Early North Carolina Quakers

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Editor's note: This page arose from an attempt to document the life of James Brown (Brown-2471), in particular his time in North Carolina as recorded in the minutes of several Quaker meetings. Others studying the early North Carolina Quakers may find it of use.

James Brown was born in Pennsylvania in 1681 to Quakers James Brown and Honor Clayton Brown. Much of his life is a mystery. Around 1752, he moved to North Carolina, where he apparently lived out his life, dying there around 1766. We don't know why James went to North Carolina. He was apparently not accompanied by a wife or children, but we do know that he had relatives and associates there.

We first find James in Cane Creek/New Garden in the north central part of the state. He requests a certificate to Carver's Creek in southeast North Carolina, but there is no record of him there. Next he goes to Dunn's Creek, then to Core Sound on the Atlantic coast. What we know of James's time in North Carolina comes from Quaker meeting minutes, which have been transcribed in three sets: James Brown Senr 1753 certificate request, 1761 apology and readmission, and Carteret County 1764-66.



Settlement of North Carolina

North Carolina was one of the original Thirteen Colonies. Inhabited for ten thousand years by indigenous people, it was explored by the Spanish in the 16th century. The Spaniards eventually retreated due to conflicts with the natives. In the latter part of the century, in the 1580s, Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish two colonies on the coast, including the notorious Roanoke, but both failed. Later, English colonists migrated south from Virginia, arriving in significant numbers by the 1660s.[1] An interesting account suggests many of these first settlers were commoners and runaway indentured servants.[2]

Once part of the Province of Carolina, North Carolina became a separate colony in 1712 and was established as a royal colony in 1729.[1]

According to NCPedia, Quakers were some of the first settlers to move to North Carolina, because the colony had established religious freedom as early as 1672.[3]

Quakers in North Carolina

"Virtually a Quaker province." As Lindley Butler writes, "Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, are the oldest organized Christian church in North Carolina...the Irish evangelist William Edmundson visited the Albemarle region in March 1672 for three days, holding the first religious services in the colony and laying a foundation that would result in North Carolina’s becoming in its early years virtually a Quaker province...When Edmundson returned to the colony in 1676, he reported that Friends were 'finely settled...'’’ The earliest Quaker meetings were at Perquimans and Pasquotank, both located in northeast North Carolina along Albemarle Sound.[4] In his interesting article, Butler also discusses the North Carolina Quakers' pacifist role during the Revolution, their opposition to slavery, and their founding of what would become Guilford College. The college today is an important repository of Quaker records.

Some early Quakers who moved to North Carolina arrived there from Pennsylvania. Others arrived from Rhode Island and Virginia, the latter often originally from Pennsylvania.

According to "Our Quaker Friends of ye Olden Time," James Johnson and other Quakers from Chester County, Pennsylvania removed to North Carolina between 1751 and 1770.[5] The two Quakers mentioned as coming from Nottingham are James Brown and James Johnson. The text continues, stating: ‘’They [the men previously identified] represented some of the oldest and best Quaker families in Pennsylvania…”

Quaker Meetings

Below are the meetings mentioned in the biography of James Brown (Brown-2471), listed chronologically in order of their creation. A state map on this page shows the location of each.

Core Sound (Carteret County)

Core Sound, given its coastal location, is, unsurprisingly, one of the earliest Quaker meetings recorded in North Carolina. The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program notes that:

"The first Quaker meeting in Carteret County was organized on August 1, 1733, at the home of William Borden. The meeting was to be held the first 'third day,' or Tuesday, of each month for 'time to come' and the Sunday prior to the meeting was set aside as the representative meeting to be held at the home of Henry Stanton . In 1736, Nicolas Briant[6] gave the Quakers some land a few miles north of Beaufort on which they build the Core Sound Meeting House and Friends from Rhode Island sent '60 pounds Rhoadisland money' toward its construction. The Pasquotank Monthly Meeting designated Core Sound as a Monthly Meeting the same year. Henry Stanton donated two adjacent acres for pasture in 1737.
"At the peak of its membership, the Core Sound Meeting had seven subordinate meetings. Three of the meetings, Core Creek, Clubfoot Creek, and Beaufort, were within a few miles of Meeting House at Core Sound. The other four meetings were more dispersed: Upper Trent and Lower Trent in Craven County; Bath; and Mattamuskeet, north of the Pamilco River. In 1799, and again in 1831, many Eastern North Carolina Quakers moved west to Ohio and Indiana in an effort to retreat from slavery as well as to seek out better lands and a more healthful climate. The Core Sound Monthly Meeting was 'laid down,' or discontinued, in 1841. The remaining members were attached to the Contentnea Monthly Meeting. At the yearly meeting of the Society of Friends at Guilford College in 1898, the Quakers ceded the Core Sound Meeting House property to the Ann Street Methodist Church of Beaufort."[7]

Hinshaw discusses Core Sound Meeting on pages 263-4 of his Encyclopedia, [8] with an index of names following.

Carver's Creek

The first homogeneous community in [Bladen] county was the Quakers according to Stephen B. Weeks, writing in Southern Quakers and Slavery. "The earliest of these meetings in NC seems to have been that at Carver’s Creek in Bladen County. It was named from the founder of the settlement, James Carver, who moved from Pennsylvania. It was begun about 1740, and asked for a Monthly Meeting as early as 1743; in 1746 one had been settled. It belonged to the Eastern Quarter..."[9]

Bladen County, North Carolina had been created in 1734 and covered most of central and western North Carolina at that time. Eventually 55 of that state’s 100 counties were formed from parts of Bladen County.[10]

Note: Carver's Creek Meeting is also discussed below in the Dunn's Creek paragraph.

Dunn's Creek

Dunn's Creek is roughly mid-way between Cane Creek (in the north central part of the state) and the coast. According to the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, "Early Quaker settlers found their way into North Carolina’s Cape Fear River valley beginning in the 1730’s. From as far away as Pennsylvania, members of the Society of Friends migrated to the region for its fertile land and ease of navigation. By 1740, two of the earliest known meetings were established in close proximity, Carver’s Creek and Dunn’s Creek. Dunn’s Creek met in a part of Bladen County that became Cumberland County in 1754. Both Carver’s and Dunn’s had attendance sufficient to forward to the Perquimans Quarterly Meeting and Eastern Yearly Meeting a request to be given the status of Monthly Meetings. Carver’s received that status in 1746, and Dunn’s request was granted in 1750. Dunn’s was led by founding member Richard Dunn[11] who first associated the Meeting with Eastern Quakers but the group later joined the Western Quarter in 1760."[12]

Cane Creek

Cane Creek is located in north central North Carolina. According to "Cane Creek, Mother of Meetings," Friends arrived in the Cane Creek area as early as 1749, and there were around 30 families there when the Meeting was established in 1751.[13]

A number of additional meetings were begun by Cane Creek, including Deep River (1753), New Garden (1754), Rocky River (1754), Centre (1757), Spring (1777), Holly Spring (1790), and Edward Hill (1899).[14]

The first Browns at Cane Creek appear to have been Ruth Large Brown, widow of Thomas Brown, and some of her children. There is no known familial connection between Thomas and James Brown (Brown-2471).

Hinshaw discusses Cane Creek on page 343 of Volume I of his Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy.[15]

New Garden

Note: James Brown (Brown-2471) may have been a member of the New Garden Meeting for up to ten years (1754 to around 1764). Much of the information in this section is taken from an earlier version of his profile biography.

The New Garden Monthly Meeting, an offshoot of Cane Creek, was formally established in 1754 in what was then part of Bladen County, North Carolina. That meeting was named for New Garden MM, of Chester Co., Pennsylvania, a meeting this James Brown attended in 1720 (and was disowned by). In 1771, that part of North Carolina became Guilford County, the name now associated with that New Garden MM.

This is also the part of North Carolina where Abigail (Brown) Thornburgh and her husband settled in the 1740s, after their Frederick County, Virginia Quaker marriage at Hopewell MM, witnessed by her father, James Brown.[16] (It is a subject of dispute as to which James Brown this might have been.) Thomas Thornburg (Abigail’s husband) is noted as being a founding member of the New Garden MM, coming from “Deep River” about 20 miles south-west of the New Garden site. All of these meetings were located in Bladen County, NC in the 1750s.

Hinshaw's "Encyclopedia of American Genealogy Vol. 1" for New Garden MM, Guilford NC shows James Brown in the company of Richard Beeson, as well as other people mentioned as founding fathers of Hopewell MM, Frederick County, Virginia, or their children, and also mentions Thomas Thornburgh, who became the first clerk of New Garden MM NC. According to his WikiTree profile, Richard Beeson lived in Nottingham from 1706 to 1732, when he moved to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he lived until around 1736 when he moved to Virginia.

On page 487 of the "Encyclopedia" Hinshaw itemizes some of the membership of the New Garden Monthly Meeting:[17]

"A list of the names of some of the men embraced in the original membership of New Garden Monthly Meeting includes Thomas Beals, Benjamin Beeson, near Deep River, Wm Beeson, Abraham Cook, Daniel Dillon, Eleazar Hunt, William Hunt, Mordecai Mendenhall, near Deep River, John Mills, Henry Mills, Mills, Thomas Mills, Benjamin Rudduck, John Rudduck, Thos Thornbrough (appointed first clerk), Thomas Vestal, Richard Williams. Among those who became members by the presentation of certificates during the first few months were James Brown, William Smith, wife and children, Richard Beeson and wife, George Hyatt, Isaac Cox and wife, Anthony Hoggatt and wife, Benjamin Britain, Joseph Unthank, wife and children, Samuel Pearson, wife and children, Nathan Dicks, Zacharias Dicks, Peter Dicks, wife and children, Isaac Pidgeon and Joseph Hoggatt. Robert Hodgson, Hanuel Edwards and George Hodgson were received in membership by request."[18]
The record shows that many members were accompanied by wives and/or children, suggesting that had James had a wife or children with him, that would have also been noted; however, he appears to be alone.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wikipedia, North Carolina
  2. Hand, Bill. Found at the Sun Journal website article
  3. ncpedia.org, Quakers
  4. ncpedia.org, Butler, Lindley S. From Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. 2006 link
  5. Bell, James Pinkney. Our Quaker Friends of Ye Olden Time, J.P. Bell Company, Publishers, Lynchburg, Virginia, 1905, p. 184 (Appendix)
  6. not found on WikiTree as of 21 January 2020; noted as "Niklas Brint" in some Quaker records
  7. North Carolina Historical Marker Program, Core Sound Meeting
  8. Hinshaw p. 263
  9. Bordeaux, Jason. Bladen County in the 1700s at ncpedia.org
  10. North Carolina County Formation
  11. Richard Dunn is not found on WikiTree as of 22 January 2020; surprisingly little information about him found in an internet search
  12. North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
  13. Teague, Bobbie T. Cane Creek Mother of Meetings, Cane Creek Monthly Meeting of Friends, North Carolina, 1995, pp. 13-14; available on-line.
  14. Teague, p. 24
  15. Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy Vol 1, Ann Arbor, Mich., Edwards brothers, Inc., 1936. p. 343
  16. Wikipedia, Guilford County, North Carolina.
  17. Hinshaw p. 487
  18. I attempted to find all these Quakers on WikiTree. Where the names are not linked, they either did not appear to have WikiTree profiles, or in some cases there were multiple, poorly sourced profiles and I could not determine whether they were the New Garden Quakers listed here. - JK, 23 January 2020

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Comments: 7

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This is wonderful! At some point I plan to do a study on North Carolina Quakers who assisted in gaining freedom for enslaved...that project's in the "one day" pile.
posted by Loretta Buckner
I would be happy to work on Richard Dunn, of Dunn's Creek Meeting fame. The land the meeting house purportedly was on actually ended up in my family in 1750, sold to Thomas Thames by the Dunn family. Thomas was also a Quaker. His daughter Priscilla married Robert Dunn. Documentation will be scarce, however - at the time this monthly meeting was in Bladen Co, which had destructive fires. But I can look.
posted by Becky (Thames) Thames-Simmons
edited by Becky (Thames) Thames-Simmons
Coming back to this almost two years later... I re-stumbled upon it when testing out Aleš's WT+ search functionality for freespace pages; I used "Brown" as a search parameter since I knew we had at least a few FSPs related to Brown.

Might I suggest some categorization so others may find this great page? Let's see... something about Quakers and North Carolina... Here's an existing category that seems appropriate.


Perhaps also

Category: Pennsylvania, United States, Brown Name Study

Since this is about a couple of Browns originally from Pennsylvania?

Just trying to get more visibility to your good work!

posted by Jillaine Smith
Thanks, Jillaine. Categories added.
posted by [Living Kelts]
Julie any reason not to open this page up for editing?
posted by Jillaine Smith
Jillaine, I have opened it as you requested.
posted by [Living Kelts]
Nice work. I might recommend that the page be entitled Early Quakers in North Carolina and detach James Brown from the title. It will make this page more useful to others researching early Quakers of NC.
posted by Jillaine Smith