Early Settlers In East Gwillimbury: Simeon Morton (1797 - 1867)
Today we are going to highlight an early resident who lived both in North and East Gwillimbury, and travelled around the area preaching the gospel. Can't guess who this mysterious individual could be? Read on to find out!
The person to whom we refer is Simeon Morton, better known as "Squire" Morton, who lived in the area in the 19th century. He was the youngest son of six children of Simeon Morton and Susannah (Squires) Morton. Born in about 1797 in New Jersey, he and his family travelled to Canada in 1801 when he was three years old. Originally they settled in North Gwillimbury, but at some point he moved to lot 26, concession 3 in East Gwillimbury township. He was first married to Sybil Mann with whom he had three children. After Sibyl's death, he married Lucinda Warriner and they had seven children together: Charlotte (1827), Abigail (1829), Martin (1832), Elizabeth Ann (1834), Simeon (1836), Mary Jane (1840) and Hester Amelia (1843).
Now, in Upper Canada at the time there were very few physical churches where people could worship. So, many men, especially of the Methodist denomination, made their living by being circuit riders. This means that they would go from town to town, preaching and providing religious services to the people who lived there. As a minister for the Canadian Christian Church, Gladys Rolling informs us that the route he would make two trips annually in late fall and late winter, by foot travelling "south to Niagara, west to Drayton, east to Oshawa and north to Keswick and preached in a farmer's kitchen or barn on many occasions" (Rolling, 1967, 126). She also tells the story of a time where he fell through the ice one winter in Pickering Township, breaking his leg in the process. A farmer pulled him out and cared for him for the next eight weeks until it healed.
Figure 1: Undated picture of Squire Morton. From Gladys Rolling's East Gwillimbury in the 19th Century.
Later on in his life, he would travel by horse and buggy or cutter, and would travel with one of his sons or grandsons on his preaching routes. He died in the same year as Confederation occurred in Canada, which was 1867. At first he was buried beside the small church near his farm. However the family eventually moved both his casket and headstone to the Queensville Cemetery, where it can still be seen today.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the life of this early resident of East Gwillimbury!