Sharon Temple is located in East Gwillimbury, not too far from King City, Ontario. I went there with Nate and Ally recently on a mutual day off.
There was a school group before us. They left as we came in and staff were a bit surprised by our adult presence there on a weekday.
According to their literature, Sharon Temple was “a community formed during the War of 1812, inspired by the Rebellion of 1837, and instrumental in the fight for true democracy in Canada.” Several members, indeed, took part in William Lyon Mackenzie’s 1837 uprising, which led to key political reforms for “responsible government” in what was then Upper Canada. Read more about Sharon Temple here. Suffice it to say, their stairway is an architectural feat, the Temple itself a marvel.
Admission: $5 Adults. Children (under 16) free.
We hit an antique market in Barrie shortly after visiting Sharon Temple. It was two-and-a-half floors of a very large building just brimming with stuff – all kinds of matter, seemingly all manner of Thing, although it seemed rather generous to call or deem some of it “antique.” Antique markets are strange places: they seem rather like high-end thrift stores, or immaculate refuse heaps. We had been told by our mutual friend that this particular place was great for quality (or at least hard-to-find) books.
The books up for sale were overpriced for my taste, but Nate and Al poured over them and found some hidden treasures pertaining to their specific interests.
These include (in no particular order): Ontario history; archeology in Western, Eastern and Southern Ontario; provincial archives/sketches; big books full of old maps; and descriptions of early slip-decorated pottery in Canada.
This list is by no means extensive. I have very interesting friends.
I found (in no particular order):
- An array of foam skulls, purportedly from the set of the 12 Monkeys TV show (which I don’t watch).
- A stain glass poodle.
- Many wood duck decoys of varying craftsmanship, price and (in some cases) degrees of decay.
- A “vintage” mushroom lamp that cost several times more than my hydro bill.
- An ENTIRE EDWARDIAN SITTING ROOM (removed piece by piece, bit by bit, wood panel by wood panel and by wall by wall from an estate somewhere in England, with the fourth wall removed/left missing like a stage play or sitcom…a steal, really, at only $38,000).
- Metal coin banks in the shape of various animals.
- A statue of a Bull fighting a Bear (both male) affixed to a pure marble stand.
- Circus Butts.
- Old, used buckets of KFC – let me clarify: for sale.
I rejoined Nate and Ally. I left them once more to their books and wandered a bit before rejoining them again. I rejoined them again after walking back to the Edwardian Sitting Room, standing inside a place that was and was not there, before stopping at the array of foam 12 Monkeys skulls and picking one up as if it were, alas, poor Yorick.
And lo. And behold: flipping idly through Al’s very large pile of “To Buy” books, I came across an account of the Children of Peace, the people who built the Sharon Temple and their founder, one David Willson. There were pictures, some admittedly at weird angles, of the Temple’s magnificent structure and accounts of Willson as an outspoken, even outlandish leader.
Further reading revealed a former school teacher turned minister, disowned by the Quakers for “some peculiarities of belief or conduct,” (including, apparently, his love of music, including, for example, his own particular brand of mysticism), Willson is described thusly in one account:
“David Willson seems about 65 years of age and is a middle-sized, square-built man, wearing his hair over this face and forehead, and squints considerably…He was dressed in a short brown cloth jacket, white linen trousers, with a straw hat, all perhaps home-made. Originally from the State of New York, he had resided thirty years in this county. The number of his followers is unknown, but all offering themselves in sincerity are accepted, as he dislikes sectarianism, and has no written creed. He seems to act on Quaker principles, assisting the flock in money and advice.”
(Willson strikes me, after everything, as a man not just of his time but of the unforeseen circumstances, rather than the inevitabilities, surrounding it – a compelling figure for all that he was, and remains, a rather uncanny person.)
Still, it was the pictures that I found particularly striking: we had just been there an hour ago. The pictures seemed proof of something; they somehow added another layer to the veracity of the day, conspiring with us, egging us on.
Something like that.
In the end, I didn’t buy anything at the antique market, but it’s the thrill of the hunt, yes?
Because there’s something about it, isn’t there? Reading about a place you’ve been to before, feeling out how one experience compares (enhances? diminishes? challenges? complements?) to the other, afterward. Learning about someone you didn’t know existed a day before, or even that morning, their life leaving some kind of impression on yours.
And then there was the experience of having been in a sitting room that wasn’t, of having encountered a memento from a show I have never watched in, of all places, Barrie, Ontario.
Wasn’t that something?
Maybe I shouldn’t have passed by those foam 12 Monkeys skulls. Maybe I should have more seriously considered the Room.
But since I can’t place the value in either of those Things, since their purpose eludes me, I think it was the right decision not buy anything after all.
That day, at least, it was best.
 Not real names.
 I have seen the movie (years ago) if that counts for anything.
 Hughes, James L. (James Laughlin). (1920). Sketches of the Sharon Temple and of its Founder David Willson. York Pioneer and Historical Society: Toronto, 1. Available: https://archive.org/details/sketchesofsharon00hugh_0.
 Patrick Shirreff, quoted in Hughes, 11.