Ohio YM is the sole surviving body of Wilburite Friends and
continues to represent the pre-division Society of Friends.
In 1812, Baltimore YM set off Friends west of the Allegheny mountains
as Ohio YM. It was the first YM to be established in over a century.
Its earliest meetings in southwestern Pennsylvania had been part of
Philadelphia YM until 1789 and Baltimore YM afterwards. Within a decade
of the first session of Ohio YM, its western QMs were set off as
In the 19th century, Ohio Friends suffered the greatest degree of
splintering of any YM. Following the difficult Hicksite division here
in 1828, Ohio Friends sponsored the first session of the General
Committee, a nationwide affiliation of Orthodox Friends. By 1840, Ohio
and Philadelphia YMs were already well-known for their emphasis upon
the inward work of Christ and rejection of the beliefs set forth in the
Beacon to the Society of Friends. Beginning in the 1840s,
advocates of the Beacon and the doctrines of J.J. Gurney
initiated divisions among Orthodox Friends, sending a nationwide
committee to Ohio in 1854 that forced a Gurneyite division. Tired of
the spirit of divisiveness, Ohio YM steered a semi-independent course
after 1854, retaining a loose affiliation with Philadelphia YM and New
England YM (Wilburite). At the time of the Conservative divisions in
the 1870s, Ohio moved into fellowship with them as well as New England.
Ohio YM became the "elder sister" among YMs in the late 19th century
due to Philadelphia YM's inability to recognize the Conservative YMs.
Leading Friends of other YMs sent their children to Ohio's Friends
Boarding School (today Olney Friends School), which helped establish
family ties among Conservative Friends.
Ohio YM's emphasis on retaining the hedge against the wider American
culture was lowered in the 20th century. By the 1930s, Ohio Friends
were allowing nationwide Quaker groups to hold meetings at Stillwater.
The Discipline was substantially rewritten 1958-1962, at which time
many changes were instituted. In the 1960s, the three surviving
Conservative YMs began holding General Meetings circularly, but soon
thereafter Iowa and North Carolina YMs began moving away from
traditional Quaker beliefs and culture and into a closer relationship
with FGC-affiliated bodies. The General Meetings were re-named General
Gatherings in the late 1980s, at which time Ohio YM began charting a
semi-independent course again with its emphasis on waiting worship
under the guidance of Christ Jesus. Ohio YM remains the most
traditional YM in the world and has been called the "museum of American
Quakerism." While Ohio Friends do not see their purpose in life to be
"out-Quakering" others (as we have been accused), we believe that we
have an opportunity to model the life that Christ Jesus makes possible
for all who learn to wait for His inward direction for their lives.