Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Quaker settlements began to appear in the Great Plains in Kansas in the 1850s when families moved together from Quaker communities in Indiana and Iowa. Lured by the prospect of choice land, they were also motivated by benevolent concern for Native Americans and the opportunity of voting against slavery in this newly opened territory. Homes and churches were constructed of logs and prairie sod.

Historically, Quaker worship consisted of a simple gathering in silence, without clergy, planned program, or sacrament. Worshipers prayed or spoke as they felt moved by God. Influenced by frontier revivalism, many Quakers in the latter third of the 1800s embraced the evangelistic methods and pastoral leadership characteristic of others. Thereafter, much of the spread of Quakerism in rural Oklahoma and Nebraska reflected this new development.

Maintaining the dignity and equality of all persons and leadership by women as well as men have been encouraged. Numerous Quaker schools across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska made education available before the advent of public schools. Not limited to Quakers, Barclay College (Haviland, Kansas) and Friends University (Wichita, Kansas) continue to provide education at the adult level. Work with Native Americans, initiated in Kansas at Shawnee Mission (1836), continued in Nebraska in the late 1860s, when Quakers were appointed as agents to the Pawnees, Omahas, and Otoe- Missourias, and subsequently in Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Approximately a dozen isolated Quaker Meetings (worship groups) can be found in Nebraska, and there is a small, unprogrammed group in each of the five major cities of the Prairie Provinces of Canada. The highest concentration of Quakers in the Great Plains, however, is found in southern Kansas, northern Oklahoma, and southeastern Colorado, where the pastoral leadership style of worship tends to prevail. Membership among Quakers within the Great Plains is approximately 6,000, with about 75 percent located in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Leroy Brightup Friends University

Barbour, Hugh, and J. William Frost. The Quakers. Richmond IN: Friends United Press, 1994.

Dorland, Arthur Garratt. The Quakers in Canada: A History. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1968.

Elliott, Errol T. Quakers on the American Frontier. Richmond IN: Friends United Press, 1969.

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