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Abington Friends Meeting House Richard Wall's House ABINGTON FRIENDS MEETING By Horace Mather Lippincott* ANYONE approaching Abington Meeting House will admire the "brotherhood of venerable trees" and recall perhaps that "the groves were God's first temples." Lightning and great age have taken many of our trees but we still have a number of oaks of the primeval forest which saw the laying of the cornerstone of Abington Meeting House in the seventeenth century . We can find strength and inspiration from these sturdy trees that have watched over us so long. I The history of Abington Friends Meeting properly begins in England where William Penn was spreading his attractive broadsides to gain colonists for his "Holy Experiment" in Pennsylvania. The seventeenth century was a period of theological discussion and of bitter religious controversy. Many Protestant sects arose in England to oppose Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Church. In 1647 George Fox emerged from this confusion to preach the faith that became known as Quakerism, whose central tenet was direct revelation. He said that he heard much about Christ but he wanted to find Christ. He sought not to teach, he said, but to bring men to their Teacher. He asserted that there was "that of God in every man that would speak to his condition." Gloucestershire in England was strong in Quaker groups built up largely through the powerful preaching of Christopher Holder, Josiah Coale, and Thomas Thurston, all of whom visited America to establish the faith in Virginia and the Carolinas. Their Monthly Meeting was sometimes held at Stoke Orchard, about ten miles northwest of Cheltenham, and sometimes at the house of Richard Wall, fifteen miles northwest of Cheltenham, at the village of Hatfield. Toby Leech of Cheltenham was a * Horace Mather Lippincott, a Vice-President of Friends Historical Association, is author of many books on the history of the Philadelphia region. This is a condensed version of his address at the Spring Meeting of the Association on Fifth Month 19, 1951. 81 82Bulletin of Friends Historical Association member of this meeting and he and Richard Wall were married in it to Esther Ashmead and Joane Wheel respectively. Neighbors and principal owners in the new land, they undoubtedly gave the name of their home country to the township in which they settled in America. We do not know by what ship these two Friends arrived in the Delaware, but it was in 1682 and they took up large grants of land from Penn. Each had 600 acres in Cheltenham Township and more elsewhere. We can picture their eagerness to see their new home as they ascended the river. Henry Hudson voyaging up the Delaware in the Half Moon in 1609 described it as "one of the finest, best and pleasantest rivers in the world." He enjoyed the soft land breezes that brought the perfume of sweet shrubs and summer flowers. He marveled at the "great white birds, cat-headed and with owl-like bodies" and trembled at the rattlesnakes "with heads like those of dogs and bodies thick as Dutch beer-barrels" which hung head down from the forest trees. As the colonists approached this sylvan wilderness the rigging of their ships tangled with the branches of the trees. There were of course no roads, only Indian trails, little more than obscure pathways. So they sought waterways to reach the land granted to them in England and surveyed by Thomas Holme. Our Friends found these entrances in the Tacony and Poquessing Creeks, and others settled upon the immediate shores of the Delaware. Here at Shackamaxon, north of the site of the future Philadelphia, they set up their first meetings in the Autumn of 1682 and other meetings were appointed to be held at places convenient for Friends. Our Friends pushing up the Tacony and Poquessing Creeks found their lands at Cheltenham, Abington, and Byberry Townships. Gabriel Thomas, who accompanied Penn, says that "I could say much in praise of this sweet tract of land. The air here is delicate, pleasant and wholesome; the heavens serene and rarely overcast . There are very fine thriving gardens and orchards. The gardens abound in grapes, tulips, pinks, carnations, roses, lilies, not to...


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