Friends in Florida & Miami

Bartram House, named for the Quaker botanist who explored the Florida wilderness in the 18th century

Early Friends in Florida

One of the first Quakers to explore Florida was John Bartram, a botanist who immigrated from England to William Penn's colony in 1682. He explored the American wilderness, documenting hundreds of previously unknown species of trees and plants and shipped many to Britain, which changed the nature of British gardens and landscapes. In 1765, John and his son William, also a naturalist, explored upper Florida. William made repeated trips to Florida and got along well with the Seminoles, who called him Puc-Puggy, the flower hunter. William Bartram published an account of his travels in 1791, containing descriptions and drawings of the flora and fauna he encountered. Bartram’s Travels was published in London in 1792 and Ireland a year later. It was a success from the start as readers took in his experiences with alligators, birds and exotic plants. Leading writers like English Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge cherished the book. Coleridge even claimed that reading Bartram’s Travels helped shape “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan.”

John Collins, a prosperous Quaker farmer and orchardman in New Jersey, established a tropical fruit plantation in South Florida at the turn of the last century and saw the real estate potential of a barrier island which would eventually be called Miami Beach. Collins Avenue is named after him. His son-in-law, John Pancoast, an architect, built some of the first residences and hotels there. Some of Collins' descendants are members of our Meeting.


This painting of the Miami Friends meeting house was done by Hildegard Herbster, a former member of the meeting.

History of Miami Friends Meeting

In the 1940's Friends began meeting for worship in the Coral Gables home of Susanna and Beulah Parry, winter residents in Miami. The Friends then rented space in the YWCA, Simpson Park, Vizcaya, and Sunset Elementary School. The meeting was formally organized in 1950 under the guidance of the Friends Fellowship Council.

Our present meetinghouse was constructed in 1960 on land acquired by the Parry sisters. They also funded a large part of the construction of the meetinghouse. The architect was Marion Manley, the first woman architect registered in Miami (and the second in Florida). She was also responsible for much of the mid-century modern design of the University of Miami, though she did not get credit for it at the time. Manley loved nature and constructed her buildings with views of the outdoors, taking care to disturb as little of the natural landscape as possible.

In the same year, the Iglesia de los Amigos was organized as a mission of North Carolina Yearly Meeting as a result of the arrival of many Quakers from Cuba. At one point, the Iglesia de los Amigos met at our meetinghouse. The Iglesia, a programmed Friends church, is now located in West Kendall.

Our meetinghouse was a Peace Center during the Vietnam War. Many young men were counseled regarding conscientious objector status during that time. For several years, there was a Friends Elementary School on the premises, run mainly by parents in the meeting.

In 1979 our meeting bought "The Well," a beautiful historic house on property adjacent to the meetinghouse, and called it Bartram House after the famous father and son Quaker botanists who explored Florida in the 18th century. (See above.)

The house was built around 1901 and was then remodeled and covered with stucco in 1924. In a disagreement between the owner, William Loesch, and George Merrick, the developer of Coral Gables, there was an enactment by the state legislature in 1927 that decreed that Loesch's property would never be part of Coral Gables. In 2002, surrounding residents of Coral Waterway petitioned to join Coral Gables. The Meeting was successful in excluding the Bartram House property. There is evidence of a well in the backyard outside the fenced in playground of the Bilingual Cooperative Pre-School, which has occupied the downstairs for over 40 years. The upstairs was used for many years by the American Friends Service Committee, and by The Non-Violence Project USA. 

Our meeting is a member of the Southeastern Yearly Meeting, which is affiliated with the Friends General Conference. Many members of our meeting are active in Yearly Meeting activities.

Founding Members of

Miami Friends Meeting

Benjamin Harrison Branch, Jr.
Marjorie Lee (Broune) Branch
Eleaonor Prescott Carrel
Russell B. Hampton
Mary E. (Satterthwait) Hampton
Clinton Arthur Hampton
Genevieve Hood
Buffum Lovell
Juanita (West) Lovell
Malcom Read Lovell
Grace Ethel Low
Beulah Haines Parry
Susanna Haines Parry
Clara Worthington (Haines) Parry
Malcom Earl Perkins
Edmund Janes Price
Mary Straun (Jamison) Price
Ruth Carter (Marshall) Roberts
Edwin Morris Singleton
Stephen Cochran Singleton
Roy Russell Waterbury