From the Pawling News Chronicle
“All interest was centered at and in the Old Meeting House on Saturday last. A kindlier September sun never shone on Quaker hill. The late rains were too recent for dust to accumulate, and too remote to leave roads in a muddy condition. As a consequence the gathering was large, the modern dress of those present contrasting with the unpainted high backed seats, the paneled sliding partitions and other antiquated surroundings.
After the Bible lesson, conducted by Professor Sanders, Mr. James Wood of Mt. Kisco read a paper giving a new and clearer insight into the history of this sect. Miss Taber of Pawling followed with her “Glimpses of the Past,” which she treated in an intensely interesting manner, and without duplicating anything in previous papers on similar topics. An addenda of much interest was entitled “Reminiscences of Mrs. Laura Sherwood, a resident of Pawling now in her 95th year. These papers will constitute a valuable repository, not only for the antiquarian of the future but the novelist as well.
At 12 the congregation assembled on the broad lawn surrounding the Meeting House. It was a pretty sight. The adjacent fences were lined with teams. The unveiling was now to take place. A ceremony, which probably not one in ten present had ever seen, had brought the people together from afar. On the lawn in front a huge block of gneiss had been set up, on the face of which a bronze tablet had been affixed. Over all draped the American Flag. Seats of honor had been arranged for the speakers of the day, the official board and invited guests. Among those occupying seats we noticed Mrs. Lossing, widow of the historian whose pen has done more than any other to rescue from oblivion scenes and events closely association with the past of our country.
Mr. William B. Wheeler first spoke. Daniel Webster observed that true eloquence must exist in the man, in the subject and in the occasion. Then this address must perforce have been eloquent, since all three of these essentials were present. He was decidedly at his best, his allusions apt, and his words well chosen. One point he emphasized—which had been brought out by a former speaker—that this society and this meeting house were identified with the first official act of any organized body of people against the institution of slavery. He spoke at some length and the part Quaker Hill took in aiding the fugitive slaves to escape into Canada, inferring that this and other buildings in the neighborhood may have been hiding places for some poor black. A sad event in the history of this sect was the Separation in 1828, which took place in this building, at which the only one then present now living was the venerable Richard T. Osborn. He was present when these facts were stated, remembered the occasion well, and the allusion affected him deeply.
Mr. Cox followed in a different strain, yet his remarks also led to a higher appreciation for this venerable pile. In view of its historical associations, the quaintness of its architecture and its fidelity to the plans and tastes of its builders and early worshipers, it stands without a peer. Mr. Cox said with proper care it might last ten times its present age. Not only is the building a monument of the carpenters’ skill, the materials of which it is composed could not be replaced without calling into requisition the resources of the states of Georgia and Washington.
Mrs. Phebe T. Wanzer, a daughter of one of the early Quakers, now stepped forward and in a few sentences gave the purpose and scope of the tablet. At the close of her remarks two young girls, also of Quaker descent, Miss Branch and Miss Osborn, removed the folds of the flag exposing the folds of the flags exposing to view the stone and tablet. A verse of “My Country, ‘tis of thee,” closed the exercises. The tablet bears the following inscription:
OBLONG MEETING HOUSE OF THE SOCIETY
ERECTED IN 1742 SOUTH OF THIS ROAD
PRESENT BUILDING ERECTED IN 1764
FIRST EFFECTIVE ACTION AGAINST SLAVERY
TAKEN HERE IN 1767
OCCUPIED AS HOSPITAL JANUARY 1779
BY REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIERS
MANY OF THEM ARE BURIED SOUTH OF
MEETING DIVIDED 1828
MEETING CEASED IN THIS HOUSE 1885
All interest was now centered on the lawn adjacent to Akin Hall where tables had been spread and covers laid for two hundred and ninety five guests. There were the usual after dinner speeches, during which the promoters of the Quaker Hill Conference were congratulated, especially credit being given to Rev. Mr. Wilson as the “Father” of the Conference, and to the Rev. Mr. Chichester, on whom devolved the labor of working out the details to a successful issue. Another Conference will be held next year.”