Joseph John Gurney in Farmington

After 1828, the 1816 Quaker meetinghouse became officially a Hicksite (Quaker) Meetinghouse, but Orthodox Friends continued to use it for large gatherings.

In 1841, British Friend Joseph John Gurney traveled through the U.S. Gurney, son of a wealthy Norwich banker, was an aristocrat and a philanthropist, devoted to antislavery. He visited dignitaries in Washington, including the British ambassador, Senator Henry Clay, Senator John C. Calhoun, and Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, trying to convince them that slavery could successfully be abolished, as the British had abolished it in the West Indies.

He also traveled throughout U.S. When he went west across upstate New York, he stopped in Farmington. There he spoke to “a large settlement of Friends.” “Great was the multitude of persons, including many of the Hicksite denomination,” he wrote, “who flocked to our meeting both in the morning and afternoon.” He held several meetings among this “sturdy, intelligent, and prosperous people,” including one in the Hicksite meetinghouse. He had “a memorable time; two large overflowing meetings; that in the afternoon, from the pressure of the multitude, held in the Hicksite meeting-house,” he noted in his journal. “ I think they were good times,” he added, “the truth being triumphant, and Christ fully preached.” [1]

Gurney spent the evening with a “veteran minister” (probably Caleb McCumber), “whose sterling good sense, comprehensive views of Christianity, and fervent piety, are not the less striking for the perfect originality and even quaintness of his manners and appearance.” Gurney, a British aristocrat, could not resist adding that “I give this brief description of our friend because it characterizes the effect produced by divine grace in the midst of he hardy discipline of these rough regions.” When Elizabeth Cady Stanton visited England on her honeymoon the following year, she and her husband Henry B. Stanton stopped to visit Joseph John Gurney. “We spent a few days with John Joseph Gurney at his beautiful home in Norwich,” Stanton remembered in her autobiography. “He had just returned from America, having made a tour through the South. When asked how he liked America, he said, ‘I like everything but your pie crust and your slavery.’"

[1]Joseph John Gurney, A journey in North America, described in familiar letters to Amelia Opie (Norwich [England]: J. Fletcher, 1841), 308-9; Joseph John Gurney, Journal, Rochester, New York, 7 Mo. 28, 1839; Joseph Bevan Braithwaite, ed., Memoirs of Joseph John Gurney (Norwich [England]: Fletcher and Alexander, 1854), 2:173.

Lessor-Known Figures Associated with Farmington

Also important, although less well known, were:
  • Caroline C. and William G. Barker (Farmington Quakers, signers of Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments)
  • Josephine Brown (African American author) lived in Farmington as a girl
  • Darius and Otis Comstock (Farmington Quakers, major Underground Railroad supporters)
  • Daniel and Mary Anthony (members of Farmington Quarterly Meeting, abolitionists and woman’s rights supporters), Susan B. Anthony’s parents
  • Elias J. and Susan Doty (Farmington Quakers, signers of Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments)
  • Jacob Ferris (Farmington Quaker abolitionist lecturer)
  • Sunderland P. Gardner (Farmington Quaker minister for 42 years, who preached widely throughout the U.S. and Canada)
  • Cassandra Green Hathaway (Farmington teacher, abolitionist, and woman’s rights activist)
  • Esther Hathaway (Farmington abolitionist and Underground Railroad, friend of Frederick Douglass)
  • Phebe Hathaway (Farmington abolitionist organizer and Underground Railroad supporter, friend of Frederick Douglass)
  • Anson S. Lapham (founder of Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College)
  • Pliny Sexton (Farmington Quaker, abolitionist, Underground Railroad activist, attended national woman’s rights conventions)
  • Asa B. Smith (Farmington Quaker, abolitionist, Underground Railroad activist)
  • Catharine Fish Stebbins (born in Farmington, Quaker abolitionist, signer of Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments, friend of Sojourner Truth)
  • Maria E. Wilbur (Farmington Quaker, signer of Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments).

Important Regional and National Reformers Associated with Farmington

by Judith Wellman, with help from Charles Lenhart and Chris Densmore.

  • Susan B. Anthony (Quaker and major woman’s rights leader) spoke in this 1816 meetinghouse in 1873, at the time of her trial for voting
  • William Wells Brown (freedom seeker from Kentucky) lived in Farmington from 1844-46 and wrote his autobiography there
  • Eliab W. Capron (Farmington Quaker, editor, and signer of Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention)
  • William Chaplin (major Underground Railroad activist and editor, whose capture in Maryland in 1850 became a focal point of national abolitionist activity)
  • Griffith Cooper (Farmington Quaker, Indian rights activist, and Underground Railroad supporter)
  • Frederick Douglass (one of the nation’s most important abolitionist editors, lecturers, and freedom seekers) spoke many times in Farmington
  • Mary and Emily Edmondson (escaped from slavery after being captured on the Pearl in1848) lived in Farmington before receiving help from Harriet Beecher Stowe to attend Oberlin College
  • William Lloyd Garrison (outspoken editor of Boston-based Liberator and anchor of American Anti-Slavery Society) spoke in Farmington
  • Joseph John Gurney (British Quaker abolitionist) spoke in Farmington
  • Joseph C. Hathaway (Farmington Quaker, lecturer, Underground Railroad supporter, President of Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, President pro tem of first national women’s rights convention in Worcester in 1850)
  • Elias Hicks (national Quaker reformer) spoke in Farmington
  • Thomas M’Clintock (Quaker abolitionist, woman’s rights advocate, Underground Railroad supporter, organizer of Congregational Friends in Farmington, 1848)
  • Myrtilla Miner (set up nationally known school for African American girls in Washington, D.C., based in part on Farmington model)
  • Lucretia Mott (nationally known Quaker minister and reformer) spoke many times in Farmington
  • Lindley Murray Moore (Clerk of Farmington Quarterly Meeting, Orthodox, and President of Haverford College, 1848-52)
  • Amy Post (member of Farmington Quarterly meeting, major woman’s rights activist, abolitionist, and Underground Railroad supporter)
  • Gerrit Smith (nationally known abolitionist leader, nominated for President by the Liberty League, meeting just north of Farmington in 1848)
  • William R. Smith (nationally important Underground Railroad activist, mentioned in Josiah Henson’s autobiography, ran for Governor of New York State as the Liberty League candidate in 1852)
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton (major woman’s rights leader and organizer of Seneca Falls convention) gave her second major woman’s rights speech in 1816 Farmington meetinghouse
  • Austin Steward (nationally important freedom seeker and African American leader) lived in Farmington from 1815-1818

Update on 1816 Farmington Meetinghouse

by Judith Wellman

Thank you! On December 18-19, the meetinghouse was all wrapped up, in a large net, like a gift to the future. Thanks to all of you who helped raise funds and lent your moral support for this effort, as well as to the work of Mike Perkins, contractor, and Matthew Abate, engineer. This will keep pieces of the meetinghouse from blowing off into the road and also give the building some minimal protection from the elements, while we continue to work on its National Register nomination and on fund-raising.

We so grateful to all of you who came forward with financial help and warm thoughts. This could never have been done without you. You were truly an inspiration, and you have made a gift to the health of the world.

We are finishing work on the National Register nomination this month. This will be a nomination for the Farmington Quaker Crossroads District, incorporating several sites at the four corners, including the 1816 meetinghouse, the 1876 meetinghouse, the cemetery, and others. For a list of important people associated with this area, see the bottom of this newsletter.

Primary source evidence continues to accumulate about people and events related to both the 1816 and the 1876 meetinghouses. Charles Lenhart has done an extraordinary amount of research for this project, and Christopher Densmore, Curator of Friends Historical Library, has been immensely helpful. Barbara Shanahan has sent three historic photos of the meetinghouse, including one interior photo that has not been available earlier. She identified her great-great-grandfather Nichols as the white-bearded man in the black hat in the back row of one of the interior photographs. Thank you, Barbara!

Fund-raising continues. Special thanks to Eric Moon and to Canandaigua National Bank for their sales of the CD Christmas in the Finger Lakeson behalf of the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse. This is exactly the kind of creative grassroots effort that makes us all proud!

Ruth Naparsteck has come up with a similar project for the spring. She has offered sales of her books on Rochester history for $39.95 each (plus $3.95 s/h), Let Ruth know that you heard about this offer through this blog, and she will donate $10 per book to the Farmington Meetinghouse Fund.

The titles are: Rochester: A Pictorial History and Runnin' Crazy: A Portrait of the Genesee River. Books can be ordered directly from Ruth at: Total cost for both books plus shipping/handling: $87.80. Thank you, Ruth!

We will be submitting grant proposals for several major grants this spring, including:
  • Restore New York
  • Save America’s Treasures
  • Environmental Protection Fund
for major restoration and other funds for smaller pieces of the project.

Thanks to Peter Michael for national publicity through the Underground Railroad Free Press, November 2006. Thank you, Pete!

Upcoming event:
Frederick Douglass International Underground Railroad Conference from September 28 to 30, 2007 in Rochester, New York.