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The Woolman Memorial : built circa1783

In 1915, Historian Amelia Mott Gummere and a small group of faithful Quakers formed the John Woolman Memorial Association and purchased a house in Mt. Holly, New Jersey thought to have a direct association with John Woolman and his daughter Mary.  Since that time the house and property have served to commemorate John Woolman and his life and service to all God’s creation.

” …whether or not the Association has preserved a house that can be directly related to John Woolman is ultimately immaterial. It is the essence of the man and the life principles he imparts to all who read his journal and other writings that has given the Association raison d’etre for lo these many years… The premises has served and continues to serve as a nexus for proclaiming Woolman’ s life and mission to the world for more than 100 years. ” Historian, Paul Schopp

Here are a few highlights from the past 100 years:  gleaned from our annual reports.

1915     The beginning:

“We were able to purchase the property, to clear the mortgage, and to take title…as an incorporated association. ”  An 18th Century brick house was purchased, by the newly formed Association, on the outskirts of Mount Holly for $1800.00  The house was located on property that had been part of John Woolman’s orchard and, at the time of the purchase, was believed to be the house John Woolman had built ”for his daughter, Mary, on her marriage in 1771…to John Comfort….”

“Chief among our benefactions is a fine orchard of over eighty fruit trees…We have nearly two acres of well situated land, in a good state of cultivation.”

 1916   After much needed repairs:  “Early in June, 1916, the house was thrown open to the public, and over eighty citizens of Mount Holly…were received as the first guests.”

“The more formal opening took place on the 10th, when several hundred members and guests of the Friends Historical Society of Philadelphia visited and inspected the property.”

By the end of the first year over 600 people visited the Memorial, which contained a Tea Room that served meals and offered guest rooms for a modest fee.

1917 – 1918   The second Annual Meeting of the Asociation was postponed “because of the epidemic of influenza, when all public gatherings were forbidden by law.”

As the United States entered World War I, because of its proximity to Camp Dix, the accommodations it offered, and its tranquil setting, the Memorial house became a meeting place for soldiers -on their way to the front – and their families. “Amid the turmoil of war preparations…more than one mother has met her sons for a few hours under our roof before the long farewell.”

1920   Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the birth of John Woolman. Speakers at the annual meeting included Dr. Elbert Russell Director of the Woolman School at Swarthmore, Dr. Rufus M. Jones of Haverford College and Mrs Mary Schenck Woolman of Simmons College, Boston: her husband was a direct descendant of John Woolman’s brother, Jonah.

“In mid-summer a tea was given for the townspeople of Mount Holly…botanists who search the New Jersey swamps and woods about Brown’s Mills for pitcher plants and gentians, seek our shelter over week-ends….”

1923   A frame house, believed to have been John Woolman’s house, being used as a stable on a property adjoining the Memorial grounds is purchased, moved to the Memorial property and situated next to the brick house.

“ The stout oak frame of the old house withstood all jars of moving…The main room gives us a comfortable meeting place and will furnish ample space for an exchange or workroom.”

1928    “ August 5,  A Friend’s Meeting was held in the new amphitheatre, for which we are indebted to Henry T. Moon, who conceived the idea and carried it out, making a beautiful spot out of what had been unattractive almost swampland (at the rear of the Memorial property).”

1929   Honoring John Woolman’s spirit: “ William H. Berry, from Cheyney, Pa. came with a party of colored people one afternoon and asked for tea; saying they did not mind where they were placed; so long as they might look over John Woolman’s house. They were made welcome at a table in the dining room.”

1931  Our last visitor in this line (gardening) has been John M. Faris, the well –known writer of antiquities and early roads in the Eastern States. He has taken some of our garden views for illustrating his forthcoming book on Colonial Gardens In and Around Philadelphia.”

1932   “ A stone from the place here went to Rollins (College, Winter Park, Fl.) as a contribution to its Walk of Fame.”

“In October Elizabeth C. White of blueberry fame, presented us with two fine young Franklinia Altamaha trees covered with satiny, snowy-white blooms.”

1933   “Our largest gathering, of five hundred people, was in June, for the Mt. Holly High School baccalaureate services, held in our outdoor auditorium, “nature’s amphitheatre,” as one reporter described it.”

1935   “That we began with a goodly heritage, was impressed upon us this last year by the American Historical Building Survey. Their members lunched here…held their meeting…and decided to make the Woolman House their headquarters.”

1937   “The red-letter day of the Woolman season came on Sunday, September 5th, when the delegates from the Friends World Conference were brought to the Woolman House by their local hosts.”

1939   “…we had the opportunity to invite a family of German refugees, who had been living in Mt. Holly, to make the Woolman House their home for the present.”

1940   “Among the organizations that have met in the building were a group from the Women’s International League for Peace…”

1941   “The John Woolman Memorial continues to be of use as a stoping place for foreign exiles who have not yet found a permanent abode in this country.”

1946-47    Woolman Annual Lectures begin.

1948   “An attractive bronze plaque marking the site of John Woolman’s shop and of the second Friends’ meeting house to be built in Mount Holly, has been placed by the American Stores Company on its new super market on Mill Street. At the time the company purchased the old buildings and demolished them for the erection of the new store it had no knowledge of the historic significance of the site.”

1961    Henry Comfort Crookshank, Viscount Crookshank of England, a seventh generation direct descendant of John Woolman bequeathed to the Memorial a rocking chair used by John Woolman.

1967   “A forlorn 17 year old boy from Texas was referred to us by Rev. W. G. Hackler, he was down and out and hungry and we fed him, put him up for the night, did some phoning and got him some temporary work to start him on his way, this with clothes washed and dried…”

1972   “The Trenton Museum borrowed the Woolman Chair and other artifacts for a John Woolman exhibit.”

1973  Mt. Holly Meeting begins meeting at the Memorial during winter months.

1976   “ Since 1976 is both our 60th birthday and the Country’s 200th, it was altogether fitting, and really quite moving , that John Woolman’s  ‘Home Town’ should observe the opening of the year with the dedication of a stone to him, next to his wife Sarah, in Mt. Holly Meeting yard. The ceremony…was impressive, well attended by young and old and conducted largely by non-Friends after the manner of Friends – with a period of silence on Garden Street.”

1980    “We entertain… folks from every walk of life: from college deans, doctors, lawyers, even bartenders! A visitor from England…told us she was born and raised in the house in which John Woolman died. Something such as this seems to bring us closer to him.”

1988   Visitors for the year totaled 2,280:

“From a Western State a descendant of Mary Woolman , sister of John, was delighted with our Memorial…”

“A Sunday School from a nearby Baptist Church enjoyed a day-long visit – a retreat.”

“ A class of specially gifted children was brought to the Memorial.”

“Another large class…was brought… they were very unruly at first… until there was at last an interest in Woolman’s unusual and great love for people and animals.”

1989   The Memorial’s Sort and Shuffle Committee develops an eighteenth century herb garden outside the Memorial kitchen.

1991   The Memorial Association publishes the The Woolman Family Genealogy, compiled by volunteer genealogist Judy Hynes.

1993   The Association becomes a Founding member of The West Jersey Colonial Sites Collaborative which includes: Mt. Holly Meeting House, Peachfields Plantation and the Old School House on Brainerd Street.

1994   “ A major new activity… is the Alternative To Violence Project (AVP) which was developed by Quakers in the New York prisons. The program addresses the seeds of violence in all of us, as Woolman did. AVP in New Jersey is led by Association members Marge Zybas, Al and Sue Thorp and Tom Truitt. The program, which is sponsored by the Association, trains facilitators to lead workshops in prisons, schools and other institutions.” 

1994  The John Woolman Memorial was designated as a Historic Landmark by the Township of Mount Holly.

2018  The John Woolman Memorial Association was included in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places

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