UPPER MAKEFIELD >> A group of Friends gathered outside the Makefield Monthly Meeting on June 12 to dedicate a tree deeply rooted in peace and in the history of Pennsylvania.
Maia Simon led a brief ceremony welcoming the addition of a Treaty Elm, planted at the site of a large ash tree that fell in a storm last spring at the meetinghouse.
After the storm claimed the meeting’s century old ash tree, the Quaker Meeting decided to replace it with a Penn Treaty elm, a tree propagated from scions of the original elm tree under which Pennsylvania’s founder William Penn signed a peace treaty with the Lenni Lenape in 1682.
The Treaty of Shackamaxon, as it was called, was a legendary Treaty between William Penn and Chief Tamanend of the Lenni Lenape and is depicted in a famous painting by Benjamin West done in 1771 showing Penn with the Lenape gathered below the branches of the Giant Elm. Today Shackamaxon is the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. And there is a park there - Penn Treaty Park - commemorating the event.
The peace between the Lenape Turtle Clan and Penn's successors would endure almost a century, until the Penn's Creek Massacre of 1755. It was remarked upon by Voltaire, who called it "... the only treaty never sworn to and never broken." Quaker doctrine prohibited Penn from making oaths.
After the great Elm blew down in 1810, saplings were saved and propagated. In 1915, an alumnus of Haverford College donated seven American Elm graphs descended from the Treaty Elm to the college. They were planted in a circle on the lawn behind Barclay Hall. One survived; six others, however, succumbed to Dutch Elm disease.
“The tree we got from Haverford as a gift is a fourth generation scion of the original elm tree,” said Simon. “The ones that came to Haverford were third generation so ours is a fourth generation.”
To guard against Dutch Elm Disease, Simon said the Meeting will be following protocols, including frequent pruning to prevent the fungus from taking hold.
The four year old sapling, planted last fall at the Makefield Meeting, quickly took root at its new home, growing from four to five feet in eight short months.
By the time its branches are once again providing shade on the meetinghouse grounds, today’s Friends will be long gone, but hopefully not the meaning behind the Treaty Elm and its message of peace.
“This tree represents to us an emblem of our long standing Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and simplicity,” explained Simon.
“This Treaty grew out of those testimonies, which William Penn certainly ascribed to,” said Simon. “So when we plant this tree and we dedicate this tree today we are seeing our testimonies embodied in the tree.
“Even though it is hardly but a twig, as this tree grows to its maturity we trust that these principles, testimonies, traditions will remain central to the people of Makefield Friends Meeting and of Friends everywhere.”
Located at 877 Dolington Road, Makefield Meeting, also known as Makefield Monthly Meeting and the Meeting House at Dolington, was built in 1752. A second story was added in 1764 and the building was renovated in 1851. The complex also includes a 2 1/2-story, stuccoed stone schoolmaster's house built in 1787, a horse shed built about 1800 and a cemetery. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Placesin 1974.
Makefield Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, meets for worship at 10 a.m. every Sunday. Makefield also holds a midweek meeting for worship every Wednesday morning starting at 7 a.m.
Makefield is the original Quaker meeting in the Newtown, Yardley, and Washington Crossing area of Bucks County. The Meeting is a member of the Bucks Quarterly Meetingand Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.