Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 15, 2005, pg. 3
There is a “ghost town” near Albion. A couple of miles east of the village of Devereaux on the northwest corner of Devereaux and Gibbs Roads sits the former Quakertown Schoolhouse. This particular school operated from 1878 to 1965 until it was annexed into the Springport School district. It is a visible reminder of a community that once existed here when the pioneers settled the area in the 1830s and 1840s.
In 1835, a man by the name of John Mott settled near the intersection, along with other families who were members of the Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. The group erected a schoolhouse in 1838, and named the area Hickory Grove. The local school district was officially organized in 1840. The U.S. government established a post office here named Hickory Grove on March 14, 1839. It operated out of the home of John Mott, the first postmaster until his death in 1848. The office was then transferred to the home of Oliver Hampton, to the west where it was continued until October 6, 1855 at which time it was closed.
The Hickory Grove Monthly Meeting house was erected in 1840 just west of the present schoolhouse, on the property where the Quakertown Cemetery now sits. According to sources, a partition divided the structure up and down in the center. The women would sit on one side, and the men on the other. The congregation would sit in silence until the Spirit moved one of them to rise to speak, hence the “quaker” designation. The meeting house was later moved, and the “burying ground” was established on the property.
The peace-loving Quakers were active in the North in helping runaway slaves escape to Canada, and thus were major facilitators to the Underground Railroad in the 1840s. Members of the Hickory Grove community were actively involved in this phenomenon, and the John Mott homestead was said to have been one of the Underground Railroad stops.
Another significant feature of this community was a boarding school that existed from 1838 through the 1840s called the Mott Seminary. The name Seminary in those days meant a privately-run school, such as the Albion Female Seminary which later became Albion College. This school took in students from various grade levels. This privately-run school was co-educational, and its students came primarily from farms within a 10-mile radius of the school. It was located on the north side of Devereaux Road, about a quarter mile east of Gibbs Road. The first teacher was John & Hannah Mott’s daughter Mary (1818-1872) who married Benjamin Stevens.
Hannah Mott died in December, 1845, while John Mott died in October, 1848 at the age of 65, and the Seminary was subsequently closed. The burying ground, now known as Quakertown Cemetery, was established just west of the present schoolhouse, and is still there today. The oldest burial date on a tombstone there is 1843. Most of the burials in this cemetery occurred from the 1840s through the 1880s. The last burial was in 1895. Many of those interred here were the original settlers of this Quaker community, with surnames such as: Baker, Colson, Coy, Curtis, Day, Gardner, Gifford, Griffin, Hoag, Horton, McComber, Manning, May, Miller, Mott, Stevens, Quimby, and Weeks.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the bronze plaque that is mounted to the large rock on the northwest corner of Devereaux and Gibbs Roads, entitled “Quakertown.” Take a drive and tour Quakertown this week, where you can view this yourself.
Next: ORPHAN TRAIN, PART 3
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic