Some history of the Guilford (Muddy Creek) Quaker Meeting House and burial ground
(But first…some basic Quaker history from the
The seventeenth century was a time of political and religious ferment in the British Isles. The formalism of the Church of England had become a hindrance to many spiritual seekers, and new sects were coming into being. The Church itself was in some confusion between Puritan and anti-Puritan tendencies. In mid-century the Puritans prevailed, both politically and religiously. They dethroned and beheaded King Charles I and instituted the Commonwealth, which ruled the British domain for more than a decade. It may have been significant in the religious controversies that the "authorized" version of the Bible, the so-called "King James" Bible of 1611, had made the Scriptures available to more English-speaking people than ever before.
George Fox, who initiated the gathering of the people later called Quakers, was born in Leicestershire in 1624. He was an unusually serious boy. As a teenager he troubled his parents by refusing to attend Sunday services, preferring to spend the time in Bible reading and solitary meditation. From the age of nineteen, George Fox went on frequent walking journeys over the midland counties of England, talking about spiritual matters with those he met along the way. Clergymen were often confounded by his incisive interpretation of scripture, and could provide little guidance for the young man. After much searching and despair, he heard an inner voice that said:
There is One, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition.
Here and there he found kindred spirits, and he continued to experience "openings," such as:
I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, and an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that I also saw the infinite love of God.
[I saw] that every [one] was enlightened by the Divine Light of Christ ... and that they that believed in it came out of condemnation and came into the Light of Life, and became children of it.
Such revelations led to a belief in a "seed" of the Divine in every human being, usually called by Friends the Inner Light, or the Light of Christ. Fox taught that those who led their lives in strict obedience to God's will would come to "walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone." No clergyman, no intercessor, no liturgy or ritual was required. The only need was to experience the Divine Presence -- nothing else mattered. That Presence became so real to the early Quakers that they marveled that "Christ has come to teach his people himself." They also discovered that divine revelation came equally to women, men, and children. Some of the most active and intrepid ministers were women.
Quakers in Maryland and VirginiaThe first Quaker known to visit the colonies of Maryland and Virginia was Elizabeth Harris, who came in 1655 or 1656 and found an immediate response. She was followed by a stream of others traveling in the ministry of the new faith. Many people of Maryland and Virginia joined the new movement. Although few early records of Virginia Yearly Meeting exist, it appears that George Fox initiated the first movement toward organization in that colony during his visits in 1672 and 1673.
In Fourth Month 1672, John Burnyeat, who was about to return to England after a lengthy ministry, called a General Meeting (to last several days) on West River, south of present-day Annapolis, for all Friends in the Province of Maryland. It happened that George Fox and several other English Friends had been visiting in Barbados and Jamaica, and arrived in Maryland in time for that historic meeting, which marks the beginning of Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends.
In his Journal George Fox recorded this event:
Then there was a meeting appointed by John Burnyeat about three score miles off, which held four days, which we went to though we were weary. And there came to it ... many considerable people of the world, and a glorious meeting we had. After the public meeting there were men's and women's meetings [for business] and I opened to Friends the service thereof and all were satisfied.
Although little opposition was met in Maryland, which tolerated any Christian sect, the situation was different in Virginia, where only the established Church of England was allowed. There was much persecution, particularly on the Eastern Shore, forcing the Quakers to migrate northward into Maryland. Elsewhere in Virginia, the Quaker movement prospered in spite of opposition.
By 1700 there were about 3000 Quakers in Maryland, possibly the largest religious body in the colony at that time. The Yearly Meeting for Maryland held two sessions annually, one at West River and the other at Third Haven (now Easton) on the Eastern Shore. After 1774 sessions were held but once a year, alternating between the eastern and western shores of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1785 the western shore meeting place was transferred from West River to Baltimore.
Some other historical perspectives concerning
Eastern Shore Meetings (c. 1656--)
Meetings had been settled along the eastern waterways of the Chesapeake Bay long before the General Meeting at West River in 1672. Fox himself held a large meeting at Betty's Cove that same year. Meeting Houses were built at Nassawadox in 1657 and at Betty's Cove in the 1660s. By 1679, Tuckahoe had a Meeting House and by 1684 the Third Haven Meeting House was in use. However, in these early days, Meetings commonly "circulated" among the membership. Thus, on the Shore, Friends met at Ralph Fishbourne's home, at William Steven's home near Dividing Creek or at Howell Powell's home on the Choptank. It was these small Weekly or Particular Meetings that were of greatest importance to Friends in the first century of their existence.
Between 1672 and 1698, possibly, three Monthly Meetings were established for the Eastern Shore Quarterly. One was for the Meetings on the very lowest part of the shore, those held in the two Virginia counties and in Somerset County in Maryland. Included in this Monthly Meeting were the Meetings at Nassawadox, Munny, Annamessex, Accomac, Pocatynorton (Bogerternorton) and Muddy Creek. These Meetings probably formed the Lower Quarterly Meeting for several decades. A large part of the membership from the Maryland Meetings was drawn from Friends who had fled Virginia during the first persecution, and it was precisely these Maryland Meetings which were first lost to the Friends. After 1700, the Yearly Meeting received little account of them. By 1720, a Committee reported to the Yearly Meeting that they had visited the lower Meetings on the Eastern Shore and found that many of their Elders were dead, the membership weakened, and that no Monthly Meeting had been held at Muddy Creek or Nassawadox for several years. For a time after the visit by the Committee, it seemed Quakerism could be revived within this area. But, in 1729, the Yearly Meeting again ordered a visit to Somerset and Accomac Counties. This time it was told that only a few Friends remained who belonged to Munny, Annamassex, Mulberry Grove, Muddy Creek and Nassawadox Meetings. The Committee lodged the records that could be found belonging to the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings in that area with a local Friend, William Waters. After the death of Waters in 1733, the records of the Lower Monthly Meeting and the Lower Quarterly Meeting were ordered to be placed in the custody of Third Haven Monthly Meeting. However, Third Haven received no records. In 1879, a Committee on Records reported to the Representative Committee of the Yearly Meeting that the records from the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings in the lower counties of Maryland "which have long since been extinct" are missing. "Particular attention," pleads the Committee, "is desired to be given to these that so much as possible may be recovered as they no doubt contain historical matter of great interest pertaining to the Society of Friends." Unfortunately, the records are still missing.
[From the Maryland State Archives site:
Quaker Meetings on the Eastern Shore of Virginia: There were three Quaker Meetings whose history will never be known in detail because all the records are lost. The first is that monthly meeting (if indeed it ever was such) which included all the Meetings on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It is here the Quakers were first found in Virginia though they may have also appeared at the same time in Nansemond county where they were to be the strongest. Of these Eastern Shore Quakers we know almost nothing except they did exist as early as 1656-57 having settled in Accomack where the population was thin and the country remote from the seat of government which was at Jamestown across the Bay. Here they had hoped to live unmolested, but such was not their destiny. The charges brought against them, and sworn to an oath in the court of Northampton, sound ridiculous to those knowing the true tenets of the Society, but they were typical of the misunderstanding and even fear the people of that day had of this sect. Nothing was too fantastic to be laid to their charge. Because these Quakers were so harshly treated, a large number of them fled across the border into Maryland where they formed a colony. They went at the invitation of Maryland's Governor Calvert who granted each 50 acres. Colonel Edmund Scarburgh's dealing with them is a matter of interesting record. While some fled, others remained and declared in their misery that "the Indians, whom they judged to be heathen, exceeded the whites in kindness, in courtesies and love and mercy unto them who were strangers." Among their members were George (<GeoI) Truitt of Mulberry Grove. In Accomack county in 1683 there was standing near Guilford Creek another small meeting house. These houses, like those who built them and worshipped in them, have disappeared behind the veil of unrecorded years. It is doubtful these Quakers were ever officially associated with the Virginia Yearly Meeting though in 1702 an "order" was sent to Friends in Maryland at the West River and in 1707 the Yearly Meeting quoted the request of the Friends of Patowmac to give advice concerning rules of discipline.
Some other items of historical
significance concerning the Guilford
Many thanks to all who have contributed to the research effort in finding the Guilford site, most notably Dr. William E. Groves, whose TRUITT family database may be found at: http://worldconnect.genealogy.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=bgroves2
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