Ontario Travel: Sharon Temple: A Unique Step Back in History

Ontario travel destination Sharon Temple
Sharon Temple

This week, our Ontario travel destination is the Sharon Temple in Sharon, Ontario. Located just north of Toronto, The Sharon Temple building has a unique and powerful story. Come along with me and discover how a small group of people helped change the course of history in our country. 

Welcome center
Welcome Center

Walking into the Welcome Center, A wonderful young lady named Michelle would take me on a journey back to the 1800s. The kind of story that when it ends, you wish there was another chapter. She was a great storyteller and tour host. Thank you, Michelle! Let’s go on a Tour!

Children of Peace

Picture of founder David Wilson
David Willson

David Willson, the leader of Children of Peace, was originally from New York State. He migrated to Canada in 1801 at 23 years old with his wife and two eldest sons. He joined a Quaker Sect in Toronto and began to preach. The elders did not like his ideas and rejected his ministry in 1811. He began Children of Peace with other members of the community who agreed with his ideas and philosophies, including the man who would be in charge of building the temple, Ebenezer Doan. These people came together and created a community in a village they called “Hope.” That village is now called Sharon. By 1851, it would be the most prosperous village in the province.

Children of Peace would grow to no more than 350 members, but the mark they made in history is still with us in many ways. They were an inclusive society. They believed in social equality. They helped the community where they could. The temple was built not to have religious ceremonies but to have monthly meetings to raise money for the poor and hold events.

They did not just talk the talk, they walked the walk when it came to finding ways to help each other and those around them. They adopted a “cooperative economy”. From that strategy, they developed the first Credit Union and a land-sharing system. They built the province’s first homeless shelter and had a lead role in the development of Canada’s first cooperative known as the “Farmers’ Storehouse.”

What is a Quaker?

I had to look up what a Quaker was because I was just not sure. They are a religious group that came to North America in the 1600s. They are historically Protestant Christians and were known as the “Religious Society of Friends.” Quakers believe that “there is something of God in everyone and that each human is of unique worth.” Very Interesting. 

A Fight for The People

David Willson was also very politically motivated. He fought for political reform in a time when a self-interest group known as the “Family Compact” ran our goverment. Their powers over the citizens were great. They had the power to limit patents, created a limited representation of the people, and implemented unfair taxes on the people of Canada. In the 1830’s, the Children of Peace would champion a rebellion that would change the course of Canada’s political history.

Fighting beside William Lyon MacKenzie for a fair and just Canada, the rebellion would take on many consequences. The most well-known is the skirmish at Montgomery’s Tavern. Many Children of Peace members and other rebels were arrested and kept in abhorrent jail cell conditions during a harsh winter. One man, Samuel Lount, hung for his role in opposing the government.

Pictures of men from the rebellion
The faces of Rebellion

While in prison, the men would carve little wooden boxes to send home to their families and the families of those lost in the rebellion. Messages of love and hope ornately inscribed on each one. They are beautiful.

Words to home in little wooden boxes
Rebellion Boxes

David Wilson would go on to be active in politics and gave a suggestion that would lead to the first true political party in the province, the Canadian Alliance Society.

The Temple

Inside the temple
Inside the Sharon Temple

The Temple and buildings on the grounds will truly bring you back to the 1800s and give you a sense of Ahh.

The Temple is the only structure on the grounds that is in its original place. The other buildings were moved to the site or reconstructed to give you a sense of how they lived. The Temple is a beautiful ornate building that took seven years to construct. Construction started in 1825 lasting until 1831. In 1832, it officially opened. As you walk up to the temple, you notice it is the same on all four sides, with each side having a door, to welcoming everyone from “all four corners of the earth.”

As you walk into the Sharon Temple you notice the curves in the ceiling, a steep ladder leading to a second-floor balcony, and an opening and welcoming feel. Quakers were not traditionally a musical group, but David Willson loved music. Children of Peace were the first to construct an organ in Ontario while also creating the first civilian band.

It is interesting to note that the organ plays like a player piano. The roll in the middle is turned to create the music.

Ontario's first organ
Ontario's First Organ

The second-floor balcony would hold the orchestra for special events. David Wilson did not want the music caught in the corners, the reason for the curves in the ceiling. A steep ladder leads to the second-floor balcony. I cannot imagine walking up that ladder, never mind having a musical instrument strapped to my back while climbing it.

Stairs to the balocony
Ladder to Second Floor Balcony
second floor balcony inside the temple
Second Floor Balcony

The Ark

Everything in the Temple has a flow to it. From the round posts with messages of Hope and Peace to the stunning altar or “Ark” that sits in the middle, is soft and welcoming. There are four pillars located in the center of the temple. These represent the “four core virtues” for the Children of Peace. Love, Hope, Faith, and Charity. These four pillars are the main structure of the temple.

floor support columns representing the core values of the children of peace
Support Posts

The Ark, was built to hold the Bible while open to the Ten Commandments and built by craftsman John Doan. There are no nails used in the construction of the Ark. Each piece is slotted together to create this truly magnificent piece of architecture and positioned in the middle of Sharon Temple. Twelve posts representing the twelve apostles support the temple. The roof of the Ark is sloped to help the music flow from above. The pictures of this Ark do not do it justice. Be sure to stop in for a visit to see it in person.

Fun Fact: in the 1990’s a secret compartment was found in the Ark containing many of David Willson’s original writings.

the Ark in the Sharon Temple
The Ark

David Willson died in 1866. After his death, the Children of Peace would start to separate. The last time they used the Temple was in the 1890s. Until 1917, the Temple sat abandoned in disrepair. The York Pioneers, recognizing its historical value, purchased it and turned it into a museum. In 1991, the Sharon Temple Museum Society acquired ownership of the Temple.

The Grounds of Sharon Temple

Outbuildings on the ground
Heritage Buildings

As you walk the grounds, big, beautiful trees surround you. The buildings on the site walk you back to a time of feather pens and ink blotters. The construction of David Willson’s Study has the same form as the Temple. This is where he would work and study. A beautiful little building with a desk, wood stove, and even a bed for when he worked long into the night.

David Willson's study
David Willson Study

Notice the small piano across from the desk.

desk inside study
A cozy place to work

The Cookhouse

The Cookhouse originally built around 1830. After moving to this site in 1978, restoration took two years. The Cookhouse is where the women of Children of Peace prepared feasts. These feasts, only done a few times a year, were open to all members of the community, and entry was 25 cents. In 1857, they had over 1000 people attend. Unfortunately, there was not enough food so some tickets had to be refunded. Can you imagine cooking for up to 1,000 people using the cooking utensils they had back then?

pictures of the interior of the cookhouse

The Log Cabin

A little Log Cabin sits on a grassy spot surrounded by a small wooden fence. The Log Cabin was once the home of Jesse Doan. He was the son of John Doan (who built the Ark), and unlike his father and Uncle, Ebenezer Doan, master carpenter of the Temple, Jesse was a musician. He became the leader of the Sharon Silver Band in 1820 and would lead the band for 30 years. This cabin is an example of the type of cabin an early settler would have built.

Mud and sticks are used between the logs to keep the wind and snow from getting inside the cabin. The method was called “wattle and daub.” Yes, I giggled a little when Michelle told me that.

Log cabin on the grounds
Log Cabin
inside the log cabin
Cabin life

The House that Ebenezer Built

The house that Ebenezer Doan built for his family looks more like a 1900-era home and has the architectural structure that you could find in Pennsylvania, where Ebenezer and his brother John grew up. It was a large home with two floors and a large front porch. There, Ebenezer and his wife Elizabeth would raise seven children.

Fun Fact: The home was saved in 1957 by the York Pioneer Historical Society from being converted to a cattle barn and moved to the Sharon Temple Historical Site.

Ebonezer Doans house
The home of Ebenezer Doan

The home included a kitchen, parlor, study, scullery, and pantry on the first floor. There are three bedrooms and a spinning room on the second floor with access to the attic.

inside the house
Ebonezer 's Home

The Outhouse

Walking towards the shed that Ebonezer kept their farm implements in, there is a little round building. This building was originally behind David Willson’s house. It was their Outhouse. David believed the devil hid in corners, and he did not want to be caught by the devil with his pants down. Ok, I giggled again..

It was also a two seater outhouse. David Willson had five children and a lot of grandchildren. That calls for more than one seat.

Fun fact: the holes in the outhouses were different sizes. A smaller one so that the littler children would not fall in.

the outhouse

The Outbuildings

The Outbuildings, as they were called back then, consisted of Ebonezer ‘s Drive Shed, Lean-To and Granary.

Built in approximately 1818 they would have been the first buildings Ebonezer would have built for his family. These are the original buildings and were moved from their original location in 1957. The drive shed would hold his buggy and other large farming instruments. The buggy that sits there now is the original buggy the he and his family traveled in coming from Pennsylvania.

buggy from Pennsylvania
Ebonezer’s Buggy

Also in the drive shed among other things was a Turnip Planter. I had never heard of a turnip planter before. I thought it was kind of neat.

turnip planter tool
Turnip Planter

The Lean-to held smaller farm instruments such as saws and axes and acted as a workshop.

inside lean to
Inside the Lean-to

The Granary held food for their livestock. Being farmers Ebonezer’s family would have kept livestock for both working on the farm and for food. He would store his crops after harvesting in this building. The walls are re-enforced to keep the animals and mother nature away from his harvest.


The Gardens

Community gardens were used not only to feed the people of Children of Peace but also to help feed the poor. Today the Sharon Temple Museum Society keeps that idea alive. All summer the museum grows fresh fruits and vegetables and donates them to the local food pantries.

community gardens
Community Garden

On the grounds there is an extensive museum that gives you all the information on these amazing, brave people that paved the way for a gentler more inclusive Canada.

I so enjoyed my trip to Sharon Temple. A unique place with a wonderful story. This was actually my second trip to Sharron Temple. The first time I went happened to be on a car show day. The Temple was not open but it was a spetacular car show and I even met with a few friends that happened to be there.

custom cars at the car show
Sharron Temple Car Show

They hold many different events here. A wedding would be beautiful with the Temple on these grounds. In October they have a Haunted Halloween Hike. Check out their events page on the website. Just wandering around the outside I knew I had to go back. I am so glad I did. A special thanks to Michelle Ransom for the wonderful tour and Katlyn Jones and the team from the Sharron Temple Historical Society for the promotional information and keeping such an interesting and important piece of our history here for us to enjoy.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure.

See you next time


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