Meeting Houses: Amesbury Monthly Meeting

Amesbury Monthly Meeting is the northernmost meeting in Massachusetts, active since the 17th century for all but a short period in the late 1970s. It helped other meetings get started and was the location for the Salem Quarterly meeting from 1851-1962. It is best known as the meeting of the famous poet and social activist, John Greenleaf Whittier.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that the meetinghouse served as a stop for escaping ex-slaves on the Underground Railroad. In 1991 a secret chamber was found under the floorboards during a basement excavation to build a space for the HeadStart program.

The location of the meetinghouse adds substantially to its historic cultural value. Lined with sugar maples, it perches on a small hill immediately overlooking the Old Indian Path, the oldest known road in Amesbury (dated 1641). Below the meetinghouse is the town park, with woodlands and fields which retain the rural flavor of the 19th century. The meeting is currently undertaking repairs and renovations with the assistance of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.

Amesbury Meetinghouse represents the quintessential style of Quaker worship places-simple, unassuming yet finely built-embodying the best of Quaker philosophy as expressed over 100 years and as understood today by those who worship as Quakers. This active meeting, with 30 members and about 15 attenders, conducts First Day School, adult studies programs, social justice programs and has connections with Quarterly Meeting, the local Council of Churches and the Historical Commission. This vibrant spiritual community promotes Quakerism through school tours, a cable TV program and opening the meetinghouse for use by community groups. They often find that visitors are surprised that Quakers still exist.

The members of Amesbury Meeting are blessed to have a place to worship where the plain walls and huge windows remind them of the many generations of Friends who have worshipped in the same space.

The editor wishes to thank Sally Rickerman, Carol Walz and Martha McManamy for pointing out and making this information available for publication.

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