Scope and Contents
The Wetherill papers include the correspondence of Samuel Wetherill as well as a small number of miscellaneous letters to other individuals which were probably in his possession at the time of his death. The collection includes business and personal letters in addition to those which deal directly with the cause of the Free Quakers. Of particular interest are a letter from Hannah Barnard in which she laments the way she was treated by Hudson Monthly Meeting and the correspondence from Benjamin Bumpus, Nicholas Davis, Timothy Davis and others, reporting on the state of their meeting.
Organized by author, then chronologically
Copyright and Rights Information
Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.
Biographical / Historical
Samuel Wetherill (1736-1816), son of Christopher Wetherill of Burlington, NJ, removed to Philadelphia Monthly Meeting in 1759. Three years later, he married Sarah Yarnall, daughter of Mordecai Yarnall (with whom he had apprenticed). Samuel began his career as a carpenter, but later became a textile manufacturer and apothecary.
In 1779, Samuel Wetherill was disowned by Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for disunity, because he had "...deviated from our ancient Testimony and peaceable principles by manifesting himself a party in the public commotions prevailing." Wetherill became the clerk of a small group of Quakers in Philadelphia who were likewise disowned because they had supported the Revolutionary cause. They initially sought to continue to worship and meet as Friends in established Quaker meeting houses, but without success. In 1783, the Society of Free Quakers built a meeting house at Fifth and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. Other "Free Quaker" meetings were organized in New England and Maryland.
The "Davisites" in the Sandwich-New Bedford Massachusetts area corresponded regularly with Wetherill, apprising him of their meeting's condition. They were members of Longplain, New Bedford, Acushnet, and Rochester worship groups, disowned by Sandwich Monthly Meeting. Timothy Davis (1730-1798), a respected Friend and minister, published a pamphlet in 1776 "A letter from a Friend to some of his intimate Friends," on the subject of paying taxes to the new government. The meeting debated long and hard in how to deal with this matter. The committee assigned to meet with him recommended at the meeting of 6 month 1777 that the publication was unfortunate but not a disownable offense. However, others in the monthly meeting disagreed, and he was disowned from Sandwich Monthly Meeting in 1778. By 1780, he was joined by other members who disagreed with the decision-making process. These included Timothy's brother, Nicholas, and Benjamin Bumpus, Silas Swift, David Smith, and Bartholomew Taber. Timothy Davis acknowledged his wrongdoing in 1795 and was reinstated as a member of the Monthly Meeting, much to the dismay of Wetherill and the local friends. The other members continued to worship, depleted by old age and death until the meetings gradually were laid down by about 1815. The "Davisites" in Massachusetts were less extreme in their politics than the Free Quakers, and thus the schism did not run as deeply as in Philadelphia.