Over two hundred and fifty years ago, here in the Cane Creek Community, there lived and worked a few hundred good and simple people. Plain of speech and plain of clothing, they farmed and toiled to change the wilderness into a home. They met regularly with their friends for worship and fellowship, and they were opposed to war.
The Members of the Society of Friends who came down from the North to settle the backwoods of what is now Alamance County were not the first Quakers to migrate to the Carolinas. The Northern Quakers, mainly from Pennsylvania, were partly English, partly German, and partly Welsh, and like other groups of the period, came south for economic and religious reasons. North Carolina’s Governor Burrington indicated that by 1733 there were a considerable number of Quakers in the coastal settlements.
The largest Quaker settlement in Alamance County was on the banks of the Cane Creek, which runs today just a few hundred feet behind the Amphitheater. Cane Creek Monthly Meeting was established near Snow Camp on October 7th, 1751. The Quakers knew the church was a community not a building, so they had ‘meeting-houses’ to emphasize this fact. This remains the correct noun for the Quaker’s place of worship today. The Cane Creek Meeting grew and during the first four years, sixty-eight certificates for membership were presented. Quaker families from as far away as New Garden (thirty miles) traveled twice a week to attend the Cane Creek Meeting until meetings were established in their area.
The Cane Creek people, like Quakers elsewhere, were opposed to war and while they wanted little part in the civil government, they were good businessmen. They set up gristmills and through their contacts in Pennsylvania were able to furnish the frontier settlers with many necessities.
The Quaker believers were considered to be somewhat strict, for their social customs were dictated by their religious beliefs. Members of the fellowship were “disowned” for marrying outside the meeting, for using liquor to excess, for bad language, for lying and cheating in business, and for uttering criticism against the meeting. However, those who were “disowned” were never “shunned” and could continue to attend meeting if they desired. They were not, however, permitted to participate in decisions made by the meeting. The records of 1754 show that one member of the Cane Creek Meeting was disowned for accepting a military commission.
Quakers denounced excessive eating, drinking and smoking. They frequently passed resolutions against such “vain and vicious proceedings as “Frolicking, Fiddling and Dancing.” Their dress was plain, generally free of excessive buttons, ribbons and laces. During the earlier years, some of the Friends held many offices of trust and honor in the Carolinas, but the meetings later opposed office-holding. Any Friend who assumed an office took an oath and would frequently have to administer the oath to others; both practices were denounced by the Quaker teachings. It was considered that many practices were lifetime oaths and not for just specific occasions; therefore, it was not necessary to take an oath.
Inevitably, in a time of War, the men of war would conflict with the men who would not war, the Quakers. The conflict arose early in the Revolutionary War. During the early times of unrest, many Friends sympathized with those who were against the tyranny of the English King. These Friends met and advised with the group know as Regulators. The Regulators demanded the king to reduce their taxes and grant them free elections of their governors. These men met to reason and to petition, but not to war. Although none of the Friends were caught, many saw their neighbors hanged. It was insignificant in the greater terms of the War to come, but not to the peaceful community at Cane Creek.
The third meetinghouse was destroyed by fire in 1879. A modern brick meetinghouse was built just a few feet from the original location, after the Charleston Fund helped the meeting rebuild in 1879. This meetinghouse was along the lines of a traditional style meetinghouse. Although the interior was altered, the exterior remained plain in appearance. This meetinghouse burned in 1942.