Our Quaker Roots

Plainfield Meeting House, Plainfield, New Jersey

The reason for Edward and his parent's removal from Salem in 1658 can be found in the fact that Essex Co., MA court records show Edward Harnett, Sr. was fined on 1 Aug 1657 for absence from meeting (at First Church), an indication that he was a Quaker (Society of Friends) adherent. In 1658 several other individuals with whom the Harnetts were associated were accused of attending a Quaker meeting.

The Harnett family suffered for their Quaker sympathies, and left Salem for Huntington, Long Island in 1658 in the company of the Porter, Chichester and Jarvis families, all Quaker adherents. An accurate date for their move to Huntington, Long Island can be established by a meeting held in Salem on 31 Aug 1658 where "Edward Harnet, Taylor [tailor], beeinge now about to remove out of the town," apprentices Jeremiah, son of Alice Chichester.

All four families are closely associated in early Long Island records, and all three of Jonathan and Eunice Porter's daughters married within that small group; Elizabeth married Edward Harnett, Jr., Eunice married James Chichester, and Mary married Stephen Jarvis. Many of the early settlers on Long Island were Quakers who had left New England to avoid persecution for their beliefs. On 30 Nov 1666 New York Governor General Richard Nichols granted a patent for the Town of Huntington, which stretched "between the Sound and the ocean", signed by Edward Harnett and five other patentees.

Edward and his son Jonathan were active members of the Quaker community in Huntington, however religious intolerance continued, and the land was not ideal for farming. The Quakers of Pennsylvania, headed by William Penn, had purchased East Jersey in 1682, and the area just west of the Hudson River was becoming a center for members of the religion. Many new settlers to this area came from New York and New England, including Jonathan's three sons Jonathan, Nathaniel and Edward, who moved from Huntington, Long Island to Woodbridge, New Jersey in the early 1700's.

Many Harneds were members of the Society of Friends Meeting which had been held beginning in 1704 at the home of Nathaniel Fitz Randolph of Woodbridge, who would become Jonathan Harned's father-in-law. Several small meeting houses were built beginning in 1713, with Quaker farmers building the present structure on the "Plainfield Plantation" in 1788. With only minor alterations and repair the Plainfield Meeting House (shown above) remains unchanged after 200 years of service. The original doors and benches are still in use, and the timbers remain sound.

Because of their pacifist beliefs, Quaker faith was tested during the Revolutionary War. Members of the Woodbridge Meeting opposed the War, and members of the Harned family would have been prohibited from bearing arms on either side. However, some younger family members supported the Patriots, and some Harneds probably supported one side or the other with provisions, and activities such as building barracks for the troops. Following the war those who had remained loyal to Britain had their properties confiscated, and many refused to affirm allegiance to the new government.

The Quakers also strongly believed that all people were equal and took a very early public position opposing slavery. As a result, the Plainfield Meeting put pressure on their membership to free any slaves they held. Shortly before his death in 1776, Jonathan Harned presented a document to the Plainfield Friends Meeting setting free his negro slave Mary. He stated in writing, "Whereas I Jonathan harned am possessed of a Negroe woman named Mary and not being easy to continue her in bondage being persuaded she ought to be free and that it is her just due...therefore I do by these presents manumit and set her, the said mary, free... Whereas she, the said Mary, is old and likely is or soon will be incapable to support herself comfortably, therefore I promise to give her...such necessary supplies as will render her life comfortable in meat, drink, apparel, washing and lodging..." For more on Harned involvement in anti-slavery activities, see Abolitionist Activities.

Some members of the Harned family began to leave the Quaker religion during and immediately following the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800's a general Methodist revival, which took place along the East Coast, converted many Harneds from the Quaker faith to Methodism. Other former Quakers became Baptists. Although only a small number of Harneds remain members of the Society of Friends today, their tradition of valuing education and service to others has been passed down in the family for many generations.

Plainfield Meeting House Web Site

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