The Journey Through Hallowed Ground

Skip to Navigation

Menallen Friends Quaker Meeting and Burial Ground

Adams County members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) established the Menallen Meeting in 1780, and began worshipping at the present site in 1838. They established the burial ground in 1853 and erected the current meetinghouse in 1883. Menallen Quakers maintained close ties to Friends in Maryland and northern Virginia through kinship and social networks and the institutional umbrella of the Baltimore annual meeting. They visited and corresponded often and the women quilted together, sometimes exchanging signed blocks. They also shared religious values emphasizing freedom, equality, and responsibility. Some of them actively opposed slavery, allied with free blacks, and assisted freedom seekers escaping to the north or west. Members of the Huntington Meeting had a close relationship with residents of Yellow Hill, a black community nearby. Menallen Friends Cyrus Griest and his wife Mary Ann Cook Griest cooperated with Yellow Hill residents in

Underground Railroad activity. Their graves are marked in the burial ground.

Designations: The Burial Ground at Menallen Friends Meeting is a National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site.
 
Resources

Cyrus Griest (1803-1869) and Mary Ann (Cook) Griest (1803-1884)

Cyrus and Mary Ann Griest moved from York County, Pennsylvania, to Menallen Township in 1839. The Griest’s son Amos confirmed that his parents’ farm was a station on the Underground Railroad, visited about twice a month in warm seasons. Edward Mathews, a property owner and resident of the nearby black community of Yellow Hill, escorted freedom seekers to the Griest barn before dawn. He tapped upon the couple’s bedroom window to let them know they had guests. In the morning, Mary Ann prepared a hearty breakfast for them. Freedom seekers usually rested during the day and set off again under cover of dark until they were farther north.

Cyrus Griest spent considerable energy and money helping a free black woman living in Menallen Township named Catherine “Kitty” Payne. Legally freed in Rappahannock County, Virginia, after the death of her white father and owner, Payne’s white cousin kidnapped her and claimed her as his property. Cyrus Griest championed her cause among Quakers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, raised money for her legal defense in Rappahannock, and was the only white person to testify against the kidnappers when they were tried and convicted in their absence in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Payne was eventually released and stayed for the winter with Loudoun County Quakers before returning to Adams.
The Griests had nine children. Son George died at age 24 in Leesburg, Virginia. Jesse served as an agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Nebraska. Cyrus S. continued farming in Adams County and promoted education.

Resources

  • National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Nomination. Prepared by Debra McCauslin (2007).
  • Debra McCauslin, “Sites Verified by the National UGRR Network to Freedom,” in Freedom Lies Just North: The Underground Railroad in Adams County .
  • History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1886).
Back to top