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Marker to be dedicated

The Somerton Friends Meeting House on Quaker Drive.

The Somerton Friends Meeting House on Quaker Drive.

A new historical marker will be dedicated Saturday at Somerton Friends Meeting, the state’s oldest continuously active Quaker meeting.

The event will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, said Faye Sobel, who helped the church research its history for the marker.

The church is located at 5239 Quaker Drive, but the ceremony will take place at the marker’s location at the intersection of Holland and Lummis roads. The church will host a public reception after the event.

In 1672, George Fox, founder of the religious Society of Friends — commonly known as Quakers — visited Nansemond County to encourage Friends who had settled here. Fox’s visit established Somerton Friends Meeting, according to Sobel’s research.

In 1866, the building was burned, because the Quakers believed in racial equality, had freed their slaves and were educating black children, according to Sobel. The school was also burned.

The current building was constructed on the same site in 1869.

“I felt like they had not been recognized for the contributions they’ve made to the community,” Sobel said of her reason for taking on the project.

Donors raised money to cover the $1,600 cost of the sign. Major contributors included the Rho Kappa National Social Studies Honor Society chapter at Lakeland High School and the local chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution and Society of Colonial Dames of XVII Century.

Speakers at the ceremony will include Pastor Richard Wilcox; Sobel and Emily Richardson of the National Society of Colonial Dames XVII Century; Mayor Linda T. Johnson; Councilman Tim Johnson; and H.E. “Chip” Mann of the Board of Historic Resources.

The full sign reads:

“George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), visited this area in 1672 during a missionary journey to Virginia and North Carolina. His visit encouraged Friends who had settled nearby and led to the organization of Somerton Friends Meeting. Members conducted worship in private homes and later built a meetinghouse three miles southwest of here. The Somerton meetinghouse, along with a nearby school for African Americans, was burned in 1866. The congregation constructed its current building on the same site in 1869. Somerton is the oldest active Quaker meeting in Virginia.”