Brief History of Quakerism
1624 — George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, is born in Drayton, Leistershire, England. Fox, probably the most charismatic and influential of founding members of the Quaker movement, discovered in 1647, after prolonged and intensive search, that no priest or preacher could speak to his condition. (“…to live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all war.” — George Fox) Quakers rejected outward sacraments and priestly orders, depending instead on the inward power of Christ’s example for guidance.
1653 — Fox meets with Oliver Cromwell and preaches “Quaker Truth” — Cromwell later said, “Now I see there is a people that I cannot win with gifts of honors, offices, or places; but all other sects and people I can.” Because Quakers refused to swear oaths including loyalty oaths they were harassed and distrusted by the Puritans. Fox would call slavery a great cruelty and point out that slaves, too, possessed the Inner Light, a view not held by those who considered black men animals.
1700 – 1785 — During the Colonial era, before the Revolutionary War, Quakers controlled the governments of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
1752 — In Maine, the Falmouth Monthly Meeting of Friends is established.
1771 — Town of Vassalboro is established.
1775+ — Massachusetts Friends relocate en masse to the District of Maine to escape persecution for not taking sides during the Revolutionary War. The peace testimony was to make Friends seem more suspect than they otherwise would have been.
1784 — Falmouth Monthly Meeting approved the building of a Meeting House in Vassalboro. Friends were scattered over a large region with a few roads and they traveled mostly by footpath and river. Distance for some living in Fairfield was a 14-15 miles over river fords and rough paths. Few could afford a horse, so the trip to Vassalboro was made on foot.
1790 — Peak year of immigration to Maine. The Kennebec area from Gardiner and above had five townships before 1810, and it was in these that most of the Quakers settled. Friends first settled on the Kennebec at Vassalboro and then moved inland to China Lake at East Vassalboro, in Sidney on the west side of the river, and in Fairfield in the north.
1798 — The first East Pond Meeting House is built in the eastern end of Vassalboro, at the site where our Meeting House is today.
1831 — East Vassalboro decided to have a new building 30′ x 35′ of brick, two equal rooms with two outside doors for men and women.
1832 — The capital of Maine was moved to Augusta.
1850s — Oak Grove Seminary founded in Vassalboro, “Where the children of Kennebec County might receive careful training , cultivating influence, religious impression, and broad teaching.” 19th century Quakers were the backbone of the abolitionist and anti-slavery movements. The organizers of the underground railroad, they continue to work throughout the world for the rights of people enslaved by prejudice and poverty.
1917 — April 30, The American Friends Service Committee was born, for conscientious objectors and others… developing units to be sent overseas to do relief work in France and later elsewhere in Europe.
1919 — Women’s Internation League for Peace and Freedom is born out of the International Committee for Permanent Peace in Zurich, Switzerland.
1947 — The American Friends Service Committee and the Friends Service Council in London together won the Nobel Peace Prize for blessings and material support, organized outreach and war relief that takes no sides.
1948 — Marion Bromley, an Ohio Quaker, was one of the founders of a group called Peacemakers.
1957 — SANE, a National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy was developed with leadership form AFSC and WLPF.
1971 — AQAG, a Quaker Action Group formed to use nonviolent methods in direct action against the war in Vietnam.
For more information on Quakerism, please visit The Religious Society of Friends.