr. Way was appointed to intimate the same to her and require her presence. Concluded with prayer.
14th. The Session met this day according to adjournment when all were present as yesterday. It being understood that Jean was not likely to appear, the Session resolved as the next proper step to cite her a second time, and require also the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson for the information they could give in this case. And for the accommodation of those concerned the appointment was made at the school house at Mr. Armstrong’s. Mr. Waters was appointed to cite
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson ; Mr. Matthewson, Jean and Mr. Way to try to get any information which the nearest neighbor could give and to report the same.
There was next brought forward the draft of a formula for the admission of members which being generally approved, it was agreed that it should be fully written out and more fully considered at next meeting, adjourned to meet at the school house on Tuesday the 22nd inst. Concluded with prayer.
22nd. The Session met this day according to adjournment when the moderator and Messrs. Dow, Matthewson, Way and Waters were present. After being constituted the case of Jean, who was present was taken up. Her own statement went to show that she had not been guilty of the crime alleged. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were then called on for the information they could give, and both agreed in stating that they could give no evidence as to anything of the nature alleged. And when the said Jean was required to explain the cause of her living in the same house with James previous to marriage, she said that she was put out of her uncle’s and had no other place to go to. The evidence on the other side was that it was true that she was forbidden their house, but it was after being repeatedly charged against being out of their house at a too late hour, and in irreligious company. And when she was expostuated with and desired to return after she had left, she had justified herself and would not return unless indulged in those liberties which her relations as guardians and christians could not conscientiously allow. After the evidence were compared and the case fully considered the Session retired to give judgment. It was unanimously considered that Jean was not chargeable with the scandal alleged, but that her conduct had been unproper as a servant in taking that liberty which was refused her from the best motives and moreover very imprudent to say the least, for a professor of religion to frequent a house where there was no evidence of the fear of God and where there was an unmarried man. This was accordingly intimated by the moderator accompanied with a brief admonition. The parties then were dismissed from the court.