Local Quakers' impact on county history examined
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 15, 2013 1:50 AM
Dr. Doug Rader is not a Quaker, but has developed a bit of expertise on the subject over the past 20 years while researching the genealogy of his wife's family.
Lissa Peacock Rader, of the Nahunta Peacocks, is from the Fremont area. Her husband, who works with the Environmental Defense Fund in Raleigh, had his interest piqued about the history while digging through archives and deeds and tracing the family tree.
Like many others, he admitted his first exposure to the Society of Friends was through the image of "the Quaker guy" on the box of Quaker Oats cereal, he said.
Turned out the Quakers are an important piece of the local heritage, Rader said.
They were some of the first settlers in this area, migrating from other colonies and England seeking new opportunities and a safe haven from religious persecution.
Last week, representing the Wayne County Historical Association, he spoke about "Contentnea: The Historical Footprint of Quakers in Northern Wayne County," dating back to the 1740s.
"At the end of the day, the argument I'm going to make is that our shared Quaker heritage resonates in Wayne County and beyond," he told the crowd.
In North Carolina, the Quaker influence can be felt in many areas, including architecture, painting, even day-to-day words.
But for the uninitiated, he offered a "short version" of what Quakers are best known -- silent worship, people moved by "Inner Light," refusal to bear arms or swear, high moral and ethical standards, strict common mores and a simplicity in speech and diet. They also demonstrated an early opposition to slavery and made concerted attempts to free enslaved persons.
The church, known as Society of Friends in North Carolina, was first introduced around the Albemarle area, but spread quickly. Between 1720 and 1750 when they were looking for places to settle, they wound up in such areas as Bath, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. Between 1772 and 1856, more converged into the Contentnea community.
Nearby Falling Creek and Quaker Neck also proved to be popular sites for settlers, he said.
"Quaker records were really fabulous," Rader said, making his quest for information easier.
He said the religious sect was very structured. They had yearly meetings, which started in 1698, as well as regional quarterly meetings -- in the Eastern, Western, New Garden and Contentnea areas -- local monthly meetings and preparative meetings, which were smaller worship meetings, typically held at individual houses.
The original Contentnea deed was dated in 1772, Rader said, but was later lost in the courthouse fires in Kinston around 1878-80.
Nahunta Meeting, a "very vibrant thriving community of Friends," dates back to the 1770s, with records indicating meetings and marriages were held in homes in 1796. Nahunta and Contentnea alternated monthly meetings from 1851-56, Rader said, but in 1856 Contentnea was "laid down," or ceased to exist due to lack of members.
A number of Quaker churches still exist in the area, he said. Among them are Rhodes Friends, Goldsboro Friends, New Hope Friends and Woodland Friends.