History of the Quaker Church in New Castle

from "Brief Historical Sketches concerning FRIENDS' MEETINGS" T. Chalkley Matlack,p 313, 1938
With permission Friends Historical Library

New Castle
Meeting established 1684
First Meeting House built1705
Meeting "resed" 1758
Meeting House demolished 1885
Location New Castle, Del.

New Castle's Friends' history began early and ended early, and details of its story are scattered and short. It was closely asociated with the meeting at Newark, as may be inferred from Dr. Michner's extracts from the early Friend's Meeting records: -

"Kennet Monthly Meeting (formerly Newark, or originally New Castle). There was probably a Monthly Meeting held at New Castle for some time previous of which no record remain. The first minute extant, does not seem like the opening of a new Monthly Meeting.

"1686.- At the Monthly Meeting held at the Widow Welsh's, Edward Gibbs and Edith Crawford proposed their intentions of marriage with each other, the man producing a certificate from the Monthly Meeting in Maryland, signifying his clearness." -(Kennet Monthly Meting.

"1687.- This meeting, taking into consideration the matter of the men's meeting, which hitherto hath been kept at New Castle, and finding, upon due consideration, that it may be more convenient for the present, that it be kept twice on the other side of Brandywine, and the third which will be the Quarterly Meeting to be kept at New Castle." - (Kennet Monthly Meeting.)

"Friends of New Castle, perhaps not liking the removal of the Monthly Meeting from them, grew careless of attendance, and were several times requested to attend, but they still not complying, the following minute occurs,

"1689.- The Monthly Meeting being held at Morgen Dewitt's debated concerning the deficiency of Edward Blake and others, formerly belonging to the meeting at New Castle, in not answering the desire of the meeting, by coming hither, on this side Brandywine Creek, but not withstanding absented themselves. The meeting therefore appoints that the next Quarterly Meeting be held on this side Brandywine, where it will fall in course." -(Kennet Monthly Meeting.)

From this time, the Monthly Meeting was most frequently held at "Valentine Hollingsworth's at Newark," often at other Friend's houses, and a view times at New Castle, up to 1704."

Thus it appears that New Castle was in reality the beginning of the Kennett Monthly Meeting, which developed from it through the medium of Newark. In both the "History of Chester County, Pa." 1881, by J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, and the "History of Delaware" by J. Thomas Scharf, 1888, New Castle's Quaker history finds mention. In the former it is stated:-

"The date of the establishment of this meeting has been fixed at 1684. John Hussey, John Richardson, Edward Blake, George Hogg, and Benjamin Swett were members thereof. In 1688 a committee was appointed to review a place for a meeting-house and graveyard."

In the latter named history is the following:-"Soon after the proprietorship of William Penn, steps were taken to establish a Friendsí Meeting. This purpose was fully carried out, in 1684, by the Quarterly Meeting of Philadelphia, under whose direction the meeting at New Castle became permanent. The Friends constituting it were few in numbers, and for a number of years they assembled at the houses of the various members, the first church being built in 1705. Fifteen years later a board of trustees is mentioned, and in October, 1720, they obtained title to a lot of ground, one hundred and twenty by three hundred feet, on Beaver and Otter Streets, the conveyance being from George Hogg, Sr., cordwainer, to John Richardson, Mahala Meers, George Hogg, Jr., and Edward Gibbs. In 1752, John Richardson deeded the property to another board of trustees, consisting of Benjamin Scott, John Leuden, Joseph Leuden, Eliakim Garrettson and Joseph Rotheram. In 1758 the Meeting was "raised" finally and the members thereafter attended at Wilmington, the property ultimately passing into the possession of that Meeting, which sold it. What was known in later years as the Quaker meeting-house stood on the corner of Pine and Railroad Streets, and the ground extending to Union Street was set aside for burial purposes. This small plain brick building, antedating the Revolution, was demolished in 1885. Many years previously it stood unused, after having been occupied first by a white congregation and later by colored people."

In 1931, at the time of the visit to New Castle by the compiler pf these records, the Society of Friends in New Castle, Delaware is practically represented by the one family of Newlin T. Booth, yet there are members of other churches, descendants of former families of the Quakers, who yet retain some pride in claiming connection with the Society of Friends through their Ancestry.

There are now few traces left of any of the landed property, which, in the days of the past, belonged to Friends. Even the names of streets in New Castle have been changed and what was formerly Union Street is no called Fifth, while Pine Street of the past is Fourth Street of the present. The brick Meeting House of Friends that once stood at the corner of Pine and Railroad Streets was demolished in 1885 and the place is now occupied by an old barn with smaller out-buildings, all wooden structures and much dilapidated, having an ample yard for a few cows about there. Between it and Union (Fifth) Street is the ground in which the early pioneer Friends interred their dead in unmarked graves as was their usual custom in colonial times. It is now almost completely built over with dwellings, chiefly tumble-down houses of the colored race, and in the digging for the cellars of these houses, it is related to the compiler that many human bones were unearthed by the workmen. A frame school-house for the education of colored children was erected on a apart of the ground and was used until it was supplemented by the present neat brick school-house located on South Street across the railroad opposite the site of the Friends Meeting House. Now, on Fifth Street adjacent to the western end of the former Burial Ground is the Bethany African Methodist Church with its little graveyard.

The location of the former Friend's Meeting House of New Castle is in open sight of the Delaware River, several rods distant, the space intervening being without houses or trees in 1931, excepting near the water's edge. New Castle's spread of its business houses and residences has not as yet materially touched the southern outskirts. But though reminiscences of the early Quakers are practically gone, there are still preserved many old buildings of the antique colonial times, highly interesting and prized by citizens of town and state. Some of the quaint private residences and old churches remain, as well as the venerable Old Court House. On one side of this building is the Market House, dating from 1820, and on the other is a remarkably handsome avenue of beautiful trees, lending an enjoyable charm to the New Castle of 1931.