In Brief: Finding Our Foundation: A History of Plumstead Friends Meeting

By Carol Ann Gray. Self-published, 2022. 218 pages. $21.99/paperback.

Plumstead Meeting in Bucks County, Pa., is the focus of this book by Carol Ann Gray, who was inspired to write following the discovery in 2019 of the meetinghouse’s colonial-era foundation. Gray is a resident of Bucks County and has attended Plumstead Meeting for over 20 years. The book discusses the history of the area and its people from the Lenape to the Europeans who entered the Delaware Valley in the early 1600s. Vignettes of individuals, descriptions of locations, and sketches of specific times in its history are interspersed with the history of Quakers in the Plumstead area. Many historical documents and images are included to provide a richly informative tapestry that will shed light on Quaker history in Pennsylvania and the early period of the United States.

The book situates early Bucks County Friends within the larger Quaker movement and explains the motives of those who left England for the colonies. Citing minutes of related meetings (Plumstead Meeting’s minutes have not survived), maps, and letters, Gray documents the evolution of Plumstead Meeting from its start in the Brown family home under the auspices of Buckingham Meeting in Lahaska, Pa., to its emergence as an independent congregation with its own meetinghouse and attached school. An appendix contains reproductions of many original documents.

Gray traces the meeting’s history through the Revolutionary War, when wounded Continental soldiers recovered in the meetinghouse, to the community’s reaction to the Hicksite-Orthodox schism of 1827. She recounts the rebuilding of the meetinghouse in the late nineteenth century and discusses how the 1918 influenza epidemic affected the congregation. She details how attendance ebbed and flowed, causing the meetinghouse to fall into disuse during some decades of the mid-twentieth century. The book explains how a Friend followed a leading to form the Plumstead Worship Group with around 15 members in 1988. The worship group that became a monthly meeting in 2001 recently marked its twentieth anniversary.

Friends who are curious about U.S. Quaker history, as well as those seeking encouragement to revitalize their meetings, will find this book informative and fortifying.

Kathleen Jenkins is the book review editor for Friends Journal. Sharlee DiMenichi is a staff writer for Friends Journal.

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