Rechabite Letter – a protest

Recently, I posted a letter discovered in my mother’s mementos and written by Reverend William Bell to his offspring, in particular his daughter Isabelle Mallock. Isabelle’s husband, John Mallock, wrote to protest his father-in-law’s Rechabite letter on February 24th, 1842. The protest letter gives an interesting perspective on family dynamics.

To all to whom these presents shall come:

Whereas by a certain document purporting to have been written by the Reverend William Bell, Minister of the first Presbyterian Church at Perth, certain injunction and command are laid upon my family without my authority or permission, and which I believe to be contrary to all law human and Divine. And whereas the said document is not only insulting to me, as the head of my Household, but has for its tendency (?) the disturbance of the peace, happiness, and serenity which has hitherto reigned in my family.

Now Know All Men, by these presents, that I John Glass Mallock of the town of Perth, in the Bathurst District and Province of Canada, Esquire, feeling grateful to Divine Providence for the charge he has given me, and being aware of the great responsibility I am under for the faithful discharge of my duty as a husband and parent – Do hereby Protest against the said Document, and (believing that the curse causeless shall not come) against all the injunctions and commands therein expressed, so far as regards any, and all, of the members of my family, and their descendants.

And I do hereby deny the right of any individual interfering in the management of the temporal affairs of my family so long as it pleaseth the Giver of all good to retain me over them as their head and guide. And under great concern for the danger of those who thus trifle with the Peace, temporal and internal of others, do hereby warn all persons from taking such liberties in future.

Given under my hand at Perth aforesaid, this twenty fourth day of February, one thousand eight hundred and forty two years.

John G Mallock

It seems that John Mallock was very upset with his father-in-law.

Further to the question of who these people are, a cousin (probably 2nd or 3rd cousin by marriage) has put together a bit of a family tree, which I’ll share at some future date. It seems that William Bell is a great-great-great … not sure how many greats – grandfather on my mother’s side. Thank you, Muriel.

In addition, good friends did a little sleuthing and discovered the ‘condensed’ diaries of William Bell – the Reverend mentioned above – plus an entry for him in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Thank you, Patty and Art.

As a final note, I found a plaque dedicated to Reverend William Bell in Perth, Ontario. Note the words ‘uncompromising’, ‘intense’ and the phrase ‘fierce organizational doctrinal disputes’.

I’m feeling like Alice in Wonderland!


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

The Rechabite Letter

While going through some of my mother’s mementos [she’s still alive, but we were clearing out a few boxes], I found a letter dated 18th February, 1842. It was addressed to Mrs. J. M. Mallock and delivered by hand.

Apparently, there is something called the Independent Order of Rechabites, founded in England in 1835 “as part of the wider temperance movement to promote total abstinence from alcoholic beverages.” Who knew?

The Rechabite Letter

It’s a fascinating letter and clearly one that created quite a fuss amongst the family, including letters sent back to the originator – one Reverend William Bell – protesting his ‘command’.

Here’s the text:

Know all men, by this declaration, that I Willian Bell, Minister of the first Presbyterian Church at Perth, in the Bathurst District of Upper Canada, perceiving the awful and ruinous consequences which follow the use of intoxicating drinks, to the bodies and the souls of mankind, have resolved never again to use any of them myself, as a common beverage, nor to offer them to others, and to enjoin the same thing upon all my children, and their descendants to the latest generation. I therefore, after a scripture example sanctioned by divine authority, do hereby command and enjoin you, my daughter, to follow this my example, and to obey this my command, and to enjoin the same upon your children, in order that they may be honest, industrious, and temperate; – that they may avoid temptation, and live in the fear of God; – that he may bless them in time, and take them to Heaven when they die.

And, in order that happiness, that great end I have here in view, may be the more effectually secured to my posterity, I hereby forbid them to make intermarriages, in all time coming, with any who refuse to join with them in following this my example.

Resolved this 5th day of February 1842, under much painful anxiety for the fate of those who refuse to follow my example and obey my command.

A copy of this to be sent to each of my surviving children, reminding them of the duty of honouring their father and their mother (for she also joins with me in this act) that their days may be long upon the land which the Lord their God giveth them. This duty, it has long been pressed upon my mind, I ought to discharge before I die, as a witness and a guard against the sin of intemperance, to you and to all others to who this shall come; and I now pray that God may bless it to all whose benefit it is intended. Let all remember that no drunkard shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

That you may be saved from all your enemies, and be made a monument of divine mercy, is the fervent prayer of your affectionate, but much afflicted father.

I’m not sure how the Mallocks are related to me, but I am certain that these people are relatives of some sort!


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

Book club reads Educated by Tara Westover

Book club unanimously endorsed Tara Westover’s well-received novel of growing up in a survivalist Mormon home in the hills of Idaho. The words used to describe it included: compelling, horrifying, unbelievable, shocking, inspiring, and head shaking. Yes, this memoir had a profound effect on all of us. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

A quick synopsis: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her to Harvard and Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

We found much to discuss. Who and what influenced Tara and set her on a path to become educated? Where did she get the strength and determination to change her life? What factors caused her brother Shawn to be both loving and abusive to his young sister? What aspects of the Mormon faith drove the behaviour of Tara’s father? Who betrayed Tara and how? Why did Tara’s mother fail to protect her children from their father? Does the title refer to Tara’s formal education or some broader concept of education? Did Tara write her memoir from a position of anger or hurt or love? We debated each question enthusiastically and with compassion.

My own reading of Educated produced over 100 highlights.

Describing her mountain home: “In that vast space you can sail unaccompanied for hours, afloat on pine and brush and rock. It’s a tranquility born of sheer immensity; it calms with its very magnitude, which renders the merely human of no consequence.”

About learning at home: “Learning in our family was entirely self-directed: you could learn anything you could teach yourself, after your work was done.”

Her father’s paranoia (there are many sentences related to this): “Dad took a twenty from his wallet and crumpled it. ‘Not this fake money. In the Days of Abomination, this won’t be worth a thing. People will trade hundred-dollar bills for a roll of toilet paper.”

Her father’s position on school: “whoring after man’s knowledge instead of God’s”

On taking dancing lessons: “I was ashamed to see so much of my legs. Dad said a righteous woman never shows anything above her ankle.” and “Learning to dance felt like learning to belong.”

On her upbringing: “All my life those instincts had been instructing me in this single doctrine — that the odds are better if you rely only on yourself.” and a little later: “What kind of lunatic would come back here once he’d escaped?”

On being in the outside world: “for the first time I felt the immensity of the gap. I understood now: I could stand with my family, or with the gentiles [her father’s word for other Mormons], on the one side or the other, but there was no foothold in between.”

Two of Tara’s personal insights: “To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty but in this frailty there is a strength.” and “It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you.”

I could go on! The story of Tara’s family and what she endured and how she survived will stay with me for a very long time.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website