A Mennonite and a Quaker

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The Mennonite and The Quaker

Jeb, the Amishman who isn’t quite an Amishman, learned that his breed of Mennonite (not Amish) milkers/gardeners/builders first came to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada in 1954, when Harvey Taves brought Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Voluntary Service workers to Newfoundland as teachers and nurses. In the same year, Siegfried and Margaret Janzen moved to Nova Scotia. In the 1980s, two colonies of conservative Mennonites planted themselves in Nova Scotia.

More than 30 families of the Kleine Gemeinde from Belize settled at Northfield (25 miles from Truro). Several families of the Church of God in Christ-Mennonite, purchased farms near Tatamagouche. According to a 2001 census, at the beginning of this century there were 795 people in Nova Scotia who identified themselves as Mennonites, and 150 in New Brunswick (NB). Not all of them were “conservative.”

n 1998 there were five Mennonite churches in the Maritimes. Four were related to the Mennonite Brethren (Lower Sackville and Dartmouth, NS, and Moncton and Campbellton, NB), and one, at Petitcodiac, NB, was related to the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (part of the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference until integration in 1988).

Jeb’s background had some similarities to Josh’s, and such similarities usually take a disproportionately larger-than-life significance when a researcher wants to establish a hypothetical connection. The most glaring of the shared beliefs in this case seemed to be the “pacifist” disposition.

Josh Slocum was a Quaker. The family's name was originally Slocumb or Slocumbe; its members had left Massachusetts at the time of the American rebellion against the Crown in the eighteenth century. New Brunswick (NB) and Nova Scotia (NS) became part of the Dominion of Canada in the Confederation of 1867. Prince Edward Island joined Canada in 1873, and Newfoundland linked up in 1949. The Atlantic Provinces are noted for their deep-sea fisheries, good farming areas, and tourist attractions. Their combined population (estimated) in 1997 was roughly 2,400,000.

On the outer fringes of Halifax, NS, is the town of Dartmouth. The town’s museum tracks the migration from the Yankee south of many of the early inhabitants of the land displaced by the American War of Independence. At the time of the rebellion in the colonies, the Nantucket whalers faced imprisonment and capture and their ships were blockaded. According to museum documents, after the war the British Parliament charged a duty on American whale oil. An idea was hatched and some of those whalers, including Quakers, migrated to Nova Scotia. The first wave of Quaker settlers and seafarers appeared in 1785. The Dartmouth fleet expanded and plied even some of the British and West Indies’ markets.

A grandson of a notable Dartmouth Quaker, Seth Coleman, down south in the Quaker stronghold of Nantucket (not far from Martha’s Vineyard), himself a master whaler, hired a new crew-member named Herman Melville. Based on this young sailor’s travels and travails, Melville’s Moby Dick became one of the world’s great literary classic books of the sea.

Likewise, Josh Slocum wrote down what he experienced. Accounts of Josh’s early years as a boy and sailor vary according to the storyteller, although Josh gave some brief autobiographical clues to his predilections in his own books.

According to Walter Magnes Teller, Josh left home at age 16.

(The Voyages of Joshua Slocum, 1958, ISBN 0-911378-55-3; The Search for Captain Slocum, 1956, Charles Scribner's Sons), and Josh’s son Victor (Capt. Joshua Slocum: the Adventures of America's Best Known Sailor, 1950, ISBN-0-924486-52-X)