Daily Reporter staff reports
WESTLAND — When settlers began to come to Hancock County, much of their migration was from the east. As settlers moved westward, it sometimes became challenging to travel farther and farther back east to church.
Members of Walnut Ridge Friends Church in Carthage eyed the “west land” and began work to establish a new Friends church there.
Westland Friends Church began meeting in Blue River Township and was organized in 1840. A town sprang up around the 16-by-20 log cabin built at what is now county roads 700E and 300S. A school, a gas boom, even a cornet band were part of the community, which took its name from the church.
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They are gone today, but the church remains, and Sunday the congregation will celebrate the church’s 175th anniversary.
The service begins at 10:30 a.m. at the
The first Quakers to settle in Hancock County were:
Joseph Andrews, 1832; John Brown, 1833; Elias Marsh, Elisha Butler, Nathan Perisho, and William and Frederick Brown, all prior to 1839.
The Quakers typically built their Meeting Houses approximately six miles apart, the distance a family
could go and return in a day.
Fifteen families founded Westland Friends. The original trustees of the church were Samuel Bundy, John Brown and Joseph Andrews.
Nathan Perisho sold two acres to the Friends for $5. A 16-by-20 log cabin was built on the site and served as the first meeting house.
Westland launched four other Friends churches in the late 1800s: Maxwell Friends, Philadelphia Friends, Center Friends in Jackson Township, and Greenfield Friends. Greenfield Friends, established in 1890, is the one that remains.
The Quakers believed in gender equality. Two of Westland’s early ministers were women: Mary Hodson and Melissa Hill.
Westland also established one of the earliest schools in Hancock County, and it too was led by a woman, Abigail Hubbard.
The core of the current church building dates to 1866; it is the third meeting house on the same site. A building committee of Elihu Coffin, Benjamin Binford, and Joseph Andrews spent $1,782.32 for materials. Elihu Coffin was the contractor.
Among the more well-known members of the church through the years have been Tubby Toms, a well-known newspaper reporter and columnist, and Mary Binford Bruner, an early female doctor in Hancock County.
Peanut butter fudge typically sells out at the church’s Riley Festival booth, which has grown over the decades from a card table on the sidewalk to a large tent.
Westland Friends has always conducted outreach to the non-Quaker community. Then known as “home missions,” Westland established a formal mission in 1883, visiting the sick and aged, bringing good literature to inmates in the county jail, and ministering to the poor.
Binford’s History of Hancock County, 1882
Richman’s History of Hancock County, 1916
Brigette Cook Jones, Hancock County Historical Society