Four people with long-ago memories of the historic Meeting House on Milton Road gathered there on February 2 for the first session of an oral history project.
Four people with long-ago memories of the historic Meeting House on Milton Road gathered there on February 2 for the first session of an oral history project. Sponsored by the non-profit Committee to Save the Bird Homestead, which is rehabilitating and operating the Meeting House, the project will document oral recollections by tape recording and later transcribing them.
Coline Jenkins organized the first session. Her mother, Rhoda Barney Jenkins, was the architect for the Quakers after they purchased the building from Christ’s Church in 1959 and an original member of the Rye Friends congregation.
Sally Weeks, Bruce Jenkins, and Richard (Dick) Sammel recorded their memories by decade, starting in the 1930s. Mrs. Weeks told of her mother donating an organ to the Meeting House when it was Grace Chapel and affiliated with Rye’s Christ Church. The organ had originally belonged to her grandmother, Sarah Fremd Jenkins. Unfortunately, it was damaged in the terrible Hurricane of 1938, which Bruce Jenkins remembered as having floodwaters that rose much higher than those of recent Hurricane Sandy. As a boy during the storm, he rescued Mrs. Gedney, a neighbor on Milton Road, by rowing a boat through her front door and taking her off her staircase to the second floor, as the tide was surging. He rowed her to his family’s house at 4 Garden Drive, where many people had congregated, because it stood on high ground.
Mr. Sammel and Mr. Jenkins both recalled a favorite boyhood prank in the 1940s, when they would climb up to the roof of Grace Chapel (Meeting House) and ring the bell. A neighbor would appear with a rolling pin or a frying pan in her hand and chase them away. “She was probably worried about our safety,” said Sammel, “and rightly so!”
Mrs. Weeks reminisced about women gathering weekly at Grace Chapel to do Red Cross work for the war effort during World War II. She said many of the women had sons serving in Europe or the Pacific.
Oral history projects document accounts of people’s experiences — from everyday occurrences to major events, such as the Hurricane of 1938. Ms. Jenkins, who is a direct descendant of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, is the president of the non-profit Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust, which preserves the history of the Women’s Rights Movement. She collaborated with the National Park Service in establishing the Woman’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, and has experience working on documentaries and oral history projects.
Ms. Jenkins kindly donated her mother’s Quaker books. Mr. Sammel, a talented artist, generously donated note cards with his beautiful drawing of the Meeting House, as well as some old photographs. One shows rowboats pulled out of the water behind the building. Mr. Jenkins donated his hand-drawn map of the area, as he remembers it from childhood.
Rye residents, current and former, who have memories of the Meeting House/Grace Chapel they would like to record, or related photographs they would like to donate or lend for copying, are encouraged to contact Anne Stillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 967-0099.