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The proper name for this religious sect is "The Religious Society of Friends". By the 19th century, they were known for the outward modesty of their dress, for their belief in pacifism, and for their honesty in business.
Thomas Webb Nash was a member of the Society of Friends. Born in about 1787, probably in Somersetshire, Nash showed great promise for a career in business. In 1818, at the age of 31, he fell deeply in love with Mary Brooks Swetman, the daughter of Joseph Swetman of Street, an acquaintance and another Quaker. Mary was at first hesitant, but after a while returned his ardour, corresponding with him frequently as he travelled on business.
From Bridgewater on March 5th, 1819 he wrote: "My beloved Friend, it is now half past eleven o'clock...all are hushed in peaceful silence except thy T.N. who is enjoying his lonely lot writing to thee... "
She replied from Street on March 17th, "...I shall depend on seeing thee seventh or first day next. I need hardly add how great is my joy in the prospect, or how long the time seems since last I had that pleasure.. I have a little horse which I ride out every day that the weather admits. I enjoy it much, but my thoughts often fly to Bridgewater in my lonely excusions and I imagine thee pacing by my side with thy sweet smile..."
Unfortunately, Mary was unwell. (Likely, she suffered from tuberculosis) In early December, 1819, she died, leaving Thomas completely devastated. All the plans made for life in England now seemed hollow. Thomas was persuaded by friends to try life in the new world. On April 25th, 1821, he was among a party of Quakers who sailed from Bristol in the Brig, 'Friend', arriving at Quebec on July 3rd after 58 days at sea.
Among the passengers was Mary's sister, Hannah Swetman. Thomas proposed to Hannah, and she accepted. They settled on Amherst Island where their first four children were born:
1. Mary Nash, born Amherst Island April 1, 1823, died 1918, near Kingston. She married Parker Allen of Adolphustown and was the mother of 6 children.
2. Caroline Nash, born Amherst Island 1824, died 1892. Never married.
3. Thomas W. Nash, born Amherst Island Dec. 29, 1826, became a surveyor and later an engineer. He worked on the construction of the Grand Trunk, and the Kingston-Pembroke Railway, and was a benefactor of Queen's University. His obituary described him as one of the "makers of Canada". He died in Kingston in 1915.
4. Alfred Nash, born Amherst Island Aug. 12, 1828, studied medicine in the United States. He served in the northern army during the American Civil War, rising to the rank of colonel. He later settled in Joliet, Illinois. He died in Lockport, Illinois in 1907, leaving one son and two daughters.
The family then moved to Picton, where Thomas set up as a merchant.
5. A third daughter, Isabella Nash, was born in Picton on Dec. 11, 1830. Isabella later married her cousin, Nathaniel Swetman, of Bloomfield, Prince Edward County, and was the mother of 8 children.
6. Business took the family to Milford for a short time, and a son, Samuel L. Nash, was born there on April 23, 1833. Having little money and no mentor, Samuel had to educate himself, becoming first a teacher, then (assisted by his brothers) a physician. He practised in several locations, ending with the Village of Bath where he died in 1915. He had 12 children.
The Thomas Nash Family then returned to Picton, where the two youngest children were born:
7. Louisa Nash, born Picton, 1835, received extra education with the help of her brothers. She first married Dr. P.H. Loring, then after his death, a lawyer, Judson Loomis. She died Long Beach, California, 1916. One son survived her.
8. George B. Nash, born Picton, 1837, died as infant in 1839.
Thomas Webb Nash did not live to see the accomplishments of any of his offspring. He died in Picton on August 3rd, 1837. While some came to Canada for economic gain and others to escape pursecution or hardship, it is likely that love and grief sent Thomas and Hannah from England for a new life. The couple carefully kept the letters of Mary Swetman, her lost sister (and his dead sweetheart). Their words provide a tender glimpse of a more formal age.