Leadership Class Restoring Quaker Meeting House Near West Unity

A project by a local leadership group will bring new life to a 167-year-old church.

The Leadership Williams County Class of 2016-17 is preparing to restore the exterior walls of the Quaker House near West Unity. The group has the labor, but is seeking donations to help cover the cost of the project.

The Quaker House was built in 1850 by William Ely for $250. Ely was hired by five brothers bearing the name Borton (John, Job, Nate, Sam, and Ben) who had moved to the area from New Jersey.

The Leadership class is a group of area residents formed by the Bryan Area Chamber of Commerce. The class sizes range from 12-14 students. The class visits different places one Wednesday per month.

“We visit historical sites,” class member Scott Towers said. “We went to see the county building and the Bryan City government. At the end of the course, we have to come up with a community service project.”

The class chose the Quaker Meeting House because it is an important historical site that shows how life was like in the 1850s, Towers said.

The house was built for $250 (or about $7,350 in today’s money). The interior is in good shape, Towers said. The exterior walls will need work as well as a fresh coat of paint. There are also minor items that need fixing, Towers said.

The group is not looking for extra workers, just donations to pay for materials.

If people want to donate, they should send or drop off checks made payable to the Williams County Historical Society with Quaker House in the memo line, Towers said. A visit to the group’s Facebook page will take you to the link to the Go Fund Me account, he said.

Fundraising will take about two to three weeks, with construction to begin in late April or early May, depending on the weather.

When the preservation is complete, Towers said the building should be around so people 20-30 years in the future can see what life was like in 1850.

According to local historical accounts the congregation that built and occupied the Meeting House began worshiping in the 1840 or 41 under the authority of a meeting in Adrian, Mich. Job Borton gave the congregation land he had purchased from Ely in 1841.

In 1840, five Borton brothers, John, Job, Nate, Sam, and Ben, moved from New Jersey to the West Unity area, with two of the brothers making the entire trip on foot. Several members of the Borton Family assisted Ely in building the Meeting House in 1850. Job, Benjamin, Nathan, and John Borton paid all the expenses.

The Borton family had a strong presence in the early life of the gathering. Nate Borton ministered or spoke from 1839-89.

The house used to have birch trees and a fence.

Of historical significance, the Quaker Meeting House was known as a transfer station for the Underground Railroad. Many families in the society assisted fugitive slaves on their trip to freedom.

In 1913 the meeting house was reroofed and the building was reduced in size in order to save money.

In 1934 they continued renovations by repairing and painting the walls, as well as constructing a new foundation. The name board was placed on the building in 1939.

Upkeep of the church and the sign were paid for by George Geesey because the congregation had no funds.

The cemetery was turned over to the township in 1967.

To donate toward materials to renovate the Quaker House, please visit the Leadership Williams County Facebook page or https://www.gofundme.com/quaker-house-restoration-project

James Pruitt may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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