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Fourteen years ago the author came to Quaker Hill as a resident, and has spent at least a part of each of the intervening years in interested study of the locality. For ten of those years the fascination of the social life peculiar to the place was upon him. Yet all the time, and increasingly of late, the disillusionment which affects every resident in communities of this sort was awakening questions and causing regrets. Why does not the place grow? Why do the residents leave? What is the illusive unity which holds all the residents of the place in affection, even in a sort of passion for the locality, yet robs them of full satisfaction in it, and drives the young and ambitious forth to live elsewhere?

The answer to these questions is not easily to be had. It is evident that on Quaker Hill life is closely organized, and that for eighteen decades a continuous vital principle has given character to the population. The author has attempted, by use of the analysis of the material, according to the “Inductive Sociology” of Professor Franklin H. Giddings, to study patiently in detail each factor which has played its part in the life of this community.

This book presents the result of that study, and the author acknowledges his indebtedness to Professor Giddings for the working analysis necessary to the knowledge of his problem, as well as for patient assistance and inspiring interest. The gradual unfolding of the conclusions, the logical unity of the whole, and the explanation of that which before was not clear, have all been the fruit of this patient field-work.

The study of human society is at the present time little more than a classifying of material. Only with great reserve should any student announce ultimate results, or generalize upon the whole problem. For this period of classifying and analyzing the material, such study of limited populations as this should have value. The author makes no apology for the smallness of his field of study. Quaker Hill is not even a civil division. It is a fraction of a New York town. Therefore no statistical material of value is available. It is, moreover, not now an economic unit, though it still may be considered a sociological one. This study, therefore, must be of interest as an analysis of the working of purely social forces in a small population, in which the whole process may be observed, more closely than in the intricate and subtle evolution of a larger, more self-sufficient social aggregate.

The descriptive history of Quaker Hill, which it is my purpose in this book to write, comprises three periods; and the descriptive sociology records two differing yet related forms of social life, connected by a period of transition. This study will then be made up of three parts: First, the Quaker Community; second, the Transition; and third, the Mixed Community. The periods of time corresponding to these three are: The Period of the Quaker Community, 1730 to 1830; second, the Period of Transition, 1830 to 1880; and third, the Period of the Mixed Community, 1880 to 1905.

The Quaker Community, which ran its course in the one hundred years following the settlement of the Hill, presents the social history of a homogeneous population, assembled in response to common stimuli, obedient to one ideal, sharing an environment limited by nature, cultivating an isolation favored by the conditions of the time, intermarrying, and interlacing their relations of mutual dependence through a diversified industry; knowing no government so well as the intimate authority of their Monthly Meeting; and after a century suffering absorption in the commerce and thinking of the time through increased freedom of communication.

The Transition follows the Division of the Quaker Meeting in 1828, the building of turnpikes, and the coming of the railroad in 1849. A cultured daughter of Quaker Hill, whose life has extended through some of those years, has called them “the dark ages.” It was the middle age of the community. The economic life of the place was undergoing change, under the penetrating influence of the railroad; the population was undergoing radical renovation, the ambitious sons of the old stock moving away, and their places being filled at the bottom of the social ladder by foreigners, and by immigration of residents and “summer boarders” of the “world’s people.” Above all, the powerful ideal of Quakerism was shattered. The community had lost the “make-believe” at which it had played for a century in perfect unity. With it went the moral and social authority of the Meeting. Two Meetings mutually contradicting could never express the ideal of Quakerism, that asserted the inspiration of all and every man with the one divine spirit. This schism, too, was not local, but the Monthly Meeting on the Hill was divided in the same year as the Yearly Meeting in New York, the Quarterly Meetings in the various sections, and the local Monthly Meetings throughout the United States.

The Period of the Mixed Community, from the building of Akin Hall and the Mizzen-Top Hotel in 1880 to the year 1905 has been studied personally by the present writer; and it is his belief that during this short period, especially from 1890 to 1900, the Hill enjoyed as perfect a communal life as in the Period of the Quaker Community. The same social influence was at work. An exceptionally strong principle of assimilation, to be studied in detail in this book, which made of the original population a century and a half earlier a perfect community, now made a mixed population of Quakers, Irish Catholics and New York City residents, into a community unified, no less obedient to a modified ideal, having its leaders, its mode of association, its peculiar local integrity and a certain moral distinction.

This period appears at the time of this writing, in 1907, to be coming slowly to an end, owing to the death of many of the older members of the Quaker families, and the swift diminution with their authority removed of the Quaker influence, which was the chief factor in the community’s power of assimilation.

If one may state in condensed form what this study discovers in Quaker Hill that is uncommon and exceptional, one would say that the social peculiarity of the Hill is: first, the consistent working out of an idea in a social population, with the resultant social organization, and communal integrity; and second, the power of this community to assimilate individuals and make them part of itself.