The Society of Friends, more commonly known as the Quakers, came to Ohio in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. The first Quaker to arrive in Ohio was George Harlan in 1795. By 1800, approximately eight hundred Quaker families were living in Ohio. The number of families had more than doubled by 1814. The Friends originally settled in eastern and southern Ohio and established Mt. Pleasant, Alliance, Salem, Lisbon, and several other communities in the state. The Ohio Quakers' yearly meeting took place in Mt. Pleasant. There, the Friends built a meeting house that could hold approximately two thousand people. The Quakers played a major role in nineteenth-century reform efforts including the temperance, women's rights, and abolition movements.
Many African Americans who ran away from their masters in the South came to Ohio. Many of the Friends were active in the Underground Railroad and hid fugitive slaves until they reached safety. In 1817, Quaker Charles Osborn of Mt. Pleasant, Ohio, published The Philanthropist. It was the first anti-slavery newspaper in the United States. In 1821, Benjamin Lundy, the "father of Abolitionism," began to publish his newspaper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, in Mt. Pleasant as well.
The Quakers also treated Native Americans in Ohio with kindness. The Friends did not try to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Quakers formed a school in Wapakoneta in 1821 to teach the Shawnee Indians the English language and their farming methods.
The Quakers believe in the Inner Light. According to their religious beliefs, a part of God, the Inner Light, exists in all human beings. Because God exists in all people, the Quakers oppose violence and war.