A Short History of San Francisco Quakers
There are records of Quakers in San Francisco since the Gold Rush, where a mix of different theological branches of Friends has always made for a rich heritage. Beginning in 1867 there are regular notices of a Friends’ Meeting held every First Day (Sunday). This branch of Friends continued meeting until 1906. In 1900 William Burgess, the great-great-grandfather of a current member, wrote a letter describing the Friends Meeting in San Francisco:
“Although not organized under the jurisdiction of any particular quarterly or yearly meeting, several of the attendants are members of some branch of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, while others represent different localities, some being members of the other branch of Society; yet all meet in harmony with the same great object in view, for social and religious communion, and the performance of acceptable worship in accordance with the precepts of the Master, under the Christian dispensation. Slight differences of opinion on doctrine, or conventional forms and customs, which by many seem to be considered as dogmas of the church and essential to salvation, are not allowed to interfere with that friendly intercourse which toleration invokes and true charity demands.”
The current Quaker group, San Francisco Monthly Meeting, was first organized in 1940 under the auspices of College Park Quarterly Meeting, by Josephine Duveneck of Berkeley Friends Meeting, and SF Quaker Elizabeth Owen who became our first Clerk. Over 30 Friends were present at an initial gathering on March 10, 1940 at Presidio Open Air School, where meetings were held until 1942. The Meeting then joined the American Friends Service Committee at 1830 Sutter Street, until it was able to purchase its own property at 2160 Lake Street in 1959.
The Lake Street building was a lovely old Georgian mansion with a magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It also came with a long flight of stairs to the front door and a lot of unreinforced masonry. Discussions of moving to a more accessible location began in the late 1980s, and became more serious after the earthquake of 1989. In 1994 we moved to our current location at 9th and Market Streets with good accessibility and excellent public transportation, where we invite you to join us any Sunday at 11:00 AM.
Bruce A. Folsom, Historian/Archivist, January 2015