200 Years of OVYM
Existing with several different names since the early 1800s, Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting (OVYM) was originally formed from Monthly Meetings under the care of Baltimore Yearly Meeting. The beginnings of OVYM are deeply rooted in the anti-slavery movement. Quakers have sought that of God in all people, whether female or male, white or people of color, young or old. Although some early Quakers held slaves, many came to see that this was incompatible with their testimony of equality. This was especially difficult for Friends living in the Southern states. Some began to investigate moving to the Northwest Territory, designated as slave free. This included Ohio and other Midwest states. When Quakers moved from North Carolina to the “free state” of Ohio to escape the scourge of slavery, they founded Miami Monthly Meeting (Waynesville, Ohio), the first Quaker Meeting of what would become Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting. Over the years, more monthly meetings were branched off of Miami and eventually there were sufficient related meetings in the area to organize the Yearly Meeting.
The Evil of Slavery
During the 18th Century many Friends were attracted southward into Virginia and the Carolinas and became involved in the institution of slavery. Near the end of that century, as a result of the labor of John Woolman and others, Friends came to believe that slavery a curse; and slowly the conscience of the Society of Friends there awakened to the evil. Seeing no other way out of their dilemma, most Friends decided to transfer title of their slaves to the Yearly Meeting (North Carolina), since it was illegal to free them; sell their property, which brought only one-half of its real worth; and migrate to the Northwest Territory to begin a new life there.
The migration to the Waynesville area began in 1799 when Abijah O’Neal and his family left Bush River, South Carolina, and settled on some 3,000 acres on the east bank of the Little Miami River north of Caesar’s Creek. Within 15 years more than 18,000 followers of Fox and Penn left the land of slavery and made for the North to find a home in the Northwest Territory. Others came to the Miami country from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other seaboard states.
Beginning of Miami Monthly Meeting
In April, 1801, twelve families (81 individuals) in the Waynesville area began meeting for worship in a member’s home. Near the end of that year they sent a request to Westland Meeting, Pennsylvania (Baltimore Yearly Meeting) for establishing a regular meeting for worship on First and Fifth Days. This request was granted in Ninth Month, 1802. The Meeting was called Miami. Early in 1803 Miami asked Westland Meeting for permission to establish a Monthly Meeting; and when the request was approved, the Monthly Meeting was opened, Tenth Month 13, 1803. The eastern boundary was the Hocking River, the southern was the Ohio River, but there was no limit to the north or to the west. During this period of migration, hundreds of Friends from the Carolinas and Georgia brought their membership to Miami Monthly Meeting, until such time as other meetings could be established in the Northwest Territory. By 1815, Miami Monthly Meeting was said to have the largest membership of any Friends Meeting in Quakerdom.
Beginning of Miami Quarterly Meeting
After its establishment in 1803, Miami Monthly Meeting set off many new Meetings. Among the earliest ones were Lees Creek, Hardin Creek, Caesar’s Creek, West Branch, Elk, Center and Whitewater. In 1807 Miami, West Branch and Center Monthly Meetings requested that a new Quarterly Meeting be established to be known as Miami Quarterly Meeting, to be held at Waynesville, Ohio, on the second Seventh Day in the Second, Fifth, Eighth and Eleventh Months. Baltimore Yearly Meeting having approved the request, Miami Quarterly Meeting was opened, Fifth month 1809. The building of the White Brick Meetinghouse at Waynesville was begun in 1811 to accommodate the Quarterly Meeting.
Beginning of Ohio Yearly Meeting
In 1812 Baltimore Yearly Meeting granted permission to the Quarterly Meetings west of the Alleghenies to form a yearly meeting which was called Ohio Yearly Meeting. The first session was held at Short Creek on the 14th of Eighth month (August), 1813. The Ohio Yearly Meeting included all meetings in Ohio, Indiana Territory and adjacent areas of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Beginning of Indiana Yearly Meeting out of Ohio Yearly Meeting
In 1820 Miami Quarterly Meeting proposed that all Meetings in Illinois, Indiana and western Ohio be known as Indiana Yearly Meeting. The Quarterly Meetings making up the new proposed Yearly Meeting were Miami, West Branch, Fairfield, Whitewater and Blue River Quarterlies. Ohio Yearly Meeting approved the proposal, and the first session was held at Whitewater, Eighth month 10, 1821.
When the separation occurred in 1828, the Yearly Meeting split into two bodies: Indiana Yearly Meeting Orthodox (later Friends United Meeting), and Indiana Yearly Meeting Hicksite (later Friends General Conference). At Waynesville the Hicksite body retained the Meetinghouse; however, in most other cases west of the Alleghenies, the Orthodox body retained it.
Change of Name to Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting
In 1975 there were two reasons why it seemed desirable for this Yearly Meeting (Indiana Yearly Meeting of Friends General Conference) to change its name: one, the unavoidable confusion which resulted from identical names; and two, the need to better identify the area included in the membership. For these reasons the name of Indiana Yearly Meeting FGC to Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting. The change became effective in 1976. At that time the Yearly Meeting was composed of two Quarters: Miami and Whitewater.