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Quaker history, chicken dinner at Hicksite house

A sign found on the property of the meeting.
NORTH COLLINS — The clouds threatened but did not intrude on the afternoon at Shirley Road and Route 62 in North Collins on June 29. Don and Kyle manned the grills and prepared an expected 300 half-chickens and salt potatoes for the Hicksite Quaker Meeting House Chicken Barbecue, beginning at 11 a.m.

Georgianne Bowman from the North Collins Historical Society attended to the inside of the meeting house, while Dicci and volunteers served dinners, complete with a smile.

The meeting house was erected in 1851 as a replacement for the previous one.

Bowman said the Quaker meeting house that replaced the original one, which burned down near Quaker and Wilcox Roads, may have been moved to the Hicksite land. That may explain why the standing meeting house was built so far back from the road.

The building of today is the labor of volunteers who renovated the dilapidated 1851 structure to the Quaker Hicksite Meeting House that now sits in front of the North Collins Cemetery.

The meal was a prelude to a history lesson given by author and speaker Christopher Densmore at 1:30 p.m.

The adjacent cemetery beckoned a walk and the white meeting house was set with a notebook showing the renovation processes.

Display boards educated the reader about cemetery symbolism, including acorns, anchors, trees, willows and drapes that each hold messages about life and the passage to the next.

Quaker articles displayed were from The Buffalo News, The Courier Express and The Erie County Independent newspapers, dated from 1870.

It was all smiles during the Hicksite Quaker chicken barbecue.
Visitors found seats in the restored meeting house while Densmore took a seat facing the gallery.

He educated the filled pews about the most important agendas of the Quaker view: Rights for women, freedom for slaves, religious tolerance and peace.

The meeting house’s opposite entry doors are for entrance by men and women separately. Quakers, also known as The Society of Friends, in the Hicksite Meeting House used shutters that closed to separate the two rooms for business meetings.

Although both genders were together for general meetings, they had private business meetings.

Unlike churches in which a minister is spotlighted in front of a congregation at a pulpit, in Quaker meetings, anyone moved to speak can do so and from anywhere.

The Hicksite Quaker Meeting House
At Hicksite, elders and spiritually valuable people sat in the facing seats. They were the most frequent contributors, but anyone could speak.

Three rows of seats faced the common area, leaving a place for heating stoves between. The original meeting house was mirrored on each side. Today, the northern room is empty of pews.

A typical Quaker meeting involved listening to the speakers and meditating afterwards.

Quakers did not sing hymns at the meeting house, but favored more demure behavior.

In the time of the Hicksite Meeting House, Quakers dressed modestly and did not like elaborate showings at funerals.

They did not use headstones at first and then limited the height and size of them.

Quaker gravestones also do not mention months of the year for deaths, attributing the names to paganism. Instead, they put the number of the month.

A walk through the cemetery shows many markers flush with the ground.

The Hicksite Meeting House is famous for the 1857 speech by Susan B. Anthony. Anthony represented the Friends of Human Progress.

Andrew Davis, a spiritualist speaker, also debated about women’s superiority to men because of their caring, nurturing demeanor. Anthony stressed equality. Jackson’s thoughts leaned toward the notion that there is one man that is the perfect match for every woman.

The Quakers of North Collins had compromises to make. As confirmed pacifists during the Civil War, they had to determine their role in the military.

Abolition of slavery was a strong concern for them, so they had to balance their stand with a common agenda and the fact that military action and groups were as close as their neighbors.

Native Americans at Cattaraugus were not welcoming of religious groups telling them how to worship or what to believe.

In an 1805 speech, “Red Jacket Defends Native American Religion,” Seneca leader Red Jacket said, “Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you; we only want to enjoy our own.”

The Quakers accepted the Seneca’s views and their relationship was symbiotic, based on education and farming innovation.

After his speech, Densmore answered questions. When the questions were answered and the meeting was ended, Bowman reminded everyone to sign the guestbook.

Visitors left with a full stomach from the chicken dinner and a mind full of learning about the Quakers of North Collins.

Densmore’s advice to aspiring historians was that the path to becoming a historian starts with “asking smart questions and the ability to look through lots of microfilm.”

According to the speaker, “a historian recognizes patterns and works to develop a narrative from them.”

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