BLACKSTONE â€” The historic East Blackstone Quaker Meeting House is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. The burial grounds date back to 1799 and the Meeting House located at 197 Elm St. was built in 1812.
The East Blackstone Quaker Meeting House and Cemetery Historical Association will be celebrating this major milestone with events throughout the year, including a series of ecumenical services that kicks off this weekend.
Rev. Edward St-Godard, pastor at Holy Family Church in Woonsocket, will serve as guest pastor for the first scheduled service to be held Sunday at 2 p.m. Father St-Godard was born in 1939 in Pawtucket. He entered the seminary at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick in 1955. His theological studies were completed at St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, New York, and he was ordained to priesthood on May 23, 1964.
He served at St. John the Baptist Church in West Warwick, before serving 19 years in Pawtucket, first at his home parish of Our Lady of Consolation and then at St. John the Baptist Church and St. Joseph's Church. He has been at Holy Family Church since 1991.
Music for the service is under the direction of John Staples of Blackstone. Special music selections will be featured.
The East Blackstone Quaker Meeting House and Cemetery has an interesting history.
In 1799, Samuel Smith gave the land to a group of Quaker settlers for purposes of establishing a local cemetery and Meeting House. Upon conveyance of the land, Seth Kelly was the first to be buried on the grounds in 1799. Thirteen years later, in 1812, the Meeting House was built at a cost of $525. Prior to that time, local Quakers traveled to the central village of Mendon, Mass., to attend meetings. In 1841, when the Mendon Meeting was "laid down" many joined the Meeting in East Blackstone. Meetings were held regularly until the late 1800's, and sporadically thereafter. The East Blackstone Meeting was "laid down" in the early 1930's.
During the summer of 1954, Mary Kelly encouraged a group of East Blackstone residents, whose families had past affiliations with the Meeting House, to begin holding services there once again. The group requested that the Smithfield Monthly Meeting, the owners of the property, grant them permission to use the old landmark for religious service to the community in exchange for proper repair and upkeep. That request was granted and the work of the East Blackstone Quaker Meeting House Association began. Under that arrangement, a program of preservation continues today.
In the 1990's, the Blackstone Historical Commission began archiving the Town of Blackstone and determined that three individual entities were worthy of submission for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. That status was bestowed upon the Meeting House on Aug. 22, 1995.