Following my wife Lucia’s suggestion, I concentrated as much as possible on one family of Quakers in order to make it more personalized and interesting.
This family is that of Peter and Lydia Gaunt. Peter and Lydia came from England as young people about 1637. They settled in Sandwich as the Cape was first being settled. They were ordinary people. You know Quaker meeting has some people who are prominent, weighty Friends. They have some on the other extreme who are on the edges. Peter and Lydia were the kind any Meeting has - the people who show up and attend all the time, make their contribution, serve on committees, but not as committee clerks, and are pretty average.
They settled, as I said, in Sandwich just as the Plymouth colony was expanding out from Plymouth itself into a series of villages ranging from Scituate to Eastham, scattered along the coast of Massachusetts Bay. At that time the settlement was just a little fringe between what is now 6A and the shore. These little villages were church-centered. Sometimes they [people] came as a church group and formed a village, sometimes they moved into a church that formed a nucleus. We can’t underestimate how important those churches were. They were the social as well as the religious centers. They were political centers in many ways. If the church was strong, the community was cohesive and successful. If the church wasn’t strong, the place was in trouble. Barnstable was fortunate - if you want to call it that - to have a strong minister, a very good church, and a very good community. Sandwich, on the other hand, started out with settlers from two different groups or areas which never got along too well, and they had a minister who was a very mild person and tried to be a mediator, and he succeeded in satisfying nobody. Some people thought he was too conservative, some thought he was too radical. The result was near anarchy. Yarmouth, the third early town, was a bit between, it had a not very successful church, but not bad enough so the place was getting into trouble.
In Sandwich Peter and Lydia first got into trouble because people didn’t like the church, they didn’t like the minister, and they just quit going to church in many cases. This was a crime in those days, and Peter and Lydia were hauled into court in 1654 and fined for not attending church. Two years later Peter was hauled back into court - Lydia somehow escaped - and he was fined again. At that time in explaining why he didn’t go to church, he made a statement that I think we will come back to. He said that he knew no visible worship now in the world - probably meant that he accepted no visible worship in the world - and he was fined for that.
The [Sandwich] minister in 1654 finally just gave up. Everyone was sniping at him, people were criticizing him. He went off to Long Island, and the church did not have a settled minister for about ten years. They held church services, but the dissidents took to meeting in a private home. That was illegal, an unauthorized church service. So Peter and his neighbors - half a dozen of them - were hauled in for holding an unauthorized and illegal religious meeting. The result was that some of the people went to church, some refused to go to church, and there was dissension. And at that point Sandwich was ripe for religious change. This was the arrival of Quakerism on Cape Cod, and it was by sheer chance.
In 1656 the first Quaker missionaries came to Boston, the largest town and a good place to try to proselytize. The authorities immediately jailed them. The jails were not very comfortable, and the food was horrible. An innkeeper in town who had been in trouble with the church - so much trouble that they kicked him out - saw these queer religious people in jail, and took pity on them, bribed the jail keeper and brought food to them. He talked with them, was quite sympathetic to their message and went public with his sympathies. For that, he was kicked out of the colony. Now remember Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth were separate colonies. So Plymouth colony being near at hand, he went off to Plymouth. The Plymouth authorities, hearing of his problems in Boston, weren’t eager to have him there and said You will have to leave us. By then it was winter, so they told him he could stay in the colony through the winter. But to keep him out of the central town of Plymouth, they sent him to the Siberia of Sandwich. When he got to Sandwich, he heard about these dissenting religious meetings and began attending them. He told them about the Quakers who were in trouble in Boston. And they [the Sandwich people] were rather interested. Came Spring, and Nicholas Udall [the innkeeper] was kicked out by the Plymouth authorities to go to the nearby safe colony of Rhode Island. In Newport I guess he began telling everyone about how badly he was treated in Boston and in Plymouth, and about the nice people in Sandwich.
By then the next wave of two more Quaker missionaries had arrived, they thought that Sandwich might be fertile ground for their efforts. They stopped off in Martha’s Vineyard on the way to convert the Indians, who were having nothing of it, and came on to Sandwich. Christopher Holder and John Copeland were two young men who arrived in the Spring of 1657, and they held certain meetings then left briefly. They went to Boston where Holder, incidentally, had his ear cut off. They came back to Sandwich later in the year. By then it was summertime. They were going to hold certain meetings to tell people about the Quaker message. And since people were being fined not only for going to such meetings but especially for hosting such meetings, it seemed best not to meet in William Allen’s home as they had before. It being summertime, they went off into the hills where nobody could be fined for hosting them, an area up above what is now 6A, a kettle hole where big glacial rocks and ice chunks melted, making a depression. There in the midst of this depression Christopher Holder gave his Quaker sermon with people sitting around the edges listening. To this day the place is known as Christopher’s Hollow. If you want to, you can go up from 6A near the Greenbriar Nature Center, up towards route 6, and you can find Christopher’s Hollow. It was quite a romantic place at that time, way off in the woods. Now it’s got a fairly high-cost residential development, but you can still find Christopher’s Way and Holder’s Road there. From then on the group decided that they were Quakers and they met as such, and this is why you have on the Sandwich Meetinghouse the statement that is in all the history books that this was the first continuous Quaker gathering or grouping in North America, starting from Christopher’s Hollow and that Meeting.
This type of meeting still didn’t sit well with the authorities, and Peter and six others were hauled into court in Plymouth for what was described as “tumultuous carriage at a meeting of the Quakers.” This was the first mention of Quakers in the colonial records, so we were legitimate - or illegitimate! - from then on. I would like to point out the distinction between the treatment that was given in Massachusetts Bay and that in Plymouth. You read in history books and in books about Quakers all about the persecutions and horrible treatment - the executions even - given to Quakers in Boston. The Boston authorities had a policy of imprisonment, torture - a sizable amount - and even killing not only for the Quaker missionaries who came in a steady stream from England, but also for the local people who had been converted by them. Plymouth colony, on the other hand, which is the area we are concerned with, adopted a slightly different system. They decided that they would either convert the Quakers from the evil of their ways or they would ruin them for being such. And so they designated four substantial safe citizens to go to the Quaker meetings, find out what the Quakers were claiming to believe, and show them the error of their ways. It backfired. All four of them became very sympathetic to the Quakers. In fact the one from Barnstable who met with the Cape Quakers was so sympathetic that he was regarded as a near-Quaker the rest of his life! And he was penalized for that.
The other part of the policy, since the first failed, was to have a series of very stringent fines which they felt would make it so unattractive to be a Quaker that people would quit doing so. It drove a number of the Cape Quakers into near bankruptcy. Our friend Peter, as we will see a little later, was again in the middle ground. He suffered, but he didn’t suffer as much as a number of the others and he wasn’t ruined as a few of them were. Digressing, I said there were Quaker missionaries coming through - there were about eight or ten of them at any one time. Peter, incidentally, got into difficulty; he was fined because he and Lydia gave shelter to two of the later Quaker missionaries coming through. But some of the missionaries were not from England; some were from Rhode Island where Quakerism had taken root. And one of Peter’s neighbors, Thomas Greenfield, went off to England to do family business, and on his way back -- due to the queer ship routings they had in those days -- went to Rhode Island. There in Newport he met a Quaker woman local who wanted to be a Quaker missionary to the harsh people in the other colonies. She had already tried Boston and been sent out, so she decided to try Plymouth. He promised to escort her to Sandwich to meet with the new Quaker group. The authorities caught up with them and arrested them both. And so they took Thomas Greenfield and Mary Dyer from Sandwich to the court in Plymouth. Now I said the authorities were much more lenient or gentle than the Massachusetts Bay ones. They said they wanted to get rid of her, send her back to Rhode Island. She was an illegal alien. That was simple, but what about Thomas? Well, Thomas was stiff necked, as a strong Quaker was in those days, and he refused to testify in court. They said, you came from England, you must be an enemy alien, an outsider from England. You ought to be sent back to England. Everyone seemingly knew that he was a longstanding resident of Sandwich, a taxpayer here and so on, but he wouldn’t say anything. Finally it was left to the most prominent citizen of Sandwich who happened to be in the court, to say This isn’t an alien from England; this is my neighbor from Sandwich, Thomas Greenfield. So they agreed to send him back to Sandwich, but there was one quirk. They wanted him to pay for the jail time that he and Mary Dyer had, they wanted him to pay for her transport back to Rhode Island, and they wanted him to pay a fine in addition, all of which finally got worked out.
Now the authorities got more and more unhappy in Plymouth colony with this surge of Quakers. I said that there were fines for not attending church, fines for going to a Quaker meeting, fines for hosting a Quaker meeting, fines for not fingering any Quakers seen nearby, going to the authorities and denouncing them. The constable in Sandwich just threw up his hands and said, These are my friends and neighbors. I can’t do this to them, besides, there are too many of them. I haven’t got the time. And he gave up the job. And the authorities decided that a special prosecutor, so to speak, was what was needed. They looked around to find someone who was not tainted with sympathy, and they had to bring in a man whom we could call a carpetbagger from Maine and had failed in several jobs, and he said, I’ll take the job. So George Barlow was sent to Sandwich in 1658, and he said, I’ll clean up this mess. The first month he was there, he hauled 18 Quakers into court for holding unauthorized Quaker meetings, Peter and Lydia among them, by the way. And you have to realize that in fining people in those days, there wasn’t very much cash. If you didn’t have cash, they took commodities. The commodities were of two types of easily portable things. There was livestock, cows were among the favorite prey, also farm implements, goods, and household furnishings, especially cooking utensils.
Barlow had a policy of finding out what would be the most hurtful thing that he could take and he would go after that. There is a famous story about his seizing the family cooking kettle from a Quaker woman very much like the sheriff in the old Westerns who said, Aha, my proud beauty! In effect, he said, Aha, Priscilla, how are you going to cook now? How are you going to exist? She is reputed to have said - perhaps apocryphally - God looks after the birds in the forest; I’m sure God will look after us. And by the way, George Barlow, the time will come when you will be in worse shape than we are! It’s true that Barlow, after he ceased to be the marshal, began to go into a decline. He became a drunkard; he got into bad shape economically, and he moved out from Sandwich to the shores of Buzzards Bay to an area known now as Barlows Landing where, interestingly, those good Quakers, David and Margaret Douglas now live!
Now one sidelight on these commodities and these fines. A pound in those days was the equivalent of about a hundred dollars for us nowadays. So that when I tell you that Peter and Lydia were fined 43 pounds, their total fines in a two or three year period were $4300! And they were only eighth on the list. Some people were fined several times that amount. A cow was worth about 4 pounds or $400. Some of the Quakers went near bankruptcy. There is an interesting story about Daniel Wing, who saw this approaching. He did what in effect was to set up a blind trust as we’d call it today. What he did was to turn over virtually all his assets to his brother, who was a non-Quaker. His brother simply administered them for the family until the persecution period passed, and Daniel got back his assets.
One thing that is never recognized if you look at Quaker history is that the period of persecution, especially in Plymouth Colony, lasted only about four years. It was not a longstanding decade-long type of thing. It ranged from the beginnings of Quakerism here in 1656 or 7 to 1661. In 1661 there was a turnover in England. The Commonwealth ended and Charles II came to the throne. Charles was sympathetic to the Catholics and had antipathy to the Puritans. The Quakers in England, some of whom were very prominent and well-connected, got his ear and told him the horrible things that were happening especially in Massachusetts Bay, and got him to issue an edict that there should be no more killings, and that the people charged with major Quaker crimes should be sent to England whereby a process of appeals and so on, things could be eased for them.
At the same time the New England colonies were concerned about their legal status that was rather in question. They had - well, Plymouth didn’t really have a charter at all, Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut did - but there were suggestions that the king and the authorities in London were going to pull them into crown colonial status. And therefore the colonial authorities in New England decided that they would have to tread very carefully, and the Quakers were one area where they would have to ease up. From 1661 by and large in Plymouth Colony at least there was no real barrier to being a Quaker or attending Quaker meeting. As a matter of fact, Peter’s troubles for hosting a couple of Quaker missionaries in 1661 were about the last gasp of that problem.
Instead the whole scene shifted to the fact that the Quakers not only existed and worshipped, but they had these queer testimonies. First of those testimonies, they didn’t want to take oaths. Most of us are faced with this at one time or another, and we have the option of affirming. It’s no big deal. In those colonial days, an oath of allegiance or loyalty to the crown or to the colonial government was something very vital. You could not be a voter if you did not take the oath of loyalty. You could not hold office. There was some question whether your property-holding would be valid. Now Peter had evidently taken the oath back before he ever thought of becoming a Quaker, so he didn’t have that problem. But a number of his Quaker neighbors either hadn’t taken the oath or the records didn’t show it. Plymouth colony had a cat and mouse game for about two or three years, 1658-61. The colony would haul in a dozen of these Quaker men, the householders. Have you taken the oath? No, we haven’t. Will you take the oath? No, we won’t. Fine, 1 pound. Six months later, the process was repeated. Several of the Quakers were hauled in seven or eight times on this. I won’t go into the way this worked out, but gradually the Quakers in Sandwich proposed the option of simply affirming their allegiance to the crown, but the colony’s general court vetoed the idea. Anyway, the oath of loyalty was one of the major testimonies that raised difficulty.
The next one was the matter of the so-called priest rates. The Puritan (Congregational) church was the established church. From the very earliest days they relied on voluntary contributions to pay the minister’s salary. It didn’t work. Many people were poor; many in Sandwich were dissenters, and didn’t want to pay. And so it became a requirement under the town tax rate and the Quakers refused to pay. They said, This is payment for a hireling priest whose preaching we don’t listen to, we don’t go to his meeting. Why should we pay his salary? Since it was a legal tax, they were fined, and Mr. Barlow and his successors went ahead and collected things to make up for it.
I will digress again for a story about one of the neighbors there. Ralph Jones lived on the Sandwich-Barnstable line and became a Quaker. He piled up quite a tax bill. This was after Mr. Barlow had had his tenure. The Barnstable constable came to collect the tax, and Jones didn’t have enough money to pay the tax, so the constable took four cows and some calves. Barlow and his successors got a 10% commission for these things, but the remains were supposed to be turned over to the Treasury of the colony. Well, how do you turn over a cow to the colonial treasurer in Plymouth? In this particular case, since part of the charge was for the salary of Mr. Walley, the Barnstable minister, the constable turned over two of the cows to Mr. Walley for his salary. The constable happened to be the minister’s son-in-law and his wife was the minister’s daughter. Shortly afterwards, there was going to be a trial. At that point, Mr. Walley, who was a reasonably sympathetic man, said, Well, I don’t want to bankrupt Ralph Jones, and maybe I’d better give him back his couple of cows. They sent word to Jones to come and get his cows; that he could have them back. Ralph, the stiff necked Quaker, said, The constable took the cows away, he’ll have to drive them back! So the cows stayed with the minister and his daughter, the constable’s wife, gave birth to a child and became very very ill. She was unhappy, and she thought part of the problem was this trouble about those cows. She said, I can hear trouble about those cows. Give the man back his cows. Her father said, My daughter is in a bad way, what she needs is good solid meat, a steak or something. So he had one of the cows killed and sent some of the meat to his daughter. She ate the meat and very promptly died. The rumor began going around that she died because the Quakers had bewitched the cows or her. It is the one case of witchcraft that I have encountered on Cape Cod. Cotton Mather in his book “Rumors” made quite a to do about this as a case of Quaker witchcraft. The minister who was a reasonable man, said, I don’t believe this is witchcraft. And after thinking it over for some time, he killed the other cow and ate a steak to prove it, and he promptly died! So much for the priest rate!
Another of the Quaker testimonies was pacifism, against military service. Nearly all these men had been members of the local trained band. In fact one of the prominent Quaker converts was known even in his Quaker days as Lt. Ellis. Several of the members of the Quaker group for some time were perfectly willing to do the ordinary military service. But the crunch came when King Philip’s War erupted in 1675. All the New England colonies levied on the towns for troops. When the town of Sandwich was ordered to supply some troops, they went to all their younger men and said, All right, it’s your turn. A number of the Quaker youths refused, and were fined in court for their conscientious objector status. In fact, it got so bad that the governor of Plymouth colony, as he assessed the war situation, said, We really weren’t able to do the job we needed and were expected to do in prosecuting the war because two of the towns, Scituate and Sandwich, those hotbeds of Quakerism, did not supply the troops they were supposed to and that we needed. Interesting that the Quakers later in the century became even more sensitive to this problem, and the meeting about 1700 hauled in a number of young men, Quaker members, from Dennis and Brewster for having gone to training. Each of these said [by way of explanation]. Well, actually I do a lot more business on training days than I do the rest of the week! It’s my one chance to meet other people and do some real business! They were eldered by the meeting.
Finally, there was the testimony about marriage. Interestingly, from the very beginning of Quakerism on Cape Cod, the procedures about marriage were almost exactly what they are today. We have records from the mid-1650’s of couples taking each other in marriage. Now this was illegal. You had to go to either the minister, the magistrate, or the justice of the peace and be married officially by them. The Quakers didn’t do it. The Quaker records in 1675 or so have the sad statement about a couple who were hauled in for being married secretly and illicitly. They just happened to be from two of the most prominent Quaker families in town, they had gone through the process that we have of the clearness committee, and the announcement to the meeting, inviting everyone in the meeting to go to their wedding, which was held probably with a certificate, and were told by the authorities, No, no, there was no real wedding. The authorities refused to give the meeting the copy of the official record to record in the meeting’s records that the couple had been married. Incidentally, at this time Peter and Lydia’s son, Hananiah, proceeded to get married in Quaker fashion and got away with it perfectly successfully. There was difficulty about people marrying out of meeting. If you married a non-Quaker, the meeting would call you in and say you were departing from the faith. You’re tying in with the people of the world. You had to give an excuse or explain why you had fallen in love with someone outside the meeting or that you were going to pull your spouse into the meeting, or you were told sadly you were no longer one of the group.
There was one man who got into trouble of that sort and was hauled in in later days, and and they got him not only for marrying out of the meeting but for something that I found very fascinating. They pointed out that he had been caught playing with cudgels in a nearby town. He admitted that he was at fault, and had not acted as a proper Quaker, and would they please pardon him for both these errors, and he got away with it.
Peter and Lydia had three children, [the first of whom was] Hananiah, who got married properly and safely. They had evidently a very attractive daughter, Lydia II, they had a son, Israel, about whom we will hear in a minute. Lydia II was so attractive that she attracted the fancy of a nearby neighbor, Thomas Burgess, very successfully and completely. Somebody squealed on them, and they got hauled into court for fornication. I won’t go into all the juicy stories of fornication among Quakers that are in the records, but Lydia got into trouble with Thomas. There was one difficulty: Thomas was married! In fact, he’d been married for about 15 years. Fornication wasn’t so bad, it did happen. But adultery was unpardonable. So Thomas was sentenced to be whipped 15 strokes and Lydia was sentenced to watch it. Meanwhile Elizabeth Burgess, the aggrieved wife, sued for divorce. This was the first suit for divorce in Plymouth colony. And she was successful. Thomas was charged with having to give her half of their total possessions. That left Thomas less affluent than he was, and with the question of Lydia. So he did the honorable thing; he married Lydia, and since the community was a little difficult for them, they left town. That brings us to a new chapter.
I’ve been talking about Sandwich up to this point. By the 1660’s they had a population pressure. The early settlers each had several sons, and you know what the land on the Cape here is like for agriculture and you couldn’t divide up the land to provide sufficient farms for these growing families, so they spilled out along Massachusetts Bay. They leapfrogged Yarmouth to Brewster - that’s why so many Brewster people have Quaker background - and then they went along to Harwich, Chatham, and the new settlement that developed in Eastham. At one point Plymouth Colony thought of moving the town of Plymouth to Eastham. They didn’t, but there was a settlement there. They also moved southward especially down into what is now Falmouth, along Buzzards Bay and what is now West Falmouth. That relieved some of the pressure. But a sizable group of them including Thomas Burgess and Lydia, his new wife, decided even Falmouth wasn’t far enough and so they moved across Buzzards Bay where a number of Quakers were forming the settlement of Dartmouth. They were part of a migration westward from Plymouth, Scituate, Duxbury, etc. into the inner lands of southeastern Massachusetts, Rochester, Wareham, etc. Dartmouth was a major settlement, heavily Quaker, and it spilled over into the edges of Rhode Island to Tiverton and Little Compton which were then part of Plymouth Colony and which are now part of Rhode Island. At that point King Philip’s War hit and those towns had to be evacuated for a while. And one of the Quakers, Samuel Hicks, who had removed from Sandwich to Dartmouth, and whose house had been burned, received support from Sandwich Friends for rebuilding.
Now King Philip’s War had one other side effect on the Quakers. When it ended, as with Vietnam, there were recriminations. Why had it happened? What went wrong? I saw one statement that a seventh of the male population of the two colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts were killed in the war. I think that was too high, but it was a horrible shock. But the Puritans said You know why this happened? This was God’s judgment on us because we had these horrible Quakers, these ungodly Quakers amidst us, and we had not rooted them out. The Quakers struck back and said, You know why this happened? This was a judgment of God upon the colonies for the horrible things they did to the Quakers. Just like some of the other political questionings of nowadays, the issue never got settled!
This next chapter is about the Quaker meeting itself. Interesting thing on historical records. What I’ve been telling you comes almost completely from the court records of Plymouth colony, the Quakers getting into trouble with the colony. In 1672 the story changes. George Fox came to America. There had been difficulty in England as Quakerism expanded explosively. There were all kinds of little groups and leaders who came to the forefront. And there was danger that Quakerism would blow itself apart. Fox moved into action to try to bring organization out of this near chaos. Not only in England but in the colonies. So he made a trip to the West Indian colonies and the North American colonies. When he came to a general meeting of all the Quakers then in New England in Providence, he emphasized the need to have a structure of monthly meetings, of general meetings which we would call quarterly meetings and of a New England Yearly meeting. It is more than a coincidence that a month or two later, in 1672, Sandwich Quakers did their first job of getting a record book purchased in Boston, appointing a man who in effect became their clerk to keep a record of the minutes, appointed a treasurer, and reported that they were holding monthly meetings for business. So that the monthly meeting record from then on is what we have up until the present day. It is clear that from the first record that they had been doing these things before, but never wrote anything down. And so we have from the beginning a monthly meeting to look at, roughly from 1672 to 1694 when the first clerk died, and the record book wasn’t as good after that.
They set up monthly meetings: a men’s meeting and a women’s meeting. The women’s meeting started a little after the men’s meeting, but they kept records, too. Not as good records because they didn’t have as effective a clerk. But they had regular meetings, they had a treasury, and they had activities. And the Meeting had a Meetinghouse. Hananiah was still there; he was a carpenter. They hired him to do a lot of the work on the Meetinghouse and they kept needing every two or three years to expand it, so Hananiah kept busy until he went off to New Jersey as part of the Diaspora, as I call it - Quakers leaving to settle elsewhere. And they had a treasury. The women had a treasury. Lydia became co-treasurer -- the one case I found in which both of them got any kind of high office. Again, the treasurers were interesting because they didn’t always get cash. Occasionally, when there was a special need, people contributed a cow, and people contributed various other kinds of commodities as well as cash.
In addition to the Meetinghouse they set up a cemetery (the town gave the land for the cemetery in 1674). The area down near the swamp they reserved for the servants. This sounds horrible, Quakers having servants, but in that period almost everyone had a person in service, a hired man, a woman to help the housewife. There were children who were sent out to other families to look after them, there were indentured servants. Some of these latter became independent operators and even acquired land and high position. John Alden of Plymouth went through that mill as did several people who were prominent Quakers. The Meeting even had a library. Several people gave books; William Penn sent four books that became part of the library. It would be very nice if we could find any of those original books!
The Meeting began to reach out to other meetings nearby. Scituate and Sandwich meetings joined together at least once a year. This was very convenient for young people to meet potential spouses; there was a large number of Sandwich Quakers marrying Quakers from Dartmouth, etc. And they would compare problems. That was fine except transportation was difficult. You had water transport, but how do you get from Falmouth to Sandwich, or from Dartmouth to Sandwich? Or Dartmouth to Scituate by water? You can’t. And the roads were horrible. So one of the jobs of Sandwich Meeting was to make sure that the road to Dartmouth or to Rhode Island or to Falmouth was passable. The younger members of the Meeting were delegated to go out and do a road-improvement job so that the other members of Quarterly Meeting could get to it.
Now additionally there was a job of mediation. There was a need to help solve disputes. The Quakers were very sensitive about that. A new and vigorous group discipline was important. Peter got into trouble and was eldered very early in the minutes for slackness in attending meeting. They sent out a committee to say Why haven’t you been going to Meeting? They went after him not only for not attending meetings but because they thought he was backsliding in the faith. He had to explain himself. On the other hand, Lydia was sent out by the women’s meeting to find out why a woman hadn’t been showing up. On the mediation, if any of the Quakers had quarrels with another, they were not supposed to sue each other. They were supposed to take it to the monthly meeting, say they had a problem, and the meeting would appoint a committee to talk with the parties, wrestle with them to try to get the dispute settled.
Then there was the matter of suffering. We still have committees for suffering; I think Yearly Meeting still has one. They didn’t originally have a separate committee for the suffering; it was a committee of the whole. Now the original sufferings were the physical ones, the persecution. Those would occasionally come even later in the century. But most of the sufferings were economic ones. And the minutes show that someone would say So and so is in bad shape economically. What should we do? They would have a consultation and try to find out what was wrong. There was one report of a man in Yarmouth who had had his house burned down. Maybe he needed help. The next month was reported, No, he’s getting along all right. I don’t think they had insurance in those days, but he didn’t need it anyway.
Then there was the matter of final disciplining. I mentioned about attendance. You also had to have discipline for proper procedure in meetings. You weren’t supposed to disrupt the meeting by walking in and out in the middle of the meeting. There was one astounding report of two of the younger members of the Meeting who evidently got giggling and whispering in meeting for worship, and somebody else reported that one of them had said that he made a noise like a sow suckling its pigs. That raised all kinds of trouble. They condemned the man who squealed (!) on them for having made such a horrible statement and then they went after the two youths, telling them that they shouldn’t behave that way in meeting.
More seriously, there was a strong emphasis on keeping the proper faith, the truth. They felt that they had found the truth, and they felt that they had to keep to it. In a number of cases there were very severe difficulties with people who got out of line, and one of those, unfortunately, was Peter and Lydia’s son, Israel. Israel Gaunt first seemed to be sliding away from the true faith, and they did the usual thing, have a committee to talk with him and wrestle with him unsatisfactorily. Matters got worse, Israel got fed up with being eldered. He struck back, he said things that he probably shouldn’t have. The Meeting began saying things about him probably they shouldn’t have. And it got from bad to worse. Finally, it was so bad that the Meeting, supposedly sadly but probably with some irritation, decided he had just gone beyond the pale, he wasn’t really a Quaker anymore. Now the system in such cases was that if you got out of line or if you did things that were erroneous, you were supposed to write a statement of what you had done wrong in repentance. It was good Chinese Communist thought control and it usually worked! It didn’t with Israel. He would not write his repentance and apology, and so finally the Meeting took the drastic step - the first one evidently on the records, of reading him out of Meeting, of disowning him. And they really did it in style. They had two or three long letters from the Clerk, who was an expert in writing religious tracts, and who wrote a several page letter to Israel telling him what he had done wrong, what the Meeting had tried to do to remedy things, how horribly he was out of line, etc. And that they would say no more. When they had this disownment signed by about 20 odd men and women of the Meeting; the fact that they were not sexist is seen in the fact that the men signed and the women signed side by side. Then they took it to a General Meeting, and they got as many as possible of the Quakers from Dartmouth and Scituate and elsewhere to sign. He really got the full treatment, and he was out.
His parents, who had not taken part in this, had not signed, were very unhappy. They made their unhappiness known, and the Meeting then had to wrestle with Peter and Lydia. They talked with Peter, and he wasn’t terribly satisfying, and then they decided that perhaps it was Lydia’s influence that made him pull away from the Meeting. They talked with Lydia and she said she agreed with her husband and with the two of them. They did not leave the Meeting, as far as I can tell, but they became much less notable, until a few years later as they got very old, Lydia sent in a plea to the Meeting that - in winter they were holding these Meetings midweek; sometimes they held three worship meetings a week, there was nothing else to do in winter! - and Lydia said With the transportation and distance and walking in the winter, I’m getting old and I can’t get out to Meeting. Could you perhaps have one of the meetings held in my house so that I can be in a worship service? And they arranged that.
At the end of the century the two of them died. Peter died first, and then a little later Lydia died. Lydia in her will left 40 pieces of silver to the women’s treasury. The silver had to be taken to the women’s meeting. Who was there to do it? One Israel Gaunt, her son. Strangely, about about ten years later the records of the women’s meeting indicate they got a bed and several other items of commodities from Lydia as part of her legacy. I guess some of the family were using these until that time.
Now that brings us to the end of the record for the first half century. That brings us to the death of the Gaunts. Hananiah went off to New Jersey and was instrumental in forming a meeting. Incidentally, I didn’t mention that in the Diaspora an amazing number of Quakers and some non-Quakers went from Cape Cod down to Shrewsbury in Monmouth County of New Jersey and were very prominent in the establishment of Quakerism there.
Rosenkavalier ends, as some of you know, with a sort of coda. They wrap up the story and then suddenly a little servant comes chasing in to pick up a handkerchief that had been left, and similarly, I have a coda for you. You started out with the settlement of a raw frontier in 1637; you had persecutions; you had the Quakers bankrupted in some cases; and now by 1688 you had the Monthly Meeting solemnly edicting this: That each of the three Meetings is to renounce that “crosspockets before men’s coats, side slopes, broad fringes on coats, and overfull skirted coats are not allowed by Friends.” It’s an indication that Quakerism had achieved a degree of stability and perhaps of stuffiness at the end of 50 years of struggle.
The Gaunts were first married in 1633, there is some indication they were born around 1610. She died in 1694. He died probably 3 or 4 years earlier.