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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Warren County Streams, Woodlands Attracted Early Quakers

Dallas Bogan on 17 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

This writer was loaned a copy of "Quaker Lady," written by Alta Harvey Heiser, which I found very informative concerning the early efforts of the Quakers. I now draw from this book.
Bush River, also called Beaverdam, was part of a system of waterways, which crossed South Carolina. The early residents of this locality came from homes in North Carolina and Virginia, picking this spot because they thought this region was the garden spot of the world.
The early Quakers, in the seventeen-fifties, hearing reports of this garden spot, started buying land and congregating in this section called the Newberry District. With the population of Friends growing at great bounds a meeting house was constructed called the Bush River Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends, it being called the most powerful Quaker Meeting house on the continent.
The Quakers simple way of life bonded together the facet of respect between parents and children. They were without outside pleasures, as none were needed. Many Quakers had great wealth, but contentment was from within.
The Society of Friends had ministers, but no preaching services. "A burning of the soul" was the only words spoken in the service.
Regular services were held on the "First-day and the Fourth-day" of each week; business meetings being held once a month.
Music was prohibited in the Bush River meeting house; also, clocks were forbidden. Meetings were closed promptly at noon.
The head of the men's meeting gave the signal by shaking hands with the elder sitting next to him. Since there were no time-pieces, the timing was described as exceptional.
The first Quakers in the area of Warren County sought refuge from the compounding slavery issue. Quakers had from the earliest of times held slaves; it was in this period of time a worldwide institution.
Members of the Society in the North gave up their slaves, but the Southern Friends turned their back on slave ownership. It was thought that management without slaves was impossible. The justification of clean quarters, sufficient clothing, food and human kindness, acknowledged a clear conscience among the Quakers.
Since the Bush River Friends were liable for its actions through the North Carolina Yearly Meeting, the latter instructed that "slaves be given religious and educational advantages, that colored marriages be sustained, and sales in the slave market be discontinued."
Fearing that property rights were being endangered, the Legislature of South Carolina passed a law forbidding an owner to free his slaves." In 1794 the North Carolina Yearly Meeting ruled that the body was free to buy slaves and these slaves were allowed to be free in a sense, to live their own lives and become wage earners.
Zachariah Dix, a defined preacher against slavery, visited Bush River and delivered a speech against the confines of this institution. (All Quakers became very much acquainted with their slaves and the treatment was one of reservation.)
However, with the foregoing episode of the Negro, a restraint was impossible. Leaving the land of slavery was apparent. The first few years of the nineteenth century saw eighteen thousand Friends leaving the South and move into the free province of the Northwest Territory.
The Miami Valley attracted the early Quaker settlements. The treaty of peace with the Indians in 1795 opened an avenue in which the Friends could homestead.
An artery of travel was a long and adventuresome trial. A route in which the pioneers used was a long and cumbersome one. The family of Isaiah and Charity Lynch passed through Saluda Gap; the trail next led to Asheville, North Carolina; along French Broad River; past Bald Mountain to Greenville, Tennessee; through Cumberland Gap to Lexington, Kentucky; and in their seventh week of their excursion, they sighted the Ohio River.
At the river was operated a ferry in which the weary travelers crossed. Cincinnati at this time had forty houses and two general stores. Supplies were purchased and they spent the night in the walnut-wooded hills.
Lebanon, at this time, was a trading post. A trail of good visibility led from this pioneer town to the newly discovered area of Waynesville.
The O'Nealls and the Kellys were neighbors in the Bush River country, both being Quaker families. The Friends, during the Revolution, being against any type of war, were not only persecuted by the British, but by the American soldiers as well.
Just before the Battle of Cowpens, some British soldiers camped on the land of Abijah O'Neall. He was questioned by some British officers and upheld his country's patronage. Refusing to speak of the American forces, he was struck in the head several times by the soldiers, thus rendering him unconscious. He was found later and taken to the Kelly home.
Three years later, Abijah married Anna Kelly. She had inherited a large number of slaves, but both families were troubled with the slavery issue.
Abijah and Anna's brother Samuel ventured to the land beyond the Ohio River to what they described as the "most beautiful and fertile farmlands." Their description of the pretty streams and fine woodlands east of the Little Miami and north of Caesar's Creek was one of awe.
Their May 1798 excursion through the confines of now present Warren County excited them to the point that in September, these two young men returned to their families, with an option to buy three thousand acres of Miami land.
Their properties in the vicinity of Bush River were sold and were said to have brought less than half their value.
Arranging to free their slaves was to prove a great obstacle. Working out the problem was solved and a few old devoted slaves were taken north and cared for as long as they lived.
At this time of transformation, there were only seven families at Waynesville. Others continued over the years until the settlement was made up largely of Bush River families.
With the settlement of the Quaker families abounding around Waynesville, a congregation was established in 1803 called the Miami Monthly Meeting - the first Quaker Meeting north of the Ohio and west of the Hocking River, the meetings being held in private homes.
With an abundance of Quakers in the Miami Meeting, the membership expanded to several areas, the meeting houses being in the neighborhood of a creek.
Some of the names are: Lee's Creek, Todd's Fork, West Branch, Elk Creek, Caesar's Creek, Turtle Creek, Clear Creek, and Fall Creek Meetings. A second meeting took place on Todd's Fork, thus calling for a name change, Center and Springfield Meetings, after those in North Carolina from which some of the people emigrated. Abijah O'Neall and Samuel Kelly asked for a withdrawal of their certificates from the Bush River Meeting. This action was refused on the grounds that it was an insane idea to take their families into the wilderness. With a good conscience the pair decided they had done the right thing.
Quakers from many parts of the land heard of the Miami Meeting House at Waynesville. One of these men was Joel Wright from Pipe Creek, Maryland. Mr. Wright was one of great ability, being a surveyor by trade.
He was commissioned by the Ohio State Legislature to lay out Columbus for the State's capital. Wright had made many trips across the mountains for surveying purposes and liked what he saw. After the death of his wife, Elizabeth Farquahar Wright, he and his six children located in the Waynesville locality.
Samuel Linton, from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was the first clerk of the Miami Meeting.
The Furnas family came to the area from the Pine Creek Meeting, which was not far from the Bush River settlement. Robert Furnas was a man of many accomplishments. He was the village blacksmith, surveyor, physician, surgeon and he drew up wills and contracts for which he never received any pay; he was also a clerk at the Friends meetings.
Abijah O'Neall was an important figure at Waynesville. He was also known for his many peculiarities; he refused to sleep on a feather bed, preferring and insisting on ticks filled with fresh straw.
Many of the Friends used liquor because of their strenuous working habits; Mr. O'Neall never touched it. He was also free from the bondage of tobacco, coffee and tea. His headaches were frequent because of the injury received by the British soldiers. Another peculiarity was that he always had three holes in the top of his hat, which he thought relieved him of much of his pain.
When Abijah had freed his slaves, he was to give bond under the laws of South Carolina for the behavior of these Negroes. With the latter getting into constant trouble, he was forced to return to South Carolina three times to quell these predicaments.
Joel Wright was a man of education. Abijah O'Neall secured his expertise in regards to the education of his children. Abijah gave a room in his house to be used for the education of the community children.
Through his ever-widening surveying travels Mr. Wright discovered the fertile lands around the area of Springboro. With the approval of his son Jonathan, Joel decided to buy land in this region. Through the large land holdings of Jonathan, the town of Springboro was settled.

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This page created 17 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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