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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Exeter Friends Meetinghouse

I saw in this morning's newspaper that the Exeter Friends Meetinghouse is observing their 250th anniversary this weekend. You can see the article here:
They had four speakers scheduled for today, beginning at 10:45. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. Leroy had other plans so I headed down there myself.
I had a great day---after I finally got there. The address in the paper was incorrect (19 instead of 191 Meetinghouse Road) and the place Mapquest sent me to was about 7 miles from where I wanted to be. I got there and knew right away I was at the wrong place. Thanks to cell phones and some fancy maneuvering, Gerald was able to direct me to the right place but I missed the 10:45 speaker.
I decided to hang around for the second speaker at 1 pm and while I was waiting I got to talking to the man who had been the first speaker. He wasn't busy so he took me inside and did a re-run for me. He was a member of that congregation (they call it meeting) and talked mostly about their beliefs and practices. The values they stress are simplicity, integrity, patience, peace, and equality. Women have always had equal rights with men in speaking at meetings. They do not practice baptism, communion, ordination ceremonies for their leaders, or take offerings. (One of the tourists said if they'd spread the word about no offerings their group might suddenly grow!) They still sit in silence until someone feels led to say something. They sit for an hour and if no one says anything, that's it. They shake hands and the meeting is over. A Quaker meeting for real! After the meeting they divide adults and children for First Day School (Sunday School) when they have discussions and/or other activities.
The second speaker was not a Quaker and talked more about the history of the Oley valley and architecture of the building. That was very interesting too. There is electric in the building but it is very well hidden so as not to spoil the colonial look. The benches date back to the 1700s. Daniel Boone's family worshiped in a log building across the road from the current building which was constructed in 1759. The Boones left for North Carolina in 1750 but Daniel would have been in the 1759 building when he came back to visit his relatives. Abraham Lincoln said his grandparents were Quakers from Berks County but the records of Exeter Meeting do not show President Lincoln's grandparents being members. They may have attended there without being members for there is a record of a Boone-Lincoln marriage and also of Lincolns being buried in the cemetery.

Outside of the Meetinghouse (above) and inside (below). The ministers and elders sat on the "facing" benches on the right side of the picture, facing the members of the meeting. The wall in the middle divided the men and women's sections. Movable panels could be pulled down to completely close off the wall and provide some privacy when men and women had their separate business meetings. Quakers were very organized and kept detailed records which today are a delight to genealogists and historians.

The cemetery was a disappointment. There are quite a few Boones and Lincolns buried in it but they carried their idea of equality too far. Some people could afford more expensive stones than others so, to keep everyone equal, no stones were erected for anyone. The cemetery is just an empty lawn inside a stone wall. They kept a good cemetery record so they know who is buried there but there were no Boone or Lincoln stones to photograph. I don't know how they knew the cemetery was full, but sometime in the 1800s they ran out of space so they hauled more ground in and buried people in a second layer at the upper end of the cemetery. Quakers did begin to use gravestones later on but in a cemetery this old they did not and they kept it that way. The members are proud of their old stone-less cemetery. Makes mowing a cinch, I guess.

They were running a shuttle bus to the Boone homestead a couple miles away so I went over there for about a half hour. Nothing was going on so the buildings were closed but I walked around the grounds and took a few pictures.

In 1730, Daniel Boone's father, Squire Boone, built a log house over a spring on this spot. Daniel was born in that log house in 1734. After 1750 the portion of the house on the right was added to the log house. Then the log house was replaced with the stone portion on the left after 1770, using the same foundation on which Squire Boone had built the log house.

I rode the last bus back to the meetinghouse at 3 and got home at 4. It turned out to be a longer day than I expected but I enjoyed it---even if I was alone and had the run around getting there. I have thought for years I want to see the Boone homestead sometime and never got there. I've gone across the ocean to look at historical things and never crossed my own county to see this bit of local history. Now I have! But I want to go back sometime when the buildings are open and more is happening there. At least next time I will know how to drive directly there instead of taking the scenic route.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do so enjoy following your blog, especially the historical articles. I don't believe I knew that Daniel Boone was from Pa.

Mary Horst, Ontario