The Advent of Green Acre Baha'i School

Text by Frances Pollitt and Roseanne Adams-Junkins
Items contributed by Eliot Baha'i Archives, William Fogg Library and Maine Historical Society

Sarah Jane Farmer and Barry, Eliot, 1891

Sarah Jane Farmer and Barry, Eliot, 1891

Item Contributed by
William Fogg Library

The Green Acre Baha'i School began as the Green Acre Conferences in 1894 on a hill overlooking the Piscataqua River in Eliot.

Sarah Jane Farmer (1847-1916), was a resident of Eliot. She desired to present to summer vacationers lectures on peace, world religions, health, and social issues, while they also enjoyed the pure air and natural beauty of Maine. Farmer invited great thinkers, religionists, philosophers and scientists to her Green Acre Conferences to speak with the local residents and summer guests.

Farmer was the daughter of humanitarian Hannah Tobey Shapleigh Farmer, (1823-1893), of Eliot, and pioneer electrical inventor Moses Gerrish Farmer (1820-1893) of Boscawen, New Hampshire. The Farmers were transcendentalists and Sarah grew up knowing such renowned and accomplished people as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Julia Ward Howe, and John Greenleaf Whitter. These associations contributed to Farmer’s understanding of social problems and the importance of peace, freedom, and equality.

View the slideshow exhibition

View the slideshow exhibition

'Abdu'l-Baha, interpreters and women, Eliot, 1912

In 1892 Farmer and four Eliot businessmen opened the Eliot Hotel, rechristened “Green Acre” by poet John Greenleaf Whitter. In 1894 Sarah established summer sessions called "The Green Acre Conferences" which became so popular that the hotel inn overflowed and tents were set up to house the guests.

Farmer travelled to Palestine in 1900 to meet with 'Abdu'l-Baha, the imprisoned leader of the Baha'i Faith. 'Abdu'l-Baha encouraged her to continue with her programs at Green Acre. By 1901, Farmer was a declared member of the Baha'i Faith and returned to Green Acre. Her Green Acre Conferences offered a free and open forum for conversations on social and religious subjects, and became a focal point for the American Baha'i community.

'Abdu'l-Baha visited Green Acre in 1912. Hundreds of people gathered to hear him speak. After Farmer died in 1916 the property passed into the possession of the National Baha'i community.