A history of
1863 – 1963
by Edith H. Jones
May 18, 1963
"Great oaks from little
Probably the lone Friends family who
arrived in St. Anthony in 1851 hardly envisioned a Minneapolis Friends
Meeting of 300 members in 1963. But the William Wales family were joined
by other Friends in 1852, and still others in 1853 and ensuing years.
Early arrivals came mostly from New Hampshire and other Eastern states;
then from North Carolina, where their Abolitionist principles had made
them unwelcome residents. For some time these Friends were not able even
to secure the transfer of their rights of membership.
The first religious meetings held
"according to the order of Friends" occurred in 1854. Regular weekly meetings for worship were instituted at the home of a Friend in
1855, and transferred to Bassett’s Hall in 1862. Mid-week meetings at a
new meeting-house had begun in 1861. This meeting-house was built in 1860
at an estimated cost of $877.38. One member gave the shingles, another
built the foundation and furnished white lead for the second coat of
paint, one contributed the front doors, sash and stoves, while still
another gave 26 days of labor, etc., etc. "The record was accurately
kept." A few amenities such as hitching posts were added later.
A First Day School for children and
a Bible class for adults was set up, and a little later a library
association was formed. However, it was not until 1863 that Minneapolis
Monthly Meeting was organized, under the care of Red Cedar Quarterly
Meeting of Iowa and Iowa Yearly Meeting.
Some of the early Friends became
community leaders of importance. William Winifred Wales, soon after
arriving, began holding "religious meetings in a hall over a saloon,
open to all who wished to come." Because spring vegetables were
shipped up river from the South and hence were expensive, he started to
grow vegetables, but later resigned this occupation to open a bookstore
with a circulating library. He was elected to the territorial council in
1856, held the offices of mayor and clerk in St. Anthony, and was made
postmaster by President Lincoln. Still, his interests were not confined to
Minnesota. He did relief work for Indians and freedmen in various places,
and in 1884 became a missionary to North Carolina mountaineers.
Cyrus Beede and E. Julius Mendenhall
early established a bank in Minneapolis, and Julius Mendenhall later a
thriving floral business. Drs. Alfred Lindley and Nathan Hill were medical
practitioners and also dealt in real estate. Dr. Hill was at times on the
state medical board, president of the state medical society, and president
of the city council.
The activities of Minneapolis women
Friends will concern us later.
There were some 60 Quakers in
Minneapolis in 1861, and by 1870, 145; but since the newcomers tended to
settle on farms west of the city, they were cared for in preparative
meetings. Among these groups, Sharon, Sylvan (later called Highland), and
Howard Lake subsequently united to form Union Monthly Meeting, under
Winneshiek Quarter. Winneshiek in its new status as a quarterly meeting
included Minneapolis until 1876, when Minneapolis itself became a
quarterly meeting. Two other meetings were established: Redwood in Wright
County, and Abbyville in Renville County, but did not long survive. Union
Meeting was laid down in 1900.
In addition, two meetings were
organized in Minneapolis: Lake Street, on Stevens Avenue near Lake Street,
opened in 1886 to accommodate Friends in that part of the city but again
merged with Minneapolis Meeting in 1895; and, much more recently, Church
Street Preparative (now Twin Cities Monthly) Meeting. The latter decided
in 1956 to join Illinois, rather than Iowa, Yearly Meeting, thus severing
official relationship with Minneapolis Meeting — though the two groups
co-operate in projects of common Friendly concern. Minneapolis
Monthly and Quarterly Meetings are thus left, for all practical purposes,
After the consolidation of Lake
Street and Minneapolis Meetings, the little structure on Hennepin Avenue
was sold, and a new meeting-house was built at First Avenue South and 14th
Street. This was occupied until 1950, when it was sold and the church at
York Avenue South and 44th Street which we occupy today was purchased.
Various improvements have been made here from time to time: purchase of a
Wurlitzer organ, remodeling the basement, enclosing the balcony for
additional classroom space, installing a public address system, and
redecorating the office and study have all contributed to efficiency of
operation. Through the years, three parsonages in succession have been
procured and remodeled.
The often quaint minutes of the
early days make interesting reading. For instance, there is an 1864
application for membership. "Apprehending it to be my duty to request
your Christian care and oversight, I submit the same." Sarah Hiatt in
1869 "apprehended it was (her) duty to stand resigned to attend some
of the meetings belonging to Iowa Yearly Meeting in the love of the
Gospel, to visit some families, and as way opens to appoint meetings among
those not of our society."
Iowa Yearly Meeting felt concern for
its component members, who faithfully read and sought to follow such
communications as the following "extract in the exercise of Iowa
Yearly Meeting of Ministers and Elders," dated 15th of 9th month,
The importance of presenting
ministry in an agreeable manner was affectionately urged upon our
consideration, that the great cause we are called to advocate, be not
marred by affected tongues and manners …
Our members were recommended
in their meetings at home to extend caution against too lengthy and
discursive communication, especially in large meetings, and against
unnecessary additions near the close, when the service of meetings has
been well left.
* * *
The desire nevertheless prevails
that in laboring for the removal of all these things which lessen the
effect of ministry we may not ‘quench the spirit,’ but that the loving
hand of sympathy and help may be extended to those who are coming forward
under the Master’s preparing hand in the service of the Gospel.
Some years later, Minneapolis
Preparative Meeting added this admonition:
While we wish any member to feel
full liberty to engage in a service of song if it is felt incumbent to do
so, and others under a like impression of duty might join therein we
recommend that others do not join as a congregation especially in our
First Day morning meetings for we believe that singing like any other
religious service should be engaged in under the promptings of the Spirit
and that more than this tends to confusion.
The Library began operations with 33
Friends’ books sent by Indiana Yearly Meeting. Under the date of
9-2-1860, we read: "At the close of First Day morning meeting William
R. Smith and James Beane were appointed a committee to consider
establishing a library," and on 9-30-1860, they reported some rules,
which were revised and adopted "for the preservation and proper use
of a library."
Among these rules we note first the
1. "To aid in the spread of
Gospel truth as professed by founders of the Society of Friends.
Selections need not be confined to doctrinal works or Friends
publications, yet no book is to be admitted conflicting with their
principles or the object in view.
2. "Friends are to be appointed
annually to sustain this object and adopt such measures as may increase
the number of books and insure their circulation and return.
3. "Any responsible person or
representative of a family shall be entitled to the use of one volume for
three weeks — after which it may be paid for at retail price, or charged
a dime a week, at the discretion of the committee.
4. "The librarian or his
assistant shall open the library at the close of every meeting until
otherwise ordered and shall have an alphabetical listing of the books for
Originally men and women met
separately for the transaction of business, though on important matters
they might hold joint sessions. Men’s meeting minutes often say,
"Women Friends concurring." However, in 1893, separate sessions
were abolished and joint consideration became the rule.
Much of the work of the meeting was
assigned to committees. There were, for instance, standing committees on
Education, Books, and Tracts, and Concerns of People of Color, as well as
the temporary committees for especial needs, like seating in the new
meeting-house. When committees were appointed, they were usually
instructed to report to the next meeting, and if they were not ready then,
were continued until they did report.
But even though appointed committees
carried large responsibility, individual members also carried much.
Friends frequently felt moved to travel, sometimes only within the limits
of the Yearly Meeting, often to other yearly meetings, sometimes as far a
Europe, "in the love of the Gospel." If, after "weighty
consideration," the Meeting gave approval to the concern, it provided
a minute and usually appointed a committee to assist the traveler.
Financial needs were cared for by
individual assessments (proportioned by a committee) — Alfred Lindley and
Nathan Hill always headed the lists with the largest assignments — and
yearly and quarterly meetings assessed their constituent meetings.
Sometimes there was need for extra funds; in a minute dated 1-18-1884 we
read, "To replenish the treasury each member is requested to hand to
the treasurer the sum of ten cents each monthly meeting day."
The Meeting took a special
responsibility for keeping the individual members in line and did not
hesitate to disown any who strayed from the path of rectitude. Still, a
member so dealt with had a recourse: he could appeal to a higher meeting,
and in more than one instance, Iowa Yearly Meeting reversed the decision
of Minneapolis Monthly or Quarterly Meeting.
To see that Christian morals and
Friends principles were consistently observed, each yearly meeting adopted
a set of queries. (This idea had originated in England in the early years
of Quakerism.) Monthly and quarterly meetings used these as measuring rods
for both meetings and individuals. Here are answers to a few of the
queries used in Iowa Yearly Meeting in the 1860’s. Minneapolis reported:
1. "Unbecoming behavior guarded
against except some cases of drowsiness."
2. "One instance of unbecoming
behavior, ale-bearing and detraction."
3. "Each family have (sic) a
copy of the Holy Scriptures."
4. "Friends are clear of
importing, vending, or distilling to the unnecessary use of intoxicating
liquors, as far as appears. No attendance at circus shows that we know
5. "Friends maintain a
testimony against Priests and Ministers’ wages, and against Slavery,
Lotteries, and trading in goods taken in war. There is one instance of
violation of our testimony against oaths, and two instances of assisting
the Military Service."
6. "We fear that sufficient
endeavors are not used to educate (children) in plainness of speech and
deportment and apparel."
7. "Friends do not all appear
concerned to teach their children that the wearing of gay apparel and
conforming to the vain fashions of the world are inconsistent with the
precepts and promises of the Bible."
8. "All parents and heads of
families are not sufficiently careful to take their children to meeting
with them in the middle of the week."
To Friends, with their appreciation
of education, the matter of children’s attendance at mid-morning meeting
on Fifth Day must have posed a problem. But they believed in putting first
things first, and requested that their children be excused from school at
the meeting hour. St. Anthony refused, but Minneapolis granted the
Among the statistics which monthly
meetings must furnish periodically to quarterly, and quarterly to yearly,
meetings were the number of persons, male and female, who habitually used
tobacco, and the number (if any) engaged in liquor transactions.
Because Friends disliked
ostentation, in 1865 they purchased their own burying ground, in 1873 they
relinquished it, to lease ground from Lakewood Cemetery, for 99 years.
Perhaps I have dwelt too long on our
history of the 19th century, but I can scarcely leave the early years
without a few words about social service. Here women Friends were
Abby Mendenhall, who came to
Minneapolis in 1858 as the bride of Junius Mendenhall, helped form the
Sisterhood of Bethany, who objects were "the promotion of moral
purity, helping the tempted, saving the fallen, and providing a home for
fallen women" — at that time a work almost unprecedented and
extremely unpopular. She was one of four women to found Bethany Home for
unwed mothers; she was its secretary the first year, and after that, the
treasurer, from 1877 until her death, a period of 23 years.
Many later institutions are
said to have owed their incentive to this work — such, for instance, as
police matron, day nursery, juvenile court, home school for girls, and
maternity hospital. Bethany Home was enlarged to care for homeless
children, and the founders’ work increased in scope to include visiting
houses of ill repute, variety theaters, and the jail, police court, poor
farm, city council, and mayor.
Always delicate in health, and
usually facing a deficit at Bethany, Abby Mendenhall nevertheless gave
herself without stint to the individual girls at the home, frequently
entertained visiting Friends, and was active in many concerns of the
meeting. She and her sister, Sarah Swift, were the organizers of
Northwestern Hospital, and she and Eliza Lendley helped form the Women’s
Christian Association, for some time the only organized society for relief
of the poor except for two church groups whose work was limited to their
The Women’s Christian Association
opened women’s boarding homes — at first especially for young girls —
and the Jones-Harrison Home for Aged Women. Iliza Lindley has been called
the dean among directors of the association. She was head of the Boarding
House Committee for 31 years, from 1882 until her death. Annis Stuart,
one-time president of the organization, spent much of her time visiting in
jails; and Phebe McMillan, first salaried employee of the city’s Poor
Department, was a genius at devising new methods of public relief.
Turning now to the 1900s, we find
with the turn of the century a sudden decline in Friends membership —
from over 300 in Minneapolis and many in outlying groups, to a total in
1900 of only slightly over 200. Rural meetings disappeared, many of their
members moving away or transferring their memberships elsewhere. Some, we
are told, "for personal or social reasons," joined other
By 1905 "Minneapolis Friends
became so concerned about the shrinkage in their numbers" that they
asked advice of the Yearly Meeting. They once had a pastor, William Penn
Angell, but with a single exception had been for several years without
one. Eleanor Wood once served part-time — and to the consternation of
some Friends had introduced a piano into the Sunday morning service! Now,
in 1909, A. Edward Kelsey was called as a full-time pastor. He introduced
many of the "current features of other churches, such as roll-call
dinners and printed bulletins." He also replaced the old system of
assessments with an annual every-member canvass and duplex offering
envelopes; and headed a study class in the history and principles of
Friends, an activity which brought new members into the meeting. The
Sunday School attendance nearly doubled the first year and continued to
grow. But he had left missionary work in Palestine because of his wife’s
illness, and after her death and his remarriage he again set his face
toward the work to which he felt called.
Since the coming of Edward Kelsey,
Minneapolis Meeting has never been without a pastor except for the
unavoidable breaks between pastorates. Samuel Haworth was with us during
the whole of the first World War. He was extremely active in peace efforts
and was in consequence more or less a marked man. Evellyn Haworth says,
"Samuel Haworth was privileged to present Friends Peace Principles to
churches, civic organizations, clubs, public schools, university students,
the Minneapolis Journal, and through the Peace Society."
One innovation which he introduced
was All-Friends Day, held on the Sunday nearest to All-Saints Day. People
whose ancestors had been Friends, and others outside our membership but
with an especial interest in our principles, were invited; and attendance
boomed — until the novelty wore off.
Samuel Haworth was deeply interested
in war relief and encouraged Friends to be liberal in its support. In the
June, 1917, meeting bulletin, he quoted an English bulletin as follows:
"FROM THE THIRD ANNUAL
OF THE ENGLISH FRIENDS
WAR VICTIMS RELIEF COMMITTEE
"The total number of cases
cared for at the Maternity Hospital in Chalons, France, is now 1,429."
"Madame la Comtesse de
Morillothas loaned her chateau at Bettan Court … for a convalescent home
for children … 250 children have been cared for here…"
"They are working in four
general centers in Russia … there being no other relief workers there
"The need for such relief work
grows greater and greater and English Friends are appealing to Friends in
America for help …"
"The women of the church are
planning to have the meeting house open one day each week … that all who
will, may come and help make garments for the war victims."
It was agreed the Finance Committee
of Minneapolis Meeting would ask for a special pledge from each member.
The January 1918 bulletin reported money given for war relief the last
six months of 1917 as $659.67, and the clothing as three large shipments.
To our disappointment, Samuel
Haworth decided on account of the better climate for his health, the aging
of his parents, and the proximity to Guilford College, to accept a call to
High Point, North Carolina. He left early in 1919, having blessed us with
six years of inspirational leadership.
Within a few months of his departure
we were favored to secure the pastoral services of Ellison Purdy, who came
to us from work at Wilmington College. He soon organized a committee of
Friends and other interested citizens to cooperate with the American
Friends Service Committee in raising funds for relief of undernourished
German children. More than $30,000 was raised, and some progress was made,
we felt, toward reconciliation and goodwill.
Other projects in which he engaged
were conducting a service once a month at the Union City Mission, helping
to form a Minneapolis Council of Churches and a Minneapolis Committee for
Russian Relief, and encouraging formation of a Minnesota Council of
Churches. He was soon appointed chairman of the Comity Committee of the
Minneapolis Council of Churches and later president of the Minister’s
Federation of the city. Harriet Purdy was president of the Five Years
Meeting Women’s Missionary Union, and both Ellison and Harriet were
speakers at the 1927 Summer School of Missions here. Once a month Ellison
Purdy conducted a devotional service over the radio.
His health had not been good for
some years, and on November 15, 1932, he suggested that, since he
"could not do the work with the push that ought to be put into
it," he go for three months on half pay. The pastoral Committee did
not approve such a change at that time, but said the matter could be
brought up later if necessary. Ellison Purdy then asked what could be done
to stir up interest, and a loyalty Day was suggested. This was held very
effectively in March, Ellison being present and giving the closing
message. This was his last church service with us, as he passed away on
June 15. H. Linneus McCracken of the University had been preaching for
some weeks, and continued to do so, until H. Millard Jones arrived as our
Millard Jones was especially
interested in temperance work; he as Education Director and Roscoe Coffin
as President of the Minnesota Temperance Movement had a good team.
Millard Jones was an inspirational speaker and varied the conduct of the
Sunday morning worship hour. He preached evangelistic sermons at the Union
City Mission and gave temperance talks on the radio and in the schools.
Friends were ably represented at
this time in the Minneapolis Church federation, The Minneapolis Council of
Federated Church Women, the Minnesota School of Missions, the Family
Welfare Association, and the Phyllis Wheatley House for Negroes. The
younger women of our meeting had their own missionary group, called the
Margaret Fell Society.
Millard Jones was succeeded in the
pastorate by Wendell Hansen, who conducted a very successful Sunday School
contest and initiated a monthly meeting for worship in St. Paul; and then
by Edgar Stranahan, whose story-telling and Bible teaching are still
remembered with gratitude. Between their terms of service we often had the
privilege of listening to Glenn Clark of Macalester College or George
Congdon of the University of Minnesota. Edgar Stranahan’s fruitful
ministry was not to be for long, as he was soon called to his eternal
reward. His widow, Irene Stranahan, helped in part to take his place.
When Walter Wilson came, he was
interested in the children and helped families with small children to
institute a "night at home" program one night a week for three
weeks of each month, and all such families to gather the fourth week.
Richard Newby’s eleven-year
pastorate was a continual success story. He revitalized the church, did a
prodigious amount of outside work with the Christian groups of the city,
and made a great impact on the lives of old and young. Sunday morning
meetings came to average over 100 in attendance, and Sunday School and
other groups increased correspondingly. It was hard to let him go, but we
realized his potentialities for larger service as he accepted the call to
The more recent history is too well
known, I think, to need recounting. Harold Tellefson came to us in 1958,
and has been a tower of strength. His happy spirit is a boon, and he and
Gladys are always giving sacrificially wherever service is needed. The new
emphases on Equal Opportunity, Family Camps, Regional AFSC work, Turn
Towards Peace, and State Fair publicity for Peace are familiar to us all
and merit our support and cooperation.
Minneapolis Meeting has played an
important part in shaping the city’s life and molding its citizens’
ideals. The meeting has been influential in Quakerism, and that not only
in the middle West, for it has sent sons and daughters to far fields of
ministry and missionary labor. But it has not always lived up to its high
calling, and we today are keenly aware that responsibility for its life
and service now rests on us, individually and collectively. May we each
and all seek the divine leading and press forward in holy obedience.
ADDITION, April, 1967
After Harold Tellefson left in 1965
(for West Milton, Ohio), L. Willard Reynolds, recently retired from
Earlham, Iowa, pastorate, came to us on an interim basis. He was supposed
to be working part time, but he and his wife, Sabron, put in practically
full time in fruitful love and service. Minneapolis Meeting greatly
appreciated them and their efforts in our behalf.
In July, 1966 Mervyn Curran, a 1966
graduate of the Earlham School of Religion, and his wife Joy, arrived to
take up the work. They are with us now.