100 – Troubles with Quakers

Joseph Jervis had some troubles with Quakers. On the other hand, the Quakers had some troubles with Joseph.

Mind you, it wasn’t only Joseph. The monthly meeting minutes are full of examples of “disorderly walking” by members.


The Quakers often assigned two other members to have a talk with an offender, to see if the offender would come around. The offender would need to submit a written apology for his or her actions, which would be read at the meeting.

The Quakers were patient. They would try for several months to resolve the problem, assigning people each month to interact with the offender.


If the offender wouldn’t repent, a Paper of Denial was prepared and given to the offender, disowning them from Quakers.

Disowning was not done lightly. Overseers labored sometimes for years with offenders.

And that all that walk disorderly, should be tenderly dealt withal, in the same love wherewithal God hath loved us; but, if they cannot be reclaimed, they ought to be denied, and Truth cleared

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting – 1694

The Quakers wanted to encourage members to live by their values, but they did so with a heavy hand. Joseph’s troubles are a good example.

Joseph’s Troubles

Joseph had some transgressions over the years. In 1704 he was busted for selling rum to the Indians. Around that same time he was condemned for having a vision that Samuel Buckley, deceased, had encouraged Joseph to court his widow. And he had various run-ins over unpaid debts.

One of the debt incidents in 1716 began a string of events that spiraled out of control. Here’s a synopsis.

He didn’t pay his debt

In spring of 1716, Joseph was confronted about non-payment of a debt to Joseph Kirkbride.

And he didn’t get a travel certificate

In addition, Joseph had traveled to England and Barbados without permission by the Quakers. Members were supposed to request a certificate to travel outside their own meeting area, even to another meeting in Pennsylvania.

And he left the meeting in a huff

At the Middletown meeting in June 1716, Joseph Jervis abruptly left the meeting when his business was brought up. Two were appointed to talk to him about satisfying this debt to Joseph Kirkbride or friends would have to testify against him.

Friends were appointed to convey his misdoings

Over the next few monthly meetings, several friends were appointed to talk with Joseph and convey his misdoings. Not much was accomplished. Sometimes Joseph didn’t attend the meeting, other times his business was postponed.

Joseph defended his travel

At a meeting in January 1717, Joseph brought a paper defending his actions in going to England. When the meeting didn’t accept his reason, Joseph “left in a manner contrary to the rules of discipline”.

My brother-in-law died

The months dragged on, and the meetings continued. In June 1717, Joseph missed a meeting that the friends had expected him to attend. Joseph blamed his absence on the death of his brother-in-law Richard Cloud. The Quakers didn’t accept his reason.

Joseph was warned

Joseph didn’t appear at another monthly meeting. Two friends were appointed to speak to Joseph again and tell him to attend the next meeting or friends could be expected to testify against him.

A Paper of Denial

A Paper of Denial

In October 1717, the meeting ordered a Paper of Denial be drawn up for Joseph.

Let’s try one more time

In November, the paper of denial was delayed because some friends had a desire to speak with him again.

You’re outta here

In December 1717, the meeting ordered that the paper of denial be read to Joseph Jervis and returned. And in January 1718, some 20 months after this exercise began, it was reported that the paper was read to Joseph Jervis.

Joseph was disowned.

The details

Here’s a month-by-month abstract of Joseph’s case in the monthly meetings from July 1716 to January 1718. Several things strike me:

  • It’s amazing that there’s a detailed monthly record of our grandparent’s episode for 20 months from 1716 to 1718.
  • The Quakers were extraordinarily slow to disown.
  • Joseph was fed up with the Quakers’ interference.
  • As months dragged on, the outcome seemed inevitable.
  • I’ll bet both sides were OK with the outcome.

Nibbles Extra Credit

I thought it remarkable that Joseph had traveled to England and Barbados.

Why? Do you suppose he went to Nantwich? Was he buying and selling trade goods?

Sloop – single-mast ship

A court case explains his stop in Barbados.

Aaron Harding, captain of the Sloop Mary, brought a case against Joseph for non-payment of his passage and freight from Barbados to Philadelphia in June of 1716.

…at the Request of the said Joseph transported him the said Joseph with certain goods to witt two hogsheads and three tierces of Rum and three casks of Sugar for him the said Joseph from the Island of Barbados to Philadelphia in the Sloop Mary whereof the said Aaron then was and yet is commander…

Excerpt – Chester Court of Common Pleas – Harding v Jervis – 1716

As we observed earlier, Joseph seems more a wheeler-dealer than a farmer. And he certainly had a problem paying his debts.

Here’s our cheat sheet for containers – hogsheads, tierces, and casks.

  • two hogsheads of rum – about 128 gallons
  • three tierces of rum – about 126 gallons
  • three casks of sugar – a generic term of any size barrel, maybe several hundred pounds

More Nibbles Extra Credit

Here are the top 25 disciplinary reasons for disownments in the Pennsylvania Monthly Meetings from 1682-1776.

Male/female relationships are the runaway leaders. Pretty obvious what was top-of-mind.


2 thoughts on “100 – Troubles with Quakers

  1. Brenda Teply August 22, 2020 / 12:42 pm

    Do you think Joseph Jervis’ gene for tenacity was passed on to future generations?


    • Mark Jarvis August 22, 2020 / 12:57 pm

      Wow, that’s a tricky question. I wish we could pick and choose what traits of our ancestors we’d like. But his reverence for organized religion seems to have passed down.

      And it’s good that Joseph’s unpaid debts weren’t passed on to future generations.


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