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An American Family History

Excerpts from Friends' Miscellany

 

Byberry, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania

 
Early Quakers were persecuted. In the Massachusetts Bay colony, Friends were banished on pain of death.
Byberry is a township in the northeast corner of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The Walton brothers were early settlers. Moreland Township was just west of Byberry. When Montgomery County broke off in 1784, Moreland was divided into two townships, both called Moreland. In 1917 the Montgomery County Moreland split into Upper Moreland Township and Lower Moreland Township.

William Penn (1644-1718) was a Quaker philosopher and real estate developer. He was the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania.

New Jersey's first permanent European settlement was in 1660.

Friends' Miscellany by John Comly, Isaac Comly, Joshua Evans, and John Hunt, 1835.

Progress of Byberry meeting of Friends; with some account of the Keithians.
Introduction. . .The township of Byberry is situated about fourteen miles north-east of Philadelphia; a creek called Poquessing, or, as it was anciently termed, Poetque-sink, dividing it from Bensalem, in the county of Bucks. Byberry contains near six thousand acres of good soil, and was first settled chiefly, or altogether by Friends, divers of whom were passengers in the ships which came with William Penn in 1682.

Early after their arrival, the following persons located themselves in this neighbourhood,—viz: Giles Knight, from Gloucestershire, Mary his wife, and their son Joseph; John Carver, from Hertfordshire, maltster, his wife Mary, and daughter Mary who was born near Philadelphia, four days after Penn landed at Newcastle; John Hart, from Oxfordshire, Susannah his wife, and several children; Richard Collett and Elizabeth his wife; Nathaniel Walton, Thomas Walton, Daniel Walton, and William Walton—four brothers, young men.

In 1683, came John Rush, an elderly Friend, from Oxfordshire, his five sons and a daughter;—also his son William Rush, with Aurelia his wife and three children. Soon after, we find among the settlers, John Gilbert, Florence his wife, and their son Joseph; William Nichols and wife; and William Hibbs, Walter Forrest, Henry English, Thomas Knight, Joseph English, Samuel Ellis, and Thomas Groome.

Some of these Friends had been persecuted in their native country, on account of their religious principles; and, believing that Divine Providence had opened their way to remove to this country, where they might be permitted to worship the Sovereign of the Universe in such manner as they were persuaded was acceptable to him,— they were induced to subject themselves to the privations attendant upon a removal from amongst their kindred and friends—to the dangers attendant upon crossing the ocean—and to the difficulties of settling and sustaining themselves in a wilderness country. . .

and in the 12th month, 1666, it was agreed that the monthly meeting should be held at Byberry, Oxford and Cheltenham, "in course," the last week in the month, and on the days of their respective "weekly meetings"—that at Byberry being on fourth-day. In the 1st month, 1687, it was

agreed that the monthly meeting be kept at the house of Richard Worrell junr. henceforward, on the last second-day in every month

—and that

there shall be a general meeting, moveable at four different places— Germantown, Byberry, Oxford, and at Richard Wain's, to be only and alone for the public worship of God.

The records of those times manifest the care of Friends in relation to marriages, certificates of remoral, registry of births and burials, and the relief of the poor—but frequently there was "no business."

We find no record designating the place where Friends of Byberry assembled, in their usual meetings for worship, till the monthly meeting, in the 4th mo. 1685,

ordered that the meeting which of late hath been held at Giles Knight's, be removed to the house of John Hart.

In the 6th mo. following, it is stated—

Friends did freely accept of ten acres of land given by Walter Forrest for a burying-ground for the service of Friends, near Poetquesink creek, and it is left to the trust and care of Joseph Fisher, John Hart, Samuel Ellis, and Giles Knight, to get the ground surveyed, and a deed of conveyance to be made from Walter Forrest to themselves, for the only use and behoof of Friends forever.

No further notice is found respecting this lot, and its precise location is now unknown.

The motives for removing the meeting to John Hart's house, are not stated; so far as the particular location of Friends at that time can now be ascertained, the order could not have been founded on central convenience: condescension however appears to have been exercised, and harmony prevailed, so that in the llth month, 1686, for the accommodation of the members northward,

it was agreed that there be a meeting at the house of Henry English, (near the middle of Byberry) once a month, first-days.

It has been handed down to us by tradition, that Friends built a meeting house on the flat lands, about one hundred yards northwardly from the forks of Poetquesink, in the southern part of Byberry; it stood on the west side of the road, leading by John Hart's house to the Bristol road, at the "Red Lion," a mile from the river Delaware. Northward of this, on higher ground, was a burying place, which was used by Friends for interments, as early as 1683. In the records of burials are noticed some of the name of Growden and English, of Bensalem, and the Rushes, the Harts, and the Cohetts, of Byberry.

A reciprocal exercise of friendly feelings and good understanding appears to have been maintained amongst the early settlers. Through the blessing of divine Providence upon their industry and prudent management, their temporal accommodations were improving. The young men who came over sea in a single state, were now settled on their farms with affectionate partners, and families of healthy children were increasing around them; so that little was wanting to introduce the inhabitants of Byberry to as much happiness as could reasonably be expected to fall to the lot of humanity.

But in 1691, the Society of Friends was involved in much difficulty in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, through the agency of George Keith, who then resided in Philadelphia. He had been eminent for his services as a minister. Being a man of much learning, and fluent in expression, he had often been engaged in disputations with other professors, on points of doctrine and metaphysics, and frequently gained the victory over his opponents. But not continuing in that state of meekness and humility which the Christian character requires, he seems to have made an erroneous estimate of his own importance. He proposed to introduce some new articles of discipline in the society. . .

George Keith had by this time gained over a considerable party. Several that had been eminent in the ministry advocated his views, and convened another meeting, which issued a declaration in his favour, and disowned those that had testified against him. In this paper, they say that George Keith "was condemned for sound Christian doctrine," and that Friends had

plainly denied the man Christ Jesus, and the great merits, and value, and efficacy of his sufferings and resurrection, and ascension, and his mediation for us in Heaven.

Such transactions amongst the leading members, soon involved the whole in the controversy. The harmony of society was interrupted, and religious meetings, which hitherto had been opportunities of edification, were turned into scenes of animosity and disputation, that had little accordance with the friendly feelings of peace and good-will. Such was the plausibility of George Keith's pretensions, that those who espoused his cause, are said to hare gained the ascendency in sixteen meetings out of thirty-two, which then were connected with the Yearly Meeting for Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

John Hart. . . took an early interest in promoting the views of George Keith, and his name is found to several of the papers published by that party against Friends. . . .

Some disorders and disturbances are reported to have taken place in the meeting at Poetquesink, so that Friends were induced quietly to abandon the meeting-house and meeting, and afterwards held their religious assemblies at the house of Henry English. Here, Giles Knight, John Carver, Daniel Walton, Thomas Walton, William Walton, John Gilbert, William Hibbs, Thomas Knight, Thomas Groome, Henry English, John Brock, and others, with their families, could sit down in peace, uninterrupted by those contentious spirits which had annoyed them when convened for religious devotion.

The Keithian meeting at Poetquesink is said to have continued two or three years. Some of the members afterwards turned Episcopalians, and it is reported, assisted in founding a church called All- Saints, in Lower Dublin.

John Hart afterwards preached to a society of Keithians that met at the house of John Swift, in Southampton, a few miles north of Byberry. In 1697, he and most of the Rush family, became Baptists. Hart himself was baptized by one Thomas Rutter. In 1705, he sold his plantation in Byberry. He had probably removed to Southampton previous to his joining the Baptists. The society to which he was attached, connected themselves with a larger congregation at Pennepac, where Hart became assistant minister— officiating there and at another meeting of the same society in Philadelphia, between the years 1707, and 1720. In the account given of him by the Baptists, it is stated, "he was not ordained; but was reckoned a good preacher, and a most pious Christian." . . .

He further states,

the Keithian Quakers ended in a kind of transformation into Keithian Baptists. They were called Quaker-Baptists, because they still retained the language, dress, and manners of the Quakers. The Keithian or Quaker-Baptists, ended in another kind of transformation into seventh-day Baptists, though some went among the first-day Baptists, and other societies. However, these were the beginning of the Sabbatarians in this province...

In 1694, Friends of Byberry obtained of Henry English one acre of ground, which was conveyed to John Carver and Daniel Walton in trust . . .

The meeting held at Cheltenham was moved to Abington where a meeting-house was built in 1699. . .

The Society of Friends (Quakers) began in England in the 1650s, when they broke away from the Puritans. Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, as a safe place for Friends to live and practice their faith.

Lower Dublin Township was located in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania and adjoined Moreland and Byberry Townships. The township was incorporated into the City of Philadelphia
Baptist churches were found in early colonial settlements and grew out of the English Separatist movement and the doctrine of John Smyth who rejected infant baptism.
 

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