Monday, August 08, 2005

Quakers from PA to VA

On the PA-WELSH-EARLY-L Mailing List at RootsWeb, I responded to the following query, but I need your help. WHY did the Quaker men leave Pennsylvania periodically and take sanctuary in Virginia for periods of time? I know I read about it somewhere. Read on and tell me if I am correct about the problem of "swearing" oaths of allegiance.

>Edwina Morgan [] wrote to:
>You all might be able to answer a question for me.
>Why would PA Quakers move to Frederick County VA
>instead of further west in PA? It was a completely
>different colony with different laws and they must
>have been aware of that.

DearMYRTLE replied:
It sounds like you are thinking most westward movement from eastern Pennsylvania in the colonial time period would be through the Pennsylvania Road (west from Philadelphia via Harrisburg to Pittsburg) illustrated online at:

There are at least two major migration routes into Virginia/Kentucky or Virginia/North Carolina that didn't use the Atlantic Ocean. Remember that these "back woods" places were far from the seat of government in either Williamsburg, VA or Philadelphia, PA.


Here we read "Prior to the Revolution, the most popular route from Pennsylvania to Kentucky was along the "Philadelphia Wagon Road" sometimes known as the "Virginia Turnpike" and the "Great Wagon Road..."

Our Pennsylvania Quaker ancestors were also aware of a number of Meetings in Virginia. There was movement back and forth with visitors, visiting speakers and migrating families.

YES, there is a well-documented non-denominational migration pattern From SE Pennsylvania, through Frederick. Think of the Pennsylvania Germans such as Hans Yost Hite and his group that settled the Shenandoah Valley. He lived in what later was expanded and became Governor Pennybacker's home in Perkiomen Township, Pennsylvania. Quaker meetings sprang up in the Valley area as well.

Remember that the corner of Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia is the confluence of several rivers, including the Potomac, which provided a water route for shipping back east. Migration tended to follow Indian trails and water routes.

(via the Great Wagon Road)
From: "After 1735, as the supply of land grew short in colonies farther north, numerous farmers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia began packing their possessions and making the long journey to the North Carolina Piedmont. At first the migrants were predominantly Scotch-Irish. Then, in the mid-1700s, Pennsylvania Germans joined their neighbors on the tedious trek. As newcomers flocked southward, the population of the North Carolina backcountry grew at an unprecedented rate.

The path to Carolina came to be called the Great Wagon Road. "The country," wrote colonist Nathaniel Rice in 1752 "is in a flourishing condition, the western parts settling very fast."
The diverse backgrounds of the immigrants shaped the North Carolina backcountry into a patchwork of religious and cultural enclaves. Many newcomers from Pennsylvania were Quakers. Newly arrived German families were predominantly Lutheran, with the notable exception of the Moravians. Immigrants of Scotch heritage were almost invariably Presbyterian. In addition, the Great Awakening, a tremendous religious revival that swept the English colonies in the mid-eighteenth century, resulted in the founding of several Baptist churches in the Carolina backcountry."

QUAKER MIGRATION MAP (though certainly not exclusively Quaker)

QUAKER CORNER - Including the Quaker Mailing List:

WHY DID THEY MOVE? Perhaps for the same reason other folks decided to move west. It was getting "crowded" and they wanted more space.

During the colonial period, there was a problem (I can't recall the source of the info) where Quaker men went to Virginia to avoid some governmental restriction in Pennsylvania. Does this ring a bell with anyone else on the list that can perhaps provide more details? It may have been something such as "swearing" an oath of allegiance, which of course our Quaker ancestor's couldn't accomplish. It wasn't a matter of allegiance; it was a matter of swearing.

Also, I recall reading numerous transcribed Meeting notes where families requested membership Virginia Meetings, presenting papers from Pennsylvania meetings.

YES, the Colonial government in Virginia was much different from Pennsylvania. But land was the motivator.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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