|A History of Pennsylvania Quakers|
Historical Information & Other Projects
The following is a history of Huntington Friends Meeting, located on the northern end of Adams County. This article was written by L. Dennis Heckert & Donald C. Bowers and published in the TIMES on August 28, 1958, page 5. Additional photos have been included for historical reference.
Huntington Meeting House
Still on "Zion"
Quaker meeting houses began dotting the Pennsylvania countryside west of the Susquehanna River in 1728 and continued moving westward and finally southward for many years to come. The third meeting house of a long chain of Meetings established by the Irish Quakers as they migrated westward was located two miles south of the present day community of York Springs.
The Irish Friends named their newly established congregation Huntington Meeting for the township in which it was situated. Huntington' Meeting lies approximately nine miles southwest of Warrington Meeting and approximately 20 miles southwest of Redlands Meeting, both in York County. Redlands and Warrington were the first and second Meetings, respectively, that were established by the Quakers after crossing the Susquehanna River.
Unauthorized meetings were held in the then Latimer Township, now Huntington Township, area as early at 1745 according to the minutes of Sadsbury Meeting in Lancaster County. The meetings evidently convened at the house of John Cox because all of the early marriages are recorded as having taken place there. Quaker marriages were well attended, but not intended to be as elaborate as some weddings of today. It was the custom of the Quaker fellowship for everyone attending the marriage ceremony to sign the marriage certificate. Thus today, invaluable genealogical information can be gleaned from studying the old marriage records that were kept by the secretaries of the various meetings.
The first marriage at Huntington Meeting took place between Nicholas Wierman, son of William Wierman, of Huntington, to Sarah Cox, daughter of the Friend at whose house the meetings were originally held. According to the records, 42 persons attended the ceremony. This fact indicates the need for a Meeting House was becoming increasingly great.
William Beals, grandfather of Mrs. Martha J. Sharpe who presently resides in Lemoyne, conveyed five acres of ground to the trustees of the Meeting by deed dated December 9, 1766. This five acre tract was a small part of a 50 acre tract granted to Beals by the Proprietors' warrant of June 24, 1763.
William Beals owned a farm, composed of his remaining 45 acres, which was situated just northwest of the tract he donated to the Friends Society. Mrs. Sharpe's mother was raised on this same farm. The same little red school house which Mrs. Sharpe's mother attended still stands near the farm. The school house has since been converted into a private residence.
Reputedly the famous Battle of Gettysburg might have turned out to be the famous Battle of York Springs if the meeting at Cash-town had been delayed a few more hours and the troops had met near York Springs instead. The roar of cannon from the July, 1863 battle at Gettysburg was plainly audible at the Huntington Meeting House and, according to a decendent of an early resident of the vicinity, "the cannon shook the Meeting House windows."
Little or nothing is known about the original Huntington Meeting House. The only existing clue that the present building is not original is the passage from the Warrington Quarterly Meeting, August 23, 1790, which states: "...a report was made that a new meetinghouse had been built at Huntington in place of the old one." It is assumed, from the type of structure first erected at other Meeting sites, that the original building at Huntington was a log structure. There are no specific records to stabilize this statement.
The present building, still sitting on the original Beal grant which the Friends later named Zion, remains in good repair with the exception of the flooring which is weak in several spots.
Interior structure of the building remains much the same now as it was when the edifice was constructed in 1790. The building itself is divided into two separate sections sealed off from each other by partitions which slide down into a permanent wall and up into the upper portion of the same wall. According to Quaker custom the men were always separated from the women. Albert Cook Myers, in his book, "Immigration of Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania", describes the various types of Friends Meetings as follows:
"The meeting was one of the strongest forces in the social life of the Friends. Twice a week, on 'First-day' (Sunday) and usually on 'Fifth-day' (Thursday), it brought together the members from their scattered holdings for worship, and at the close afforded opportunity for a short season of quiet and genial converse. Of the two meetings for worship, that of the Sabbath had the better attendance.
"On First-day mornings family parties, either walking or riding, might be seen wending their way to the plain little meeting house, embowered amid the trees. Reining up by the horseblock at the door the riders dismounted, and before entering the edifice would linger, perchance, for a few words, of friendly greeting with the neighbors. There was no peal of bells to call them to the house of praise, but at the appointed time the company took their plaice on the hard, unpainted benches, the men on the one side and the women on the other side of the house. After a few moments of silent and reverent worship, from the raised seats of the gallery, where sat the ministers and elders facing the body of the meeting a minister would arise to deliver his spiritual message. Frequently the speaker was a traveling Friend, from England or Ireland or other distant parts. Perhaps it was Thomas Chalkley, Thomas Lightfoot, John Fothervill, or quaint and eccentric old John Salkeld.
"It not infrequently happened that some good Friends, wearied with the arduous duties of the week would drop off into restful slumber. But woe betide these offenders of good order and the testimony of truth if John Salkeld chanced to be present at the meeting! Their dreams were then of short duration. On one occasion, it is related, when be noted several members overcome with drowsiness, he suddenly sprang to his feet, exclaiming, 'Fire! Fire!' Every one was awake immediately and one of the excited sleepers cried out, 'Where? Where?' 'In Hell!' responded John, 'to burn the drowsy and unconcerned.'
"The close of the meeting was announced by the shaking of hands by two gallery Friends, the signal passing down seat by seat through the house. After a friendly and genial chat the Friends dispersed, many of them taking guests home to dinner.
"The business meetings of the Society, from the point of view of social opportunity, were of greater moment even than the meetings for worship. The latter were usually only local in extent, but the former, especially the quarterly and yearly meetings brought together large numbers of Friends from many distant points and thus enlarged and broadened the range of social intercourse. The business meetings were usually preceded by a meeting for worship, at the close of which wooden shutters (partitions) were drawn down from the ceiling, leaving the women to conduct their branch of the meeting separate from that of the men.
"The Quarterly Meeting, which continued often for several days, and in early times 'circulated' to various fixed places in a district, occupied a conspicuous place in the life of the Friends. The season was looked forward to with pleasant anticipation by young and old as a time not only for religious worship but for social pleasure. Great preparations in the way of cooking and baking were made for Quarterly Meeting guests. Whole families would often come from great distances to 'Quarterly' and visit around in the neighborhood during the progress of the meeting.
"Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the central authority, to which all the other meetings of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and parts of New Jersey and Maryland were subordinate, was the most important of the meetings and had the largest attendance. The meeting lasted for upwards of a week each year, oscillating for a time between Philadelphia and Burlington, but finally settling down to regular sessions in Philadelphia. Country Friends took advantage of Yearly Meeting week to bring to town farm products, to exchange for articles to be found in ships and markets. The visitors were always received and entertained with generous hospitality by the city members.
"The Monthly Meeting, local in character, was the real working body of the Society, in matters relating to the individual members. It undertook to see that justice was done between man and man, that disputes were settled, that the poor were supported, that delinquents, whether as to the Society's own rules or those of the State, were reformed, or if reformation seemed impossible, were disowned by the Society, that applicants for membership were tested and finally, if satisfactory, received, that all the children were educated, that certificates of good standing were granted to members changing their abodes, that marriages and burials were simply and properly performed, and that records were fully and accurately kept."
Thus one can see from this excerpt taken from Mr. Myers' book, the early Quakers had a well organized form of religion which was practiced not only in Huntington Meeting, but also at all of the many other Meetings in the United States.
Huntington Meeting House is divided into two separate rooms, one for the men and one for the women. As has been previously pointed out, worship services were held jointly by men and women, but the business meetings were conducted separately.
Raised benches on which the speakers and elders sat line the rear wall of the building. These raised straight backed pews face the rows of similar pews spaced in parallel with their backs to the fore part of the building. The building itself has no means of artificial lighting and natural light is admitted through small windows spaced around the walls.
On the men's side of the meeting house stands a stairway leading to the attic of the building. The attic is thought, like that of the other meeting houses, to have sheltered runaway slaves during the era of the Civil War.
Typical Quaker Meeting House construction is incorporated in Huntington Meeting and features open beam ceilings, wide board flooring, small, four light windows, and a partition dividing the interior. Exterior construction is also (illegible) with shutter enclosed windows, stone chimneys, and a slate roof being used.
Meetings are only held once a year at Huntington Meeting and generally early September is the time chosen by the Friends living in the area. At other times during the year, area Friends attend regular Quaker services at Menallen Meeting, Flora Dale, Adams County. Menallen Meeting will be featured in the next issue of the TIMES.
L. Dennis Heckert,
Donald C. Bowers.