Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lonely epistles from South Carolina

I went to Friends House in London today. It's a huge building across from Euston train station, with two Meeting houses, cafe, restaurant, library — and that's just the main floor. Signs indicated that offices, publications, etc. were upstairs. I peeked into the large meeting room and it looked like Parliament in the historical movies, with seats down either side and straight-backed wooden seating high on a second level.

Copying 18th-century letters
I went to the library and asked for the 1700s correspondence between colonial South Carolina and London Yearly Meeting. I'm looking for any mentions of Fredericksburgh Monthly Meeting to try to re-create their lost records. Today I found their epistles, mostly annual reports, to London.

Fredericksburgh Meeting members considered themselves remote and independent, so they reported directly to London. I never thought that was strange until I happened to mention to the librarian that most of these pioneers were Irish. His implied question was immediate: wouldn't they report to Ireland? But no, the letters are there. Maybe it was because the Religious Society of Friends started in England; London was considered the mother ship. The letters show great loyalty and attachment, even though the people writing and reading them probably never met.

With London's insistence, Fredericksburgh eventually joined New Garden Quarter, based in North Carolina. They really didn't want to. They wrote that they were "isolate" and "remote." The nearest monthly meeting, Bush River, was about 75 miles away, and New Garden a couple hundred miles. The funny thing is that during those days of walking or traveling by horse, Friends "in this wilderness" felt like New Garden was as out of reach as Mars; they preferred to answer to people on the other side of the ocean.

I found a clue. The helpful librarian brought me an article about Fredericksburgh. They turned over their minutes to Bush River Meeting about 1783. So, at some point, over 200 years ago, the minutes existed. Somebody did write things down.

The library at Quaker House. Old prohibition posters adorn the balcony.


Anonymous said...

So, at some point, over 200 years ago, the minutes existed. Somebody did write things down.

Now, to find them ... *sigh* Just another bump in the road that is genealogy (and history itself, for that matter). Glad you found something!

Elizabeth said...

One little clue at a time...