Converted Quaker Builds Faith in 1800s
Orthodox Quaker Cemetery on Ann Street, Stroudsburg
By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association
The Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, played an influential role in Monroe County’s history. The Quaker presence in Monroe County had its beginnings in Stroudsburg in the early 1800s.
Daniel Stroud, son of Jacob Stroud, the founder of Stroudsburg, is credited with building the foundation of the Quaker religion in our area. Daniel was raised Presbyterian but converted to the Quaker faith in 1802 after marrying Elizabeth Shoemaker.
Jacob had little tolerance for Quakers, and he believed his son’s new-found religion would interfere with family business. Jacob was partly right. For Daniel, a conversion to Quakerism was not only a change in his beliefs, but in his lifestyle as well. Daniel gave up his law practice and stopped listening to music, a fact which he demonstrated by burning his violin. He also banished all spirits from his house and abandoned his profitable distillery. He even removed anything he deemed “ornate” from his home.
While father and son disagreed about each other’s beliefs, Daniel had many qualities that pleased his father, and the two remained close. Although Jacob had been the founder of Stroudsburg, it was Daniel who developed the area. Daniel laid out the streets, promoted business development and settlement, and served as Overseer of the Poor. He also donated land for schools and churches, including the Quaker meetinghouse on Main and 8th streets in Stroudsburg.
Before the establishment of a meetinghouse, the Quaker population met in private homes in Stroudsburg — most notably at the Stroud Mansion, Daniel’s home. While there is variation in precise dogma, Quakers generally believe that each individual possesses the ability to experience the divine and that there is no need for formal theologies, creeds or religious doctrines. Some Quaker services are unprogramed and have no minister or formal sermon; rather, parishioners sit and reflect in silence. Quakers believe in non-violence and were fervent abolitionists.
By 1827, some of these variations in dogma divided the Society of Friends. This division was known as the “Separation” and resulted in two groups of Quaker: the Hicksite and the Orthodox. The differences stemmed from a division between Quaker elders, who lived in more urban areas (such as Philadelphia), and Quakers who lived in more rural areas.
The Hicksites, who were followers of Elias Hicks, lived in the country and believed the Quakers in cities had become too “worldly.” Philadelphia Quakers were often wealthy business owners, and the Hicksites felt that their urban counterparts did not follow a plain and simple life.
Interestingly, although Daniel Stroud lived in a more rural area, he had very close ties with Philadelphia. The architecture of the Stroud Mansion closely followed Philadelphia building styles.
The Stroudsburg Quakers also separated into the two sects. By 1811, Daniel Stroud had set aside land on Main and South 8th streets in Stroudsburg for the Quakers to meet. The meetinghouse built there measured 35 feet by 26 feet and cost $1,000 to build and furnish. The Orthodox Quakers remained at this location.
Following the “Separation” in 1827, the Hicksite Quakers moved to a new meetinghouse on Main Street in 1828. Their property included a burial ground behind the building that extended back to present-day Quaker Alley. By 1868, the Hicksites moved from the Main Street site to a new location on the corner of 7th and Sarah streets. The Hicksite meetinghouse stood until 1930, when it was torn down to make way for the Stroudsburg Municipal Building.
Over the next 100 years, the impact of Quakers spread throughout the county. These influential people built, operated, and stayed at many of the area resorts, including Highland Dell (now Stroudsmoor Country Inn), Skytop, Buck Hill Falls and Pocono Manor. Today, there are no meetinghouses in Monroe County and practicing Quakers must travel outside the area to gather. (The Hicksites and Orthodox Quakers reunited in 1895.)
The only remaining evidence of the two Quaker meetinghouses in Stroudsburg are their cemeteries, the Hicksite cemetery on Quaker Alley and the Orthodox cemetery on Ann Street.