An Early Summary of “The Society of Friends” in Eliot, Maine
In 1662, King Charles 2nd, gave freedom of worship to all except Quakers. Of them, he wrote, “We cannot be understood to direct or wish than any indulgence should be granted to those persons commonly called Quakers, whose principles being inconsistent with any kind of government. We have found it necessary by the advice of our parliament here to make a sharp law against them, and all are contented that you do alike”.
That same year, three ladies of the Friends came to Dover, N.H. and they received very harsh treatment there.
A following order was issued: “To Constables of several towns, you all are required to take these vagabond Quakers that are out of your jurisdiction, place them in a cart, drive them through your towns and whip them on the naked backs not exceeding 10 stripes each until they are out of this jurisdiction.” Dated December 22, 1662, Dover, N.H.
This harsh order was executed in many towns, however, religious zeal has never been silenced by persecution.
The Quaker preachers returned and renewed their religion. Their most violent persecutors became supporters of the Society of Friends. The first Quakers found refuge for a time at the home of Nicholas Shapleigh that was in the vicinity of Sturgeon Creek.
At court, held 15 September 1665, Nicholas Shapleigh, James Heard and Richard Nason, being selectmen, were dismissed from that office under the charge of being Quakers. People were being fined for showing hospitality to Quakers. Quakers were now in Kittery, Eliot, and the Berwicks. Several families of Friends were here in 1721.
The court further declared that a fine of five pounds should be paid by any Quaker who took part in any town business,
The first meeting of the Friends for worship was established in Eliot, October, 1730 and was connected to the Dover, N.H. monthly meeting. For more than 10 years, it was the only one in Maine.
(Town records for Kittery, Maine in 1737, show a list of Quakers allowed by the selectmen amounted to twenty two people. This register was signed by the six selectmen of that year.)
In the Spring of 1742, it was visited by John Churchmen, celebrated as a minister of the society in Pennsylvania. In 1764, a Preparative Meeting was granted. In 1769, a Friends Meeting House was removed from Dover, N.H. and set up in Eliot on Friend Jenkin’s land, opposite the Asa Allen Farm on River Road. The “Friends Graveyard” exists today on the corner of State and River Roads.
Among those remembered as Friends were the Allens, Frys, Neals, and Jenkins. At one time, they possessed considerable strength, but they have long since ceased to have existence as a distinctive body.
The house was taken apart and transported across the Piscataqua River from Dover and rebuilt in Eliot.
The stone on the corner served as a horse block, for the mounting and dismounting of a riding horse. Now the stone is on the corner where the road from Sturgeon Creek meets the road from the river. A historical Marker was installed in this stone in later years that shows the date of the “First Meeting House in Eliot”. It reads as follows:
The Site of
The First Meeting House
Built in Dover N.H. Taken Down and
Erected Here in 1769
During this time, the Quakers built red brick silo’s of which two were built on River Road by the Quaker group. They are standing today, but in desperate need of repairs.
The building that set on this land was torn down in the 1800’s and a new structure was built by Mr. Charles Goodwin. Mr. Charles Goodwin’s wife was the grandmother of Eliot Emery who inherited the property and sold it to Mr. Del Rowe, who later on in years sold it to Mr. & Mrs. John Miller (now 799 River Road).