While visitors to the Princeton Battlefield were learning about the historical events of January 2nd and 3rd, 1777, a handful of the members of Princeton Monthly Meeting made ready to provide some historical counterpoint.
We saw somewhere between 70 and 100 visitors in the Meetinghouse today, I think, many of them families with young children. People were interested to hear about the role of Quakers in the early British settlement of the area, and surprised to hear that the Meetinghouse is the same one that stood there in 1777.
We were informal in our welcome, and talked about whatever came up, including the structure and construction of the building, the peace testimony, and the role of Quaker women in the movement for suffrage. As is usually the case at these events, some of our guests were quite surprised to discover that the Meetinghouse is a going concern, with an active membership and weekly Meetings for Worship.
As usual, the best questions came from children. One boy wondered how many wounded soldiers were brought to the Meetinghouse to be tended to. I had to answer that although we're pretty sure the Meetinghouse was used as a de facto field hospital, we don't have any accurate records of the names or numbers of those who were helped. Another boy, after we'd been talking about the wide floor planks of the Meetinghouse as a reflection of the size and age of the trees used, wondered how many trees it would have taken to build the Meetinghouse. We didn't know, but we all had fun talking through our theories.
I promised friend K that I would be "blogging the heck out of" my time in the Meetinghouse today, but in truth I think it's too early to know all my feelings. As much as I enjoy speaking to groups of people, I now find myself wishing that there had been a way to slow the steady flow of strangers into the Meetinghouse down to a trickle, so that I could have had more one-on-one conversations. I know that many of our visitors today were just following the signs, or looking for Declaration-signer Richard Stockton's grave. But surely some of them were there because they were heeding a still, small voice, and I wonder if we did our community justice in the presence of those seekers.