A True Haven
Nestled in a grove of trees in the town of Easton is one of the most important historic structures in Maryland’s history, the Third Haven Meeting House. This large frame building-the oldest structure known to survive in the state- was constructed in 1682 near the headwaters of Tred Avon Creek to serve the Third Haven Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends. Three acres of land were purchased from John Edmondson and the erection of the meeting house took two years. Among the builders was William Southeby, said to be the first America-born person to write against slavery.
In the history of religion in America, the meeting house is of national importance as it expresses the religious tolerance of the Maryland government which welcomed Quakers at a time when they were being persecuted in New England and driven out of Virginia.
Until its recent award-winning restoration, the building was significantly altered only once in its 300+-year history when an expansion took place in 1797. As a result of painstaking craftsmanship, the meeting house looks today as it must have upon completion more than three centuries ago.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently honored Third Haven Meeting with a 1992 National Preservation Honor Award for the group’s outstanding efforts and determination in bringing this one-of-a-kind project to completion.
“There is a sense, a presence once you enter the meeting house. I call it a oneness. A whole-hearted, mindful attention to what becomes in the Silence. At times a message may inspire, reveal, affirm or question. There is a joy of our meeting that rests in a spontaneous, unknowing renewal of us all.”
– Valerie Mazur, Third Haven Monthly Meeting
George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends, visited this vicinity in 1673 and upon his return to England sent a number of books to this meeting. This was the beginning of the meeting’s library, often said to be the earliest public library in Talbot County and probably in the province.
The first meeting held in this building was in the fall of 1684. Over the years many notable Quakers have worshipped at Third Haven including William Penn, John Woolman, John Fothergill, Samuel Bownas and Rufus Jones. Continuous records of the business transactions since 1676 to the present are of such value that the meeting has placed them on deposit in the Hall of Records, in Annapolis, MD.
The following paragraph is taken from Third Haven’s Annual Worship and Ministry Committee Report of December 5, 1998.
The meeting for worship benefits from scores of visitors and seekers, from many parts of the Religious Society of Friends and the broader community of faith, who come to see our historic 1684 meetinghouse and join the meetings for worship. Third Haven Friends Meeting is blessed with the old meetinghouse, where we worship in warmer months. The Committee reminds Friends that our spiritual stewardship is not for the building itself but for the legacy of Quaker faith, practice and spiritual traditions that generations of Friends have passed on to us. Friends are encouraged to follow and honor these traditions, with humility.
Thomas Corl, a member of Third Haven, summarizes the situation with these words.
The old meetinghouse and grounds at Third Haven, like many other meetinghouses, is a place of notable peace and serenity. It inspires silence. It serves to remind us of our spiritual stewardship and honors the legacy that we received from our Quaker forebearers at Third Haven and elsewhere. It has lifted and reinforced my own seeking and spiritual journey. From all I can tell, the old meetinghouse has a powerful effect, drawing visitors and encouraging attenders to return regularly. It is a wonderful place to worship, with meetings often gathered. You really must come visit us some first day in the warmer months when we worship in the (unheated) 1684 meetinghouse.
The editor would like to thank Third Haven Monthly Meeting, especially Frank Zeigler, Jr., Thomas Corl and Valerie Mazur for sending such wonderful material from which this article was compiled.