Hicksite Friends Meeting House Restoration Project


Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House is the oldest extant Quaker Meeting House in the State of Indiana

Make a Donation to assist in the Restoration Efforts

Please Mail Your Donation to: 

Todd Ewen
2660 East Quaker Road
Salem, IN 47167

Make checks payable to Blue River Friends Church and a notation of Attn: Hicksite Project

More than two hundred years have elapsed since the Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House came into existence.  Early in the 1800’s many families of Friends came to southern Indiana in opposition to slavery and established homes and places of worship in Washington County.  Leaving comfortable homes in North Carolina, they traveled together to the lands that would soon become the states of Indiana and Ohio.  The desire to live in a place where every man, woman, and child was a free person and to enjoy the liberties granted to them in the newly formed Northwest Territory was the impetus they needed to leave friends, family, and the meetings they held dear.

Followers of Elias Hicks 

Elias Hicks was a liberal Quaker preacher from Long Island, New York and an early advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. His followers became known as Hicksites.

Hicks was regarded as a gifted speaker with a strong voice and dramatic flair. He drew large crowds when he was said to be attending meetings, sometimes in the thousands. 

One of the first to preach progressive revelation, which allowed for continuing revision and renewal of doctrinal beliefs, Hicks in 1817 successfully opposed the adoption of a set creed by the Society of Friends at the yearly meeting. He was subsequently called a heretic for his opposition to Evangelicalism, which stressed established beliefs, and he was held responsible by some for the Quaker schism of 1827–28.

After this separation Hicks’s followers called themselves the Liberal branch of the Society of Friends, but orthodox Quakers labeled them Hicksites. The Hicksites remained isolated from other Quakers until the 20th century, when mutual cooperation began to prevail.

Initial Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting

In July 1815, the Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting was formally organized.  The need for a meeting house was recognized, whereupon Matthew Coffin, a devout Quaker, donated two acres of land to erect a meeting house and establish a cemetery.  In 1815-1816, Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House was built and completed using native materials on this land. 

Blue River Friends Hicksite Inspiration

New Garden Meeting House in North CarolinaThe plan for the new Hicksite Meeting House building followed that of the New Garden Meeting House in North Carolina where many of these Friends had worshiped before arriving in Salem.  

The present meeting house as described below is the result of a supposed alteration in 1870 when the building was reduced to half the size of the original building according to some sources. It is recorded in both The Salem Leader and the Blue River Friends Church bulletin that attendance was in decline due to a rift among members and the need for a large place to gather had changed.

Further evidence of this unusual alteration is made by Jeremy Elliott, a Washington County historian, in an article published in The Historian in 2015. Originally the oblong building consisted of two spaces, a men’s room and a women’s room, with a moveable partition between them. This arrangement was necessary for each group to hold their separate business meetings. Once the business meetings were over, the partition was moved aside for the worship service in one large room.

Other than the written reports that the building was reduced in half of its original size in 1870, it is hard to find physical evidence to support this claim. However, there are places within the inside walls which are not uniform in appearance that indicates that there may have been changes made that are not accounted for in any of the literature reviewed.

About the Hicksite Meeting House Building

Blue River Hicksite Meeting HouseThe Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House is a one story building sided with poplar weather boards that are painted white.

The Meeting House is a rectangular structure measuring 36 feet along its sides and 30 feet along its front and rear. It is surmounted by a front-gabled asphalt shingled roof with gutters and down spouts on the east and west sides. Both the fascia and the narrow eaves overhang are plain board, with no ornament. The foundation is made of uncut limestone field stones.

The building’s front faces south and has a plain symmetry about it with a single door in the center and a 6 over 6 wooden double hung pane window on each side of the door. A narrow three-light transom is above the door. The door opening is topped by a simple crown, but there is no other trim on the door or the window openings.

Above the transom is a sign which says:

Old Blue River Friends Church
Founded July 1, 1815
Land Donated by Matthew Coffin

Two large flat, finished limestone slabs provide steps to the entrance of the meeting house. Aluminum storm doors and storm windows protect all the openings in the building. The east side has a single door at the north end. To the south of the door are two 6 over 6 wooden double hung pane windows that are mirrored by similar windows on the west side of the building.

The west side has a double door near the north end with limestone steps providing entrance. These doors are strategically located to an open area on the inside and the cemetery on the outside, thus giving an easy route for those carrying a casket from the meeting house to the cemetery. South of these doors are two 6 over 6 wooden double hung pane windows.

The north exterior is plain with two 6 over 6 wooden double hung pane windows. These windows mirror the same windows on the south side. All windows on the building measure 36” by 60”. The front and east side doors measure 36” by 7’. They do not appear to be original. The 5 panel wooden double doors on the west side appear to be original.

The interior is one large 1080 square foot room. It is very plain because the Quakers do not believe having adornment in their places of worship, homes, clothing or personal appearance. The floor is made of thick poplar wood planks and the walls and ceiling are hand planed poplar boards painted white. In the center, near the front, is a stove pipe protruding from the ceiling. It is a remnant from the past when a stove was used to warm the room. The chimney for the stove is no longer present.

Blue River Hicksite Meeting House InteriorSeating for members is provided by original handmade poplar slab benches with backs. There is a center aisle between the benches that runs north and south. The first three rows of benches on the south end are raised for ease of viewing to the north end where the elders sat. In front of these raised benches are five rows of benches on the floor. There are six extra benches stacked on the floor (stored). On the north end there is a raised bench for the elders. It faces the members of the meeting. There is a space of eight feet between the south and north facing benches. Four pillars are strategically placed within this room to support the structure. In keeping with the Quaker belief of Spirit lead worship, there is no pulpit. The inside of the building is considered to be in excellent condition with much of its original character and materials remaining.

In 1965, a committee of Friends was charged with the improvement and preservation of the Hicksite Meeting House. With a goal to repair, recondition, and improve the property, and with funds secured, work began. The renovations produced new sills under the building, metal grids in the foundation for air flow under the flooring, minor repairs to the outside, a fresh coat of paint, a new roof that included removal of the brick chimney, and gutters and downspouts installed on the east and west sides.

Hicksite Church Cemetery

Hicksite Church Cemetery in Salem IndianaThe Hicksite Church Cemetery is located north of the Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House on approximately one acre. There are twenty rows of stones and each row is approximately 360 feet long. The majority of the gravestones are sandstone, but more recent ones are granite. The older gravestones are rather simple and without ornamentation. There is a limestone marker on the south side of the cemetery near the meeting house that reads “Hicksite Church Cemetery”.

According to Find a Grave, there are 669 memorials. Because of the age and deterioration due to weather, many gravestones are illegible. The oldest memorial, that of Chalkley Albertson, Sr., is dated February 25, 1817. The most recent gravestone belongs to McCabe Luckett, dated October 25, 2011. The gravesite of Matthew Coffin dated May 22, 1832, is one of many significant pioneers of the past who was laid to rest here.

Early Quaker Meeting House Historic Sign On October 6, 1971, The Salem Democrat published an article describing a state historic marker recognizing the dedication of the Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House. This sign is located at the southeast corner of the property. Many long time members of the Orthodox Blue River Friends Church, the group who is responsible for this property, were present. Well known Quaker philosopher and author, Dr. D. Elton Trueblood, participated in the dedication. The bronze plaque was a gift of the Southern Area Friends Churches of the Western Yearly Meeting. 

Pictured at left: Mrs. Leafa Baynes, Elizabeth Adams, Bonnie Walters, Dr. Elton Trueblood, Humphrey Baynes, Mrs. Jason Graves, Eugene Trueblood and Norris Wentworth. 

Hicksite Meeting House Location

The meeting house is located at 1232 North Quaker Road.  It is 1.7 miles east of Salem and 0.2 miles north of State Road 56 in the country surrounded by farm fields. 

 

Hicksite Meeting House Annual Meeting

The 204th Annual Hicksite Memorial Meeting will be held on October 4th 2020 at 2:00pm. 

Hicksite Meeting House Memorial Officers

  • Aaron Fordyce - President
  • Tony Trueblood - Vice-President
  • Carol Winslow - Treasurer
  • Jane Clark - Secretary 

Help Support Restoration Efforts for this Historic Structure

Blue River Friends Hicksite Meeting House is believed to be the oldest extant Quaker Meeting House in the State of Indiana and one of the Washington County’s oldest buildings. The Hicksite Memorial Officers have elected to repair the failing wood siding on the meeting house with new Western Red Cedar Siding. The new historically accurate siding, professional installation and painting is expected to cost approximately $40,000.

Please consider making a donation to support this historic structure and honor the legacy of the Quaker families that helped build this community more than 200 years ago.

Please Mail Your Donation to:

Todd Ewen
2660 East Quaker Road
Salem, IN 47167

Make checks payable to Blue River Friends Church and a notation of Attn: Hicksite Project