Among mid-19th century New England Quakers, were the writings of Robert Barclay associated more with the Gurneyites or the Wilburites?  Am I correct in assuming they were not associated with Hicksites?

Also, does "Orthodox" apply to New England Gurneyites of that era, and "Conservative" to Wilburites?

Was John Greenleaf Whittier orthodox or conservative?

Thank you for helping me understand which New England Friends identified most strongly with Barclay circa 1850 and the correct usage of orthodox and conservative in that era.

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Hello, Jim!  Forgive me for being so inquisitive, but I am curious about how you fit into this picture!? 

Jim Wilson said:

Friend William; you are welcome.  I am rereading the Apology and finding it even more insightful than perviously.  I agree with you about the atonement; it isn't discussed in the Apology because it doesn't serve Barclay's interest in composing an apologetic work.  If he was writing a Summa, it would, undoubtedly, be included.  So would a chapter, or chapters, on the trinity, and other topics of note for those writing systematic theology.

I think it is worth noting that the Eastern Orthodox do not have any kind of summa, or systematic theology.  That is an approach that emerged in the West during the medieval period, but really took off during the reformation.  In some ways, the Orthodox approach and the Quaker approach to theological questions are similar.  At fist this, no doubt, seems a peculiar observation because Eastern Orthodox is strongly centered on outward ritual and sacraments.  That is a significant difference between the two traditions and I don't mean to minimize it.  On the other hand, the way the two traditions engage in theology is, to my mind, similar.

Thy Friend Jim




Thank you again.

Here is some genealogical info pertaining to Huldah Varney Hoag"

Joseph Varney [Jane Varney Durgin's uncle] was a prominent Wolfeboro Quaker.  He married Hannah Bassett.  “His house was a free hostelry for the traveling members of that sect.  This afforded him an opportunity to become acquainted with such men as Whittier, the Cartlands, and other early reformers.  On moral questions, his family was pretty sure to be on the right side.”  (Source, Parker, “History of Wolfeborough,” pps. 221-3.)


Joseph and Hannah’s children [Jane’s cousins]:

            **Huldah.  Married Lindley M. Hoag.  This was her second marriage.

            **Susan.  Died in 1824, age 22.

            **Almira.  Married David Breed, Weare.  Died 1826, age 22.

            **Lydia (b. 4/10/1808).  Married Samuel Dennis, Dover.

            **Moses (b. 4/10/1810).  Married Almira Hussey, Berwick ME.

            **Mary (b. 1/12/1817).  Married David Breed, Weare.

Lindley Murray Hoag's "Memoir" of Huldah Hoag can be found online.  Google Lindley's name and that search will take you there and also lead to this fascinating chapter in Quaker history pertaining to the Norwegian Quakers who emigrated to Iowa.

I should have mentioned that the reason I am confident it was Jane who named her son after Robert Barclay and not her husband is because her husband was not Quaker by birth.   He converted to the Quaker faith several years after marrying Jane.  Because she married a non-Quaker, the marriage being performed by a Baptist minister, she requested that her transgression be "passed by", which it was.  She appears to have been the driving force in her marriage in most respects.  A quite unusual woman, in more ways than this.

The Durgin covered bridge in North Sandwich, NH, which is near the Friends Meeting House still in use, is named after Jane and her husband James Durgin.  It was built in 1869.  Google Durgin Covered Bridge and you will find many photos and historical info.  

The Durgin homestead was a stop on the underground railroad.

William, I will check out the link you have provided.  I can research materials available on line, but I am not in a position to visit the Swathmore library.

How does one send a private message via QQ?

Hello, Peter!

I need to contact QQ (bottom right of this screen), to find out how to send you private contact information.

I have thought of three people who might be able to help you with your research.

I won't be able to get to it until tonight or tomorrow.

Bill Rushby

Hello again, Peter!

Another thought!  New England Yearly Meeting may have a nearby library or archives which you could access.  Contact their office, and ask for help.  I am not very familiar with that yearly meeting, and am not sure where their main office is located.

Aha! See

Bill Rushby


Thank you again for all your helpful thoughts.

The archives of the New England Yearly Meeting are held by the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence.  I have been in touch with them.  They have been quite helpful in identifying where the various 19th century Monthly Meeting minutes pertinent to my project may be found.

These Meeting minutes have been rich with information.  Fascinating reading!  19th century American Quaker history is most absorbing.

The title of my forthcoming book will be "Jane Varney Durgin, 19th Century Quaker Preacher, Abolitionist, and Trick Rider:   Her Life and Times".   I hope to complete this work by next summer.   Though there is still a lot of research to be done, the structure of the book is taking shape quickly.

To summarize what led me to commence this thread, I am attempting to learn more about a remarkable Quaker woman named Jane Varney Durgin (1820 - 1895) who was a lifelong member of the Sandwich NH Monthly Meeting.  In 1852, she named her third and last born son Robert Barclay Durgin.  In doing so, was she making a statement of her convictions, and what does that imply regarding who she might have sided with, the Gurneyites or Wilburites?

The Gurneyite/Wilburite separation fractured the New England Yearly Meeting in 1845.  Thus there were two separate New England Yearly Meetings.   Only approximately 10% of New England friends seceded from the established Yearly Meeting to form their own Yearly Meeting.  Wilburites seem to have constituted a majority only in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Additional research has revealed that the Wilburites identified themselves with the writings of Robert Barclay, especially his "Apology".    That seems to indicate that Jane Varney Durgin was declaring herself a Wilburite by naming her son after Barclay.

I want to quote at length from the 57 page tract the Wilburites published in 1845, which demonstrates the intensity of feeling that prompted the schism.  Much of this tract denounces Gurney by contrasting his writings with those of Barclay, Fox, Penn, etc.  Then I will quote from "A Short History of Conservative Friends," the best online presentation I have found pertaining to this schism.  Then I will quote from the June, 1845 Sandwich NH Men's Monthly Meeting Minutes to try to identify which faction the Sandwich Monthly Meeting aligned itself with.  Then I will ponder whether Jane Varney Durgin disagreed with the position of her Monthly Meeting.

This will interest those with a passion for Quaker history.

An Epistolary Declaration and Testimony of the Yearly Meeting of Friends for New England, Respecting the Proceedings of Those Who Have Effected A Schism Therein; and Also Showing the Contrast Between the Doctrines They Have Promulgated and Supported and Those Which Have Always Been Upheld by Friends.

We are concerned to bring to view the more prominent and palpable causes which have led to such sad results [the schism], and to trace the further workings of that deceptive spirit, during this our annual assembly, as manifested by those who are under its beguiling and seductive influence ; to caution and entreat our dear Friends everywhere, to guard against its insidious approach and fearful ravages, and to present a contrast of some of the unsound doctrines of Joseph John Gurney, with those of our approved and standard writers. For, however the attempt may be made to conceal it, those who have now effected a separation of themselves from us, have fully, repeatedly, and officially acknowledged the above named author as a duly accredited and authorized minister, with whom they have unity — "and by placing a record on their minutes of his presence, and of their satisfaction with his company, they have formally identified themselves with him and his doctrines," which view is confirmed by their having given wide, and in some instances, official circulation to his writings, notwithstanding their manifest unsoundness and inconsistency with those which have always been held by Friends, as will fully appear by the contrast hereinafter presented. And notwithstanding the contrary assertions and professions of those who have thus flagrantly violated our Discipline, by the introduction and promulgation of unsound doctrines, by strenuously upholding and defending the above named author of them, and by resisting, opposing and depriving of their dearest rights and privileges, not only individuals, but meetings, which have endeavored to withstand such innovations ; — notwithstanding their most solemn professions of soundness in the faith, and of an adherence to the ancient principles and Testimonies of our Society, and a support of our Discipline and the maintenance of good order, or their pretension that these difficulties have not had their origin in any departure on their part from the Truth ; yet vain will it be for them to make such pretension, assertions, or professions, while their own acts stand recorded against them ; and those unsound doctrines referred to, which have given rise to such inconsistent conduct and mal-administration of the discipline on their part, remain uncondemned and unretracted by them, together with those acts and conclusions which have been resorted to, in order to promote the accomplishment of their deep design to modify and change the principles of this Society.....

For several years past many of the most prominent and influential members of this Yearly Meeting, who had formerly appeared to be in good measure established in the Truth, but who, for want of an humble abidance therein, which would have preserved them out of all error, have fallen from that state and standing which they once knew, and have manifested a sorrowful disposition to lower the standard of our Christian profession, by introducing and conniving at the introduction of Doctrines, principles, and practices at variance with and subversive of those which have ever distinguished us as a people, as set forth in the standard writings of our early Friends, particularly in Robert Barclay's "Apology for the true Christian Divinity," which has been fully approved and adopted, not only by this Meeting, but by the Society at large.



J. J. Gurney (Portable Evidences, p. 31 :) "Now the information which the Bible gives, respecting the Supreme Being, whether considered as a harmonious whole, or viewed in its principal details, is to be found originally in the Bible alone." (id. p. 35.) " It is the Bible, and the Bible only, which declares a standard of morals, universally applicable to our need, and liable to no change." (p. 101.) " Now it is in the Scriptures only that the attributes of our Heavenly Father are fully made known to us." (Address to the Mechanics of Manchester, p. 6.) " This delightful science [Geology] has done much to confirm the Scripture record, and to complete that natural proof of a Supreme intelligent Being, on which all religion hinges."

Contrast the above with Robert Barclay ( Apol. Prop. II. p. 17 :) " Seeing no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the son revealeth Him ; and seeing the revelation of the Son is in and by the Spirit ; there fore the testimony of the Spirit is that alone by which the true knowledge of God hath been, is, and can be only revealed." (p. 20.) " For the better understanding, then, of this proposition, we do distinguish betwixt the certain knowledge of God, and the uncertain; betwixt the spiritual knowledge and the literal; the saving heart knowledge, and the soaring head knowledge. The last, we confess, may be divers ways obtained ; but the first, by no other way than the inward immediate manifestation and revelation of God's Spirit, shining in and upon the heart, enlightening and opening the understanding. None have any true ground to believe they have attained it, who have it not by this revelation of God's Spirit." (p. 26.) " I would, however, not be understood, as if hereby I excluded those other means of knowledge from any use or service to man ; it is far from me so to judge, as, concerning the Scriptures, in the next proposition will more plainly appear. The question is not, what may be profitable or helpful, but what is absolutely necessary. Many things may contribute to further a work, which yet are not the main thing that makes the work go on. The sum, then, of what is said, amounts to this : that where the true inward know ledge of God is, through the revelation of his Spirit, there is all ; neither is there an absolute necessity of any other. But where the best, highest, and most profound knowledge is, without this, there is nothing, as to the obtaining the great end of salvation." William Penn (Rise and Progress, p. 27 :) " 1 have already touched upon their fundamental principle, which is as the corner stone of their fabric; and indeed, to speak eminently and properly, their characteristic, or main distinguishing point or principle, viz : the light of Christ within, as God's gift for man's salvation. This, I say, is as the root of the goodly tree of doctrines that grew and branched out from it, which 1 shall now mention," &c. &c. George Fox (Journal, Leeds edit. Vol. I. p. 92 :) " My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God ; yet I knew him not, but by revelation, as -He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to his Son by his Spirit." William Penn (Pref. to Prim. Christ. Revived :) " By this short ensuing treatise, thou wilt perceive the subject of it, viz : the light of Christ in man, as the manifestation of God's love for man's happiness ; now, forasmuch as this is the peculiar testimony and characteristic of the people called Quakers ; their great fundamental in religion ; that by which they have been distinguished from other professors of Christianity in their time, and to which they refer all people about faith, worship and practice, both in their ministry and writings; that as the fingers shoot out of the hand, and the branches from the body of the tree, so true religion, in all the parts and articles of it, springs from this divine principle in man."

A Short History of Conservative Friends (Richmond, Indiana, 1992)

Friends who sought to maintain the traditional doctrines of Friends were alarmed at London Yearly Meeting's general epistle for 1836, which for the first time presented the Evangelical views as the official position of Friends. A paragraph on the Holy Scriptures stated that they were "the only divinely authorized record of the doctrines of true religion" and "the appointed means of making known to us the blessed truths of Christianity." William Hodgson captures the conservatives' objections to these statements:

[They are] a direct abandonment of the principle always promulgated in [early Friends'] writings, that "the appointed means" for the soul of man to obtain a saving knowledge of God, is a being taught in the school of Christ, through obedience to the "Inspeaking Word," and faith in the revelations of His Holy Spirit immediately in the heart; which will always be consistent with Scripture.

One of the first Americans to become concerned about these trends was John Wilbur, a minister from South Kingston Monthly Meeting in New England Yearly Meeting. A visit to England in 1831- 1833 exposed him to some of the most "advanced" of the Evangelical ministers in London Yearly Meeting, and convinced him that these ministers were beginning to rely less on the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit in their ministry and everyday life than on their own strength and reason. He publicly laid out his concerns in a series of letters to his friend George Crosfield, published in England in 1832. (These letters, published with Wilbur's Journal, give the best short summary of the conservatives' doctrinal views. Most conservatives took Barclay's Apology as the standard full-length statement of Friends' belief.)

June, 1845 – Statement in Sandwich Monthly Meeting Minutes regarding the Wilburite/Gurneyite separation at the New England Yearly Meeting:  “Believing that in regard to the Secession that has now taken place the appointment of a committee is called for to visit such subordinate meetings as may appear to them to stand in need of assistance and to afford such counsel and advice as in the meekness and wisdom of the Truth they may be able to afford; and that they should extend a special care in the assisting of friends in sustaining our meetings in the different parts of the yearly meeting according to our present organization.”

The word "secession" and the overall tone of this entry in the Minutes leads me to believe that the Sandwich Monthly Meeting affiliated itself with the Gurneyite majority.   I will attempt to research that further.

If this assumption is correct, was Jane Varney Durgin expressing disagreement with her Monthly Meeting by naming her son Robert Barclay Durgin?   She was quite a defiant person in many ways, though by and large the outward aspects of her lifestyle did not accord with the return to the more primitive Quaker life that Wilbur seemed to advocate.   She socialized extensively with non-Quakers, she married a non-Quaker (who converted to her faith), and she was a superb equestrienne and self-taught trick rider.  A very difficult individual to categorize!  Perhaps she refused to allow herself to be pigeon holed.

A couple of things that might be helpful from Pink Dandelion's An Introduction to Quakerism.  

Barclay was a Scottish Presbyterian before he became a Quaker, hence the Calvinistic bent to his Apology.  His theological training was at Scots College in Paris. (page 52)

The pastoral/programmed tradition took hold in 1880s.  "By 1900, pastors had been accepted by every Gurneyite meeting except Baltimore." page 110  For this bit he references Thomas Hamm's work The Transformation of American Quakerism.  So, I don't know if looking at programmed versus unprogrammed elements will be very helpful - your period may be too early.

If you haven't looked at it Hamm's book might be useful.  Also Thomas Hamm himself probably would be a great source to help you - his email address is on the Earlham College website.

 Dandelion also cites Carole Spencer's unpublished thesis (which may have been published by now, I know she has a book that has been published) to talk about the influence of Barclay on various Friends.  Here I quote Dandelion from page 107:  "Indeed as Spencer shows, Wesleyan Holiness is explicitly and implicitly indebted to Barclay."  

Finally, a friend of mine just researched the John Greenleaf Whittier question by reading a bunch of Whittier's letters.  Here is his conclusion: (credit goes to Michael Jay)

"In spite of Whittier’s discomfort – he remained with the Orthodox (now pastoral)
branch of Quakerism until he died. He might have preferred the old ways, however
he compromised his preferences enough to remain with his own community. Though
he feared much of Quakerism might replace the belief in God’s real presence with
“iron creeds”. He recognized that this had not happened in his own meeting. When
Whittier died, he died a member in good standing."

Hello, Peter Miller!

You wrote: " Worship in Wolfeboro seems to have had both unprogrammed and programmed aspects."

It seems to me that this would have been quite atypical for that era.  What are the details?

Bill Rushby  

Peter Miller:

I have a history of horse training, which covers the 19th Century.  If I can lay my hands on it, I will give you the citation.

Bill Rushby

Replies to Bill and Karen:


Regarding programmed and unprogrammed aspects of worship in Wolfeboro New Hampshire in the second quarter of the 19th century, Parker in his definitive "History of Wolfeborough" says this about the Society of Friends:

Several families of Friends took up their abode in Wolfeborough

soon after the close of the Revolutionary War. Among

them were the Varneys, the Bassetts, and the Nowells. Other

families affiliated with these, and to some extent adopted their

views and practices. About 1825 they erected a small meetinghouse

on Varney's Lane, now Friend Street, and for quite a

number of years held in it two weekly meetings statedly and

others occasionally.


The construction of the interior of their

place of worship was peculiar, and so was the seating of the worshipers.

A broad aisle extended through the building its entire

length. Near this was a movable partition by which the one room

could be made into two, if desired. At the end of the room were

elevated seats. The male members of the society sat on one side

of the broad aisle and the females on the other, the aged persons

and officials occupying the higher seats.


The members of the "Meeting" at the proper time quietly took

their accustomed places, and remained in silence for about an

hour unless some one was "moved to speak." Sometimes one

person and sometimes several would occupy a portion of the time.

When the proper time for closing the meeting arrived, the

leader, "who occupied one of the elevated seats, would extend his

hand to the person sitting next to him and they would shake

hands. The shake would then become general, this ceremony

closing the meeting." There were some "gifts" in the society that

were generally improved. Lindley M. Hoag was a forcible

speaker, and would sometimes preach an extempore sermon that

would continue for more than an hour without wearying his

auditors. The talks of his wife, Huldah, were frequent, and found

much favor with those who listened to her.


The Friends dressed well, but not showily. The material of

their garments was of good quality, but of sober colors and plainly

made. The style of their bonnets was regulated by the age of

the wearers and was changeless, the aged women wearing a hodshaped

black silk ; the middle-aged, a white silk of the same

shape ; and the young misses, a white silk with the front slightly

flaring.                [pps. 325 – 326]

The Wolfeboro Quaker community was a small one, too few in number to become a Monthly Meeting.  So their Preparative Meeting was under the auspices of the Sandwich NH Monthly Meeting.  Nonetheless, the Wolfeboro group had two highly respected and inspirational preachers, Lindley M. Hoag and his wife Huldah B. Varney Hoag, who traveled all over New England and beyond preaching their message to various Monthly and Quarterly Meetings.  

Huldah Hoag was the first cousin of Jane Varney Durgin, the subject of my biography.


Your comments about Whittier interest me because Jane Varney Durgin most likely was acquainted with him.

In August of 1853, Whittier visited Wolfeboro to attend the convention of the Free Soil Party.  “Free” meant free from “the evils of slavery.”  This party was prominent in the 1848 presidential election.   Whittier most likely stayed with Joseph Varney, Jane Durgin's uncle.  Parker, in his "History of Wolfeborough", notes that Joseph Varney's homestead was a free hostelry for Quakers passing through, including Whittier.  Jane Durgin and her family resided in Wolfeboro from 1850 - 1855.  I have searched for reference to Jane in Whittier's writings but have not found any yet.  She was a vivid person who made a strong impression on people.   Whittier does mention Jane’s cousin Moses Varney in a letter written around this time.


Yes, I would like to read about horse training in the 19th century.  

As I mentioned previously, Jane Durgin was known for the circus-like feats of horsemanship she performed.  Picture, if you can, a young Quaker woman dressed in traditional attire riding two galloping horses simultaneously, one foot on the back of each.  That was Jane Durgin.  Of course, she was much more than that.  She was a mesmerizing Quaker preacher, her home was a stop on the underground railroad, and she promoted the reading of fine literature, no doubt straying from what was considered approved reading for Quakers, such being her nature!

Hello, Peter!

The worship practices you described for Wolfeboro Friends are standard procedure for traditional unprogrammed Friends.  There is nothing you described that would indicate a meeting that mixed programmed and unprogrammed worship.

In searching for the book on horse training, I glanced up to the top of a nearby, overloaded bookcase, and there was Elton Trueblood, Robert Barclay.  I do not know how good Trueblood was as a historian (probably not great), but he may provide some information on Barclay's role as a theologian for various "brands" of Friends.  I'll take a look, perhaps later today.

Still looking for the horse book.

Bill Rushby



What you are explaining, then, is that sermonizing by preachers like the Hoags sometimes (often?) took place during unprogrammed worship, is that correct?

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