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My Quaker Connection – An Update


Since I last wrote I have spent a few ‘too hot’ afternoons sitting at this desk surrounded by piles of pedigrees, family trees, family group sheets, and US Census reports back two centuries.  It was a struggle, but I really do feel that I have put the story together.  I now believe, with a fair bit of evidence, that a group of English Quakers, many from Birmingham and Wiltshire, immigrated to William Penn’s “Penns Woods”, which he was given as a grant for helping financially save the English government.  Many of these English Quakers settled in Chester, and Delaware Counties, Pa., and some of them moved south into the lands around Chesapeake Bay.

Since I last wrote, I have learned that by the mid-18th century, a number of these tidewater Quakers migrated to Western Virginia.  At that time Virginia was claiming what are now the 5 SW counties of Pa.   All of Washington, Greene, Allegheny, Fayette, and part of Beaver Co. (I lived my first 4 years in this part = and I never learned in school that Va. once claimed the land my parent’s home stood on in Hopewell Township).

These early Maryland, and  Virginian, Quakers set down some roots in what the Virginians were then claiming as Yohagania, Monogania, and Ohio Counties (named after the three major rivers.), arriving after the French and Indian (or Seven Years) War.  They began to farm, but were quite isolated, especially when the Revolutionary War broke out. In 1783 the Pennsylvania claim to its SW corner was accepted, and Fayette Co., and its included Menallen Twp. were formed.   Franklin Ellis provides a good description of these early Quakers in his History of Fayette Co., Pa. Word of their success must have gotten back to Philadelphia., and soon Pa. Quakers began to plan their move to their existing colony out west.

I found the naming of this Quaker township quite interesting.  As I mentioned in my last posting, I also live in a “Menallen” Township, in Adams County, Pa., one hundred and fifty miles (and two mountain ranges) east of the Fayette Co. Quakers.  We also have a “Menallen” Quaker Meeting, that is still vibrant, two and a half centuries after its founding.

I went to meeting there on Sunday (though the Society of Friend’s has a completely different system for naming days and months; they consider our modern system, which is largely derived from the names of pagan gods, to be suspect).  Over the last three decades we have occasionally joined the Quakers in their wonderful silent worship.

Before the meeting I spoke with a descendant of one of the founding families of the meeting, and one of the current meeting’s historians.  He, like most of the meeting, had not heard much about the Fayette Co. Quakers, who shared their name.   I did learn that the Adams Co. meeting was formed by mostly Irish Quakers.

I read in the history of the three meetings first formed in then western York County, that Menallen was a word of Irish origin, spelled in all possible ways in old records.  I then found The Immigration 0f Irish Quakers to Pa., 1682- 1750. , by A.C. Myers, had found “Monalin Co, later Minallen” as possible origins of Menallen.  A quick Google search taught me that the village of Monalin , in county Wicklow, is on Ire land’s east coast,  in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.

Sometimes new  bits of knowledge can lead to some changes in one’s hypotheses.  I had thought that the late 1790’s wagon trains that took Chester Co., Pa.  Quakers westward to Menallen Twp., Fayette Co., might have passed by our local Menallen meeting (which was located on the road they would have taken – current Pa. Rt. 234), been hosted by them, and taken their name westward, to name their new colony.   But then I thought “whoops”, Menallen Twp. , Fayette Co. was already named and formed in 1783, by those 1760’s Md. and Va.  Quaker immigrants, before my Pa. Quaker connection families headed west near the turn of the 19th century.

I cannot yet say for sure how the name Menallen got to two geographically separate distant counties in Pennsylvania, but I think both waves of these Irish immigrant Quakers had their roots in Monalin, Ireland.  I welcome any additional input from anyone who reads this.

Lost in time,

Thom Dunn Marti

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