Dear Friends, I have been busy! After finishing the seventh (what?) revision of my first novel, I’ve made a goal to query an agent a day this summer. Why not? If I don’t have any luck, I’ll work on my own e-book and audio versions.
Meanwhile, my sister and I had a wonderful day last month in Darby, Pennsylvania where I once again got to visit Darby Meeting and see Darby Free Library. (DFL) The Library just received a well-deserved $1 million grant to make their library accessible and updated with necessary repairs. Darby Meeting House and Darby, Pennsylvania are among the settings in my current WIP and my next…Thomas Worth’s “journey to America” story.
John Bartram and other members of Darby Free Meeting founded DFL in 1743. They began shipping books from England to Darby and the librarian kept them in a trunk and shared them in the local community. May’s event included descendants of the original library board. I’m not one of them, though I am a descendant of a Darby Friends Meeting family.
Darby Friends Burial Ground
Our day began with a visit to the Darby Friends Burial Ground. I think I’ve written about this before: my ancestors were buried there but without markers. This proved to be a mistake for the Quakers. In their quest for simplicity, they set up burial grounds where you didn’t know where the deceased were when you went to bury someone else! Headstones soon came into fashion and we saw John Bartram’s, among others. Bartram was buried here despite being kicked out of Darby Friends. Wait–did you read Membership Discontinued?
Meeting for Worship
Following the tour of the burial ground, we attended (silent) Meeting for Worship in the 1805 Meeting House. I love all the little details of the Meeting House including old graffiti, an ancient ladder, and the bonnets (now kept in a glass case so I’m not tempted to try them on again)!
John Bartram and the Daisy
I also was delighted to meet John and Jan Haigis of Past Times Present. I had a great phone call with them during height of the pandemic, but I hadn’t been able to meet them in person. They live in Darby and know much about local, Quaker, and Revolutionary War history. Here, they entertained us with their “John Bartram and the Daisy” song. I love that Bartram taught himself both Latin and botany. There are a few Quaker references in the song.
Darby Free Library
After a nice lunch, including incredible sweet goodies from Shane Confectionery (I met the Friendly owner, Ryan Berley), we went on to Darby Free Library. Today, the one-room library supports the local Darby community on a budget of only $85,000! Darby Friends helped connect the Library with the federal grant. DFL stayed open throughout the pandemic. The library provided young people with a cozy place to read, and adults with a place to connect with community resources, or just use a printer. You can visit their FB page to find out more about their resources and funding. I loved hearing about the library’s Quaker roots.
Darby: the First 200 Years
After the check presentation at the library (more sweets!), we were back at the Meeting House to learn more about “Darby: the First 200 years,” in other words, 1682-1882, from Harold Finegan. I’d long wondered why the Darby Quakers were among the only 30% of Quakers in Early America who didn’t enslave people. Harold believes it was because of the persecution this particular group of Quakers had experienced in Northern England before coming to America. The group’s persecution at the hands of the English led to an affinity for those who were oppressed. Darby became a community involved in abolition work and “fair trade” policy in early Pennsylvania.
The Blue Bell Tavern
We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip to the (now shuttered) 1766 Blue Bell Tavern. The Tavern is the site of my Quaker characters Elizabeth and Eben’s clandestine meetings. Woodland Avenue was at one time the main stagecoach road between Philadelphia and the southern colonies. It still marks the boundary between Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. George Washington made it his headquarters September 12-13, 1777 just after the Battle of Brandywine.
All in all, a fabulous day. I always soak in more atmosphere and find new details to use in my writing when I visit a Quaker historical site. I also was happy to support Darby Free Library’s project, and meet some other folks whose ancestors made the voyage to America in 1682.
Coming up: How do you decide which books to read each year? And how do you decide where to buy or borrow them? I’ve given this some thought and will report back later this month.