Testimony of Freedom: The Quakers of Eastern Shore of Maryland

Part I - Maryland's Quakers

American Quakers subscribed to these testaments:

Source: "Quakers & Testimonies," Quaker Home Service, Friends House, London, Eng., 1990.                                                                            

Photo right: Third Haven New Meeting, Easton, Md.

Because of Lord Baltimore's offer of religious freedom and protection of religious sects under provincial law, Maryland attracted many dissenters. A dissenter can be defined as one who does not practice a state religion, but seeks freedom of conscience in the doctrine of a personal presence & guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In England, Scotland, and Wales, religious dissenters were persecuted depending on the religion of the English monarchy. Elizabeth I of England persecuted Catholics, while her sister Mary persecuted Protestants. Catholics were given more freedom under the Stuarts because their queens were French Catholic princesses.

A Protestant revolution in England began in 1688 placing William & Mary on the British throne. They commissioned Sir Lionel Copley as the first Royal Governor of  Province of Maryland. He arrived in the spring of 1692 and took over the government from the hands of the Committee of Safety. Upon meeting of the Assembly at St. Maries, the members took the prescribed oath except John Edmondson of Talbot Co. Being Quaker, he asked to make a declaration to which the Lower House assented, but the Upper House expelled him. An act was passed making the Church of England the established  church  of Maryland with a tax per poll of 40 pounds of tobacco. In Talbot County, Quakers were among the largest land owners and wealthiest ship builders on the bays & inlets of the Chesapeake country. John Edmondson & William Sharp, Quakers, were among the leading shipping merchants in Oxford. The act establishing the Church of England as a state church was a blow to religion freedom which had been unique to Maryland for over fifty years. 

From the beginning, Lord Baltimore's Maryland could not attract enough wealthy English Catholic families to make a profitable venture, so the Proprietor was forced to open his colony, not only to Catholic recusants who wouldn't support the English Protestant state church, but also to dissenters which included Quakers, many of whom began as Puritans. Quaker movement founded by George Fox in England attracted many who wished to purify the state religion. Quakerism appeared in England about the middle of the 17th Century, coming at the end of a hundred years of religious ferment. During this time there were many attempts to "purify" the Christian Church of England producing a spectrum of "puritans" and "purifiers."  To thousands of Englishmen and women, the church offering a second-hand religious experience had grown too formal . The Quaker meeting for worship expressed individual freedom to seek the "inner light of truth" through quiet meditation. Small groups sprang up all across England by the early 1650s. The Quaker religion centered on four main tenets: community, peace, equality, and simplicity.

  3rdhav2.jpg (252560 bytes) In American colonies many dissenters like the Puritans and Quakers, later Presbyterians and Methodists, sought to practice their religious beliefs free from interference by colonial governors and assemblies Up until the Revolutionary War, governors like Lord Berkeley of Va. sought to banish all dissent from the colony. The Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland became a haven for dissenters like the Quakers. The Quakers who settled in Talbot County were from England, Ireland, and Wales as well as from Virginia & New England. An unswervingly honest, temperate, generous, yet clannish people, they left their impress ineffaceably upon the Eastern Shore's Talbot County.                     

Photo right: Third Haven Old Meeting, Easton, Md.

In 1655, George Fox wrote in his diary: Several Friends went beyond the seas to declare the everlasting Truth of God. Fifty-nine, nearly half of whom were women, migrated between 1656 and 1663. Most Quakers went to New England, but some missionaries ended up in the Chesapeake colony of Maryland owing to the greater freedom of conscience in religion there than elsewhere in the colonies. Maryland was the scene of the first substantial convincements in Quakerism. In the absence of a strong Anglican presence, Quakerism, like other Nonconformist sects, flourished. Quaker links to Bristol were close. The West Country was a center of Quakerism, and the Society of Friends in Bristol  in 1667 were in regular contact with Friends in Virginia.

Quakerism evidently appealed to men and women of the English middle class, especially those involved in mercantile activites, skilled work of various kinds, and the clothing trade. Some 29 per cent of Bristol Friends were involved in commerce or  food and drink processing; while clothing trades accounted for another 40 percent. Relative to their numbers, Quakers were well-represented in occupations associated with transAtlantic commerce.

Part II - Quaker Families of Eastern Shore of Maryland

Early colonists like the Preston family of Calvert & Dorchester Cos. Md., came to Maryland as Puritans seeking freedom from persecution in England. Upon removing from Mass. Bay Colony and Virginia, they came to Maryland and were again intensely persecuted, not only for refusing to pay church taxes, but also for political reasons. Richard Preston immigrated from Virginia to Calvert Co Md in 1650 with his wife Margaret and five children: Richard Jr., James, Samuel, Margaret and Naomi. [Patent L ABH F140] Two more children were born in Calvert Co: Rebecca and Sarah.  In the same year, he was commissioned Military Commander of the Patuxent River area. In 1654 when Puritans took over governing Maryland, the seat of the Puritan government was established at the home of Richard Preston. He represented Calvert Co in the Md. Assembly from 1658 thru 1668. In 1669, he was elected to represent the newly formed Dorchester County. He acquired 2000 acres in what became Dorchester Co. Md. In Caroline Co, there is a town called Preston, named for the family.

    The history of the New and Old Light Quakers can be found in "Three Hundred Years and More of Third Haven Quakerism," by Ken Carroll. Carroll's text reveals both overt and at times subtle harassment of Eastern Shore Quakers. Third Haven Meeting was founded by Irish Quakers like Bryan O'Meally of Talbot and Cecil Cos. Md.

Photo left: Quaker furniture maker of Easton, Talbot Co. Md.

The politically  powerful family of Anne Arundel County, the Puritan Lloyds, more than any other family set the tone of harassment by which the Puritans families rose to power, while families like the Dawsons of Talbot County retreated from power. A religious battle which began in England under Cromwell, spread to the colonies. It was a battle of freedom of conscience versus political power. A battle which still rages today in our American seat of power, Washington, D.C.

  Part III: The Bayside Meeters

George Fox came to Maryland in 1672 to visit among the Friends on both sides of the Bay. While at the head3rdhavd3.jpg (114415 bytes) of Third Haven, he stayed with John Edmondson, wealthy planter and merchant, and one of the earliest Quaker settlers on the Eastern-shore. Out of his Talbot visit came the first Meeting in Maryland, organized in the home of Wenlock Christison. From this meeting came Betty's Cove Meeting with its Meeting House on Miles River, which continued until "at our joint Quarterly Meeting of ye First Month 1683, the Meeting decided upon "Ye Great Meeting House. " Third Haven was "sixty foote long, forty four foote wide...framed with good white oak...ye roof double raftered and studded." It still stands today, not only the oldest Meeting House in America, but an enduring monument to those who framed it.                       

Photo right: Interior of Third Haven Meeting, Easton, Md., as it looks today.

Many families who worship there today bear the names of those at the first meeting: 24th of 8th month, 1684. Some of the first Quaker families in Talbot County worshipped at Third Haven: the Dixon, Kemp, Stephens/Stevens, Gary, Bartlett, Harwood, Christison, Sharp, Auld, Ball, Powell, Frith, Lurty, Sherwood, and Fedderman.

The site of the first Quaker Meeting in Talbot County was near the present-day villages of McDaniel & Wittman. The land was given for the purpose c1667 by Robert Kemp, a young Quaker recently come to Bayside. The land was adjacent to "Boulton," also known as "The Quaker Kemp Farm." Betty's Cove Meeting, visited by George Fox in 1672 & 1673, was located at "North Bend," owned by James Dixon. The Meeting House was finished c1676 and continued in use till c1693. Long after the death of John Kemp IV, his widow Sarah more than a century after the abandonment of the Bayside Meeting Houses, except by the encircling dead in the cemetery, with her children would sit meeting alone

Part IV: Early Patents in Western Talbot County

Bayhmap.jpg (331885 bytes)Below the village of McDaniel at the head of Harris [First] Creek was "Clay's Neck." It was surveyed for Henry Clay, the ancestor of the great Kentuckian Henry Clay. The home was one of the oldest in Talbot. "Clay's Neck" served successively as a home of Clay, Wrighton, and Lowe families. On the land near the road was the old Quaker Meeting House built by the hands of John Lowe, Robert Clarke, and William Worrilow. John Wrightson of Bayside was a Yorkshireman, as were many others. In the introduction to Pedigrees of the County Families of Yorkshire by Dr. Joseph Foster, it may be noted many geographical names in Talbot County are those in use in West Riding, Yorkshire. The village which grew up around the first Talbot court house on the headwaters of the Wye River was named Yorke in honor of the ancient city in Yorkshire.

Early Patents in Bay Hundred of Talbot County: Ralph Dawson's Mabell 1664 #62 & Upp-Holland 1667 #31& Fairplay 1679 #3; John Anderton's Lostock 1659 #46; Robert Dawson's "Dawson's Composition" 1734 #49.

In modern times, Talbot County became divided into districts, but many of the older folk still used the term "hundred."  Between 1662 and 1707, Talbot County encompassed all of the present Queen Anne County and the western portion of present Caroline County lying between Tuckahoe Creek and the Choptank River. Chester River was the northern boundary of Talbot. Talbot County grew quickly in the decade 1692 to 1702. When land grants "on the water" were depleted,  deeds noted "in the woods," meaning away from the waterfront. Roads were laid out for the convenience of travelers on foot, on horseback or by cart or carriage. The Port of Oxford, a thriving little center of shipping, was renamed Williamstadt in 1695. By the time Queen Anne had taken the throne of England, Williamstadt was a memory and the name of Oxford was reinstated.

Return to First Page

Internet Quaker Sites :

Cyndi's List of Gen Sites on Internet - "Quaker" : http://www.CyndisList.com/quaker.htm

Bibliography for Part I

1. "First Dorchester Families," by Calvin W. Mowbray, Fam. Line. Pub., 1984:   "The Prestons" pp. 124-126;   "The Gorsuchs" p. 125;   "The Edmondsons pp. 34-35; "The Powells" pp. 123-124; "The Frances Dawson Family" pp. 26-27; "The Fishers" pp. 38-39; "The Willises" pp. 172-173;  " The Ennalls" pp. 36-37; "The Fosters" pp. 43-44.

2. "Colonial Families of the Eastern Shore," Vol. 3, by Robt. W. Barnes & F. Edw. Wright, Fam. Line Pub. 1997. "The Dawson Family of Talbot Co. Md." pp. 105 -115.

3. "Quaker Records in MD," by Phebe R. Jacobsen, Pub. No. 14, The Hall of Records Commission, State of Maryland, Annapolis, 1966.

4. "Joseph Nichols & the Nicholites: the New Quakers," by Ken Carroll, Easton Pub. Co, 1962.

5. "Quakerism on the Eastern Shore," by Ken Carroll, Md. Hist. Society, 1970.

6. "Three Hundred Years & More of Third Haven Quakerism," by Ken Carroll, Queen Anne Press, 1984.

7. "Restoration Old Third Haven Meetinghouse," pamphlet pub. by Third Haven Meeting, Easton, Md.

8. "Old Third Haven Meeting House," pamphlet pub. by Third Haven Meeting, Easton, Md.

9. "The Quaker Faith in Delaware" in "Delaware Church Records" by Raymond B. Clark, Box 352, St. Michaels, Md. 1986. pp. 23-24.

10. "Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy," Vols. I - V,  by Wm. Wade Hinshaw, Balto Md: Gen. Pub. Co, 1946.

11. "Immigration of Irish Quakers into PA," by Albert Myers, NY: Murphy & McCarthy, 1923.

12. "The Quakers in American Colonies," by Rufus Jones, New York: Russell & Russell, 1963

13. "Adapting to a New World," James Horn, Chapel Hill: NC Univ. Press, 1984.

14. "Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records, 1776-1800," Book 4, F. Edw. Wright, Fam. Line Pub. 1994. Third Haven MM Records pp. 25-34; Cecil MM Records pp. 5-9; and Nicholite Records pp. 35-40.

15. "Vital Records of Kent & Sussex Cos, DE, 1686-1800," by  F. Edw. Wright, Fam Line Pub. 1994.  Duck Creek Monthly Minutes, 1705-1800.

16. "History of Talbot Co Md," Oswald Tilghman, Bowie, Md: Heritage Classic Book Co reprint, 1915, Vol 2, pp. 521-530.

Bibliography for Part II

"Maryland Genealogies," from MD Historical Magazine, Thomas L. Hallowak, ed.,Vols I & II Gen Pub Co, 1997:                               

Vol I - "Ball of Bayside" Francis B. Culver pp. 6-16; "A Visitation of Western Talbot" Emerson B. Roberts pp. 17-27; "Some Friends of Ye Friends in Ye Ministry" Emerson B. Robert pp. 361-376.

Vol II - "Meeters at the Bayside," by Emerson B. Roberts pp. 110-120; "Lloyd Family" Christopher Johnston 169-179; "Second Visitation of Western Talbot:Wrightson, Lowe, and Lambdin families," Emerson B. Roberts pp. 500-509.

Bibliography for Part III

"Talbot County Land Records," Vols I - 15, by R. Bernice Leonard, Fam. Line Pub., 1992; Bay Hundred Patent Map, Bk 12.