Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stanton Friends Meeting House


Stanton Friends Meeting House, 1936
To anyone at all familiar with the history of New Castle County, it should come as no surprise that there are several Friends (Quaker) Meeting Houses in Mill Creek Hundred. And to anyone familiar with the area today, it should be no surprise that they are not as influential or as (proportionally) attended as they once were. Of the three meeting houses in the hundred, the one that best reflects this change in demographics is the Stanton Meeting House. And not to give away the ending, but it's also the only one of the three that is no longer a functioning meeting house. However, we are fortunate that the building is still here, even if it's obscured enough that I'm sure very few people driving by have any idea when and why it was built.

What would become the Stanton Meeting can trace its lineage back to 1772, when the Wilmington Monthly Meeting granted locals' request, and allowed them to hold an "indulged meeting" (one for worship only -- no business is conducted, and it is under the supervision of a monthly meeting). However, at first this meeting was not conducted in Stanton, but at Hannah Lewden's house in Christiana. Very quickly, though, the meetings began alternating between the Lewden's house and a location in Stanton. I can't find anything that states definitively where these first meetings were held in Stanton, but a very good guess would be the home of Daniel Byrnes, who moved to the area the same year. Byrnes, who resided in what's now known as the Hale-Byrnes House just south of Stanton, was at the time studying to become a Quaker minister, and would become one in 1784.

The meetings must have been successful, for in 1781 the Chester Quarterly Meeting approved the establishment of the meeting, then known as White Clay Creek. Three years later, a preparative meeting (sort of one step above an indulged) was established. Although I can find nothing that states so, I assume by this point the meeting was based solely in Stanton, and around this time the first meeting house would have been built. Presumably it was located about where the present one is, but there seems to be precious little information about the original structure. There are records located at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College that might shed more light on things, if anyone has the time and inclination to do so.

One thing we do know is that in 1803, by their own request, the name of the meeting was officially changed to the Stanton Meeting. After the Hicksite Separation, the the Orthodox preparative meeting (where business can be conducted) was discontinued in 1828, and the meeting for worship ten years later. After that, the meeting was exclusively Hicksite. For a time, there was a school conducted next to the meeting, although it seems the meeting and school were never very large. As of 1938, the school building was still standing near the meeting house, and it may still be part of the larger structure today. [If I find out, I'll update.] The present meeting house, now used as a dentist's office, was built in 1873 for a cost of $2500. It measures 30 x 42 feet, and is made of brick. The two doors were for the men and women, who would enter and sit separately.
 
The Meeting House today

Meeting House from the side












As the 19th century progressed and the Quaker population of the area diminished, attendance at the meeting declined as well. Before long, most of its membership was behind it (literally, in the cemetery at the rear of the meeting house). In 1888, Scharf reports that there were but seven worshipers. Not surprisingly then, the preparative meeting was discontinued in 1891, and meetings for worship in 1920. In 1921, the Concord Quarterly Meeting officially discontinued, or "laid down" in Quaker parlance, the Stanton Meeting. For the next 70 or so years, the only use I can find for the meeting house was in 1949/50, when Stanton (now St. Mark's) Methodist Church used it after their building was destroyed in a fire. In the 1990's, the meeting house was converted for use as a dentist's office. It now sits tucked away, partially hidden by a newer addition, its brick walls stuccoed over, a small reminder of the area's Quaker past.

15 comments:

  1. Nice post Scott. Did you get a chance to walk around the cemetary?

    Denis

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  2. No, I have not had a chance yet. I'm hoping to wander over there sometime this weekend. I'd like to take a closer look at the building, and look at the headstones. From what I gather, it was common for Quakers to have little if any info on their headstones before the 1820's or so, so we'll probably never know much about the oldest burials.

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  3. Yes they are very simple in design...some of the stones only have initials. I assume these are of a young age(?). Some there are from the late 1700's. When I was in there I didnt feel I was a highly populated area.

    denis

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  4. I remember as a child attending Stanton Central Elementary, that one of the playgrounds were located right next to the cemetery. When the teachers weren't looking, we would occasionally scramble over the low wall a look around in the graveyard.

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  5. Blinky, thanks for the comment, it's pretty funny. I'm not quite sure how the staid old Quakers would feel about it, though. I don't think there is such a thing as an "old Quaker playground".

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  6. The Johnson family, merchant millers along the Pike Creek, are all buried here. Their mills stood on the lower Pike Creek, now just off Kirkwood Highway. nearly the whole afmily is near the far end of the cemetary. This family was one of the main Quaker families in the industrial past of Mill Creek Hundred, and married at various times members of the Cranston, Pennock and Chambers families. Ella Johnson, in her book, The Story Of Newport, documents the tales of her ancestors buried here.

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  7. Posted By Rick Loveless:

    The Stanton Quaker Cemetery was deeded to St. Marks United Methodist Church this week (May 2011) and we are in the process of repairing the cemetery.

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  8. That's wonderful to hear, Eric. It's not the largest cemetery around, but many of the Friends intered there were important in the area's history. It's great to know that the site will really be cared for.

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  9. From the probate I have of Ann Phillips, wife of John Robert Phillips, they were buried in Stanton, and were Quakers. They both died in 1831, and Johns father, Robert, in 1828. Wonder if they have a stone?

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    1. I found a Quaker burial record for Ann Phillips yesterday. There's also a record for a Robert Phillips too. I set up FindAGrave memorials for them based on the info in the records. I doubt that their stone survived if they had one. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=154338689

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  10. I live in Stanton and took a walk over this way today (across the field behind Stanton school) and checked out the cemetary. I hopped over the little stone wall...it is very small and there is not too much info on some stones. I did see another name in addition to Johnson, was Paxon. That quickly I forgot if it was Paxson or Paxon. There were a couple headstones with that name. Glad that it is being taken care of. The same stone wall is there that I can see in the 1930's picture you have posted above. I wonder how old the wall is, if it's original or not. Very cool to read all the historical information tying the people who lived back then to these sites. Thanks again for great info. Joanne

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  11. Thank you for this post!! My ancestors family members are buried there, Joshua Byrnes for one. As a child he served water to Gen Washington as they planned the Battle of Brandywine at the Hales Byrnes house.

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    1. My 2nd great grandfather David Eastburn is buried there. I've been digging through the burial records and adding memorials to FindAGrave. I have not yet found a record for Joshua Byrnes. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GScid=2317752

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  12. How many are buried there? Are there any historical markers there?

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  13. I remember walking through the cementary as a child having lived nearby. Never thought much about the history of the place. Pretty neat that I got to experience it.

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