The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse, marking its bicentennial this weekend, was the site of much work for peace, equality and justice

FARMINGTON — The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse, at 160 County Road 8, will celebrate its bicentennial this weekend with tours, music, a play, speakers, and portrayals of historic people associated with this national center of reform including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, and Austin Steward. The event is free, and grounds open at 10 a.m.

“Our bicentennial weekend will be a celebration and a thanksgiving for the importance of the 1816 Meetinghouse for peace, equality, justice, and respect for Native Americans, African Americans, and women,” said Judith Wellman, State University of New York at Oswego professor emerita of history and coordinator of the citizens’ group restoring the Meetinghouse. “We are not working to save this 200-year-old building because it was once an old barn but because it represents the importance of these questions of justice and equality for the present and future as well as the past.”

 The Quakers, or Friends, were the original settlers of the town of Farmington. Their first meetinghouse was built in 1796 near the hamlet of New Salem, known today as Pumpkin Hook. After it was destroyed by fire in 1803, the Friends constructed a larger building nearby, but when that became too small for the growing numbers of settlers, they erected a new meetinghouse in 1816.

As a building, the 1816 Meetinghouse has great historic significance. It is the place where Quakers and many others met in the 19th century to advance Native American sovereignty, abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, and the rights of women. The building was said to have held 1,000 people at times and served as the site of the Friends' Genesee Yearly Meeting, drawing Quakers from throughout the northeast and Canada.

“The 1816 Farmington Meetinghouse, the largest pre-canal building in western New York, is a remarkable testimony to the intense energies generated in upstate New York before the Civil War for movements for equal rights, especially for Native Americans, African Americans, and women,” Wellman said. 

But the Meetinghouse was nearly lost to the ages until a group of citizens joined together to save and restore the structure. After the Friends’ final meeting in the structure in 1926, a local farmer bought it and used it as a storage barn. The Meetinghouse remained in private ownership until 2006 when a windstorm heavily damaged the building. In order to avoid demolition, the Meetinghouse was donated to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation of Seneca Falls.

The nonprofit 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse Museum was formed in 2009 to take over restoration. In 2011, the Meetinghouse was stabilized and moved to its permanent home in the Farmington Quaker Crossroads Historic District.

“The United States traces its beginnings to the ideal that 'all men are created equal.' As Americans, we continue to debate the meaning of that ideal for all people, everywhere.  And nowhere was this debate more intense than in the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse,” Wellman asserted. “That building carries essential messages about the meaning of American democracy for all people. We listen to voices from the past to help us make decisions about the present and future.”

And some of those voices that were heard at the Meetinghouse were Seneca leaders petitioning for their land rights; abolitionists J.C. Hathaway, William Lloyd Garrison, and Frederick Douglass working for African American rights; and women’s rights leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Wellman noted that the historic Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 might not have been held there at all had the Farmington Meetinghouse not served as a central location for debates and discussions leading up to it.

The weekend commemoration begins with a welcoming ceremony and traditional Seneca thanksgiving address at 11 a.m. on Saturday, followed by woman's suffrage songs by Peggy Lynn at noon, Farmington Friends Church Choir at 1:30 pm, and a presentation discussing “The Honorable Harvest” by Freida Jacques, Onondaga Clan Mother, at 2 pm. Food vendors will be available throughout the day.

On Sunday, Mona Polacca, of the International Council Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, will speak at the Farmington Friends meeting at 11 am.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chairman of the New York State Centennial Commission on Women’s Suffrage, and first female New York Lt. Gov. Mary Anne Krupsak, will receive special recognition at 12:30 p.m. Sunday for their efforts advancing women’s rights.

At 2 p.m. the Macedon Players will present “Bullis” by Rand Darrow, which depicts the story of Macedon Quaker Gen. John Lapham Bullis, who served with and commanded U.S. colored troops after the Civil War.

The bicentennial commemoration is co-sponsored by the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation, the Town of Farmington, Farmington Friends Church, and Friends of Ganondagan with help from the New York Council on the Humanities.

The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service's Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and the National Collaborative of Women's History Sites.

 

If you go

WHAT 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse bicentennial weekend

WHERE 160 County Road 8 and Sheldon Road, Farmington

WHEN Grounds open at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday

COST Free

DETAILS Full schedule of events available at www.farmingtonmeetinghouse.org

  

 

Schedule of events

Saturday

11 a.m. - Welcoming ceremonies including traditional Seneca thanksgiving address, dignitaries, introduction of descendants and historical figures (Ronnie Reitter as Seneca woman; David Anderson as Austin Steward/Frederick Douglass; Barbara Blaisdell as Susan B. Anthony; Melinda Grube as Elizabeth Cady Stanton; and Renee-Noelle Felice as Lucretia Mott)

12:30 p.m. - Peggy Lynn, woman's suffrage songs

1:30 p.m. - Farmington Friends Choir

2 p.m. - Freida Jacques, Onondaga Clan Mother, “The Honorable Harvest”

Sunday

11 a.m. - Mona Polacca, one of the International Council of Thirteen Grandmothers, featured speaker for worship service at Farmington Friends; reception to follow

12:30 p.m. - “Carrying on the Vision” awards for Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mary Anne Krupsak,

1:30 p.m. - Farmington Friends Choir

2 p.m. - "Bullis," a play by Rand Darrow about Macedon Quaker Gen. John Lapham Bullis