This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at www.jenniferhudsontaylor.net.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The History of Carolina Quakers


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

With all the Amish novels circulating the shelves in Christian fiction, it makes me think of my Quaker ancestors and possible story ideas with their faith. While they no longer live the simple life in our present day society with horses and buggies, farming, and plain clothing, there are some similarities in their history in that they are a peaceful people, opposed to violence, were staunch abolishonists against slavery, promoted plainness in speech and clothing, and here in North Carolina made a great impact in our community.

While many Quakers of today range in varying beliefs, my mother's Quaker family considered themselves Christians, believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and often concentrated on listening to the Holy Spirit within them before making decisions. Equality was vastly important to them in regard to gender, race and nationality. The same God created us all and the same Holy Spirit dwells in everyone who chooses not to reject Him.

However, please keep in mind that over the years many changes have taken place in the Quaker faith, which includes a liberal movement that some, but not all, embraced. A few years ago I sent out a prayer request to some individuals and on it was a distant relative whose Quaker branch had moved out west. He still considered himself a Quaker, but when I received his response to my prayer request, I was shocked. He told me he was an atheist. My first thought was, how can a Quaker be an atheist? All the Quakers I had ever known in my mother's family and around the Piedmont were known to be "Christians".

I did some online research and discovered this liberal movement that took place in the 20th Century (around the 1930's). Atheists were not welcome in other Christian religions, but since Quakers did not discriminate against them and makes an attempt to welcome everyone as "friends", many began attending the Quaker Meetings. But historically, and doctrinally, the Quaker religion was Christian. This also may explain why my great-grandfather, who attended Centre Friends Meeting and is currently buried there, donated land to build Community Baptist Church in Guilford County where my grandparents are buried.

This makes me wonder if an historical Christian novel with Quaker characters would be received in the CBA market. Since it would be an historical, it would be completely accurate as a Christian fiction novel. However, with the reputation Quakers have developed by accepting atheist friends, I wonder if this would be a problem. I'm thinking it wouldn't be as long as it is historical. Any thoughts?

The photo above is of a Quaker couple, William "Henry" Wall and his wife Martha Jane Zeek Wall, my gg-grandparents. They attended Marlboro Friends Meeting in Randolph County, NC where they are buried. Other Quaker meeting houses that my ancestors attended in North Carolina were, Centre Friends Meeting, New Garden Friends Meeting, and Deep River Friends Meeting. This couple actually met at a dance in Indiana, where several branches of our North Carolina families migrated to escape the destruction of slavery in the South. During the Civil War, Henry was a young teen and since the Quakers didn't believe in fighting, he was forced to work in a salt factory as his contribution to the war.

Quakers arrived in North Carolina in 1665 when the family of Henry Phillips settled here. Quakers called their church services, Meetings, and referred to themselves as Friends. The first Quaker Friends Meeting service was held in 1672 by William Edmundson, an Irish minister. Between 1665 - 1750, at least 13 meetings were established in North Carolina.

Around 1750 two important meetings were established in the Piedmont region where I grew up, Cane Creek in Alamance County and New Garden in present day Guilford County, which became the center of southern Quakerism. Across from New Garden is Guilford College Quaker Records. If you need to do any research on Quakers in the Piedmont of the Carolinas, this is THE place to go. They have a research room dedicated to Quaker history and genealogy research. I made some great discoveries about my own family history by visiting these archives in person.

For more information on Quakers and their historical doctrine beliefs, visit the following links:

4 comments:

I really don't think you'd have a problem selling a Quaker novel. There aren't many more controversial (as far as religion goes) groups than the Amish/Anabaptist groups, a lot of their lifestyle is based on doctrine and tradition (rather than the teachings of Jesus Christ) and you know how well Amish fiction sells. I know this is true because I've been born and raised in a Anabaptist lifestyle. The word "born again Christian" can bring hostility and even scorn. You're expected to "walk the talk" not "talk the walk."

There’s an excellent new book (The Outsider) about the Shakers out my Ann Gabhart. I've learned a lot about things about the Shakers from that. I think you'd do just fine shedding light on the Quakers in a fiction novel.

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you for commenting on my blog. Since you asked the question, I think a Quaker novel would be very interesting. The fact that they welcomed atheists into their group could make it very unique as well.

I think this is a great idea. I don't think the Quakers having atheist "friends" would deter from the book at all. In fact, I agree with Carmen Gamble that it would be a unique point.

Hi Jennifer, My name is Barbara Anderson and I am trying to do some geneology on my Grandmothers side. Her name is Dora Evelyn Wall and daughter of William Henry Wall and Martha Jane Zeek. |My Great Grandparents. I am so excited that I found you. So your GG Grandparents are my G Grandparents. I would love to here if you have gone back any farther. I have Martha Jane Zeek parents as Andrew Zeek and |Nancy ?. |I| live in Bountiful Utah and it is hard to go to your mentioned source. If you could email me back and tell me what you have found I would be so excited. I have the very same picture of G.Wall and G. Wall.My email address is barbiebooboo@comcast.net. I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks Barbara