History of the Society of Friends on Cape Cod

Several of my ancestors were involved in the early Quaker movement in the American colonies, for example William Almy, Richard Borden, Robert Carr, Mary Dyer, Joseph Holloway, Arthur Howland, George Lawton, Nicholas Pearsall* and William Thorne (Sr. & Jr.)* At Sandwich, Massachusetts, the first official notice of a meeting of Friends was on 13 Apr 1657, at the house of William Allen (1627-1705), the son of Ralph Allen Sr. (also later a member of the meeting), my 11th g-grandfather.  This meeting is the oldest continuous Quaker meeting in America.

* probably not a Quaker, but a signer of the Remonstrance of Flushing (1657).

Sandwich Friends Meeting House, photo gallery:

 

“A New Account of the History of the Society of Friends on Cape Cod” by James Warren Gould, Professor of History and International Relations, Scripps College, Claremont, California

 

I. The Founding and Early History, 1656-1658

The monthly meeting of the Society of Friends at Sandwich, Mass., is the oldest continuous meeting in America. The formation of the meeting was a result of the effective preaching in Sandwich by Nicholas Upsall, Christopher Holder, and John Copeland. Pioneer work was done in the winter of 1656-1657 by Upsall, the first New England convert to Friends, who, having been expelled from Boston for his heretical views found Sandwich ripe for conversion. It was a town whose church members had sent away their minister in 1654 in disaffection with the Congregational Church. The first official notice of a meeting of Friends was on third second month, 1657, Old Style, or 13 April, 1657, at the house of William Allen (1627-1705) and his wife Priscilla, at Spring Hill, East Sandwich. This house, the Allens’ first, stood on the site of the present W. V. Ahonen house at 22 Gilman Road, about 500 yards west of the present Friends meetinghouse. Attending were Upsall, Richard Kerbey, and Elizabeth Newland. This small beginning group was soon joined by Sarah Kerbey and Jane Launder.

Although official notice of these meetings resulted in the expulsion of Upsall in the early Spring of 1657, he was soon followed by the two English preachers, Christopher Holder (1631-1665) and John Copeland (d. 1719) who arrived at Buzzards Bay from the Vineyard on 20th Sixth month, 1657 (August 30). They proceeded north to Sandwich where they probably lodged with William Newland at his house on Grove St. above Mill Pond, in what is presently the Goble’s house. The new missionaries were soon expelled, but not before two more converts to Quakerism had been made, their host the Newlands and Ralph Allen Sr., probably resident at Spring Hill, both of whom became the first Sandwich Quakers to be jailed, for five months, for holding illegal meetings. The cruel persecution meted out to these dissidents has been fully described in local histories and Quaker accounts.

Undeterred by threats of punishment, Holder and Copeland returned in early 1658 to be arrested, beaten, and expelled again. By mid-1658 there were sixteen Quaker heads of families, amounting to perhaps a hundred persons, fined for refusal of oath, with meetings held at the Allen’s house now heavenly punished. It was probably at this point that secret meetings were being held in Christopher’s Hollow, now familiarly known as “Chrisie’s Holler.” This is a kettle hole about a mile and a half south-southeast of Sandwich Center, located now in the new development called Quaker Hill, in the middle of the loop street named Christopher’s Hollow, which one reaches from Crowell Rd. and Charles St.. Until 1976 it was a secluded glen full of lady ferns in the filtered sunlight, fed by a small brook. In the middle of the last century there were still some large flat boulders that served as seats for the first Quaker meeting, but these have disappeared.

 

II. The Origins of Outlying Meetings, 1658-1685

The Sandwich Monthly Meeting has been the mother meeting of several other gatherings of Friends on Cape Cod. There never has been another Monthly Meeting as such, and to this day the other congregations of Friends are merely Preparative Meetings of Sandwich, which owns all real property and registers all members.

The two Preparative Meetings in Yarmouth and Falmouth appear to have originated in the settlement of individual Sandwich Quakers who fled persecution in the home town between 1657 and 1667. The Yarmouth meeting had its beginning when John Wing (1613-1699) and Goody Wing (1616?-1692) moved from Sandwich to what is now West Brewster before 1658. They worshiped alone at their home on Wing’s Island, halfway between Bound Brook (Quivet Creek) and Stony Brook (Paine’s Creek or Sauqualtuckett), at a site now marked by a stone placed in 1910 reading’ “In 1656 near this spot, John Wing erected the first house and became the first settler within the limits of old Harwich. Here he died in 1699. He owned land across the Cape from sea to sea.” The spot can be reached at low tide by a footpath a mile north from the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History parking lot.

[Paine questioned whether the information on the stone was correct, as well as the location, and most sources are unsure of the date of settlement prior to 1659.]

By 1667 the Wings were joined by the family of John Dillingham (1630-1715), of Sandwich, whose 1660 saltbox house now owned by Carl Ahstrom can still be seen on the north side of Route 6A in West Brewster, a quarter of a mile west of the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Just opposite A.P. Newcomb Rd. By 1676 they were joined by a third Quaker, William Griffith, who became part owner of the cornmill on the river, and by 1691 had moved to Monomoy, now Chatham. By April 1, 1681, Sandwich Meeting was able to allow monthly meetings in Yarmouth, alternating between the houses of Dillingham and a Henry Jones, who has not been identified except that Dillingham’s daughter married someone by that last name.

West Falmouth Preparative Meeting originated in the tolerant atmosphere of Falmouth said to be the first town in America to exempt Quakers from the church tax.

[Falmouth Town Records show the date as 1728, which is preceded by the action of Yarmouth on 25 Oct. 1716, and indirect grant 19 April 1697.]

The town itself had been founded in 1661 by Isaac Robinson, son of the Pilgrim minister following his persecution for sympathizing with Quakers rather than converting them as he had been charged by the General Court to do. About 1667 his little settlement at Succonesset was joined by the early Sandwich convert to Quakerism, Robert Harper. In the following year came another, William Gifford, early settler of Sippewisset. About the same time he was joined by Thomas Bowerman who married Harper’s daughter Mary, and by 1672 Thomas Johnson. No doubt meetings for worship were held in homes at first. Sandwich was holding occasional business meetings with this group of Friends in Falmouth as early as 1673 at an unknown place, probably one of the homes. One historian claimed this for the Joseph Hull family, but the first record of his lands in Woods Hole was 1677, with a move to West Falmouth in 1678 he had previously married (in 1676) another of Harper’s daughters, Experience. In 1685 Sandwich officially permitted a meeting in West Falmouth.

In the same year 1685 the first burial was made in Falmouth, according to a boulder placed in 1900 over 69 unmarked graves about 350 yards east of the present meeting house. This is the oldest recorded Quaker graveyard on Cape Cod, though earlier burials in Sandwich and West Brewster would be impossible to trace because of Friends’ insistence on unmarked sites. The first marked tombstone, perhaps placed by later descendants, is that of the second settler of Brewster and Harwich, in the family graveyard west of Quivet Creek one while south of 6A on the north side of Stony Brook Rd. A stone reads’ Here lies ye Body of Mr. John Dillingham aged about 85 years, deceased May ye 21, 1715.

[It was then the Quaker custom to refer to the month by number rather than pagan names, and this raises the suspicion of a non-Quaker addition.]

It is not known where Friends who died in Sandwich were buried for the first third of a century until 1694 when the town granted Quakers half an acre on Spring Hill “above Canoe Swamp and Between the Ways,” a site now fenced by granite posts and steel bars just west of the W. V. Ahonen house, where the Allens held meetings.

There the first recorded burial was Edward Perry, Quaker settler of Bourne, and first known Clerk of the Meeting, from 1672 to 1694.

Friends are well aware that a life dedicated to serving God and one’s fellows, even from humble circumstances, may be of profound influence to improve a bit of the world. This improvement, lasting into future years, can be a form of immortality through which the individual continues to live.

 

III. Rapid Eighteenth Century Growth, 1685-1808

While Sandwich Friends were spreading across the Cape from Chatham to Falmouth, the Monthly meeting itself was growing. It formed part of the first Yearly meeting in America held at Newport, Rhode Island on 9 June, 1661 only a year after the first in the world, at Skipton, England in 1660. The first minutes of Sandwich Monthly Meeting, now in the Friends Archives of the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence, begin with the entry 4th Month 25, 1672, or July 5, and tell of thatching the first meeting house which presumably had been built by then near the Allen house on Spring Hill. That first public building of Friends on Cape Cod reflected the easing of persecution after 1665, though individual harassment continued until William and Mary’s Act of Toleration in 1689. Rapid growth of membership was shown by the decision to enlarge the meetinghouse in 1674. which work was completed in 1679. Still insufficient in 1704. a second meetinghouse was begun at the site of the present one, by Robert Harper. This “small meeting house” was enlarged in 1709 by Joseph Snow, and again in 1757 by adding sixteen feet forward, up and sideways, thus creating what became known as “the Great Meetinghouse.” It was there that the Quaker anti-slavery reformer John Woolman attended a monthly meeting on July 4, 1760, and a Quarterly meeting on two subsequent days. Woolman did not say that he spoke, but strongly suggested it:

We attended the Quarterly meeting in Sandwich, in company with Ann Grant and Mercy Redman, which was preceded by a monthly-meeting; and the whole held three days. We were various ways exercised amongst them, in Gospellove, according to the several Gifts bestowed upon us: and were, at times, overshadowed with the virtue of Truth, to the comfort of the sincere and stirring up of the negligent.

(Woolman, John, Journal, various eds., letter to his wife, date of monthly meeting from “Sandwich Monthly Meeting Minutes” 4th, 7th month [new style], 1760.)

Quarterly meetings, accruing, once each quarter year and in this southwestern quarter of the New England Yearly Meeting, began very early in Sandwich. Quarterly meetings for worship were held as early as 1680 in East Sandwich, among the earliest in America. Because of the numbers involved these were probably held at the new and larger house built by the William Allen family about 1672 on the site of the present Mary Hall house west of the twin ponds on the south side of Route 6A about 200 yds. south of the old one. There is record of an extraordinary Quarterly meeting for representatives from New Hampshire, Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts in 1703 at the Allen house. There are older Quarterly meetings for business, formed in Rhode Island in 1699 and Salem in 1705, and Sandwich seems to be the third in America, in 1706.

The Quaker community in Sandwich was notable in the area for its high rate of literacy, about eighty percent, and its practice of female equality, a characteristic of all Friends from the beginning. Some idea of Quaker life at the time may be gained from viewing the Wing house, located about 350 yards northwest of the present meetinghouse, on Spring Hill Rd., and open to the public from June 15 to Sept. 15. Built in 1641 and occupied by one of the first families converted to Quakerism in 1658, it shows many mementos of Quaker family life, including a marriage contract. Genealogies of Sandwich Quaker families and records of their houses will be found in the Sandwich Archives, 145 Main St. Quaker women of Sandwich early set up their own Women’s Meetings, to further the welfare of their sex, and particularly follow George Fox’s advice to take the lead in those things for which they had special sensitivity, care of the poor, instruction of children, discipline of the disorderly, clearness for marriage, and general spiritual oversight. There is still in the meeting the original Women’s Meeting Minutes, starting with 18th, First month, 1677 (March 28, 1677) in a neat woman’s hand in which Ludon Gaunt and Susanah Allen were given charge of funds for the poor.

The first test of Quaker peace principles came with King Philip’s War of 1675-1676, in which Friends refused to serve. The colonists of all denominations were spared from greater misery as a result of their aggression by the neutrality of the Cape Cod Wampanoags, which historians have suggested Quaker friendliness contributed to, and by the winter refuge provided in Sandwich Quaker homes to those whose settlements had been burned.

While the mother meeting in Sandwich was growing and building its second meetinghouse of 1709, a new nucleus of Friends was forming about eighteen miles southeast in the “Mayfair” area of Yarmouth around the upper Bass River, in what is now South Dennis. This had been the farm of the Quaker Kelley Family, settled by David O’Killea (d. 1696), a freeman of Yarmouth in 1657, who married about 1670 a Welsh Quaker maid Jane Powell (d. 1711). In March 1709 Yarmouth Friends requested status as a Preparative Meeting, which was granted to Falmouth the following year, but not to Yarmouth nearly for a century, apparently because of Sandwich discontent with attendance at meetings. Nevertheless, a meetinghouse was built in Yarmouth in 1714, the first outside of Sandwich, This was located above the present Quaker Beach on the east side of Mayfair Rd. opposite Follin’s Bay Rd. on the height on the point east of Follin’s Pond and north of Kelley’s Bay. Until 1977 the site was marked by a sign readings “On this site stood the first Quaker Meeting House 1714.” But now one finds only seven crumbling gravestones of the Kelley family, dated 1809-1870. The building itself was sold in 1809 to Lot Sears who dismantled it, barged it down Bass River to a site about a mile below the present bridge in South Yarmouth, and built into the house occupied by the Waterman family in 1915. To this old meetinghouse came families from Harwich over a road that was long known as Quaker Path.

Quaker Abraham Chase had been the first settler of South Harwich before removing to Rhode Island in 1695. By 1745 the Town of Harwich counted six Quaker families, those of William and Jeremiah Chase, William and Reuben Eldridge, Samuel Smith, and Ephraim Crowell.

Quakers had been spreading elsewhere on the South Shore during these years. Nicholas Davis, early Sandwich Quaker who had been imprisoned in Boston for three months in 1659 for his faith, returned home to become the first settler of Hyannis. Much later (1820 f.) we find Samuel Dottridge, a Quaker carpenter in the 1790 house that is now maintained by the Cotuit Historical Society on Main St. and Shell Lane, Cotuit Highground. He walked the ten miles to meeting at Sandwich every first day. Nearby, when the Indian Church at Mashpee was restored, it was found to have two doors, believed to be influenced by pervasive Quaker architectural style. And far out at Provincetown James Gifford, son of the Quaker settler Benjamin (1807) was five years in General Court and a quarter of a century deputy collector of customs at Provincetown.

Seven years after the building of the Yarmouth meetinghouse, West Falmouth constructed its first meetinghouse, at the spot west of the Old County Rd. marked by the stone 1720, about 75 yards west of the old graveyard of which we spoke, and 300 yards east of the present Meetinghouse. This was about sixteen miles by road from Sandwich. Daniel Swift built this meeting in the shape of a hopper thirty feet square. About a quarter of a century later, a new burying ground was opened at the site of the Present one on Route 28 A, with the burial of Benjamin Swift, Clerk from 1745 to 1747. A second, larger meeting was built next to this graveyard in 1771-1775, and enlarged in 1794. Torn down in 1842, it was barged to South Yarmouth to become the oak frame of David Kelley’s barn, perhaps to the east of the present meeting, where Kelley lived.

 

IV. The Three Meetinghouses Standing Today, 1809, 1810, 1842

None of the eighteenth century meetings are still standing, all supplanted by early nineteenth century structures.

The oldest Quaker meetinghouse on Cape Cod is that in South Yarmouth, at the southeast corner of Kelley Rd. and North Main St. In August 1808, David Kelley (1743-1816) gave half an acre for a new site just west of his own house. The building was completed as one sees it today, in Feb. 1809 for the cost of $864. It is a simple rectangle plan, with the long axis eastwest, with an entry vestibule tacked to the south side. Two doors lead into the entry, which is undivided, and then two inner doors lead into the two sections of the meeting, normally connected for worship, but separable by three drop wooden, panels to divide men’s and women’s business meetings. The wooden benches all face north except the front two, which are raised in tiers as “facing benches.” The building’s typical late eighteenth century Cape Cod construction is almost entirely unaltered from the time of building, with original combed lacquer made to look like wood grain, brass brackets for the whale oil lamps hand blown window panes, etc. There is no plumbing or overhead lighting, though baseboard wiring was added about 1973 to provide light for night meetings, and a few front benches have been removed for a forced air furnace in the Cape Cod cellar. The west (women’s) section is the larger one, unlike the evenly divided Sandwich meeting, it is said, because so many more Yarmouth men were away at sea. It is warmed by a brick fireplace, still lighted in winter and foggy Spring days.

The South Yarmouth meetinghouse was protected by a thirty foot reserve, now mostly taken up by streets. Within the area is the graveyard, the most authentic and unspoiled of the modern Quaker ones on the Cape. Every stone but one is of uniform height, about a foot high, eighteen inches wide, six inches thick marble, with no information about the status of the person other than name and dates. The 4t St. is that of Catherine Akin, who died 4th month 2, 1811, aged 38 years 3 mos. At the southeast corner is the old village schoolhouse, built in 1855 near the Bass River Bridge on Route 28 (now the funeral parlor parking lot), and moved to the present site by Edward Aaron Davis in 1956 for use as a first day school. An earlier Friends schoolhouse became part of the mansion at 44 Pleasant St. of David K. Akin (1799-1887), a Quaker founder of the Bass River Savings Bank and twelve years Clerk of Sandwich (1849-1861). Located at the southwest corner of Pleasant St. and Akin Lane, it was the site of the school where the famous World War 1 Premier of France, George Clemenceau, taught French between 1866 and 1869.

The great meetinghouse in Sandwich, built in 1810, is the third on Spring Hill. Measuring 48 by 36 feet, it was entirely prefabricated in May 1810 on the Kennebec River of Maine and barged “up” here, and reassembled according to numbers that can be seen cut in the attic beams with the builder’s initials. It was dedicated on July 4, 1810. The exterior is shingled, now painted cream. There are blue shutters on all windows, opening inward. As in the South Yarmouth meeting, there is an entry vestibule appended to the south side of the basic rectangle, but this is two stories high. The four entry doors on iron hinges accommodated the crowd of several hundred that could fill the meetinghouse. Inside it is plain, just plastered and whitewashed. The rows of wooden benches look north except for the two rows of raised facing benches on the north wall. The main meeting hall was divided into men’s and women’s business meetings until 1890 by five partitions which are lowered by ropes wound ’round a windlass in the west room of the second floor. There is a door in the northernmost shutter by which messages could be sent from one business meeting to the other. Each section has its own brick fireplace, with an iron heating stove installed in front. It is apparent from the raised center of the ceiling of the main hall that there was a second floor gallery over each section which considerably enlarged the capacity, as in the Great Meetinghouse at Newport. The second floor is also partitioned in two, connected by a door at the south end, continuing the structure of the first floor. It is probable that the double staircase above the vestibule thus served as separate ways up to the galleries when business was in session, though they connect at top and bottom. At some time when meeting membership declined, the open space in front of the galleries was simply floored over, creating the two large rooms of today. The west room upstairs, with the big iron stove, was the kitchen, and now contains the old pews from the Falmouth meeting. The east room, for dining, has its smaller stove and is still used for quarterly meetings in October, with fall colored leaves decorating the long tables. Windows still contain the old wavy hand blown glass of 1810. Many floor boards measure sixteen inches in width. In the entry stand a steel safe containing copies of the archives, and a book cupboard with a fine collection of Quaker history and biography, in the process of being catalogued.

Outside, at the north wall, is a row of privies, back to back. East and west of the main meeting are a few remaining three sided clapboarded carriage sheds. Note the upright posts at the rear of the east sheds; they are hand hewn, unlike most of the sawn timbers around, and perhaps left over from an older structure. Some Friends believe large open grassy area north of the meeting is site of the earliest, unmarked graves, follow Friends’ custom of anonymity. The old, gravestone, of slate, lies north of the east carriage shed It reads’ “Rose Jennings, Died. 1720 ” again a suspiciously un-Quaker dating which was probably added later. Northeast of the west carriage shed are several more slate stones with the Puritan symbols of the soul’s head taking wing and the age old rosettes of motion, perhaps moved here or added by non-Quaker descendants. Although Spring Hill was named for the many wet spots in the area, there is no water on this site, and it must still be brought in for quarterly meetings.

The last of the eight known Cape Cod meeting houses was built at West Falmouth, the third that in the area. This was completed in Sept. 1842 on the site of the second one, facing Route 28 A. The meetinghouse, like South Yarmouth’s, is one story, but instead of the appended vestibule, the entry hall runs the entire front of the building along the east, or street side. Two doors, as usual open into this, and than two doors into the two sides of the partitioned main hall. Again, as in Sandwich and Yarmouth, it is mainly the left (south) side that is used today for worship and meeting. All the pews face west toward a single raised facing bench with a pulpit. The dark stain of the carved mid Victorian church architecture reflects the movement of one branch of Quakerism toward more church like services. The north room, fully partitioned off by a wall, has had half of the pews removed to Sandwich.

Outside, a Friends schoolhouse stood on the north side of the graveyard from 1831 until moved to the Lindley Wing house before 1890. There it now stands marked by a sign, on the southwest corner of Chappaquoit Rd. and 28A. The carriage sheds across the road from the meetinghouse are from 1861, as shown by a sign. In 1888 many of the old boulders used for headstones by early Friends were replaced by headstones indistinguishable from those in most Christian cemeteries, although there are a few of the style seen at Yarmouth.

 

V. Late Nineteenth Century Decline

During the early part of the history of Sandwich Monthly meeting, it had included Rochester meeting, twenty miles by road west of Sandwich, and Nantucket, nearly forty miles southeast, out at sea, and other preparative meetings, but as these grew, Sandwich was reduced to its present three: East Sandwich, West Falmouth, and South Yarmouth Preparative Meetings. These were now no longer mere fledgling offshoots, but places that prepared business for the central meeting. During the late nineteenth century attendance at Friends meetings throughout the country declined for many reasons, the reading out of meeting for persistent departure from discipline, particularly marriage out of meeting, but also bearing arms (particularly in popular wars like the Revolution or Civil War), or holding slaves, or just irregular life. Schisms into three major divisions in 1829 and 1845 took their toll. While some Quakers gained in evangelical fervor, others turned away from religion entirely, or went to other nearby churches, particularly if married to a non-Quaker. Many meetings merely lost resident members by emigration to the west, and Cape Cod was one of the worst hit areas in the latter half of the century by economic depression.

In an attempt to revitalize the Society after the Civil War many meetings gave up the old silent or unstructured form, and hired ministers. Sandwich went Orthodox (or conservative) in the first separation of 1829, but returned to the middle of the road with the Gurneyites in the second one in 1845. It remained unprogrammed until the latter decades of the nineteenth century when it finally took on a minister. Falmouth’s earlier architecture and graveyard reflect the same trend, as did the appearance of an organ at the Sandwich meeting about 1900. Annie Rose was one old Quaker who felt that out of keeping with Friends traditions, and the organ was at last removed to David Douglas’s house in Pocasset. Falmouth introduced structured meetings in 1902, and hired a minister, Elam Henderson, who served until 1918 when he left for Toronto. The meeting, then ended formal winter services and Dr. Elihu Grant, Professor of Theology at Haverford College, conducted services for several summers in West Falmouth. For forty years the meeting was open only in summer. Sandwich had a woman and a man for ministers at first, and at one time used the old Hoxie house on the southeast corner of Quaker Meetinghouse Rd. and 6 A as a parsonage, what is now the home of Quaker Hildegard von Laue. The last minister, Oscar Mostrom lived in the old Friends Academy to the northeast of the meeting on Spring Hill Rd. According to minutes, he ceased regular preaching in the summer of 1942, and made a few sporadic calls in 1944. Only South Yarmouth had adhered to the unstructured silent meeting to its closing in 1909. Thereafter it had an occasional summer meeting during the 45 years it was inactive.

Despite the discontinuance of winter worship, there were still living some members of the Sandwich Monthly Meeting. The few who had not moved away from the Cape kept the Monthly meeting going during the bleak decade 1942-1954. They continued to meet each month alternately at Sandwich and Falmouth, reading the queries, appointing officers, and Overseers of trust funds, kept minutes, entertained the fall quarterly Meeting, collected money and disbursed it to schools, charities and Indians. The names of these faithful workers in low times are remembered with gratitude: Annie Ewer Rose, Lois and Albert Bowerman, Virtue and Arnold Gifford, Cecilia Bowerman Fuglister, Ralph D. Kelley, Alice Gifford, Laura and John Moore, John and Ellen Roos, Marian and Paul Swift, and Mary and Edward White. The last old member descended from pioneers Priscilla and William Allen, Annie E. Rose, died in Sandwich in 1972 at the age of 104, having served with incredible devotion as Treasurer of Trust Funds for half a century, 1913-1963. Her genealogical notes and portrait went to the Sandwich Historical Society, her books are in the Sandwich Library, and her personal papers and meeting notes are being catalogued by Friends in Falmouth meeting.

 

VI. Late Twentieth Century Revival, 1954

Following the nationwide revival of the Society of Friends after World far I, and healing of old splits with the formation of united New England Yearly Meeting in 1945, a new vitality could be been in the old cradle of American Quakerism. South Yarmouth Meeting was reactivated in 1954 through the efforts of Dorothy Merrill Davis (1891-1978) and Edward Aaron Davis (1891-1962), who had moved from New York to Harwichport in 1945. The meetinghouse itself reopened for the whole year 1955-1956. This Preparative Meeting now has over fifty members and attendees, none living in South Yarmouth, but driving there from the area between Provincetown and Mashpee. Gordon Browne of Cotuit, a recorded minister of the Society, served as clerk for many years, later becoming Clerk of the New England Yearly Meeting (1974- 1976) and Associate Secretary at the Quaker Office at the United Nations (1977-1978).

Ten years after Yarmouth’s reopening, West Falmouth became a year round meeting again, primarily because of the continuity from the past given by Cecilia B. Fuglister and the encouragement of Gregg and Helen Hibbs. To give support to this meeting, David Douglas, another recorded minister of the Society, and his wife Margaret, transferred their memberships from South Yarmouth. This meeting has also thrived, and is nearly as large as Yarmouth’s. Both reopened as silent meetings, possibly because of the influence of members who had attended unstructured meetings before moving there. The West Falmouth Meetinghouses now shared on Sundays with the Unitarian Society of Falmouth until 1998

After another decade, in the summer of 1975 the Spring Hill Meetinghouse in East Sandwich was at last reopened for five Sundays by Harold and Margaret Hutcheson. Enough people attended that it was open for all of July and August of the Bicentennial year of 1976. Then, in the following summers, it has been open from the last Sunday in June to the first September.

In 1997 Clerk Paul Noonan of Cotuit opened the meeting house for meetings year round.

The Nantucket Meeting revived about the same time, with members affiliated to Sandwich Monthly Meeting. The combined meeting membership continues to rise, reaching nearly 200 in 2000.

The meeting has also continued to expand geographically, too, as a small “allowed meeting” at West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard was approved in 1978 for anticipated opening by Tom Hodgson and Pat Bowman.

The story of Cape Cod Quakerism encompasses almost the entire history of the Society of Friends, from the first seventeenth century martyrs of persecution, through the great expansion and building period of the eighteenth century, with its witness against slavery and war, to the schisms and decline of the nineteenth century, to the sad closings and remarkable revival of the present. Quakers still worship in the old way in the simple meetinghouses of the past, as the light leads them on to new causes against nuclear and radar pollution, and the Trident submarine as they continue to support their first and nearest neighbors of three centuries, the Wampanoag Indians.

 

Sources:

  • The author particularly acknowledges the assistance of Margaret and Harold Hutcheson, David Douglas, John Hall, Gorden Browne.
  • Records of Sandwich Monthly Meeting
  • Archives of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, Rhode Island Historical Society, 121 Hope St. Providence, RI 02906
  • Minutes of Men’s Business Meetings 1672-1938
  • Births and Deaths 1752-1916
  • Membership 1646-1869
  • Membership 1643-1903
  • register made about 1900
  • Original Minutes, Woman’s Business Meeting 1677-1709
  • Safe at Sandwich Meeting House
  • Deeds to land owned by Sandwich meeting, trusts and other legal documents
  • Safe Deposit Box at Cape Cod Bank and Trust Co.,c/o David Douglas
  • Legal documents relating to South Yarmouth Preparative Meeting
  • Safe Deposit Box at South Yarmouth c/o Clerk of Meeting
  • The History of the Society of Friends in America by Bowden, James London: Charles Gilpin, 1850.
  • Quakers in the American Colonies by Jones, Rufus New York: Rusell Rusell. 1962
  • Cape Cod, The Right Arm of Massachusetts by Swift, Charles F. Yarmouth Register Publishing Co., 1897.
  • The Society of Friends in History of Barnstable County by Dillingham, John H. ed. by Simeon Deyo, New York: H. W. Blake, 1890.
  • A History of Harwich by Paine, Josiah Yarmouth: Parnassus Imprints, 1971.
  • The Village of Hyannis in The Seven Villages of Barnstable, Chapter on Hyannis by Gould, James W. 1977.
  • Old Quaker Village’ South Yarmouth, Mass. in Library of Cape Cod History Genealogy No. 38 by C. W. Swift. 1915
  • “The Traditional World of the New England Peasants” in New England Historical and Genealogy by Waters, John W., 1976.
  • “The Acorn” in Quarterly of the Sandwich Historical Society, May – 1971, August – 1974.

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One comment

  • Alta B. Hoffman

    As a visiting Friend from PA I found this article amazing.Such good research and speaks to the persecution New England Quakers endured regardless of the social improvements Friends brought with their convictions that survive even today.

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