There’s more to history than the usual names-and-dates scenario

As I’ve admitted, many of the historical persons in my new book, Quaking Dover, really deserve full-length biographical treatment or maybe individual operas or Hollywood blockbuster movies, if only we had time to linger. Four hundred years requires a lot of compression and that meant keep moving ahead. Anyone looking for a writing prompt can dig in with a host of possibilities on the list.

Retired librarian Olga R. Morrill, bless her, rises to the challenge with her historical fiction, Vagabond Quakers: Northern Colonies, published in 2017, focusing on the three women missionaries who came to Dover in 1662 and were whipped out of town in what was essentially a death sentence.

In doing so, she also portrays Richard Waldron and Nicholas Shapleigh as fully fleshed characters, even though they both have much more ahead in their lives after the three troublesome Quakers venture off-stage, the part she follows as the women venture south. (Yes, we need a full bio for each of the guys, please.)

As fiction, Vagabond Quakers resorts to some creative history and plausibility to fill in huge gaps. I see this in Waldron’s chronology, especially – with details where my findings and her tale conflict – but she does induce a compelling drama even in the minor players. She weaves fact and fiction seamlessly and manages a credible dialogue. (What they actually said would sound unintelligible gibberish to our ears.) If only I were sure which parts arise in her invention and which parts rest on solid evidence.

I’m happy to see that she examines Waldron’s life as a major figure in Boston, not just his existence as the most powerful man in New Hampshire, where he’s usually confined in the telling. Dover may have been his private fiefdom, out on the fringe of New England, but he wasn’t exactly provincial. She even manages to stir some sympathy for the man I dub the perfect villain.

She also gives full due to the deep conflicts in the town church before the Quakers arrive. Those are something I’ve long suspected contributed to the willingness of so many residents to join Friends early on. My one quibble is that I think Elder Starbuck would have been in the other party than the one where she places him.

For me, Morrill’s biggest contributions come in her envisioning the proceedings from the women’s perspective – not just the Quakers, but even those in the Waldron household. In the actual dates-and-names history, they’re mostly invisible. Many of Dover’s earliest wives remain ciphers, and even too many of their first and maiden names are missing. As for their language, demeanor, and dress? Morrill has me willingly suspending disbelief in her storytelling. Was one of the Quakers of short stature? Not that I’ve found anywhere. As for singing? Unlikely, but the quirk does pop the individual into three dimensions.

The events she describes in what would seem an out-of-the-way frontier settlement remain an important breakthrough in establishing religious freedom, anywhere.

Morrill and I both find these events to be endlessly fascinating, and hope you will, too.

Let me know of examples of courage you find that match the Quaker women’s.

At last Dover Friends were allowed to organize and build a place of worship

One of the unanswered questions in Colonial history is why the anti-Quaker acts weren’t applied uniformly. Only in bursts, apparently to curb their political influence. In small communities across New England, Friends were important parts of the economy and social life – and often related by marriage to the dominant Puritans.

Still, during the yearly years of Quaker existence, much of the activity continued more or less underground. Friends’ absence from the town church may have been condoned if for no other reason than to avoid their nuisance.

Then, in 1679, the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay colony’s charter reestablished New Hampshire’s independence and also allowed for Friends both there and in New Hampshire to finally formally establish their Meetings.

After decades of worshiping in homes, barns, outdoors, or other places, Friends could finally build their own meetinghouse.

Dover’s first meetinghouse, just south of today’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School, was one of the oldest in the New World. After the erection of the town’s third Quaker meetinghouse, in 1768, the first building was shipped across the Piscataqua to a site a mile away up Sturgeon Creek.

Dover’s first Quaker meetinghouse was to the right of the Pinkham cemetery.

Salem, Massachusetts, claims to have built the oldest, but Dover’s may have been earlier – now, if only some solid documentation existed to support that claim.

Did it resemble the one built about the same time in Salem, Massachusetts? (Photo by Kathleen Wooten)

Around 1680, with the lessening persecution, Dover Friends were able to formally organize into a Monthly Meeting, although they were already the fifth oldest worshiping body in New Hampshire. After years of gathering together wherever they could find, the Quakers erected their first meetinghouse, choosing a site on Dover Neck on a site between today’s Pinkham Cemetery (begun in 1700) and across today’s Dover Point Road from the Roberts farm and First Settlers Cemetery (1633). The structure remained there until Dover Friends erected a third meetinghouse in 1768, and the original was disassembled, ferried across the Piscataqua River, and rebuilt in Eliot – about a mile to the east, not far from the site of the Shapleigh manor where the three Quaker women had earlier found haven. By road, incidentally, the two meetinghouse sites are more than ten miles apart. Although Eliot/Kittery is sometimes honored as the first Quaker meetinghouse in the Maine colony, that designation may belong to Friends at Falmouth, who are believed to have constructed their own in the 1750s.

The Dover Neck Friends meetinghouse was among the first in the American colonies. Between 1672 and 1682, only seven had been constructed in heavily Quaker New Jersey, and perhaps only four in Pennsylvania. Third Haven, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was open by 1682 and remains the oldest Friends meetinghouse in continuous use. The oldest confirmed date for a Quaker meetinghouse in New England is 1688 in Salem, and a reconstruction of that building is on the grounds of the Peabody-Essex Museum.

~*~

Check out my new book, Quaking Dover, available in a Nook edition at Barnes & Noble.

Nantucket’s Starbucks came from Dover

Although it’s offshore of Cape Cod and close to Rhode Island, Nantucket Island was purchased by investors mostly from the Merrimack River watershed just south of the Piscataqua. Prominently, however, one was from Dover – Edward Starbuck. And his son-in-law, Peter Coffin, was another.

Edward’s the origin of the Starbuck surname in America, a signer of the 1640 Dover Combination, and a prominent figure in Dover’s early history. The name also shows up as Starbird or Starboard.

And, no, these Starbucks weren’t known for their coffee.

Before the arrival of the Quakers, Edward was an elder in First Parish, but historian George Wadleigh cites two curious controversies.

In 1648, “The Grand Jury presented Elder Starbuck for disturbing the peace of the church, and for refusing to join with it in the ordinance of baptism; for which he was admonished and discharged.”

Discharged, we can assume, from the office of elder, and not simply having the charges discharged.

(This was a month before future Quaker Richard Pinkham was ordered to start beating the drum to summon congregants to the Sunday service.)

In 1649, the baptism issue apparently involved the matter of children, perhaps his daughter Shuah, but then spread to his very hairstyle.

“The Court being informed of a great misdemeanor committed by Edward Starbuck of Dover, with profession of Anabaptism, for which he is to be proceeded against at the next Court of Assistants, if evidence can be prepared by that time, and it being very far for witnesses to travel to Boston at that season of the year, appointed Captain Thomas Wiggin and Mr. Edward (George?) Smith to take the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution of Starbuck, whose offence, apparently, was the wearing of his hair beyond the statute length, ‘after the manner of ruffians and barbarous Indians,’ which had been decreed by the Court to be ‘sinful.'”

Let’s note that Anabaptism here doesn’t mean Mennonite. The term was applied to many who objected to the Puritan orthodoxy.

I suspect that some of Edward’s opposition to infant baptism was stimulated by Hansard Knollys before his hasty departure from the First Parish pastorate. Knollys, after all, then became a founder of the Particular Baptists back in England, and as elder, Edward would have been close to him.

Nantucket Island was soon famed for its whalers, and perhaps notorious as a den of Quakers.

I’m uncertain whether Edward had any connection with Quakers in Dover before he removed with his family to Nantucket around 1660, but his Dover-born son Nathaniel definitely identified as a Friend.

In fact, Nathaniel’s wife, Mary Coffin, was a powerful Quaker minister who’s credited with converting the whole island to adopt the faith or at least make it the official town church. Besides, by doing so they wouldn’t be taxed to support an ordained minister.

Mary’s father, Tristram, was one of the island’s proprietors and originally from Devonshire as well as the progenitor of a line in Dover.

Edward Starbuck, meanwhile, was from Derbyshire.

Further connecting the two families as the marriage of Edward’s daughter Abigail to Dover resident Peter Coffin, also prominent in the settling of Nantucket Island and a cousin of Mary.

Another daughter, Sarah, married Joseph Austin, who showed up in Dover around 1647 as part-owner of a sawmill. He was born about 1616 in Dover, Kent, England, and appeared in Hampton, New Hampshire, in 1642.

They had six children before his death on June 27, 1663. She then married Humphrey Varney. Many of her descendants by each husband were Quaker.

Four of the children moved to Nantucket Island: sons Benjamin and Nathaniel and daughters Mary, who wed Richard Gardner, and Deborah, wife of John Coffin.

Their son Thomas remained in Dover and married Ann Otis, daughter of Richard Otis and Rose Stoughton. Together they had fourteen children who then became the stem of the family that proliferated in Dover Friends Meeting.

~*~

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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary. Its influence is wider than anyone I’ve found has suspected.

 

For Quakers, preaching by women was normal  

Puritans had many fears regarding the Quaker outbreak and thus targeted Friends far more severely than any others. Quakers, for all their objections, were in debt to radical Protestantism like the Puritans’ more than they were (and are) willing to admit, yet they also stridently demanded that believers take holy perfectionism to a higher order than the Puritans would or could. More inflammatory, Friends openly criticized and even ridiculed Puritans for falling far short of that goal.

Puritans, in response, viewed Quakers as a chaotic threat to godly and social order and watched suspiciously and intently for signs of witchcraft.

Nothing, apparently, inflamed Puritan authorities more than the Quaker embrace of endorsing both men and women in public ministry.

Quite simply, Friends touched a sore, raw spot in the Puritan worldview. Sometimes, the ones you criticize most harshly who are those most like you. (That’s something that’s been observed in literature, especially.)

Preaching by Quaker women on the street and other public places was common at the outbreak of the movement.

~*~

WHILE FRIENDS DID NOT ORDAIN or hire individuals to prepare sermons for delivery from a pulpit each week, they did welcome appropriate vocal messages arising in their otherwise silent gatherings in worship. Appropriate were utterances deemed prophetic – explosive mixes of personal perception and Scripture that Quakers felt were being delivered by oracles of the divine – and those who voiced them consistently were endorsed as ministers. Quickly, a unique incantatory style evolved, regardless of the speaker’s background. It did, however, baffle many stuffier types, including the Puritan clergy.

The three Quaker women who were stripped and whipped out of Dover in 1662 were far from alone. Anne Hutchinson had already born its weight in New England earlier. Her adherents had, in fact, nearly toppled the Puritan polity from its position.

Other women Quaker ministers soon returned to Dover, notably the elderly Elizabeth Hooton.

She appears to have been a public preacher among the General Baptists in England, even before she took under her wing a young George Fox, who is generally considered the founder of the Quaker faith. Contrarian that I am, I consider her to the first Quaker, the one who converted you, George.

What she suffered in New England was horrific.

Quite simply, Hooten was a tough old bird. God bless her!

You’ll find a lot more about her in my new book.

~*~

MANY FOLKS THINK OF A QUAKER SERVICE as silent, or what we sometimes call “open worship,” and while many Meetings today have pastors, others – including Dover’s – observe mostly a profound silence occasionally punctuated by a vocal message, song, or prayer.

The practice continued once Friends had settled into more orderly Meetings.

Historically, though, a Friends Meeting often had long, impromptu preaching, often of a half-hour or more. Among the Dover members recorded in that role were Tabitha and Mehitable Jenkins, Valentine Meader, Mary Bunker, John Twombly, Benjamin H. Jones, and Amos Otis.

Dover Friends also welcomed itinerate ministry from visitors, some of whom spent protracted time in town. One was the English Friend Samuel Bownas, who may have “learned silence” here. He’s best known for his book, A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to a Gospel Minister, which sought to curb affectations that had crept into the practice. His guidance still helps.

From their journals, we glean sharp insights into the life of Dover Meeting and nurture of spiritual experience. Even their encounters addressing the wider rough-and-tumble community.

~*~

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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary. It wasn’t just any old town.

Many factors came together to greet Friends

We’ve been looking at fundamentals that set early Dover apart from the rigid Puritan culture that dominated the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies.

What we’ve also seen is that other localities settled before the great Puritan migration also had conflicts in the face of what is widely presumed to be characteristically colonial New England. Notably, these were Cape Cod; Salem, Massachusetts; Hampton, New Hampshire; and Maine – all of which harbored Quakers. Merrymount, we should note, was one settlement the Puritans outright eradicated through violence.

I’ve been arguing that folkways from Devonshire were far more influential in Dover’s soul than was the commercial nature of the early charters. The Puritans who put down roots in Dover were largely from Devon, not the East Anglia of the Massachusetts Bay arrivals.

One thing that puzzles me is the reticence of the Church of England to establish parishes in New England colonies before Massachusetts subsumed New Hampshire and then Maine. Many of the inhabitants identified as Anglican and preferred its rites but were without priests and guidance. They privately chafed at the Calvinist strictures, and some openly welcomed Quakers who ultimately entered as the principal alternative.

I suspect it wasn’t our message that attracted the early converts as much as our very presence and timing. You know, that “perfect storm” thing.

The upshot was that by the time Dover entered its fourth decade, it was primed for a Quaker seed to land and sprout, with roots here reaching all the way back to one of the very first settlers of the province as well as a few other independent spirits.

The ground itself and surrounding waters proved to be fertile for Friends. Not that the first decades would be easy.

Let’s just say it’s not just size that makes Dover different from Boston.

~*~

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

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.

 

Chickens and the meaning of life, chapter whatever

A couple of incidents regarding my daughter’s chickens have me thinking about human affairs.

Her hens were increasingly picking on one another and squabbling until an incident with a neighbors’ dog posed a terror. In response, they instinctively banded together, including their otherwise useless rooster. For weeks after, their antisocial behavior was transformed, focused on a common enemy.

A year later, the same thing happened when a red tail hawk picked off two of the hens in the yard.

That leads to the question:

Do we humans really need some villain, however small, to make our own lives meaningful?

We see it in politics, for sure. And in sports. As for personal development and ethical living?

I am convinced we need to keep an eye on Satan, in whatever garb, but also need to be careful we don’t start “preaching for sin,” as early Quakers cautioned. The fact is that in fiction it is much easier to create a believable bad guy than a good one.

So even secular novelists must make sure to avoid exclusivity in their vision.

We also need to keep another eye on the Light and its leadings. Otherwise, well, we’d still be chickens at the mercy of foxes and weasels.

A few things I had hoped to do with Friends Meeting but never quite got around to

The position of clerk in a Quaker Meeting is akin to being president or chairman, except that you’re not the boss. Historically, it was more like being clerk in a courtroom, recording decisions from a judge in the bench above – in this case, Christ or, if you prefer, Light. For Friends of a less Biblical bent, things get more tangled and less focused, at least my perspective.

A Meeting in the Society of Friends, as we’re more formally known, whether of the open, traditionally “silent” worship like mine or of the more widespread pastoral “programmed” variety, has a presiding clerk as well as a recording clerk for its monthly business sessions, as well as a clerk for each of its committees. The Monthly Meetings are then grouped in neighboring Quarterly Meetings, which gather four times a year and have a similar structure, and are then joined together as regional Yearly Meetings that have annual gatherings – and that’s it for hierarchy. There’s a lot of work to do, just as there is in any family.

In my strand of the Quaker world, we don’t have a pastor but we often expect the clerk to fill many of the functions, sometimes everything except preaching or praying aloud on Sundays. I was detailed those expectations in an article published in Quaker Life magazine. In theory, you’re more of a moderator. In reality, you’re the first person the others turn to when a light bulb is out, the key to the door’s missing, or the fire alarm’s going off in the meetinghouse after a power outage. As for real emergencies?

As I’ve observed, there’s a lot of burnout, usually after two years.

I tried to pace myself accordingly in the six years I served as Quarterly Meeting clerk and the five at the head of Monthly Meeting as well as the nine or so I was a member of the Yearly Meeting’s Ministry and Counsel committee.

Along the way, I’ve come to admire some amazingly skilled clerks as well as pastors, priests, and rabbis in the wider community. Few of us, I should note, are really trained in this matter of dealing with people or institutions, and most of us would rather be fine-tuning theology of one sort or another.

~*~

As I entered retirement, I felt a curious softening in my personal Quaker identity. Part of it was a consequence of finally having lived with children, in addition to a spouse’s input. Ours never did run along the lines of a Quaker Meeting, as I had once idealistically envisioned. (I would like to be able to go back to interview the now-grown children of a few families I had known who proclaimed “Jesus is the head of this household” to discover how well that had worked, usually in rural settings.)

By the time I left full-time employment, I realized there was no previous period in Friends history where I would have fit in comfortably. I love the fine arts too much, for one thing. Nor could I go Plain today, though I had once flirted with it: the Plain dress and speech need to be part of a community, not of a lone ranger seen only as an eccentric or even scary. For a while, my beard was along the lines of Amish and Brethren, with no mustache, but once I had married, my wife found that look too severe.

I’ve rounded some corner into now. Wherever that is.

~*~

Lately, I’ve been sharing with you some reflections as I’ve been comparing my original plans for retirement with what’s actually happened in my life in the decade since leaving full-time employment. The review has included Quaker service as well.

Even before retiring, for instance, I had hoped to send out annual thank-you cards and letters, recognizing Friends for their service. Too often, that goes unacknowledged but still expected or even subtly demanded. I also wanted to invite the clerks and the other officers, such as the treasurer, and their partners to a big dinner, probably a cookout in our Smoking Garden in early summer. I envisioned something similar for the charter school board where my wife was chairman. Alas, these never happened.

Well, our big parties there had pretty much faded from the schedule as the years progressed and other demands crept in. We are hoping to resume them in our new locale, once the renovations and our full relocation are in place.

Something more ambitious was what I termed the Light Project. Prompted by questions asking, exactly, what Friends believe theologically, I had found myself connecting the dots in early Quaker thought and found myself facing an alternative Christianity, one they dared not articulate fully in the open. I’ve presented my take in four booklets you can download at my Thistle Finch blog, and I would love to hear your insights and reactions.

I had expected to be spending more time following up on these foundations, both in journal articles and traveling around the country to lead workshops and discussions, but Friends have had more pressing realities to contend with, as we found springing from the Trump administration and now Covid. On my end, revising and releasing my novels also deeply engaged me, bringing with them a feeling of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.

So, for now, my Light Project has rather fizzled out. Perhaps the release of my next book, a history of Dover Meeting and a wider counterculture in New England, will revive the Light Project, too.

~*~

Other unfinished business on my heart involves outreach, attracting like-minded souls to our legacy. Having a booth at community fairs was a start, as was an open house, but I was hoping to do more with the campus center at the neighboring state university, perhaps guiding a weekly “worship sharing” event or Quaker Quest series, as well as visiting more widely among other Friends Meetings and retreat centers, in a tradition called intervisitation.

And then there was hosting the monthly Poetry in the Meetinghouse series I mentioned earlier. It may have even been part of a cycle of weekly events that included folk music concerts, films and discussion, and a lecture.

Oh, my, the last item reminds me of something I had hoped to revive from the local religious leaders’ fellowship – their Cochecho Forum. Look up Bill Moyer’s Genesis project, which aired as a series on PBS, to see how I wanted to launch something similar through DARLA. It would have been exciting.

~*~

Well, revisiting all of this reminds me of an old Quaker adage, and perhaps find comfort in it: “Be careful not to outrun thy Guide.”

She was truly one of a kind

In reflecting recently on the Quaker tradition of creating memorial minutes for “weighty Friends,” I was surprised that one example I had never posted was of another clerk of our Dover Meeting. She was struck down by a particularly virulent, fast-moving cancer, and it’s hard to me to see that nearly five years have gone by since her passing.

There’s much more that I could tell, but the approved minute will give you a good sense of her vibrant character.

Jean V. Blickensderfer

November 11, 1946 – June 16, 2017

Among Dover Friends, Jean was the flash of gold in the morning, a welcoming soul others naturally confided in, a faithful worker who eventually filled nearly every organizational position – from children’s teacher and treasurer, to co-clerk and finally presiding clerk.

Raised Unitarian-Universalist in Methuen, Massachusetts, she came to Friends in the early ‘80s after she and her first husband, Dean L. Davis, had settled in Eliot, Maine, and were seeking the right church for a family that included daughters Thaedra May and Sarah Joy. They were quickly entrenched among us.

Jean was twice widowed.

She married Dean the day after his graduation from the Maine Maritime Academy in 1967, and then managed their home during his long assignments at sea. During his interludes ashore, they built their own post-and-beam house on the banks of the Piscataqua River and could often be found boating, sometimes to visit other Quakers upstream, or on his motorcycle, which they rode to Meeting in good weather. He died in a freak automobile collision in 1992, an accident his wife and daughters survived unscathed.

In 1998 she married Del Blickensderfer and worked as his partner at Del’s Service Station until his passing of lupus in 2006.

Deeply grateful for the mentoring she received from seasoned Friends, Jean was a stickler for Quaker process and, over time, became the memory of the Meeting’s business itself. She sought to walk a line between holding her tongue and being direct, when needed. A witness to the movement of Christ in our midst, Jean’s infrequent vocal ministry could be powerful. Her skills as a professional typist assured the Meeting’s minutes were of archival quality and, combined with her business-school training, led to the Blue Books for committees and their clerks detailing their responsibilities. She was particularly fond of drawing on the Advices and Queries from London Yearly Meeting’s 1994 edition of Quaker Faith and Practice as guideposts for our own action. An avid knitter, she took comfort in seeing others do needlework during our business deliberations, their patience reflecting the work before us. In time, a midweek knitting circle became what she called a “wicked good” time of refreshment, nurture, and fellowship.

More pressing obligations had precluded her attending yearly meeting sessions, a “bucket list” item she resolved to achieve. All along, she warmly welcomed the wider world of Friends to Dover.

Other delights in her life were yoga, visiting with neighbors, shopping and dining with dear friends, walking the beach, doting on her Pomeranian Sumi, and especially being with her grandson Jonah. His living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, did not prevent her from accompanying much of his childhood and youth, from celebrating birthdays and holidays to attending his piano recitals to cheering him on in mountain bicycle races, whenever she could.

In all, her presence, generosity, and deep and lively spirit were a gift.

With loved ones at her bedside through the final days of her cancer, she passed at age 70, peace and grace abundant.

APPROVED by Dover Monthly Meeting July 16, 2017, Charles Cox, clerk

 ENDORSED by Dover Quarterly Meeting July 31, 2017, at North Sandwich, Erik Cleven, clerk

 

Remembering a dear Friend

One of the cherished traditions among Quakers is the creation of memorial minutes for members who have served the Meeting faithfully.

The minute is a unique document. It’s neither an obituary nor a eulogy. Rather, it attempts to candidly reflect the movement of the Divine Spirit in the individual’s life.

Here is a recent example.

Earl ‘Chip’ Neal

(December 9, 1945-June 25, 2021)

When Chip Neal brought his family to Dover from Maryland in 1978, they loved everything about their new home except the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant in nearby Seabrook.

He had been hired by New Hampshire Public Television to do a nightly news show, having worked his way up from entry-level floorman in a pioneering community college television station to cameraman at WETA in Washington and then director/producer at Maryland Public Television.

Across the Granite State he became known for the segments he produced and hosted on “New Hampshire Crossroads,” where spent many years traveling every corner of the state bringing unique New Hampshire features and people to a statewide audience. It was in one of those stories that he coined the phrase “Yankee yard.” His curiosity was sweet-tempered and non-judgmental. He also produced segments for the popular weekly “Windows to the Wild” outdoors adventures series featuring Willem Lange.

Although he attended the University of Illinois during the Vietnam era, he did not earn a degree until he worked at the University of New Hampshire for NHPTV. He graduated from college the same year his daughter, Amanda, graduated from high school.

He never aspired to go into management. Rather, he always preferred to be hands-on, something son James inherited.

That was reflected in the family’s old farmhouse near the Cochecho River, where they began rearing a few chickens, sheep, and honeybees. After aligning with the Clamshell Alliance opposing the Seabrook Station, he realized the activists he admired the most were all Quakers, and soon he, too, was worshiping in the old meetinghouse, along with children Jamie and Amanda, while his wife Nell continued at First Parish just down the street. Over time, as she felt her spiritual growth being nurtured more through connections with Friends, she, too, became part of the Meeting.

Their social life included visits by boat with other Quaker families living downstream or around Great Bay. Inspired by what he had read about the Amish and a “why not” attitude, Chip determined to try a barn-raising of his own, resulting in a merry one-day celebration that did, indeed, accomplish the task.

Chip was commissioned to create a private documentary profiling Silas Weeks, who had been instrumental in the reopening of the Dover Friends meetinghouse. The interviews, now available on YouTube, remain a touching intersection of the faithful lives of both Silas and Chip.

Many of the qualities of Chip’s spiritual life also infused his professional career. A fellow producer noted that Chip possessed a brilliant communication talent in short-form and long-form storytelling. He not only saw the heart of a story, he let it speak for itself, time and time again. Where most producers tended to interpret meaning for the viewer, Chip had the unending patience – and absolute stubbornness – to never let that happen in his work. Thanks to his relentless focus, firm discipline, and above all a fabulous sense of humor, time and time again he would dig down until he found the light of truth hiding inside the most humble to the most exalted story, and to let it shine like a diamond in the wide open, all on its own, available and meaningful to the viewer.

As he grew and matured, he more and more thought deeply and broadly about events and phenomena, all with a spiritual bent. Often, this led to rising in the middle of the night to write down his ideas and insights, sometimes as haiku with a snap.

He emphasized the necessity of being centered in the present, explaining, “Life is that thing you’re doing right now.” From that, he had an ability to view difficulties from the side and then provide helpful alternatives to the knot before us.

During his terms as clerk of Dover Friends Meeting, Chip would stand after the closing of worship with the shaking of hands and then, gazing around the room, say simply, “Thank you for sharing your spiritual journey with us this morning – whether spoken or unspoken.”

He loved serving as clerk and treasured Quaker process, especially taking sufficient time in our labors together.

The advance of Parkinson’s interrupted his service to family, Friends, and the wider world, but not his presence. He had often reminded us that in trying to reach a destination while sailing, one had to constantly make adjustments – tacking.

He was also fond of a Navajo prayer:

All above me peaceful,
all below me peaceful,
all beside me peaceful,
all around me peaceful.

He passed over peacefully on June 25, 2021, in the comfort of his wife, Nell.

Memorial minute approved by Dover Monthly Meeting, November 21, 2021

The Quaker presence in Dover is even older than we’ve thought

Massachusetts Bay authorities are in an anti-Quaker frenzy even before two small groups of Friends set forth for Boston in 1656. Fifteen in all, they meet a harsh reception from the Puritan leadership, even banishment on pain of death, but return anyway, some after having an ear cut off. Their one haven is in Rhode Island, a colony founded by Roger Williams and augmented by Anne Hutchinson’s followers, who had almost ousted the Puritans from their governance of Massachusetts only two decades earlier.

Some of the most intense persecution comes down in Salem, north of Boston, already the second largest city in the English colonies, where a small circle of newly converted Quakers boldly holds firm. By 1658, their influence seeps into New Hampshire at Hampton and Dover and across the Piscataqua River into today’s Eliot, Maine. In 1659, a Dover court fines 15 residents for non-attendance at the Puritan services, and one of them is specifically convicted of having attended a Quaker meeting. Six of the surnames are among those active in the earliest surviving Dover Friends records four decades later. Most prominent among them is Thomas Roberts, one of the town’s first two settlers and later the colony’s governor.

This occurs before Quaker missionaries William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson are arrested three weeks after visiting Piscataqua. It’s possible that William Leddra and William Brend were here the previous year, before their apprehension in Salem on their way back to Boston, or perhaps Christopher Holder and John Copeland, before that, in 1657 – that would be a plausible reason for some Dover residents to be worshiping “after the manner of Friends” by early 1659.

Three of the four Quakers hanged in Boston had visited Dover. Mary Dyer was the exception.

Early Friends activity along the Piscataqua is confirmed in early 1660 when Anthony Emory, an innkeeper and ferryman at Sturgeon Creek in Eliot/Kittery, was fined and disenfranchised on charges of “entertaining” Quakers. His ferry route connected to Bloody Point (Newington) and Hilton Point across the Piscataqua River. Whether Emory had merely transported the Quakers as passengers or allowed them to stay at the inn or been more active in welcoming them is unclear, but his independent streak was well established. He was a signer of the Dover Combination before moving to Eliot/Kittery in 1649, where he was fined five pounds in 1656 for “mutinous courage” in challenging the authority of the town’s court. The disenfranchisement was too much. He sold the property on May 12, 1660, to his son and relocated with his wife to the Quaker stronghold of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The earlier controversies over the ministry of the town’s church had no doubt left dissenting locals, joined by eccentrics, whom the itinerant Quakers then galvanize into an assembly. Quite simply, Dover is out on the frontier of English settlement and relatively far from the Puritan mainstream.

Significantly, Robinson, Stephenson, and Leddra are among the four Quakers hanged in Boston in the years before three women arrive in Dover in 1662 and are whipped out of town, an event that has long been considered the start of Dover Friends Meeting. Traditional histories even say there was no Quaker presence in town before that. Instead, I’m certain the women and two male companions arrived to nurture a previously gathered circle.

Three Quaker women are whipped out of town, December 1662.

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How dangerous are they? Here’s a brief life story Stevenson wrote a week before his execution – that is, just days after being in Dover.

 In the beginning of the year 1655, I was at the plough in the east parts of Yorkshire in Old England, near the place where my outward being was; and, as I walked after the plough, I was filled with the love and presence of the living God, which did ravish my heart when I felt it, for it did increase and abound in me like a living stream, so did the life and love of God run through me like precious ointment giving a pleasant smell, which mad me to stand still. And, as I stood a little still, with my heart and mind stayed upon the Lord, the word of the Lord came to me in a still, small voice, which I did hear perfectly, saying to me in the secret of my heart and conscience, “I have have ordained thee a prophet unto the nations,” and, at the hearing of the word of the Lord, I was put to a stand, seeing that I was but a child for such a weighty matter. So, at the time appointed, Barbados was set before me, unto which I was required of the Lord to go and leave my dear and loving wife and tender children; for the Lord said unto me, immediately by HIs Spirit, that He would be as an husband to my wife and as a father to my children, and they should not want in my absence, for He would provide for them when I was gone. And I believed the Lord would perform what He had spoken, because I was made willing to give up myself to His work and service, to leave all and follow Him, whose presence and life is with me, where I rest in peace and quietness of spirit, with my dear brother [William Robinson] under the shadow of His wings, who hath made us willing to lay down our lives for His name’s sake, if unmerciful men be suffered to take them from us. And, if they do, we know we shall have rest and peace with the Lord for ever in His holy habitation, when they shall have torment night and day.

So, in obedience to the living God, I made preparation to pass to Barbados in the Fourth month [June] 1658. So, after some time that I had been on the said island in the service of God, I heard that New England had made a law to put the servants of the living God to death if they returned after they were sentenced away, which did come near me at that time; and, as I considered the thing and pondered it in my heart, immediately came to word of the Lord unto me, saying, “Thou knowest not but that thou mayst go thither.”

But I kept this word in my heart and did not declare it to any until the time appointed, so, after that, a vessel was made ready for Rhode Island, which I passed in. So, after a little time that I had been there, visiting the seed which the Lord had blessed, the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Go to Boston with thy brother William Robinson,” and at His command I was obedient and gave up to His will, that so His work and service may be accomplished. for He had said unto me that He had a great work for me to do, which is now come to pass. And, for yielding obedience to and for obeying the voice and command of the everlasting God, which created heaven and earth and the foundations of waters, do I, with my dear brother, suffer outward bonds near unto death. 

And this is given forth to be upon record, that all people may know who hear it, that we came not in our own will but in the will of God.

Given forth by me, whom am know to men by the name of MARMADUKE STEVENSON, but have a new name given me, which the world knows not of, written in the book of life.

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His tone and content are quite different than that of the leading Puritans of the time.

Welcome to Dover’s upcoming 400th anniversary.