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Quakers Coming to Wayne County

From: Norman Williams
Date: 1/30/00
Time: 9:47:00 AM
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How They Came To Wayne County By Norman Williams

Many of the earlier settlers in Wayne County were Quakers. They came from North Carolina as my ancestor Richard Williams did. The Raleigh Register reported that sixty-nine members of the Society of Friends left Randolph County for Indiana in the fall of 1832. The minutes of the New Garden Meetings in Guilford County N.C. are filled with certificates of removal during this period. 245 persons representing 100 families and 83 single persons left New Garden between 1801 and 1866. Many went to Newport, now called Fountain City north of Richmond where they established a New Garden MeetingHouse. I have stopped at this Quaker meeting house and looked at the tombstones looking for the burial site of my ancestors. In the Guilford College historical collection there is a "Bill of the Road to Richmond" with the route through West Virginia to Gallipolis in Ohio where there was a ferryboat across the Ohio River. The Quakers gathered at the meetinghouse in New Garden North Carolina for the 481 mile journey that terminates in Richmond, Indiana. The Quakers gathered their possessions in Connastoga Wagons and buggies for the trip that took three or four weeks along an established well traveled stage-coach route through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio along the old National Road to the terminus in Wayne County. Levi Coffin established the Underground Railway because of his work to bring slaves to Ohio and Indiana. They went by wagon train and were taken by conductors who guided them to stations along the route where they could stay and get food and clothing to travel together to free territory. Among the conductors were Joseph Hunt, Asa Folger, Joseph Harris, Robert Peele and Vestil Coffin who was the organizer of the Underground Railway. Benjamin Hedrick who was dismissed from the faculty of the University of North Carolina for his opposition to slavery said in his defense. "Of my neighbors, friends and kindred from North Carolina, nearly half left the state since I was old enough to remember. Many is the time I have stood beside the loaded emigrant wagon, and given the parting hand to those on whose face I was never to look again. They were going to seek new homes in the free West, knowing as they did, that free and slave labor could not exist in the same community." Emory D. Coffin wrote from North Carolina to his cousin Levi Coffin asking if he would advise him to go west. It would be best, Levi advised his cousin, to turn his back on "that dark land of oppression where the Tyrant's Rod is heard and where the cries of the poor slave are continually ascending." My ancestor Richard Williams, and his sister Prudence Williams, who was the mother of Levi Coffin, came to Indiana from North Carolina after freeing his slaves on his land at New Garden. One hundred acres of his land was sold to Guilford College after he moved to a farm north of Fountain City. I went to the library at Guilford College where I obtained a picture of Richard Williams when he was 98 years old in Wayne County. His son Daniel Williams has a farm at the corner of Palmer Road north of Greens Fork, Indiana where it turns toward Webster and Fountain City. I visited that farmhouse and stood in the living room where my grandfather King Rider Williams lived as a boy. He married my grandmother Harriet Haxton also from Greensfork and they came to live in Richmond, Indiana where I was born in 1917.

Revised: January 20, 2006