83 Spring Street – The Friends Meetinghouse, 1822

New Bedford Pathways: Tour 2 "Old Bedford Village"

83 Spring Street – The Friends Meetinghouse, 1822

New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740, United States

Created By: New Bedford Preservation Society


83 Spring Street, The Friends Meetinghouse, 1822

Joseph Rotch donated the lot to the Friends in 1785. The Friends Meetinghouse represents much of what the surrounding community found valuable. While Friends had claimed to strive only for plainness and to avoid ostentation, they became invested in rigid uniformity in dress, speech, way of living and style of house building. Their houses were built from the same plan, serving as an expression of the dominant influence on the social, religious, and business life in New Bedford. The brick structure is sober, simple and without the slightest hint of decoration. The separate entrances for men and women can be seen as an outward manifestation of the strict morals upon which the faith was based. While this separation of the sexes is not the practice today, it is the visible legacy of a tradition that encouraged simple – even spartan – living. This externalization of beliefs encouraged New Bedford's Quakers to found a branch of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1834 and to participate in the extensive Underground Railroad network until the Civil War. Some of the former ew Bedford Quakers became Unitarians.

In his 1845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass mentions two men who were members of New Bedford Monthly Meeting -- William C. Taber and Joseph Ricketson because of their assistance in helping Douglass and his wife get to New Bedford from Newport, Rhode Island when he was escaping enslavement. "They seemed at once to understand our circumstances, and gave us such assurance that their friendliness has put us fully at ease in their presence. It was good indeed to meet with such friends, at such a time," Douglass wrote of Taber and Ricketson. William C. Taber led the Quaker congregation's business meetings of New Bedford Monthly Meeting from 1835 until early 1852. He was also the meeting's treasurer from 1831 through 1848.

This point of interest is part of the tour: New Bedford Pathways: Tour 2 "Old Bedford Village"


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