Smithfield Monthly Meeting The Religious Society of Friends


A Little History

of Smithfield Monthly Meeting

of Friends

INTRODUCTION TO "A HISTORY…"

In responding to the invitation to participate in the North Smithfield (Rhode Island)125th Anniversary celebration Smithfield Monthly Meeting of Friends decided it was time to reprint and update a little booklet it first published for the public 64 years ago. "A Little History" covers the history of Quakers in Northern Rhode Island from the late 17th century to the early 20th, and the reader may feel the "closeness" of the Depression era in its tone and style. The essay that follows, "The Ongoing History," brings the reader through the 20th century to the present time. One question which is often asked is why are we called the Smithfield Meeting when, not only are we located outside of the town of Smithfield, but are outside of North Smithfield and across the "border" into Woonsocket. The answer is that when Smithfield Meeting was founded in 1719, most of Northern Rhode Island was known as "Smithfield"; Woonsocket was but one of the many little villages which were found in the "greater Smithfield" area. This is but one example of how Smithfield Friends Meeting is connected to the history of Northern Rhode Island. The reader may notice in reading "A Little History" that in some ways the history of Northern Rhode Island also follows the history of this little Quaker Meeting.

It is reprinted on this web page with photos added

PART ONE: THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURIES

Written in 1932 by Arthur Santmier, Minister of Smithfield Friends Meeting

THE earliest Quakers known to arrive in America were Mary Fisher and Ann Austin who set forth under a strong concern to carry the Quaker message to the wide world. They arrived in Boston Harbor in July, 1656, following a six months tour of the Barbadoes. Upon arriving in Boston they wee handled roughly, their books were publicly burned and they were dragged away to prison on the heinous charge of being "Quakers." After five weeks in prison they were banished to Barbadoes. Two days after the sailing of their ship another ship entered Boston Harbor having on board eight Quakers. They were immediately searched by officials, jailed for eleven weeks and then sent back to England. It was almost impossible to find ships willing to accept Quakers as passengers.

On August 3, 1657, however, a Quaker ship with a Quaker captain and crew, under Robert Fowler, sailed into Newport Harbor bearing eleven Quakers, six of whom were of those who had been banished from Boston. Almost at once many of the leading families accepted the Quaker message and in 1658 organized a "meeting." The Rhode Island Quarterly Meeting was organized in 1699 and increased so rapidly in numbers that in 1743 some five thousand Friends attended the New England Yearly Meeting at Newport which had been organized in 1661. Then began to be felt the missionary urge, and soon the message was being carried into the "regions beyond." It was the Quaker who bore the sharp sufferings of persecution and martyrdom in Massachusetts for the sake of liberty of conscience. It was the Quaker who wrote the first civil compact of Providence Plantation. It was the Quaker who pioneered the northern wilderness to establish a faith and worship, the most spiritual of the world’s religions, and set in motion forces that are still actively leavening the warring elements of mankind.

That the Quakers were wise and prudent governors, legislators, counselors and judges is most apparent to the student of Rhode Island history. For two generations and more, Quaker Governors, Deputy Governors, Assistants and members of the General Assembly held the chief offices of the colony by the major choice of the people. The Courts and Magistrates were chiefly Quakers. It is one of the anomalies of Colonial political life that the quiet, unostentatious Quaker, unambitious for office, nor a seeker for worldly honors, should have held sway in a colony of men of all shades of religious belief and unbelief, for a century while Roger Williams, the founder and father of Providence, was elected to the presidency for a single year. The Quaker population was not large, but the Quaker influence prevailed and governed a discordant people.

Most of the preceding facts were recorded by the historian Thomas Williams Bicknell in his excellent history of Rhode Island. Among early Rhode Island Quaker saints and martyrs only a few may be mentioned in so short a sketch. Richard Scott, his wife Katherine (a sister of Anne Hutchinson) and daughter Mary, lived around the year 1639 at Providence and had a country home near Saylesville pond. The whole family adopted the Quaker faith and suffered sad persecutions at Boston. Katherine, "mother of many children, of an unblameable conversation, and a grave, sober, ancient woman and of good breeding," was committed to prison for her protest at the treatment of Quakers. There she was given "ten cruel stripes with a three-fold, corded, knotted whip." Christopher Holder who married Mary Scott had his right ear cut off in Boston in 1658, and Mary and Patience (a daughter of eleven years) were both jailed for visiting the father and husband in Boston. Mary Dyer, wife of William Dyer, of Newport, Clerk of the Colony, Solicitor, Commissioner, etc., was the only woman hung on Boston Common for the Quaker faith. She had previously been condemned to death and had walked to the gallows between William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson, both of whom were executed in her sight. She was spared to a later date and executed alone while the crowds looked on and testifying, "She shined in the image of God."

In 1658 the Bay Colony added stripes, ear croppings, tongue borings, jail sentences and death to the already merciless cruelties to Quakers. "The record of punishments inflicted, " says Bicknell, "is too terrible to be told." One case, William Brend, an aged Quaker received one hundred and seventeen blows on his bare back with a tarred rope. Mary Dyer’s execution caused a Royal Order to be issued putting a stop to Quaker murders in Massachusetts. Edward Wanton, a distinguished colonial official who had been the officer on guard at Boston at the execution of the first Quaker martyr, was so impressed by their spirit of heroism that he went home a greatly changed man. As he unbuckled his sword he said, ""other, we have been murdering the Lord'’ people, and I will never put a sword on again." He became the foremost minister of the Scituate section. "Truly the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church."

Charles Carroll in his "Three Centuries of Democracy," says, "The Friends in Rhode Island increased steadily in numbers because of fresh arrivals from England, exile from neighboring colonies and the accession of Rhode Islanders, including William Coddington and Nicholas Easton of the original settlers of Portsmouth and Newport. Both of these were governors of Rhode Island under the charter, and other governors before 1700 who were Friends included Walter Clarke and Henry Bull…The Friends became a powerful influence in Rhode Island."

According to Bicknell "The Quaker ministers of that day preached not only their doctrines and beliefs, but also inaugurated reforms of social and humanitarian evils existent in the colony. The liquor traffic was the first point of attack. The strictest temperance principles were advocated and practiced by the Quakers. Lotteries were opposed when they were regarded valuable aids by churches and educational institutions. The marriage of members by a minister was regarded as a species of priestcraft and a simple ceremony of pledges between the bride and groom was adopted. Friends in no case might take an oath, either as an expletive or as a judicial sign, and fidelity to one’s promise was a sacred obligation, as was honesty in trade and social relations. "Carnal" warfare was contrary to the Gospel of Peace as seen by Quakers.

In 1717 a weighty concern on the importing and keeping of slaves "was considered to wait for the wisdom of God how to discharge themselves." For seventy years the subject was agitated until in 1787 in response to a memorial from the Quakers of Rhode Island, the General Assembly passed an Act Prohibiting the African Slave Trade with very heavy penalties. Thomas Hazard, "College Tom," was the first to see the light and free his slaves, which he did in 1730. John Woolman agitated publicly and from house to house for the Abolition of Slavery. In 1773 the Yearly Meeting at Newport adopted the following minute, "Truth not only requires the young capacity and ability but likewise the aged and impotent and all in a state of infancy or nonage among Friends to be discharged and set free from a state of slavery that we do no more claim property in the human race as we do in the brutes that perish." This settled the status of slavery and henceforth all "dealings" were with Quakers who persisted in holding slaves. Among them was the Honorable Stephen Hopkins of the Smithfield Monthly Meeting. He had been Governor of Rhode Island for nine terms and in 1774 was a member of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. He was the most distinguished citizen and statesman of Rhode Island. He refused to liberate one slave woman and his name was removed from the Roll of Friends and from the Monthly Meeting.

The Minute disowning Stephen Hopkins from membership for his refusal to release his slave

It is interesting to note that George Fox visited Rhode Island with a "Quaker Embassy" and held a memorable meeting with the notables of the colony in 1672. So great a gathering enjoyed this meeting that it required two days for them to take leave and start for home. George Fox recommended to the General Assembly that they pass "a law against drunkenness and against them that sell liquors to make people drunk," and also "a law against fighting and swearing." This was one of the first suggestions of Prohibition of the Liquor Traffic made in America. The visit of Fox was a very great blessing. In this immediate vicinity the first settlers were: Richard Arnold and Samuel Comstock. The latter settled at a pint just west of Union Village. He built a sawmill in 1666. These lands were divided by their heirs. The Arnolds were the forefathers of the town of Woonsocket. The word Woonsocket according to Trumbull, an authority on Indian words, means, "the place of the falls." According to Newman, another authority on the Indian language, it means, "thunder-mist" both words having reference to the falls of the Blackstone river. The original spelling of the name was "Wansokett." The name was first applied to a hill about three miles southwest of the village, and elevation of 588 feet on which at the present time a fire observation tower may be seen over miles of surrounding territory. All this country of Northern Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts was the home of the Nipmuk Indians and was originally heavily wooded and filled with wild game on which the Indians and the early settlers largely subsisted. As the Arnolds early espoused the religious faith and practice of the Quakers they built a Quaker meeting house at Saylesville and one at Woonsocket, the former in 1703 and the latter in 1719. Not until 1718 did there seem to be a desire to go to meeting. Friends began that year at "the Cross roads," although land had been purchased in 1713 for a burying ground and meeting house according to records now in Moses Brown School. A meeting house was built in 1719 and Woonsocket became, according to the historian Richardson, "not so much from the piety of its inhabitants as from the natural advantages of its location," first a religious and afterwards an educational cetner of the large territory now comprising the counties of Worcester, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. "Among the early preachers was Elisha Thornton of blessed memory.

For more than a hundred years in the whole settlement of Woonsocket there was no place of public worship except the Friend’s Meetinghouse. But the clang of the mill bell was speedily followed by the peal of the church bell. From 1832 to 1834, inclusive, sprang up all the religious denominations to be found in Woonsocket today, viz., Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, Universalist and Roman Catholic, all of whom own substantial church edifices." This was written in the year 1881 and several other denominations have entered the field since that date. It was the Friends who undertook the initiative in education as well as in religion. They were the first to proclaim that the children of the poor ought to be "schooled" and to take measures for establishing free schools under their won auspices. There were private schools of great excellence. Among them was the Thornton Academy founded by the Quaker preacher of that name.

A little farther away at Providence the four Brown Brothers of that town, affectionately know as "Johnny, Josey, Nickey, Mosey," reestablished a closed Yearly Meeting school which had been located at Portsmouth, and successfully launched it upon its career in 1819 at Providence. At first it was know as "The Friends School" but now bears the distinguished name of its honored Quaker founder and is known as the Moses Brown School. The first Meeting House erected in 1719 was make twenty feet square. It was enlarged in 1755 by an ell twenty by thirty feet. In 1775 this ell was removed and an addition thirty-two square feet was added.

In 1849 the entire building was remodeled, later adding pretty green blinds, and thus it remained until the disastrous fire of 1881 which totally destroyed the building. While the British were in possession of Newport the Yearly Meeting was held here for two years and among those who bowed their heads in silent prayer were the mothers of Nathaniel Green and Stephen Hopkins, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It will be recalled that in spite of his high position Stephen Hopkins was removed from membership in Smithfield Meeting for keeping a slave.

In 1718 "Providence monthly meeting" was set off from "Greenwich monthly meeting." The name was changed in 1737 to "Smithfield monthly meeting." In 1783 the present Providence monthly meeting was set off from Smithfield monthly meeting. That we may know upon what basis of faith and practice these early Quakers built the colony as well as their meetings we have the record of the first "Declaration of Faith" ever issued by the Friends either in England or America. It was issued in 1657 by Christopher Holder and John Copeland, two of the ministers who crossed in the good Quaker ship "Wodehouse". They suffered great punishment in the Boston prison where the dreaded three-corded and knotted lash tore t heir flesh twice a day for several weeks. The Declaration follows: "We do believe in the only true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - Who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in the time past to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days hath spoken unto us by His son - the which son is that Jesus Christ that was born of the Virgin; Who suffered for our offenses, is risen again for our justification, and is ascended into the highest heavens and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father; even in Him do we believe, Who is the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. And in Him do we trust alone for salvation; by whose blood we are washed from sin. We believe in the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth that proceedeth form the Father and the Son, by which we are sealed and adopted sons and heirs of the Kingdom of heaven, by which Spirit the Scriptures are given forth - The Scriptures we own to be a true declaration of the Father, Son and Spirit, in which is declared what was from the beginning, what was present, and what was to come."

Among the outstanding and imperishable names of that early period are some of these know among us today, such as Arnold, Aldrich, Ballou, Mowry, Smith, Steere, Paine, Farnum, Comstock, Thayer, Lapham, Kelley, Buffum, etc.

The meeting house that now stands upon the original land purchase of 1713 was erected in 1881 immediately after fire had destroyed the old building. News of the disaster was conveyed to the congregation while assembled in Quarterly Meeting and steps were taken at once to rebuild and this was quickly effected. The fire occurred on the twelfth of May and the meeting was reassembled in the new meeting house on the tenth of November. In the period between, both meeting for Worship and Bible school were held in the home of Professor James Bushee. Among the names of ministers who served the meeting since 1881 the following may be mentioned: Abel C. Monroe, Jesse McPherson, William P. Pinkham, John Metcalfe, Emeline M. Tuttle, Leander Fisher, William Boyce, Harry R. Hole, William I. Kent, Levinus K. Painter, Elgar J. Pennington, Jesse Stanfield, Douglas Parker, William Cleaver, Osborne J. Hoffman, Elton Trueblood, Harold W. Myers, Alfred E. Standing and Paul L. Sturgis. Many of these were students and remained but a short time as minister.

The "new" (1880) and present Meetinghouse with it's pastors 1881-1907

The first Bible school group was called together in 1860 under the leadership of Abner K. Sprague. Assisting him were Hannah Sprague and Sarah Osborne as teachers. James S. Read was with them and assisted in their work. Abner was a scythe-maker and when his employers went into the gentle art of sabre-making, he sought work elsewhere. His farewell address to the Bible school was read on January 18, 1863. The school was immediately organized with James S. Read as Superintendent, Abel C. Monroe, Assistant; William M. Aldrich, Secretary; and Louisa B. Cranston, Librarian. Calvin Knowles was made Treasurer early the next year. There were 56 names enrolled at its organization. Lydia B. Coe, the minister, took an affectionate interest in the children and young people.

During the dark days of the Rebellion old and young met to knit mittens for the soldiers and to prepare clothing for the refugees. Social gatherings were well attended at that time. A feature of those early days was the devoting of the first day of each month to "the repeating of Scriptures, poetry or any suitable pieces of composition for the benefit of the children." A small library existed at the time of organization and was added to as time went by. The lowest ebb in all the years to follow came in 1874, when there were but 38 names enrolled. In 1877 the tide turned with 55 on the roll and constantly gaining in numbers. With 70 in attendance at the beginning of 1881 it was indeed a sad blow when library and records were destroyed in the fire. In 1883 a fund of fifty dollars was raised to begin a new library for the school and together with donations from the "Obadiah Brown fund" a hundred and thirty-five volumes were provided. In 1887 there were 350 volumes. Elisha T. Read was librarian. In that same year the school reached the high tide of enrollment with 146 names upon the register. There were eight classes. The school was engaged in the relief of local distress and in the education of a native girl in the Brumanna school at Mount Lebanon.

At an interesting rally held that year Professor James Bushee gave the secret of success of the school as - first, the excellent qualifications of the teachers; second, their earnest devotion to duty; third, the happy adaptation of teachers to their respective classes. He added "above all - living Christians as teachers who are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the Gospel." The enrollment of 1887 was once more reached in 1902 with a total of 146 pupils in ten classes; but this total has never been exceeded. For some time the school supported a native girl in the school at Ramallah in Palestine.

It has long been the custom to enjoy an annual picnic at some nearby watering place where old and young may find their heart’s desire. James S. Read remained Superintendent of the Bible School for a period of thirty-eight years - truly a record for faithful service. He was followed by Leander Fisher, Arthur Pendleton, Arthur B. Farr, Crystal M.S. Bates, Joseph C. Estes, Edgar G. Paine, Joseph C. Estes, Austin M. Wilson and Lester Taber, which is the order, I believe, of their service. Melita B. Fisher has performed the duties of Secretary of the Bible school since the year 1902. For thirty years she has served as Pianist, for the Meeting and Bible school and upon many special occasions and for many groups. In addition, she has been Assistant Clerk of the meeting for many years and has served in other capacities. Arthur B. Farr has served the meeting as Clerk for 21 years. Albert Todd has performed services for the meeting in many offices and positions of trust. For years a flourishing Society of Christian Endeavor was maintained. This was finally followed by the present Young Friends Discussion Group.

In 1902 there were thirty members and bean suppers were very popular. Most helpful programs and happy social events were featured. Many who later became leading citizens went forth from this group. A Missionary Society has been in existence for many years. Members have made careful studies of missionary fields and workers, entertained home-coming missionaries, contributed to missionary funds, enjoyed social periods with readings, music and refreshments, and have supervised missionary instruction in Meeting and Bible school. At one time Junior Missionary Bands were active. Salome Wheeler, mother of Frances E. Wheeler of Lincoln School, was a leader and the inspiration of this group. Josephine Todd, mother of Albert E. Todd was most active in the Senior Missionary Society.

Among names familiar to this earlier generation of Friends may be mentioned those of Aldrich, Ballou, Battey, Bushee, Cranston, Ewen, Fisher, France, Marble, Morse, Mowry, Osborne, Paine, Read, Robinson, Steere, Thayer, Todd, Varney and many others. Names of a still later generation may be found upon the records of our work today. Emma Payne Farr was active in Bible School and Christian Endeavor, being especially helpful in Primary work. Alice and Anna Cranston, Sarah Marble Shedd and Deney Wilbur had an active part in missionary activity.

The present parsonage standing beside the meeting house was erected in 1924. On the building committee were Austin M. Wilson, Arthur B. Farr and Melita B. Fisher. Every available prospect was canvassed for funds both in and our of the meeting. Friends of other days and Friends geographically far away were written to and contributions came from many sources. The Ladies’ Aid Society was active in providing a part of the needed amount and invested funds contributed also. This building, heated by a furnace, supplied with hot and cold water, hardwood floors, cozy and convenient rooms, located at a healthful level above the city, with a far reaching view from its north windows, is indeed a helpful addition to the permanent equipment of the meeting for Christian service. Recently contributions of furniture and other equipment has paved the way for eventually providing a completely furnished home for the ministers who may be invited to live in our midst. Across the road from church and parsonage is the beautiful Union Cemetery. Alongside the meeting house is the Old Friends’ Cemetery o longer in use. Eastward and northward of the parsonage lies the wooded property of the city with its playground and pretty lake at a lower elevation and visible from the windows. Thus insured the utmost seclusion, it maintains its Quaker traditions and offers to all who so desire the opportunity for worship, friendly association and organized helpfulness. May the time never come when the Smithfield Meeting of Friends will fail in its mission, falter in its purpose, or preach "some other Gospel." The future is in God’s hands - and yours!

PART TWO: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

THE ONGOING HISTORY OF SMITHFIELD MEETING

By Marnie Miller-Gutsell, Pastor of Smithfield Meeting May 1996

It’s rather daunting to take up the history of Smithfield Friends Meeting in the spring of 1996. Much has happened since Arthur Santmier laid down his pen in 1932. The Bible School and the Missionary School are no more. After many years of faithful service, the Ladies Aid Society was finally laid down in 1994. Yet positive new things have also come into being. For example, Smithfield Friends Meeting, along with other area Quakers, has actively encouraged and participated in a new prison ministry; first proposed in 1992, it became fully organized in 1993. Friends and attenders draw strength from the Meeting in many individual ministries, such as reform of the justice system and work with shelters for battered women and their families. Within the Meeting itself, a refreshing variety of programs for worship and spiritual growth have developed.

In the mid-1950’s, in addition to the programmed Meetings for Worship, members began to experiment with the older, completely "unprogrammed" (sometimes misnamed "silent") Meetings for Worship. These began with evening meetings on the second Friday of the month. In the mid 80’s, a once a month Sunday morning unprogrammed meeting was proposed.

In 1990, an unprogrammed Meeting for Worship was proposed for the colonial era Meetinghouse at Uxbridge; this continues to meet on the first Sunday evening of the month. Other variations were also explored, such as having early unprogrammed Meetings on Sunday mornings. This proved impractical for a variety of reasons, and was discontinued in 1994 in favor of the present arrangement in which the Meeting room is opened at 10 AM for quiet worship, with semi-programmed worship at 10:30 under the leadership of the pastor. In addition, the last Sunday morning of the month is devoted entirely to unprogrammed worship. As the Committee for Ministry and Counsel pointed out in a letter to the Monthly Meeting for Business (12/4/94), "The easy availability of a prepared sermon leaves us less likely to search through our being to find God…We have become rusty in an important facet of Quaker practice." Another welcome addition in 1988 was the monthly inter-generational Meeting for Worship. For these, children remain with the adults for the entire worship time, instead of retiring to First Day School; special programs are planned to involve them in the worship.

Many other changes have occurred since 1932, and at this distance, and without a great deal of research, it’s rather difficult to tell whether they originated from changes within the Meeting itself, or from changes within the Society of Friends as a whole, or within the American culture – or from all three.

For instance, the Meeting is significantly smaller now than it was during the 1930’s and 1940’s. A sharp drop in membership began about 1956 and continued through the 1960’s. The numbers began to stabilize about 1969 (the year Smithfield Friends celebrated it’s 250th Anniversary) and remained steady for about fifteen years. Then another decrease began around 1985, and at one pint in that year the Sunday School even temporarily disbanded due to a lack of pupils. However, that problem was resolve. Membership now appears to be re-stabilizing, and both the Sunday School and the Meeting as a whole now have a lively mix of ages and theological viewpoints. Other changes clearly reflect certain changes in the culture, and the way the Meeting sees itself in relation to that culture and its members.

In the 1930’s, the reports on the Spiritual State of the Society reflect a concern for the personal behavior and opinions of members in a way which would seem intrusive today. This doesn’t mean there were 19th century style "disownments" for dancing or using profane language, or marrying someone "not of our society," – or for failure to attend Meeting for Worship. However, in 1933, one person’s name was dropped from membership "in accord with our discipline." In addition, there was a concern with such questions as whether members had family devotions or demonstrated "right thinking on the prohibition question." In 1934, it was still considered appropriate that members "be advised with" if they were not regular enough in attending Meeting for Worship.

This type of public concern for the private decisions of individual members faded over the years, to be replaced by attention to wider issues affecting the Meeting as a whole. The Ministry and Counsel committee continues to try to stay in touch with the lives of members so that pastoral care needs can be met, but this is done in a very private and confidential way.

The history of attitudes toward the classic Quaker peace testimony is a particularly interesting reflection of changes within the Meeting that have moved it closer to the culture at large. During World War I, only four young men from all the Quaker Meetings in the area were reported as being on active duty. Five served in the Army, but as non-combatants; others provided humanitarian aid (especially in France) through the YMCA, the Red Cross, and the American Friends Service Committee. However, members of the Meeting clearly had much more ambivalent feelings about World War II. Some had strong pacifist leanings, to the point of wondering if it was appropriate to buy War Bonds. Arthur Santmier’s successor, Harold Tollefson, was very active in local peace work until his departure in 1943. However, nearly twenty of the Meeting’s young men were drafted during the course of the war, and very few requested Conscientious Objector status. In 1942, the office of "service secretary" was set up, whose responsibility was to send news of the Meeting to "our boys" in the service.

Louise Taber and Doris Mowry were given the job of staying in touch with both CO’s and those in active service. The minutes of the meeting at which they were appointed ends with this vivid note: "An air alert brought our business to a close." (11/27/42) The ambivalence of the Meeting and of Quakers elsewhere about this particular war is poignantly reflected in a 1940 letter from a Yearly Meeting official to Harold Tollefson: "Too many of our people…are not all out for the Christian Pacifist way, and some of them are our leaders." (In an interesting side note, on 1/30/42, Meeting for Business minutes indicated Friends desire to sign a Women’s Christian Temperance Union petition in support of a US Senate Bill to "defend our soldiers and sailors from the traffic in alcoholic beverages.")

After the war, Smithfield Friends did strongly object to the peace time draft, but continued to show very mixed attitudes toward actual wars. Pastor Russell Brooks (1948-1955) was extremely active in peace work on both the local and Yearly Meeting levels. And not long after the Korean War ended, one young Friend, Gerald Smith, the son of Rachel Smith, went beyond requesting CO status; he refused to register for the draft, and was indicted and jailed. However, during the Viet Nam War, ambivalent attitudes resurfaced. Monthly Meeting for Business approved only one very small contribution to the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and chose to leave it up to individual members which, if any, of the anti-war groups they would support. The answers to a questionnaire from the Friend’s Coordinating Committee for Peace reflected the broad range of opinion: Fifty-three questionnaires were sent out; there were 31 replies. Three members had served in the armed forces and said they would do so again; 19 had read informational literature; 18 considered themselves "open-minded" on the question; 13 stated they were "sympathetic to and supportive of the traditional Quaker testimony on Peace."

No history of this meeting would be complete without mention of the pastors. As the meeting became smaller, it became increasingly impractical to maintain a full time pastor. In fact, most of the pastors beginning with Harold Tollefson served part-time. Many were seminary students, and served only until they completed their degrees. Some were non-Quakers who were sympathetic with Quaker principles. Nevertheless, many had great influence on the Meeting, and some were deeply loved. Harold Tollefson has already been mentioned. It was shortly before his departure in the fall of 1943 that a historic movement in New England Quakerism began – the initial proposals were made to reunite the two Yearly Meetings of New England Friends, which had split in 1845. In May of 1943, Smithfield Monthly Meeting informed the Clerk of the Permanent Board that they were not yet prepared to decide on the reunion issue. Pastor Tollefson was succeeded by Nathan Adams, Jr., and then by Russell Brooks, who has also already been mentioned. He was followed by Paul Husted; his stay was short, but during it, he left his former denomination to become a convinced Friend. He was succeeded by George Jones; during his pastorate, the reunion issue arose again, and again Smithfield Friends found they were not yet in unity on the question. The Yearly Meetings finally did reunite in 1945. In 1959, Robert Cool, a member of Providence Monthly Meeting, was called as pastor; he is said to have been a very effective preacher and counselor, who had a considerable ability to ‘speak to people’s conditions.’ It was during his pastorate, in 1960, that the reunited Yearly Meeting joined the Friends General Conference. In 1963, Pastor Cool attempted to resign but was persuaded to remain until 1968, when he was succeeded by Paul Adkins. He was succeeded by William Henkel and then by Douglas Anderson. Pastor Anderson, together with Ann DeNevers, set up a pastoral counseling service wich began in 1972. He was followed by Gregory Harrison and Richard Floyd. In January of 1980, Smithfield Friends called the first woman pastor they had had in some time, Laurel Sakariason. She also seems to have been the first pastor to marry during her tenure since Elton Trueblood married under the care of the Meeting in 1924. She was followed by Thomas Kojis. Then in 1984, Smithfield Friends gained one of its most loved and admired recent pastors, Robert Maccini. Pastor Maccini was a Baptist, but felt so much in sympathy with Quaker principles that he sometimes referred to himself as a "Quaptist." It was at his suggestion that the pews were rearranged to conform more to the traditional Quaker pattern of facing each other instead of all facing the pulpit; it was also during this time that the practice of having one unprogrammed morning meeting a month was firmly established. When he left in 1987, Smithfield Friends were feeling optimistic and hopeful that they could once more maintain a full time pastor. So Pieter Byhouwer was called. During his tenure, Smithfield received a request from the Apostolic Pentecostal Church for the use of the building for their services on Sunday and Thursday evenings. This arrangement has proved quite satisfactory, and still continues. Unfortunately, the full time pastorate did not work out as well, so in 1989, Smithfield Friends returned to calling part-time pastors. The first two were students from Andover Newton Seminary, Jan Gregory-Charpentier, who served until 1993, and Matt Crebbin, who served until the spring of 1995. They were both members of the United Church of Christ. However, in November of 1995, Smithfield Friends once again had a Quaker pastor in residence, Marnie Miller-Gutsell.

Smithfield Friends Meeting has seen many changes. The present building has stood solidly for over a century. It has been refurbished and redecorated many times, but still retains its classic Quaker simplicity and grace. When the sun streams through the old rippled glass of the tall, narrow windows, it fills the meeting room with light – a light that reminds worshipper and visitor alike of the Light of Christ that shines within all people.

And finally, the heart of Smithfield Friends is its people. Many of the old, faithful names are still represented among the membership – Taber, Smith, Keene, Follett, Strobel, Mowry. Others, like Melita Fisher, an Elder for over 40 years, are gone but their memory lingers. Perhaps it is fitting to conclude by mentioning that in June of 1994, Smithfield Friends was the site of the Mowry family reunion. Mowrys were among the original settlers of Northern Rhode Island. Many have been active members of this Meeting over the centuries. They still are. They are like a reminder of the underlying strength and continuity of Smithfield Meeting that will carry it, God willing, into the next century.

Return to Smithfield Monthly Meeting of Friends home page