From Time to Thyme

By Paula Dunn

A Brief History Of Hamilton County

If you know anything about Hamilton County history, you’re probably aware that Westfield was founded by Quakers — or, more formally, the Religious Society of Friends — and that it played a major role in the Underground Railroad.

Westfield gets so much attention that I think people tend to overlook the fact it wasn’t the only Friends community in early Hamilton County.

Far from it.

By the end of the 19th century, nearly every township had at least one Quaker meetinghouse. Most of these were located in rural neighborhoods.

In 1945, Noblesville attorney Justin Roberts, who’d researched local Friends history, stated that Hamilton County had more Friends churches than any county in Indiana.

I haven’t verified that, but it does reinforce my point that Quaker influence was strong in this area in the early days. In fact, the county’s Friends population was a major reason Roberts Settlement was established here. The Friends were well known to be sympathetic to people of color.

I recently stumbled across a series of articles that ran in the Noblesville Daily Ledger in 1937 which deal with the history of some of Hamilton County’s Quaker meetings.

The articles describe the meetings as parts of a “rainbow of peace.” That reference becomes understandable when you look at a map. The communities form a sideways arc running through the county’s north, west and south townships.

The northernmost of these, the Sugar Ridge Meeting, first assembled at Aroma in White River Township in 1837. It was discontinued (”laid down” in Quaker terminology) around 1880 and the congregation merged with the local Methodist church.

Jackson Township had two Friends meetings — Hinkle Creek, at 216th Street and Hinkle Road, and West Grove on 226th Street, between Flippins Road and Anthony Road.

The Hinkle Creek Friends Church, which is still going strong, was organized in 1836 by settlers in the Deming/ Bakers Corner area who moved here from North Carolina and Virginia because of their opposition to slavery.

(It was Friends from this area who came to the aid of the Rhodes family when they were tracked down by slave hunters in 1844.)

The West Grove Meeting, due west of Deming, was established in 1855. The old West Grove meetinghouse and township school no longer exist, but the cemetery is still in active use.

Adams Township was home to the Spicewood Meeting, established in 1866; the Union Grove Meeting, organized in 1868; and the Sheridan Friends Church which dates from 1886.

Spicewood was located at 236th Street and Six Points Road. The meetinghouse and the school attached to it, Spicewood Academy, are gone now, but Spicewood Cemetery, a short distance to the east, remains.

After Spicewood was laid down in 1910, its members began attending the Sheridan Friends Church.

A cemetery is also all that’s left of the Union Grove Meeting, located at Lamong Road and 216th Street. It closed in 1896, and its congregation joined the Lamong Friends Church.

The East Branch Meeting, organized in 1852, was in Noblesville Township — barely. It was situated at 146th Street and Gray Road, where Noblesville, Washington and Delaware Townships met. (Since 1954 that part of Delaware Township has been Clay Township.)

This meeting is still active, but is now known as Gray Friends Church. (East Branch became “Gray” when it acquired a post office.)

Providence, located at 211th Street and Mill Creek Road, was also in Noblesville Township. It was organized as a meeting in 1875 because bad roads and the lack of a bridge across Hinkle Creek made travel to the Hinkle Creek meetinghouse difficult for some members.

 Providence’s last meeting was in 1959. No trace of it remains.

The Noblesville Friends Church, organized in 1890, is still active.

More next week!

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