An American Family History

Cane Creek Dispute

The Society of Friends (Quakers) began in England in the 1650s, when they broke away from the Puritans. Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, as a safe place for Friends to live and practice their faith.

The dispute at the Cane Creek monthly meeting started in 1761 when fifteen year old Charity Wright was disciplined for having premarital sex with Jehu Stuart.

The women's meeting disowned her and the men at Quarterly Meeting upheld the disownment because she had allowed herself to be defiled. Charity refused to apogize.

Charity's mother, Rachel Wells Wright, was disciplined for objecting to her daughter's discipline and the family moved to South Carolina. When Rachel requested a certificate to join a local meeting, the Cane Creek members argued about whether they should issue the certificate. Rachel appealed to the Quarterly Meeting who ruled in Rachel's favor.

Some members of the Cane Creek Meeting vigorously disagreed with the Quarterly Meeting. These members included Herman Husband, Isaac and Hannah Vernon, John and William Marshall, Thomas Branson, Joseph Maddock, Jonathan Sell, Juliatha Cox, Mary Moffitt and Phebe Cox.

The dissenters continued their rebellion by attending disowned Herman Husband and Amy Allen's wedding.

One result of the dispute was the settlement of Friends in Wrightsboro, Georgia.




from Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North by Marjoleine Kars

The dispute at Cane Creek Friends Meeting, organized in 1751, had stemmed from a typical disciplinary case. In 1671, a young man named Jehu Stuart boasted of sexual activities with several young women, including fifteen-year-old Charity Wright, the daughter of a prominent Quaker minister, Rachel Wright.

Despite Charity's heated denial, the women's business meeting disowned her from the Quaker community in Cane Creek for having had "Carnal knowledge of Jehu Stuart."

Charity appealed this decision to the Quarterly Meeting, a supervisory body of the Society of Friends. The men representing the Quarterly Meeting unanimously decided that she had kept "Untimely and Unseasonable Company" with Jehu and "for want of Resisting to the Utmost of Her power his wicked and lustfull design was Overcome and defiled by him." Unless Charity publicly apologized to her local meeting and her contrition was deemed sincere, the standard procedure for any Friend who broke Quaker rules, her disownment would stand. Charity refused.

Her refusal did not end the matter. Perhaps her mother Rachel did not mince words in voicing her disapproval of the handling of her daughter's case. In any case, she was forced to publicly apologize for some of her statements.

By year's end Rachel and her husband John relocated their family near Fredericksburg in South Carolina, possibly in response to disagreements with Piedmond Friends.

From her new home, Rachel wrote to Cane Creek to obtain a certificate of good standing ...

Her request triggered vigorous debate in the farming community along Cane Creek. Some Friends wanted to deny Rachel her certificate because they had perceived a "lack of sincerity" when she had earlier repented for her misconduct.

Others felt that she deserved a certificate because her apology had at the time been accepted as satisfactory. The disagreement caused delay and in November 1762, Rachel complained to the Quarterly Meeting. The body ordered that she be issued her certificate, despite the deeply felt misgivings of a number of Cane Creek Friends.

These latter dissidents refused to submit to church hierarchy and discipline and caused in the words of church authorities, "a division and separation" in the Cane Creek meeting as they continued to "uphold m[a]intain and defend practices, Contrary to the wholesome Rules of Discipline Established in the Wisdom of Truth among us."

In December 1673, the main people identified as being responsible for this "dangerous and Destructive" opposition were a number of men who would soon be deeply involved in organizing the Sandy Creek Association--Herman Husband, Isaac Vernon, John and William Marshall, Thomas Branson, Joseph Maddock, and Jonathan Cell, "with diverse others that appears in a more private way to Joyne them."

These men were not discreet about their nonconcurrence. In January 1764, Herman Husband was threated with disownment for "Making Remarks on the actions and transactions of this meeting...and publicly advertising the Same.

In response, Husband's supporters forced the writing of a "dissenting minute" signed by those who protested his disownment...

Although the records mention mostly the debates among men, women took sides as well. In January 1766, Hannah Vernon, Juliatha Cox, and Mary Moffitt, all from the Deep River neighborhood, were rebuked for standing "in open Complaint of all good order of Discipline as denying any obedience in a Subordinate manner" to the meeting. Along with Phebe Cox, these women refused to submit to church discipline, and challenged their meeting by attending the "disorderly" marriage of Amy Allen, a Cane Creek Friend and Phebe's daughter to disowned Herman Husband....

At the same time, early in 1767, the men's meeting disowned William Cox, William Cox Jr., Isaac Vernon, Isaac Cox, Samuel Cox, Solomon Cox and Jacob Gregg for attending Herman and Amy's marriage. Cane Creek Friends probably felt relieved to sever fellowship with these families that by now were deeply involved in the Sandy Creek Association.



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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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