This week, my Ohio "scenic byways" began at Barnesville, where I was attending the spring gathering of the Friends of Jesus Community. Micah Bales talks about the weekend here.
Next stop was Wilmington, Ohio. On our first evening, Christine Hadley Snyder took Judy and me to the municipal building's committee room to a public meeting on the Quaker Scenic Highway, currently under development within the Ohio Scenic Byways program of the state's Department of Transportation.
I knew this area of Ohio had a lot of Quaker history, but until I saw the inventory of locations proposed for the Quaker Scenic Byway, and their historical significance, I had absolutely no idea how dense that history is. Looking at the grand sweep of world history, Friends seem like a tiny, marginal presence, but in this corner of Ohio, the impact of the Friends movement is impressive. Thousands of individual Friends, hundreds of homesteads that can still be located, and dozens of Quaker meetings (many still in existence) settled all around Clinton and nearby counties. Quaker schools and businesses were established in nearly every meeting and population center. Their records (and furnishings and wardrobes) still provide a rich source of social and cultural history for the region.
Yesterday we saw some examples of current stewardship of these treasures. Christine Snyder showed us the family-maintained Hadley homestead/museum on Lebanon Road where many exhibits are carefully preserved. Along with the evolving Quaker architecture, we saw such specific examples as a general store account book from 1846, and a beautifully preserved Quaker plain dress from around the same period.
Later we visited Wilmington College, which was a huge part of our life a quarter century ago, and which now has a large and impressive Quaker Heritage Center. We also visited the Peace Resource Center with its moving Hiroshima-Nagasaki Memorial Collection. With my own family's connection to the Hiroshima tragedy in the back of my mind, I was moved to see the 1500-plus origami cranes hanging from the ceiling of the Quaker Heritage Center.
Four interrelated thoughts struck me during this dense exposure to this region's Quaker heritage:
First, the cumulative impression I got was of an amazing testimony to what might be called "domestic discipleship"--the artifacts and social evidences of several generations' attempts to live a simple and faithful life. Nowadays we might best remember those Friends for their testimonies against slavery and for peace, but their homes, schools, and businesses also show how discipleship and piety shaped their daily lives. No doubt their lives also included shadow elements that are less flattering, but somehow the testimony still shines through.
A second impression: the role of prophecy in this history. Two examples:
A Friends minister named Zachariah Dicks traveled among Friends meetings in the south in the early 1800's, preaching against slavery. The bicentennial history of Springfield Friends Meeting (Wilmington Yearly Meeting) quotes the story of Zachariah Dicks from an article by H.E. Smith in the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Sociey Quarterly (vol. 31, 1928), as follows, excerpted:
He was born in Pennsylvania and went to North Carolina about the year 1754. He was therefore, not a young man when he preached with remarkable power to the Quakers of the Southland. He visited Wrightsborough, Georgia, and Bush River, South Carolina, in 1803, and urged Friends to leave their homes. He prophesied "an internecine war within the lives of the children then living." Bloodshed and destruction were to follow. The cause of this devastating warfare, which he foretold in vivid language, was slavery. The Friends at Bush River, a short time previously, a commodious and substantial meetinghouse which they had expected to occupy for many years. To the number of 500, they had frequently assembled there for worship.Another very specific instance was the story of how Isaac and Sarah Harvey were seized by a leading to travel to Washington, DC, to plead with Abraham Lincoln for the emancipation of the slaves. As the plaque before their statue at Wilmington College tells the story,
On one occasion, when they had gathered there, Dicks concluded a stirring appeal with the words, "Oh, Bush River! Bush River, how hath thy beauty faded away and gloomy darkness eclipsed thy day." He traveled southward repeating his startling prophecy to Friends who heard with alarm. The result is a tribute to his power of prophetic appeal. In 1800, the Quakers had become well established in South Carolina and Georgia. By 1809, nearly all of them had departed for the West. They "sold their lands, worth from ten to twenty dollars an acre, for from three to six dollars, and departed never to return." They came in great numbers to this section of our state.
Many prophecies have been unfulfilled and forgotten; but the prophecy of Zachariah Dicks had an awful fulfillment in the cataclysm of the Civil War, which our ancestors, who fled at the warning cry, and their descendants, did not wholly escape.
"One day while plowing I heard a voice, whether inside me or outside of me I knew not, but I was awake. It said 'Go thou and see the President.' I answered 'Yea, Lord, thy servant heareth.' And unhitching my plow, I went at once to the house and said to mother, 'Wilt thou go with me to see the President?' 'Who sends thee?' she asked. 'The Lord,' I answered.Third: It's interesting to think how the visibility for Friends gained through the Ohio Scenic Byways program and the exhibits in and near Wilmington College can open up our outreach beyond the usual pathways by which people find us. Dare we anticipate that casual encounters with these landmarks might lead tourists and others to want to know us better, find out what motivated these fascinating ancestors, and picture themselves living this kind of domestic discipleship? I'd love to think that one result would be a wider social range of people drawn to us than we often see now.
In September of 1862, Isaac Harvey, Quaker farmer, and his wife Sarah Edwards Harvey, traveled to Washington D.C. to speak to President Lincoln on their concern for the emancipation of the slaves. At the conclusion of their visit, he gave them a note, which ended with these words: "May the Lord comfort them as they have sustained me."
The Emancipation Proclamation was announced on September 22, 1862.
Isaac Harvey (1809-1883), and his wife Sarah (1812-1902) were members of Springfield Friends Meeting and lived on Lebanon Road, Adams Township, Clinton County, Ohio.
The fourth thought was actually a question: How do we fully enjoy and appropriate this rich heritage without getting sucked into the cult of quakerishness? For the most part, we no longer live in the cohesive communities that supported the piety and lifestyles of those earlier Friends, and I worry that pride in their accomplishments might be an artificial substitute for finding equivalent ways to support each other in discipleship today? How do we harvest the lessons without idolizing the teachers?
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Marco Marchi and the Mojo Workers, with warm thanks to David Finke.