A Brief History of Providence Meeting House as compiled by Joan Lyons from the recollections of Mr. David Binns and from Himshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Research.

Also from Joan Lyons: the Providence Meeting House Cemetery List and the Old Malta Hall Cemetery List.

Photograph by the Webmaster

This building stands as a memorial to the Quaker pioneers who took part in the early settlement of this region and as a reminder of a long-departed way of life. The highly respected Society of Friends has been uniquely identified with our state since the day of its founder, William Penn. The first settlement of the Society of Friends in our part of the state appears to have been at Uniontown in about 1769. In 1776 this group was reported to consist of 18 families residing about Uniontown, Redstone, and Brownsville. These families formed the nucleus of what was to become the Redstone Monthly Meeting, of which Providence Meeting became a branch. The Redstone Meeting was formally “set off ” on April 26, 1793 from the parent Westland Monthly Meeting located in Virginia. Besides Fayette Co., Redstone Meeting appears to have included parts of Westmoreland Co. and Monongalia Co. in what is now West Virginia.

In the year 1785 Mr. John Cope migrated from West Chester, Pa. to this section of the state. He found the facilities for religious worship unsatisfactory, possibly due to the distance from other religious groups. Available information does not indicate whether John Cope was at that time a member of the Society of Friends. In any event, the record states that John Cope and a group of associates received a charter for a “Preparative Meeting ” in 1789. This suggests that Providence Meeting was at first a probationary or introductory congregation. The recognition of Providence Meeting may have been secured through Westland Meeting in Virginia, since the date is prior to the independent recognition of the Redstone Meeting. Hinshaw mentions various other branches of the Redstone Meeting. Fifteen acres of land were purchased by the Cope group and a log structure was erected on the site now occupied by the present building. This was the beginning of Providence Meeting. It was a beautiful hilltop location with an inspiring view. Here John Cope has a final resting place in the adjoining cemetery. It soon became obvious to the members of the new meeting that the log building did not properly satisfy their needs. The construction of a more substantial meeting house was completed in 1793. It consisted of stone walls with hewn logs laid on the ground and covered with a wood flooring. Rough benches, made by the members of the meeting, constituted the furnishings. Open fireplaces were built into the walls at each end of the building. The Society of Friends believed in education, and a subscription school was opened on the property. Parents of the pupils in school paid their proportionate share of the cost of operating the school. When a public school system was provided by the State of Pennsylvania, the Friends school closed.

Redstone quarterly meeting records indicate that Providence Meeting was fully recognized and established in 1817. The most active period of the Provident Meeting appears to have been from the date of organization until about 1832. A gradual loss of vitality set in after this time. Hinshaw states that death and removals caused the membership to be so reduced in number that the remaining members were transferred to Redstone Meeting at Brownsville between 1832 and 1870. Mr. Binns recalled that that meetings of Providence Friends were abandoned in 1880.

By 1893 the empty stone building of 1793 was in disrepair. Mrs. Elma Cope Binns and her associates set about the construction of a memorial building on the place where the Providence Meeting house stood. The stone and other materials remaining from the old structure were used to erect a building of a somewhat reduced size. According to Hinshaw, this reconstruction was carried out in 1895 by Mrs. Mary Binns, a descendent of the early Quakers. The relationship between Mary and Elma Binns is not presently clear. It was intended that the memorial building would serve as a chapel for funerals and as a shelter for family groups who might visit the adjoining cemetery. Fourteen of the fifteen acres of the ground originally purchased had been sold prior to this time, and a single acre remained in the possession of Providence Meeting.
 

Joan Lyons is Curator of the Old State Bank Building Museum.
Her e-mail address is
stjoan@winbeam.com.

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