Michael O. Bourne
Deer Creek Friends Meeting House
Main Street, Darlington, Harford County
The Deer Creek Friends Meeting House is a one-story fieldstone structure, six bays long on the south, four bays on the north, and three bays wide. It has a gable roof covered with slate shingles. The building was constructed in 1784 to replace a building of 1737 and renovated in 1888. A one-story frame addition containing kitchen and bathrooms was recently built on the west end. The six bays of the south façade contain 6/6 sash windows at each end, double doors in the next bays in, and two 6/6 windows in the center. The windows have paneled shutters and a stone lintel above wooden surrounds. Each leaf of the double doors has two panels, and the knobs and escutcheons are of raised pattern cast metal and were installed in 1888. A stone step leads up to the stone sill of each door; these also have stone lintels. The east end has a double door flanked by two windows; these are identical to the doors and windows on the south façade. Above the door lintel is a datestone which reads: Founded 1737; Rebuilt 1784; Restored by Hugh J. Jewett 1888. The north façade has four small 2/2 windows. Set high in the wall as on the inside of the raised elders' benches are below them. They are spaced two in the center and one at each end so that on the interior they are situated at opposite ends of the rear wall of each room. Two Victorian period chimneys rise from the lower corners of the south slope of the roof. The west one services a fireplace added in 1888. The east one is decorative. The west end is covered by the 20th century frame addition, but a double door and flanking windows identical to those at the east end are still visible inside. The interior is divided into two spaces by an original paneled partition. The benches are original to the 1784 structure, with 10 benches in each room and an aisle down the center. Most of the other interior features date to the 1888 renovation. Also on the property is a five-stall horse shed and a cemetery with burials dating from 1775 to 1930. However, the 1775 burial predates the current structure, and likely was associated with the 1737 meeting house, which was located across the road.
The Deer Creek Friends Meeting House is a typical structure of its type in form, with an interesting combination of late 18th century and Victorian details. The house is similar to the West Nottingham and Colora meeting houses across the Susquehanna River in Cecil County. All three are of similar size and shape, with two entrance doors in the main façade and the interior space divided in half by sliding partitions. The two meeting houses in Cecil County are noted for their lack of alteration. Deer Creek is different in that many changes in detail were made to its interior in 1888 by a member of the Meeting who was able to afford the work. These changes were and are controversial, as they basically added stylish features to a plain building reflective of the simplicity of the Quaker faith. This is the only meeting house in Maryland that has such later style-conscious alterations. The Meeting itself is a very old one, the second in Harford County, founded in 1734, and is still an active Meeting today. The horse shed on the property is a very early one, possibly dating from the construction of the meeting house in 1784. Such sheds at other meeting houses and churches in Maryland have not survived. The graveyard here contains several early Quaker headstones of slate.