Alloways Creek Preparative Meeting, Hancock’s Bridge, NJ
The Alloways Creek Preparative Meeting was the third Friends meeting established in West New Jersey, after Salem and Burlington. They began holding worship in the home of John Denn in 1678 and formally organized in 1679. In 1684, a log meetinghouse was built on the north side of the creek, and accessed by boat. A graveyard remains on the site, and most burials used boats to and from the burial ground.
The existing meetinghouse was built in 1756 on land deeded by William Hancock, builder of the Hancock House, with a later addition in 1784 with a date stone in its western gable. A full balcony was added at the time of the addition. It encompasses the west, south, and east walls with built-in benches.
A typical mid 18th century Quaker meetinghouse, it retains its old benches and interior panels made of seasoned Jersey pine. Bench cushions were filled with cotton, corn husks, or pine needles. Windowpanes are of Wistarburg glass, and the exterior brick was made from local clay. The bricks on the original east side are laid in Flemish Bond.
During meeting for business, the moveable partitions were raised to separate the men’s and women’s business meetings. A small opening can be seen that allowed for the passing of notes. The partitions were open during meeting for worship, as men and women worshipped together. Each section was heated by a cast iron stove made from New Jersey bog iron. Lighting was from metal sconces holding handmade candles.
In 1780, a burial ground was established near Harmersville, which was then known as Logtown. Meeting paid $10 dollars to have 3 coffins made, and $1 for digging a grave for a poor member. The graveyard is still in use today.
Around 1820, John Powell, David Bradway, and James Stewart planted 10 buttonwood trees, eight of which remain today. They are some of the largest and most magnificent Sycamore trees in Salem County.
In 1845, Friends with a particular interest and devotion to education established a frame schoolhouse on the meetinghouse grounds known as the Buttonwood Seminary. Eighty-three children attended the school, which was said to be the best school in the township and the equal of any in the country. In 1869, the state withdrew funding and the Seminary was forced to close.
The period from 1845 to 1890 is described as one of declining membership. Marrying out, particularly by male members, accounted for a significant loss of membership. Westward migration because of better land and greater opportunity in Ohio and Indiana created a population change. The membership list of 1902 includes 49 members, many of these living at a distance. Louisa Powell, who many times worshiped alone in the old meetinghouse prior to the Meeting being laid down in 1938, wrote in 1906: Hardly one of the pioneers of 1679 has left a namesake in these times to take part with us in our silent waiting before the Lord, but the Truth they kept we try to keep. God is just the same today as He was in their day and He will always be; then let us ever keep in mind that only righteous lives and the worship that is in spirit and in truth can ever make us worthy members of the church of God.
Cornelia Hancock, Civil War nurse, 1863-1865. Quaker teacher, 1866-1868
Cornelia Hancock, a member of this meeting, served as a nurse at Gettysburg during the Civil War. She later established a school for the children of freed slaves in South Carolina. Her book, South After Gettysburg: Letters of a Civil War Nurse, is an excellent history of her service. She is buried in the Harmersville cemetery.
Under the Care of the
Salem Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
see Page 315 of the History of Salem Quarter (published in 1991)