The first Quakers who arrived in North Carolina settled along the northeast coast of what was then one of the 13 colonies. The first Quaker settlers arrived as early as 1655. North Carolina Yearly Meeting was established in 1680, and by 1703 almost 50% of the population of the colony were Quakers.
Friends were slower to settle in the Piedmont. Cane Creek Meeting was started in 1751, and New Garden followed in 1754.
In the mid-1700’s, Quakers began settling in South Carolina. However, the economy there was deeply involved with slavery. Quakers started leaving South Carolina in the 1770’s, moving up to North Carolina. Many members of Bush River Friends (near Camden, SC) helped to start a new meeting at Springfield.
Early Friends from South Carolina who helped to start Springfield include members of the
English, Kersey, Mendenhall, Piggins, Ricks and Tomlinson families.
Another early group of settlers came from the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts. Many Quakers there had made a living from whaling, but the island was overcrowded and whales were becoming scarce near the coast. Many Quaker families moved to New Garden before coming down to Springfield. Prominent family names from Nantucket are Coffin, Macy and Petty.
A third stream of early settlers came here from the Philadelphia area, which was founded in 1681 by William Penn as a refuge for Friends and others who were suffering from religious persecution back in the Old World. They came to Pennsylvania and prospered, but again, the colony was getting crowded.
So, many Friends headed down to North Carolina, where they found other Quakers, often with family connections. Land here was inexpensive and there was plenty of room for families to buy large farms. By the time of the American Revolution, there were almost 15,000 Quakers in North Carolina.
Family names of Springfield settlers from Pennsylvania include Anderson, Beals, Blair, Carter, Clark, Frazier, Haworth, Hiatt,
Hoggatt, Hunt, Millikan and Piggott (often spelled in later years as Pickett).
Old records from the meeting, and early gravestones in our cemetery, are dominated by these families, which often inter-married with each other over the next few generations. The early Englishes often married Tomlinsons, the Haworths and Hunts married Blairs, and so on. Many old families in our meeting trace their roots back to several of these early names.
By the early 1800’s, though, many Quakers in North Carolina were moving to Ohio and Indiana to escape from being involved with slavery. Traveling by wagon, horseback and on foot, they made the arduous journey to the Free States, which often took 6 or 8 weeks.
During the Civil War, some young men also left the area to avoid being drafted into the Confederate Army, which was against their religious peace principles. And following the war, when the entire economy collapsed, thousands of other Quaker families moved by train to the Midwest to start new homes.
So, names from Springfield Friends, and families with Springfield roots, can be found all through Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, with some who even reached new Quaker settlements in Kansas, Nebraska, California and Oregon by the late 1800’s.