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July 2024 Newsletter

July 4, 2024, the 298th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. What better time to remind ourselves that we as Americans continue to debate the meaning of the ideals of that Declaration, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

What did the ideal of equal rights mean to people in 1776? What did it mean to people associated with the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse before the Civil War, as they debated questions of equal rights for Haudenosaunee people, African Americans, and women? And what does it mean to us now, as we tell their stories?
For Frederick Douglass’s perspective, see his speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” delivered by several of his descendants for National Public Radio in 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBe5qbnkqoM&t=232s. Douglass gave this speech on July 5, 1852, at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, and it is likely that many people associated with the 1816 Meetinghouse heard him that day.

For a multi-faceted consideration of these issues, see “Declaring Independence,” https://www.bunkhistory.org/exhibits/declaring-independence, an exhibit curated by Bunk (sponsored by the University of Richmond and named after Henry Ford’s famous statement, “History is bunk”), dedicated to the idea that “History is not something that happened once and then is past, but rather asserts itself in the present and future in unpredictable ways.”
In the past month, here is what the 1816 Meetinghouse group has been working on:

1. Restoring the Meetinghouse: Focus group at Farmington Friends Meeting.
2. Restoring the Meetinghouse: Work begins on the site.
3. Remembering Selby Howard, Black Quaker: Restoring his gravestone, finding his homesite
4. Upcoming programs

Restoring The Meetinghouse:
Focus Group at Farmington Friends Meeting

Dave Bruinix leading discussion (l)
Helen Kirker, our first President (r)
On June 9, 2024, Farmington Friends welcomed us into their lovely Meetinghouse for lunch and a public program to consider the question, “Where would we like to see the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse in five years?”

We discussed the physical state of the Meetinghouse, our audiences, programs, and exhibits. Participants came up with many fine ideas, including a children’s garden to feature native plants, signage to welcome people along highways leading to Farmington, interactive exhibits, and much more. We were delighted to unveil a scale model of the Meetinghouse, created by Board member Bruce Chapman. We also welcomed Helen Kirker, our first President

Board members Sally Millick and Bruce Chapman, with scale model of 1816 Meetinghouse,
created by Bruce Chapman

Restoring The Meetinghouse:
Work Begins on the Site

You may have wondered what is happening with earth-moving machinery on the 1816 site. Using millings from a local highway project, Jacob Deys has begun work on a construction driveway, which will become the site of the new parking lot, with entrances at both the east and west ends and parking for tour busses and handicapped accessibility.
We are very pleased to report that the engineering firm of BME Associates has completed a revised site plan for the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse property. The Planning Board for the Town of Farmington will consider this plan at its meeting on July 17. As soon as it is approved, we will apply for a building permit for restoring the Meetinghouse exterior, with plans developed last year by Bill Brandow from John G. Waite Associates, Architects.

Remembering Selby Howard, Black Quaker:
Restoring His Gravestone & Finding His Homesite

Dave Bloom, working on Selby Howard’s grave marker.
Selby Howard (1800-1885) escaped from slavery in Maryland to live in Farmington near the 1816 Meetinghouse. On February 19, 1874. Selby Howard joined the Orthodox Quaker Meeting. He and his wife Harriet both lie buried in Farmington Cemetery. Selby’s marker reads:
“Born a slave
Lived a free man.
Died in the Lord.”
Their gravestones were damaged and virtually unreadable. Thanks to funding from the Farmington Town Historical Society and volunteer labor from Dave Bloom (the “gravestone guy”), these markers will be repaired and replaced. Dave has also worked on restoring gravestones in the Power Cemetery in Farmington ('Gravestone Guy' bringing the dead 'back into the light' at historic cemetery: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/07/26/gravestone-guy-dave-bloom-restoring-historic-power-cemetery-farmington-ny/8086274002/). His skills and his commitment to the work have made these restorations possible.

Dave Bruinix has recently discovered the site of Selby Howard’s cabin on land once owned by the Wood family. Working with Dr. Marie-Lorraine Pipes of SUNY Geneseo, members of the Lewis Henry Morgan Chapter of the NYS Archaeological Association (https://morganchapter.org/) will be doing an archaeological dig there later this month. Stay tuned!

Thanks to Charles Lenhart and Dr. Marie-Lorraine Pipes for help with research on the Howard family and to Dave Bruinix for coordinating both gravestone repair and archaeological work.

From James Hazard Index to Records of New York Yearly Meeting of Friends,
Swarthmore College, http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/friends/hazard/
Found by Charles Lenhart

Upcoming Programs

Join us for these programs. Come and bring friends! Thanks to generous donations for people such as you, all of these are free and open to everyone.

July 20, 2024:
“Rooted in Revolution: Quaker Families, Equal Rights, and the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse.”
Dave Bruinix and Judith Wellman, 11:00 a.m., at the Wesleyan Chapel, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls. The 1816 Meetinghouse will also have a table at Convention Days.

August 25, 2024:
“Education for African American Children in Rochester: Past and Present.”

Kesha James and Justin Murphy, 2:00 p.m. Memorial AME Zion Church, 549 Clarissa Street, Rochester, New York.

September 28, 2024:
“Heroes of the Underground Railroad, Mt. Hope Cemetery: Walking Tour.”

Sally Millick, 2:00 p.m., Mt. Hope Cemetery, 1133 Mt. Hope Avenue, Rochester

October 2024, 2024:
“Seneca Land Rights, Fraudulent Treaties, and Quaker Allies Before the Civil War.”
Time TBA. Ansley Jemison and others, Ongwehonwe (Original Peoples Podcast), Seneca Arts and Culture Center, Ganondagan, 7000 County Road 41, Boughton Hill Road, Victor, New York.

November 10, 2024, 2:00 p.m.
“Teaching the Underground Railroad Locally.”
Online. Registration link will be available at www.farmingtonmeetinghouse.org.
Rebekka Boysen-Taylor, School of Education, University of Idaho and senior curriculum consultant, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, will report on the development of curriculum materials relating to the Underground Railroad in Rochester-Farmington-Macedon area, with a special focus on children and the Underground Railroad. Co-sponsored with AKWAABA and the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

Annual Report

Our 2023 annual report is now available online. To download, click on “About Us” and “Annual Reports.”


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