The Advent of Green Acre A Baha’i Center of Learning

Text by Frances Pollitt and Rosanne Adams-Junkins
Items contributed by Eliot Bahá’í Archives, William Fogg Library, and Maine Historical Society

Green Acre, a Bahá’í Center of Learning, began as the Green Acre Conferences in 1894 on a hill overlooking the Piscataqua River in Eliot.

Sarah Jane Farmer and Barry, Eliot, 1891

Sarah Jane Farmer and Barry, Eliot, 1891

Item Contributed by
William Fogg Library

Sarah Jane Farmer (1847-1916), was a resident of Eliot. In 1892 she envisioned offering summer vacationers lectures on peace, world religions, health, and social issues, while these same visitors also enjoyed the pure air and natural beauty of Maine. Farmer invited great thinkers, religionists, philosophers and scientists from all over the world to her Green Acre Conferences to speak with the local residents and summer guests.

Farmer was the daughter of humanitarian Hannah Tobey Shapleigh Farmer (1823-1891) 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 Whittier. These associations contributed to Farmer’s understanding of social problems and the importance of peace, freedom, and equality.

In 1892 Farmer and four Eliot businessmen opened the Eliot Hotel, rechristened "Green Acre" by poet John Greenleaf Whittier. In 1894 Sarah Farmer 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-Bahá, the imprisoned leader of the Bahá’í Faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá encouraged her to continue with her programs at Green Acre. By 1901, Farmer was a declared member of the Bahá’í 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 Bahá’í community.

'Abdu'l-Bahá 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.

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