Snow if falling over Utah Valley! From the front window I can see most of Pleasant Grove. American Fork disappears into a wall of white. I don't mean to startle you with the exclamation mark (one should take caution when using strong punctuation on a Sunday), but I wanted to emphasis the fact that this is the second time this winter snow has accumulated on the Fortress' front lawn. We were buried under a mountain of white this time last year. This certainly has been an interesting winter.
Today I wanted to introduce you to the faith of many of our Williamson forefathers. The following list represents just a few in our family line professing Quakerism. Their strong religious beliefs brought them to this country. We are the fortunate beneficiaries of their decision.
10th Great Grandparents, William Brinton and Ann Bagley
9th Great Grandparents Francis and Alice Fincher
8th Great Grandparents, Francis and Grace Standfield
8th Great Grandparents, Henry Willis and Mary Pease
6th Great Grandparents, Joseph and Rebecca Bennett
Many in the above list were persecuted for their Quaker beliefs. They endured steadfastly with a determination to raise their children in a community which tolerated religious freedom. I admire them most of all.
I believe to truly appreciate our family's strong religious history we should know something about their beliefs. For that reason I'd like to introduce you to Quakerism 101. Please take a moment to familiarise yourself with our grandparent's beliefs and practices.
American Quaker HistoryIn 1675, another large group of immigrants left England for the New World. They were mainly from the Midlands region of England, and most were members of the Society of Friends, called the Quakers. From 1675 to 1725, over 23,000 of them settled what would become Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Eastern New Jersey.
(The Religious Society of Friends)
(The Religious Society of Friends)
The Quakers didn’' believe in the authority of clergy. They also didn't believe that God should be worshiped in churches. Instead, they created an organization based on the equality of individuals. They held meetings in meeting houses rather than religious services in churches.
The Quakers believed that war was wrong. They refused to support a military, unlike many other colonists. Also, they were one of the first American colonial groups to condemn slavery. They believed in the natural equality of all people under God.
Like the Puritans, the Quakers had suffered from persecution because of their faith, in both England and America. The ruling Anglicans in England imprisoned Quakers because they didn't believe in paying taxes. In Virginia, they banished them. The Puritans of Massachusetts banished Quakers, and, in some cases, burned them as witches.
The Quakers themselves developed a different approach to those who didn't share their beliefs. In their own colony in the New World, they promoted religious freedom. People in Quaker settlements were allowed to worship according to their own Christian beliefs. However, Quakers didn't allow people who did not believe in God to settle in their colonies.
Who Were the Quakers?
Their economic and social backgrounds were very different from the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Anglicans. Most of them were poor to middle class. Very few came from the upper classes. Most made their living as craftsmen, farmers, and manual laborers.
Although many were poor, they found the means to come to the New World. Some had been given the money for their passage by Quakers in England. That means they came to this country without a large debt to pay off.
They brought their manner of speech from the Midlands, too. The colonial Quakers used the forms of speech "thee" and "thou" for "you," as did their English relatives. This form of speech is still used among the Amish people of Pennsylvania. They are descendants of the early German settlers.
The Delaware Valley
William Penn making a treaty with Native Americans in Pennsylvania.
The Delaware Indians
An example of a Quaker house,
from Quakerstown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The Quakers encouraged marriage within their community. But they discouraged Quakers from marrying non-Quakers. People who did that were often banished from the community.
Raising children was of great importance to Quaker family life. Their upbringing was a serious responsibility for parents and the whole community. Children were taught to obey their parents. But the Quakers didn't agree with the Puritan's harsh punishment of children. Instead, they used reason to reinforce good behavior. Nor did they agree with the Puritan idea of "sending out." They encouraged their children to stay at home among family. They were very strict in certain areas, however. For example, they didn't allow dancing, which they thought was wicked.
The Quaker idea of equality was part of their understanding of family. Children were considered to be equal to adults in many ways. In the home, children sat at the dinner table with their parents. In the meeting house, children as well as adults preached to the members.
The Quakers' idea of equality extended to women, too. In the 18th century, most cultures and religions considered women inferior to men. But the Quakers celebrated equal roles for women and men, especially in practicing their faith.
The Quaker services were very different from other Christian services. They quietly gathered together in the meeting house. Then they each "turned their mind to the light." There was no altar or pulpit. They didn't have a minister to lead them in worship, because they didn't believe it was necessary. They didn't have a set of rituals to follow, either.
A painting showing a Quaker meeting, with a woman preaching.
The interior of the Plymouth Quaker Meeting House
in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, built in 1708.
The Quakers favored "natural knowledge," and learning by doing. They also encouraged children to learn a trade. Boys and girls were encouraged to learn, in the classroom and in the world around them.
The Quakers liked simple food, prepared simply. They usually boiled their food, and made different kinds of puddings and dumplings. Through boiling, they created a food we still eat today: Philadelphia cream cheese. They made it by boiling cream, then drying it in cloth. They also made foods like apple butter in a similar way.
In keeping with their religious beliefs, the Quakers avoided foods that were created with slave labor. At that time, sugar came from sugar plantations, worked by slaves. Many Quakers refused to buy it. Also, salt was taxed, and the taxes used to pay for the military. The Quakers were pacifists--they did not believe in war--so many did without salt, too.
Women's clothing was also extremely simple. Their clothing didn't have buttons, pockets, or decorations of any kind. Women wore simple homespun dresses, with aprons and a simple shawl. Their clothing was grey or another dark color. Children dressed like their parents, in very simple clothing.
Games and Sports
The Quakers also condemned ball games enjoyed by the Puritans of New England. But they did believe that exercise was good for people, especially children. They encouraged activities like swimming and ice-skating, which they found "useful." They also liked to garden, which they considered useful, too.
Most Quakers lived on a family farm, with other Quaker farms nearby. This encouraged neighborhoods. Quakers often helped out their neighbors, including non-Quaker families, in building homes and barns.
The Quakers elected officials, like sheriffs, judges, and peace makers, to enforce laws and keep order in the settlements. The Quakers encouraged political activity among the settlers of all backgrounds. They held elections, and elected an Assembly in Pennsylvania.
The Quakers also believed in a minimal government, because that allowed greater individual freedom. And, significantly, they believed that a person was free to follow one's own conscience. Even those who disagreed with Quaker ideals were allowed that important freedom within their communities. The first law passed in Pennsylvania established freedom of conscience, and of worship to all.
William Penn outlined three major freedoms: (1) the right to one's life, liberty, and estate, (2) the right to representative government, and (3) the right to trial by jury. Also, taxes could not be imposed without the approval of the people.
Slavery: It is important to note the difference among the colonists on the issue of slavery. While many Quakers owned slaves at the founding of the colony, by the late 17th century, colonial Quakers were fighting for its abolition. In 1758, the Philadelphia Quaker Meeting issued the first anti-slavery document in history.
One of the great symbols of freedom in the U.S. is the Liberty Bell. It was created by the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of William Penn's "Charter of Privileges." That list of laws and rules outlined the goals of the Quaker colony.
The inscription is taken from the Bible. It states, simply and profoundly, the beliefs of the Quakers: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." The great bell was rung on July 8, 1776, to celebrate the birth of a new nation. The Quaker ideal of liberty for all would inspire the colonists as they waged war against those who would deny them their liberties.