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Hicksite Friends Meeting

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Built 1736

Market Street below Third
Chester, PA


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If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of this church, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

Former Pastors: "Allan and Sarah Flitcraft were the last appointed ministers of the meeting."
Church History: This Meeting House was built in 1736.

After February 1, 1926, the Hicksite Friends from the 1736 Meeting House on Market Street below third, met with the Chester "Orthodox" Friends Meeting at 24th & Chestnut St.

The following articles on the history of the Meeting House are from the Chester Times in 1926:

Old Meeting House Closes
To Sell Friends' Meeting House
Meeting House History Told

Chester Times, February 1, 1926:

Old Meeting House Closes

Friends Hold Final Services in Structure Built in 1736

Built in 1736 and used continuously as a house of worship, final services were held yesterday in the Hicksite Friends Meeting House, Market street below Third street.  The Hicksite Friends, having placed their property up for sale, plan to use the Orthodox Friends Meeting House, Twenty-fourth and Chestnut streets, jointly with them in the future.

Mrs. Elizabeth F. Newlin, of Wilmington, was the principal speaker at the services conducted yesterday and in her remarks made reference to the long period of years that the Market street building had served as a meeting place for the Hicksites.

Charles Palmer, one of the members also made a few remarks and the closing prayer was offered by Miss Elizabeth Buckman.  Approximately thirty persons were in attendance.

... meeting place, Mr. Palmer stated that during the years that the building had been used there had been a gradually passing of the members.   He pointed out that many of the descendants of the old Hicksites were now living in the suburbs and other sections of the city.  He stated that the building was being given up because there were practically no members living in the immediate vicinity.

The Hicksite Friends will make use of the First ward meeting house next Sunday morning for the first time, when the Sabbath Day, or First Day school services, are held.  The service will commence at 10 o'clock instead of 11 o'clock as had been the custom in the past.

A committee has been appointed by the board of directors of the Delaware County National Bank to pass upon the proposed purchase of the meeting house.

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Chester Times, February 1926:

To Sell Friends' Meeting House

Members Vote On Offer for Historic Market Street Property

At a meeting of the Chester Preparative Meeting of Friends held yesterday it was decided to offer for sale the historic meeting house located on Market street, below Third.

An official of the meeting said this morning than an offer had been made for the purchase of the property, but he was unable at this time to say to whom it was sold.

The Delaware County National Bank, some time ago, made an offer for the property and it was learned form an authoritative source this morning that indications point strongly to the purchase of the property by that banking concern.

The Chester Preparative Meeting will hold their meetings after February 1 in the meeting house of the Orthodox Friends, Twenty-fourth and Chestnut streets, this city.

The meeting house was erected in 1736 and retains its original form except a small addition in the rear.  It was the meeting place of the Maris, West, Eyre, and Pusey families, who took a prominent part in the early development of this community.  Some of the distinguished visitors who spoke at the meeting were Caleb Hughes, John Bartram and Elias Hicks.  Allan and Sarah Flitcraft were the last appointed ministers of the meeting.

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Chester Times, 1926:

Meeting House History Told

Dr. Anna E. Broomall Describes Original Structure and Changes

Dr. Anna E. Broomall who for years has taken an interest in the activities of the Delaware County Historical Society, is one of a number of persons who is interested in having the Friends' Meeting House, on Market below Third street, preserved as a landmark of the city and a memorial to the Quakers, who were the first permanent settlers of the city.

Several meetings have been held within the past months for the purpose of arousing public interest in the preservation of the old Meeting House and the matter is still pending as to whether or not, since it has been abandoned as a place of worship, it will become the property of the city or sold to a private concern and used for other purposes.  Dr. Broomall has written the following interesting historical sketch of the old Meeting House:

Old Meeting House

In 1848 there were thirty members of the Meeting.   Samuel West, a recommended minister and a relative of Benjamin West, the artist sat at the head of the meeting on the men's side, next to him was Jacob Hewes, whose wife was a McIlvain.  They lived on the north side of Chester Pike in the old house still standing, west of Ridley creek, now owned by the Baldwin Locomotive Works.  He was a nursery man and planted the beautiful trees standing in the Court House Square in Media.  William Eyre sat next to Jacob Hewes, the Eyre brothers, William and Joshua P., lived in the fine brick house built for Archibald Dick, Esq., by Joseph Hinkson, the contractor, on Edgmont avenue.  It was recently demolished in opening Fifth street to Chester creek.  The Eyres were regular in attendance at the meetings and were very useful citizens of Chester giving a helping hand to every project for improvement of the town.

In the body of the meeting on the bench facing the gallery for "Ministers and Elders" sat Job Rulson and Frederick Fairlamb, regular attendants and useful members of the meeting.  Job Rulson had built a commodious brick house next to the old Eyre house on Edgmont avenue, above Third street.  On the women's side, the north side, in the gallery set aside for "ministers and elders," sat Keziath West, and near her was Lydia Pusey, aunt of William and Joshua P. Eyre, making her home with them in the house on Edgmont avenue.

The interior of the Meeting House was divided into halves by wooden partition of movable boards running from east to west and was subdivided by another wooden partition running north to south.  The south west quarter of the building was the only one in regular use.  The east section or half had two stories, the upper story was the "youths' gallery" to which a wooden stairway led from the first floor, or large room into which was the main entrance on the east side by a side path from Market street.  At this date this larger room was used for storing old benches and tables and the "Youths' gallery" was boarded up to save the heat for the rest of the building.  To the young members the only occupants of this large dark, cold, eastern half of the Meet-...

... of the dead who manifested themselves to youthful imaginations by the howling wind and creaking benches.

The south or side entrance was by a door in the south wall connected to the middle or main aisle, by a narrow passageway.  The "ministers and elders' gallery" with its three or four raised benches on a platform run the width of the building in the west end.  The visiting ministers between the years of 1840 and 1850 were John Jackson, of Darby, Clarkson Taylor, of Wilmington; Darlington Hoopes, of West Chester; Joseph Powell, of Darby, and Samuel J. Levick, of Philadelphia.

Among other articles in storage in the front or east room was the bier used for funerals.  At that time the mourners followed the dead from the late home or meeting house to the burying ground on Edgmont avenue above Sixth street, walking two abreast in solemn file behind the bier which carried the corpse.  This was before the time of hearses.  It is said this bier was used for the last time at the funeral of Dr. Joshua Owen.  It was carefully preserved by the Chester Meeting, but it has unaccountably disappeared.

The walls of the Meeting House are built of red and black brick and are eighteen inches thick.  The building is well lighted.  Each large window contained twenty-four panes of glass.  It is still a very substantial structure, built nearly two centuries ago and can last another 200 years.  The former hoods or porches over the east and south entrances were very interesting and appropriate to the general architecture.

In 1850, the lot upon which the Meeting House stands measured about 100 fet [feet] on Market street and had a depth of about 250 feet and was enclosed on Market street by a board fence some six feet high.  In this fence were two gates, the south one for carriages and the smaller one for pedestrians; the hores [horse] sheds back of the Meeting House and on the north side of the lot were in use until about two years ago when they fell to pieces and were removed.

The idea of establishing a First-day school in Chester originated in the mind of Elizabeth Martin Booth and she, with a committee appointed in 1871, started the school, which was very successful.  The pupils at one time numbered one hundred and the First-day school is held in grateful memory by the aged inhabitants of Chester.

In 1883 the interior of the meeting house was greatly altered.  In 1909 the annex was built on the west side.  The fine twenty-four paned windows were replaced by modern sashes of four panes each, chimneys were altered, the fine porches over the entrances were removed.  This disfigurement, so unfortunate, may yet be remedied.

The largest meeting attendance, in the recollection of those still living, was at the Bi-Centennial celebration of the landing of William Penn held in 1882, when both sides of the meeting house were crowded and many were turned away.

Chester Quaker Meeting House is one of the oldest of the seventeen Friends' meeting houses in Delaware county.  It was erected in 1736 on lands purchased by our ancestors, the early Friends.  It was preceded by a small meeting house built in 1693 on the west side of Edgmont avenue.  No doubt, William Penn frequently visited this meeting and spoke to the members.  It remained a place of worship until it became too small to accommodate all the members and was abandoned for this meeting house built in 1736 on Market street, south of Market Square.  The first meeting house, the one on Edgmont avenue, is remembered by some still living, as it was torn down about 1851.  The present meeting house is now the oldest place of worship in Chester, a substantial building in good condition, and should be preserved as an architectural landmark and a perpetual memorial to the Quakers, who were the first permanent settlers of our town.

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  2001 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07