Jefferson County Online
Woolson Friends Church
Black Hawk Township


"The Fairfield Tribune"
Thursday, May 5, 1921
Page 8

HISTORY OF THE EARLY QUAKER SETTLEMENTS OF RICHLAND COMMUNITY

In a recent issue of the Richland Clarion was published the following very interesting historical sketch of the Quaker settlements of that vicinity.

In the early settlement of this community, no religous (sic) organization a more important part in the moral and religous (sic) uplift and missionary work of the frontier, than did the Quaker or Friends Society. There were various other denominations in the field of course, and some of them were instrumental in their work and have continued so down through almost a century of time, since their first introduction. Others flourished for a time and were finally doomed to give up. But the Friends have continued to increase their organization from the start, until at the present time their numbers will probably total those of all other denominations combined in the community of Richland.

In preparing the following brief history of the early struggles of their achievements, we have been assisted by Rev. Hadley and others of the society, who have our thanks. Of course there will be some errors in regard to dates, on which there seem to be disagreements, but we beleive (sic) the main part of the story is true and authentic.

Down in the state of North Carolina, just as the magnolia buds were bursting into sweet fragrance early in the spring of 1839, there left the old "Turpentine' state an emigrant wagon in which was a man and his wife and a large family of children, bound for the land of "promise" in the north -- the recently made territory of Iowa, which had by the Black Hawk purchase, been thrown open for settlement.

~ Made Perilous Trip ~

The question of slavery probably had a good deal to do with the migration of this family. As they were well off financially, it could not have been the desire for further worldly gain that prompted them to brave the perils and dangers that such a trip in those days meant. They had the Appalachian mountain range to cross, many turbulent rivers must be forded. There were miles and miles of trackless prairie that must be negotiated; forests and jungles through which a trail must be found, before they could even hope to set eyes on the land of "milk and honey". But these God-fearing people had come of that sturdy old Quaker stock, who like William Penn of their ancestors, had gone forth from his home in England to escape the persecution of his kind and found relief in the wilds of America, and as this family pressed on toward their goal; fighting one hardship after another, their faith in their ultimate victory never wavered. And, though savages lurked about them and they had to be constantly on their guard, as the forests and prairies abounded with every conceivable kind of ferocious beast and poisonous reptiles, they plodded on and in due time set foot on the land of their dreams -- the territory of Iowa. This family was that of Joseph Hadley and consisted of six sons and six daughters, though not all of these children came at the same time he did, but all eventually arrived here in the course of a year or two, and thus was laid the fondation of the Quaker settlement that was destined to flourish and grow down through the next century.

~ Brought Bushel of Gold? ~

It has been said that the wagon which brought the Hadleys here also brought a bushel of gold, but whether this be true or not, it is a fact that Mr. Hadley bought and gave to each of his 12 children with the exception of a boy and a girl, who at some time had incurred the old gentleman's displeasure, 220 acres of virgin land lying southwest of, and adjoining what is now the town of Richland. Much of this land, of which there is no better, is still in the hands of the grand sons and great grand sons.

Other Quaker families who figured prominently in the early colonization of this community, and who came here in the late 30s' or early 40s', were: Ezra Hinshaw, Elisha Gregory, John Hadley, Samuel Woodward, Wm. Hobson, David Wilson, John Mills, Wm. Hadley, Peter Allen, Prior C. Woodward and Jesse Nordyke. It is said of the latter that he used to drive a pair of steers to a carriage, using bridles and harnesses on them. That they were real road animals andcould (sic) trot out with most of the horses of those days.

In a year or so after getting his children comfortably located, Joseph Hadley returned to his native state to settle up some affairs and to make some collections which he had left behind at the time of his first pilgrimage to the "land of milk and honey." The amount of these collections totaled aobut the sum of $8,000.00 in gold and silver, and as the country through which he must travel on his return trip was infested with savages and highwaymen, it was necessary for him to adopt the disguise of the poor traveler in order that he might get his vast wealth through without being murdered and robbed. Consequently he bought one of the oldest, raw-boned critters he could find and with an old rickety "democrat" and dilapitated harness, and himself wearing a garb to match brought the money through in safety.

~ Richland Laid Out in 1841 ~

In 1840 Thomas Frazier, of Indiana, appointed a meeting at the home of Prior C. Woodward, who lived on, and owned the farm where now John Greenlee lives. Soon after this Abijah Bray of Indiana, held a meeting here. In 1841 the town of Richland was laid out by Prior Woodward, and this same year an organization was formed by the Quakers under the authority of the Pleasant Plain Monthly meeting. Among the members of the first orgnization were James and Angeline Williams, Prior C., Susannah, Samel, Wm. A., and Ruth Woodward; Beriah, Sarah, Eli, Lydia, John Sr., Moorman, Allen, John Jr., George and Mahlon Haworth; of the Hadleys there were William, Mary, Lydia, John, Jarah, Joel, Elenor and Riley.

A Preparative meeting was organized by the Pleasant Plain Meeting in 1845 and later another meeting was organized at Rocky Run, about four miles northeast of Richland.

This meeting was composed of part of the above members with the addition of others, among them being John Howard a minister. This organization was discontinued about ten years later.

In 1845 the first Quaker church was erected in Richland, just south of where their cemetary (sic) is now located. It was built on ground donated by Prior C. Woodward, an was built entirely of logs. Through the center was a partition, the men using one side and the women the other. Later on a frame addition was added to this building.

~ Place Filled with Memories ~

Many fond memories cluster about this old log church. It was surrounded on all sides by forests of virgin timber in which the fleet footed deer ran riot with the gaunt timber wolf. The drum of the pheasant and the call of the wild turkey challenged the nimrod with his long barreled rifle. Here twice each week -- Wednesday and First day, these disciples of George Fox gathered, the men with hats on, and the women on their side of the church, and conducted their silent worship, being moved only as prompted by the spirit. Here in this little log church these hardy pioneers were laying the foundation for one of the strongest religious denominations of our community of the present day. From these faithful few has sprung the four organizations of this district. Three of their church buildings are located on the Pershing way on a stretch of road less than six miles in length; the other about two miles from this highway at Rubio.

About the time of the close of the Civil War the Richland meeting was divided, part of the members going to the Hopewell Meeting, a building being erected on ground donated by Levi Greeson about one and one-fourth miles north of Richland. Another church was erected one and one-half miles south of Richland, on a plot of ground containing five acres donated by Joseph Hadley. This is now known as the Woolson church. In more recent years the old house of worship was torn down and a modern building erected, which stands in a beautiful grove directly on the Pershing Way south from Richland. In 1886 the old Hopewell church was razed and a new building was erected four miles northeast of Richland, which still retains the name of "Hopewell." This church is also located on the Pershing Way about two and one-half miles south of the historical Skunk River.

~ Have Beautiful Cemetery ~

Some time in the early 90s' the Friends purchased the church building which in early years had been built by the Seventh Day Adventists, but their congregation had dwindled and the building fallen into disuse. This building was located in Richland on the site of the Friends new and modern church which was erected in 1915, and is now the home of the Richland congregation. The handsome structure bears quite a contrast to their first church erected in 1845.

This brief story would be incomplete without mention being made of the Friends large and beautiful Cemetery which is located on the Pershing Way just out of Richland to the north. This cemetery is practically on the site of the old log church and the ground was given for this purpose by Prior Woodward and his body was the first to repose therein. Here in this burying ground, which is surrounded by beautiful hills and dales, and wooded knolls, repose the remains of those God-fearing heroes, who, by their indomitable courage, their unalterable faith in Him who holds our destinies in His hand, paved the way for the blessings which we enjoy in our present day and age. Their graves are marked by modest, moss-covered stones, which in their silent manner tell the tale of many hardships and heart aches, which these trail-blazers underwent that future generations might pluck of and enjoy the fruit of their planting in the wilderness almost a century ago.

~ Spot of Historic Interest ~

As the modern traveler in his high-powered motor car approaches this silent city of the dead, every mound of which is carefully cared for by a caretaker, if he will bring his car to a stop beneath the large spreading oak, which stands at the roadside, and which is itself of historic interests, he will find much to claim his attention in this old burying plot, which received its first silent resident in 1847.

The town of Richland itself bears the distinction of being the oldest in Keokuk county. Its first cabin dating back to 1838, and the town proper being laid out in 1841. The town was then in what was known as the "old strip" and had the start of the country by three or four years. It received its name from the rich alluvial soil with which the surrounding territory abounds. The first settler was probably Aaron Miller, early in the spring of 1837, although by treaty rights with the Indians he should not have been permitted to make settlement until October of that year.

The first deed in the county was made by Joshua Hadley, a son of Joseph Hadley. Wm. R. Hadley, now a resident of Richland, and a grand son of Joseph Hadley, was the first Quaker child born in the community.

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"The Fairfield Ledger"
Tuesday, July 7, 1964

WOOLSON FRIENDS CHURCH dates from 7 July 1864....

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"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, August 3, 1966
Page 2, Column 8

Hadley-Hinshaw reunion held Sunday at the Woolson Friends Church....

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"The Fairfield Ledger"
Wednesday, July 31, 1968
Page 2, Column 5

Hadley-Hinshaw reunion was held Sunday at the Woolson Friends church.... Oldest member of the family present was Ora Paxson, age 92....


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