Parkersville Meeting: A Quaker meetinghouse built in 1830, located in Chester County, PA  
   
 
 

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The first Quaker meeting in William Penn’s new colony was established in Chester, in 1681, followed by one in Philadelphia in 1682.  The original Kennett meeting, located on US 1 in what is now Hamorton, was established in 1707, with the original building constructed in 1710, and replaced in 1731. This Kennett Monthly Meeting became a busy place of worship for hundreds of Chester County Quakers.  A minister of the meeting was John Parker, Sr. (1748-1829), who lived a couple of miles away in Parkersville, so-named when his son, John, Jr., became its first postmaster in 1828.

In 1827 a schism developed between two factions in the Religious Society of Friends, culminating in their separation into two different groups, the Hicksite and Orthodox Quakers. This split caused most of the Quaker Meetings to break up, often with the minority group having to move out into a new place of worship of their own. This separation lasted until 1955, when the two groups combined again.

The differences between the two groups are summarized in the Guide to the Records of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1989, published by Haverford College, Records Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Swarthmore College:
Hicksite Friends placed special emphasis on the Inward Light, a divine spark within each person. They objected to creedal tests, and to the authority of ministers and elders. Originally inspired by New York minister Elias Hicks (1748-1830), these Friends became increasingly liberal in theology, social practices and church organization over the decades. Orthodox Friends- Members of a branch of Quakers who were evangelical and stressed the Jesus Christ of history and reliance on the Bible as the authoritative source of religious truth.

The majority of the members at Kennett Meeting were of the Hicksite faction. They “disowned”, or expelled, the non-Hicksite, “Orthodox” Friends from their meeting, but the two groups continued to use the meeting house at different hours while the Orthodox group sought new quarters.

The Minutes of Kennett Monthly Meeting (as kept by the Orthodox Friends while they shared the old Kennett meeting house) in June of 1827 include the following:”John Parker, Jr., Stephen Webb, William Walter, George F. Gilpin, David Winkle, Thomas Martin and Caleb Pennock are appointed to meet in conference and if a way opens propose to next meeting the name of a friend to serve the meeting as clerk the ensuing year and one to assist him. [Stephen Webb was appointed]. In order to avoid any disturbance that might arise by meeting with those who have separated from us it is agreed that our next meeting be held at Kennett meeting house at the usual time next month.”

By June of 1828, much divisiveness had taken place between the two factions, resulting in splits within old families from the area. Minutes from the June 3rd monthly meeting included: “The committee appointed by Kennett monthly meeting in the third month last to take into consideration the state of our meetings for worship and propose such remedy as they may think best calculated to relieve friends from their present embarrassment occasioned by meeting with those who have heretofore professed with us but now appear to advocate doctrines and views at variance with the former beliefs and practices of our society now report We have met several times and no way has opened in the clearness for general relief but united in proposing that the meeting for worship heretofore held at Marlborough meeting house (owing to a great proportion of the former members having joined with the separatists) be removed to be held for the present at the house of Caleb Pennock on first and fourth days of the week…”

The minutes from June 8th, 1830 report: “Friends belonging to Kennett particular meeting informs that they have united in believing that it would be best for them to seek some place to hold their meetings for worship apart from those who have seceded from our Society and have been disowned by it, notwithstanding do occasionally endeavor to control the closing of our meetings.  And the solemnity suitable and desirable on such occasions have in diverse ways been interrupted by meeting with those not in unity they have therefore united in proposing to the monthly meeting that if should be consistent with its Judgement they would wish to hold their meetings for worship at the school house near Parkerville on first and fifth days of the week, to meet at eleven O’clock in the forenoon and to Commence on first day next.” [This was the old octagonal schoolhouse, built ca 1820, probably built by John Parker, Jr., a stone mason, on a site purchased from John Parker, Jr. and his wife Rebecca (Webb) for $350.00. Kennett Monthly Meeting (Parkersville) came into possession by deed dated 24th 11 mo 1836].

Minutes of 10-5-1830: “The Preparative meeting informs that their committee on that subject has procured a title for a lot whereon to build a meeting house near Parkersville.  Stephen Webb is appointed to have the Deeds recorded and take care of the originals on behalf of this meeting.” [This location is about two miles from the original Kennett Meeting].

A subscription paper was executed to cover the costs of the new meeting house:
“To erect a house for their accommodation within the compass of said Monthly Meeting of Kennett, and it being understood that a lot of ground can be obtained on the public road between Parkersville and the house of Isaac Bennett, that will be likely to answer the purpose.  We the subscribers do hereby bind ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators to pay such persons as may be appointed by Kennett Preparative Meeting to receive the same, the sums by us respectively hereunto subscribed for the purpose of erecting a house and other accommodations for a place of worship and such other use as the Monthly Meeting of Kennett, that shall stand united with, and attached to the ancient order and principles of the Society of Friends, may hereafter agree in their meeting.

To be paid in the following manner (to wit) one fourth thereof when a title is procured to secure a lot to the use of the said Society of Friends and one fourth so soon as a house shall be raised on said lot, and the remaining half when said building shall be completed.

And further, we do hereby agree that if the first subscription shall be found insufficient to pay for all the expense accruing in procuring said lot and erecting the necessary accommodation thereon, we will make up said deficiency in proportion to our first subscription, and that within one year from the completion of said building.  Dated 6th mo, 30th, 1830.

Names of Subscribers with the amount subscribed:


Joseph Brinton

$150.00

 

Sarah Marshall

150.00

 

Isaac Bennett

50.00

And part of the lot

Edward Temple

45.00

 

Stephen Webb

75.00

 

Jacob Baily

60.00

 

John Parker [Jr.]

25.00

And other part of the lot

Alban Webb

30.00

 

William House

30.00

 

Thomas Martin

22.50

 

William Walter

30.00

 

Isaac Harry

20.00

 

Abraham Baily

15.00

 

Caleb Parker

10.00

 

Wistar Parker

5.00

 

David Windle

5.00

 

                    Total

$722.50

 

The construction of the building walls and the cemetery walls was performed by John Parker, Jr., stone mason. In the fashion of most Friends meetings, the building faces southwest, and was accompanied by a cemetery of about 1 ½ acres, and sheds for carriages.

Minutes of 12-7-1830: “The meeting being informed that the house that friends have had in building at Parkersville for the accommodation of their meetings that have been held at the School house at that place is nearly finished it is agreed that friends be left at liberty to hold their meetings in said house as soon as they may be prepared, public notice being given of the proposed change at the close of the last meeting to be held at the school house.”

Minutes of 1-4-1831: “The following proposition was produced from Kennett Preparative meeting, viz., the subject of holding our next meeting at the new house in Parkersville being opened we were united in believing it right to hold our next Preparative meeting thereon the fifth day of the week preceding our next monthly meeting if the monthly meeting should concur therewith, which being considered by this meeting is united with and friends are left at liberty to hold their Preparative meetings there in future on fifth day of the week preceding the first second day in each month.”

Film No. 112 at Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore, contains information about the History and Meeting Records of Kennett Monthly Meeting (Orthodox) at Parkersville:
“Richard Barnard was Recorder at the time of the separation; for sometime after the minutes state there was none.  John Parker [Jr.] was appointed 2nd of 3rd mo 1830 but we find his records extend back to 1827, all of which up to 1855 are recorded in one book.
John Parker [Jr.] deceased 4 mo 1857 and Thomas Savery was appointed Recorder 2nd of 6 mo 1857.
Thomas Savery resigned on account of ill health and Benjamin Hoopes was appointed 1 mo 3rd 1860.
Benjamin Hoopes removed and Stephen W. Savery was appointed 6th of 6th mo 1865.
Stephen W. Savery continued as Recorder until his death 9 mo 11 1905.
William F. Wickersham was appointed Recorder 7 mo 1905.
William F. Wickersham continued as Recorder until 12 mo 1925.
Rebecca Parker was appointed Recorder 1st mo 5th 1926.
Rebecca Parker resigned as Recorder 5th of 7 mo 1936.
Mary L. Thomas was appointed Recorder 5th of 7 mo 1936.
Mary L. Thomas continued as Recorder until the Monthly Meeting was discontinued 4th of 2 mo 1939.”

A fire on 11th mo 29th, 1917 destroyed the roof and wooden parts of the structure.  The fire was started when winds blew sparks from fires set by a worker clearing brush and leaves from the grounds onto the roof.  Nearby residents responded quickly, and were able to save the benches and shutters, but the flooring, roof and rafters were totally destroyed. Reconstruction and plastering went on until 1919, when the first post-fire meeting was held on 6th mo 1st.

Following the discontinuance of the meeting in 1939, the care of the property has been under the care of custodial committees formed under the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the Western Quarterly Meeting.  Mary L. Thomas, the last Recorder, served in that capacity until her death, being survived by John Parker, Jr. (1908-1988), a G Grandson of the John, Jr. who was instrumental in the building of the meeting property.  Today’s [2010] active committee members include Dale Frens, Joan Parker Hadik (GGG granddaughter of John Parker, Jr.), Wm. B. Parker, Jr (GG grandson of John Parker, Jr., the builder of the meetinghouse), Mary Sproat. And John Beer.

In recent years, improvements to the property include rebuilding the walls around the cemetery and parking areas in 1995 at a cost of  $7,000, nearly ten times the original building cost, and re-plastering and painting of the interior for about $5,000. The roof was repaired in 2004 following major damage from a storm-induced tree fall; the entire roof was re-shingled with heavy No. 1 Grade Red Cedar Shakes. In 2007, a water remediation project was undertaken to arrest leakage through the front walls which had caused deterioration of the plaster inside. Maintenance, as needed, is carried out under the direction of the committee, mostly paid for by tax deductible contributions and bequests to the meeting property. No modern changes have been made to the property; it has no electricity or running water, and is still much the same as it was in 1830.

Note: Tax deductible contributions to help with the upkeep of the property and its cemetery may be sent to:

Parkersville Meeting Property
C/O Mary Sproat, Treasurer
200 Bancroft Rd.
Kennett Square, PA 19348

To simplify the making of a contribution, you may click on the Donate button above left.

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