History of Horsham Monthly Meeting

Sketch of Horsham MeetingThe Horsham Friends Meeting holds a strategic place in the history of its region, and is intimately connected with the founding and settlement of the township in which it is located. Further, it is a surviving manifestation of William Penn's "Holy Experiment," one of the primary driving forces behind the founding of the Pennsylvania colony, and embodied and served as the focus of the social organization of the early settlement. The Meeting's fundamental role in its region is reflected in its location as the terminus to many of the area's earliest roads; in its position as the only house of worship in the township into the late nineteenth century; and in the name and identity of the community which was known as Horsham Meeting into the 1890s. As an institutional center, the Meeting provided other key community services in its school, in preserving the history of the township's inhabitants through record keeping, and in its cemetery. The Horsham Meeting represents an important and intact example of the mature form of the building type developed in Pennsylvania to suit the specific needs of its early Quaker settlers. Finally, with its graveyard, tenant farmer's house school house and stable, the Horsham Meeting complex is one of the most complete Quaker institutional groups surviving in eastern Pennsylvania.

Most of the land of today's Horsham Township was granted by Penn to Samuel Carpenter, a Quaker. The land was subdivided for settlement beginning in 1709, and the great majority of the land was sold to fellow Quakers. Carpenter made a gift of fifty acres on the petition of a group of these Friends in 1715 which forms the present property. By that date a portion of the present caretaker's house (formerly the tenant farmer's house), and a barn (which does not survive), had already been built on the property, and are mentioned in the grant. After his death, Carpenter's widow Hannah deeded this land to the Meeting in 1717, with the stipulation that it fulfill the obligations of building a roasting house and schoolhouse and opening a graveyard. The arduous winter journey to Abington, the nearest meeting, and the growth of the community caused Abington Monthly Meeting to grant the application for a permanent Preparative Meeting in 1717.

The region which is now Horsham Township was originally part of the quarterly meeting group which included Germantown Meeting. Thus many of the first members of the Meeting and settlers of the township were descendants of the founders of Germantown. Jan Lucken, one of the Germantown settlers, was the first recorded purchaser of land from Carpenter. His land was subdivided among his children, whose name was changed to Lukens, after his death. Other Lukenses purchased tracts early on and remained active in the meeting appearing on committees well into the nineteenth century; additional Germantown founders' descendants included Isaac Tyson, son of Rynear Tyson, and Cornelius Conrad, grandson of Thones Kunders. These, together with the Kenderdine family, also early members of the Meeting who built and operated the mill which survives to the present day at Keith Valley and Davis Grove Roads formed the backbone of Horsham Meeting as the early town was known.

Because access to this community for us was crucial, most of the first township roads led to the Meeting.[5] The second township road to be laid out (after Welsh Road) was to connect Horsham Meeting to Byberry Meeting in 1719. Similarly, the Easton Road, now Route 611, connected Horsham and Willow Grove shortly thereafter. When Colonial Governor William Keith purchased the land that became Graeme Park, another road, the so-called Governor's road connected his rear drive to the meeting. The result is that Horsham Meeting is perhaps the most centrally located structure in the community. The persisting regional importance of the Meeting is demonstrated by the fact that as late as 1884, it was the only house of worship in the township.

Documentation on the Meeting is readily obtained; each meeting was a major center of record keeping, listing marriages, births and deaths, as well as moves of members. In addition, each major decision was made by a committee appointed by the meeting. Complete minutes of the meeting survive in the Quaker collection at the library of Swarthmore College. Evidence of the deeds and minutes makes it apparent that a meeting house had been erected by 1717, in accordance with Hannah Carpenter's deed. The records are voluminous and were surveyed by the WPA inventory of Friends' records; according to Charles Harper Smith, a historian of the Horsham area, this first meeting house was a small stone, one room structure on the northeast side of Easton Road. Increased Quaker settlement and access by better roads necessitated a larger building for the burgeoning congregation, and the original meeting was expanded by a large addition in 1724.

The 1724 building served for several generations, but by 1800, the enlarged community made it necessary to build a new meeting. By the summer of 1802 a site had been selected and work was underway. Minutes of the meeting for first month, 27th, 1804 reported that a committee of Friends had been appointed to collect subscriptions for a meeting house; a month later construction was nearing completion with only the shutters outstanding. The building which resulted was an extremely handsome version of the by then standard double meeting house, based on the Great Meeting of 1755 at Second and Market which was later moved to Twelfth Street and was reconstructed in the 1960s at the George School. Horsham Meeting, however, is unusual in its careful construction of coursed and squared rubble with carefully cut large stones at the corners. This choice of materials rather than the usual stucco over rubble gives the building a monumentality which is frequently lacking in country meetings.

 

WORSHIP SCHEDULE
Sunday
10:30-11:30am: Meeting for Worship
10:30-11:30am: First Day School

Soup Sunday: Last Sunday of the Month
Monthly Meeting for Business
Last Sunday of the month
Horsham Monthly Meeting
500 Easton Road
Horsham, PA 19044
(215) 672-1714

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