The Third Haven Meeting House was one of the first meeting houses of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, to be built in America, and the oldest to survive. It is also the oldest church in Maryland, and one of the oldest churches in continuous use in the United States. Despite several substantial renovations, large portions of the original meeting house are still intact. The Third Haven Meeting House is still in use by a Quaker congregation.
The Religious Society of Friends was one of the new Christian denominations that emerged in Europe in the 1640s as the century of religious warfare which had wracked the continent and British Isles was coming to a merciful close. However, religious intolerance remained rampant, especially towards unusual groups like the Quakers, and in the 1650s members of the society, also known as Quakers, began to imigrate to the United States.
Among the earliest small groups of Quakers to arrive settled in what is now Talbot County in Maryland. A few very small meeting houses were established at this time. But it was another few decades before larger numbers of Quakers began to arrive. By the 1680s the community had grown large enough to require a larger facility.
In 1681, Johan Edmondson, a local merchant and devout Quaker, donated the land for a new “great meeting house” which was the largest yet constructed south of Pennsylvania. In 1684 the Third Haven Meeting House was completed, at which time it became the preeminent Quaker worship site in Maryland.
Throughout the colonial era, the Third Haven Meeting House, also known as the Great Meeting House, hosted one of the two annual Quaker meetings every year in the state of Maryland. It later became the site of all such meetings. The Third Haven Meeting House has continued its quiet existence for over three centuries as all of its contemporaries in Maryland and elsewhere have fallen to the ravages of time. The congregation still makes use of the building.
The Third Haven Meeting House is the oldest standing Quaker church in the country. The core of the building dates from the original construction in the 1680s. However, it was substantially renovated in the post-Revolutionary War period, with its wings removed and the main hall widened. Building is a wood-frame structure. The exterior is a simply-painted white with black trim and no adornment, as was typical of Quaker Meeting Houses of the period.
The interior adornment is even simpler, with little more than unpainted benches and fixtures, making it one of the best preserved pre-colonial worship experiences in the United States. Also on the grounds of the meeting house is a newer brick building with more modern amenities, constructed in the 19th century, for use by the congregation. There is also a burial ground on the site.
The Third Haven Meeting House is located on the south side of Easton, approximately fifty miles southeast of Baltimore. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.thirdhaven.org (official website).
The region from the Chesapeake Bay to Philadelphia is home to many of the oldest and most important surviving Quaker Meeting Houses. Not too far from Third Haven Is the Colora Meeting House in Colora, Maryland. The Chichester Meeting House just across the border in Philadelphia still bears battle scars from the American Revolution when it was ransacked by British forces.