William Hobson and the founding of Quakerism in the Pacific Northwest
Goldsmith, Myron Dee
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William Hobson (1820-1891) joined the ante bellum exodus of Quakers from North Carolina, migrating to Iowa in his late youth where he served as a pioneer minister of Friends until 1875. He then began the formation of a settlement of Quakers at Newberg, Oregon, which grew rapidly and eventually resulted in the establishment of Oregon Yearly Meeting of Friends. Because so little was known of the early life of William Hobson, and because nineteenth century revivalism radically altered the Quakerism of Hobson's lifetime, he is not well understood by contemporary Friends. This dissertation therefore attempts to describe his early years and ministry and their relation to trends within American Quakerism, and to estimate his significance as the founder of Quakerism in the Pacific Northwest. The study is based on Hobson's autobiography, his diaries and sources of information not previously considered. These latter are his correspondence and personal papers, the journals of his Quaker contemporaries, public documents, school records and the official minutes of Friends Meetings to which he belonged in North Carolina, Iowa and Oregon. The new sources have made possible a biographical synthesis which presents William Hobson in a truer perspective than he has heretofore been seen. William Hobson was reared in the back-country of North Carolina under the strict standards of the Society of Friends. Educational opportunities and literature were both very limited, and arter learning to read, he had little save the Scriptures and standard works or Quakerism to study. These, in addition to two years at New Garden Boarding School, confirmed him in the beliers and customs of his ancestors. Attracted by the agricultural prospects or the Trans-Mississippi Vest and moved by a hatred or slavery, he migrated to Iowa in 1847-1848. Throughout the third quarter or the nineteenth century Hobson was a pioneer farmer and minister of Friends, journeying throughout the Friends settlements or Iowa, to North Carolina and to Kansas during the troubled days or border warfare. As an itinerant minister of Friends, his work was carried on in the quietistic spirit typical of early nineteenth century Quakerism. He welcomed the evidences of new life which came to Quakerism with the Awakening of the 1860's and 1870's, but regretted and resisted the innovations which revivalism produced. Hobson made the first of his three journeys to the Far West in 1870-1871, spending seven months surveying the Pacific Coast in the interest of establishing a Quaker settlement. Discouragement led him to conclude that Friends should stay in the Midwest, but within two years his mind was again occupied with the need for a Friends community on the Pacific Coast. In 1875-1876 he made a second journey, determined to overcome all obstacles to his projected settlement. After studying six regions in Oregon and in Washington Territory, he eventually chose the Chehalem Valley, near Portland, Oregon. As a result of his enthusiastic correspondence with Quakers throughout the Far West and Midwest, settlers began pouring into the valley, and by the time of his death in 1891, the membership of Newberg Meeting was over five hundred. William Hobson was well qualified to establish a frontier religious settlement due to his rugged physique and lifetime of experience under frontier conditions. He had a keen awareness of the material basis of a happy society, and carefully studied the resources of the Pacific Northwest before founding a settlement. Possessing the sense of community normative to Quakerism, he frankly advertised the settlement as a religious community and made it succeed as such without limiting it to Friends. The permanent value of his work is indicated in the Quaker institutions of Church, school and civil order which developed in the Chehalem Valley and which became influential throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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