Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Quakers or Society of Friends

Quaker Migration to America
To escape persecution at home, many Quakers sought refuge in America. In fact, George Fox conceived the idea of a separate colony in America. Although that project did not materialize, there were Friends among the earliest arrivals of British colonists who settled Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virginia. Fox preached to these scattered groups of Friends when he traveled throughout the colonies in 1671-1673. While one of the major motives for settlement in the New World was to find religious freedom, Quakers discovered that religious toleration was often no more available to them in the established communities of North America than it had been in England.

Due to this unfriendly and often hostile reception, the Quakers realized that their only immediate solution to the harassment was separatism---the establishment of their own colony or, at the very least, their own communities. The year 1674 was a turning point for the Quakers. In that year Lord Berkeley offered to sell half of New Jersey, and two Quakers, John Fenwick and Edward Billings, accepted the offer. Of even greater significance was the fact that William Penn, who had inherited a large estate from his father, Admiral William Penn, together with a claim for 16,000 pounds sterling against the British Crown, became interested in purchasing land for the followers of this religion to which he had been converted.

Consequently, in 1680 Penn asked King Charles 11 for a proprietary grant in consideration of "the debts due to him and his father from the Crown." The grant was allowed and in 1681 Penn opened the colony of Pennsylvania to Quakers, who began to pour in by the hundreds from Wales, England, Germany, and the Netherlands. Even though Pennsylvania was established as a refuge for Quakers, the form of government which Penn established was so liberal that before long there were more non-Quakers than Quakers living there and, in time, some Quakers began to think of moving farther west.

The first movement of Friends from the Atlantic Coast westward naturally headed toward the western reaches of Pennsylvania because the colony had such a favorable relationship with most of the Indians in the region. Members of the Society of Friends began to appear in the regions west of the Alleghenies in the late 1750's, and in 1773 two Quaker missionaries, Zebulon Heston and John Parrish, made a successful journey into the Indian country of the 0hio Valley. Also, a number of Friends left Virginia and North Carolina during the Revolutionary War in order to escape the violence of the war in those colonies.

As more and more families began to move from their quarterly meeting districts, Quaker leaders began to worry that the migrants would lose contact with the Society of Friends. The Hopewell, Virginia, Monthly Meeting sent an investigating committee into western Pennsylvania in 1780 to discover how many Friends were then living in the area. When it was revealed that over 150 Friends had migrated to the locate near present Centerville (on U. S. Route 40), the Hopewell Monthly Meeting in 1782 approved the organization of Westland Preparative Meeting as the first established meeting of Friends west of the Alleghenies. Three years later, Westland Monthly Meeting and Redstone Preparative Meeting (near Brownsville) were established, and in 1797 the communities were authorized to hold Redstone Quarterly Meetings alternately at the two sites. Thus, the Quakers had become rather firmly situated west of the Alleghenies by 1800. Even more rapid settlement in the Ohio Country was soon to follow, due to the awakening of the Quaker consciousness concerning slavery in the southern part of the North American colonies.


1 comment:

FrontPorchRockerNews said...

Bush River Quaker Cemetery and History
Newberry County South Carolina