Wanesville Area Quaker Settlements
From the beginning, Quakers have sought that of God in all people, whether female or male, white or people of color, young or old. Although some early Quakers held slaves, many came to see that this was incompatible with their testimony of equality. This was especially difficult for Friends living in the Southern states. Some began to investigate moving to the Northwest Territory, designated as slave free. This included Ohio and other Midwest states.
Abijah O'Neall, Robert Mills, and David and Jesse Pugh had purchased land between the Little Miami and Great Miami Rivers and prepared to move their families there in 1799. Being Friends in South Carolina, they requested certificates of removal. Bush River Meeting refused the request, perhaps in an attempt to preserve the community, but the families moved to the new town of Waynesville, Ohio. In 1803, Zachariah Dix rose to speak during Meeting for Worship at Bush River Meeting and urged Friends to move to the new State of Ohio as it was free of the burden of slavery. Responding to this divinely inspired message, Bush River Friends moved as an entire body to the Little Miami River lands. Many families left well-established farms for unexplored tracts of land in the Ohio wilderness. Over two hundred years later, all that remains of Bush River Meeting is a historic marker.
The first Quaker settlements held Meeting for Worship in their homes. In 1801, twelve families requested the establishment of a Preparative Meeting under the care of Westland Monthly Meeting in Pennsylvania, which was affiliated with Baltimore Yearly Meeting. This was a first step in the process of establishing a Monthly Meeting. The Preparative Meeting was recognized and, two years later, Miami Monthly Meeting was established on October 13, 1803, with full authority to carry on business, provide oversight of marriages, and receive certificates of membership from many Friends who were arriving from North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Miami Monthly Meeting was affiliated with Redstone Quarterly Meeting (Pennsylvania) and Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
By 1807, nearly 2000 Friends had moved into southwestern Ohio. Three other Monthly Meetings were "set off," or authorized, by Miami Monthly Meeting. A request for "quarterly meeting" status was sent to Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to be comprised of Miami, West Branch, Center, and Fairfield Monthly Meetings. This would relieve Ohio representatives from traveling to Pennsylvania to attend Redstone Quarterly Meeting. The request was granted and Miami Quarterly Meeting opened on May 13, 1809.
The Meeting had been gathered into a small log cabin in 1803 and moved into a larger cabin in 1805. This site is located near the Red Brick Meetinghouse in Waynesville. The original cabin had no stove, as member Charity Lynch felt it would be "too worldly" to have a heat source. In 1809, a committee of five was appointed to prepare plans to build a new Meetinghouse with sufficient space to accommodate the new Miami Quarterly Meeting. Plans were approved in May 1811 to build a one-story brick structure on a four-acre lot belonging to Miami Monthly Meeting. Later in the year it was agreed to change the plans to a two-story building to accommodate the rapidly growing Quarterly Meeting. The completed building cost $1,500, and each Monthly Meeting in Ohio and Indians paid its share. Miami Monthly Meeting (Waynesville Friends) has used this building, the White Brick Meetinghouse, continually since 1811. It is the oldest place of worship in continuous use west of the Alleghany Mountains.
The new meetinghouse was divided by movable shutters and two entry ways, one for women and children, the other for men. During Meeting for Business, women and men sat separately to preserve the sense of equality of each gender's decision-making. Then the shutters would be raised, and the entire Meeting would attempt to reach unity or consensus over each decision that had been made. Neither meeting could take action without the unity of the other. It should be noted that many Friends Meetinghouses from previous centuries have separate entries, although today, separate meeting sessions have not been necessary since women achieved legal equality in American, a movement led primarily by Quaker women.
Miami Monthly Meeting built a schoolhouse across the street from the new White Brick Meetinghouse in 1811. A diverse student body included African-American, Native American, and white children.