David Willson's Study
The design of the Study purposely mirrors that of the Temple. David Willson, the visionary behind the Children of Peace, would use the Study for his writings. Often said that it was the Temple turned ‘inside-out’, the outside of the Study matches the inside of the Temple.
This Study was used as an early model/prototype for the First Meeting House. The completion of the Study in 1829 was celebrated by “speeches and singing”.
Before founding the Children of Peace, David Willson migrated to Canada with his wife Phebe and two eldest sons. Allegedly, on his way across Lake Ontario, they were shipwrecked and had to struggle to shore using a spinning wheel to keep themselves afloat. Once settled in Upper Canada, David Willson became a member of the Yonge Street Meeting of the Society of Friends, a Quaker group in Newmarket. In 1811, he began to preach with the group, only to be accused of heresy by an elder in the group. In order to follow his own gospel and ideas, he left the Quakers and opened his home to others who were sympathetic to his ideas.
Many of his ideas were directly opposed to the Anglican ideas of the Church of England, like refusing a ministerial salary, dressing ‘in rags’, and taking interest in the monetary affairs of those around him. Although he was never trained as a preacher, nor had he a clergy upbringing, he still managed to be an incredibly charismatic leader. Rather than being entirely spiritually motivated, many of his preachings and actions were politically motivated. Willson was an active political figure, and was very involved with William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion of 1837.
Like Willson himself, almost all of the Children of Peace were former Quakers. Because of this, many of the beliefs of the Children of Peace lined up with the Quakers, save for a few key differences. Like the Quakers, they believed in the ‘inner light’ of God, but Willson's writings focused on the experience of finding God within one's own mind.
Another key difference is music. While the Quakers eschewed music, the Children of Peace used it for hymns, entertainment, and even for careers.
Many of Willson’s works viewed the Children of Peace as the new Israelites, lost in Upper Canada, waiting for a Messiah to come and overthrow the British Empire and establish God’s kingdom on earth. Unlike many other religious leaders, Willson refused to be known as the official leader of the group, although he was in all but name. Some even called members of the group “Davidites” and referred to the community of Hope, now Sharon, as "Davidtown" for a time.