The Friends Meeting House

Corner of Friend and Maple
Maple Street Cemetery

Open Sundays
Memorial Day - Labor Day
Adams Historical Society


The Quaker Meeting House is the most important historical landmark in Adams. It is a memorial to the pioneer people who first settled the tract of land that became Adams. The Quakers, or Friends as they called themselves, were a religious denomination who came from the Smithfield, Rhode Island area.

They were the first group of settlers to form a community in East Hoosuck, the original name of the Adams township.

They most likely moved to the Hoosac Valley in the 1760’s because the area was recently opened for development. The Quakers must have felt the spirit of adventure that compelled so many Americans to leave the comforts of their homes to pioneer the wilderness to the west.

They lived in Adams for 15 years before starting to build the meeting house in 1782. They finished it four years later. It took so long to complete because the Friends were less interested in a monumental place of worship than living their lives according to their religious precepts.

“There is that of God in every person”

Their precepts were based on the belief that each person is guided by their own inner light. The Friends refused to maintain an established minister. As a result of their unconventional beliefs they were persecuted and even hung on Boston Common in the 1600’s.

Their Sabbath day services were spent keeping the “appointed hour of silence,” a time when they gathered together and sat in silence. A Friend expressed the idea of silence in this way.

“ We come together from life let us sit down in reverent silence. Let us each put down our burdens and help one another to rest. Let us become listening souls, for it will not be in earthquake, or fire but in still small voice, that He will make His presence known. It will be in unhurried stillness that we shall be conscious of His voice.”

“Quakerism is away of life.”

In order to focus on this presence of God, the Friends simplified their external, everyday life and removed any obstacle they thought might hinder their contact with that inner presence. Consequently, the Quakers did not smoke, drink “spirituous liquors” or dance. They followed a code of severe simplicity or “plainness” that was reflected in their fashion, furnishings, speech and architecture.

Examples of their sober clothing can be seen in the old photograph above - bonnets and shawls for women; long, dark coats and wide brim hats for men.

The meeting house, like many Quakers homes, was built with very little ornamentation and left unpainted.

Their “ plain speech” replaced the days of the week and months of the year with numbers. Sunday became “first day” and June became “sixth month.”

Church was, of course, a “meeting house” and religious services were called “meetings.” The name of their religious sect was simple and to the point, “Society of Friends.” The name was simple in comparison to the names of most denominations: Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, etc.

Plainness followed them into the after life as the Quakers did not mark their graves with headstones. The open area in front of the meeting house is the resting place of many pioneer Quakers.

“Simple faith flows over into a wide field of human conduct.”

The Friends had a strong sense of social justice. They opposed slavery, war and capital punishment; befriended the Indians; and sought the humane treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill. They were one of the first groups in the world to educate women and recognize a degree of equality of the sexes not permitted by the rest of society at that time.

In Adams, the Quakers harbored runaway slaves from New York state which did not abolish slavery until 1826 (Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1790). Several of the runaways settled in Adams and lived out the rest of their lives here.

Although it was the Quakers’ belief to oppose war there were members of the East Hoosuck Friends Meeting who served at the Battle of Bennington, our area’s participation in the Revolutionary War. A plaque on a boulder near the meeting house memorializes those who “laying aside their religious scruples took up arms in defense of their homes and liberties.”

In the early days of American history women were forbidden to speak in public. Although the Friends did not have an established clergy and their worship service was to keep an hour of silence, they did allow certain individuals to publicly share their thoughts during the meetings. One of those individuals was a woman, Hannah Anthony Hoxie. She was, what the Quakers called, a “speaker” in this meeting house as well as a visiting speaker at other Friends Meetings. A photograph of her still hangs on the wall in the meeting house and she is buried in the graveyard outside.

The fervor and high ideals of the Society of Friends were not easily preserved and passed on to succeeding generations in Adams. It was difficult to promote beliefs such as pacifism in a violent world, or simplicity and plainness in an economic system that encourages growth and consumption. Better economic prospects and the same pioneer spirit of past generations lured the young people to move westward. When the Erie Canal opened in 1925 the flat, fertile farmland of the midwest was easier to reach.

The Quaker community in Adams reached its peak in 1819 when a total of 40 families were members of the Friends Meeting. There was a steady decline after that date and in 1842 the Society of Friends held its last official meeting in the old meeting house.


Source: Adams Historical Society
Eugene Michalenko and Jack Sobon
(Related Links: Historic Churches of The Berkshires, Town of Adams)




BerkshireWeb



info@berkshireweb.com