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The BULLETIN of Friends Historical Association Vol. 47Spring Number, 1958No. 1 THE NICHOLITES BECOME QUAKERS: AN EXAMPLE OF UNITY IN DISUNION By Kenneth L. Carroll* I Joseph Nichols, the Delaware founder of the movement which came to bear his name, was a man of great gifts. The strength and the appeal which he possessed are easily seen in the way that Nichols carried his friends of the days of mirth and worldliness along with him as he made his religious pilgrimage seeking the summum bonum oí life. His appearance as a minister had quickened the spiritual life of many people, especially in what is now Caroline County and in upper Dorchester County in Maryland and along the border of Delaware. *Kenneth L. Carroll, Associate Professor of Religion at Southern Methodist University, is Clerk of the Dallas Friends Meeting and Clerk of the Southwest Friends Association. For earlier treatments of the movement known as the Society of Nicholites or "New Quakers," see his articles: 'Joseph Nichols and the Nicholites of Caroline County, Maryland ," Maryland Historical Magazine, XLV (1950), 47-61; "More About the Nicholites," ibid., XLVI (1951), 278-289; "The Nicholites of North Carolina," The North Carolina Historical Review, XXXI (1954), 453462 ; "Joseph Nichols, of Delaware: An Eighteenth Century Religious Leader," Delaware History, VII (1956), 37-48. 4 Bulletin of Friends Historical Association Nichols' career was relatively short, a dozen years at the most; yet the work that he started was destined to continue long after his death. Many were the people who had flocked to hear him and who had been convinced by the fervency of his zeal. While Nichols was still with them, these men and women had embraced his views and had conformed their lives to the principles which he had set forth. The death of Joseph Nichols at the close of 1773 or the beginning of 1774 must have been a shock to the flock which had come to look upon him as its shepherd. What were they to do? Who could give the Nicholite movement the inspiration and leadership that it needed? These questions, among others, must have plagued the minds of the more thoughtful members of the society in the months following Nichols* death, for he had died without bringing about any organization of his followers. As the Nicholites thought about the life, the preaching, and the death of Joseph Nichols, it became increasingly clear that they must organize themselves, setting up rules by which the life of the movement could be regulated. Their decision to organize, coming at the end of 1774 and probably within a year of Joseph Nichols' death, was signed by the group's representatives: William Dawson, William Batchlor, William Harris, Thomas Stanton, Noble Covey, William Warren, James Anderson, Richard Accles, John Richardson , James Horney, Robert Bishop, James Harris, Joshua Chilcutt, William Berry, Ann Anderson, Mary Harris, and Ann Accles.1 It is difficult to say which of the Nicholites provided the real inspiration for organizing their society. William Dawson and James Horney undoubtedly furnished some of the impetus needed. And James Harris, at whose house the Nicholites decided to hold their monthly meetings, must have been one of the more influential people who brought about this development. As long as the Society of Nicholites continued, he was probably their most respected member. Born about 1733, he had his education in the way of that called the Church of England, and was in the early part of his life convinced, by the operation of Truth in 1 This decision of the Nicholites to organize regularly is recorded in the front of the volume containing copies of their marriage records. The Nicholites' records, now belonging to Third Haven Monthly Meeting of Friends, are located at the Maryland Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland. The Nicholites Become Quakers5 his own mind, of the necessity of living a godly, righteous and sober life; but did not make much progress in the path of True religion until near the thirtieth year of his age; about which time, attending more closely to the witness in himself, he joined a pious people, distinguished by the name of Nicholites.2 That there were others among the society who influenced...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 3-19
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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