george Fox PhotoFounded in Northern England by George Fox in the mid 1600's, Quakerism, or the Religious Society of Friends, is a Christian denomination centered around the belief that there is "that of God" in every person, sometimes referred to as the Inner Light, and that Christ can speak directly to everyone without the intercession of liturgy, ritual or priest. Friends believe in peace, integrity, equality, and simplicity, and seek to live lives which witness to these beliefs. From the earliest days, Friends have stressed the importance of equal education for both boys and girls, and promoted fair and equal treatment of those of different races.

Among the earliest settlers to make their way through the Great Dismal Swamp into the Albemarle Region of North Carolina were the families of Quakers Henry Phelps and Christopher Nicholson. Quaker missionary William Edmundson found his way to the Phelps home on the banks of the Perquimans River in the spring of 1672 and held North Carolina's first organized religious service in what is now Hertford. Some months later, George Fox himself traveled to Perquimans and found the new Quaker community finely settled. During his visit he stayed at the home of Joseph Scott on the site of what is now known as the Newbold-White House.

MapFrom these beginnings, Quakerism took firm hold and flourished as the dominant religious group of the colony through the end of the seventeenth century. Meeting at first in homes, Friends gradually set up regular meeting places and eventually built permanent meetinghouses, the first in Perquimans being Wells Meeting built by 1704 on the Perquimans River, followed soon after by Little River and Old Neck Meetinghouses. With the Monthly Meeting as the venue for handling the business of individual local meetings, a Quarterly Meeting was established by the 1680's to deal with issues affecting Friends across a broader area. In 1698 North Carolina Yearly Meeting was established to be held every year at the home of Francis Toms the elder to conduct the business of Quakers in the entire colony. Although the location of the Yearly Meeting sessions has changed several times in the ensuing three centuries, it has met annually without interruption ever since its establishment.

Growing opposition to the Quaker movement in the latter seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries led to the exclusion of its adherents from the colonial government, but Friends continued as leading citizens, landowners and businessmen in Perquimans and the Albemarle throughout the colonial period and into the early days of the young republic. As revolutionary ideas grew, Piney Woods Friends Meeting Photoso did the Quaker realization of the evils of slavery, and a new area of conflict arose as Friends sought ways to free their own slaves, and to denounce and remove the "peculiar institution" altogether. This struggle led many to remove their families from the South to new free territories in the West, and the Great Migration of Friends began. This movement siphoned off the life of Quakerism in the Albemarle, and from as many as ten meetings in Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties in the early 1800's, only one, Piney Woods, remained by the time of the Civil War. This pattern was echoed across the South as Friends migrated from Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, causing meetings to be laid down (discontinued) or moved as a complete congregation to Indiana, Ohio and other territories in the mid-west. Those Friends left in Perquimans were clustered around the bridge and commercial center at the Newby plantation, Belvidere, which would eventually give its name to the village there.

PhotoToday Piney Woods Friends Meeting in Belvidere continues as the oldest congregation in North Carolina. Up River Friends Meeting was founded a short distance away in 1866 as an "indulged meeting" under Piney Woods' care, and these two meetings carry the message, heritage and mission of Northeastern North Carolina Quakerism into the twenty-first century, and, we hope, beyond.

Visitors are welcome to worship with both congregations.
Sunday School – 10:00 a.m.
Meeting for Worship – 11:00 a.m.
Wednesday Evening Meal and Bible Study (call for times)
Piney Woods Friends Meeting
118 Piney Woods Road
Belvidere, North Carolina 27919
Tel: 252-297-2402
Up River Friends Meeting
523 Up River Road
Whiteston Community
Belvidere, North Carolina 27919
Tel: 252-297-2442
Piney Woods and Up River are constituent meetings in Eastern Quarterly Meeting of Friends, established 1680 and North Carolina Yearly Meeting (F.U.M.), established 1698.