Temperance Movement
Home ] Up ]



Studies: Publications

Educational Resources

Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights

Links for Toronto Links


Scarboro Heights Record

Search This Site

Table of Contents



The Temperance Movement and Eventual Effects

The nature of the traditional rural amusements was slowly but profoundly altered by the temperance movement. The first temperance society in the Canadas was formed at Montreal in 1828. Within four years about one hundred Societies had been organized in Upper Canada . John Gemmill in Lanark Township wrote in 1832:

We have also a Temperence Society which was formed about twelve months ago which is doing a great dale of good. There is above four hundred members although it has met with a grate dale of opposition yet it is increasing and many that was seen in a fit of intoxication are now become steady members of society. We all form a part of it. I should like that you would inform us how they are getting on in Scotland .[i]

In Scarborough , the first temperance society was formed in 1834 primarily by the Scots of St. Andrew's Church under Rev. James George. Boyle's partial list of members includes eleven men and eleven women. It is interesting to note that this list includes several married (or soon-to-be-married) couples: Catherine Bowes (b 1820) and Teasdale Hall (b 1807); Hugh Elliot and Jane Reeve; and William Forfar (b 1817) and Agnes McLevin (b 1817).[ii]

The temperance movement had perhaps been effective in "Little Scotland", a settlement of about five Scottish families in Beverley Township. Many a pleasant gathering was held on winter evenings in Mrs. Roberts home:

When leaving about the "wee short hours", a dance was proposed in the kitchen, the orchestra being composed of poker and tongs, tin covers and vocal music... I hope you do not for one moment imagine that there was any other influence there but mirth and good friendship. And on our departure each one was provided with a hickory torch to light us through the bush.[iii]

Some later arrivals in Upper Canada experienced a somewhat-reluctant self-regulated drinking environment. John S. McDonald, from Ayrshire, arrived in Kincardine Township on Lake Huron in 1854:

There was a recognized rule in connection with early drinking customs. At loggings the rule was a gallon of whiskey for each yoke of oxen at the bee. Of course, the whiskey was not all consumed at the bee. The supply lasted until well into the night, when dancing succeeded the labours of the day. Still, with all the drinking, I do not remember seeing any one very drunk.[iv]

The next generation of Scots became increasingly receptive of the temperance movement partly due to the work of Ministers such as Rev. Alexander Sutherland, "a Presbyterian divine, who came into the Queen's Bush in the seventies".[v] One section of Flos Township between Oro and Nottawasaga Bay was opened up and settled about 1868 by some descendants of the Oro pioneers, including the Andersons, Hunters and Camerons:

No whiskey was ever seen at [a] raising or bee in this section. Twelve years before we came here a temperance lodge had been formed at Colin Gilchrist's home in Oro. My brother, sister, myself, and others joined that lodge, and we brought our principles with us. To that fact is largely due the prosperity of the settlement.[vi]

Finally, on February 2, 1882!:  

We take very great pleasure in giving to the world, through the columns of the Markham Economist, the news that now every member of the Session of Knox Church is a pledged total abstainer.[vii]

By the turn of the century, there was evidently a rule in Scarborough that "no liquor was allowed at the [barn] raisings".[viii]

The war against intemperance in Scarborough peaked in the early decades of this century. At the meetings of the St. Andrew's Young People's Society, the members presented their own essays. Papers in opposition to drinking included "How Intemperance Hinders Missions" by T.A. Paterson on November 30, 1904, "Temperance Organizations" by Rev. McArthur on November 19, 1908, and, perhaps, "How to Break Bad Habits and Cultivate Good Ones" by Allan Green.[ix]

[i]               John Gemmill, Lanark Township, to his brother, Sept. 25, 1832. Gemmill Papers, TD 293/1/5/2-3.

[ii]               Boyle, Scarboro, p. 217. Presumably, the "partial list" was drawn from some memory. Thomas Paterson (b 1837) and Margaret Glendinning (b 1840) could be a later member-couple. (Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch, St. Andrew's Church Cemetery, Nos. 76, 90 and 261. The Halls are buried in Knox.)

[iii]              Cornell, Pioneers of Beverly,  p. 35.

[iv]              Smith, Pioneers of Old Ontario, p. 255, 293-4.

[v]               Smith, Pioneers of Old Ontario, p. 294, testimony of William Welsh.

[vi]              Smith, Pioneers of Old Ontario, p. 300-301, testimony of Noah Cotton.

[vii]             As printed in "Scarborough Historical Notes and Comments", Volume V, No. 4, Nov. 1981, p. 12.

[viii]             Secor, "Barn Raisings: Personal Recollections", p. 4.

[ix]              St. Andrew's Young People's Society, Minutes, 1901-09, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Scarborough .


The Scarboro Heights Record V13 #7