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What Were Salem Area Quakers Doing

During the Civil War?

By Jean (Hallowell) Leeper

© Fall 2011


(This article pertains to the Orthodox branch of the Religious Society of Friends, often called Quakers.  Use of Quakers and Friends will both mean this group.  Salem, Iowa Quakers were in their infancy and they were part of Indiana Yearly Meeting until 1863, when Iowa Yearly Meeting was formed)


Most everyone is aware that Salem area Quakers were active in the Underground Railroad beginning in 1838 and 1839. The Indiana Quakers split in 1842, and the more radical Quakers formed the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends, with Salem starting an Anti-Slavery Meeting, at that time. As many as 50-60 Salem Quakers joined the Salem Anti-Slavery meeting with hard feelings being felt between the two congregations. In 1852 there was an agreement by Indiana Yearly Meeting (Orthodox) that the Anti-Slavery Friends would be accepted back without any apology on either side and the Anti-Slavery Yearly Meeting was dissolved in 1857. As more and more Eastern United States Quakers arrived in Iowa and spread across the state, the Iowa Quakers began the process of becoming their own Yearly Meeting and thus in 1863 the Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends began with headquarters in Mahaska county, Iowa.


In about 1850, Brothers Barclay and Edwin Coppock came with their mother to Iowa, and were recorded in Salem Iowa Quaker Minutes. We do not know if they actually lived at Salem or just passed through on their way to Springdale, Iowa, where they met and joined John Brown and his raiders; Edwin was hung with John Brown in October 1859 at Harpers Ferry and Barclay joined the Civil War and was killed in action.


The need for the Underground Railroad soon ended with the beginning of the Civil War; so we will find Salem Quakers entering a healing process with the former Anti-Slavery Meeting dissolved and their meetinghouse sold.  From 1847 to 1869 we find many former members returning to the Orthodox meeting.  The Anti-Slavery Burying ground was purchased in 1844 with a two-foot buffer zone between it and the Orthodox Friends Cemetery. The Anti-Slavery Friends sold their cemetery to the Salem Orthodox Friends meeting in 1863.


At this time Quakers were addressing social concerns, and they turned to humanitarian efforts which including the peace movement. When the Civil War broke out, in 1861, many Quakers were troubled by their desire to use the conflict as a way to end slavery, for such action ran counter to their Peace Testimony. The official position of Quakers remained unchanged, but some Friends were tolerant toward those who supported the war for the Union and emancipation and allowed members who joined the armed forces to remain. Some of those from the Salem area who joined were Samuel and Silas Bogue brothers to Jean Leeper’s great grandfather Joseph Bogue.   Silas came in 1849 to Salem Monthly Meeting and Samuel came with parents in 1851 to Salem Monthly Meeting. 


In the Salem Monthly Meeting minutes of August 14, 1861 we read, “ ... Our testimony against bearing Arms and military services has not been maintained by some of our numbers.  Some care has been taken.  ...”


We read in the minutes of 13 August 1862,  “This meeting was feelingly introduced into concern in consideration of the prospect of some of our members being embodied in suffering in support of our testimony against war – we appoint Joseph D. Hoag, Elwood Ozbun, Willet Dorland, Henry Maddox and Wm. Taylor to act in concert with committee of other meetings of such should be appointed in interceding with those in authority in behalf of such as may be involved.”


In March 1863 the Enrollment Act of 1863 was passed.  The following had to register: Class 1 comprises all persons subject to do military duty between the ages 20-35 and all unmarried men ages 35-45 and Class II comprises all other persons subject to do military duty. From these lists they would draft, as needed, men to fight in the war.  To get out of serving the drafted man could have an acceptable person take his place or pay someone authorized by the Secretary of War $300 to take his place.  From the below Salem Monthly Meeting minutes of 14 Dec. 1864 we read, “Those appointed to furnish relief to drafted members report that those members were accepted under the draft to wit: Henry McMillan, Alfred Bedell and Wm. T Adell and were discharged by payment of $300 each. The first mentioned furnished means for his relief, the latter $50, leaving $550 borrowed by the committee at 8 percent interest used for their relief.”   Salem, Chestnut Hill and Valley meetings were asked to raise the money.  It took the meetings about a year to raise the money.  In 1865 Salem Friends meeting had 37 families 26 parts of families, 140 females and 153 males.


Other social concerns/humanitarian efforts included: concerns for the welfare of the ‘people of color’, plight of the Indians including the Osage Indians, ministering to the spiritual and physical needs of prisoners, and helping the poor.  Concerning the needs of the ‘people of color’; the local meetings had been assisting the 'people of color' and then united with the work of the newly formed Iowa Yearly Meeting in 1863.  In 1863 money was collected by subscriptions totaling $3,181.74 and clothing valued at $1,691.90 and this was dispatched to the destitute freedmen at given points in the South. This work continued into 1865 with Iowa joining Quakers from back east and called the group the “Executive Committee on the Relief of the Freedmen”.  Schools, mission stations and posts for physical relief were opened up in various parts of the South.


From the Salem Monthly Meeting minutes of April 13, 1864 we read, “Our dear friend Jacob Adle Jun. a member in good esteem among us, in a feeling manner informed this meeting that he had for some time past felt it his duty to offer himself as a teacher among the colored freedmen of the South ... with desires for his preservation, we recommended him to the kind attention of those with whom his lot may be cast and commit him to the care of the Great Shepherd of Israel.” 


In 1865 Missouri and Kansas work was turned over the Iowa Yearly Meeting.  Isaac T. Gibson of Salem, Iowa was the “General Agent” to take charge and devote his time to this work.  He began to organize schools for ‘people of color’ and in 1866 he reported to Iowa Yearly Meeting he had started the following in Missouri


From page 200 of The Quakers of Iowa by Louis Thomas Jones 1914, we read “In Missouri: at Weston, eight months, two teachers, 127 enrolled; at St. Joseph, eight months, two teachers, 350 enrolled; at Sedalia, four and one-half months, one teacher, 140 enrolled; at Columbia, five months, one teacher, 70 enrolled; at Springfield, eight months, two teachers, 450 enrolled; at Mexico, five months, one teacher, 60 enrolled.

In Kansas: at Atchison, six months, two teachers, 160 enrolled. The total number of pupils enrolled in these seven schools was 1367, and with the scripture schools maintained on Sunday, which old and young alike attended, the total number of negroes reached was over two thousand.”


Work was being developed with the Osage Indians in 1852 and this work slowly developed and by 1863 the Iowa Yearly Meeting took over the work and the records of Salem Monthly Meeting show that on January 1, 1870 Isaac T. Gibson and family become members of a meeting in Osage Agency Indian Territory. From page 208 of the book, The Quakers of Iowa, we read, “...Isaac T. Gibson of Salem was given charge of the four thousand troublesome Osages.” Page 209, “...Isaac T. Gibson began his connection with the Osages on September 27, 1869...”


The educational system of the Quakers in Salem was evolving during the Civil War. Reuben Dorland had started the Salem Seminary in 1845, providing a higher education to Salem Quakers, when he died in 1852, for a time the work was neglected then taken over by the Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends in 1854 and they built a brick structure twenty-five by thirty feet that was quickly outgrown by 1867 and right after the Civil War, in 1868, Whittier College took over the top floor of the Friends meetinghouse and the whole building by 1874.


During the Civil War, White’s Institute of Manual Labor (home to house and educate under privileged and orphaned children), located south of Salem, near Houghton, Iowa, was having a hard time getting started.  It had been the vision of Josiah White a Pennsylvania Quaker and funded in 1850 by him.  In 1864 Indiana Yearly Meeting asked the newly formed Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends to take over the project. A new board of trustees now took control. From funds collected by the former trustees a two-story brick school was constructed 67' x 35 1/2' in 1866.   Thus a work was begun, moved in 1930 that now is located in various parts of Iowa under the name Quakerdale.


You can see even though not actively involved with the war they were active helping people in need or going about their lives and assisted where needed.


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