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CULTURAL RESOURCES OF QUAKER PIONEERS IN OHIO A Glimpse of the Home Community of Marcus Mote, Artist By Opal Thornburg* In the autumn of 1802, five months before Ohio became a state, the tide of Quaker immigration from the South into the great Northwest Territory reached the virgin wilderness along the Stillwater River, the west branch of the Little Miami, from which was derived the name of West Branch Monthly Meeting of Friends. These Quakers came primarily from Deep River Monthly Meeting in North Carolina, Bush River Monthly Meeting in South Carolina , and Wrightsboro Monthly Meeting in Georgia. From Bush River and Wrightsboro they continued to come in such numbers that hardly a Quaker was left there by 1809. Isaac Hasket who built the doomed Bush River Meetinghouse in 1798 helped to build in 1818 the brick meetinghouse at West Branch which stood for nearly a century. Among the leading families in the West Branch community were the Motes and the Mendenhalls, whose many branches soon scattered over the countryside and forty miles westward to Richmond , Indiana. David Mote and Caleb Mendenhall, father and maternal grandfather respectively of the Quaker artist Marcus Mote (born 1817), were pillars of the community. David sat at the head of West Branch meeting for thirty years. For two decades Caleb was a power in the meeting, until he withdrew with the Hicksite Separation in 1828. David Mote's opportunities for schooling had been limited, but he had made good use of his occasional brief periods in the Monthly Meeting schools and he knew the common rudiments. Nevertheless he felt the lack of literary knowledge and resolved that his children should have a better education than his own. Caleb Mendenhall likewise had little formal education, but he was the *Opal Thornburg is Executive Assistant to the President, Earlham College. 94 Cultural Resources of Quaker Pioneers in Ohio 95 community's standard for taste and refinement. Of a quiet nature, he read much and encouraged reading in others. The general level of education in the average pioneer settlement was higher than one might think. R. C. Buley states: "Certainly the pioneers' knowledge of geography, history, economics, and mathematics was no more hazy than that of the average citizen of today."1 In the understanding and practice of government Buley considers them superior. The level of education in any of the early Quaker communities was well above the average. Each such settlement lost no time in opening schools providing a "guarded education " not only in the elementary subjects but in the higher branches. The first settlers along the Stillwater had hardly roofed their cabins before a movement was started for a public library. Funds were to be raised by selling shares at $3-00, and a share each for a start was readily sold to Caleb Mendenhall, David Mote, and three others, augmented later by shares from their neighbors. Soon after 1828 Friends of West Branch established a Monthly Meeting library . At the beginning it was largely of Quaker books and tracts, but other carefully chosen books were added frequently, so that in time it became an excellent library for their young people. The nature of the books and the scope of knowledge to which the Quaker boy and girl in this community had access before 1830 is indicated by a statement of David Jones, born in 1815 : As soon as I was old enough I was sent to subscription schools at West Branch. I had an almost insatiable thirst for knowledge, and read and studied every useful book I could get. I read "Robinson Crusoe" and "Pilgrim's Progress" when 8 or 9 years old. . . . Having access to an excellent library I read the works of great authors such as Homer, Virgil, Milton, Pope, Thomson, Young, Cowper and other poets. I also read the works of that intellectual giant Dr. Johnson, with great interest; Goldsmith 's "History of the Earth and Animated Nature" delighted me. The "Spectator" I considered of great value, particularly Addison's writings. These books with many others not named I had read in part, and wim thoroughness, before reaching 15 years of age.2 How many boys of the present day have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 94-99
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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