A History of Quakers in Southern Maryland

The following summary of Quaker History in Southern Maryland was researched and written by Peter Rabenold. Peter is a founding member and long time cornerstone of Patuxent Friends. This booklet was prepared in his honor on the occasion of our first opportunity to host Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting, Ninth Month, 1997.

1655-56 Quakers first arrived in Southern Maryland after being expelled from Virginia. Among them was Elizabeth Harris, who proceeded to convince Puritan leaders like Richard Preston to see the "Inward Truth". Richard Preston had his home at Preston-on-Patuxent, which was the seat of the Maryland government for a period until 1658. (Another Preston home, called Charles Gift was located on the Chesapeake Bay, where the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant now stands.) Elizabeth Harris convinced others as well, and meetings began to be established in Calvert County—for example, at the Upper and Lower Cliffs.

1657 The Provincial Council of Maryland referred to the "insolent behavior of Quakers". The latter were told they had to take oaths and remove their hats. They were called "vagabonds and idle persons". They were whipped from constable to constable, until they were tossed from the Province.

1670 By this time, despite persecution, Quaker meetings (all unprogrammed) were spreading in Maryland (except in St. Mary’s County). They existed on the Severn River, the South River, the West River, Herring Creek, the Cliffs, and the Patuxent.

1672 George Fox visited Southern Maryland and attended several established meetings, including one called "Patuxent". He talked in his journal of meeting with Indian chieftains and of staying at the home of James Preston, son of Richard Preston (who died in 1669). On one occasion, after returning from a trip on horseback with James Preston, Fox found the Preston home burnt down and his chest destroyed "due to a careless wench". He wrote that sleeping on the frozen ground was "very cold". In the same year, Fox was present at the General Meeting of Friends on West River, which became Baltimore Yearly Meeting.

1673 Fox returned to England, having taken passage from St. Leonard’s Creek on the Society of Bristol, which was held up for days at Patuxent Point due to unfavorable winds.

1683 The Cliffs meeting house was built upon a tract near the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, called "Gary’s Chance". Among the Friends involved were the Sharpe family (Dr. Peter Sharpe was known as "the good Quaker physician of Calvert County") and Richard Johns (whose descendents became the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital; one of the Johns family was disowned by Baltimore Yearly Meeting for selling whiskey). Some of these early Quakers were buried in a cemetery close to Scientist’s Cliffs in Calvert County.

1686 The existence of Pickawaxen Meeting in Charles County was reported.

1700 Friends were no longer persecuted in Maryland.

1705 Esther Palmer, a Quaker missionary, visited in Calvert and Ann Arundel Counties. She found that earlier Quakers had "planted te theory of the Inward Light deeply and extensively".

1724 Maps at the time showed evidence of a Quaker presence in Calvert County, e.g. locations of Quaker Meeting Houses, "Quaker Road" and "Quaker Swamp" (at the headwaters of St. Leonard’s Creek).

1777 The Maryland Society of Friends outlawed slavery. Until this time, Quakers had grown in number. After this date, Friends who did not wish to give up their slaves became Episcopalians. Those who gave up their slaves moved out of the area, since they could not grow tobacco economically without slaves.

1871 A Quaker meeting, known as "Patuxent Monthly Meeting", was organized in Hughesville, Maryland (Charles County). It was part of the Orthodox group of Baltimore Yearly Meeting . The minister was named Neave, and he served until his death in 1929. The Meeting had 28 members in 1876 and a peak of 36 members.

1942 The above mentioned Meeting was laid down during World War II; the membership having dwindled to 2-3 families. The Meeting House was torn down. A small cemetery remains.

1980 A small number of Friends from Calvert, St. Mary’s and Charles Counties formed a worship group under the care of Annapolis Meeting. Since 1980, this group has grown in numbers and spirituality and has become a monthly meeting. It considers itself a worthy successor of the unprogrammed Patuxent Meeting, which existed in Calvert County in the mid-17th Century. Those indomitable Quaker women Elisabeth Harris and Esther Palmer did indeed plant fertile seeds with their messages of the "Inward Truth" and the "Inward Light".

1995 Patuxent Friends were welcomed as a Monthly Meeting, under Baltimore Yearly Meeting in July. 

2001 Patuxent Friends meeting was incorporated under the State of Maryland. 

2001 Patuxent Friends purchased a meetinghouse on H.G. Trueman Road, in Lusby, MD, about a mile from the community center where they had met for a number of years. Its location (central to our Southern Maryland area), visibility to the community, attractiveness of the old post-war house, and large yard and woods on the property all spoke to the needs of the Meeting. The first meeting on the property was held on seventh month 8, 2001.