The Roots of Quakerism and Its Legacy in Alexandria
The Emergence of the Quaker Movement
The Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, was established in 17th-century England by George Fox. Facing persecution for their distinctive beliefs, particularly the conviction that the divine presence dwells within each person, they rejected elaborate rituals, did not have ordained clergy, and promoted spiritual equality among genders. Their arrival in mid-17th century America marked the beginning of a significant religious and social influence.
Quakers and Social Reform
Quakers are noted for their pacifism and were instrumental in the abolitionist movement and the advancement of women’s rights. This backdrop highlights the importance of Quaker Meeting Houses, including the one constructed in 1811 at 600 Wolfe Street. Even as the Quaker community in Alexandria underwent changes, such as the Alexandria Meeting’s dissolution, their commitment to social justice persisted.
The site of the Alexandria Little Theater now stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Quaker heritage.
History and Transformation of the Alexandria Quaker Burial Site
Founding of the Queen Street Burial Ground
In 1784, Alexandria’s Quaker community established the Queen Street Burial Ground, situated near Washington Street. This new burial site was a replacement for their earlier cemetery and meeting place located on South St. Asaph Street. The Quakers acquired this half-acre plot from Thomas West to set up the new cemetery.
Shifts in Burial Practices and Site Usage
By 1809, a health ordinance halted new burials at the Queen Street site, leading to the use of the Friends Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Despite this, there are indications that the Queen Street burial ground continued to be used discreetly by the Quakers for some time afterward.
The Transformation of the Burial Site into a Community Playground
Tragically, a fatal accident occurred at the site, as detailed in the Alexandria Gazette on May 22, 1884. A young girl was killed when the cemetery gate collapsed on her while she attempted to open it.
In 1918, the Audubon Society repurposed the cemetery as a bird sanctuary. Subsequently, the site was converted into a playground, enclosed by a brick wall and a large iron gate. Finally, in 1937, a lease agreement led to the establishment of a library dedicated to Kate Waller Barrett, with the library’s design incorporating the existing graves.
Preservation and Remembrance
The Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library currently occupies the historical Quaker burial site at 717 Queen Street. By Quaker tradition, the library encompasses the original graves, with some headstones relocated to another Quaker cemetery near Woodlawn Plantation. Out of 159 individuals once buried at the Alexandria site, 66 were reinterred on the property during the library’s establishment, while 93 rest in their initial plots. Records of only 78 burials remain.
Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick (1762-1825)
Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick (1762-1825) is one of the notable figures buried at this site. Born in Pennsylvania, Dr. Dick studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush.
On 22 September 1825, Elisha Cullen Dick passed away at his Cottage Farm residence in the Lincolnia section of Fairfax County. His remains were transported on a funeral wagon through Alexandria and laid in an unmarked grave at the Friends Burying Ground on Queen Street.
You can read more about him at this blog: [https://gravestonestories.com/discover-the-history-of-the-quaker-burial-ground-in-alexandria-va-from-sacred-space-to-modern-landmark/]
William Hartshorne (June 1842 – December 16, 1816) Quaker Merchant and Civic Leader of Early America
William Hartshorne’s legacy is a rich tapestry woven through the social and economic fabric of early American society. Born in June 1742 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hartshorne was a Quaker whose life was marked by a commitment to community and enterprise. As a trustee of Alexandria Academy in 1786 and a signatory of the 1787 petition to establish Overseers of the Poor, his dedication to social welfare was evident.
As a merchant dealing in goods such as wine, Hartshorne prospered, allowing him to play a significant role in the development of Alexandria, Virginia. His marriage to Susanna Saunders in 1767, held at Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, brought forth eight children who survived infancy, and later his marriage to Susanna Wood Shreve in 1803 at the same Quaker Meeting House, showcased his deep roots in the Quaker community.
Hartshorne’s entrepreneurial spirit was not confined to his merchant activities. He served as a trustee for various companies and held a significant role as treasurer for the Potomac Company, alongside influential figures like George Washington. His will, an extensive document, reflects his meticulous nature and his desire to ensure his family’s well-being, instructing that his debts be paid and his estate be equitably divided among his wife and children.
His personal encounters with significant historical events are chronicled in his journal, which details his journey to treaty negotiations with Native Americans at Sandusky, Ohio, offering a unique glimpse into the complexities of that era.
Despite his robust business acumen, Hartshorne faced adversity with the passing of the Embargo Act of 1807, which devastated his business, leading to a rigorous inquiry by his Quaker community. Though absolved, the financial impact forced him to sell his cherished farm, Strawberry Hill, along with other properties.
William Hartshorne’s death on October 13, 1816, was a solemn close to a life that had significantly impacted his community, evidenced by his burial in the Quaker Burial Ground in Alexandria. His story is one of resilience, community service, and a steadfast adherence to his Quaker faith, leaving an indelible mark on American history.
William Stabler: Legacy of a Quaker Apothecary in Early American History
William Stabler, born on October 25, 1795, and passing on September 24, 1852, was a significant figure in the history of American pharmacy and Quaker community involvement. He was the son of Edward Stabler, a skilled apothecary who moved to Alexandria, Virginia, after completing his apprenticeship in the same field with his brother in Leesburg, Virginia.
Edward Stabler, a devout Quaker and astute businessman, began his apothecary business in 1792 by renting space near the corner of S. Fairfax and Prince Streets in Alexandria. In 1805, he bought land at 107 S. Fairfax Street, where he constructed a three-story brick building for his flourishing apothecary, which became a landmark in the community. By 1829, Edward expanded his enterprise by acquiring the adjacent property at 105 S. Fairfax and integrating it into his business operations.
The Stabler apothecary was renowned for a wide array of products. They sold medicines, farm and garden tools, surgical and dental equipment, personal care items like soap and perfume, as well as various household goods such as Congress mineral water, window glass, paint, varnish, artist supplies, combs, and brushes.
William Stabler, following in his father’s footsteps, played a crucial role in the business from a young age. Edward, often away attending Quaker meetings, entrusted the apothecary to his apprentices and William, his eldest son. After Edward’s death in 1831, William inherited the business, maintaining its family-run ethos by involving his brothers and brother-in-law, John Leadbeater, in the operation.
William Stabler’s tenure as the head of the family business was marked by continued success and community respect. However, he did not have children, and upon his death in 1852, his widow sold the business to John Leadbeater. Leadbeater, a trained apothecary and dentist, renamed the business to John Leadbeater, marking the end of the Stabler name in the enterprise.
After William’s passing, the apothecary shop’s story continued to be a significant chapter in American history. The shop, a cornerstone of the community, remained operational until 1933. Its closure was a result of the financial hardships of the Great Depression and the passing of its last owner, Edward Stabler Leadbeater, Jr., signifying the end of an era in traditional apothecary practices.
The historical significance of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop was recognized, leading to its preservation as a museum by the American Pharmaceutical Association. Today, this museum in Old Town Alexandria serves as a testament to the past. Visitors are treated to a collection of over 20,000 artifacts, including hand-blown glass bottles and herbal botanicals, each telling a part of the story of this unique family-run business. The extensive Archival Collection includes letters, invoices, account books, and ledgers from 1792 to 1933, featuring names of notable customers like Martha Washington and Nelly Custis, thus offering a glimpse into the social and health-related aspects of the period.
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum stands as a lasting tribute to the enduring legacy of William Stabler and his family, showcasing their impact on the field of pharmacy and early American society. William Stabler is interred in Alexandria’s Quaker Cemetery, though his gravestone is located at the Woodlawn Friends Meeting House Cemetery in Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, Virginia, symbolizing his lasting connection to the history of pharmacy and Quakerism in early 19th-century America.
Sources of Information
Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, VA (Volume 3). Family Line Publications: Westminster, Maryland.
Barber, J. G. (1998). Alexandria in the Civil War. H.E. Howard, Inc.
Ring, C. K., & Pippenger, W. E. (2008). Alexandria, Virginia Town Lots 1749 – 1801 together with Proceeding of the Board of Trustees 1749 – 1801. Heritage Books.
Crothers, A. G. (2012). Quakers Living in the Lion’s Mouth. The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730 – 1865. The University of Florida Press.
Catlin, M. C. (2016, October). Historical overview of the Woodlawn Quaker meeting.
Dahmann, D. C. (2002). The Roster of Historic Congregational Members of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. [Unpublished manuscript].
Dutton + Associates, LLC. (2013, December). Documentary study and archaeological monitoring of the Cromley Row project area, City of Alexandria, Virginia. 812 Moorefield Park Drive, Suite 126, Richmond, Virginia 23236.
City of Alexandria, VA. (n.d.). Historic Cemeteries of Alexandria. Retrieved from https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic-sites/historic-cemeteries-of-alexandria
City of Alexandria, VA. (n.d.). History of the Apothecary Museum. Retrieved from https://www.alexandriava.gov/museums/history-of-the-apothecary-museum
Woodlawn Friends Meeting. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from https://woodlawnfriends.org/home/