Quaker History


The Quaker faith arose in the mid-17th century in England to revive a more primitive form of Christianity.  The practitioners were known as the “Seekers” or “the Children of Light”; their official designation is the “Religious Society of Friends.”  Quakers settled originally in the Pennsylvania Colony, but gradually established meeting houses throughout the 13 colonies.  Hard working and plain in speech and dress, the Quakers are often misunderstood.  The faith requires ethical business practices, opposition to war, and a radical obedience to the teachings of Christ.  It was not until 1688 that the first hints of an abolitionist sentiment arose from the Philadelphia Society of Friends.  They issued the first statement against slave-holding by Quakers and followed it in 1696 with a formal Prohibition on the importing of slaves by Quaker traders.  The prohibition did not extend to Meetings in other colonies. And, it was not until 1776 that the North Carolina Yearly Meeting mandated the freeing of all slaves held by Friends; any slave holding Quaker in North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia would be subject to disownment.

The families who would found Wrightsborough in 1770, and its short-lived sister community Friendsborough in 1776, came from the North Carolina Yearly Meeting groups. A schism in the Meeting, possibly over slavery, caused a group of Friends to leave North Carolina and relocate to Georgia. Colonial Governor James Wright promised them 12,000 acres of land below the Little River. The Quakers were to be used as a buffer between the Creek Indians to the north and Irish and Scottish settlers to the south. To receive a lot within town limits, one had to be a Quaker; several families traveled with the group, including the Watsons, the Wilsons, and the Ansleys who were not Quaker and, therefore, they only received acreage outside of town.

The town included house lots, stores, blacksmith shop, and other businesses vital to frontier life. The Quakers would have met in a modest log structure, probably with two doors, one for women and one for men, which would have more closely resembled a house than a church. Burial for a Quaker was a simple affair with the only expense being a coffin. The Friend would be interred free of charge next to the meeting house. Markers would be a field stone, a very plain tablet stone, or a pillow marker.

During and after the American Revolution, the political climate in Georgia was increasingly uncomfortable for the Quakers. The rise of Thomson as a railroad town, the acceptance of slavery in Georgia, and the resentment harbored against the Quakers for not fighting in the Revolution caused many Quaker families to relocate to the north and west. The Wrightsborough Monthly Meeting was laid down in 1807 and the town was lost to the forest. Wrightsborough survived as a village until the 1920s, but little remains physically of the settlement in modern McDuffie County. The Historic Wrightsboro Foundation promotes the heritage of this lost settlement.

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