• Pink flowers blossom in the garden of a white two-room cottage.

    Herbert Hoover

    National Historic Site Iowa

Friends Meetinghouse

Located two blocks from its original site, the Friends Meetinghouse is the physical expression of the values of the Quaker faith practiced by Herbert Hoover's family and the community of West Branch. Built by the Society of Friends in 1857, this single story wood frame building was relocated and restored in 1964 to reflect how it looked when Hoover attended services here as a child.

 
Wooden benches and an iron stove sunlit through double hung windows with reddish trim furnish the plain interior of the Friends Meetinghouse.
Wooden benches and an iron stove provide simple furnishings for the restored Friends Meetinghouse.
NPS PHOTO
 
Broad, white, frame building with a side porch and two front doors surrounded by a snowscape and leafless trees.

Herbert and his family worshipped at this Friends Meetinghouse.

NPS Photo

Ruthie Tippin, pastor of the West Branch Friends Church, says of the historic Meetinghouse:

"The first thing that you notice is how simple it is. The simplicity of the meeting room was intentional, the way it's laid out, the lack of ornamentation, the clarity of it, and that was to allow absolutely nothing to distract one from the presence of God. And that had a great impact on Herbert Hoover, and all others who worship as Friends."

Two meetings for worship were held each week, on First Day, Sunday, and Fourth Day, Wednesday. Quakers used numbers to mark their days and months because they didn't believe in the mythological gods whose names were used in Roman calendars – like March – named for Mars, the god of war.

What Quakers did believe in according to Pastor Tippin was the concept of the Inner Light being present in every human soul. "Friends started out without a pastor," she says, "and then, this division came between those who were satisfied and loved the sense of quiet waiting, against those who felt like there was something more to be had in a pastoral setting."

When Hoover was a child, there were no paid ministers. For 60 to 90 minutes, without benefit of music, or sacraments, the congregation would sit on the rows of long wooden benches. Find out how long you can sit still for. Just like in the 1870s: women and girls on the left, and men and boys to the right.

Who sat in the reraised benches at the front of the room? Pastor Tippin says, "So the elders—the ministry and oversight—would sit on the facing benches and they would sit in silence waiting, just waiting to see what God would do—what God would say—through the membership."

As the spirit moved them, people rose and spoke spontaneously. When there seemed to be no more messages, the elders rose, shook hands, and the meeting ended. Aware of how their actions might affect the world around them, the Friends tried earnestly to live lives that honored their commitments to love, integrity, equality, and peace. Those testimonies that Herbert Hoover experienced here as a child, instilled in him a drive to become a successful leader and one of the world's great humanitarians.

Women, including Herbert's mother Hulda, played an important role in the Quaker meeting. Find out more »

 

 

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This is a stop on the virtual tour of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

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Did You Know?

Photograph of Herbert Hoover as an infant.

Herbert Hoover was the first person born west of the Mississippi River to become president. Seven other presidents were born west of the river. More...