Rebels and Loyalists
Rebels from the east side of Yonge Street and the back concessions of Markham Township included John Burr,James Barry,David Cash,Joseph Clarkson,Emanuel and Joseph Doner,Andrew and Frederick Eckhardt (or Eckardt), George and Gotlieb Eickhart,James Fulton, Jr.,Peter Grant,Thomas Gray,John Mclean,Alex Marr,Joseph Millburn,Peter Milne,Thomas Morgan,Timothy Munro,James Parker,L.S. Richardson,Francis Robins,George Robinson,Peter Schell,Robert Stiver,William Stockdale,Emanuel Tomlinson,Jonathan Dudley Wilcox, and Thomas Wilson.
From the west side of Yonge Street and the back concessions of Vaughan Township came John Black,David Blair,John Dalziel,Michael Flood,James Gamble,William Irwin (or Irvine), James Kane,John Kline,Alex McKechanie (later spelled McKechnie), Robert McNair,Archibald Malloy,Aaron Munshaw,James Murphy,Abraham Musselman,Joseph Noble,David Porter,Adam Rupert,John Sheppard,Walker Smith,Peter Storey,Jacob Troyer,Thomas Watts,Duncan Weir,Ira White, and John Wilkie.
Stagg calculated that these fifty-four rebel supporters ranged in age from a youthful eighteen to a mature forty-seven. The overwhelming majority were married. Most came from a "comfortable" economic background, with a minority having "just enough to live on." Stagg listed only one as outright "poor" (James Kane) and one other as "well off" (James Fulton, Jr., even though he later lost his farm to his brother-in-law). Most were farmers or farmers' sons, but there was a sprinkling of artisans or craftsmen, one merchant (Walker Smith), and even one owner of an industrial enterprise (Joseph Millburn).
The largest group were Canadian-born (including at least four of United Empire Loyalist descent), with Scottish-born and American-born following. In religion, Lutherans and members of Reverend William Jenkins'Presbyterian congregations predominated. Only one (William Irwin or Irvine) had a known military background as a non-commissioned officer. None held any known government offices. There were just two members of the Masonic Order and no one from the Loyal Orange Lodge.28
Stagg also uncovered data on twenty-three known loyalists from the Richmond Hill area. Some of these names are familiar: Richard Gapper,Robert Moodie,Hugh Stewart,David Bridgeford, and William Crew. This core of loyalists was joined on the Markham side by Archibald Barker,John and Francis and William Button,Samuel Edmundson,Richard Frizzel,William Marr and his son William Junior, and Benjamin and Jacob and Joseph Marr. From Vaughan came John Arnold,John Barwick,Francis Boyd,Richard Hutchison, and Edward Morphy.
Compared with the rebels, Stagg found the loyalists of Richmond Hill to be older (at least four were known to be in their sixties) and wealthier ("well off" predominates in Stagg's inventory). They were far more likely to be former military officers, holders of government positions such as justices of the peace and militia officers, and members of the Orange Lodge and the Masonic Order. Most were Canadian-born; only one (the ill-fated Robert Moodie) was Scottish-born. Their religious affiliation was predominantly Church of England, with no Lutherans and no one from Reverend William Jenkins'Presbyterian congregations. 29
And what of Reverend Jenkins, the religious patriarch of Richmond Hill for so many years? What was his position in December 1837? Three years earlier, the staunchly voluntarist Jenkins had taken his Richmond Hill and rural Markham Township congregations out of the United Synod Presbyterian Church, when that denomination first accepted state aid. He did not join another church until October 1837, when he took his congregations into the United Secession Presbyterian Church, a voluntarist body. When the Rebellion broke, Jenkins was officially a minister in this latter denomination, which appears to have remained scrupulously neutral. But in reality he had been running his own church for three years, and his preaching was certainly partisan. 30
Jenkins had long been a critic of the Upper Canadian government, both from the pulpit and in his writings. He was subjected to both verbal and physical attacks by loyalists, and in 1832 one of his horses died after being brutally mutilated by persons unknown. "Do they think to intimidate me from duty by such treatment?" he wrote to the Christian Guardian. "I would even rather die myself, doing my duty, than live by neglecting it." 31
At one time during the fateful year of 1837, Jenkins used a rather inflammatory text from the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5, Verse 8, as the basis of a sermon: "If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they." 32 Although Jenkins appears to have been personally opposed to the Rebellion and remained strictly neutral, his impassioned style evidently encouraged a substantial portion of his congregations to join the rebels.
32. Stagg,"The Yonge Street Rebellion of 1837,"p. 213; Mariel Jenkins,"Grace Seasoned with Salt: A Profile of Reverend William Jenkins, 1779-1843"Ontario Historical Society,Papers and Records,vol. 51,no. 2 ( 1959):101.
Copyright © Richmond Hill Public Library Board, 1991