The Quakers

By Hugh Barbour; J. William Frost | Go to book overview
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EDMONDSON, WILLIAM ( 1627, Little Musgrave, Westmorland, England-- 1712, Rosenallis, Ireland). Education: Apprenticed as carpenter-joiner. Career: Ironside; merchant; farmer; Quaker itinerant "Apostle of Ireland."

Orphaned at eight, youngest of six children, William Edmondson was reared by a harsh uncle until at thirteen he became an apprentice in York. Already Puritan in soul searching, he served in the Puritan army most of 1645-52, fighting at Worcester. Then he married Margaret Stanford, whom he met while on garrison duty in Derbyshire. He was persuaded by a trooper brother to move to Ireland. While a merchant at Antrim he revisited Westmorland in 1653 and became a Friend. In 1654 he moved his family to a shop and farm in Lurgan, Ulster, where he founded the first Irish Meeting. In 1655 he hunted with George Fox on a Leicestershire trip, went with Richard Clayton to preach in Londonderry, and was jailed in Armagh. He moved to a farm at Cavan, where he again gathered a Meeting and was jailed in 1656. Finally, he moved to Rosenellis near Mountmellick. For Irish Friends imprisoned in the 1660s he interceded successfully with the governor, but his home was burned down over their heads in the "Orange" War of 1688-90. His wife died of illness in 1691.

Having felt called to carry Quakerism to America, he sailed with Fox's group in 1671, visiting Antigua, Nevis, Barbados, and Jamaica and traveling through Virginia and the Carolinas. Later he debated with Roger Williams who called him "a stout portly man, given to much speaking." Edmondson returned to the West Indies and all the mainland colonies in 1675-77, worked to convert Negro slaves, and helped Rhode Island Friends amid "King Philip's War." In 1683 he revisited the West Indies and, in his last years, Meetings all over Ireland and England. In 1697 he married Mary Strangman; children included Hindrance and Tryal.

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