During the past 130 years, the Colonial Society has published many church records, but they have all been either Congregational or Anglican, so this volume marks a new departure. The south coast of Massachusetts, adjoining the Rhode Island border, was throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a safe haven for those seeking to avoid too close scrutiny by either provincial authorities or the Congregational establishment in Boston. Thus, this borderland provided a refuge for Native Americans, freed Blacks, and religious dissidents, especially Quakers who faced severe penalties both in the Plymouth Colony, and later after 1691 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Dartmouth Monthly Meeting was the first group of Friends to gather for organized worship in the region. Being a ‘worship group’ within the Rhode Island Monthly Meeting, they did not begin recording their own minutes until being “set off” as their own Monthly Meeting in 1699. Since then, they have collected and preserved their records well into the twenty-first century. Constituting over six thousand manuscript pages, these volumes include not only the usual births, deaths, and marriages, but also the business records of their monthly meetings, a list of removals, and an eighteenth -century hand-written Book of Discipline, outlining the guiding principles of Quaker life and practice. Recognizing that a continuous set of records over such a long span of time was indeed a remarkable survival, the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society set about digitizing and transcribing these manuscripts, and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts has now joined in the effort to make these records better known and more available by publishing the minutes of both the Men’s and Women’s Monthly Meetings from 1699 through the end of the American Revolution.

The well-regarded Quaker scholar, Thomas Hamm of Earlham College, generously provided a scholarly introduction for the records, together with appropriate annotations, that clarify for non-Quaker readers some of the group’s most distinctive practices and highlight aspects of the documents that social historians will find particularly intriguing: the prominent role of women within Quaker meetings, marriage and courtship practices, offenses against “plainness,” growing concern over abolition, and the delicate negotiations necessary with local government concerning taxes and military service.

In the sometimes sleepy world of local historical societies, the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society is a remarkably energetic and ambitious organization. I would even venture to say unique in the scale and usefulness of its undertakings. Under the dynamic leadership of President Robert E. Harding and Project Manager Daniel Socha, the group devised a highly sophisticated program to transcribe these records, while still maintaining appropriate checks to insure accuracy. I highly recommend that interested readers visit their website to examine many of the other fascinating documents that could not be included in this book.

The Colonial Society is particularly grateful to the Dartmouth at Smith’s Neck Monthly Meeting for permission to publish this portion of their archives. Elton Hall, the long-time curator of the Colonial Society and a Dartmouth resident first made the Colonial Society aware of the DHAS efforts, and Bob Harding readily saw the value that bringing out a portion of these records under the Colonial Society’s imprint might have for the project. Since joining forces with the CSM, Bob has been tireless, never shying away from even the most tedious tasks necessary to assist in this cooperative endeavor. Andrea Marcovici was particularly helpful in effecting the difficult transition of files from the DHAS website to a format that could be put into print. Jean Schnell ( provided the evocative photographs that accompany the text. Paul Hoffmann is responsible for the book’s handsome design and Kate Mertes compiled the index.

John W. Tyler, Editor of Publications

Colonial Society of Massachusetts