Old Haverford Friends Meeting was established in 1683 to serve a portion of the Welsh Tract, comprising [Old] Haverford, Merion, Radnor, and Plymouth Meetings. The first members of the Religious Society of Friends to settle along the Delaware River, arrived on 1675 aboard the ship Griffith. John Fenwick, Edward and John Wade, and Richard Noble made the first settlement at Salem, New Jersey.
On March 4, 1681, King Charles II granted the Patent to William Penn for the Province of what was to be Pennsylvania. In a letter dated June 14, 1681, Penn promised the inhabitants of Pennsylvania that they would be allowed to be governed by laws of their own making. In addition, he wrote that he would “heartily comply” with whatever “sober and free men could reasonably desire for the security and improvement of their own happiness.”
On November 10, 1681, the first recorded Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends was held by Quakers living in Marcus Hook and Upland, in the home of Robert Wade. This Meeting eventually became Chester Monthly Meeting.
Among the early settlers to the Delaware County, the majority were Welsh Quakers. They had previously purchased about 40,000 acres of land before arriving in America. Those who came took up much of the west side of the Schulkill River, that would eventually become the townships of Haverford, Merion, and Radnor. These townships’ names came from the Welsh phrase, “Hen wlad fy nhadau,” which translates to “the land of our fathers.”
Unlike the gentry of England, the teachings of George Fox were much better accepted by the Welsh aristocracy. Therefore, the Welsh settlers who came to reside in what would be called the “Great Welsh Tract” were better educated, and probably better off financially than the average English settler.
Welsh Quakers Establish Meeting (1683-1693)
The first Welsh settlers arrived in Haverford Township in 1682. Haverford was unique in that it was a wilderness, whereas many other settlements already had previous residents. Some of these families were the founders of Old Haverford Meeting, and as was the custom with the early Friends, until a Meeting House could be built, the homes of the members was where the Monthly Meetings were held. The first Monthly Meeting was held at the home of Thomas Duckett in on the 10th day of the second month, 1684.
Another Meeting was held at the home of John Bevan. His land was across the road from where Old Haverford Meeting now stands. Bevan’s situation was unusual in that he and his wife only came to Pennsylvania temporarily, because they felt here would be a good place to raise their children. In 1704, when their children were grown-up and comfortably settled, they returned to their beloved Wales. Meetings were also held in the homes of William Warren and Hugh Roberts.
When Meetings stopped being held at members’ homes, a log Meeting House was built. Dr. George Smith, the author of the book, The History of Delaware County, and a previous historian of Old Haverford Meeting, believed this edifice was erected in 1688. The land on which our Meeting House stands originally belonged to William Howell, who was an active member of Old Haverford Meeting. He was a Welsh settler who came here from Wales, aboard the ship Lyons in 1682. William Penn gave Howell a grant of 5,000 acres. He deeded to John Bevan, William Lewis, Henry Lewis, and Morris Llewellyn (the Trustees of Old Haverford Meeting) the grounds in 1693.
Meetinghouse is Built and Enlarged (1688-1800)
In 1688, money began to be raised in order to build a stone Meeting House, which was completed in 1700. It is believed that the southern portion of the Meeting House, with its rougher masonry, is the original building. The northern portion was added a century later in 1800. In 1694, a stable for horses was built. A large stone block (now facing the Meeting House porch) assisted in helping those coming on horseback to dismount.
The original Meeting House had no chimneys. It was heated by a “jamb stove” at either end of the building. The fuel was supplied and piled up outside the Meeting House. The smoke from these stoves escaped from a flue a few feet above the opening, through which more fuel could be added. Part of this arrangement can still be seen in the wall of the southern portion of the Meeting House.
Inside the building, a partition between the two sides was arranged with pulleys to raise and lower parts of each end, when the Meeting needed both rooms at the same time (these were removed in 1909). It was the custom then for men and women Friends to conduct their Business Meeting separately. In addition, the second floor contained a schoolroom where the children of the Meeting attended “First-Day School” (Sunday School).
According to tradition, the window frames and sash were both made of lead, and during the American Revolution, they were seized and melted down and used for making musket balls.
An early necessity was the establishment of a burial place. A burial ground was laid out in 1684, on land that is believed to have belonged to William Howell. The first interment in the new cemetery was the body of William Sharpus, which occurred on the 9th month, 18th day in 1684.
The first marriage recorded at Old Haverford Monthly Meeting was that of Lewis David and Florence Jones on March 20, 1690. A Quaker wedding is conducted during a Meeting for Worship. The bride and groom enter the Meeting and take their places at the front of the room. During the period of worship, the couple stands up. Taking each other by the hand, they make their promises, first the groom and then the bride, using the following or similar words:
In the presence of God and these our friends, I take
thee (name of spouse) to be my wife/husband, promising
with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful
wife/husband so long as we both shall live.
No priest or minister pronounces them husband and wife (Quakers do not have ordained clergy), because Friends believe that God alone can create such a union and give it significance.