The Sharon Temple was constructed by the Children of Peace, an Upper Canada Quaker sect from 1825 – 1831. The Temple is an architectural symbol of their vision of a society based on the values of peace, equality and social justice. It opened as a museum in 1918 and was designated a National Historic Site in 1990 because of its historic and architectural significance. Acquisition and preservation of the Temple, by the York Pioneers in 1917, was one of Canada’s first examples of historic preservation.
Under the leadership of David Willson, the Children of Peace established a co-operative economy, founding Ontario’s first credit union and a land-sharing system that helped make Hope (now Sharon) one of the most prosperous farming communities of the time. They established the first co-operative – the Farmers Storehouse marketing produce and lending money to local farmers. Caring and charitable, they also built the province’s first homeless shelter.
Their commitment to inclusion and social justice led the Children of Peace to champion the political reform movement of the 1830s. Through their support of William Lyon Mackenzie and opposition to the Family Compact; and by ensuring the elections of both “Fathers of Responsible Government”, Robert Baldwin and Louis LaFontaine, they played a critical role in the development of democracy in Canada.
The Children of Peace cultivated music wholeheartedly both in and outside of the Temple recognizing its education and community-building value. They created the first civilian band in Canada and built the first organ in Ontario.
Although they never numbered more than 350 members, Reform politician and Rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie noted “they afford ample proofs, both in their village and in their chapels, that comparatively, great achievements may be accomplished by a few when united in their efforts and persevering in their habits.”
The Sharon Temple is now operated as a Museum by the Sharon Temple Museum Society.