|A History of Pennsylvania Quakers|
Historical Information & Other Projects
The following is a history of Menallen Friends Meeting, located 13 miles northeast of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This article was written by L. Dennis Heckert & Donald C. Bowers and published in the TIMES on September 11, 1958, page 5.
Quakers Active Today in Flora Dale
Quakerism is still practiced in Pennsylvania after having had its beginning in this country around 1682. One of the most active Meetings in the state is that of Flora Dale in Adams County. Menallen Meeting, located in Flora Dale, 13 miles northeast of Gettysburg and near Bendersville, was the result of fellowship among the first settlers in the area in 1745. Permission was granted to the congregation at Flora Dale in 1745 by the Sadsbury Monthly Meeting, Chester County, to hold regular meetings for worship to be conducted on First Day and Fifth Day.
At the time this permission was granted and for several years to come all members of Menallen Meeting were members of Sadsbury Monthly Meeting. However, upon establishment of Warrington Monthly Meeting in 1747, all Friends west of the Susquehanna River became members of the new Monthly Meeting.
Members of Menallen and of Huntington Meetings, the latter being the subject of the last article in the TIMES, requested in 1780 to be permitted by Warrington Monthly Meeting to establish a Monthly Meeting of their own. Permission to this effect was granted immediately and the present day Menallen Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends came into existence. The name is derived from the larger of the two Meetings. As has been stated in a previous article, meetings are presently held only once a year at the Huntington Meeting House.
The history of Menallen Meeting has ably been compiled by Miss Anna M. Black, a Friend and current resident of Flora Dale. Part of that history, used by permission of Miss Black, is printed herein:
"The first location of Menallen Meeting was in what is now Butler Township, then a part of Menallen Township. It was located three miles southeast of the present site in a woodland with Opossum Creek westward.
"The early meetings were usually held in the homes of the members, but by 1758 a building had been erected as proved by Nicholas Scull's map of the state of that year. It was in the northwest section of the graveyard, now known as Friends' Grove Graveyard." This building was replaced by a second nearly 80 years later.
"In 1838 supposedly, this old log Meeting House was taken down, and the materials used in building a new Meeting House at the present location, about a mile south of Bendersville. Land for this building was purchased for a nominal fee from Nathan Wright and his wife Elizabeth. A growth of forest trees surrounded it. The chestnut trees are gone but some ancient oaks survive. The land at the old site was leased to the German Baptists for fifty years, at one dollar a year, and eventually sold prior to 1912 to John Deardorff and the German Baptists. The graveyard and the right of way thereto were not included in the lease or sale.
The burial ground continued to be used until 1853, with occasional interments later. The last burial was that of Uriah Davis, great-grandson of the pioneer John Wright. There, John Wright, one of the founders of Menallen Meeting had been laid to rest, with his wife Elizabeth before 1800.
"In 1835 Menallen Meeting acquired land adjoining the Meeting House to be used as a burial place. The first interment made there was that of George M. Griest in 1853. In 1886 the burial ground was enlarged and the whole enclosed by a stone wall on three sides with an iron fence in front. It is a beautiful, peaceful spot with a background of forest trees, the woodland having been purchased in 1920 by Mary (Hyde) Lewis and deeded by her to Menallen Meeting.
"In 1884, the frame building of 1838 was replaced by the present structure on land purchased in 1871. It was set back some fifty feet east of the old one. Menallen Meeting House is a one-story brick building, simple in structure, with long porches across the front and rear."
The interior of the present building is divided into three main parts. The major part houses the worship service. In the old. days, prior to 1891, all services except the worship services were held separately by the men and the women at Menallen Meeting.
According to Miss Black's historical account:
"Like all the older Quaker places of Worship, it (the Meeting House) is divisible into two sections by means of a partition that can be raised or lowered. After the Meeting for Worship, the men would lower the partition and the business would be considered. When joint action was necessary, a committee of two would be sent from either Men's or Women's 'Branch' to the other section. From the foundation of the Society of Friends, women were equal with men. In 1891, the separate meetings were discontinued, men and women meeting in 'joint session.'"
The southern section, second largest of the three main portions of the Meeting, House, had a dual purpose. Members of the Society of Friends held school in this section of the building to supplement the regular county school session. Apparently the county sessions were discontinued early in the spring to permit the children to help with farm chores. Quaker students were sent to school in Menallen Meeting House upon the close of the county school session to give them the additional education that their parents felt was necessary. This practice was continued until 1914 when the public school session was extended to nearly its present length.
According to Miss Black the southern section is now used mainly for First Day School and social gatherings. The two sections are thrown together at times of weddings, funerals, or large gatherings. In 1916, the Monthly Meeting gave permission for music to be played and sung in the First Day School. The old-time Friends believed that music distracted from the true spirit of worship.
The third section of the building is a fairly large entrance hall which extends across the entire front of the building. A portion of this entrance hall has been enclosed to house a modern heating plant.
Also included in Miss Black's report are the following paragraphs concerning the Minutes which were kept by the Secretaries of the Meeting:
"The Minutes of the proceedings of the Monthly Meeting have been kept continuously from the beginning. Except for those in current use, they are kept in the vault of the Yearly Meeting in Baltimore.
"Among Menallen's prized possessions is the record book in which have been transcribed in full the certificates of marriage (which includes the names of those present.)"
A book of records of marriages at Menallen Meeting which was first used in 1870 is still in current use. The first marriage recorded in this book was that of James Hodgson and Rachel Wright.
Miss Black concludes her historical account by stating:
"No longer can be seen the plain bonnet and the broad brimmed hat of former times. No longer is 'plain speech' mandatory. Surviving with a few in affectionate remembrance, the 'thee and thou' of older days is fast disappearing. Our young men are no longer subject to discipline or disownment for military service. In the present century, Menallen's boys have answered their country's call with no change in meeting status.
"The Quaker of the present day takes more part in community life and public affairs than did those of early days, and is perhaps more liberal, more tolerant. Menallen Friends still worship in the simple way of their forefathers, believing no form or ritual essential to the true spirit of worship. There is no formal Creed. They share the universal Quaker belief that the Inner Light, the Christ within, is given to all who seek it."
From this report of Miss Black one can see that Quakerism is still living and that Menallen Meeting is an outstanding contrast to the almost inactive Quaker Meetings of Redlands, Warrington and Huntington, all of which, have been subjects of TIMES features.
Even though some of the Meetings are almost completely inactive, their historical value will live on as an index to what life in the great Cumberland Valley was like in the days of our pioneering forefathers.
L. Dennis Heckert,
Donald C. Bowers.
This article concludes the current series of articles based on histories of early churches in the central Pennsylvania area. It is the intent of the authors to continue a similar series next summer after the close of the college year.