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The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse is the focus of a major community preservation effort designed to stabilize and preserve the building, restore it to its historic appearance, and donate it to an appropriate historical agency for use as an educational and tourism center to interpret the nationally important history of Farmington as a site important to woman’s rights, Quakers and Native Americans, and abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, reflecting national debates about American ideals of equality.

National Importance of This Building

The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meeting is nationally important for its association with major reform movements before the Civil War, including the woman’s rights movement, Native American rights, and the Underground Railroad. Famous Americans associated with this meetinghouse include Lucretia Mott, Austin Steward, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

As an 1816 building, this meetinghouse is perhaps the largest pre-canal building in central and western New York. It is also the second earliest known Quaker meetinghouse still standing west of the colonial settlement area in the U.S. Twenty-five Quaker meetings from all over western New York, Ontario, and Michigan originated from Farmington meeting.

The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse was a center for debates about woman’s rights. In 1838, Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends at Farmington stated that “men’s and women’s meetings for discipline stand on equal footing of common interest and common right.” In 1848, Quakers at Farmington formed the Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends, in which men and women, blacks and whites met together on a basis of complete equality, joined not by creeds but by “practical righteousness.” At least one-quarter of the signers of the Declaration of Sentiments at the first woman’s rights convention at Seneca Falls in July 1848 came from Farmington Quarterly meeting. Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke in this meetinghouse in October 1848, and Susan B. Anthony spoke here in 1873 at the time of her trial for voting.

The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse represents the historic relationship of mutual respect between Quakers and Native Americans. In 1838, after the loss of all Seneca lands in the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, Seneca chiefs and clan mothers appealed here for Quaker assistance. With Quaker help, Seneca people negotiated a compromise treaty in 1842, retaining homelands at Allegany and Cattaraugus. “We pulled the strings and the world’s people danced,” said one Quaker.

The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse was a nationally important Underground Railroad center. As early as 1815, freedom seeker Austin Steward stayed with the Otis Comstock family in Farmington and most likely helped build this meetinghouse. From the 1830s through the 1860s, Farmington families worked closely with an Underground Railroad network associated with Frederick Douglass and Amy Post in Rochester and William Chaplin in Washington, D.C. Freedom seekers William Wells Brown and Sarah and Emily Edmonson lived for a time in Farmington.

Economic Importance

Because of the national importance of this building, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse will provide a source of economic development to Farmington and central New York through heritage tourism. The meetinghouse will be a key link on:
  • National Park Service’s proposed Votes for Women Trail
  • National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
  • Heritage New York’s Underground Railroad Trail, and
  • Heritage New York’s Women’s History Trail
The building also relates to the story of the Seneca Nation, told at nearby Ganondagon Historic Site.

Board puts off razing of Quaker house

by James Goodman,
(May 23, 2007) — The Farmington Town Board has agreed to postpone indefinitely demolition of a historic Quaker meetinghouse while fundraising efforts to save the deteriorating structure continue.

Full article...

Wonderful News!

by Judith Wellman

Our National Register of the Farmington Quaker Crossroads Historic District nomination received the approval of the New York State Review Board yesterday [March 16, 2007] with the full support of all board members present! It is now listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and will be on its way to Washington on Monday, where it will be reviewed and hopefully added to the National Register of Historic Places by April 26, 2007. This is the day that our application for the Save America’s Treasures grant is due. This National Register listing is so important, because it is the basis for all major state and federal grants.

This nomination and listing has been possible not only because of the national significance of this district’s history but also because of the hard work of Mark Peckham of the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; the research of Charles Lenhart and others; the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, which supported this research with a grant last year; and the support of so many of you who have written letters and signed petitions on behalf of this district, including the Town of Farmington, Farmington Quaker Church, North Farmington Cemetery Association, and many other groups and individuals. Many, many, many thanks. This district is a tribute to all of you!

A Trip to Washington, D.C. On March 1, Rich Regen, Billie Luisi-Potts, and Judith Wellman took the early morning red-eye flight from Rochester, New York, to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and then the Amtrak to Washington, D.C., where we met with Fiona Lawless of Save America’s Treasures and Kate Beale and Danielle Kline in Senator Clinton’s office. We explored both a Save America’s Treasures grant and a specific appropriations for the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse. Both meetings were very encouraging, and we thank our hosts so much for their warm welcomes. As a result, we have requested an appropriations from Senator Clinton’s office, and we will write a grant for Save America’s Treasures for $700,000 to help restore the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse. We will also be working on matching grants for these funds.

These grants will go toward stabilizing the basic meetinghouse structure, moving the building onto its new foundation, rebuilding the small building at the rear that was used for small meetings of ministers and elders, and restoring the exterior of the original building. The rebuilt small structure at the rear can then be used as a visitors’ center to house bathrooms, a small exhibit area, and a gift shop. Interior restoration will be a third phase.

See photo above for your intrepid advocates in Washington. What a privilege it is to connect the nationally important themes related to the Farmington meetinghouse with the same themes in our nation's capital, just as people did before the Civil War.

Talk on Quaker History and Farmington Meetinghouse. On April 16, Judith Wellman will be speaking at Representative Meeting of New York Yearly Meeting at Chautauqua on the history of Quakers in Farmington-Scipio Quarterly Meeting, highlighting events at Farmington and Scipio as they reflected women’s rights, Seneca Indian rights, and abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, with a focus on the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse.

So far, we are right on track with our projected plan. Moving right along, in harmony! Peace and joy to you, to those you love, and to all those who love the ones you love, and so it goes around the world.