During the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War many northern Friends held deep concerns for the Friends of the stricken Southland. Among those who felt such concern and answered their call were William S. and Amanda Buffington Richardson.
The Richardsons lived in Newport, Rhode Island, and Amanda felt a clear call to come to the South and help rebuild after the Civil War. They gave up their beautiful home and moved to Springfield, and began their work of ministering to others. Many times they were discouraged, for being reared in a different atmosphere they were often misunderstood.
Amanda Richardson’s brother, Thomas Phillip Buffington, says of a visit he made to North Carolina, “I can’t understand how her strength permitted her to work in such a desolate place. She took me to a meeting at a place called Trinity where they hadn’t a church but held this meeting out of doors. Straw covered the floor and I saw three peculiar wild beasts rooting around. They were not at all like anything that I had ever seen before or since, for they had long noses and sharp backs with bristles standing up. Willie called them pine rooters and said they were a species of hog native to that country. During the service I was annoyed with insects biting my ankles but I was assured that they were only fleas from the straw on the floor.”
Much of the work done by William and Amanda was of such a quiet and private nature that few people knew of these things. They provided food, clothing and even tuition for people to attend school or college. Amanda Richardson had a deep and abiding love for everyone. Her home with a hearty welcome was open to all from the poorest child to the most noted visitor. She would take even small children and make them sit down to an immaculate table and her best jams and preserves were none too good for them. When she visited homes she gave not only spiritual guidance but financial assistance as well. Many children who grew up within sound of the church bell were furnished with clothing so that they might attend the Sabbath School at Springfield.
Amanda Richardson loved Springfield dearly and gave freely her time and money to help those less fortunately situated than herself. She had never been physically strong being an invalid several years during her early life, but her sufferings were borne without a murmur. She passed away Sixth month 17th, 1882 after having spent her life serving others.
A friend of William Richardson’s and one who knew him well says, “No other person whom I have ever known habitually used the finest language given in the Bible so much as did William Richardson. He had memorized much of the finest poetry, and also committed to memory the most beautiful language of Job, David and the prophets. He used the language of a ready speaker, and the sublimest and most brilliant utterances of divinely inspired imagery. He was always apparently under deep religious exercise before he began speaking and during the delivery of his discourse. Being much impressed himself he likewise impressed his hearers.”
In the year 1900 William Richardson developed pneumonia. After a few days illness he followed his beloved companion to his reward. The love of these two people for Springfield was deep. Their devotion to the cause of Christ as interpreted by the Society of Friends was consistent and loyal. They went about their work in a quiet unassuming manner which nevertheless did not fail to make a lasting impression upon many now passed away and also upon many yet living.
Adapted from a Memorial Sunday talk given in 1922
by their granddaughter, Sara Richardson Haworth