PART I: 300 YEARS OF WORSHIP AND SERVICE AT GWYNEDD MONTHLY MEETING
SECTION I: 1698 - 1798
"Yn y dechreuad y creawdd Duw v Neofoedd a'r ddaiar."
Opening line of Genesis in Welsh
"Dwell in the faith that works by love" - Penn
George Fox began preaching in Wales in 1657, five years after his revelation on Pendle Hill. He found among the Welsh the same enthusiasm of seekers and the persecution from authorities that he experienced in England. Welsh Quakers were imprisoned, some for years, for following their faith and refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King. Some lost their land and farms.
William Penn's offer of land in Pennsylvania in 1681 offered hope. A group of Welsh Quakers bought 40,000 acres of land, later called the Welsh Tract, to the north and west of Philadelphia. They originally thought they would be allowed to establish a homeland there; a barony, where they could speak their native language and follow their own laws. There was some disappointment and dispute when it became clear that Penn intended that the colony be governed by only one set of laws, but by the second generation, this point of contention faded.
Hugh Roberts was an early Quaker Minister from Wales who returned there in 1697 and convinced a group that they should try their luck in Pennsylvania. The group sent cousins William John, and Thomas Evans ahead to purchase a suitable plot. The men bought 7,820 acres of land on March 10th, 1698, from Robert Turner. (This land was resurveyed in 1701 and found to be 11,449 acres.) It is not known when the area was given its name, or by whom, but the earliest records refer to the land as "Gwynedd" (pronounced Gwyneth), which means "the white land." The area was also called North Wales, which was the homeland of the early settlers.
The closest thing we have to a primary source for information about these settlers are the recollections of immigrant Edward Foulke and stories originally told by Edward that have been passed down by his descendants. A few of these were reproduced in the 1864 Friends Almanac, published by Joseph Foulke.
A relatively unknown story of Edward's explains why he, his wife Eleanor (sometimes called Ellin), their nine children, and a host of their neighbors emigrated. It started when Edward, an Anglican, attended a military training day, as was required of all eligible men in Wales. During this training, he watched in horror as a man crushed the kneecap of one of Edward's relatives. As the man cried in agony, the attacker celebrated. Friends of the two men argued about who was to blame.
The incident led Edward to the belief that God did not intend for someone like the Prince of Wales to have the power to command men to treat each other so cruelly.
" while (Edward) was calmly considering the matter, it occurred clearly to his understanding at the time that the Divine Will was, that he should remove with his family and settle in the Province of Pennsylvania. This was very unexpected, and the idea of parting with his friends and relatives in Wales and settle in the wild wilderness of America among Indians and wild beasts was a very great cross to his inclination, and the more he pondered on the matter, the more a serious sadness seemed to be brought over him."
Edward did not share this opening for a while, in hopes that the startling idea might fade. When it persisted, he talked to Eleanor about it. He was certain she would reject the very thought. "But his wife very unexpectedly to himself regarded it as an intimation or revelation of the Divine Will to him for their good."
Like many Welsh families, the Foulkes were in the habit of opening their homes on Sunday evenings to friends for a rousing night of singing and camaraderie. Both Eleanor and Edward seem to have grown uncomfortable with the rowdiness these nights encouraged. They decided to introduce Scripture readings to the Sunday night gatherings, declaring that those people who stayed to listen were indeed their true friends. When the group "would indulge in merriment beyond the bounds of Christian gravity," Eleanor told Edward to “put away and get out the Bible." Which he did.
There is no list of those friends of the Foulke's who came for singing and stayed for Scripture, but one might speculate that these were the families who later joined them on the voyage to America and hence, to Gwynedd.
The earliest account we have of the voyage from Wales and the early days of the settlement is, again, a short piece written by Edward Foulke. This included a Foulke genealogy stretching back eleven generations. As this was not a retelling, but a transcription of Edward's words, the phrasing can be somewhat difficult for a late 20th century reader to understand. The text is summarized here.
Edward and his family left their farm, called Coed-y-foel in Phiwlas, Merionethshire, Wales on April 3rd, 1698. They traveled north for two days until they reached the port city of Liverpool, England. In Liverpool, they met up with the other families, including the Evans' brothers: Robert, Owen, and Cadwallader, Hugh Griffith, John Hugh, John Humphrey, Robert Jones. (As Thomas Evans and his cousin William John had purchased the land in Philadelphia in March of 1698, it is extremely unlikely that they returned in time to accompany the other settlers back to Pennsylvania.)
On April 17th, 1698, the immigrants left Liverpool for Ireland on the Robert and Elizabeth. They spent a few weeks in Ireland, then set sail for Pennsylvania in early May. The voyage to Philadelphia lasted eleven weeks. By contrast, the Pilgrims' voyage aboard the Mayflower in 1620 took about 9 weeks. One is tempted to speculate that the weather during the crossing was less than ideal. A disease broke out aboard ship, "a bloody flux," or dysentery, which could have been caused by contaminated food. Approximately 32 people died from the disease, and their corpses were laid to rest in the ocean. The wharves and warehouses of the Philadelphia waterfront must have been a welcome sight when the Robert and Elizabeth docked on July 17th.
In the narrative, Edward says he and his family "were kindly received and hospitably entertained by our friends and old acquaintance, until I purchased a tract of about seven hundred acres." Others from the company purchased adjacent tracts. By the beginning of November, it appears that the ten families had each constructed some sort of dwelling on their tracts, and had all moved out of Philadelphia.
The forest of what is now Montgomery County must have seemed flat to the Welshmen. A description of their home region published in 1720 described the county of Merioneth thus, " The Air is very sharp, the County being full of Mountains, & barren, so extraordinary steep, that Persons may discourse from ye Top of one Mountain and be heard by those that stand on ye other. Here are great Flocks of Sheep, & Goats, Herds of Cattle, Deer, Fowl, Fish of all sorts, chiefly Herring in their Season." They did not find herring in Gwynedd.
Of the original ten households that settled at Gwynedd, only those of Hugh Griffith, John Hugh and John Humphrey are known to have been Quaker. The others were all Anglican (Church of England). In the example of Edward Foulke, we find an Anglican who was quite open to Leadings in the manner of Friends. As the band of Gwynedd settlers were likely those friends of the Foulkes who went from singing to Scripture reading on Sunday evenings, it may be that all were open to following the Light as was taught by George Fox.
Originally, the households of John Hugh and John Humphrey met together in Quaker worship. The rest of the small settlement met at the house of Robert Evans. Robert’s brother, Cadwallader, read the Bible and, though not an ordained minister, conducted a sort of Anglican service. One Sunday as Cadwallader walked to his brother's house, he stopped as he passed the path that led to the homes of the two Quakers. Jesse Foulke, whose grandfather was 18 years old at the time, wrote what happened next.
"it seemed as though a voice said to his spiritual ear go down and see how the Quakers do." Cadwallader continued on to his brother's house and conducted his service as usual. At the end, he shared the message he heard on the path. "They one and all agreed to go to the Quaker Meeting on the next First Day - and being so well satisfied with their Mode and Manner of Worship - that they never met again in their usual form of church worship."
Another grandchild of Edward Foulke gave a slightly different version of the story to Philadelphia historian John Watson. Susan Nancarro's version claimed that one of the Evans’ brothers had heard William Penn speak, and it was Penn who convinced the Evans brother to join the Society of Friends. Whatever the reason, by 1700, all were worshipping together in the manner of Friends, and worked together to build the first meeting house.
The Quakers who worshipped at Gwynedd were taken under the care of Radnor/Haverford Monthly Meeting. (The names Radnor and Haverford were used interchangeably for years.) Radnor had been founded earlier, as part of the larger and more populated section of the Welsh tract. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting placed the Quakers of Gwynedd under Radnor’s care because “ye said people understood not ye English tongue.” Many members of Radnor were themselves Welsh. The two settlements were connected by a road, which traveled near Norristown, passed by the smithy of Ellis Robert, and crossed the Schuykill River at Swedesford. The bonds of culture, language, and faith led to marriages between members of Radnor and Gwynedd meetings for generations.
The first mention of Gwynedd in the Radnor meeting records took place on April 14th, 1699. It was the last order of business noted, “There is a General meeting appointed at Gwynedd the second weekly third day of every month at the desire of friends there, beginning the next month.” Eleven months later, Radnor/Haverford appointed Cadwallader Evans and John Hugh "to see that things be in good order and according to the truth among friends at Gwynedd."
First birth - Evan mab Robert ap Hugh a Sara oi wraig 20 - 5 -1699
Margdd merth Edward Robert ag Arm oi wraig 1700
Robert mab Edward Robert y andd 16th mis tynte
Margdd merth John Hugh ap Elin oi wraig 1702
Robert mab Robert ap hugh andd 23 or mis tynta 1702
Jane daugh Robert and sarah Evan was born 20th 1st mo 1706
Thomas son Robert and Sarah Evan was born 22 4th month 1707
Note that English came into use eight years after the Welsh Friends arrival in Pennsylvania.
William Penn's Visit
Shortly after building the first rough meeting house, the Gwynedd community hosted William Penn and his sixteen-year-old daughter Letiticia. Our account of this visit comes from Susan Nancarro, who heard it from her grandfather Hugh Evans, and another cousin identified only as Mrs. D.L.. Hugh was a boy of twelve in 1700 when Penn, his daughter, and a servant journeyed up from Philadelphia. The travelers stayed with Hugh's father Thomas, because "Their house then was superior in that it was of barked logs, a refinement surpassing the common rank. … At that house William Penn ascended steps on the outside to go to his chamber; and the lad of twelve, being anxious to see all that he could of so distinguished a man, went up afterwards to peep through the apertures at him; and there he well remembered to have seen him on his knees praying and giving thanks to God for such peaceful and excellent shelter in the wilderness! "
"There was at this time a great preparation among the Indians near there for some public festival. Letiticia Penn, then a lively young girl, greatly desired to be present, but her father would not give his consent, though she entreated much."
In much the manner of adolescents of any time period, Letiticia was not at all happy that her father refused to let her continue with him to the Indian festival. She ran outside, and in her rage, picked up a flail (a tool used to beat the wheat kernels from chaff). Letiticia was not accustomed to farming, as anyone who has ever visited Penn's home at Pennsbury Manor might surmise. In the course of venting her anger she managed to thump herself soundly on the head with the flail, "and was thus quickly constrained to retreat into the house, with quite a new concern upon her mind! This fact made a lasting impression upon the memory of the lad (Hugh), who then was a witness."
There had been some contact with the Native Americans who lived in the area from the start. Ellen Evans’ 1765 memorial noted that she "delighted to converse with our uninstructed Indians about their sentiments of the Supreme Being; and often said she discovered evident traces of Divine goodness in their uncultivated minds." There was eventually a type of exodus out of the region, leaving behind one elderly woman who lived out her days alone.
Creation of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting
Settlers continued to come into the region, and the Meeting was growing. In 1710, a subscription paper to raise money to build a new, larger meeting house was drawn up - one of the last Meeting documents written in Welsh. Translated, it reads, in part, “The names of Friends who have united to build a Meeting House at Gwynedd - to worship God after the form and system which exists amongst the people called Quakers - together with the several of the sum which each one specifically gave - to be paid here as follows…”
Sixty-six Friends signed the paper and contributed from one to eleven pounds each for a total of two hundred pounds, some payable in bushels of wheat. As in modern times, payments were structured; the first payment due Ninth Month 1710, the second, Third Month, 1711, etc.
The first meeting house had been smallish and made of logs. The 1712 meeting house was much grander and built to last. Local historian Theodore W. Bean described the meeting house, “It was considerably larger than the former, and was built of stone, with two galleries and a hip-roof. It occupied the former site, and the ground was a portion of Robert Evans’ purchase, still covered with the original forest. “
After worshipping together for nearly 15 years, and now gathering together in a well-constructed, roomy meeting house, the Gwynedd Quakers felt the time had come to become a Monthly Meeting. Radnor Friends agreed. In 1714, Radnor Monthly Meeting at Haverford permitted Gwynedd and Plymouth to establish a joint Monthly Meeting. This met for the first time, at Gwynedd on February 22nd, 1714.
The first order of business on that day was the reading of an account of the settlement of Gwynedd and “the rise and Progress of Truth” which led to that day’s momentous gathering. Most of the business dealt with notifying other meetings about the development.
Gwynedd and Plymouth maintained close ties and a joint Monthly Meeting for Business for 222 years. Business Meeting alternated between the two meeting houses, though Friends tended to worship at the meeting house closest to their homes. Meetings under the care of a Business Meeting were called Preparative Meetings.
Two months after Gwynedd and Plymouth spun off from Radnor, Friends in Perkiomen requested permission to establish a Preparative Meeting under the care of Gwynedd. Richland Friends (also called Great Swamp) came under the care of Gwynedd shortly after Perkiomen, then set up their own Monthly Meeting in 1742. Quakers began worshipping in Providence in 1715 or 1717, and established a Preparative Meeting under the care of Gwynedd in 1730. Gwynedd nurtured several other Preparative Meetings in the 19th century.
The first order of business was a controversy surrounding a gravestone that had been laid on the grave of a small child. Martha Bates died April 25, 1714, at age 3 years and 5 months. She was the daughter Humphrey and Anne Bates.
In those days Quakers did not mark a gravesite with stones or memorials of any kind. There was confusion about how to proceed, made more difficult, perhaps, by the fact that the grave was that of a small child, and the parents were no doubt deep in mourning.
John Evans was sent with to Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting with a concern about the gravestone, with a request for advice about how to proceed. At the second Meeting for Business meeting of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting, the recommendation of how to proceed had come up from Philadelphia, "their advice was That we Endevour to prevent any more to be set up and also shew our Dislike to that already Sett up." Martha's stone could stay, but the practice was to be discouraged.
A common concern of the Meeting was taking care of Friends in need. Long before the days of health, fire, or life insurance or Social Security, Friends turned to family and to the Meeting when they needed help. Hugh Griffen, who helped to build the 1712 meeting house, was called an "ancient Friend" in 1720. The Meeting paid David Hugh six pounds to care for Hugh for the next year. A collection was also taken up to help pay for the rebuilding of Chester Meetinghouse in Burlington, New Jersey.
Meeting members were so concerned with the personal behavior of each other that modern Friends may perceive it as inappropriately intrusive. This close relationship between the individual and the Meeting was rooted in concern, but in later years crossed into absurdity. In the 18th century, the Meeting called those Friends into account for behavior that was contrary to the Book of Discipline. As portrayed in the Minutes, the meeting approached a Friend who had transgressed with gentleness and concern, a feature that starkly set it apart from other faiths that tended to condemn the weak in spirit. A few examples may illustrate Gwynedd’s approach.
On 24 Second Month, 1716, the minutes record that "David Hugh being present at this Meeting verbally confessed his failure and condemned himself but this Meeting not being fully satisfied therewith lest it should not be sufficient for the Clearing of Truth, he is desired to give the same to the next meeting."
In other words, David Hugh confessed to a failure of some sort, but the Meeting did not quite believe his repentance, and they told him to try again the following month. Various committees were often appointed to reconcile members who had disagreements.
When Morgan Morgan wanted to marry a girl who was not a Quaker in 1718, the Meeting asked that "his parents and Friends use all endevours possible by tender council and advice to dissuade him from it." The 1712 Book of Discipline of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting recommended disownment of members who married out of Meeting (who married someone who was not a Quaker). By 1722, the Book of Discipline had become stricter, insisting on immediate disownment instead of the gentle attempts at reconciliation that had been earlier used.
The meaning and use of disownment shifted over time. It was never meant to be a shunning like the Amish. Disowned Quakers were welcome to worship. One factor in consideration of disownment was the Meeting's financial responsibilities for its members.
Early Quakers, like others, sometimes had problems with alcohol. A minute in 1718 noted that "John Williams at a certain time hath been too much overtaken with the essence strong liquor, he being present at this Meeting confessed the same and condemned himself and the Spirit that lead him thereunto with a firm resolution to take better care in the future." A month later it was David Hugh accused of "excess of drink" but he wasn't there to tell his side of the story. Friends were appointed to make sure he came to Business Meeting the following month.
There were other temptations that occasionally proved too great. At the end of 1718, we read that "Whereas complaint has been brought to this Meeting against David Jones and Mary Pugh who have committed uncleanness with each other to our sorrow and to their own great hurt, and in a deep sense thereof, we do dislike and disown their action and the spirits that led them thereunto having no unity with them until such time as their life and conversation demonstrates their real and unfeigned repentance." At the following business meeting, Mary produced a paper condemning her crime. The meeting chose not to accept it, evidently not being convinced of her sincerity. They decided to review the matter at a later time.
What Did They Look Like?
Photography was not invented until one hundred and fifty years after the Welsh families carved their homes and a Quaker community out of the forest. The Quaker tradition of silhouette cutting was still decades away. Few Quakers of the time even had their portraits painted.
We can derive some sense of what early Gwynedd Quakers wore (or weren't supposed to wear) from studying the advice of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Book of Discipline at the time, "If any men wear longlapp'd sleeves, or Coats folded at the sides, Superfluous buttons, Broad ribbons about the hat, or gaudy, flower'd or strip'd Stuffs, or any sort of perriwigs unless necessitated, and if any are necessitated, that then it be as near in Colour as may be to their own and in other respects resembling as much as may be, a sufficient natural head of hair without the vain customs being long behind or mounting on the forehead. Also, if any women that profess the Truth wear or suffer their children to wear their Gowns not plain or open at the breast with gaudy Stomachers, needless rolls at the Sleeves or with their Mantuas or bonnets with gaudy colours, or cut their hair and leave it out on the brow, or dress their heads high, or to wear hoods with long lapps, or long Scarfs open before, or their Capps or pinners plaited or gathered on the brow or double hemm’d or pinc’d … It being not agreeable to that Shamefac'dness, paliness and modesty which people professing Godliness with good works ought to be found in."
The Quaker Ancestors of Abraham Lincoln & Daniel Boone
One of the early marriages at Gwynedd may have led to the birth of one of our country's most important presidents. On January 11, 1711, John Hanke of Whitemarsh married Sarah Evans of Gwynedd. Sarah was the daughter of Cadwallader Evans, the Welshmen who led the Anglican services before becoming a Quaker. It is believed that among their descendents was Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln.
Squire Boone of Gwynedd, married Sarah Morgan, of Chalfont, in 1720. Squire's family had come from England and Sarah's from Wales. The young couple lived first near Gwynedd, then in Chalfont, before they bought 250 acres near Oley in 1730. The famous Daniel Boone was born in 1735, the sixth of eleven Boone children. In 1750 the family moved south to North Carolina. Squire Boone had been read out of meeting by the Exeter Friends two years earlier for his unrepentence in allowing his son Israel to marry a non-Quaker.
1743 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Queries
1. Are Friends careful to attend meetings at the time appointed and to refrain from sleeping or chewing tobacco during meetings?
2. Do Friends stay clear of excess in "drinking Drams?"
3. Do young Friends keep company for marriage with non-Friends, or marry without parental consent?
4. Are Friends clear from tattling, talebearing, and meddling?
5. Do Friends stay free from music houses, dancing, and gambling?
6. Are Friends careful to “train up their Children in the Nurture and fear of the Lord, and to restrain them from vice and Evil Company, and keep them to plainness of Speech and Apparel?”
7. Are the poor taken care of, their children put to school, and then apprenticed out to Friends, and do Friends apprentice their children only to Friends?
8. Are Friends cautious not to launch into business beyond what they can do?
9. Are Friends careful not to remove without a certificate?
10. Are Friends on guard not to deprive the King of his duties?
11. Do Friends stay clear of the importing or buying of Negros?
12. Are Friends prudent in settling their affairs and in leaving wills?
Worship at Gwynedd - "The School of Prophets"
Early Gwynedd historian Howard Jenkins referenced the journal of the prolific Joseph Foulke (1786-1863) to provide a tantalizing hint of what worship was like hundreds of years ago.
"At precisely what time it was that the meeting was strongest in ministers I am not able to say, but probably between 1725 and 1745. Joseph Foulke in his manuscript Journal speaks of its strength in early times and says, "I have heard my parents say that at one time 14 approved ministers belonged to the meeting, and when the Yearly Meeting was held at Burlington, N.J., the late George Dillwyn remarked that in his youthful days North Wales was called the school of prophets."
The author of Gwynedd’s 250th anniversary booklet did a magnificent job combing through the written memorials of the late 18th century to find evidence of the amount and type of vocal ministry at Gwynedd.
"John Evans and Evan Evans were unusually diligent in traveling in the service of the ministry, the former being primarily interested in neighboring meetings. Well acquainted with the holy Scriptures, John often drew "lively and instructive similitudes from the visible creation" to illustrate some moral point, which he delivered in a clear and engaging manner. Evan was especially cautious and watchful not to speak "without assurance of a necessity being laid upon him."
Cadwallader Evans, noted for his promptness at meetings, was zealously concerned in affairs at home. "It was his practice, in winters evenings especially, to read the holy scriptures in his family, and was particularly careful that neither child nor servant should be away from home at unreasonable hours."
The booklet continues, " Gwynedd ministers traveled widely in the colonies, and even went to England, Holland and Germany. The Meeting also received visits from other ministers, among them John Fothergill, eminent English preacher who was at Gwynedd in 1721 and 1736. " Such visits were the chief unifying influences in the Society of Friends at the time."
To get another sense of how earlier Friends may have worshipped at Gwynedd, we turn to broader sources. John Smith was a Philadelphia area Quaker who recorded attending 162 meetings from 1745 to 1746 (some meetings held a mid-week worship, as well as both morning and afternoon meetings for worship on First Days). Smith noted that 150 of the meetings had some kind of spoken messages given in the form of prayers or preaching, 5 were completely silent, and 7 were not elaborated upon. He heard an average of 4 messages per meeting for a total of 657; 275 of which were given by women. Most of the people who spoke were those who had been recognized as ministers by their meeting, that is, the meeting acknowledged that they had a special gift of ministry. Further examination of similar records in the Philadelphia area show the same amount of spoken worship.
While patterns of worship varied somewhat, it appears that Gwynedd Friends gathered both morning and afternoon for two-hour Meetings for Worship on First Day, and also for a mid-week worship on Third or Fifth Day. There were no First Day School classes; children generally started to come to Meeting at age 5 and were expected to sit quietly with their parents. Like Puritans, Quakers of this period did not celebrate Christmas or other holy days, decrying them as relics of paganism or “papish.” Their lives and celebrations followed the cycle of the seasons.
In 1750, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting proposed that every monthly meeting should have a school and a teacher. There had apparently been some type of school for Gwynedd's children much earlier than that. In a petition for the building of a road in 1721, the road is sought by the petitioners "from their plantations to the great road leading to Philadelphia, by school house lately erected in their neighborhood."
Marmaduke Pardo was the earliest schoolmaster of record in Gwynedd. He came from Wales in 1727 and married at Merion in 1729. But it is not until 1778, when Gwynedd Monthly Meeting appointed a formal committee on education, that we get a sense of regular schooling here. Piecing together an account of the early school is made difficult because of gaps in the records. It is also impossible to tell which, if any, of the early schools were under the direct care of the meeting. It may have been that they were, by virtue of educating only Friends' children, and it did not occur to the record keepers to note this.
Joseph Foulke, who would have started his education around 1792, remembered attending a school at Gwynedd meeting in what was called "the little meeting house." The teacher was "an old tottering man by the name of Samuel Evans," the books used the Bible, Dilworth's Spelling-Book, and Dilworth's Arithmetic. By 1795, Joseph attended a school house on Bethlehem Pike, near Springhouse, where his first teacher was Hannah Lukens. Though the records become clearer in the nineteenth century, it appears as if the children of Gwynedd were educated in a school with Quaker ties for most of the 1700s.
Samuel Morris (1709 - 1770)
Gwynedd Friends in the mid-1700s were a mixture of farmers and business owners. Samuel Morris provides us with an example of an active Quaker entrepreneur. He was born February 27, 1709, the son of Morris Morris and Susanna Heath. His mother was a famous traveling minister, both in the colonies and abroad.
Samuel attended Abington as a boy, and came to Gwynedd in 1737. He continued to worship here until his death in 1770. He was active in committee work, and in Quarterly and Yearly Meeting business. Like many Friends in the first half of the 18th century, Samuel was involved in politics. In 1736, he was elected Assessor of Philadelphia County, and was reelected to that post three times. In 1749, he was elected Justice of the Peace for Whitemarsh Township, then part of Philadelphia County.
Samuel and his father owned and ran the Upper Dublin Mill in Ambler. By 1746, he also owned a gristmill along the Wissahickon Creek across from his property on Bethlehem Pike, called Mather's Mill. Samuel owned a lime quarry and lime kilns, and farmed his 150 acres of land. He was part owner of three sailing ships, as well as riverfront property in Philadelphia, an iron furnace in New Jersey, a brewhouse, and a storehouse.
Around 1741, Samuel bought land on the east side of Bethlehem Pike, and started construction on a grand home. It is believed that Edmund Woolley, designer of Independence Hall, was the architect of Samuel's home. He called his home "Whitemarsh Estate." We know it today as Hope Lodge, a superb example of Georgian architecture. Samuel Morris' house is now owned by The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and is open for tours year round.
Morris never married, though both his niece Susannah Evans, and his cousin, Ann Waln, each lived in his house for a while. There is some evidence that Samuel was a slave owner. His records do not mention the names of servants, as other contemporary records do. His many business dealings would have provided opportunity for him to acquire slaves in lieu of debts. While most Friends did not own slaves, there were notable exceptions, and they tended to be wealthy landowners, such as Samuel.
Samuel's brother and heir, Joshua, donated land from the estate to Gwynedd Meeting. In 1852 a small building was erected that was used for Meeting for Worship for funerals. Friends were buried on the property. In 1920 the land was sold, and the bodies reinterred at Gwynedd.
Impact of French and Indian War
As the example of Samuel Morris shows, Friends were very much "of the world" in Pennsylvania in the early 18th century. Quakers were the majority of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and several leaders of the Assembly were influential in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
In June 1755 the governor asked the Assembly to raise a militia to combat Indians, who had been armed by the French government as part of their war with the British. The Quaker Assembly passed a militia bill, with a provision that anyone religiously opposed to war did not have to take up arms. Nevertheless, it was an action in direct opposition to the Peace Testimony.
In April of 1756, the governor formally declared war. This was too much for the Quaker officials. Most of the Quaker Assembly members resigned, and the government of the colony was turned over to the Presbyterians.
The reviewing of the Peace Testimony and other central concerns of Friends that occurred during and after the Assembly's struggle with the war led to a revitalization of Quaker principles. Many Friends began to draw away from "worldly" involvement. As Friends renewed their faith, they closely scrutinized members' behavior, and the number of disownments increased.
As the Revolutionary War approached, Gwynedd members faced conflict no matter which path they took. In 1775, a minute from Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting advised working with those who were attracted to the military and trying to bring them back to the peaceful fold. There would be much of this work ahead.
Down the road in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress assembled and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. There were no Quakers sitting on that Congress. Secluded in the countryside, Gwynedd may have felt protected, isolated from the turmoil. But the Peace Testimony was immediately challenged.
The historical records do not show us exactly what Gwynedd member Samuel Davis Jr. did, but whatever it was, it brought a swift reaction from the Meeting. At Meeting for Business at the end of August 1776, the Meeting disowned him:
"For want of keeping to that peaceable principle of grace in his own heart, hath so far deviated therefrom to be guilty of associating with the Military Men and taking active part with them carrying on War the which conduct of his (as we apprehend) to be inconsistent with the principal of the Gospel, which breathes peace on Earth and good will toward men, therefor the clearing of Truth and our Religious society from such disorderly conduct, we do disown the said Samuel Davis from being any longer a Member thereof, or to have any right of membership amongst us until by unfeigned repentance and amendment of life he renders himself Worthy of the unity of friends; and that he may is what we desire."
Gwynedd appointed a committee of 17 men to advise those who might become involved in war affairs. The Militia Law of 1777 stipulated that all men of military age were automatically considered members of a military company. If they failed to appear for drills or when called to battle, they were fined. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting made it clear that Quakers were neither to join the army or nor pay any fines.
The reading out of Samuel Davis Jr. apparently did not discourage other members from an interest in the war. After Davis, however, the Meeting took a more cautious approach. John Roberts became a captain in the Continental Army, and the Meeting sent a committee to "convince him of his misconduct." Josiah Wood was rumored to be "making instruments of war," was also visited by a concerned committee. They reported that Wood "was very tender and loving and glad of their visit." Both Wood and Roberts were eventually read out, but not until committees had met with them several times. The disownments were worded to make clear that the Meeting would always welcome back the soldiers when they had mended their ways and put up their guns.
Quakers suffered greatly during the war. They were looked upon suspiciously by both the supporters of independence and Tories. In 1778, a letter was read during Meeting for Business “recommending to friends the maintaining of constancy on conduct with our religious profession and caution against complying with some late Laws requiring a test of Aligence"
Meeting House as Hospital
At the end of 1777 and the beginning of 1778, Meetings were held in the home of Evan Evans because the Meeting House had been taken over as a hospital by the army. In General Muhlenburg's Orderly Book of 1777, the message sent from Headquarters on October 30th included the following, " Returns of the Sick to go to the General Hospital are to be made tomorrow morning to the Surgeon General at Col. Biddle's Quarters; a sufficient number of Camp Kettles are to be sent with the sick. Those persons whose Cases are very bad, are to be sent immediately to the Quaker's Meeting House at the 20 Mile Stone on the North Wales Road, where the Surgeons of the Hospital will receive them. " A few orderly Men are to go with the Sick to the Quaker's Meeting House proportion'd to the number of the sick." Soldiers who died while the meetinghouse operated as a military hospital were buried in the graveyard, very close to what is now Sumneytown Pike.
There is a story that General George Washington camped in Gwynedd the night of June 19, 1778, on his way to Doylestown. The same tale holds that he was escorted by fifty Life Guards with drawn swords. It would appear that he did not stay in the neighborhood long enough to embrace our Peace Testimony.
More members were drawn away by the drums of war. Evan Thomas left with the English Army. David Jones, Jonathan Jones, and Jonathan Robinson also took up arms, though it is not clear for which side they fought. Perhaps the greatest indignity was committed by Job Lukens. He acted as constable and served warrants on other Friends for "not associating to learn military exercises." Not surprisingly, Job Lukens had stopped going to Meeting for Worship about the same time. He was later disowned.
Manumission of slaves
As Quakers have such a strong anti-slavery reputation, it is hard to acknowledge that there were Quaker slave owners in Pennsylvania, and there were Quaker slave owners at Gwynedd. The concern for slaves was a constant one, but it took years before the Society was free of the taint of slave owning.
The earliest recorded concern for slaves in the region was a 1688 Minute from Germantown Friends endorsed by Dublin Monthly Meeting (Abington) that protested against the owning of human beings. In 1696, there were several papers read at Yearly Meeting, urging Friends to "be careful not to encourage the bringing in of any more Negroes." Friends were asked to bring their slaves to meeting for worship, or to include them in worship at home.
The 1711 Quaker Assembly prohibited importation of slaves, but the action was later vetoed by the King of England. Despite stronger language from Yearly Meeting and a growing number of anti-slavery monthly meetings, Quakers still owned slaves. In 1754, John Woolman published Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, an enormously important book that helped turned the tide of sentiment against slave owning.
Only incomplete records of slaveholding remain, which makes it difficult to give a full and accurate account of how many slaves were held by Gwynedd members, and when and why they were freed. Some records concern disciplinary cases relating to slavery; from 1757 - 1776, eight cases from Gwynedd were brought to Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting for discipline. In the same time period, Abington Monthly Meeting presented nine cases, and Radnor, two. A number of manumission papers from monthly meetings were collected into a large binder held by Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting.
In 1774, owning a slave became a disownable offense in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. The earliest recorded manumission (voluntary freeing) of a Gwynedd slave took place on 2nd day 12 month, 1775. Israel Jacobs, executor of the estate of his late brother Benjamin, freed Benjamin's slave, "a certain Negroe-man named Jem." It does not appear that Benjamin directed the manumission in his will. Rather, Israel seems to have been moved by his faith. In the manumission paper, he wrote "from a persuasion of duty, agreeable to that great Command of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Matthew [chapter] 7 and [verse] 12 “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them"
The next came more than a year later, on 1st day, 4th month, 1776. Mary Robinson, of Whitemarsh, "from a sense of duty and for my own Peace.." signed a manumission paper freeing her slave Dinah, who was then seventeen years and six months old. The law at the time allowed female slaves to be freed at age eighteen, and Mary's statement meant that Dinah would be free as soon as she reached her 18th birthday.
Three days after Dinah, Israel Jacobs freed another of his brother Benjamin's slaves, a woman named Mazee. He did not mention Mazee's age, and we can only speculate why there was a delay between her freedom and that of Jem's.
By the middle of 1776, monthly meetings of Philadelphia Quarter were using preprinted forms for their manumissions. Some strong Leading of the Spirit, or a communal recognition of the great sin of slavery appears to have taken place around 6th month, 1776. Eleven slaves who belonged to members of Gwynedd Monthly Meeting were freed, or binding papers were signed promising to free them when they reached the age of majority. Jonathan Paul freed a “mulatto girl Fanny when she turns 18, on 10th day, 6th mo, 1793.” He freed his 18-year-old slave Hester on the spot.
On the same day, Jonathan Robinson of Whitemarsh, agreed to free four children he owned: Dick, age 10, Hester, age 10, Kuff (a boy) age 12, and Sip (a boy) age 17. On the 8th day of the 6th month, 1776, James Morris, of Whitpain, freed 20-year-old Dina, and Enos Evans, of Gwynedd, agreed to free “a mulatto girl named Neece, when she turns eighteen, on 9th day, 9th month, 1782.”
The mass freeing continued the next day. Mordecai Moore of Montgomeryville manumitted "Jack, alias John Powell, aged 50" and "William Bolton, 45 (mulato man)", and Lucy Bolton, 24 years old. Three months later, Mordecai freed two more members of the Bolton family: Rose, age 22, and 25-year-old David.
In the summer of 1777, Gywnedd Meeting purchased a book in which to record manumissions. It was noted at the time that four families still owned slaves, though in every case the mistress of the home was a Quaker and the master was not. The Meeting was lending some care and aid to freed slaves, though records do not tell us what was specifically done. A year later, one of the families had freed their slaves. At the end of 1778, Philadelphia Yearly meeting sent out "weighty advice and counsel" about the care of freed slaves and the need to free those still kept in bondage.
Formation of Abington Quarterly Meeting
Gwynedd was part of Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting until 1786 when Abington Quarterly Meeting was established. It was first composed of Abington, Gwynedd, Horsham, and Richland Monthly Meetings.
Quarterly Meeting was one of the highlights of the year; a significant social as well as religious activity. There was little in the way of leisure time during this period. Quarterly Meeting was a time to relax, visit with old friends, and make new. After Meeting for Worship and Business during the morning, members would retire to the homes of host meeting members for enormous lunches. Some homes had as many as 80 people to feed! This tradition was later changed to an enormous luncheon at the Meetinghouse itself.
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