The History of Hartford Meeting
In 2000, the Hartford Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends celebrated the 50th anniversary of the construction of the meeting house, but the history of Quakers in the Greater Hartford area goes back much further.
The first Quakers arrived in what is now West Hartford from Duchess County in New York as early as circa 1780 and established their first meeting for worship in 1788. Twelve years later, a preparative meeting was established as part of Oblong Monthly Meeting of the New York Yearly Meeting.
The Quaker community centered around what is today Quaker Lane. In 1799, three members of the meeting were given title to one acre of land, which is the current site of the meeting house and ancient cemetery. A meeting house and school was built in the southwest corner of the lot soon after the Quakers were given title and meetings continued at least once a year until about 1847.
The original Quaker community in West Hartford did not flourish, and in 1828 all but five members of the meeting decided to pull up stakes and move to Ohio for more fertile farmland.
After a long period of inactivity, things started to bubble again in 1937 when Wesleyan graduate Thomas Bodine, a transplanted Philadelphia Friend, sought to find other Quakers in the area who would be interested in forming a meeting.
Tom spent the summer and fall of 1937 knocking on the doors of all the Quakers in the area and many said they would attend meeting if one was organized. By 1940, regular attendance at the meetings held at Hartford Seminary had grown to as many as 40 people per week. It was at that time that the group established itself as a formal meeting and called itself the Hartford Monthly Meeting of Friends.
In the post war years, the membership in the meeting grew rapidly and plans were started for the construction of a meetinghouse. Bodine, Paul Butterworth and Paul Cleaver led the effort to get title to the original plot of land with the historical cemetery from the New York Yearly Meeting. Fifty thousand dollars was also raised to build the meetinghouse.
The new meetinghouse was dedicated in 1950 and since then has been used as a meeting place not only for the Quakers, but dozens of other social and religious groups.
Since establishing a permanent foothold in West Hartford in 1950, the Hartford Monthly Meeting has put its faith into action in a number of areas, most notably our efforts for peace, with protests against the Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Cold Wars. The meeting has also helped a number of refugees settle from wars as far back as World War II. We have also had members lead an outreach to Africa, helped people during the struggle for civil rights, been a supporter of gay and lesbian rights, supported alternatives to violence, helped ensure justice in the Connecticut legal system for minorities, and helped a number of other community causes.