Quakers began arriving in the Chester County, Pennsylvania area in the early 1700s seeking refuge from persecution in England. Early Quakers, including such prominent families as the Downings and the Parkes, settled along the east branch of Brandywine Creek in Great Valley.
While Quakers in this area first began gathering in one another's homes, by 1712 they had constructed the Uwchlan Meetinghouse in Lionville, located on present-day Route 113. However, those traveling from Downingtown—then called Milltown—found the distance to be too far, so they received permission to worship in a small stone building called the Schoolhouse, the first recorded community school on record in the area, located on the north side of present-day Route 30, on a piece of land gifted to Uwchlan Meeting in 1774 by John Downing, owner of King’s Arms Tavern.
Some years later, Jeru (or Jehu) Roberts donated the land adjacent to the Schoolhouse to the Meeting, and in 1806 the Downings Town Meetinghouse was constructed just a short distance from the Schoolhouse gathering location. In mid-November, the new Meetinghouse opened ceremoniously with the marriage of Elizabeth Downing and John T. Thomas. While this new Meeting remained part of Uwchlan/Lionville Meeting, the Downingtown Friends Meeting was recognized as an “indulged Meeting,” or a distinct worship group which remains under the care of another local Meeting.
By 1907, diminished attendance forced the closure of the Uwchlan/Lionville Meeting, and Downingtown Preparative Meeting officially took the name Uwchlan Monthly Meeting in Downingtown. In 1920, the Meeting inaugurated a new school building next to the Meetinghouse to which it added an addition in 1985. This building was called the Schoolhouse.
Today, Friends continue to gather every Sunday at Downingtown Friends Meeting for Meeting for Worship. Our Members, Attenders, and visitors come from all faiths and backgrounds, and we welcome anyone and everyone! Read some personal stories about what our Meeting means to us, found below.
OLD CALN | A HISTORY
In addition to caring for our Downingtown Friends Meetinghouse and its property, we are also dedicated to the care and maintenance of Old Caln Meetinghouse, a historic Orthodox Meetinghouse that is located in nearby Coatesville. Old Caln is an extension of our Meeting. It holds much of the same character as its 1726 origins, though electricity was added in the 19th century.
A wood stove heats a small room where Friends gather every Sunday (except for the last Sunday of the month) at 10:30 AM for Meeting for Worship. Typically, a small group of two to ten people meet in this space, and Friends and visitors are always invited to join them for a quiet and cozy Worship. The address is 901 Caln Meetinghouse Rd, Coatesville, PA 19320.
To read more about the History of Old Caln, download this page.