The very important network of Friends

Early histories of Friends in New England generally overlook Dover, Hampton, and Salem, apart from fleeting references. The focus is instead on Rhode Island, Buzzard Bays, and Cape Cod, in part because of their relative wealth and influence and in part because of their cache of surviving records.

My investigation, prompted by the 400th anniversary of the British settling of Dover, has convinced me that the three northernmost Quaker Meetings of the late 17th and early 18th centuries were equally as important, and their stories need to be told.

One thing I’ve found is that these Friends were not ignored by traveling Quaker ministers. Some of them, especially from England, essentially “set up camp” on the Piscataqua, and their journals offer candid insights into the community and its struggles.

Friends were also connected through New England Yearly Meeting and, closer to home, through Salem Quarterly Meeting, before the creation of Dover Quarterly Meeting in 1815.

We see that in the assistance industrial pioneer Moses Brown of Providence, Rhode Island, provided Dover Friends in the manumission of their slaves in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

Today the Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, is a highly respected prep academy. Dover Friends who could afford to sent their children there.

The Friends Boarding School in Providence, later renamed in his honor, became another way for Quakers to become integrated into the wider Society of Friends – especially when it led to marriages with other Quakers. Much later came the prestigious Quaker colleges at Haverford, Swarthmore, Guilford, Earlham, and more.

Facilitated by the traveling ministers, who likely also conveyed business information and perhaps even money, along with the counsel of financially savvy elders, some Friends prospered in the industrial revolution. Some Dover Friends did find success in Philadelphia or Massachusetts, and others spread up the Cochecho River and across Maine.

Today, we also connect through alliances like the American Friends Service Committee, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, the Friends Historical Association, the Quaker Theological Group, and much more.

Well, as Jesus said, wherever two or three more are gathered …

But it’s also how we stay recharged and focused in the work we’re called to do. Heaven knows, we can’t do it alone.


Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in your choice of ebook platforms at

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.


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