COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Captain Franklin Ellis135
As the Society of Friends was so strongly represented among the proprietors and first settlers of Hudson, it was to be expected that this denomination would be the first to erect a house of worship, and such was the case.
On Sept. 8, 1784, the proprietors, at a meeting duly warned, resolved that whereas divers proprietors, members of the society called Quakers, had requested that a piece of ground be set apart for a meeting-house and school-house, they should be authorized and empowered to make choice of such lot as they might think proper, and that such lot should be a free gift to them on condition in that they should erect thereon a meeting-house before a similar application should be made by any other society. Under this resolution a lot was selected and conveyed, and very soon after a building was erected on it conformably to the condition of the grant. The lot was upon the south side of Union street, near the corner of Third street. The meeting-house erected upon it was a small frame structure, in which the society held their undemonstrative worship for a period of ten years.
In 1794 the society, having so much increased in numbers that their meeting-house had become wholly inadequate to their wants, erected on a lot which they had purchased (in the northeastern angle of Union and third streets) a brick building fifty-two by thirty-eight feet in dimension, two stories high, and of capacity to accommodate six hundred people. In accordance with the peculiar tenets of the sect, this building, both without and within, was total devoid of ornament and characterized by its plain simplicity. The men on all occasions occupied the left side of the house, the women the right; and at times, on particular occasions, a movable partition was used to divide the room and entirely separate the sexes. From this time until 1854 this meeting-house was used by the Friends. At that time they sold one hundred feet front of their lot, including the meeting-house site, to the Methodist Episcopal society, retaining a frontage of fifty feet on Union street.
Prior to this time, in the year 1828, a division occurred in the Society of Friends, caused by the preaching of peculiar doctrines by Elias Hicks, and the support given to him by a portion of the members of the sect. His followers assumed, or were given, the name of "Hicksite" Friends, while the other branch of the society received the title of "Orthodox" Friends. When this separation occurred the meeting in Hudson also became divided. The Hicksites composed about three-fourths of the society, and they continued to hold the church property, while the Orthodox Friends, being in the minority, removed to another place.
Soon after the division the London yearly meeting furnished them (the Orthodox branch) with funds for the building of a house of worship, and with these funds they erected a building on the south side of Union street, above the Court-house park; and this has continued to be their meeting-house until the present time. The title to this property is now vested in the New York yearly meeting.
This Orthodox branch of the Friends in Hudson have never had a minister. They have been connected, first with the Coeymans, and afterwards (since 1868) with the Poughkeepsie monthly meeting and with Stamford quarterly meeting. Their membership is at present about twelve.
When the Hicksites sold their meeting-house and site to the Methodists they received in part payment the old Methodist church building on Diamond street, in which they held their meetings until about 1858, when they sold it to Charles Myers, to be used as a dye-house, and then erected their present meeting-house on the fifty feet of land reserved in the sale of their original lot. Their church property is now valued at $3000. The number of members of their meeting is fifteen. Their minister is Aaron C. Macy, who has held that position during the last forty years, and who is also one of the trustees of the Hudson monthly meeting, the other two trustees being Augustus Angell, of Ghent, and Samuel Greene, of Athens.
Among the prominent early Friends were Richard Alley, Charles, Thomas, and Franklin Jenkins, Silas, Barzillai, Tristram, and Elihu Bunker (the latter was the first clerk of the Hudson monthly meeting, established in 1793), Peter and Hannah Barnard, Eliab Coffin, Thomas Comstock, John Alsop, John Macy, John Williams, Nicholas Dean, and John Howard. Of these, Thomas Comstock and Hannah Barnard were recommended ministers, and the latter was a person of importance among the members of the sect. She was a woman of medium height and slender form, with a pleasant countenance and eyes black, keen, and penetrating. Possessing an inquisitive and thoughtful mind, and being remarkably gifted in the use of language, she evolved ideas and principles in advance of her day, and was not backward in making them known to the world. While traveling in England she fell under the displeasure of the English Friends on this account, and upon her return to this country, in 1801, was disowned by the sect.
The early Friends at this place were nearly all seafaring men and interested in the (at that time) extensive commercial interests of Hudson. As that commerce waned and died their numbers suffered depletion and loss by the removal of many, especially the younger persons, to other and more promising fields of labor. Nearly a century has elapsed since the society was first formed, and but a remnant remains of this once numerous and influential sect.