Coldstream Friends History

Between 1834 and 1843, among the first settlers in the area now called Coldstream, were the Quaker families of John and Margaret Harris, Benjamin and Sarah Cutler, John and Sarah Marsh, and Daniel and Susan Zavitz. In 1854 and 1863 the Kester family and then the Muma family settled here also.

Friends Meeting House ca 1920

Coldstream Quakers Meeting House circa 1920

In the beginning informal meetings for worship were held in family homes. In 1849 the first formal meeting of the Religious Society of Friends called an Indulged Meeting was held, setting up a structure for the development of the now existing Coldstream Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. In 1850 land was donated to erect a frame building which would serve as a meetinghouse . By 1859 this frame meetinghouse was inadequate to accommodate the growing families and it was replaced by the now existing brick structure. A burying ground was also established behind this building where the graves of many Coldstream Quakers can be found.

Some other family names comprising the developing Quaker community are Shotwells, Hamachers, Sitters, Willsons, Browns, and Bycrafts.

The Quaker pioneers did not limit their energies to the practice of their religion or the clearing of land and establishing successful farms. To fill the settler’s needs Benjamin Cutler built a combination grist and saw-mill on the Sydenham River on the Coldstream Road. A quarter of a mile downstream John Marsh built another grist & saw-mill, a furniture factory and a woollen mill in what now is Coldstream. There was no rivalry between the two mills because the settlers of the area were using the products from the mills as fast as they were turned out. Later a general store was built and run by John Marsh’s son Jacob and his wife Louisa. The Marsh Store is still standing as a privately owned historic building in Coldstream.

The Quaker settlers established a good relationship with the Indian people who often camped along the Sydenham River while they were cutting hickory and ash trees for baskets and tool handles. On cold days they would often come into the homes of the hospitable Quaker families to warm themselves by their fires. Of these homes, John Marsh’s home was often a favoured place of refuge.

Friends were diligent about education. Before any libraries existed Friends had formed reading groups and personal books were shared with other families. In 1875 they set up the Olio , a literary and debating society which served the wider community for 25 years. The Coldstream Public Library, est 1887, had it birth from the Olio Society. A First Day School was started in 1880 and was the first Sunday School in the area . From 1886 to 1899 the Young Friends’ Review was published by Coldstream Young Friends. It carried news and editorials of interest to Quakers over a large area of Canada and the United States.

Friends filled the necessary roles of a budding community acting as first postmaster, school teachers, carriage makers, shoe and harness makers, blacks smithies and watch and jewelry repair, & weigh scale operators. The Quaker Phone Company established in the Marsh store was one of the early phone companies.

Charles A. Zavitz, son of Daniel and Susan Zavitz, was director of Plant Breeding and Field Experiments at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph. He became world renown as a plant breeder and his leadership was responsible for developments in many of the gain crops commonly grown now in Ontario.

The meetinghouse, built in 1859, remains in good condition and continues to house Meeting for Worship for our present Quaker community.

Coldstream Quaker Burying Grounds,   circa 1920

Coldstream Quaker Burying Grounds, circa 1920

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