Back in the 1840s in Ontario, any Protestant sects other than that of the Church of England had a pretty hard time. Their ministers could not legally marry people, and they were under many other handicaps. Less known sects, like the Baptists and Congregationalists were looked upon with suspicion by members of the Established Church.
In 1843 there lived across the St. Lawrence a Baptist minister named Elder Fay, and he thought it was duty to cross the river to Canada and preach the gospel to the pioneers. On his journey he asked a blacksmith who could put him up. The blacksmith knew a local farmer, who had a reputation for entertaining strangers, so he advised Elder to see the farmer.
Just then the farmer passed the shop in his sleigh and when he heard about the situation he put the preacher up no questions asked. The farmer and his wife were members of the Established Church and after he had taken the Baptist preacher home his wife took him outside and said:
“Oh George, why did you bring such a person to our house?”
The farmer replied that he could hardly have done otherwise than he did without being inhospitable. He admitted that the neighbours might wonder at his bringing a Baptist into the neighbourhood. But, they would have to make the best of what was called a bad job.
When Elder Fay expressed desire to preach in the local school house, the farmer had worries, as he was afraid he would have to introduce the preacher and did not wish to do so. But the elder soon settled that difficulty quickly. When the farmer asked about this matter of an “Introduction” the elder said:
“My good and tiny Bible will introduce me.”
A meeting was held in due time and paid off without the preacher saying anything to which the farmer could take exception and the elder made many converts in the area.
My how things have changed.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Methodists used “circuit rider” preachers to minister to rural flocks.
Why Baptists Were Few.
The fewness of the Baptists as compared with
other denominations. The reason for this may be
found largely in the fact that the population of Upper
Canada and of the Eastern Townships of Lower Can
ada contained a large proportion of United Empire
Loyalists. Baptists were numerous in the United
States at that time, but a large proportion of them
I were favorably disposed to the independence move
ment, and hence very few of them were found amongst
those who came to Canada at the close of the American
War of Independence.
Rev. Duncan McPhail was a Highland Scotch-
man. He came to Canada as a school teacher, but was
called to preach to the Baptist Church at Chatham
(Dalesville). He received no salary but gained a meagre living for himself and family from a rocky
farm. After his death his church work was taken up
by his son.
Rev. Daniel McPhail. Young Daniel was only
about 20 years of age when he took up the work of his
father both on the farm and in the church. He was
sent to Madison Seminary, in Hamilton, N.Y., by a
Presbyterian merchant. After graduation, he was
pastor at Osgoode for 26 years, but spent much of his
time in evangelizing amongst all the churches of the
east. He was commonly spoken of as ” The Elijah
of the Ottawa Valley.” He was possessed of a great
passion for soul-winning, and probably organized more
Baptist churches and saw more of his converts enter
the Christian ministry than any other one man in
This is one reason why you have issues finding marriages in the early 1800s
In Upper Canada, however, the utility of such a demographic approach is limited. As Ward observes, “the available parish records are too few, too fragmentary, and too imperfect to support sustained analysis of this sort.”82 The colony did not mandate reporting of marriages until 1831, and even then, only dissenting Protestant ministers and magistrates were required to submit an annual list of marriages conducted to the District Clerk of the Peace. Anglican and Catholic clergy were exempt.
Before 1831, registration of marriages was voluntary and subject to a fee. Changes to
licensing requirements in 1848 produced a more complete set of records, but these again
must be interpreted with caution.84 In any case, demographic records from Upper Canada provide little substantial information about how and why marriages were conducted, much less the discourses which informed them. This study concentrates instead on other kinds of qualitative evidence gained from published travel writing and emigrant literature, as well as private writings, including diaries and letters.
NOTHING “IMPROPER” HAPPENED:
SEX, MARRIAGE, AND COLONIAL IDENTITY IN UPPER CANADA, 1783-1850
Robin Christine Grazley