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Middletown Meeting sets 335th anniversary events

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A celebration of the 335th anniversary of the founding of Middletown Friends (Quaker) Meeting at Langhorne will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 6, at the Middletown Friends Meetinghouse, 453 W. Maple Ave., Langhorne.

Members of Middletown Meeting are taking the steps to acknowledge and honor the enslaved and free people of African descent who are buried on the Meeting’s property. Because these graves are unmarked, memorial markers will be placed at the site of each burial ground.

The afternoon celebration will include a lecture by Bucks County historian Jesse Crooks on activity of the Underground Railroad. The Lincoln University Gospel Choir, under the direction of Dr. Camilla Horne, and vocalist Keith Spencer will provide music for the occasion.

Manumissions (legal document releasing a slave from enslavement) will be read, and guests will have time to reflect during a time of worship.

In addition, there will be visitation and blessings of the burial sites and a social hour will follow.

As members of Middletown Friends Meeting gained more knowledge of their history, they discovered past practices, which are now viewed as intolerable. The memorial celebration is an attempt to give voice to people who were excluded as a result of these practices.

Like many Quaker meetings in Bucks County in the early 1700s, the Friends of Middletown Monthly Meeting wrestled for many years on the morality of slave ownership.

People of African descent were buried in unmarked graves as was customary of the time, in the same graveyard as Quaker slave owners and other Friends from 1693 to 1703, when the Meeting decided to segregate burials. A wall was constructed in 1734 to mark that segregation.

From 1739 to 1792, the Middletown Monthly Meeting graveyard was closed to people of African descent. In 1792, Middletown Friends purchased a plot of land as the “Negro Burying Ground” for free Africans in the community. Cato Adams, a free black man who attended Middletown Monthly Meeting, was buried there in an unmarked grave in 1812, the only documented burial.

From 1792 to circa 1816, an unknown number of people were laid to rest there, their names known “only to God.”

The celebration is free and open to the public.

The Memorial Celebration committee includes Roger Brown of the African American Museum of Bucks County and a Langhorne resident; Brenda Cowan, Langhorne resident and Juneteenth Celebration Committee; Alan and Sally Farneth, David DiMicco, Pat Mervine, Jim Newbold, Holly and Tom Olson and Nancy Pickering, all of Middletown Friends Meeting; Carol Seuffert of Yardley Friends Meeting; Gene Sonn of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Camden and Middletown Friends Meeting; Camille Turner Townsend of Middletown Friends Meeting and Ujima Friends Peace Center; and Levittown resident Gerlyn Williford of the African American Museum of Bucks County.

For information, contact Holly Olson at hollybqc@verizon.net or call Middletown Friends Meeting at 215-757-5500.


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