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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The History Of The Society Of Friends In Colonial America

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
Source:
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The history of the Quakers, official name being the Society of Friends, originated in England at the time of the Puritan Revolution about 1628-1660. Personal independence from the monarchy resulted in a compelling revolution.
Oliver Cromwell was assigned as political protector, which resulted in many revolts against the established church. Numerous church foundations were organized at this time from which most were short-lived.
George Fox, born in 1624, was the founder of Quakerism. History records that he began his spiritual pursuit of truth when but nineteen years of age.
Fox began to preach in 1647, persuading many folks to his own beliefs. The following year an entire community in Nottinghamshire endorsed his message, calling themselves Children of the Light. This was the earliest recorded congregation established by the Friends.
This man of God was a great influence while possessing a compelling personality. He immediately attracted a group of young men and women who began to preach his ideas, calling themselves Publishers of Truth. Others soon joined, spreading the word in bands of two and three throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Margaret Fell, an early convert, often called the Mother of Quakerism, also encompassed a commanding personality. She resided at Swarthmore Hall that became a center of operation for the movement.
A general fund was set up by which the Friends could donate to help those on long preaching trips or in prison. She herself had been placed in prison at times, and subsequently made special visits to those who were incarcerated.
Her husband, Judge Fell, died and eleven years later Margaret married George fox.
Later, the Anglican Church monarchy was reestablished and no further worship was authorized. Non-conformists were dealt persisting persecutions with many Friends suffering long imprisonments, devastating fines, and severe treatment.
Fox, from 1667 on, was involved in organizing a system of monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings, this movement including women's business meetings.
The function of these conferences was to provide a way of caring for the poor and the prisoners, the keeping of the records, and a way of meeting traveling expenses for the preachers traveling abroad.
The new Friends religion was now being introduced into the New World. Plans were made to reinstate the poor in business, to initiate a program, which included giving work to those in prison, and revive a pattern for the treatment of the insane.
The first meeting in the New World was established in Rhode Island, and from this event New England Quakerism was born.
A long line of Quaker Governors and Quakers in public life served as a political entity, which sustained the Friends until the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Crusades were mustered as early as 1655 to establish Quakerism in Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, the latter two colonies suffering some persecution.
Massachusetts Quakers stood firm, standing up to every type of punishment. Horrendous tortures were endured again and again, with four suffering death. Oppressions reigned for ten years until the Quakers eventually succeeded in collapsing the discriminatory laws.
George Fox visited America in 1671-1673. His journey created an expansion with meetings being held in New York, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas. Meetings in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were in greater numbers than the others.
West Jersey was purchased by a group of Friends in 1674 and 1681, and at the same time Pennsylvania was presented to William Penn. The Quakers now had a reprieve from the torments of persecution, and as a result freedom and peace were proclaimed.
Penn was a statesman of the highest degree. He displayed an outstanding intensity for justice for all Americans and was a leader of liberty. Penn that was the forerunner of the Constitution of the United States devised a government.
The Friends policy that "all men are created equal," was directed towards the American Indian and African American. George Fox stated in 1671 that Negro slaves should be given their freedom after a period of years.
The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting advised against the slave trade in 1696. Attitudes slowly developed toward this cause and, in 1758, John Wollam made his appeal for their freedom.
The Quakers were notably opposed to the French and Indian War, and as a result, most disappeared from public life. The latter half of the 18th century found them withdrawing from the outside world, centering themselves in their own communities and developing their own spiritual existence.
Quaker women were directly involved in women's' rights. This movement was achieved by the ladies lecturing extensively against slavery, an act that broke the gender barrier against women speaking in public.
Lucretiea Mott, Quaker minister and abolitionist, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, spoke at the Seneca Falls convention in 1848. This feat marked the formal beginning of the first organized campaign for women.
In 1827 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting split into two groups, calling each other "Hicksites" and "Orthodox," with further separations evolving in the latter organization. (The fundamental difference was that the Orthodox Quakers used a minister, while the Hicksites had neither scheduled program nor minister during their Meetings.)
The Orthodox viewed the Hicksites as diverting from basic Christian doctrines, while the Hicksites determined that the Orthodox were acting in too Protestant a way. The Hicksites took notice that some of the Orthodox were getting soft on slavery by failing to boycott products of slave labor.
Many Friends were drawn southward into Virginia and the Carolinas during the 18th century and, because of their religious beliefs, became absorbed in the slavery issue. Due to the work of John Woolman and others, the Friends considered slavery a condemnation. Drawn into this injustice, they sought other ways to endure this crisis.
Because of the illegality to free their slaves, most Friends decided to transfer title of their slaves to the North Carolina Yearly Meeting, sell their property, from which they suffered a loss of one-half its worth, and migrate to the newly organized Northwest Territory, where slavery was constitutionally illegal.
Waynesville's migration began in 1799 when Abijah O'Neal and his family, who had left Bush River, South Carolina, purchased some 3,000 acres of land on the east bank of the Little Miami River, just north of Caesar's Creek.
Within 15 years some 18,000 Friends left the land of slavery and traveled North to settle in the new Territory. Others traveled to the new Miami Country from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other New England states.
In April 1801, twelve families, 81 individuals in all, gathered to form a Meeting and worship in a members home in Waynesville.
Near the close of that year, a request was sent to Westland Meeting in Pennsylvania, namely the Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which petitioned for a regular meeting for worship on First and Fifth Days. The request was granted in Ninth Month, 1802. The Meeting was named Miami.
Miami asked Westland Meeting, in 1803, for consent to create a Monthly Meeting. The request was approved and opened, Tenth Month, 13, 1803. Boundaries for this assemblage were the Hocking River on the east and the Ohio River on the south, with no restriction to the north or to the west.
By 1815, with membership growing by leaps and bounds in the Miami Monthly Meeting at Waynesville, it was said to have been the largest membership of any Friend Meeting in the entire Society.
After establishing itself in 1803, the Meeting set off many branches. These divisions included Lees Creek, Hardin Creek, Caesar's Creek, West Branch, Elk, Center and Whitewater.
A request was presented in 1807 from Miami, West Branch and Center Monthly Meetings, that a new Quarterly Meeting be established known as Miami Quarterly Meeting. This was to be held at Waynesville, Ohio, on the second Seventh Day in the Second, Fifth, Eighth and Eleventh months.
Baltimore Yearly Meeting approved the request and Miami Quarterly was opened, Fifth month of 1809. The "White Brick" Meetinghouse, located on High Street in Waynesville, was constructed in 1811 mainly for the Quarterly Meeting. (The "Red Brick" Meeting House, also located on High Street, was known as the Orthodox Friends Meeting House.)


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