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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Leah Blackman Disowned

The Friday, March 16th Blog dealt with John Hallock and the castor oil industry in Tuckerton in the early 1800's. I quoted Leah Blackman (See quote below) as stating her father told her that Hallock was swindled by a local and thus spent his remaining days in poverty. Although she didn't mention the name of the rascal that took advantage of John Hallock, it was surely Nathan Bartlett, a "good" Tuckerton Quaker.

They [the local farmers] embarked in the castor bean trade, which to most of them proved a profitable business; in one instance laying the foundation for the largest fortune ever made in the place, but for the roguery of this one, Halleck — who had taught him the way to wealth — was made a bankrupt . . .  In his old age and the days of his poverty, John Halleck frequently made visits to my father, and I have prepared many a meal's victuals for poor wronged John Halleck, and after he left the house my father would remark that Mr. _______, who had ruined Halleck, ought to keep him a gentleman until the end of his life, but such rascals seldom make restitution. ("History of Little Egg Harbor", page 221) 

As I read through Leah's epoch "History of Little Egg Harbor Township", I can't help noticing a negative undertone regarding the Quakers in and around Little Egg Harbor. Her comments regarding John Hallock's treatment at the hands of fellow Quaker Nathan Bartlett is just one example.

The 1963 reprint of Leah's 1880 work

Leah's book was published in 1880; however, she had been working on it for many years, and her opinions were well known throughout the area. She was an outspoken woman at a time when being an outspoken woman was not fashionable, especially among the Orthodox Quakers of Little Egg Harbor.. 


I'm sure that her observations regarding the hypocritical behavior of some of her supposedly pious Quakers neighbors ruffled a few feathers, so it came as no surprise to me when I stumbled across Leah's name in the 1870's Little Egg Harbor Meeting House minutes. It seems that she was in hot water concerning accusations she made about some of her fellow Friends.

Leah was an outspoken woman of her time.
Photo courtesy of Arnold Cramer.

Leah was brought up on charges of defamation of character against some Meeting members and for refusing to attend the weekly meetings. I can't help wondering if her statements involving Nathan Bartlett and John Hallock were a part of the problem. 

The accusations were investigated and deliberated over a period of a few months with the situation finally ending in Leah being disowned from the Meeting on the 10th day of the 12th month, 1874. Simply stated, she was kicked out of the Little Egg Harbor Society of Friends.

Following are scans and transcriptions of the relevant pages from the Little Egg Harbor Friends' minutes. To understand what was happening some background regarding the Friends meeting is in order.

In addition to a weekly worship service on Sunday which the Quakers referred to as "First Day", the men and the women held monthly meetings to conduct the business of the Meeting. The following minutes are from the men's monthly business meetings.

The first minute entry indicates that the accusations against Leah originated in the Woman's monthly business meeting with the situation referred to the men's meeting. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the Woman's meeting minutes to see if more specific information regarding the charges were presented. 


I tend to believe that the Women's Meeting Minutes would not shed more light on the situation, as the specific persons who were allegedly defamed by Leah would probably not have been identified by name nor her comments regarding those individuals mentioned. That would only serve to enhance the slander.

At Little Eggharbour mo. Meeting held 10th mo 8 1874

A minute from Womans Meeting containing a charge against Leah Blackman inform that after hearing the report of their committee, and after full deliberation of the Meeting they are united in testifying against her, But refer the case to men friends for the further call in the case; Which on being read and deliberately considered -  our Meeting are united in appointing a committee to make further inquiring labour in the case and report to our ensuing Ms Meeting.


At Little Eggharbour mo. Meeting held 11th mo 12th 1874

The committee appointed in the 10 mo last to make further inquring and call in the case of Leah Blackman report viz.

The committee appointed to investigate into the case of Leah Blackman reported they find the charges fully sustained and that her charges against some of our members were entirely false, that she shows no disposition to return or give satisfaction - and they are united in the belief that further labour would be unavailing.

Signed Jonathan Cox on behalf of the committee.

Their report after consideration is approved and George Collins and Jonathan Cox are appointed to prepare a testimony of disownment against her and produce to our ensuing Mo. Meeting.


At Little Eggharbour mo. Meeting held 12th mo 10th 1874

The committee appointed to visit Leah Blackman having reported, they find the charges for defamation of character against some of our members, and refusing to attend our Meetings ___ are fully sustained, and feeling further labour would be unavailing:

This meeting is united in testifying against her being longer a member of our religious Society of Friends.

Signed on behalf of Little Eggharbour mo. meeting of Friends 12 mo 10th 1874

Archelius R. Pharo Clerk



Well, it seems as if my heroine, Leah, was not appreciated by her peers. The pluck and tenacity that gave us her wonderful historical and genealogical writings that are so precious to us today were her downfall. She was a fighter, and I tip my hat to her!

Pete S


PS- You can enlarge the minute photos by hitting the Ctrl and + keys simultaneously. Hitting the Ctrl and - keys will make them smaller.

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