A Fair Circle at Longwood Meeting House, 1855

Grace Anna Lewis recorded that in October 1855, eleven fugitive slaves arrived at
Longwood Meeting during the time of a “Fair Circle.” From Longwood, they were
forwarded to the home of Eusebius and Sarah Barnard in Pocopson Township. The
Barnard house is soon to be renovated for township offices and for the Kennett
Underground Railroad Center museum. But what is a Fair Circle? When I first read this
account, I imagined something like a séance with the participants sitting around a spirt
table. The reality is both more down to earth and more interesting. The Philadelphia
Female Anti-Slavery Society sponsored a fair each December to raise money for
abolitionist causes. Fair Circles sprung up across rural Chester and Bucks counties to
collect and make goods for the fair. The women stitched quilts and aprons and
handicrafts—anything that might sell at the fair. Many of these were supplied with anti-
slavery mottos. Men also took part by donating the products of their farms—sacks of
flour and tubs of butter. The women stitched, drank tea and chatted about making major
changes to the existing social order. Do not mess with the real housewives of Kennett.

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