Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hockessin Friends Meeting House

Hockessin Friends Meeting House
From the time the English took control of Delaware in the 1660's, and especially with the arrival of William Penn in 1681, it is no exaggeration to say that the most important group of people to the development of Wilmington and New Castle County was the Society of Friends, or the Quakers. Persecuted in England for their religious and pacifist beliefs, many Quakers came to settle in Penn's New World colony. With their dedication to hard work, education, and simple living, the Quakers quickly became the dominant force in the area's industry, and remained so for about 200 years.

The first Quaker Meeting House in Delaware is believed to have been the Newark Meeting, which was located near the present-day neighborhood of Carrcroft in Brandywine Hundred. By the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, Quaker meeting houses had popped up in Wilmington, New Castle, and southern Chester County. In the early 1730's, Mill Creek Hundred's growing Quaker population began to tire of travelling east to attend the Centre Meeting, and desired to hold meetings closer to home. And while private meetings were held at the home of William Cox as early as 1730, it wasn't until October, 1737 that the land was purchased for the meeting house and burial ground.


The simple, rectangular, fieldstone meeting house was completed in 1738, and enlarged with an addition on the rear in 1745. Sometime later, a long carriage shed and several outbuildings were built behind it. On each of the ends of the meeting house sit "step-down stones", which over the years have assisted countless Quakers in dismounting their carriages and horses. For many years, the Hockessin Meeting House was covered with white plaster, which, in my opinion, has thankfully since been removed, showcasing the beautiful fieldstone construction of the building.

Meeting House, showing carriage step
For most of its history, the meeting house and cemetery across the street have lived a quiet existence. One notable exception to this occurred not 40 years into its life, on the night of September 9, 1777. On that evening, British troops under the command of Lord Cornwallis, on their way to the Battle of Brandywine that would occur two days later, camped and foraged on the gentle hills surrounding the meeting house. Luckily they moved on the next day, on the way to Chadds Ford and ultimately Philadelphia. This allowed the understated little building to return to its quiet dignity, perfectly in tune with the generations of Friends who have come to meet within its walls.

3 comments:

  1. Does anyone know how and when I can visit this house? I am a direct descendent of William Cox and would like to visit in June.

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  2. Thank you for this blog on the Hockessin Friends Meeting. My great, great grandfather, William Hulett 1790-1850, is buried there. He was the father of Josiah Garrett Hulett who was the subject of your blog in August 2011.

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  3. Thank you for this blog, especially the information about the movement of Cornwallis. I now have a date for this activity that is part of our family lore. I am descended from Robert Boggs b.1712 Ireland d.1804 DE, buried in the White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church graveyard in a marked grave. He owned 100 acres of land that was part of the "Hop Yard" named property. (if anyone has exact location of this property I would appreciate their contacting me b_e_boggs@yahoo.com) 6 of the 7 sons of Robert Boggs served in the Revolution with 5 relocating to Central KY. The family story is as follows:
    Source: Turley-Noland Papers, Townsend Room, Eastern Kentucky University, (Richmond, KY) Page 42 and attributed to Joseph S. Boggs (Jr.), grandson of Robert Boggs, for an 1887 publication, "History of Kentucky" page 793:
    "When the army of Lord Cornwallis was retreating before Washington in the State of Delaware they passed through Robt Boggs yard. The old gentleman mounted his horse and betook himself to a high hill where he could witness the proceedings.
    The soldiers on arriving being hungry attacked the bee hives that were nearby to get some honey, as might be expected the bees became angry, so did the soldiers & a hot fight ensued. The bees however being very skilled in war with use of sword overcame their antagonists & drove them from premises. Mr. Boggs feeling now somewhat relieved exclaimed 'Even my bees are
    patriotic!"
    Based on the above blog, however, the family story of a British retreat might be an elaboration. Thanks, again.
    Bonnie Boggs

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