By Nathan H. Ballenger (1823 - 1905)
The first Quakers in Henry county were Joseph and George Hobson who settled near the present site of New Castle in 1819. They came from Clinton county, Ohio. The first commissioner's court convened at Joseph Hobson's on June 10, 1822. The first circuit court held in Henry county convened at the same place, September 30, 1822. Joseph Hobson remained at this place until his death in 1833, and his remains rest in the Elliot cemetery with no head stone to mark his grave. This seems to have been the rule among our forefathers to have no mark of distinction in the city of the dead and no unnecessary outlay in the internment. The innovation of tombstones has quite generally obtained of later years. Josiah Morris settled near Dublin just within Henry county in 1822 or 23. Allen Hiatt settled in West Liberty in 1822 or 1823. Josiah Pennington and Nathan Davis came at this time and settled two miles north of Ogden. Jacob Wood, Samuel Pickering, from Belmont county, Ohio, settled one mile east of Greensboro in 1821. Wood was two days in cutting his way through the dense woods from New Castle, seven miles to his place near Greensboro. William Macy located four miles southwest of Greensboro in 1822-23. Levi Cook came in 1824, locating one mile southwest of Greensboro, where his son, John Cook now resides. David Bailey, Rice Price, John Copeland, Wm. Hosier, John Hunt, Alex Stafford, Peter Pearson, Reuben Edgerton, Absalom Hiatt, Jonas Pickering, Evan James, Isom Copeland, Calvin Wasson, John H. Bales, James Hiatt, William Saint, Isaac Cook, Stephen Craig, Jehu Wickersham, Thomas Kirk and Samuel Stafford, were the first settlers in and about the present site of Greensboro and composed what was known as the Duck Creek settlement of Friends. These people were largely from North Carolina; a few were from eastern Ohio. For a time they worshiped at Milton, that being the nearest meeting. Traces of the old Dock Creek road are yet visible in Spiceland township. As early as 1823 a meeting for worship was established on the banks of Duck Creek, on the present site of Greensboro. The liberty to hold said meeting was granted by Milford, or Milton monthly meeting, Wayne county, Indiana. In the year 1826, Whitewater, or Richmond, quarterly granted Duck Creek a monthly meeting/.
The first committee appointed was composed of Levi Cook, Rice Price, Jonas Pickering and Calvin Wasson, who were to propose to the next meeting persons for clerks. John Copeland acting as clerk for the day. The second committee was composed of Samuel Stafford, Josiah Pennington, Joseph Ratliff, Benjamin Cox, Miles Murphey and Wm. Hosier, whose business was to propose to the next meeting suitable persons for the station of overseers.
The second monthly meeting was held on 31st of 8th month, 1826. The committee on clerks proposed John Copeland and Jacob Wood. George Evans presented his letter of membership from Miami meeting, Ohio.
At the 3rd meeting, 1826, Samuel Stafford was ordained as the first minister in Friends church in Henry county. Phebe Macy was the first elder up to this date.
About this time complaints began to be made against members for deviations in dress and address, for marrying contrary to the prescribed rule and for being present at weddings not accomplished according to Friends formula. All persons deviating in any of these particulars must condone their faults to the satisfaction of the church or forfeit their place as members. We regret to record that many otherwise worthy members were excommunicated.
The Quaker church in its origin denounced all wars offensive or defensive as inconsistent and contrary to the gospel, hence they would not bear arms nor engage on military training. The maintenance of brought upon them great persecutions and loss of property. Miles Murphey, Jr., was disowned for engaging in military training. Others were under censure for voluntarily paying muster fines, the rule being to suffer property to be distained and sold for what it would bring at public outcry, and should the property thus taken sell for more than the fine, no part of it could be received back, ruling that this would in affect be admitting the justness of the taking.
Friends on the east side of Blue River made a request January 20, 1829, of Duck Creek meeting for liberty to hold religious meetings in their own locality and the meeting be called Sharon. This was not granted. Five months later they repeated the request and that the meeting be called Spiceland, which was granted.
In the year 1827 a meeting to be held twice a month was started on Flat Rock in the Cosand settlement. Calvin Wasson, Jebial Wasson, Miles Murphey, Gabriel Cossand, Thomas Newby, William Bond, Jesse Bond and others worshipped there. After a time this meeting was stopped and Richsquare south and Flat Rock in the Brown settlement were started and looked after by Duck Creek monthly meeting.
There appears, for a time, to have been a few Friends at Rushville that were cared for by another meeting, I have no further account of them. Committees also visited by request a company of friends some eight miles south of Carthage, called Little Blue. There was a meeting on Fall Creek under the care of the Duck Creek monthly meeting. In 1827 there appears a minute on Duck Creek records stating that Friends of the lower settlement requesting privilege to hold a meeting for worship which was granted and called Walnut Ridge, which was seven miles southwest of Knightstown. For many years these Friends had traveled twice a week fourteen miles through the woods to worship at Duck Creek. After a time these meetings alternated in their monthly meeting capacity. A meeting at Clear Springs was allowed. This nearly all meetings in Henry, Rush, Hancock and Madison counties were off-shoots and fostered by Duck Creek monthly meeting. The meeting at Spiceland was established 1st, 1mo., 1833.
Much difference of opinion appeared in Duck Creek meeting on the resurrection at one time, and there was so much in harmony that Richmond quarterly, after great efforts to harmonize the contention, interposed its authority in 1837, and declared this meeting unfit to do business and stopped the monthly meeting and attached its members to Spiceland meeting. After a time a monthly meeting was again started at Duck Creek.
Another disturbance took place in 1840, on the anti-slavery agitation. This waxed so warm that a separation occurred in Indiana Yearly meeting, and many of the subordinate meetings divided. There was a division at Duck Creek and Elm Grove. The anti-slavery Friends, as they called themselves, worshiped for a time in separate buildings, but finally their meetings were discontinued and most of the separatists returned to their former associations.
Friends meetings generally along about this period were held in silence. There were hundreds of gatherings for worship in which not a word was spoken, and not a song was ever heard in time of worship or at the homes of Friends. The arrangement for the congregation in time of worship was that the men and women be separated by a partition through the house. The men were to keep their hats on in time of meeting lest taking them off would be construed into adoration of the temple, holding one place to be sacred as another. This is among the things of the past. In time of prayer all of the congregation must arise, take off their hats and turn around. At business meetings partitions between men and women must be closed and men and women proceeded to do business independently. No marriages were allowed between Friends and others, if it could be prevented. Sometimes parents were disowned for consenting in any way to such foreign alliances on the part of their children. Select schools were at one time in vogue at Spiceland, Duck Creek and Elm Grove, in which no children were allowed except Quakers. This state of affairs soon fell into disrepute and was discontinued. The discipline was so amended in 1864 that no restrictions were imposed as to how or who parties married, and the Church had a respite from much labor.