In 1909, on the occasion of our 100th Anniversary, Elizabeth L. Evens wrote the introduction to the booklet published at that time as follows:
“This old Meeting House, wherein Friends have assembled for worship for the past one hundred years, is still in a very well preserved condition; in fact it has stood almost unchanged while time and man have altered many of its surroundings.”
The same might be said of the Meeting today. The horse sheds are gone, the railroad has gone, even the old Marlton Pike has been supplanted by the roaring dual highway, Route 70.
Now, fifty years later, we still meet in the silent worship so dear to our ancestors, the “practice of the presence of God” carries on.
Charles D. Barton presided at the 1909 commemoration. His opening remarks are a suitable introduction to this history 50 years later:
On behalf of the committee appointed by Cropwell Preparative Meeting to arrange for this commemorative occasion, I extend to you all a cordial welcome. We are glad that so many Friends, neighbors and others not of our persuasion, who are interested in local history, are with us today and that you have been willing to make some sacrifice and go to so much exertion in order to help us emphasize the fact that for one hundred years this meeting house has stood, a silent reminder of the peculiar form of worship which we love. We are glad that you have been willing to come and help us who must now be responsible for the future of this meeting and realize the burden of maintaining before the community the standards which this house has always represented.
William H. Zelley wrote the history booklet published in 1909. Since so few copies of this fine work are now in existence, we have seen fit to reprint it in full.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF CROPWELL MEETING
WILLIAM H. ZELLEY
Perhaps there is no part of the history of the human race or of a people that is so difficult to obtain as local history derived from actually recorded facts and strictly authentic sources. As you may know, tradition is not history and varies according to the disposition, tendencies and character of the individual or the family and is generally discredited or rendered void when placed face to face with positive records. But I trust that I will have given, ere this paper is finished, sufficient of authentic and connected facts as to satisfy the most aesthetic and exact of listeners and yet not be so lengthy as to desire on the part of others whose appetites are more acute and patience more obtuse that it should have been published in our local “Central Record” or a friendly magazine that could be read at a more auspicious moment, as was the case at a recent gathering within our Society.
To recognize century dates or epochs may be an innovation or a novelty in good old solid quakerism, which we love, but we hope and trust not revolutionary.
It seems to me that whatever may cause us to retrace or review our own steps and our own past lives and those of others who have long gone before us cannot help but be a benefit to us and those around us and arouse an increased interest in our Society and an increased attendance in our particular Meeting. Perhaps there are none among us to-day, especially members of the Society of Friends, but who well remember that, during their lives and especially the youthful portion of their lives, they have been admonished and encouraged to peruse and ponder over the memories, biographies and autobiographies of the worthy Friends and standard bearers of Quakerism, wherein is often strikingly depicted the physical, mental and spiritual struggle of the departed through life. The spiritual struggle whereby the struggling soul endeavors always to be favored in the sight of Him who created it and thus reaches the object of life's creation. Why then should we not derive a proportionate benefit from an historical review of such a people in their collective capacity as a Meeting?
Cropwell Preparative Meeting as an integral part of the Society at large, we feel, has borne a fair share of the burdens of
maintaining the testimonies and principles of the Society and has not fallen far short of many of the component parts of the Yearly Meeting in its example and influence among the membership of the Yearly Meeting, the neighborhood at large and its own particular membership, as many of us remember and still cherish the kindly admonitions, Christian encouragement and conscientious upright quiet lives of many of those we can lovingly call So mind; as it is not always so much the open public labor of our concerned membership as the kind loving tender hearted sentiments expressed at an opportune time “by the wayside” that often marks the turning point in life and character.
Cropwell Meeting bears no marks either upon its records or upon its property of national struggle or national conflict as at Crosswicks, at Birmingham and at other places, as our history dates not back to colonial nor revolutionary days but barely beyond the time when the “Band of States” was converted into the “Banded State.” But if not national struggle or national conflict who can tell or who can depict the mental and spiritual struggles and conflicts that have taken place with the individual soul within these walls, the monuments of whose victorious struggles and conflicts are now erected in that region beyond where they will not only withstand the test of time but, like adamant, will withstand the test of eternity, bearing the inscription “well done ye good and faithful servants; ye have been faithful over a few things, I will make you rulers over more.”
There were perhaps two causes for the adoption of the name Cropwell, one on account of some strong family ties for the old English name and another, and perhaps the stronger, on account of the fertility of the soil which crops well hereabout. The community or neighborhood of Cropwell was not very much different in the early days, in its settlement, I presume, from most communities, except perhaps that meetings had been established within travelling or riding distances of other places and thus relieved them somewhat of a concern which we find mostly first claimed the attention of Friends in the settlement of West Jersey.
Treating of a time about 108 years after the arrival of the “Good Ship Kent” at Burlington we may know that Friends had spread considerably over the fertile soil of West Jersey, and we
find Meetings established as near as Haddonfield and Evesham; Cropwell being about co-creative with that of Upper Evesham. Cropwell Friends being then relieved of the primary concern, we first find them concerned in a public way in the establishment of a school, which was generally the sequel in the settlement of Friends, as soon as convenience and pecuniary arrangements would allow. The first documentary evidence we have of this is by a minute of Evesham Preparative Meeting dated “ye 7th of ye 4 mo., 1785” and proceeds as follows: “Being informed that a number of Friends, situate on or near the head of Cropwell Creek which separates Evesham, and Waterford Townships, have procured a lot of ground for the establishing of a school to be under the direction and care of Friends (only), etc., have entered into a subscription to build for that purpose, this meeting after consideration, appoints John Haines, Thomas Hollinshead, Enoch Evans, Thomas Lippincott and Isaac Borton to receive a deed or deeds and to execute a Declaration of Trust by which the lot may be properly secured to Friends, etc.; and being also informed that Samuel Burroughs, a member of Society belonging to Haddonfield, is a considerable subscriber, contiguous to the lot, and is thought to be a proper person for a Trustee, the Friends above nominated are left at their liberty to insert his name among theirs in securing the title.” It seems that Evesham Friends were quite liberal in allowing these Friends to add to their number members from another Preparative Meeting. That this title was diligently secured and the location exactly determined is shown by an unrecorded deed in the possession of Samuel Griscom dated the 14th day of the 4th mo., 1785, just one week later than the above minute where “Joshua Lippincott, of Evesham., in the County of Burlington and State of New Jersey, Farmer, and Rachel his wife, Samuel Allinson, of Waterford, in the County of Gloucester and state aforesaid, Farmer, and Martha'his wife,” of whom we shall learn more later, conveyed to Samuel Burrough, Enoch Evans, Thomas Hollinshead, Thomas Lippincott and Isaac Borton, of Evesham, aforesaid yoeman “for and in consideration of the sum of Forty-Five Pounds, Seventeen Shillings and Six Pence, hard money to them paid.” “A certain Lot of Land situate in the Township of Waterford aforesaid on Cropwell or the South Branch of Pennsauken Creek containing Three acres
One Rood and Thirty-Two Square Perches of Land strict measure the same consisting of ‘Two Parts.’” It seems to me that this deed which does cover “Two Parts” and the description given separately and signed by the heads of two distinct families is evidence that the two tracts of land were separately owned but included in the one deed to save cost of executing and recording.
Although the above mentioned deed does not in any way refer to or mention schools or the Society of Friends, but the fact of the Evesham Meeting referring to such a transaction granting the privilege of adding the name of Samuel Burrough to the list of Trustees for such a property, who was a member of Haddonfield Meeting and the fact that these same persons did on the following day, the 15th day of the 4th mo., 1785, execute a deed of trust citing this particular deed and pieces of land and “declare and acknowledge that our names were and are made use of in the said Indenture agreeably to the appointment and approbation of the Preparative Meeting of Friends of Evesham, and the said Indenture was and is made to us in Trust for the sole use of a school for the education of youth which is to be under the sole direction and management of the Society of Friends and such other purposes for the advancement and establishment of a school or schools as the said Society of People in one of their Preparative or Monthly Meetings to which the employers of or to the said school chiefly belong shall direct and appoint or appropriate the same unto,” settles this point beyond a doubt that this is the first tract of land owned by the Society of Friends for its use and purpose as a Society at Cropwell. That a school house was soon built upon those “Two Parts” of land probably during the summer of that or the following year is best shown by a minute of Evesham Monthly Meeting dated the 10th of 11th mo., 1786, stating that “A request by direction of the Preparative Meeting at Evesham in favour of holding a meeting for three months in a school house lately erected near Cropwell Creek, signed by the principal part of Men and Women Friends that are likely to constitute the same being produced, was referred to next meeting.” This deed of land and declaration of trust together with these minutes conclusively show that Friends were publicly established upon “Cropwell Creek” during the year 1785.
The trustees to manage the school are revealed in a minute of Evesham Preparative Meeting dated the 7th of 12th mo., 1786, the month following the previous minute of the monthly meeting. “Divers Friends having lately purchased a lot of ground and built a School House thereon with the approbation of this Meeting near Cropwell Creek in Waterford Township, and it appearing necessary that the same should be under the care of a standing Committee, the following Friends (to wit) Joshua Lippincott, John Haines, Samuel Allinson, Isaac Borton, Enoch Evans and Thomas Lippincott are appointed to that service by the name of Trustees of Friends School near Cropwell Creek. And as there are and may be some Friends concerned in said school who do or may belong to Haddonfield Meeting the above and other Trustees for the time being appointed by this Meeting now and in the future are at liberty to make choice of and add to, their number, at most, Two of the said Friends to unite with them in all matters relative to the said school.” This minute shows that Evesham Friends were still liberal towards those of Cropwell but were somewhat confounded as to townships. As Cropwell or the South Branch of the “Pennsauken” Creek was at that time the true boundary of the Counties of Gloucester and Burlington and therefore as stated in a former minute “separates Evesham and Waterford Townships” and as the school house was on the east side, it was most probably in Evesham Township, although there is a controversy whether this creek, so called, is the true line. This stream or where the records indicate a stream honored by the name of Cropwell Creek is the stream, in which there is little if any water at the present time, running through the low or meadow land just south of us over which you will see a bridge on what we call Cropwell road but formerly Haines’ Neck, and at the time our first school house was erected did not exist at all, unless probably as a lane for a short distance as an outlet for the property now owned by Rachel I. Woolston, to the then public road. That this stream was known by the name of Cropwell and was the dividing line between the counties nearly one hundred years prior to the time of which we are speaking, I find on January 2 1, 1709-10, in the Eighth Year of the Reign of Queen Anne, the 5th, General Assembly of New Jersey passed “An Act for dividing and ascertaining the BOUNDARIES of all the COUNTIES in this PROVINCE”
and states that “The Line of Partition between Burlington and Gloucester County begins at the mouth of Pensauquin, alias Cropwell Creek; thence up the same to the fork; thence along the southermost branch thereof, sometimes called Cole Branch, until it comes to the head thereof which is the Bounds betwixt Samuel Lipincote’s and Isaac Sharp’s Land” and this is the point at which our Friends’ “School House near Cropwell Creek” is located and which land extends on both sides of said creek. This location is a short distance southwest of the present meeting property, near where you will see two trees, one of them an oak near which is an excellent spring of water. Water, I presume, was as necessary in the management of a school in those days as at present, with soap probably as an adjunct.
This land is now included in the farm of Samuel Griscom which surrounds the present meeting property except on the east. Who the first and subsequent teachers were and the date when the school was first opened, the many discussions and proceedings of the trustees we are unable to tell, but can only surmise the many difficulties and heart burnings that they endured, because the minutes of that body cannot as yet be found. Where are they? Have some of my listeners, descendants of those worthy and honored Friends stored them away in their attics?
Established then upon “Cropwell Creek” in a convenient school house (as to how comfortable we will not question) with meetings at least six miles distant, reached over circuitous and unimproved roads, by their modes of travel very unpleasant in extremes of temperature, probably very sandy and dusty in summer and muddy in winter, it is not surprising to find them turning their attention towards the establishment of a meeting in their midst, as evidenced by the minute previously quoted. From a minute of the same monthly meeting the following month, the 8th of 12th mo., 1786, we learn that “The request for holding a meeting in the ‘School House near Cropwell Creek’ being resumed and further considered it was apprehended a benefit might arise from a committee being appointed to sit with Friends at each place, John Collins, John Hunt, Jonas Cattell, Lawrence Webster, Joshua Owen and John Haines, Junr. were appointed.”
This “indulged” meeting, as we call them continued for about eight years in the “School House near Cropwell Creek.”
The query may arise in many minds as to why a situation was selected apparently so inaccessible. We must bear in mind that we are dealing with a time when public highways, were not as numerous and convenient as at present. I have not discovered any public road at that time except the one you have already heard mentioned which was laid out the “11th of Nov. 1752, and referred to in public documents as the ‘Great Road’ leading from William Fosters to Phila.” or ‘William Fosters to Haddonfield’ the courses and distances I have not been enabled to unearth, neither the location of William Foster’s. His must have been a prominent property and located at that time, somewhere in the county, east or north east of the present site, of Marlton, probably Fostertown. William, I learn, was a “squire” or “Justice of the Peace” and therefore probably prominent to many, especially evil doers.
This “Great Road,” in its winding and circuitous route through upland and meadow, passed just south of the buildings of Howard Evens and Joshua Evens and sisters, as you have just heard, crossing the present Cropwell road or “Haines’ Neck” near the first large oak tree, which is still an old corner and land mark between here and Cropwell Creek, south, but not touching the present meeting property passing and bordering on the north, no doubt, the then “School House” property of Friends, thus placing it upon the then public road.
The old picture upon the table represents the dwelling of Joshua Evens and sisters as it appeared when the “Great Road” passed in front of it, kindly loaned to us for this occasion. On the 15th of 11th mo., 1765, 1 find a road “removed” near the “Sign of the Royal Oak Tavern” from Cotoging Bridge into the road that runs from William Foster’s to Haddonfield.” Cotoging Bridge is what we now call Cotoxon Bridge and “The Royal Oak Tavern” is, no doubt, what is now known as Cross Roads, near Medford, and where there was a tavern probably, anti-dating Medford.
On Feb. 29th, 1772, I give dates as recorded; 13 years before our “School House,” a road was laid from Evesham Meeting House
to the Great Road leading from William Foster’s to Philadelphia, intersecting the line of the above said Great Road near Sharp’s School House. This school house was probably the present “Hillman School” property or near there, and where the Great Road crossed the stream in its course to Haddonfield, Friends being early settled at Haddonfield and owning this school property up to within the past two years.
Isaac Sharp owned a very large tract of land to the west of us. This road was the route passed over by Mt. Laurel Friends, known then by Evesham, to reach Haddonfield Meeting. By these records then this “Great Road” seemed to be the only “avenue of escape,” or the only avenue of travel from this and the section of the country east of us to Haddonfield and Philadelphia. Not a “King’s Highway” but simply a great road of the people. Escape it must have been, for we learn from reliable authentic sources, as has already been related, that before reaching Haddonfield from Cropwell 13 gates and a pair of bars had to be opened and closed, even not considering the superstition attached to the number 13 do we wonder why Friends were desirous of “settling” a meeting within their own limits, particularly when “wrapped in the arms of Morpheus” sweet sleep enticed a lingering between home spun blankets and downy quilts upon a frosty morning, causing a belated start for meeting? And I am quite sure that boys were as averse to opening and closing the gates in those days as during my own boyhood time.
I have stated that the indulged meeting at Cropwell continued for about eight years under the care of Evesham Monthly Meeting. During this time a Monthly Meeting had been “set off” from Evesham Monthly Meeting, by direction of the Quarterly Meeting, at Upper Evesham, and at its third meeting, 8th of 3rd mo., 1794, we find that the Preparative Meeting of Upper Evesham, which had been established about 1783, informed that meeting “that the Friends constituting the Meeting of Cropwell requests meetings of worship on the first and sixth days of the week (excepting the sixth-day in the week of the monthly meeting) with a Preparative Meeting to be established there, the preparative meeting to be held on sixth-day of the week before the monthly meeting in each month, which after soliding con-
sidering the same this meeting unites with said request and the Clerk is directed to forward a copy of this minute to the Quarterly Meeting.” That the Clerk did as directed is shown at a Quarterly Meeting held at Haddonfield on the 21st of 3rd mo., 1794, where it states that “a proposal was sent up from the Monthly Meeting at Upper Evesham, that a meeting for worship be established at Cropwell” “with a Preparative Meeting at times stated in the previous minute, which being considered the said meetings are established,” “to begin at the eleventh hour and the clerk is directed to furnish the Monthly Meeting with a copy of this minute.” The eleventh hour would be very pleasing to me still.
That Thomas Redman, Clerk of the Quarterly Meeting, fulfilled his duty appears by the minute of Upper Evesham Monthly Meeting the following month, 12th of the 4th mo., 1794. “The Proposal of a meeting for worship and a Preparative Meeting to be established at Cropwell being sent to the Quarterly Meeting was with some alteration approved of and said meetings established,” “and the first Preparative Meeting to be held on Sixth-day the week before the next monthly meeting. The following Friends are appointed to attend at the opening thereof (viz) Saml. Shinn, Job Collyins, John Haines, Burzillia Braddock and Ephraim Stratton and make report thereof to next meeting.”—Josiah Reeve, Clerk.
On Sixth-day the week before the next monthly meeting, the 2nd of 5th mo., 1794, we find Friends assembled in their first Preparative Meeting at Cropwell agreeably to the foregoing minutes with the monthly meetings’ committee in attendance, agreeably to the above appointment. The appointing of a clerk for said meeting “coming under consideration John Haines, Junr. being proposed is accordingly appointed to that service.
Although Friends early recognized women as Divine Messengers in the service of the Gospel and their importance in the Church of Christ, yea if any difference, cleaner vessels in His hands than men, yet the following portion of the minute of that day shows that the Friends of Cropwell, at least, had not arrived at that condition, as now, wherein they felt that women had the ability or sufficient business acumen to choose their own clerk.
Apparently feeling that although the Spirit guided them equally with men in the delivery of the Divine Message yet might not so guide them in the selection of a clerk. “It also coming under consideration the appointing of a clerk for women Friends Hannah Lippincott being proposed is accordingly appointed to that service with the concurrence of men and women Friends.”
On the 2nd of 5th mo., 1794, then we find Friends-fully and officially settled in their “School House near Cropwell Creek” bearing the burden themselves of a school and a Preparative Meeting as a component part, and subordinate thereto, of Upper Evesham Monthly Meeting.
At that time and from the time of the indulged meeting in 1786 up to the year 1805 when the Baptists settled their meeting at what was called Eve’s Causeway, about one mile east of Marlton, Cropwell was the only public place of worship in this section or locality. The first Methodist Meeting House was not built until about 1824.
Friends being pioneers in the cause of education, under a concern of the Yearly Meeting a number of Friends in the neighborhood contiguous to what was then and is still known as Pine Grove, consisting of Enoch Evans, Sam’l Darnell, Sam’l Evans, William Rogers, junr., Wm. Troth, Senn, William Evans, Moses Lippincott and Jacob Evans, met at the house of Sam'I Darnell “to consider the necessity of Building School Houses and for the establishing schools for the education of youth” in the spring of 1791. After considerable discussion it was decided that “Enoch Evans should lay the matter of a school at Pine Grove before the Preparative Meeting of Evesham for their advice.” This he did at the Preparative Meeting held at Evesham the 9th of 6th mo., 1791, which united with the concern and appointed Sam’l Darnell, Wm. Evans, junr., and Jacob Evans to take a deed for the land and execute a declaration of Trust therefore, which was accomplished the 2nd day Of 4th mo., 1792, and the building reported “Now Built” 8th of 11th mo., 1792, and opened on the 3rd of 12th mo., 1792 under the care of John Atkinson, teacher with 23 scholars. By a minute of Upper Evesham Monthly Meeting held 12th of 12th mo., 1795, it appears that through a united action of Evesham and Upper Evesham Monthly Meetings this
school came under the care of and became the property of Cropwell Preparative Meeting at that time, just one year, seven months and ten days after its creation. Among other teachers I find the names of Mary Cowperthwaite, 1805-9; Carlton Passmore, 1805; Jos. Roberts, 1809-10; Clayton Atkinson, 1818; Amos Evans, 1818; Jb Roberts, 1818; Abigail Bedford, 1821; Joshua Haines 1822, and others later.
These facts were gleaned from the old original minute book of the first trustees of the school which was found among a quantity of old documents stored in the attic of the house that was the residence of Joshua Haines, now the property of his granddaughter, Rachel I. Woolston. As you have before heard, may not the minutes of Cropwell School be found in a similar place?
We find then the newly settled Cropwell Preparative Meeting in 1795, quietly and unpretentiously meeting in their “School House near Cropwell Creek” undoubtedly located upon the “Great Road” bearing the burden and responsibilities of two schools as well as those of the Preparative Meeting whose age was about one and a half years. These conditions continued for a number of years during which time no doubt the question of locating and building a comfortable and commodious meeting house was continually and earnestly discussed, until about the beginning of the year 1805, when the Preparative Meeting took the matter into consideration.
The first recorded reference to the building of a meeting house at Cropwell that we have thus far discovered and probably the first, is in the will of Sam'l Burrough dated “This eleventh day of the Fourth month called April in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hunderd and Ninety Three,” who then lived on and owned the property adjoining the present meeting property on the east and included the farms of Howard and Joshua Evens and sisters, the picture of whose residence I have already referred to and which represents it as it appeared at that time. Sam’l Burrough says “I give and bequeath out of the Rents of my Plantations in Waterford and Chester, the sum of Fifty Pounds in Gold or Silver Money for the Purpose of building a Meeting House for the use of Friends at or near Cropwell School House to be paid to the managers of said Building when wanted
or demanded.” You will notice the date of this will, 1793, the year previous to the establishment of the Preparative Meeting so the subject was undoubtedly discussed several years among the members before the question was called to the attention of the meeting at Cropwell. On account of the lack of minutes, there being only one copied in the book from 8th mo., 1804 to 2nd mo., 15, 1805, we cannot tell the date of the meeting when the subject was first introduced nor when the money “was wanted or demanded.”
But referring to the minutes of Evesham, Preparative Meeting we find on the 10th of 10th mo., 1793, that “Joshua Lippincott on behalf of Friends of Cropwell informed the meeting that they have procured a Lot of Ground near Cropwell School House containing two acres for the purpose of a Burial Ground and probably whereon to erect a Meeting House in future which being probated by this Meeting they appoint Thomas Lippincott, Jacob Evans, Joseph Rogers, John Haines, Junr., and John Evans to receive a deed and execute a declaration of Trust therefor.” The will of Sam'l Burrough still anti-dates this mention of a Meeting House but the minute contains other interesting news being the first time that we have heard of a “Burial Ground” or of property other than the “School House near Cropwell Creek.” There is no record that this deed was ever made nor the declaration of Trust executed and I am fully of the opinion that Friends occupied this ground as a burial place until the 17th day of the 5th mo., 1805, without any title thereto except that of good faith. This was a lot of ground in an open field, soon enclosed, in which Theodosia Lippincott is said to have been the first person interred therein. The oldest stone that I find in the yard is a brick marked “T. L.” 1796. Whether this is her grave and whether any burials occurred therein before 1796 1 cannot tell until I can find the date of her death, upon the date of death also depends whether it was the mother or the daughter.
From 1793 we hear nothing further of a meeting house, on account of no minutes, until the meeting of the Preparative Meeting on 2nd mo., 15th, 1805, where we find an “adjourned Preparative Meeting held at Cropwell for the purpose of again considering of the most eligible situation to build a Meeting
House.” This you will see is an “adjourned” meeting to “again consider.” The former minutes for some reason or on account of somebody are missing. The minute further relates that the subject being resumed and Friends’ sentiments freely communicated thereon the meeting appeared most united in building on the lot heretofore procured of Samuel Lippincott for that purpose on which a grave yard has since been enclosed and John Evans, John Haines, Junr., Joshua Lippincott, Samuel Lippincott, Joseph Rogers and Jacob Evans are appointed to take the matter into view and digest a suitable plan for a House, endeavour to calculate the expense likely to arise in compleating the same and report to Meeting. The minute of the succeeding month 1st of 3rd mo., 1805, contains news of a public nature when it says: “It appaering that the Lot above mentioned whereon it is concluded to build a Meeting House would be more suitable for the purpose if it was extended to the public road and Samuel Lippincott being willing to execute a deed of conveyance to Friends, therefore, John Evans, Joseph Evans, Thomas Lippincott, John Roberts and Joshua Haines are appointed to take the same in trust on behalf of the Meeting and report when the same is completed.” This deed was “completed” as I have mentioned before on the 17th day of the 5th mo., 1805, “for and in consideration of the sum of one hunderd and six dollars and sixty-seven cents” in contradistinction of a general impression that Samuel Lippincott donated this land to the Meeting. He may have done so but inserted the price.
This is the only deed given for land since that given in 1785 for the “Two Parts” of land on Cropwell Creek and covers the present meeting property from the stone road to somewhere near the south end of the grave yard including the former “Burial Lot,” as they were instructed to do, showing satisfactorily to my mind that inasmuch as there never had been a deed given for the lot “heretofore procured of Samuel Lippincott” and as the “heretofore procured” lot was to contain two acres and this deed covers two acres also, and as also we see mentioned a public road to which Friends wished their property to extend, Samuel Lippincott simply moved the entire location of the “heretofore procured” lot on which a grave yard had been enclosed further to the north making the newly laid out road the boundary.
We here find for the first time, in any documents that I have examined, the mention of a public road which shows that the country at large was also in a state of development and improvement and we find that our “Great Road” has disappeared from the map on the south of our present meeting property and the great artery of travel has now appeared in its present location bordering this property on the north. This road was laid according to record “the twenty-second day of October, seventeen hundred and ninety-six, 1796.” “Beginning at a post in the Evesham Road,” which no doubt is our “Great Road” “near the corner of the land of John Inskeep and Joseph Eves bearing south twenty-seven degrees east from the main chimney in John Hammitt’s dwelling house and north sixty-eight degrees west from a large white oak in the line between the said Inskeep and Eves land and thence part through Evesham and part through Waterford north seventy-five degrees and thirty minutes west one hundred and twenty-eight chains and seventy links to a black oak in Joseph Roger’ hill on the north side of his meadow;” thence through its several courses and distances until it connects with the road from Moorestown to Camden. The starting point was at the east end of Marlton and Joseph Rogers’ hill is what is now known as the Redman property, the second farm on the left just west of this meeting property.
This road was piked by a turnpike company in 1849, made a stone road in 1891 and sold to the county as a free road in 1907. When this road was laid in 1796 the surveyors vacated “all parts of the present road except that part which interferes with the new one when the new is fit for public use,” meaning our former ‘Great Road.’
At the meeting of 3rd mo., 1st, 1805, the committee appointed to take “the matter into view and digest a suitable plan for a house” also reported that “we do give it as our opinion that in order to have suitable accommodation it will be necessary to build a house thirty-six feet wide and fifty feet long and extend the story about thirteen feet high with a sliding petition through the centre thereof; but without upper galleries which will give sufficient room on the floor for thirteen benches ten feet long on one side of a gang way three and a half feet wide through the
long way of, the house, opposite which place a door at each end also Two Doors and Four Windows in the front of the house, four windows in the back and one in each end, to contain twenty-four lights each, agreeable to a draft thereof which we have prepared and from the best information we can obtain we apprehend such a house will cost about eight hundred pounds, all, of which we submit to the meeting.”
Signed on behalf of the committee,
3rd mo., 1st, 1805.
This report was considered and adopted, as you will notice, that the house corresponds with the description, and at that meeting John Evans, Samuel Haines, Joseph Rogers, Joseph Evans, Samuel Lippincott and John Haines, Jr., were appointed “to provide materials and put the work in execution as fast as the nature of the case will admit without a manifest disadvantage in procuring for and forwarding the same and a subscription being offered in order to raise funds for the execution thereof which not being finished at this time the entry thereof is referred until completed.”
We now have arrived at 3rd mo., 1st, 1805, with our Preparative Meeting still meeting in the “School House near CropweII Creek,” with probably a portion of the “Great Road” as an entrance thereto possessing two tracts of land with a new road bordering one of them on the north, upon which is a grave yard, and a committee authorized to build thereon a meeting house according to directions as speedily as possible, apparently becoming after several years’ discussion in pretty much of a hurry. To us it seems that they “made haste slowly” as we are now left in a long and unsatisfactory suspense, as we hear nothing of the building committee nor the meeting house until the 31st of 8th mo., 1809, four and a half years thereafter when “We the Committee appointed in the 3rd mo., 1st, 1805, to superintend the Building of a Meeting House at Cropwell having attended thereto and compleated the same as far as our Directions extended and having paid all the Expences arising from putting the work in Execution, Do, find in our Hands of the Monies paid in to defray the Expences of said House a Balance of Seventeen Dollars,
ninety-nine cents, which we are ready to pay at the Direction of the Meeting.” “Signed by John Evans, in behalf of the Committee,” 8th mo., 31st, 1809. This “Balance” was appropriated to “painting the Doors and Window Shutters.”
Whether the actual cost came within the estimated cost of eight hundred pounds and other interesting data of that committee, what became of the subscription list and the draft spoken of, it is impossible to tell from their records or the records of the Meeting, as like the minutes of the trustees of the school they have entirely vanished.
I have made diligent enquiry and searched in every quarter I thought there was a possible clue to them, but without avail. I still have hopes that they are silently waiting, after the manner of the Society, in some one's attic, an opportunity to reveal their inward knowledge. During the past month I have been fortunate enough to discover, in the hands of Ezra F. Darnell, a copy of the cost and expenses of building the house which has been kindly loaned for the occasion. I cannot help but feel that these lost records of the Trustees and the Building Committee, through which we might be able to learn the exact date that the first meeting was held in the Meeting House, like this copy of the costs, are cosily tucked away in some corner unknown to the possessor.
This copy states:—“An account of the expenses of Cropwell Meeting House, 36 feet by 50, Story 14 feet high, Sealed with half-inch Cedar Boards. Wainscotted with white pine about 5 feet from the floor and the Remained of the wall plastered, a Double pannel Sliding Partition.
|48350 Bricks at the Kiln at $4 Dol. per hun.||
|2 acres of Land at||
|30 perch of stone in the ground||
|9760 feet Scantling at 16 Dol.||
|Wood to burn the Brick||
|White Pine Boards||
|Attendance on Mason charged||
|Plank for Benches||
Pine Boards and ½ inch
oak under the floor
|Scaffold poles, etc.||
|Halling Water and provision at Raising||
|Lime at 3 Dollars 7 Cents at Landing||
|Paint and Oil||
|Sundry ac. of Labour||
|Halling 42 load of Sand||
|Pine Scantling for window frames, etc.||
|Stoves and pipe||
N. B.-The Raising Stone, Halling the same, Halling Brick from J. Lippincott’s to Meeting House, Halling lime and same of the sand, all the Boards Digging out foundation, all the attention & Superintendence Done without charge. The floor was laid Double, the under ½ inch chestnut oak, the upper heart pine square edged, a true account taken from the Clerk of the Manager’s Book
By John Evans.
3 mo., 26, 1835.”
From the date of this copy it is apparent that the records of the building committee were in existence in 1835, twenty-six years after the house was finished, but where are they and who was the clerk? The actual outlay of $1767.21 was less than the estimated cost. The work done without charge would hardly overcome the difference. During the four and a half years they evoluted from pounds as used in the estimated cost to dollars and cents in which the actual cost is expressed.
At what time the “School House near Cropwell Creek” was removed to the present grounds and how, cannot accurately be told. But I am firmly of the opinion that school was continued in the old school house, near the creek until about the year 1815 when Samuel Lippincott and Anner, his wife, on the 23rd day of
the 2nd mo., 1815, conveyed to a number of Friends “in Trust” two “Roods of land strict measure” for the“sum of fifty-three Dollars” adjoining the former conveyance on the south where the present tenant house now stands and formerly used as a school house. Evidence points to the fact that the school house was removed to this lot and school continued therein until the year 1866 when the 8th day of 3rd mo., the original piece of land on Cropwell Creek was conveyed to Sam’l Lippincott for and in consideration of the sum of four hundred dollars, and says “Whereas the said Lot being inconvenient of access for said school another Lot more advantageously situated has been procured and it now being desirous by the Trustees of turning said Lot into funds for building a new school house (the old one having become very much dilapidated). The Preparative Meeting at Cropwell aforesaid by their minute made and adopted 11th mo., 1865 authorize and direct the school trustees aforesaid to make sale; dispose of and convey to the purchaser the said lot of land aforesaid as by the minute of said meeting will appear.” The old school house must have then disappeared and the new one arose in its place, in which school was held up to the year 1877.
Cropwell Meeting has since continued up to the present time with little change in the property. The grave yard has been enlarged two or three times and finally the sheds removed from the east side of the yard and the burial lot extended to the stone road on the north during the past month and other minor changes to the property at different times.
The Meeting passed through the unpleasant and troublous times of 1827 without much loss in numbers or lasting unfriendliness. The membership of this Meeting has not varied greatly since its first settlement but has continued a good sized Meeting up to the present time. Continued thus, it must be, for some purpose in the economy of human affairs.
Cropwell Meeting during its history of 123 years has not included in its membership but one recommended minister. This was Martha Allinson, who owned a large tract of land to the west of this property and included Locust Grove Farm, lately owned by Ellwood Evans, and was a signer to the conveyance for the first piece of land to Friends at Cropwell in 1785. We cannot say
that she was so much the product of this meeting as a part of the equipment at the time of the granting of the “indulged” meeting and the establishment of the Preparative Meeting, but no doubt a factor of considerable influence in those proceedings. After the death of Samuel, her husband, their property was sold and Martha “removed to live within the limits of Burlington Monthly Meeting” in the year 1798.
Whether I have interested you, whether I have instructed you or have been of any service to you remains for you to realize as I have endeavored to fulfill the mission allotted to me according to my ability and with the material at hand. In the full faith of the Power under which we believe and feel that our meetings are established and held; in the full faith of the belief that every member of this Meeting cherishes and appreciates their “birthright,” their right to membership and as this meeting has been handed down to us through a period of one and a quarter centuries; handed down to us almost in its original strength and purity, and although mostly a quiet Meeting, handed down to us for some good and great purpose in the fulfillment of the Divine object, I appeal to you, members of my own generation and younger to awaken to an interest and a concern in yourselves and this Meeting, primarily for His Kingdom and yourselves, secondarily for us all that we may be enabled to pass this inheritance to future generations in the simplicity in which we found it.
February 2, 1905 seems a suitable date to start the review of our old minute book to see what events have taken place in the life of Cropwell in the last fifty years. On that date Charles D. Barton was appointed Clerk. He served until January 23, 1919
July 25, 1907 — “John 1. Zook was treated with for neglecting our meetings and joining himself with another religious society. it was decided to forward his case to the Monthly Meeting.”
February 18, 1909 — “Lemuel P. Tomlinson, requesting to be joined in membership, his request was forwarded to the Monthly Meeting.”
June 24, 1909 — “The Graveyard Committee suggested moving the sheds on the East side of the yard to the South end of the yard and extending the graveyard to the road. This plan is satisfactory to the Meeting and the Committee is directed to proceed; the cost of the repairs to the sheds to be raised by subscription.”
“The one hundredth anniversary of the building of this meeting house occurring during next eighth month, the following committee (William H. Zelley, Ezra Evans, William B. Cooper and Charles D. Barton) are directed to hold a gathering to commemorate the occasion in an appropriate manner.”
October 21, 1909 — “The Graveyard Committee authorized to enlarge the graveyard and make improvements to the property in general are pleased to report that during the 7th and 8th months 1909 the old sheds on the eastem side of the meeting house yard were torn down and removed and the graveyard extended to the stone road on the north by removing the old fence along the road…replacing it by the inner fence…dividing the graveyard from the meeting house yard by a fence made by setting locust posts and running iron pipe through them, which also answers as a hitching rail….
Also, “The Committee having in charge the commemoration of the building of the Meeting House made a report:
“The Committee appointed in the 6th month i9og to hold a meeting in commemoration of the building of the Meeting
House 100 years ago are gratified to report that such a meeting was held on 7th day afternoon, 8th month 14th, 1909. Appropriate exercises were held in the Meeting House and a substantial lunch was served on the lawn to a large gathering of Friends and others, estimated to number over 450, at a cost of $58.90, which was paid by subscription.
(Signed) William H. Zelley, Chairman”
(It was reported, not in the minutes, that there were 17 automobiles.)
In 1911, the Cropwell Friends School affairs appeared in minutes during the entire year.
There had been a meeting school for four years previously in the home of Lemuel and Edith Tomlinson, and for the school year 1909-1910 in the home of Howard and Helen L. Evens. This arrangement seemed inadequate, so it was decided to build a school house. This was done on the ground of Mark Lippincott (Sr.) on Cooper Avenue in Marlton where the home of Mark Lippincott (Jr.) now stands. The little school, 18 x 24 feet, was opened with 9 pupils on 9th month 18th, 1911.
The building costs quoted in the minutes are interesting:
|Extra day help||
|Numerous minor bills’||
|Making a total of —||
Again from the report of the committee — “'The little building seemed very commodious and cheerful for the progression of the youthful mind; the children much appreciated their new quarters.”
“Three of the more advanced pupils entered the Friends School at Haddonfield, ranking creditably; while our smaller one may not be fully appreciated by some at present, we desire it may prove a stepping stone to our high ideals of a moral and
religious instruction, an important adjunct to Westtown and ultimately to the Society of Friends.
Signed on behalf of the Committee
9-25-1912 Rebecca E. Cooper”
Minutes of December 11, 1911 report Herbert Jones’ request to be joined in membership was forwarded to the Monthly Meeting.
In the minutes of September 26, 1912, John Evans was mentioned as a member of the School Committee but on February 20, 1913 “Joseph S. Evans was appointed to succeed John Evans, deceased, as Treasurer.”
On November 20, 1913, the overseers reported an interview with Benjamin Cooper in regard to his marriage with one not in membership with Friends. His acknowledgment thereof and request to be retained in membership was read and forwarded to the Monthly Meeting.
At the same meeting, Samuel B. Heulings, Sr. requested to be joined in membership. We believe his wife was admitted at the same time, but the minutes of the women's meetings have been lost.
In 1914, Joseph S. Evans and Charles D. Barton were appointed to erect a suitable sign and in 1915 our present member, Mary R. Evans signed the report of the School Committee.
The Pine Grove School having been given up some years before; the trustees were authorized to sell the property in 1916. N. Reece Whitacre was at one time teacher of this school. He was the father of Emily W. Barton and Marion W. Haines and grandfather of several of our present members.
On June 2 1, 1917 the School Committee reported there were 10 pupils. Alice John (Now Evans, member of the Medford Meeting) was the teacher. She gave up school at the end of this year “due to poor health.”
During all these many years, men and women had met separately in business meetings, but a minute of October 25, 1917 records the holding of “the first joint meeting of Cropwell Preparative Meeting of men and women Friends.” There must have
been separate treasuries for some time after, for the minutes of July 25, 1918 state that “Emily W. Barton and Emma R. Wills were appointed to examine the accounts of Helen L. Evens, Treasurer of the Women's Meeting.”
No meeting was held in 10th month 1918 due to the epidemic of influenza, which many of the present members will remember. Joseph S. Evans was appointed Clerk February 20, 1919 and served for twenty years in this capacity.
The first mention of our devoted minister, Mary Barton, occurred in the minutes of April 24, 1919, when she and Abigail Evans were appointed to bring forth the names of Friends to serve on the Graveyard Committee. Abigail Evans still serves on this committee. Mary Barton died in 1951.
The years 1919 to 1921 recorded several actions on school problems. Estelle Steward Pratt was teacher in 1919 with 9 students, but all but 3 were leaving, so it was decided to close the school and sell the building. Ethel M. Lippincott signed this report. The school building was sold to the YMCA for $120 in 1920, and in 1921 the Pine Grove property was sold to Clayton L. Evens for $150.
Narcissa M. Lippincott and others were appointed in 1926 to a committee regarding the “holding of Union services again” on summer evenings, and on Thanksgiving, with the other churches. (This practice started, we believe, in 1924.) We deeply appreciate their worshiping with us during all these years. We are grateful that they feel free to share in vocal ministry as way opens by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
February 22, 1931 records the fall of one of the pillars of our meeting and the raising up of another. This minute mentions the death of William H. Zelley and the appointment of Paul S. Lippincott, Jr., to replace him on one of the committees of the Meeting.
January 24, 1932 sees Howard J. Evens, David E. Cooper and Lewis W. Barton appointed trustees for the meeting property to serve with Charles D. Barton and Edwin Ballinger, the then surviving trustees.
February 1939 ended the long term of Joseph S. Evans as Clerk and the appointment of Lewis W. Barton and Elizabeth W. Cooper to succeed him.
In February 1940, we, extended greetings to the Marlton Baptist Church on the occasion of its centennial celebration. Minutes of February 25, 1940 record our gratitude for the faithful service of Ben and Ruth Roberts, and our regrets at seeing them leave for Westerly, Rhode Island. Ben was a minister and they were both active in the Children's First Day School.
It was decided to give up the Fifth Day Meetings after December 1, 1946. Helen L. Evens was always faithful in attendance of mid-week Meetings; many times she was the only one present. In 1922, during a blizzard, Howard Evens was the only one present at a First Day Meeting. He walked across the fields, as the roads were closed. In 1950 Agnes L. E. Stevens was appointed Clerk and it was decided, as a matter of policy, to hold Preparative Meetings twice yearly, in May and November “in order to review the affairs of the Meeting more regularly.” This same meeting records the following minute: “As Edwin and Mabel Ballinger move from their farm to live with their children, we experience conflicting emotions. We are glad they are to be relieved of their farm duties, but we feel a great loss in not having them to worship regularly with us.” Early in life Edwin Ballinger was called to the service of the Saviour, and has borne his testimony both in our Meeting and many others which he has visited. He has been helpful to many of us throughout his long and busy life.
“The Meeting records our sense of loss at this time and wishes to express our gratitude for the leadership Edwin Ballinger has given us. We trust these Friends will find it possible to visit us often in the years to come.”
In 1950, the last of the old horse sheds was torn down and Arthur Haines built a small shelter to house the equipment, from used lumber saved from the sheds. The entire building was repointed in the winter of 1950-51. A new roof was added about this time at a cost of $1040, partly supplied by the Merchantville Meeting Fund of the Quarterly Meeting.
The minutes of May 15, 1955 recorded “The Property committee reported that they had agreed to postpone for an indefinite time any repairs or replacement of the East porch until there was entire unity with the type of porch to be used.” On May 20, 1956 “The Property Committee reports that the porch on the front of the building had been rebuilt and completed.”
We will always remember the beautiful love and consideration shown in waiting in the spirit of humility and prayerful consideration in the final decision regarding the type of porch to build.
Now we are down to the near present, when on November 17, 1957 the following Committee was appointed to have charge of the 150th anniversary of the building of this meeting house:
Rebecca J. Evans Lewis W. Barton Elizabeth W. Cooper
Howard J. Evens Margaret L. Wills
This Committee reported, May 18, 1958, that August 8, 1958 had been set for the celebration. It was suggested, and approved, that souvenir plates and letter paper be purchased for sale to anyone interested. The plates to cost $2.30 each and to be sold for $3.00. The Committee was also asked to have a suitable history of the Meeting published for distribution at the time of the celebration.
Just as our physical property shows little change as compared with fifty years ago, so has our way of worship. We continue to gather in an expectant and seeking attitude with a feeling of the Spirit of Christ in our midst.
Visitors from time to time who encourage us to hold to our way of simplicity have greatly helped us.
As we close our periods of worship and go forth we desire to be able to say with Paul “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Gal. 2:20.
The acceptable and helpful vocal ministry of those in our young adult group is much appreciated and it is to them we look for an influence which will inspire others to this service. At all times we must be alert to 'opportunities for pastoral service in a humble and prayerful manner. Cropwell Friends have a place in the future of this community. May we meet it under Divine Guidance.
Agnes L. E. Stevens Paul S. Lippincott, Jr. Lewis W. Barton
We gather week by week
As our forebears did of yore
Seeking that Inner Peace
And of strength and guidance more.
As to form of worship
A century and a half ago
Our way today has changed but little
As far as we might know.
We gather in the quiet
As Friends were wont before
Our souls seek out to find
Humility to open wide the door.
As worldly thoughts are put aside
Our fervent, silent prayers pour out
The Presence In The Midst is felt
Hope replaces doubt.
We look back upon our lives
And see the sins so plain
With contrite hearts we ask
“Dear Christ Please make the pages white again.”
With souls refreshed and made anew
May we go forth from here
Seeking God's will for us
In all we're called to do.
Paul S. Lippincott, Jr.
March 12, 1959