History - Since 1785
THE LENNI LENAPE WORD APPOQUINIME, meaning ‘the place where we rested,’ was adopted before the American Revolution naming the area that became the village of Cantwell’s Bridge (crossing the Appoquinimink River). When the early Quakers around Georges Creek to the north sought a more convenient site for their meeting-house five miles to the south, around 1774, the land for Appoquinimink Meeting was chosen. In 1783 this small brick meetinghouse was built, thanks to David Wilson, Sr., a wealthy merchant in Cantwell’s Bridge. Meetings there started in 1785. [more below]
Wilson had eloped with Mary Corbit, Quaker sister of William Corbit, tanner, the town’s leading citizen. She was 'read out' of the meeting, but later her standing in the meeting was restored when Wilson became a Friend.
Quakers in lower New Castle County in the new State of Delaware could educate their children at the (1735) Friends school and worship together in unity. The 1827 separation within Quakerism that created the Orthodox and Hicksite sects brought a division even in rural Cantwell’s Bridge.
The wealthy, urban-oriented Friends, including the Corbits, removed to Wilmington where an Orthodox meetinghouse was built some blocks away from the brick building at 4th and West streets. Odessa's few Hicksite Friends were left to carry on under the care of Camden Monthly Meeting near Dover.
Before the Civil War, during the 1850s, Friends hid Freedom Seekers securely in the loft. The last local Hicksite Quaker, farmer and abolitionist John Alston, died in 1874 and was buried in the adjacent burial ground.
From 1874 until 1938, Appoquinimink Meeting lay dormant, absent any nearby Quakers. The grounds and building were used by the neighboring farmer to graze livestock and store hay. This caused problems among Camden Friends. They ultimately halted this when he failed to pay rent on the land.
Successful efforts to repair and restore the meetinghouse were undertaken in the late Depression era. Funding from H. Rodney Sharp, the preservationist who owned the former Corbit mansion, restoring it to its previous grandeur, made the resumption of worship by Odessa-area Quakers possible. A 1951 incorporation created the ‘Religious Society of Friends in Odessa,’ and briefly it was a Monthly Meeting.
Minutes in the Odessa Monthly Meeting Record tell us of activities carried on over a period of years. Records are held by Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College.
In the early 1960s Odessa Friends welcomed Wills and Joanne Passmore and their three daughters who remember fondly attending First Day School. Wills’ stewardship brought many improvements including electrical heating, replacing a wood-burning stove.
Sometime after 2010, a question arose as to Appoquinimink’s ownership. In 2018 the deed certified Wilmington’s ownership. WMM assists the clerk who opens for Meeting for Worship on the first and third Sundays, except only the third Sundays during summer months. Christmas in Odessa, first Saturday in December, includes an Appoquinimink Open House, 10 to 4.