Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway
— Quaker Meetinghouse —
The Quaker Meetinghouse, formally known as the "Meetinghouse of the Orchard Park Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of friends", is home to Erie County's oldest active congregation. Known as "Quakers" they brought with them their lifestyle, their culture, and their religion in the very early 1800's. Circa 1895 photo of the Meetinghouse. Note the horse sheds in the rear. Agrarian (farming) Quakers preferred life in quiet communities which were detached from what they termed the "corrupting influences" of the larger world. In 1804, Quaker David Eddy of Danby, Vermont, came to settle, followed by his extended family. Within a short time, word of this "uncultivated part of nature's garden, luxuriantly timbered, rich soil, with never failing springs and streams," reached eastern communities. Over the next dozen years a tide of Society of Friends members from Vermont, eastern New York, and Pennsylvania arrived in this locality. In accordance with the structure of their religion, the fledging congregation was subordinate to the Meeting in Pelham (near Welland), Ontario. Originally the group met for worship in the cabin of early settler Obadiah Baker. Outgrowing his cabin, in 1811 they purchased one-half acre on the northeast corer of Orchard Park's Four Corners "with a log house standing thereon" for $20 to use as their meetinghouse. They also purchased a two acre parcel on the northwest corner of that location for the sole purpose of having a place to bury their dead. The arrival of the War of 1812 "interrutped communication" with their Pelham Friends. The group continued to grow as Western New York became more settled, resulting in the purchase in 1817 of three acres of land on this site for $115 from Aldrich Arnold. Here they built Orchard Park's pictureque Quaker Meeting House and established a cemetery. In September 1821, the Society moved into the still unfinished new Meetinghouse. Shortly after, the Four Corners cemetery was reduced to one-half acre in size, which the Quakers maintained until 1854. The first local lending library was established in this building by the Quakers in February 1823 with the charge that curators "lend them to such families as they shall find to be most in need, having particular regard to women Friends." In 1826, Friends built a school on this property, facing North Freeman Road near the corner of East Quaker Street. Horse sheds were also built, initially along the western lotline, and later immediately behind the Meetinghouse. The historic Meetinghouse has serenely witnessed ten generations, including unparalleled activity during the eras of the Underground Railroad and Women's Sufferage movement. All the while, the Meetinghouse has exhibited the inherent message of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality as a witness to God's Light. A venerable structure to grace our Village, the Meetinghouse endures today, a reminder of Orchard Park's roots in an orderly, agrarian society. The Quaker Meetinghouse was the first house of worship of any denomination in Erie County. The interior during a meeting of worship, with elders facing the congregation. The Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway is a 70 mile route encompassing five towns and three villages within Erie County, New York. For a listing of points of interest signs along the byway go to www.wnyssb.org .