Quakers in Frederick County
Quakers in Frederick County
By Christopher B. Fowler
Published in the Frederick News-Post August 15, 1998
The question may not be so much how Quakers first came to Frederick County, as it is where they all went.
At one time there were three Quaker Meetings in this area: Cold Spring Meeting at Monocacy, which was a small settlement near Buckeystown; Pipe Creek Meeting in Union Bridge, which is now over the County line in what became Carroll County; and Bush Creek Meeting near Ijamsville, which may once have been the largest of all three. Of them, only Pipe Creek Meeting remains (the Quaker Meeting at 723 N. Market Street in the city of Frederick is more recent).
The Religious Society of Friends, which came to be known more commonly as the Quakers, arose in England in the mid-17th century, as part of the religious ferment of that time that grew out of the publication of the King James Bible – which, as it was in in English, encouraged individual study and interpretation of scripture – and also out of perceived stagnation of the established church.
The founder, a man named George Fox, not satisfied by the counsel he’d received from the church figures he’d consulted, had a revelation on Pendle Hill in the north of England that God’s Truth could be perceived by people directly without the need for intermediate priests or preachers, rituals or even a formal liturgy. Within the remarkable span of only four years following that initial revelation, Fox’s insight had been carried into every country in England, to Scotland and Ireland, several European Countries and the American Colonies.
The first Quaker known to have visited the colonies of Maryland and Virginia came in the mid-1650s – a woman named Elizabeth Harris – and she and those who followed her found an immediate receptivity to Quakerism.
George Fox himself visited Maryland and Virginia in 1673, organizing what would come to be the Virginia and Maryland Yearly Meetings: annual gatherings of the Quaker Meetings in those states. (The separate Yearly Meetings have since been combined under the name Baltimore Yearly Meeting, which also came to include the Meetings in Central Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna River). By 1700 there were as many as 3000 Quakers in Maryland, perhaps the largest religious body in the colony at the time.
Quakers were one of the first organized religious people to consider moving westward into this area, although they soon were followed by the Lutherans, Brethren, Moravians and others.
Cold Spring Meeting, the first of the three Quaker Meetings in this area, was established in 1725 by Quakers moving down from Burlington N.J. The meetinghouse, which stood on a quarter-acre of land off of what now is Keller Lime Plant Road just outside Buckeystown, was one of the first purely religious edifices built in Maryland outside the Chesapeake Bay area.
Pipe Creek Meeting first was organized in 1756; although earlier gatherings had been held in the home of Allen Farquhar and his wife, Catherine. The Farquhars had emigrated from Ireland in 1730 and bought the land that now includes Union Bridge.
Bush Creek Meeting was first organized from the 1750s: Thomas and Elizabeth Yate Plummer had moved to the area in 1740, having come to the Chesapeake Bay area from Wales. At first they, too, held meetings for worship in their home near Bush Creek, starting in 1753. Then, through a bequest, four acres of land were given for a meetinghouse and burial ground, and a meetinghouse was built in 1757. (The original log structure was replaced by a frame building in 1852.)
Relations with the Native Americans were uneasy — the Shawnee were in the area from 1696 until 1745, the year after the signing of the Treaty of Lancaster, when they withdrew into the Ohio territory. However, no open hostilities broke out. William Farquhar, the son of Allen and Catherine Farquhar, earned a reputation as a conciliator, friend and counselor to native Americans. Joel Wright, who married William Farquhar's daughter, Ann, was, from its inception, the Clerk of the Indian Affairs Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. This committee was established in 1795. It held, as one of its charges the administration of a fund contributed to by Quakers in Maryland and Virginia as a way of compensating Native Americans for the way in which their lands had been taken. (The committee and the endowment continue to this day).
John Woolman, a well known Quaker and an outspoken opponent of slavery, passed through this area several times on his journeys up visits to Pipe Creek and "Monoquacy,” as he called it in his Journal. Of his visit to Cold Spring Meeting in 1757, he wrote, "There were some hopeful young people in those parts."
Fire destroyed the Cold Spring Meeting House in 1759. While the Meeting community tried to gather the resources to rebuild, its members attended the Pipe Creek and Bush Creek meetings, and also the meetings just across the Potomac River at Waterford and at Lincoln in northern Virginia. (Goose Creek Meeting in Lincoln, just south of Purcellville, is another old Quaker Meeting that still exists.)
The meetinghouse finally was rebuilt, but many of the members of Cold Spring Meeting continued to attend other Meetings. At least one family, the Mills, also took advantage of a large land grant made available just at that time by Lord Fairfax in what is now Frederick County, Virginia, and moved there. The Mills family became part of the Hopewell Quaker Meeting near Winchester.
Of those remaining at Cold Spring Meeting, a sizable portion consisted of the members of one family. The children of the family more or less by necessity married outside the Meeting. Attendance dwindled and, within just a few years of the building's restoration, the Meeting was laid down.
In 1764 a Friends School opened under the care of Pipe Creek Meeting, run by Joel Wright (the same Mr. Wright who married into the Pipe Creek Farquhars). The 18th century sculptor William Rhinehart was a pupil at this school for a time. Joel Wright remained with the school for 30 years. The school lasted for 70 years. (The recently opened Friends Meeting School in Green Valley, although not under the care of a specific Quaker Meeting, has been organized according to guidelines established by the Friends (Quaker) Council on Education.)
The opening of what is now the American Midwest to homesteaders affected attendance at the Meetings in this area - particularly as, unlike in Maryland, there was to be no slavery in the new territories. (There had been Quakers who had owned slaves. The Plummers, who'd started the Bush Creek Meeting, had had slaves, but they had divested themselves of them, as had other Quakers following the recommendation by Baltimore Yearly Meeting in 1777.) Joel Wright led a party of settlers into the Ohio Territory in 1810. Quaker communities became established there and in Indiana.
The Bush Creek Meeting House was destroyed by tire in 1909. The building was not replaced and the Meeting was laid down. The cemetery still exists and is maintained by the Quaker Meeting in Frederick oh behalf of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
Cold Spring itself still exists, supplying water to a number of households in Buckeystown. However, attempts to determine the precise location of the quarter-acre on which stood the Cold Spring Meetinghouse and cemetery have not been conclusive.
A fire in 1934 destroyed the interior of Pipe Creek Meetinghouse. A few of the original benches survived, and the interior was rebuilt within the existing brick walls. Pipe Creek Meeting House remains one of the oldest religious edifices in continuous use in the Maryland Piedmont.
The Quaker Meeting in Frederick was organized in the mid-1970s by Quakers originally from the Philadelphia area and their friends here. The first meeting for worship was held on Easter Sunday in 1976. For the first few years of the Frederick Meeting's existence, worship was held in the homes of members. The Meeting then rented a succession of rooms, most notably the social room of the Federated Charities Building. 22 S. Market St. from 1985 to 1993. The current building at 723 N. Market Street was bought in October 1994 and the first worship meeting was held there that Christmas Eve.
The Quaker community in Frederick County once again is growing.
(This writer would like to acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of John Darnell of the Frederick Quaker Meeting; Amos and Louise Davidson of the Pipe Creek Meeting; and Jim Bond of the Langley Hill, VA Quaker Meeting, who is a descendant of the Mills family and attended the Cold Spring Meeting.)