The First Quakers
The Religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers or
Friends, began during the Puritan Revolution in England.
George Fox, who founded the Society, began to preach in 1647.
Fox objected to the hollow formalism of the established Church
of his time. He asked men and women of all creeds to help him
with his inner struggles. At last he felt the assurance that God
speaks to every human soul directly, guiding and helping. He
taught that we can find Christ, or "the inner light," without
clergy, liturgy, or steepled church.
Quakers came to the New World to seek relief from
persecution. Many settled in Pennsylvania, founded by Quaker
William Penn, who welcomed people of all faiths.
Friends in the Valley
In the 18th century many Friends brought their families
Eastern Pennsylvania (near Hopewell, PA) to the rich
of the Shenandoah Valley. They built homes on
Ridge and in the frontier town of Winchester. They
Hopewell Meeting in 1734 at Clearbrook. Theirs
was one of the
first houses of worship west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Faith in Action
Believing that God is present in everyone, Friends stood among
the earliest and staunchest advocates for the abolition of
slavery, prison reform, civil rights, equality of men and women,
and peace-making. We continue to live our faith through
comitted social action.
Friends Build a Future
At first, Friends in the Valley met in a log cabin on land given
them by Alexander Ross. In 1759 they built HOPEWELL
MEETING HOUSE, using native limestone and pine. This
House has been in continuous use ever since. In 1789 it was
enlarged to its present size, and in 1910 the East end was
rebuilt. With no other major changes, the Meeting House looks
the way it did when worshippers arrived in horse-drawn
Just East of Hopewell Meeting House is the graveyard. Within
its limestone walls are many unmarked graves of early Friends
and of Native Americans, with whom they lived in friendship.
Under the care of Hopewell Meeting, new meetings thrived.
Winchester Centre Meeting began in 1777. At first these
Friends met near Willow Lawn, a mile southwest of
Winchester. But in 1817 Sarah Zane, sister of Gen. Isaac Zane
of the Marlboro Iron Works, gave the Meeting an entire block
on South Washington Street in Winchester. During the Civil
War this second Meeting House was occupied by both armies
and gradually dismantled.
The present WINCHESTER CENTRE MEETING HOUSE,
set in the heart of Winchester, was built in 1872. The long,
narrow building has two entrances in front and two exits in
back. Women used to enter on one side, men on the other. In the
center, a folding wall divides the room in two. A crank above
the present ceiling raised the wall during worship. Afterward,
the wall was lowered so that men and women could conduct
separate Meetings for Business. This separation honed the
leadership skills of Quaker women. The practice ended in the
Winchester Centre Meeting and Hopewell Meeting united in
1999. Today both historic Meeting Houses are centers for
worship and community service. Coming together in quiet, we
listen for the divine voice which leads us to shape a better