Importance for Quaker History
Originally built on a knoll just across the road from the current Orthodox meetinghouse (built in 1876), this meetinghouse represents the spread of Quaker meetings west from New England into upstate New York after the American Revolution. This is most likely the earliest meetinghouse still standing west of the colonial settlement area in New York State. Reflecting Quaker values, it is a very plain frame building, 44 feet wide by 60 feet long. It once had a balcony on three sides and a divider down the middle, used to create spaces for separate men’s and women’s meetings. After the Hicksite-Orthodox separation in 1828, Quakers from western New York, Ontario, and Michigan met regularly in Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends (Hicksite) in this meetinghouse in Farmington.
National Importance of this Meetinghouse
In the 1830s, these Friends assumed leadership roles in national reform movements, including the abolition of slavery, the preservation of Seneca Indian land rights, and the woman’s rights movement. National reformers spoke here, including both African American and European American abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and William Wells Brown. In the late 1830s, Haudenosaunee leaders appealed here for Quaker assistance in retaining their homelands. “We pulled the strings and the world’s people danced,” said one Quaker reformer. In terms of women’s rights, Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends at Farmington in 1838 stated explicitly that “men’s and women’s meetings for discipline stand on equal footing of common interest and common right.” Ten years later, in June 1848, 200 Quakers walked out of this building to form 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 in Seneca Falls, held in June 1848, came from Farmington Quarterly meeting. In her autobiography, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote that the first speech she gave after the Seneca Falls convention was at Farmington meeting. Susan B. Anthony spoke here in 1873 at the time of her trial for voting.
In 1927, this building was moved to its current location, just east of its original spot, where its gallery was turned into a second floor and its windows were lowered a full sash length. Benches and stoves were moved to neighboring homes, and the meetinghouse became a barn.
For more on the architectural and historical significance of Quaker meetinghouses, see Catharine Lavoie, Silent Witness: Quaker Meetinghouses in the Delaware Valley, 1695 to the Present (based on Historic American Building Survey documentation, with an introduction by Christopher Densmore) and Silas B. Weeks, New England Quaker Meetinghouses, Past and Present.
Thanks to Helen Burgio, Christopher Densmore, Doug Fisher, Margaret Hartsough, Helen Kirker, and Charles Lenhart for their assistance with information about the meetinghouse.
- Prepared by Judith Wellman, February 27, 2006.