Quaker Hill - A Sociological Study
by Warren H. Wilson
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Sources 5


The Locality 8


The Assembling of the Quakers 16


Economic Activities of the Quaker Community 20


Amusements 28


The Ideals of the Quakers 32


Morals of the Quaker Community 38


Toleration of Hostile Forces 50





Communication,—The Roads 63


Economic Changes 69


Religious Life in Transition 79





Demotic Composition 88


The Economy of House and Field 98


New Ideals of Quakerism, Assimilation of Strangers 112


The Common Mind 118


Practical Differences and Resemblances 130


The Social Organization 135


The Social Welfare 141




Appendix A:—Heads of Families in Oblong Meeting, 1760 155

Appendix B:—Names of Customers of Daniel Merritt, 1771 158

Appendix C:—Deeds of Meeting-House Lands 167


Fourteen years ago the author came to Quaker Hill as a resident, and has spent at least a part of each of the intervening years in interested study of the locality. For ten of those years the fascination of the social life peculiar to the place was upon him. Yet all the time, and increasingly of late, the disillusionment which affects every resident in communities of this sort was awakening questions and causing regrets. Why does not the place grow? Why do the residents leave? What is the illusive unity which holds all the residents of the place in affection, even in a sort of passion for the locality, yet robs them of full satisfaction in it, and drives the young and ambitious forth to live elsewhere?

The answer to these questions is not easily to be had. It is evident that on Quaker Hill life is closely organized, and that for eighteen decades a continuous vital principle has given character to the population. The author has attempted, by use of the analysis of the material, according to the "Inductive Sociology" of Professor Franklin H. Giddings, to study patiently in detail each factor which has played its part in the life of this community.

This book presents the result of that study, and the author acknowledges his indebtedness to Professor Giddings for the working analysis necessary to the knowledge of his problem, as well as for patient assistance and inspiring interest. The gradual unfolding of the conclusions, the logical unity of the whole, and the explanation of that which before was not clear, have all been the fruit of this patient field-work.

The study of human society is at the present time little more than a classifying of material. Only with great reserve should any student announce ultimate results, or generalize upon the whole problem. For this period of classifying and analyzing the material, such study of limited populations as this should have value. The author makes no apology for the smallness of his field of study. Quaker Hill is not even a civil division. It is a fraction of a New York town. Therefore no statistical material of value is available. It is, moreover, not now an economic unit, though it still may be considered a sociological one. This study, therefore, must be of interest as an analysis of the working of purely social forces in a small population, in which the whole process may be observed, more closely than in the intricate and subtle evolution of a larger, more self-sufficient social aggregate.

The descriptive history of Quaker Hill, which it is my purpose in this book to write, comprises three periods; and the descriptive sociology records two differing yet related forms of social life, connected by a period of transition. This study will then be made up of three parts: First, the Quaker Community; second, the Transition; and third, the Mixed Community. The periods of time corresponding to these three are: The Period of the Quaker Community, 1730 to 1830; second, the Period of Transition, 1830 to 1880; and third, the Period of the Mixed Community, 1880 to 1905.

The Quaker Community, which ran its course in the one hundred years following the settlement of the Hill, presents the social history of a homogeneous population, assembled in response to common stimuli, obedient to one ideal, sharing an environment limited by nature, cultivating an isolation favored by the conditions of the time, intermarrying, and interlacing their relations of mutual dependence through a diversified industry; knowing no government so well as the intimate authority of their Monthly Meeting; and after a century suffering absorption in the commerce and thinking of the time through increased freedom of communication.

The Transition follows the Division of the Quaker Meeting in 1828, the building of turnpikes, and the coming of the railroad in 1849. A cultured daughter of Quaker Hill, whose life has extended through some of those years, has called them "the dark ages." It was the middle age of the community. The economic life of the place was undergoing change, under the penetrating influence of the railroad; the population was undergoing radical renovation, the ambitious sons of the old stock moving away, and their places being filled at the bottom of the social ladder by foreigners, and by immigration of residents and "summer boarders" of the "world's people." Above all, the powerful ideal of Quakerism was shattered. The community had lost the "make-believe" at which it had played for a century in perfect unity. With it went the moral and social authority of the Meeting. Two Meetings mutually contradicting could never express the ideal of Quakerism, that asserted the inspiration of all and every man with the one divine spirit. This schism, too, was not local, but the Monthly Meeting on the Hill was divided in the same year as the Yearly Meeting in New York, the Quarterly Meetings in the various sections, and the local Monthly Meetings throughout the United States.

The Period of the Mixed Community, from the building of Akin Hall and the Mizzen-Top Hotel in 1880 to the year 1905 has been studied personally by the present writer; and it is his belief that during this short period, especially from 1890 to 1900, the Hill enjoyed as perfect a communal life as in the Period of the Quaker Community. The same social influence was at work. An exceptionally strong principle of assimilation, to be studied in detail in this book, which made of the original population a century and a half earlier a perfect community, now made a mixed population of Quakers, Irish Catholics and New York City residents, into a community unified, no less obedient to a modified ideal, having its leaders, its mode of association, its peculiar local integrity and a certain moral distinction.

This period appears at the time of this writing, in 1907, to be coming slowly to an end, owing to the death of many of the older members of the Quaker families, and the swift diminution—with their authority removed—of the Quaker influence, which was the chief factor in the community's power of assimilation.

If one may state in condensed form what this study discovers in Quaker Hill that is uncommon and exceptional, one would say that the social peculiarity of the Hill is: first, the consistent working out of an idea in a social population, with the resultant social organization, and communal integrity; and second, the power of this community to assimilate individuals and make them part of itself.


The Quaker Community, from its Settlement in 1728, to the Division in 1828.



The sources of the history and descriptive sociology of Quaker hill are, first, the reminiscences of the older residents of the Hill, many of whom have died in the period under direct study in this paper; and second, the written records mentioned below. At no time was Quaker Hill a civil division, and the church records available were not kept with such accuracy as to give numerical results; so that statistical material is lacking.

The written sources are:

1. The records of Oblong Meeting of the Society of Friends until 1828; of the Hicksite Meeting until 1885, when it was "laid down"; and of the Orthodox Meeting until 1905, when it ceased to meet.[1]

2. Records of Purchase Meeting of the Society of Friends for the period antedating 1770.

3. Ledgers of the Merritt general store of dates 1771, 1772, 1839.

4. Daybooks and ledgers of the Toffey store of dates 1815, 1824, 1833.

5. The "Quaker Hill Series" of Local History, publications of the Quaker Hill Conference. In particular Nos. II, III, IV, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI and XVII.[2]

6. Maps of Fredericksburgh and vicinity by Robert Erskine in the De Witt Clinton Collection, in the New York Historical Society Building.

7. Papers by Hon. Alfred T. Ackert, read before the Dutchess County Society in the City of New York, 1898 and 1899.

8. An Historical Sketch. The Bi-Centennial of the New York Yearly Meeting, an address delivered at Flushing, 1895, by James Wood.

9. A Declaration of some of the Fundamental Principles of Christian Truth, as held by the Religious Society of Friends.

10. James Smith's History of Dutchess County.

11. Philip H. Smith's History of Dutchess County.

12. Lossing's "Field Book of the Revolution."

13. Bancroft's "History of the United States."

14. Irving's "Life of Washington."

15. "Gazetteer of New York," 1812.

16. Akin and Ferris, Wing, Briggs and Hoag Family Records.

17. De Chastellux's "Travels in North America."

18. Anburey's "Travels in North America."

19. Thatcher's "Military Journal of the Revolution."

20. Wilson's "Rise and Fall of the Slave Power."

21. Barnum's "Enoch Crosby."

22. "The Writings of Washington," especially in Fall of 1778.

23. Proceedings of the New York Historical Society, 1859, etc.

24. New Milford Gazette, 1858, Boardman's Letter.

25. Poughkeepsie Eagle, July, 1876, Lossing's Articles.

26. Fishkill (New York) Packet, 1776-1783.

27. New York Mercury, 1776-1783.

28. Tax-lists of the Town of Pawling, New York.

[1] The oldest records of Oblong meeting are contained in the records of Purchase Meeting, the mother society, from the earliest date, about 1741, at which Oblong is mentioned, to 1744, when it became an independent monthly meeting. Most of the early settlers on the Oblong came through Purchase, married there and left their names on its pages. From the year 1744 Oblong Meeting was a meeting of record, but for thirteen years the minutes were written on loose sheets, which have been lost. They may indeed be in existence, for in 1760 the meeting directs Clerk Zebulon Ferriss to record the minutes for the time he has been clerk; and appoints two to record the previous minutes from the establishment of the meeting. If those two did as they were directed, there should be a book of the oldest records of the Hill in existence; and in any case there may be in some old leather bound trunk, leaves of records from 1744 to 1757, whose value is beyond calculation. The minutes of the Meeting from 1757 until the division, and from that date until the Hicksite Meeting was laid down in 1885, are in the possession of John Cox, Librarian of the Yearly Meeting (Hicksite). From 1828, the year of the division, until the present year, the minutes of the Orthodox Friends are in the possession of William H. Osborn. The minutes of the Women's Meeting previous to 1807 are missing; one volume, from 9th Mo., 14th, 1807, to 3rd Mo., 16th, 1835, is with John Cox. In the same place are three volumes of the record of Births, Marriages and Deaths: one from 1745 to 1774; then, after a gap, due to the absence of a volume, is the second, from 1786 to 1866; and a third volume of births and deaths alone from 1828 to 1893. Volumes lacking in this collection are the records of births and deaths previous to 1828: and of marriages from 1774 to 1786.

The records of the present Orthodox Meeting in full, as well as the following two volumes of the records of the Preparative Meeting of Ministers and Elders at Oblong, are in the possession of William H. Osborn on Quaker Hill; first from 10th month, 12th, 1783, to 1st month, 13th, 1878; and second from 1878 to present time. Last of all, the record of births and deaths of the meeting, from 1810 to the present day, following the line of the Orthodox society, is in the possession of the Post family on Quaker Hill.


David Irish—A Memoir, by his daughter, Mrs. Phoebe T. Wanzer, of Quaker Hill, N. Y.

Quaker Hill in the Eighteenth century, by Rev. Warren H. Wilson, of Brooklyn, N. Y.

Quaker Hill in the Nineteenth century, by Rev. Warren H. Wilson, of Brooklyn, N. Y.

Hiram B. Jones and His School, by Rev. Edward L. Chichester, of Hartsdale, N. Y.

Richard Osborn—A Reminiscence, by Margaret B. Monahan, of Quaker Hill, N. Y.

Albert J. Akin—A Tribute, by Rev. Warren H. Wilson, of Brooklyn, N. Y.

Ancient Homes and Early Days at Quaker Hill, by Amanda Akin Stearns, of Quaker Hill, N. Y.

Thomas Taber and Edward Shove—a Reminiscence, by Rev. Benjamin Shove, of New York.

Some Glimpses of the Past, by Alicia Hopkins Taber, of Pawling, N. Y.

The Purchase Meeting, by James Wood, of Mt. Kisco, N. Y.

In Loving Remembrance of Ann Hayes, by Mrs. Warren H. Wilson, of Brooklyn, N. Y.

Washington's Headquarters at Fredericksburgh, by Lewis S. Patrick, of Marinette, Wis.

Historical Landmarks in the Town of Sherman, by Ruth Rogers, of Sherman, Conn.



In the hill country, sixty-two miles north of New York, and twenty-eight miles east of the Hudson River at Fishkill, lies Quaker Hill. It is the eastern margin of the town of Pawling, and its eastern boundary is the state line of Connecticut. On the north and south it is bounded by the towns of Dover and Patterson respectively; on the west by a line which roughly corresponds to the western line of the Oblong, that territory which was for a century in dispute between the States of New York and Connecticut. Its length is the north and south dimension of Pawling.

This area is six and a half miles long, north and south, and irregularly two miles in width, east and west. Quaker Hill can scarcely be called a hamlet, because instead of a cluster of houses, it is a long road running from south to north by N. N. E. and intersected by four roads running from east to west. The households located on this road for one hundred and sixty years constituted a community of Quakers dwelling near their Meeting House; and until the building of the Harlem Railroad in the valley below in 1849, had their own stores and local industries.

Before the railroad came, Quaker Hill was obliged to go to Poughkeepsie for access to the world, over the precipitous sides of West Mountain, and all supplies had to be brought up from the river level to this height. At present Quaker Hill, in its nearest group of houses at the Mizzen-Top Hotel, is three miles and three-quarters from the railroad station at Pawling. Other houses are five and seven miles from Pawling. On the east the nearest station of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, New Milford, is nine miles away. The "Central New England" Branch of the N. Y. N. H. & H., running east and west, is at West Patterson or West Pawling, seven and eight miles.

The natural obstacle which does more than miles to isolate Quaker Hill is its elevation. The "Mizzen-Top Hill," as it is now called, is a straightforward Quaker road, mounting the face of the Hill four hundred feet in a half-mile. The ancient settler on horseback laid it out; and the modern wayfarer in hotel stage, carriage or motor-car has to follow. Quaker Hill is conservative of change.

The mean elevation is about 1,100 feet above the sea. The highest point being Tip-Top, 1,310 feet, and the lowest point 620 feet. The Hill is characterized by its immediate and abrupt rise above surrounding localities, being from 500 to 830 feet above the village of Pawling, in which the waters divide for the Hudson and Housatonic Rivers. On its highest hill rises the brook which becomes the Croton River. From almost the whole length of Quaker Hill road one looks off over intervening hills to the east for twenty-five miles, and to the west for forty miles to Minnewaska and Mohonk; and to the north fifty and sixty miles to the Catskill Mountains.

One's first impressions are of the green of the foliage and herbage. The grass is always fresh, and usually the great heaving fields are mellowed with orange tints and the masses of trees are of a lighter shade of green than elsewhere. The qualities of the soil which have made Quaker Hill "a grass country" for cattle make it a delight to the eye. Well watered always, when other sections may be in drought, its natural advantages take forms of beauty which delight the artist and satisfy the eye of the untrained observer.

The Hill is a conspicuous plateau, very narrow, extending north and south. It is "the place that is all length and no breadth." Six miles long upon the crest of the height runs the road which is its main thoroughfare, and was in its first century the chief avenue of travel. Crossing it at right angles are four roads, that now carry the wagon and carriage traffic to the valleys on either side; which since railroad days are the termini of all journeys. The elevation above the surrounding hills and valleys is such that one must always climb to attain the hill; and one moves upon its lofty ridge in constant sight of the distant conspicuous heights, the Connecticut uplands east of the Housatonic on one side, and on the other, the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountains, west of the Hudson, all of them more than 25 miles away.

Unsheltered as it is, the locality is subject to severe weather. The extreme of heat observed has been 105 degrees; and of cold—24 degrees.

Quaker Hill possesses natural advantages for agriculture only. No minerals of commercial value are there; although iron ore is found in Pawling and nearby towns. On the confines of the Hill, in Deuell Hollow, a shaft was driven into the hillside for forty feet, by some lonely prospector, and then abandoned; to be later on seized upon and made the traditional location of a gold mine. The Quaker Hill imagination is more fertile and varied than Quaker Hill land. No commercial advantages have ever fallen upon the place, except those resultant from cultivation of the fertile soil in the way of stores, now passed away; and the opportunity to keep summer boarders in the heated season.

Interest which attaches to Quaker Hill is of a three-fold sort: historical, scenic and climatic. The locality has a history of peculiarly dramatic interest. It is beautiful with a rare and satisfying dignity and loveliness of scene; and it is the choice central spot of a region bathed in a salubrious atmosphere which has had much to do with its social character in the past, and is to-day very effective in making the place a summer settlement of New York people. The population is increased one hundred per cent. in the summer months, the increase being solely due to the healthful and refreshing nature of the place.

The history of the locality is associated with the quaint name, "The Oblong." This was the name of a strip of land, lying along the eastern boundary of New York State, now part of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties, and narrowing to the northward, which was for a century in dispute between New York and Connecticut.

There had been a half century in which this was all disputed land, between the Dutch at New York and the English in New England. Then followed a half century of dispute as to the boundary between sister colonies, which are now New York and Connecticut. As soon as this was settled in 1731 the immigration flowed in, and the history of Quaker Hill, the first settlement in the Oblong, begins. It was granted to New York; and in compensation the lands on which Stamford and Greenwich stand were granted to Connecticut after a long and bitter dispute. The end of the dispute and the first settlement of the Oblong came, for obvious reasons, in the same year. The first considerable settlement of pioneers was made at Quaker Hill in 1731, by Friends, who came from Harrison's Purchase, now a part of Rye.[3]

The historical interest of the locality dwells in the contrast between the simple annals of Quakerism, which was practiced there in the eighteenth century, and the military traditions which have fallen to the lot of peaceful Quaker Hill. The "Old Meeting House," known for years officially as Oblong Meeting House, experienced in its past, full of memories of men of peace, the violent seizures by men of war. That storied scene, in the fall of 1778, when the Meeting House was seized for the uses of the army as a hospital,[4] has lived in the thoughts of all who have known the place, and has been cherished by none more reverently than by the children of Quakers, whose peace the soldiers invaded. Both the soldier and the Quaker laid their bones in the dust of the Hill. Both had faith in liberty and equality. The history of Quaker Hill in the eighteenth century is the story of these two schools of idealists, who ignored each other, but were moved by the same passion, obeyed the same spirit. It is said that a locality never loses the impression made upon it by its earliest residents. Certain it is that the roots of modern things are to be traced in that earliest period, and through a continuous self-contained life until the present day.

In the eighteenth century Quaker Hill was the chosen asylum of men of peace. Yet it became the rallying place of periodic outbursts of the fighting spirit of that warlike age; and it was invaded during the great struggle for national independence by the camps of Washington.

There is a dignity common to Washington battling for liberty, and the Quaker pioneers serenely planning seven years before the Revolution for the freedom of the slave. But he was a Revolutionist, they were loyal to King George; he was a man of blood, brilliant in the garb of a warrior, and they were men of peace, dreaming only of the kingdom of God. He was fighting for a definite advance in liberty to be enjoyed at once; they were set on an enfranchisement that involved one hundred years; and a greater war at the end than his revolution. Their records contains no mention of his presence here, though his soldiers seized and fortified the Meeting House.[5] His letters never mention the Quakers, neither their picturesque abode, their dreams of freedom for the slave, nor their Tory loyalty.

Each cherished his ideal and staked his life and ease and happiness upon it. Each, after the fashion of a narrow age, ignored the other's adherence to that ideal. To us they are sublime figures in bold contrast crossing that far-off stage: Washington, booted, with belted sword, spurring his horse up the western slope of the Hill, to review the soldiers of the Revolution in 1778; and Paul Osborn, Joseph Irish and Abner Hoag, plain men, unarmed save with faith, riding their plough horses down the eastern slope in 1775, to plead for the freedom of the slave at the Yearly Meeting at Flushing.

What effect the beauty of the place had upon the pioneer settlers it is, of course, impossible to say, for they have left no record of their appreciation of its beauty. Probably their interest in the picturesque was the same as that of a Quaker elder, of fine and choice culture after the Quaker standards, who said to the author, with a quiet laugh: "People all say that the views from my house are very beautiful, and I suppose they are; but I have lived here all my life, and I have never seen it." A Quakeress confessed to the same indifference to the beauty of the Hill, until she had resided for a time in another state, and had mingled with those who had a lively sense of beauty of scene; returning thereafter to the Hill, it appeared beautiful to her ever afterward.

The land has been for several generations under a high state of cultivation. The keeping of many cattle has enriched the broad pastures; and the dairy industry has been carried on with constant fertilizing of the lands; so that the great fields, heaping up one upon another, high above the valley, and plunging down in steep slopes so suddenly that the falling land is lost from view and the valley below seems to hang unattached, are covered with a brilliancy of coloring and a variety of those rich tints of green and orange which spell to the eye abundance, and arouse a keen delight, like that of possessing and enjoying.

There is also a large dignity in the outlines of every scene, which constantly expands the sensations and gives, on every hand, a sense of exhilaration and a pleasurable excitement to the emotions, which seems in experience to have something to do with the industry and application characteristic of Quaker Hill.

With this the atmosphere has had much to do, no doubt, being dry and soft. The first sensation of one alighting from a train in the town is one of lightness and exhilaration. This sensation continues through the first hours of one's stay on the Hill.[6] After the first day of exhilaration come a day or more of drowsiness, with nights of profound sleep. In some persons a heightened nervousness is experienced, but in most cases the Hill has the effect upon those who reside there of a steady nervous arousal, a pleasure in activity, and a keen interest in life and work.

Whether the early settlers, in selecting the highest ground in this region, had a sense of this excellence of the climatic effect we do not know; but their descendants believe that such was their reason for settling the highest arable land on the Hill before the valleys or the lower slopes were cleared.

It is the common tradition that they settled on the Hill first, and on its highest parts, in order to avoid the malaria of the lowlands; as well as because they thought the hill lands to be more fertile.

The excellence of the climate is witnessed in the long lives of its residents. There were living in 1903, in a population of four hundred, five persons, each of whom was at least ninety years of age; and fifteen, each of whom was more than seventy-five years of age.

[3] Mr. James Wood, in his Bicentennial Address in 1895, thus described the Oblong:

The eastern side of the country had been settled by Presbyterians from Connecticut, and the western side along the Hudson River by the Dutch. The feeling between them was far from friendly. Their disputes had been very bitter, and Rye and Bedford had revolted from New York's jurisdiction. Their whipping-posts stood ready for the punishment of any from the river settlements who committed even slight offenses within their limits. As the two peoples naturally repelled each other they had left a strip of land, comparatively unoccupied, between them. This continued in nearly a north and south line, parallel with the river, and a little more than midway between it and the Connecticut and Massachusetts lines, as far as they extended. Into and through the strip of land the Quaker stream flowed, like a liquid injected into a fissure in the rocks. Each Quaker home as it settled became a resting place for those who followed, for it was a cardinal principle of Quaker hospitality to keep open house for all fellow members, under all circumstances.

[4] "One First Day morning, in the mellow October days of that year, the worshipping stillness of the Friends' Meeting was broken by the tramp of horses, and the jangling of spurs, as a band of soldiers rode up, dismounted and entered the building. They remained quiet and reverent, till the handshaking of the elders closed the meeting; then the commanding officer rose, and in the name of the Continental Congress took possession of the building for a hospital for the troops, and as such it was used all that winter. After this meetings were held in the 'great room' in the house of Paul Osborn, and were often frequented by soldiers stationed in the place, who listened attentively to the speaking, and left quietly at the close of the meeting."—Richard Osborn—a Reminiscence, by Margaret B. Monahan, Quaker Hill Local History Series, No. VIII.

[5] In the garret of the Meeting House rifle-ports, cut through the original planks, were discovered by the present writer.

[6] "Bodily functions are facilitated by atmospheric conditions which make evaporation from the skin and lungs rapid. That weak persons whose variations of health furnish good tests, are worse when the air is surcharged with water, and better when the weather is fine; and that commonly such persons are enervated by residence in moist localities but invigorated by residence in dry ones, are facts generally recognized. And this relation of cause and effect, manifest in individuals, doubtless holds in races."—Herbert Spencer, Principles of Sociology, Vol. I, p. 21.



The social mind of the Quaker Hill population was formed, at the settlement of the place, in a common response to common stimuli. The population was congregated from Long Island and Massachusetts settlements, by the tidings of the opening of this fertile land of the Oblong for settlement in 1731. I infer from the fact that settlements were previously made on both sides, at Fredericksburgh on one side, and at New Milford on the other,—at New Milford there was a Quaker Meeting established in 1729, fifteen years before Quaker Hill—that the value of the lands in the Oblong was well advertised. From the fact noted by James Wood (The Purchase Meeting, p. 10) that "the first settlement in any considerable numbers was upon Quaker Hill in the Oblong," I infer that the uncommon promise of this hill land had been made known to the Quakers then assembling at this "Purchase in the Rye Woods," and that Quaker Hill was settled in response to the stimulus of valuable, fertile lands offered for occupation and ownership.

It seems to have been the desire of the first settlers to form a community where they could live apart, maintain their form of religion and possess land fertile and rich. The Quakers are always shrewd as to economic affairs, and the business motive is never lost sight of in the spiritual inner light. In choosing Quaker Hill soil they selected ground which after one hundred and sixty-seven years is the richest in the region, sustains the best dairies, and is able longer than any other in the neighborhood in time of drought to afford abundant green grass and verdure.

To this place thus secluded, came Benjamin Ferriss in 1728, and Nathan Birdsall. They settled upon the sites marked 31 and 39; which are 1,200 and 1,100 feet above the sea, and very near the highest ground for many miles. There was at this time, 1729, a meeting of Friends at New Milford, nine miles away; but these two men came from Purchase Meeting in the town of Rye, forty miles directly to the South. There soon followed others, bearing the names, Irish, Wing, Briggs, Toffey, Akin, Taber, Russell, Osborn, Merritt, Dakin, Hoag. In ten years the tide of settlement was flowing full. In forty years the little community was filled with as many as could profitably find a living.

Complete records of the sources of this immigration are not available. John Cox, Jr., Librarian of the Yearly Meeting of Friends, says "the records do not show in any direct way where the members came from. A few came from Long Island meetings by way of Purchase, but most of them from the East, and I believe from Massachusetts. Indirectly the records show that the members occasionally went on visits into New England, and took certificates of clearance there (to marry)." Dartmouth, Mass., a town between Fall River and New Bedford, was the original home of so many of them that it easily leads all localities as a source of Quaker Hill ancestry. The Akin, Taber, Briggs families came from Dartmouth, which was in a region of both temporary and permanent Quaker settlement. Quaker Hill, R. I., is within fifteen miles of Dartmouth. The residents of Quaker Hill, New York, preserve traditions of the returns of the early Friends "to Rhode Island." There is a Briggs family tradition of the first pair of boots owned on the Hill, which were borrowed in turn by every man who made a visit to the ancestral home at Dartmouth.

It is probable also that some of the original residents came from Long Island, though from what localities I do not know. The minutes of Purchase Meeting at Rye, through which meeting most of the Quaker Hill settlers came, indicate in only a limited number of cases that the immigrant came from a farther point; and leave the impression that the Friend so commended to the Oblong was already a resident of "the Purchase," or of its related meetings at Flushing on Long Island. An example is the case of William Russell and his wife, notable pioneers, the earliest residents of Site 25, whose letter from Purchase Meeting in 1741 indicates only that they came to Oblong from Purchase.

The settlement of the Hill continued from the early years, 1728-1731, at which it began, until 1770, when the community may be said to have been complete. The land was supporting by that time all it would bear. Since that time the number of houses on the Hill has remained about the same, as will be seen from a comparison of the Maps I and II, the one made for Washington in 1778-80 and the other being a tracing of the map of the Topographical Survey of the United States Government of recent date.

The extent of this population resident upon the Hill is shown in the lists of persons whose names appear in Appendix A, which is a census of the heads of families in the Meeting in the year 1761; added to which is a list of names which appear in the minutes of the Meeting in years immediately following. These lists show the growth of the population under study, in the years from 1761 to 1780, for there are whole families omitted from the list of 1761, who are named in the minutes in succeeding years. An instance is that of Paul and Isaac Osborn, who came from Rhode Island in 1760.[7]

As this list of members of the meeting shows the actual size of the population resident upon the Hill in 1761, the other list published in Appendix B, containing the names of those who traded at the Merritt store in 1771, exhibits, with startling vividness, the importance of Quaker Hill at that time. Little as the place is now, and geographically remote and hard of access always, it was evidently in the years named a center of a far-reaching country trade. This list is published in full, exactly as the names appear on Daniel Merritt's ledger, to convey this impression; and by contrast, the impression of the shrinkage in the years since the railway changed the currents of trade. It is published also as a basis of this study, being a numerical description, in the rough, of the problem we are studying. And a third use which such a list may serve is that of information to those interested in genealogy. It is a veritable mine of information, suggestion, and even color, of the life of that time—as indeed are the ancient ledgers, bound in calf, and kept with exquisite care, by this colonial merchant. In these old records are suggested, though not described, the lives of a hard-working, prosperous population, filling the countryside, laying the foundations of fortunes which are to-day enriching descendants. It was a community without an idler, with trades and occupations so many as to be independent of other communities, hopeful, abounding in credit, laying plans for generations to come, and living bountifully, heartily from day to day.

Every item in these mercantile records is of interest and full of suggestion, from the names of the negro slaves, who had accounts on the books, to the products brought for sale by one customer after another, by which they liquidated their accounts; from the "quart of rum" bought by so many with every "trading," to the Greek Testament and Latin Grammar bought by solid Thomas Taber, who wrote his name in real estate by his thrift and force, if he did not write it in dead languages.

[7] Richard Osborn—A Reminiscence, by Margaret B. Monahan, Quaker Hill Local History Series, No. VIII, p. 10.



The economic activity of the early Quaker Community was varied. All they consumed they had to produce and manufacture. Though the stores sold cane sugar, the farmers made of maple sap in the spring both sugar and syrup, and in the fall they boiled down the juice of sweet apples to a syrup, which served for "sweetness" in the ordinary needs of the kitchen.

Every man was in some degree a farmer, in that each household cultivated the soil. On every farm all wants had to be supplied from local resources, so that mixed farming was the rule. The land which its modern owners think unsuited to anything but grass, because it is such "heavy, clay soil," was made in the 18th century to bear, in addition to the grass for cattle and sheep, wheat, rye, oats and corn, flax, potatoes, apples. Of whatever the farmer was to use he must produce the raw material from the soil, and the manufacture of it must be within the community.

Two lists which come to us from early days cast light on the population and occupations of the early period. One is the sheriff's list of landowners in Dutchess County in 1740, on which is no name of any farmer then resident on Quaker Hill. The other list is that of those who claimed exemption from military duty in 1755; 38 are from Oblong and 21 from Beekman, many of them being Quakers resident on the Oblong. This list is as follows:

Joshua Shearman, Beekman Prec'nt, shoemaker; Moses Shearman, Beekman Prec'nt, laborer; Daniel Shearman, Beekman Prec'nt, laborer; Joseph Doty, Beekman Prec'nt, blacksmith; John Wing, Beekman Prec'nt, farmer; Zebulon Ferris (Oblong), Beekman Prec'nt, farmer; Joseph Smith, son of Rich'd, Beekman Prec'nt, laborer; Robert Whiteley, Beekman Prec'nt, farmer; Elijah Doty, Oblong House, carpenter; Philip Allen, Oblong, weaver; Richard Smith, Oblong, farmer; James Aiken, Oblong, blacksmith; Abrah'm Chase, son of Henry, Oblong, farmer; David Hoeg, Oblong, ——; John Hoeg, Oblong, farmer; Jonathan Hoeg, Oblong, blacksmith; Amos Hoeg, son of John, Oblong, laborer; William Hoeg, son of David, Oblong, farmer; John Hoeg, son of John, Oblong, farmer; Ezekiel Hoeg, Oblong, laborer; Judah Smith, Oblong, tailor; Matthew Wing, Oblong, ——; Timothy Dakin, Oblong, farmer; Jonathan Dakin, Oblong, laborer; Samuel Russell, Oblong, laborer; John Fish, Oblong, farmer; Reed Ferris, Oblong, shoemaker; Benjamin Ferris, Junr., Oblong, laborer; Joseph Akin, Oblong, blacksmith; Israel Howland, Oblong, farmer; Elisha Akin, Oblong, farmer; Isaac Haviland, Oblong, blacksmith; Nathan Soule, son of George, Oblong, farmer; James Birdsall, Oblong, laborer; Daniel Chase, Oblong, farmer; Silas Mossher, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; William Mosher, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Silvester Richmond, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Jesse Irish, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; David Irish, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; William Irish, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Josiah Bull, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Josiah Bull, Junr., Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Allen Moore, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Andrew Moore, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; William Gifford, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Nathaniel Yeomans, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; Eliab Yeomans, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer; William Parks, Oswego in Beekman Prec't, farmer.

This list mentions six occupations: the farmer, blacksmith, tailor, shoemaker, carpenter and laborer. With these six a frontier community could live, for every man of them was a potential butcher, tanner, trader. There is record of others in later years, when the communal life had become differentiated. There were at various times in the Quaker century stores at four places on the Hill. The Merritt store, at Site 28, descended to the sons of Daniel Merritt, and finally to James Craft. There was a store in Deuell Hollow, kept by Benjamin and Silas Deuell for several years. There is extant one bill of merchandise purchased by them of Edward and William Laight, merchants of New York, the amount being L200 and the date Feb. 25, 1785. The Akin stores at Sites 47 and 46, were kept by Daniel and Albro Akin, and the store at Site 53, by John Toffey. These stores during the period of the Quaker community were in trade largely by barter, taking all the commodities the farmer had beyond his immediate use, and selling sugar, coffee, cloth and other commodities which after 1815, as will be shown later, rapidly increased in number and in quantity. The use of money increased at the same period. The phrase still lingers in Quaker Hill speech: "I am going to the store to do some trading," though the milk farmer has engaged in no barter for fifty years.

In the culminating period of the Quaker Community, which followed the Revolutionary War, the following were some of the occupations practiced on the Hill, the record or remembrance of which is preserved:[8]

Abram Thomas was a blacksmith, at Site 14,[9] and is said to have made the nails used in building the Meeting House. George Kirby, at Site 99-1/2, had a blacksmith shop; there was another at Site x100, now abandoned on Burch Hill, kept by Joel Winter Church, where Washington's charger was shod, and the bill was paid at the close of the war.

But the most notable smithy was at Site 41, where now stands one of the oldest houses on the Hill. Here Davis Marsh wrought in iron, and the sound of his trip-hammer audible for miles smote its own remembered impression upon the ears of those ancient generations. Doubtless the favored location of Marsh's shop in the neighborhood most central, as is shown in Chapter III, Part III, gave it greater use. There was at one time a forge in the Glen at Site 66, to which magnetic ore was hauled from Brewster to be worked.

A "smith shop" is also noted on Erskine's map for Washington in 1778 at Site x111. The most important manufacturing business of the community, however, was the wagon-worker's shop at Site 45, kept by Hiram Sherman. Under the general title of wagon maker he manufactured all movables in wood and iron, from fancy wagons to coffins.

Other trades were of increasing variety as the century of isolation proceeded. Shoemakers went from house to house to make shoes for the family, of the leather from the backs of the farmer's own cattle, tanned on the farm or not far away. Reed Ferris was a shoemaker, in whose residence at Site 99 Washington was entertained in September, 1778, until he took up Headquarters at John Kane's. Stephen Riggs was a shoemaker. Three tanneries were maintained on the Hill in the bloom of the Quaker community by Ransom Aldrich about Site 13; Amos Asborn, at Site x21, who also made pottery there; and Isaac Ingersoll, at Site 134.

Albro Akin had a sawmill in the Glen, and a gristmill was also located there in an early period. William Taber had a gristmill and also a cloth mill, consisting of carding machine, fulling mill, and apparatus for pressing, coloring and dressing cloth. John Toffey, at Site 53, and Joseph Seeley, at Site 15, and some of the Arnolds, near Site 12, were hatters. Jephtha Sabin, at Site 74, and Joseph Hungerford were saddlers and harnessmakers.

Every farmer and indeed every householder raised hogs. Pork was salted, as it is to-day, for winter use, in barrels of brine. Hogs also were extensively raised and butchered for market, at a year and a half old, the meat being taken to Poughkeepsie by wagon, and thence to New York. Many who raised more pork than their own use demanded exchanged it at the stores. Fields of peas were raised to feed the hogs.

Sheep also were raised for their wool; their meat afforded an acceptable variety in farmer's fare and their hides had many uses. David Irish, Daniel and David Merritt, Jonathan A. Taber and George P. Taber were farmers whose product of wool was notably fine and abundant. Jonathan Akin Taber "kept about eleven hundred sheep, some merino and some saxony."

Butter and cheese making were an important part of the business and income of the farmer's family, the butter being packed and sent weekly to the Hudson River boats for New York markets, or to Bridgeport or New Haven—a two-days' journey in either case. The cheese was ripened, or cured, being rubbed and turned every day, and kept until the dealers came around to inspect and purchase. On every farm was kept a flock of geese, which were picked once in six weeks to keep up the supply of feather beds and to furnish the requisite number for the outfit of each daughter of the family.

In the year 1767, Oblong Meeting took action which resulted, after seven years of agitation, in the clear declaration by the Yearly Meeting of New York, earliest of such acts, in favor of the freeing of slaves. This was one hundred years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Wilson's "Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America" says that "Members of the Society of Friends took the lead in the opposition to slavery." There had been action taken in 1688 by a small body of Germantown Quakers, in the form of a petition to their Yearly Meeting against "buying, selling and holding men in slavery." But to this the Yearly Meeting, after eight years of delay, replied only that "the members should discourage the introduction of slavery, and be careful of the moral and intellectual training of such as they held in servitude."

Meantime the Quaker Meetings on Long Island, in New York and Philadelphia took action recognizing slavery, with only a gradual tendency to regard the institution of slavery with disfavor. Now the time had come for putting the denomination in array against the institution.

There was a preacher of the Quakers who traveled much from 1746 to 1767 through the colonies, proclaiming that "the practice of continuing slavery is not right;" and that "liberty is the natural right equally of all men." In the last year of his propaganda occurred the event notable in local history. This was thirteen years before the action of the State of Pennsylvania, which initiated the lawmaking for emancipation among the northern colonies. It was "twenty years before Wilberforce took the first step in England against the slave-trade." The record of this action is as follows:

"At a (Yearly) Meeting at the Meeting House at Flushing the 30th day of the 5th month, 1767, a Querie from the Quarterly Meeting of the Oblong in Relation to buying and Selling Negroes was Read in this meeting and it was concluded to be left for consideration on the minds of friends until the Next Yearly Meeting. The Query is as follows: It is not consistent with Christianity to buy and Sell our Fellowmen for Slaves during their Lives, & their Posterities after them, then whether it is consistent with a Christian Spirit to keep those in Slavery that we have already in possession by Purchase, Gift or any otherways."

The year after, not without due hesitation, a committee was appointed which "drew an Essay on that subject which was read and approved and is as follows: We are of the mind that it is not convenient (considering the circumstances of things amongst us) to give an Answer to this Querie, at least at this time, as the answering of it in direct terms manifestly tends to cause divisions and may Introduce heart burnings and Strife amongst us, which ought to be Avoided, and Charity exercised, and persuasive methods pursued and that which makes for peace. We are however fully of the mind that Negroes as Rational Creatures are by nature born free, and where the way opens liberty ought to be extended to them, and they not held in Bondage for Self ends. But to turn them out at large Indiscriminately—which seems to be the tendency of the Querie, will, we Apprehend, be attended with great Inconveniency, as some are too young and some too old to obtain a livelihood for themselves."

Here, then, is the first action in a legislative body in New York State, upon the freeing of slaves. The "Querie from Oblong" had secured a clear deliverance in favor of the essential right of the negro as a man, in favor of his being freed "where the way opened," and against the holding of man for the service of another. The only hesitation of the meeting was frankly stated; emancipation was not to be pushed to the point of division among Christians, and was not to be accomplished to the impoverishment of the negro.

Yet if this action seems to any one like "trimming," it was followed by other deliverances increasingly clear and emphatic. Three years later Friends were forbidden to sell their slaves, except under conditions controlled by the Meeting. Throughout the communities of Friends the agitation was being carried on, and the meetings were anxious to purge themselves of the evil.

Finally in 1775 came the clear utterance of the Yearly Meeting in favor of emancipation without conditions: "it being our solid judgment that all in profession with us who hold Negroes ought to restore to them their natural right to liberty as soon as they arrive at a suitable age for freedom." At this meeting the Oblong was represented by Joseph Irish, Abner Hoag and Paul Osborn.

It only remains to picture the rest of the process by which slavery was purged away on Quaker Hill. In 1775 the practice of buying and selling slaves had come to an end, and no public abuse was noted by the Meeting in the treatment accorded to slaves by their masters. The next year there was but one slave owned by a member of the Meeting; and the day he was freed in the fall of 1777 was counted by the Meeting so notable that the clerk was directed to make a minute of the event. The owner had been Samuel Field, and the slave was called Philips. Another manumission in 1779 is recorded, but it was doubtless in the case of a new resident of the Hill, for it is recorded without signs of the joy exhibited in the freedom of Philips.

In the years 1782-3 the final act in emancipating the local slaves was taken, in the investigation by a committee of the Meeting into the condition of the freed slaves, and the obligations of their old masters to them. It was not very cordially received at first, but in the third year of the life and labors of the committee it was reported by them that "the negroes appear to be satisfied without further settlement." So the first American community to free herself from slavery required but sixteen years of agitation fully to complete the process.

[8] See "Some Glimpses of the Past," by Alicia Hopkins Taber, 1906; Quaker Hill Series.

[9] See Map II.



The Quaker community had little time for amusements, and less patience. The discipline of the Meeting levelled its guns at the play spirit, and for a century men were threatened, visited, disowned if necessary, for "going to frollicks," and "going to places of amusement." The Meeting House records leave no room for doubt as to the opinion held by the Society of Friends upon the matter of play.

An account is given elsewhere of the discipline of the Meeting in its struggle against immorality and "frollicking." The following quotation from James Woods' "The Purchase Meeting," vividly depicts the confused elements of the social life of that time: "On great occasions such as the holding of a Quarterly Meeting, the population turned out en masse. Piety and worldliness both observed the day. The latter class gathered about the meeting house, had wrestling matches and various athletic sports in the neighboring fields, and horse races on the adjacent roads. The meetings regularly appointed committees as a police force to keep order about the meeting house during the time of worship and business."

The stories told by old Quaker Hill residents of the gatherings about the meeting house, even on First Day, or Sunday, confirm the above quotation. The field opposite the meeting house, for years after 1769, when the earliest meeting house was moved away from that site, was used as a burial ground, and later, no headstones being placed in those early days, as a space for tethering horses. An old resident tells me that crowds of men were always about the meeting house before and after meeting, and even during meeting, and that in later years the resident of Site No. 32, who owned valuable horses, used to exhibit a blooded stallion on a tether, leading him up and down to the admiration of the horse-owners present, and to their probable interest.

These conditions seem to have continued through that whole century. The play spirit had no permitted or authorized occasions. It had to exercise itself with the other instincts, in the common gatherings. It was, as far as we can see, a time of asceticism. Men were forbidden rather than invited, in those days.

The Meeting not only provided no play opportunities, but it forbade the attendance of its members upon the "frollicks," which then were held, as nowadays they are held, in the country side. A gathering with plenty to eat, and in those days a free indulgence in drink on the part of the men, with music of the fiddler, and dancing, this was a "frollick"—that horror of the meeting house elders. Indeed, it was of incidental moral detriment; for it was outlawed amusement, and being under the ban, was controlled by men beyond the influence or control of the meeting. The young people of the Quaker families, and sometimes their elders, yielded to the fascinations of these gatherings. The unwonted excitement of meeting, the sound of music, playing upon the capacity for motor reactions in a people living and laboring outdoors, inflamed beyond control by rum and hard cider, soon led to lively, impulsive activities and physical exertions, both in immoderate excess and in disregard of all the inhibitions of tradition and of conscience. That there was a close relation of these "frollicks" with the sexual immorality of the period is probable.

Of more concern to us here is the observation, which is made with caution, that the attitude of the community to amusements was not conducive to moral betterment, because amusement was not specialized. The repression of the play spirit, offering it no occasions, recognizing no times and places as appropriate for it, disturbed the equilibrium of life, forced the normal animal spirits of the population to impulsive and explosive expressions and deprived them of the regulative control of the community.

It is probable that that early period had modes of amusement the record of which is wholly lost. There are few sources existing to inform us of the amusements of laboring classes. Hints occur in such records as that of the sale of powder and shot, of fishhooks and a quart of rum, at the Merritt store, in 1771, to the Vaughns. Seven years later the Vaughns were the Tory "cowboys," who robbed the defenceless neighborhood, until their leader was killed by Captain Pearce, during the Revolution.

It is probable that then the community wore the aspect which now it wears, of industry without play; and that members went elsewhere for their amusement, the acknowledged leaders in which were resident in other neighborhoods and communities.

The recreation of the body of working population of the Hill was incidental to the religious assemblies. In these meetings they took an intense and a very human pleasure. Their solitary, outdoor labor was performed in an intense atmosphere of communal interaction. He who raised hogs was to sell them, not to a distant market, but to Daniel Merritt, or John Toffey, the storekeepers. He who made shoes went from house to house, full of news, always talking, always hearing. He who wove heard not his creaking loom, but the voice of the storekeeper or of the neighbor to whom he would sell. The cheeses a woman pressed and wiped in a morning were to be sold, not far away to persons unseen, but to neighbors known, whose tastes were nicely ascertained and regarded.

The result was that meetings on First Day and Fourth Day were times of intense pleasure, occasions of all-around interest: not mere business interest, but incidentally a large satisfaction of the play instinct, especially for the working and mature persons. The young, too, had their happiness and enjoyment of one another in a multitude of ways, in addition to those boisterous games described above by Mr. James Wood. Their intense friendships and lively enterprises were probably not so easy to confine to the bounds of sober, staid meetings, but no less did their merry good spirits fill those assemblies. The galleries of the old Meeting House were built in 1800 for the young, who were expected to sit there during meeting. The wooden curtains between the "men's part" and the "women's part" are especially thorough in their exclusion of even an eyeshot from one side to the other.



In the Introduction to Professor Carver's "Sociology and Social Progress" is a passage of great significance to one who would understand Quaker Hill, or indeed any community, especially if it be religiously organized. The writer refers to: "a most important psychic factor, namely the power of idealization. This may be defined, not very accurately, as the power of making believe, a factor which sociologists have scarcely appreciated as yet. We have such popular expressions as 'making a virtue of necessity,' which indicates that there is a certain popular appreciation of the real significance of this power, but we have very little in the way of a scientific appreciation of it.

"One of the greatest resources of the human mind is its ability to persuade itself that what is necessary is noble or dignified or honorable or pleasant. For example, the greater part of the human race has been found to live under conditions of almost incessant warfare. War being a necessity from which there was no escape, it was a great advantage to be able to glorify it, to persuade ourselves that it was a noble calling—in other words, a good in itself.

"Another example is found in the case of work. Work is a necessity as imperious as war ever was. Looked at frankly and truthfully, work is a disagreeable necessity and not a good in itself. Yet by persuading ourselves that work is a blessing, that it is dignified and honorable, our willingness to work is materially increased, and therefore the process of adaptation is facilitated—in other words, progress is accelerated. Among the most effective agencies for the promotion of progress, therefore, must be included those which stimulate this power of idealization. In short, he who in any age helps to idealize those factors and forces upon which the progress of his age depends, is perhaps the most useful man, the most powerful agent in the promotion of human well-being, even though from the strictly realistic point of view he only succeeds in making things appear other than they really are. From the sociologist's point of view this is the mission of art and preaching of all kinds."

The quotation from Professor Carver bears the impression of incompleteness, or rather of suggestiveness. If "making a virtue of necessity" is idealization, is not symbolism also a form of "make believe." If the "ability to persuade oneself that what is necessary is noble or dignified or honorable or pleasant," is exhibited on Quaker Hill as a "most important psychic factor," so is also the idealization of the commonplace the "making believe" that peace and plainness, that simple, old-fashioned dress, and seventeenth century forms of speech are spiritual and are serviceable to the believing mind. The power of idealization is nowhere exhibited as a social force more clearly than in a Quaker community. Professor Carver's word, "make believe," is most accurate. Quakers act with all sincerity the drama of life, using costume and artificial speech, and attaching to all conduct peculiar mannerisms; casting over all action a special veil of complacent serenity; all which are parts in their realization of the ideal of life. Their fundamental principle is that the divine spirit dwells and acts in the heart of every man; not in a chosen few, not in the elect only, but in all hearts. Quaker Hill to this day acts this out, in that every person in the community is known, thought upon, reckoned and estimated by every other. Towns on either side have a neglected population area, but Quaker Hill has none. Pawling in its other neighborhoods has forgotten roads, despised cabins, in which dwell persons for whom nobody cares, drunkards, ill-doers, whom others forget and ignore. Quaker Hill ignores no one. There are, indeed, rich and poor, but the former employ the latter, know their state, enjoy their peculiarities, relish their humor. It has apparently always been so. Elsewhere I have described the measures taken by popular subscription to replace the losses suffered by the humbler members of the community, in the tools of life (see Chapter VII). It need not be said that the poorer members bear the rich in mind. Every person resident on the Hill has come to partake in this sense of the community, this practice of new Quakerism. No one is out of sight and yet there is no dream of equality behind this communal sense. It is as far from a communistic, as from a charitable state of mind. It is the result of years of belief in common men and common things.

This "make believe" that commonplace things are the spiritual things was a corollary of George Fox's life as much as of his doctrine. He opposed pomp and ritual, salaried priests, ordinations and consecrations; he disbelieved in "the imposition of hands." His followers therefore went so far as to find in plainness a new sanctity. They adapted at once the "plain garb" of the period of William Penn and Robert Barclay, and the generations of men who followed felt themselves morally bettered by a drab coat and breeches, a white neck-cloth, and a broad-brimmed brown hat; the women by dresses of simple lines, low tones of color, bonnets of peculiar shape, shielding the eyes on either side.

Of course in time this exceptional garb by its uniqueness defeated the very desire George Fox had for "plainness." It was not commonplace but extraordinary. Roby Osborn's garb is thus described by her biographer: "Her wedding gown was a thick, lustreless silk, of a delightful yellowish olive, her bonnet white. Beneath it her dark hair was smoothly banded, and from its demure shelter her eyes looked gravely out. Her vest was a fine tawny brown, of a sprigged pattern, both gown and vest as artistically harmonious as the product of an Eastern loom. Pieces of both were sewn into a patchwork quilt, now a family heirloom."[10]

For more than a century now "plainness in dress" has been extravagance in dress. A proper Quaker hat for man or woman costs twice or thrice what plain people of the same station in life would pay. But be it so. In its day, which is now gone—for only one person now wears "plain dress" on Quaker Hill—it was a true expression of the "make believe" of sanctity in plainness. The quiet colors, the prescribed unworldliness involved a daily discipline, and infused into the wearer an emotional experience which mere economy and real commonness would never so continuously have effected.

The "plain speech" has the same effect. It is part of the same dramatic celebration of an ideal. It is a use of quaint and antique forms, not grammatically correct nor scriptural, in which "thee" takes the place of "thou" and you in the singular, both in the nominative and objective cases. It is not used with the forms of the verb of solemn style, but with common forms, as "thee has" instead of "thou hast." Another element of the "plain speech" is the use of such terms as "farewell" for "good day"—which is declared to be untruthful on bad days! The Quakers also address one another by their first names, and the old-fashioned Friends addressed everybody so, refusing to use such titles as "Mr.," "Mrs.," or "Miss."

Of late years the younger members of the Meeting, while maintaining their standing there, have used with persons not in the Meeting the ordinary forms of speech, as they have refused to assume the Quaker plain garb. With fellow-Quakers and with members of their own families they say "thee."

Before the period of the mixed community this power of idealization, of "making believe," had wrought its greatest effects, but it still has full course and power without the highest direction. The minds of the residents of the Hill are very suggestible; but the persons who have the power to implant the suggestion are no longer inspired as of old, with a sublime and unearthly ideal. They are only animated with an economic one. But the result is the same. It is social, rather than religious. It was one thing for the early Friends to cement together a community through the feeling that in every man was the Spirit of God. A wonderful appetite was that for the assimilation of new members coming into the community. It was a doctrine that made all the children birthright members of the Meeting and so of the community.

But in our later time, between 1895 and 1905, this power of "making believe" had suffered the strain of a division of the meeting. It was harder to believe that the Spirit of God was in all men, when half the community was set off as "unorthodox." It had suffered the strain of seeing the wide social difference caused by money. Yet it bravely played the game. Children are not more adapt at "making believe" than were these old Friends. They deceived even themselves; and their "pretending" assimilated into the communal life every newcomer. For it created underneath all differences a sense of oneness; it kept alive, in all divisions, many of the operations of unity. It compelled strangers and doctrinal enemies to "make believe" to be friends.

I find it difficult to describe this elusive force of the communal spirit in the place, just as the communal character of the place is itself evanescent, while always powerful. I know clearly only this, that it proceeded, and still on Quaker Hill proceeds from the old religious inheritance, and from the present religious character of the place; that it tends directly to the creation of the community of all men, of all different groups, and that it is ready at hand at all time, to be called to the assistance of anyone who knows how to appeal to that communal unity; and that it is a power of idealization, meaning by that "a power of making believe." In this power, I recognize this community as being more expert and better versed than any I have ever known.

The dramatic expression of an ideal has had great social power. Upon the casual observer or visitor it has wrought with the effect of a charm to impress upon them in a subtle way the ideal of Quakerism. Expressed in words, it would have no interest: acted out so quaintly, it awakens admiration, interest, and imitation, not of the forms, but always in some degree of the substance of the Quaker ideal.

Thus the Quaker ideal has given authority to the Friends, especially to the older and more conservative of them; has furnished a subtle machinery for assimilating new members into the community and thus has been an organizing power.

[10] "Richard Osborn—a Reminiscence," by Margaret B. Monahan; Quaker Hill Series, 1903.



From the first the members found themselves subjected to a clear, simple standard of morals. Its dominion was unbroken for one hundred years, and came to an end with the Division of the Meeting; though that event was a result as much as a cause of its termination. For one hundred years a local ethical code prevailed. While they lived apart the Quakers in their community life rejoiced in the unbroken sway of a communal code of morals, the obedience to which made for survival and economic success. When, with better roads to Poughkeepsie and to Fredericksburgh, newcomers began to invade the community; when in 1849 the railroad came to the neighborhood, immersing the Quakers in the world economy, the Quaker code was insufficient, retarded rather than assisted survival, and rather forbade than encouraged success. It therefore lost its force. Only in a few individuals has it survived.

The residents of the Hill, from their earliest settlement in 1728 to the time of the Division in 1828, knew no other government than that of the Meeting. They accepted no other authority, hoped for public good through no other agency, even read no other literature, than that of the Quaker Monthly Meeting of the Oblong. The religious Meeting House was also the City Hall, State House, and Legislature for the patriotism, as it was the focus of the worship and doctrinal activity of this population. This cannot be stated too strongly, for there was no limit to its effect. It explains many things otherwise diverse and unexplained.

During all the periods of war the Quakers showed their separateness by refusing to pay taxes, lest they contribute to the support of armies. In the Revolution, the Meeting exercised unflinching discipline, for the purpose of keeping members out of the patriot armies, and punished with equal vigor those who paid for the privilege of exemption from military duty and those who enlisted in the ranks. In every act of the discipline of the Quaker Community appears the purpose of the Meeting, namely, to keep its members to itself and away from all other moral and spiritual control. This will appear in definite illustrations below.

The standard of morals which the Meeting thus upheld with jealous care was a simple one, and logically derived from the distinctive doctrine of the Society of Friends. That the Spirit of God dwells in every man was their belief,[11] and from 1650, when Fox was called "a Quaker" before Justice Bennett at Derby, England, to the Division in 1830, they applied this doctrine in practical, rather than in metaphysical ways. They were a moral, rather than a theological people. It will appear in this chapter that only when the moral grip of the Meeting was broken in a division did doctrinal questions come to discussion on the Hill.

The moral bearing of the one cardinal doctrine of Quakerism is well expressed in the following quotation from a Friend qualified to speak with authority:

"The Friends have been consistent in all their peculiarities with one central principle, the presence and inspiration of the Divine Spirit in the human soul. This has been the reason for their opposition to slavery. They felt, You cannot hold in slavery GOD! And God is in this black man's life, therefore you cannot enslave God in him. So you must not inflict capital punishment upon this man in whom is God.

"The same argument dignified woman, who was made the equal of man. The same argument applies to the impossibility of war. You cannot think of God fighting against God. The Quaker had no sentimental idea of suffering; but he believed that you cannot take life, in which is God.

"The same argument applied to weights and measures; the Quakers early demanded that they be officially sealed. So they believed in only one standard of truth, rather than one for conversation and one for a court of justice. No oaths were necessary for those who spoke for God all the time."[12]

In this belief one sees the principle on which were selected the reforms in which the Quaker Preacher was interested. "He appears to have had ... his mind strongly influenced to an active protest against the evils of slavery, war, capital punishment and intemperance."[13] Each of these reforms was inspired by reverence for human life, which was thought to be desecrated or abused.

This simple code expressed itself in abstinence from practices believed to defile the body. Members of the Meeting early adopted a strict rule against the use of intoxicating liquors. It is said of the ancestors of Richard Osborn that: "Of these six generations not a man has ever been known to use spirituous liquors, or tobacco, to indulge in profanity, or to be guilty of a dishonest action."[14]

A sense of personal degradation underlay their opposition to poverty among members. There is record of an order of the Meeting, in 1775, for the purchase of a cow "to loan to Joseph ——." The practice thus early observed has since then been unbroken. The member of the community who comes to want is at this day taken care of by popular subscription. Through the early century the Meeting accomplished this end, sometimes by formal, sometimes by informal methods. In the later years of the nineteenth century it was accomplished by special funds to which everybody gave. Thus simply was poverty forestalled. The family assisted soon came to self-support again. No debt was incurred, and no obligation remained to be discharged; but every member of the Meeting and of the community felt obliged to give and was glad to give to this anti-poverty fund. The basis of it seems to have been respect for human embodiments of the Divine Spirit.

This ideal of personality, divinely indwelt, created a sense of personal duty, even in opposition to all men. In the years of anti-slavery agitation David Irish and his sister "made their protest against slavery by abstaining as far as possible from slave-made products; and together they made maple, to take the place of cane sugar, and used nothing but linen and woolen clothing (largely homespun)."[15] This later Quaker, possessed of the spirit of the community of his fathers, shows his inner conflict with the ideals of a competitive age in the expression "so far as possible." It was not as practicable in 1855 to "abstain from slave-made products," as it would have been in the year 1755.

The hospitality of the neighborhood expressed this simple code. It was the custom to entertain the traveler in any house to which he might come. It would have been wrong to exclude him; he was welcomed with a dignified and formal respect by these old Friends, because entertainment of guests in those days was a vital reality, as well as a religious practice. These settlers in the wild forests believed that in every wayfarer was a divine voice, a possible message from heaven. They also treated every traveler as a possible object of their "preachments," and spared not to "testify" to him of their peculiar beliefs and "leadings." It was the Friends' method of propagating their gospel to send men and women on journeys, without pay, to distant states and provinces. This religious touring was not peculiar to them, but it was made by them an official agency of great power in evangelizing the Colonies.

As an itinerant Friend, Woolman, the anti-slavery apostle, came to the Hill in 176-. So Paul Osborn joined himself to a party of Friends "travelling on truth's account," and with them visited the Carolinas, in the years before the Revolution. The same pioneer left in his will directions for the entertainment of such travellers upon his estate forever.[16]

This religious itinerating was a part of the economic life of those days as well; for the Friends never separated the one from the other. Wherever they went they "testified," and to every place they came with shrewd appreciation of its value as a place of settlement. Says James Wood: "Each Quaker home as it was settled became a resting-place for those who followed, for it was a cardinal principle of Quaker hospitality to keep open house for all fellow-members, under all circumstances."[17]

The development of the hospitality that was a part of the religion of the Quakers would be itself a sufficient study. It has furnished some of the most interesting chapters of the history of the Hill. It is now completely transformed, through the pressure of competitive economic life; and, with undiminished activities, has become a means of revenue in "the keeping of boarders." Seven of the old Quaker homes, in the period of the Mixed Community, took on the aspect of small hotels. For this business the Quakers have a preparation in their history and traditions. They have an inbred genius for hospitality. They have also a thrift and capacity for "management" which have made their efforts successful. One is impressed in their houses by a union of abundance with economy, impossible to imitate.

Like other American pioneer neighborhoods, of a religious type, the Quaker community at Oblong had a history in the matter of sexual morality. The relations of the sexes offered to the Friends a field in which their favorite doctrine of the indwelling divine spirit produced moral harvests. The records of Oblong Meeting are filled with cases of moral discipline. There is scarcely a meeting in whose minutes some case is not mentioned, either its initial, intermediate or final stages. No family was exempt from this experience. The best families furnished the culprits as often as they supplied the committees to investigate and to condemn.

The regular method of procedure in marriage will best exhibit the moral standards of the time. When a couple would marry, they indicated to the Meeting their intention; and a committee was at once appointed to investigate their "clearness." That is, these two must be free of other engagements, and must be free of debt or other incumbrance of such sort as would render marriage impossible or unadvisable. At the next monthly meeting the report of the committee advanced the case one stage; and if they were found "clear of all others," another committee was appointed "to see that the marriage was orderly performed."

The parties on the day set appeared before the Meeting,[18] and in its regular course, stood up and said the words of mutual agreement which made them man and wife. A certificate was used, and to it the guests signed their names. But no minister had official part in the ceremony. It was their belief, to which they adhered with logical strictness, that the divine spirit in each of the parties to a marriage made it sacred, and that in marrying they spoke the will of the Spirit.

Entire continence was expected of every unmarried person, and the strictest marital faithfulness of man and wife, because of the sacredness of personal life. But in a pioneer society, through those rough early decades, when for long times war was disturbing the serenity of social life, the conduct of men and women, not mindful of propriety, was determined by the strong, masterful passions of an out of door people. Besides, the government of the Meeting was contrary to the general opinion of the countryside, and the Meeting House members were immersed in a population whose standards were looser, as well as sanctioned by authorities not recognized by the Meeting. The result was that in the first century of the Hill, 1728-1828, there were many instances of sexual immorality, many accusations of married persons untrue to their vows, and a resulting attention of the whole community to this theme which we do not know to-day. Frankness of discussion of these matters prevailed. The punishments inflicted, the public confessions demanded, the condemnation of specific and detailed offences read from the steps of the Meeting Houses, were all as far from present day approval as the offences themselves from modern experience. The writer is sure that, comparing the records of the Quaker Community with his own knowledge of the annals of the Mixed Community, there were more offences of this kind considered by the Monthly Meeting of Oblong in any one year, 1728-1828, than were publicly known in a population of the same extent in the ten years 1890-1900. The commonest of these offences were simple cases of illicit relations between unmarried persons, or between persons, one of whom was married; the offence often being associated in the minds of the accusers with "going to frollicks." In these, as in all cases, the Meeting received the complaint and appointed a committee to investigate and to labor with the accused. On receiving its report, if guilt was evidenced, the Meeting pressed the matter, often increasing the size of the committee. It always demanded an expression of repentance, and the restoration of right conduct, without which no satisfaction was to be had. If the accused persons, being found guilty, did not repent, they were in the end "disowned." The disownment by the Meeting was a serious penalty. It diminished a man's business opportunities, it shut the door of social life to him, and it effectually forbade his marriage within the Meeting.

Its power is shown in a number of cases recorded in the minutes, in which the ban of the Meeting had been laid upon some one, who was compelled later to come to the Meeting, make a tardy acknowledgement, and be restored, before he could proceed freely in some of the communal activities controlled by the Meeting. Often the committee appointed by the Meeting reported that they were not satisfied with the repentance offered, seeing in it evidently more of policy than penitence. Usually they received, in later visitations of the accused, sufficient tokens of submission, and the Meeting was satisfied; but not always.

The most curious instance of the working out of this control exercised by the Meeting, especially over the sexual relations, is in the marriage of Joseph —— with Elizabeth ——. The first act in the little drama was the formal written statement of Joseph that he was sorry for "having been familiar with his wife before his marriage to her." The Monthly Meeting appointed a committee, as usual, after making record of this "acknowledgment." After a month the committee reported that they had visited Joseph, and found his repentance sincere; and another committee was appointed to draw up a testimony against his former misconduct, to which Joseph was required to subscribe; and in a later month to hear it read from the steps of the Preparative Meeting in the neighborhood where he lived—or perhaps in that in which the offence was best known. After this had all been done, with patient detail, and reported and recorded, a further month elapsed, and then announcement was made at the Meeting of the intention of Joseph and Elizabeth to marry. The reader is astonished, thinking that Joseph has already evidenced his loyalty to his wife. A closer re-reading of the stages of the incident shows that the wife mentioned in the original offence was now dead; but that the offence was not dead. Joseph had to be restored to the Meeting before he could marry Elizabeth, who was very evidently a devoted member. To win his new wife, he had to make acknowledgment of the offence which preceded his former marriage.

This incident illustrates the whole attitude of that community toward these moralities. They were thought to be defilements of the body, the temple of God. No change of outward condition could eliminate the offence, which must be wiped out by repentance, public acknowledgment and formal restoration.

It is evident from the foregoing that the Meeting maintained control over the community, at least of its own members, by possessing an effective power to approve or to disapprove of the economic and the marital condition of each individual.

The code of morals practiced in this community required strict business honesty. The Quaker has moral discretion in economic affairs. He "expects to get what he pays for, and he expects to give what he has agreed." The honesty of "stroke-measure," by which bushels are topped off, the faithful performance of contracts and payment of debts were inculcated by the Meeting and enforced by its discipline.

This chapter may fitly close with a statement of the anathema of Quakerism, pronounced many times in a year, during the century. The offence selected shall be a moral one:

"Whereas, Jonathan Osgood hath had a right of membership among us, the people called Quakers, but not taking heed to the dictates of truth, hath so far deviated from the good order established among Friends as to neglect attendance of our religious meetings for worship and discipline, to deviate from the plain scripture language, and to refuse to settle with his creditors, and pay his just debts; and hath shut himself up concealed from the civil authorities, therefore for the clearing of truth and our Religious Society we do testify against his misconduct, and disown him, the said Jonathan Osgood, from being any longer a member of our Society, until he shall from a true sight and sense of his misconduct condemn the same to the satisfaction of the Meeting. Which that he may is our desire for him. Signed, in and on behalf of Purchase Monthly Meeting this th day of the th month."

The above wording except the name is taken from the minutes of Purchase Meeting; and some of the offences mentioned in a few pages of those minutes, for which men were disowned, or for acknowledgment pardoned and restored, are the following: "deviating from plainness of speech and apparel"—"not keeping to the plain scripture language;" "going to Frollicks," "going to places of amusement," "attending a horserace;" "frequenting a tavern, being frequently intoxicated with strong liquor;" "placing his son out apprentice with one not of our Society;" "leaving his habitation in a manner disagreeable to his friends;" "to use profane language and carry a pistol, in an unbecoming manner;" "bearing arms;" "to challenge a person to fight;" "to marry with a first cousin;" "to keep company with a young woman not of our Society on account of marriage;" "to be married by a magistrate;" "to marry with one not of our Society before a hireling priest;" "to join principles and practice with another society of people;" "to be guilty of fornication;" "to be unchaste with her who is now my wife" (the person afterward married by the accused). Oblong minutes: "to have bought a negro slave," "to have bought a negro wench and to be familiar with her."

It was the operation of this code of morals, and of its ecclesiastical checks and curbs, that made the Quaker Hill man and the Quaker Hill sentiment what they are. And having done its work this code at the last tended to weaken the Meeting, as it had strengthened the public conscience. In talking recently with a sweet old lady past eighty, I asked her, "Did you ever hear anyone disowned in meeting?" "No," she never had, and "doubted if there had been many." Later, her daughter said, "Why, Grandmother, you married out of meeting yourself!" Whereupon I asked again, "Well, what did they do with you then?" "Oh," she replied, not at all embarrassed, "they turned me out!"

"But what was the outcome of it all?" asks James Wood, in the closing sentences of his monograph, "The Purchase Meeting." He continues: "As a church the Quakers here missed their great opportunity. As settlers came among them in increasing numbers, the Friends became solicitous to preserve the strictest moral observance among their members. They withdrew from contact and association with the world about them and confined their religious influence and effort to themselves. The strictest watch was maintained over the deportment of old and young. Members were dismissed for comparatively slight offences. Immigration further reduced their numbers. Hypercriticism produced disagreements among themselves. Finally, doctrinal differences arose which resulted in a disastrous separation into two bodies in 1828."

[11] Francis B. Gummere of Haverford college says of George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends: "The central point of his doctrine is the direct responsibility of each soul to God, without mediation of priest or form, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of every human being." Johnson's Universal Cyclopedia, 1894.

The following is authoritative for the Society: "We believe in no principle of life, light or holiness, but the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, bestowed on mankind, in various measures and degrees, through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is the capacity to receive this blessed influence, which, in an especial manner, gives man pre-eminence above the beasts that perish; which distinguishes him, in every nation and in every clime, as an object of the redeeming love of God; as a being not only intelligent but responsible;..."—"A Declaration of Some of the Fundamental Doctrines of Christian Truth, as held by the Religious Society of Friends."

[12] Mr. James Wood, in an address at Quaker Hill Conference, 1907.

[13] "David Irish, A Memoir," by Mrs. Phoebe T. Wanzer.

[14] "Richard Osborn, a Reminiscence," by Margaret B. Monahan.

[15] "David Irish, A Memoir," by Mrs. Phoebe T. Wanzer.

[16] To "friends travelling on truth's account" the doors of the old house always swung wide. Paul Osborn kept open house for "his friends, the people called Quakers," during his lifetime, and his will provides in the most minute and careful manner for his wife "the better to qualifye her to keep a house of entertainment for friends." ... The "littel meadow in lot 29" he gave to Isaac Osborn, that "he shall keep well all horses of friends my wife shall send him;" and should Isaac "neglect the injunctions herein enjoined," and cease to keep such house of entertainment for friends then his right to certain legacies "shall descend and revolve to them, him or her that shall truly fulfill them." All his lands in the latter case Paul gives to the "Yearly Meeting for Friends, the people called Quakers, of Philadelphia."—"Richard Osborn, a Reminiscence," by Margaret B. Monahan.

[17] "The Bi-Centennial of the New York Yearly Meeting, An Historical Sketch," by James Wood, 1895.

[18] "It was Wednesday, the day of the regular mid-week meeting, and the house was crowded. The young people took their places upon the facing seats, and the meeting began. Daniel Haviland was minister and he spoke at length. Then, after a short pause, Richard Osborn and Roby Hoag arose, and clasping hands, spoke alternately the solemn sentences of the Friends' marriage ceremony, which have united them for sixty years. Then was brought forth the marriage certificate, fairly engrossed in the bridegroom's own hand, and many names of those present were affixed, after which it was read aloud. This being done, and kindly greetings offered, Richard and Roby Osborn drove back to their home. The wedding was well furnished with guests, and four fat turkeys graced the board that day."—"Richard Osborn, a Reminiscence," by Margaret B. Monahan. Quaker Hill Series.



Quaker Hill has been always a place of peace. The earliest settlers came to make an asylum for the propagation of the principles of peace. I have spoken elsewhere of their consistent belief and practice of this principle.

The community always acted promptly in response to the known injury of its members. The Quakers have a "Meeting of Sufferings," at which are related and recorded the persecutions from which they suffer. This community, which for one hundred years was Quaker, has always been prompt to act "solidly and judiciously" in support of the injured. An illustration is the riot in opposition to Surgeon Fallon, who in January, 1779, was left here with convalescent soldiers in the Meeting House. It is very interesting as showing the length to which men will go in the interest of peace, even to the use of violence. It illustrates also the fact that kindness to the sick and wounded, simply because they are helpless and needy, is modern, a humanitarian not a dogmatic development.

To superior power the Quakers of this place have always submitted. Their forefathers were loyalists in England, and they in America, till far into the Revolution. But see the resolutions passed in April, 1778:

"The answering of the 14th Query Respecting the Defrauding of the King of his dues is omitted by reason of the Difficulty of the times therefore this meeting desires the Quarterly meeting to Consider whether it would not be well to omit the answering that part of the Query in future until the way may appear more Clear." This action was taken by the meeting five months before the coming of Washington to the Hill, immediately after the heroic winter of Valley Forge and just before the British retreated from Philadelphia. An official body which could speak of dues to the king at that time, after their country had been separated from him for three years, surely represented a community in which the great majority were Loyalists, and the disorderly and violent were Tories.

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