The other night we watched the charming 1956 movie Friendly Persuasion, with Gary Cooper, Dorothy Maguire, and Anthony Perkins, about a Quaker family whose beliefs are tested when the Civil War literally comes crashing into their back yard. TCM ran the film (It was Sally Fields’ pick) but it grabbed our notice because not only did I once write a play about this very subject (Quakers tested during the Civil War) but we read sections of it at Dixon Place about six weeks ago.
I think I probably got the idea to make my characters Quakers from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I fell in love with their archaic manner of speaking, and (once I researched them) many elements of their doctrine. What I surely never dreamed was that I am descended from some of them.
My simplistic working framework had always been that I am descended from Puritans in New England on my mom’s side, and hillbillies from the South on my dad’s side. Those are distinct American cultural types, but hardly all of them, even within my own ancestry. And so there’s this one branch of my dad’s family lasting several generations who were Quakers. As we said here, on my mom’s side, I am descended from the Quaker missionary Christopher Holder. But he kind of flitted around from place to place, as missionaries will do. He eventually returned to England. On my dad’s side, in this one branch we have a substantial Quaker presence.
We’ll start with Peter and Penelope Stout, whom we wrote about yesterday. There is a reason they lived in Gravesend. That community had been founded in South Brooklyn in 1643 by the Anabaptist Lady Deborah Moody (the colony was still Dutch controlled; this was the only English town there during this period). Like Rhode Island, Gravesend was (for a time) a community with complete religious freedom, and so a number of Quakers lived there. In 1657, Governor Peter Stuyvesant cracked down on the Quakers, however, and the Stouts moved to Monmouth County, New Jersey, where they lived for many years.
Within a couple of generations at least one member of this family (Samuel Stout, 1676-1733) had moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and in the Quaker State several interesting lines converge. Samuel’s son Peter Stout married a daughter of Larrance Cypert (1690-1785), an immigrant from Hanover, Germany. We can thus lay a claim to having some Pennyslvania Dutch in us. I actually visited Lancaster about 20 years ago, it’s still a home to Quakers and Amish, and bearded men still block traffic with their horse drawn wagons there.
Around 1751, Peter and Margaret Stout moved to Cane Creek, North Carolina, with an entire group of families from Lancaster. You can read about that transplantation here. Their son married Mary Noblett, and her family is interesting too. The Nobletts were French Huguenots who sought refuge in Ireland for a time before moving to Pennsylvania with a group of Quakers. Read about them here. (Interestingly, there are some other Huguenots in my lineage as well, in a different branch of my dad’s family. Their names were Legrande and Michaux).
In 1788, Sarah Stout married English immigrant John Nichols in North Carolina. Nichols served in the War of 1812, so we can see quite definitively that this is where the Quaker line ends! The two moved to Nashville after that, I’m assuming onto land Nichols was granted for his war service. And so this is how this line of Quakers found its way to Tennessee.
But I also at least one other long line of Quakers in the same region. The longest line ends with my great great grandmother Lizzie Price (1859-1894). Her forebear Edward Price (1650-1728) was one of the first settlers of the section of Philadelphia known as Lower Merion. He came with a group of Welsh speaking Quakers who secured the area known as the Welsh Tract from William Penn in 1681. Thus I am descended from a number of these Welsh Quaker families who immigrated here at around the same time: Owen, Humphrey, Ellis. His descendants rapidly intermarried with other groups (mostly Scots-Irish), moved to Lancaster, thence to North Carolina, then to Tennessee.