SPECIAL TO THE AEGIS
12:45 AM EDT, June 6, 2013
This weekend, June 8 and 9, Little Falls Friends Meeting in Fallston will celebrate the 275th anniversary of its founding.
Speakers, tours, exhibits and printed histories will be brought together to share with the community the remarkable Quaker heritage of Harford County. Little Falls Friends Meeting is at 719 Old Fallston Road in the heart of the Fallston village. For more information, visit http://www.littlefallsfriends.org.
Among the speakers will be Christopher Densmore, curator of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College, and Charles Cherry, of Villanova University, who will speak on William Penn, Man of Peace. Guests may take self-guided tours of significant sites in the area including the Jerusalem Mill and the home of Quakers active in the abolition of slavery.
Little Falls Friends Meeting was founded in 1738, 38 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and 35 years before Harford County was separated from Baltimore County.
The current stone Meeting House, built in 1843, is the third building housing the members of the Society of Friends, known as Quakers, on the property. According to a brief history of Little Falls prepared for this weekend's celebration, the original meeting house was a log building erected on a one-acre parcel in what was then known as Bond's Forest. A fieldstone meeting house was built in 1773 and was used for 70 years until the current meeting house was built.
Early Quakers came to Harford County largely from Anne Arundel County in Maryland and Bucks County in Pennsylvania, and settled first along the Bush River, where the Bush River Meeting House was built by Aquila Paca in 1706. Some Quakers moved inland to Darlington and founded the Deer Creek Friends Meeting in 1734.
For others, the Little Falls of the Gunpowder soon became recognized as a source of power for the establishment of mills producing flour, which was shipped to the growing port city of Baltimore. The enterprises not only led to the growth of Little Falls Friends Meeting, but also to a close relationship and interaction with the Quaker merchants in Baltimore.
Names such as Elisha Tyson and Moses Sheppard, who became major philanthropists, are listed in the membership records of Little Falls Meeting. Another member, Martha Ellicott Tyson, organized the initial group that founded Swarthmore College. Benjamin Moore, a former business partner of Gerard Hopkins (Uncle of Johns Hopkins) transferred his membership to Little Falls from Old Town Meeting in Baltimore when he purchased his Fallston home "Mosswood" in 1843.
Among the names – many still common in Harford County – to be found in the early membership records are Amos, Benson, Brinton, Preston, Hollingsworth, Harlan, Howard, Dillon, Fussell, Hayhurst, Hoopes, Hoskins, Norris, Pope, Livezey, Wilson and others.
In 1850 there were 325 members of the Meeting. The Civil War and requirements for marrying within the Meeting took a toll on membership. Friends remained, however, and continued to be active in many areas of human rights, peace and justice. The abolition movement, women's suffrage, education, world hunger, civil rights, anti-war activities and equal opportunity are significant concerns of Quakers.
Quakers believe that there is a spark of the Divine in every human being. Because of that, people can communicate directly with God without the need for an intermediary. Therefore, they worship without clergy, mostly in spiritual silence, speaking when an individual is so led. There is no dogma, but there are "testimonies" which guide their faith and practice. They include simplicity, integrity, peace, equality and community.
There is a saying among Friends: "Let your life speak." Quakers believe that your values should be reflected through your life.
Friends at Little Falls today are active within Quaker institutions in the wider area. They include Friends School of Baltimore, Harford Friends School, Sheppard Pratt Hospital, Broadmead Retirement Community and the Miles White Foundation. The Quaker influence of Johns Hopkins remains evident in the leadership of both the University and Hospital that bear his legacy. Friends continue to be involved in those institutions.
On both Saturday and Sunday there will be ongoing activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., including an exhibit in the wooden schoolhouse, "Little Falls – 275 years of Tradition and Change," a display of prayer flags created by members of Little Falls, a video presentation of interviews with Friends by Daniel Zimmerman and directions to nearby sites of importance in the history of Little Falls.
The Saturday program at Little Falls includes Christopher Densmore speaking on "Little Falls Friends Meeting and the Wider World of Quakers: Understanding the Ties that Bind Friends Together," beginning at 1 p.m., a panel presentation by members of the Meeting entitled "Little Falls: Past, Present and Future," beginning a 2:15 p.m. and a 3:30 p.m. presentation by Laura Dinsmore, a photographer and member of the Swarthmore Friends Meeting, "Of the Best Sort, But Plain: Quaker Meetinghouses."
On Sunday there will be Meeting for Worship at 11 a.m. followed by a box lunch at noon and Charles Cherry speaking on "William Penn, Man of Peace" at 1:30 p.m., during which there will also be a children's program.
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