1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse

1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse
160 County Route 8, Farmington, New York

Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse, Built 1816, Photos c. 1917
Courtesy Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore, and Macedon Town Historian

Description: Reflecting Quaker values, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse is a very plain building, 47 feet wide by 60 feet long. It once had a balcony on three sides and a divider down the middle, separating men’s meetings from women’s meetings. In 1927, John Van Lare moved this building 325’ to its current location, created a second floor, lowered its second-story windows. He used it as a barn, moving benches and stoves into neighboring homes.

Significance: Built in 1816 to replace earlier 1796 and 1804 buildings, this meetinghouse represents the spread of Quaker meetings from New England into upstate New York after the American Revolution. Perhaps the largest pre-canal building in central and western New York, it is also the 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. Originally part of New York Yearly Meeting, Farmington also became the site in 1834 of Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends (Hicksite).

Before the Civil War, many Friends assumed leadership roles in national reform movements, including abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, the preservation of Seneca Indian rights, and the woman’s rights movement. National reformers spoke in Farmington, including William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. In the late 1830s, Haudenosaunee leaders appealed here for Quaker assistance. “We pulled the strings and the world’s people danced,” said one Quaker. 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.

Current Status and Future Plans:

In February 2006, a windstorm blew off the east wall of the meetinghouse. Eighty percent of the original fabric remains. Working with architect John G. Waite, local, regional, and national supporters organized to stabilize, document, and restore the building, now being nominated to the National Register and the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom, for use as an interpretive center for the nationally important history of Farmington in woman’s rights, the relationship between Quakers and Native Americans, and abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. Donors so far include Heritage New York Women’s History Trail, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and many individuals. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation (P.O. Box 603, Seneca Falls, N.Y., 13148), a 501c3 organization, owns the meetinghouse and accepts donations.

Report prepared by Judith Wellman, with help from Helen Burgio, Christopher Densmore, Douglas Fisher, Margaret Hartsough, Helen Kirker, and Charles Lenhart.

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