Quakers and the Revolution: New Garden Friends MeetingThe following article was written by Volunteer Eliana Weiner, May 2017
The Quaker community of New Garden, also known as “Friends”, played a central role in the Battles of New Garden and Guilford Courthouse. The Battle of New Garden took place in their community, and the Friends were one of the groups of colonists who took care of the wounded soldiers from the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. A core belief of Quakerism is pacifism, which meant that Friends did not engage in violence. Quakers represent a key third group in the American Revolution that chose political neutrality, and were affected by the war nevertheless. How were they affected? What costs befell them?
Who Were the Quakers and Where Did They Come From?
In 1652, Englishman George Fox founded the Society of Friends with the hope of returning Christianity to its original simplicity. Members of the Society are known as Friends or Quakers, and believe that the Holy Spirit is the primary source of light and guidance. Instead of hired clergy, they encourage their members to speak when moved by the spirit. Members include men, women, and people of color.
Quakers in the South
In 1698, Quakers began to move south to escape religious persecution in the northern colonies. Quaker settlement in North Carolina began in Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties, some 200 miles east of Guilford County. In 1716, Governor Spotswood of Virginia began a campaign to settle the Shenandoah Valley, which inspired North Carolina governors to offer 50 acres to colonial settlers if they moved into the Piedmont area. Many Quakers accepted this offer and moved west.
Quakers during the Revolution
Because Quakers believe that every person possesses an inner divine light that guides them, they traditionally do not commit or support acts of violence. The Quakers opposed such activities as the declaration of American Independence, which led to the Revolutionary War (1775-1781), because they believed that “governments were divinely instituted and that they should only rebel should the government disobey the laws of God.” In 1695, a Quaker named John Archdale had been governor of North Carolina. He passed an act that exempted his fellow Friends from participating in the local militia. However, the Quakers faced extra taxes for these exemptions, which were paid to the Crown. Despite these additional taxes, the Quakers stood by their pacifist beliefs when the Revolution began, since violent tactics were used from the very beginning.
Did You Know Nathanael Greene Was a Quaker?
Nathanael Greene, who led the Americans in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, was born in 1742 and raised in the Rhode Island Society of Friends. During his military career, he became close to George Washington and was appointed General of the Sothern Army by him. He became interested in revolutionary efforts as a young man when he circulated petitions against raised taxes and imposed boycotts against British goods. In 1772, the colonists’ rising antagonism towards the Navigation Acts turned to action. The Gaspeé, a British ship that enforced the Navigation Acts and controlled trade with the colonies, ran aground on the Rhode Island coast. Colonists burned the ship, and the Crown called for an investigation of the conspirators. Nathanael Greene was accused of conspiring against the Crown. Rejecting his pacifist upbringing, Greene “threatened to put a hole in his accuser big enough to ‘let the sun shine through.’” The false accusation angered Greene and increased his ill feelings toward the British. In 1773, Greene began attending “military gathering[s]” and shortly after, in mid-1773, the Society of Friends disowned him. Little did Greene know that he would later call upon Friends for help in a time of great need.
The Battles of New Garden and Guilford Courthouse: Where Were the Quakers?
In 1778, the British launched the Southern Campaign in an attempt to gather support from the supposed Loyalist population in the Southern states. In the six months leading up to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the American and British forces met at the battles of Cowpens and King’s Mountain in northern South Carolina.
Who Else Helped the Wounded?
The Quakers of New Garden were not alone in caring for the wounded. All homes, barns, and other structures in the community of Guilford Courthouse and the surrounding area were used as makeshift hospitals for the hundreds of wounded soldiers. Some were taken as far as Saura Town, north of Greensboro on the banks of the Dan River.  The battle covered such a large area, over 1,000 acres, that some of the wounded were not found until a few days after the battle. For example, Arthur Forbis, a Captain in the local militia, lay on the battlefield for over 24 hours before a local woman found him. Unfortunately, his wounds were fatal and he died a few days later.
Where Are They Now? The New Garden Community After the Battle
The Meeting House where Friends cared for many of the wounded soldiers burned in 1784. Construction for a new Meeting House began in 1791, and in 1884 yet another Meeting House was built. In 1961 the current Meeting House was built and has been used since then. In 1837 the New Garden Boarding School was founded for educating the sons and daughters of North Carolina Quaker families. In 1888 the school officially became Guilford College, which now serves Quaker and non-Quaker students from all over the state, country, and world. The community of New Garden evolved over the years. In 1888, the town was renamed Guilford College, and remained so until 1972 when it was incorporated into the city of Greensboro.
 Hiram H. Hilty, New Garden Friends Meeting: The Christian People Called Quakers, Greensboro, NC, 2001, p. 4.
 Hilty, New Garden Friends Meeting: The Christian People Called Quakers, p. 1-2.
 The Cane Creek community is still an active Quaker community in the town of Snow Camp. It is the oldest Quaker settlement in the Piedmont.
 ibid. 2-3
 ibid. 4
 ibid. 5
 “The Quakers of New Garden”, p. 1.
Hilty, New Garden Friends Meeting, p. 21.
 “Records of Minutes of New Garden Monthly Meeting of Friends in Guilford County N.C. From 1775-1782”, p. 1.
 “The Quakers of New Garden”, p. 2.
 “”Records of Minutes” p 4
 “New Garden Friends” p. 1.
 The Navigation Acts impeded American imports and exports, by imposing British regulations
 ASV, 23
 Thomas E. Baker, Another Such Victory: The Story of the American Defeat at Guilford Courthouse That Helped Win the War for Independence, Eastern National, 2005, p. 23.
 Baker, Another Such Victory, p. 24.
 Ibid. p. 21, 27.
 Hilty, “New Garden Friends Meeting”, p. 23.
 Ibid., p. 23-24.
 Nathaniel Greene letter. If you wish to read the letter in its entirety, please see link at the bottom of the article.
 Letter to Greene. If you wish to read the letter in its entirety, please see link at the bottom of the article.
 Ibid. p. 23
 The cemetery is located behind the New Garden Friends Meeting on New Garden Road. The mass grave in which the soldiers are buried is marked with bricks in the earth.
 St. George Tucker (Saura Town, March 18, 1781), to “My ever dear Fanny”.
 Saura Town is located at 36.3750° N, 80.3716° W
 Rev. E.W. Caruthers, A Sketch of the Life and Character of the Rev. David Caldwell, D.D., Swaim and Sherwood, Greensborough, NC, 1842. p 238.
 ibid. p. 24, 51.
 Located about 3.5 miles from the park, on New Garden Road
 Ibid. p 44
 ibid. p. 47.
Last updated: May 2, 2018