Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 8 – demolition on Conestoga Road site, re-build on Lancaster Pike west of the Trust Company as Central Baptist Church, Davis’ sons killed in Civil War named & Stilwell of WWI

The five-year-old boy standing in the doorway of his father’s hardware store on Conestoga road watched the tall bell tower of the Old Radnor Baptist Church as it came crashing down several weeks ago as part of the work of demolition of the 60-year-old edifice.

“God must be crying”, he said solemnly.

“Why?”, a bystander asked small Anthony Fillipone.

“Because they are tearing down His House”, the boy replied.

Few perhaps could express in words what Anthony had said so simply. And yet all much feel a sense of sadness at the vacant southeast corner of old Conestoga road, where it is intersected by West Wayne avenue. For 60 years one of Wayne’s largest and most stately stone churches had stood there. For 50 years before that its people had worshipped in the small building that had previously stood on this same site. Now all that remains is a great pile of stone, fallen in on the foundations of the former church. Soon even these stones will be hauled away, and the last vestige of the old Radnor Baptist Church will be wiped from the landscape.

And yet it is inevitable that this should have come to pass. The last entry in the old Church Record Book is under date of January, 1929. It is but three lines long and states simply: “After struggling along for several years now with only a handful of attendance to pay a pastor, we decided to discontinue services.”

Just a year before, the church had “received its greatest loss when two of our oldest and most loyal members answered the call of the Great Beyond”. Mrs. Sarah M. Siter was a member of the church since 1893. For many years she faithfully served as church treasurer and also on the Board of Trustees. Mrs. Mary E. Longacre, who until her death was the oldest living member of this church, died April 5th.

It was in May, 1896, only six years after the completion of their handsome new church building that a special business meeting was called “for the purpose of considering the advisability of securing a location for our Church and re-building near the center of the town”. A motion to this effect was defeated by a narrow majority of three votes.

In July, 1896, another meeting was called “by order and in behalf of the Board of Trustees.” The call to this meeting states: “The lot which we hope to procure, and which is valued at $6,000, has been offered to us for $1,500. Towards this amount, interested friends have pledged $1,000. If the Church would raise $500 we could secure the most desirable location for a church in our town.”

Again the idea of moving to a new location was rejected, this time by a slightly larger majority. Then at a meeting held early in November of 1896 at the home of one of the members a resolution was passed “to form a new Baptist Church in Wayne” and to build on a lot on Lancaster avenue, west of the Trust Company”. This is, of course, the site of the present Central Baptist Church. Those who had decided on this step asked for “the encouragement and sympathy of the entire membership of the First Church, since they believed “that the erection and maintenance of a Baptist church in a more central location would result in greatly blessing the community and the building up of the Christian life of those who hold to Baptist faith and principle.”

The tersely worded reply of those who wished to remain in the church on Conestoga road is as follows:

“We, the undersigned members of the First Baptist Church of Wayne, do agree to stay in the present church building to worship and to support it, and let those who wish to go and build a new church, go, and leave us undisturbed in the future and may God be with them.”

And so the matter was settled. Soon thereafter the Central Baptist Church was built, just west of the Wayne Title and Trust Company on a lot extending from Lancaster pike to West Wayne avenue. And for more than 30 years there were two Baptist churches in the small community of Wayne.

In view of the widespread attention entered on the demolition of the old church building, it would be interesting to know who the architect and builder were, as well as the names of the building committee and the means by which funds were raised.

But church records regarding these matters were apparently not made, or if made, were not kept in the old record book. There is, however, a record of Dedication Day of November 30, 1892, conducted by the pastor, the Rev. John Miller, when Dr. Abbott, president of the Board of Trustees “made a report of all the money and donations given in helping to pay the church debt . . . the mortgage was then burned, while the congregation joined in singing the doxology.”

Resolutions adopted on this occasion “recognize the self-sacrificing devotion and untiring energy with which our beloved Pastor, Reverend John Miller and wife, have most efficiently and successfully borne the larger share of the burden involved in the achievement in which we now rejoice.” When this writer went through the old church just before its demolition, the portraits of the Reverend and Mrs. Miller still looked down from the walls upon the deserted church which, 60 years ago, they had been instrumental in erecting. These pictures have since been placed in the rooms of the Radnor Historical Society. The big three-toned bell, presented to the church in 1890 by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph H. Childs, has been taken across Conestoga road, where it may be seen in front of the store of Louis Fillipone, new owner of the old church property. It was made by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, a firm established in 1856 and still in existence.

The old churchyard seemed very peaceful and quiet, despite the heavy traffic of Conestoga road, as the writer wandered through it on a recent afternoon. The stones bear the names of many families well-known in the annals of Wayne. The section just back of the church is the older part, while in the section beyond are the newer graves. Many of these graves were there long before 1890, when the large church replace the first small one. Deacon William Siter and his wife Emily lie side by side in one of the older lots, the former having died in 1857, the latter in 1878. There are Childs and Lewises, Pughs, Ramseys, Wilds and Rossiters, to mention but a few of the old-time family names of Wayne. A number of graves bear the G.A.R. insignia. No stone has a more touching inscription than that of “Our Sons . . . Corporal Thomas P. Davis, killed at the battle of Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862, aged 21 . . . also Sgt. Stephen S. Davis, killed at Petersburgh, Va., June 17, 1864, aged 22 years.” They were sons of Stephen and Mary Davis, early members of the church. There is also the grave of a veteran of World War I, Courtland Stilwell, of the 334th Field Artillery. It is pleasant to think that, even though the old church is but a memory, the money realized from its sale will assume perpetual care to the old graveyard.


Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 7 – Civil War, President Lincoln’s Day, buildings, school, parsonage

Apparently there was never any shadow of doubt in the minds of those pioneer members of the Radnor Baptist Church as to the answer to the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. It would seem that no one ever hesitated to serve on a committee, or to visit alone, any “delinquent” member of the church. However, reports were brought back so frequently to church meetings that these committees or individuals were not able to see “the erring Brother or Sister when they called” that some doubt must arise in the minds of a reader of these Church Minutes as to whether these delinquents were not either conveniently absent or perhaps even hiding very quietly behind closed doors!

The indignation of one member when he was called upon by a committee was apparently so righteous that the committee was dismissed after making its report. According to the church minutes, “The Committee Brothers P. and B. reported that they had an interview with Bro. M., who said that false reports had been circulated in regard to his being Drunk, Swearing, etc. Said he did not get drunk before he was converted and that it was not likely he would now, and that he had passed through severe afflictions, and that the Lord had been with him, and that he still desired to serve the Lord and belong to his Church and people, and the Committee reporting favorable on behalf of our brother, the Committee was Discharged.”

Not content with taking any chances on not hearing of the possible delinquency of a church member in the matter of drinking, the minister had a resolution spread on the Church minutes, “That we as church members are under obligation to report to the church if we know of any member that is in the habit of using intoxicating liquors as a beverage”. The definition of “intoxicating” became a question of such moment that the following paragraph appeared in the minutes of August 22, 1861:

“That on next meeting for business we consider the question, whether the wine or juice of the grape that we use on our Communion occasions, it being somewhat fermented, is of such a kind as the Scriptures teach, and whether it is in accordance with the principles and former acts of our Church.”

This question was apparently settled without delay, for very shortly thereafter a resolution appeared on the minutes to the effect that “On motion proceeded to the consideration of sacramental wine, or juice of the grape, whether we use it after it becomes fermented it was resolved that hereafter we will use syrup or some substitute in which there shall be no alcohol”.

— of these incidents having occurred during the pastorate of Brother S., one wonders a bit if there is any connection between it and a “communication from —- L.”, in which the latter —- his resignation of that office —-olds in the church, giving as seen that he could no longer be —ted by the preaching of Mr. A. and that it was useless to attest to ministrations”. Brother L.’s resignation “was granted”.

As —– sinful living was concerned, it would seem that dancing —- on part with swearing —–. The Committee, who ———- Brother P. reported ——- he was willing to say ——– no more while he ——- of the church, yet ———- acknowledge its sin———— he had done wrong, and refused to fill his place in the Church and spoke of the Pastor in an unbecoming manner”. And so “in view of his past and general Christian conduct, it was deemed best to exclude him”. And it was only shortly after this incident that “Sister Emily Siter was appointed a committee to wait on Sisters M. and A. G., for the wrong of being found participating in a public dance.”

Although written some 84 years ago, there is a very present day ring to the phrase used by pastor Dalley when he gave “the high price of living” as the reason for refusing to continue to the service of the church unless his salary was raised to $650 per annum. Twenty-six years before that the Church’s first minister had received $350 yearly! For one reason or another there were constant pastoral changes. There were also as many changes of sextons. One sexton flatly refused to give up his keep until the church “payed” him. This one of the church brethren agreed to do, but with the clear understanding that “the church pay him back within one monh.”

However, it was undoubtedly due to inability to contribute more to church expenses, rather than unwillingness to give more that made for an almost constantly empty treasury. Even when a new minute book was needed it was ordered that “a collection be taken up every Sabbath evening for this and other expenses of the church, so long as we have need of it.” But in some fashion larger expenditures were met.

A parsonage was erected, the one still standing between the site of the large church which is being demolished and the present trolley tracks. Later there was a stable and a carriage house. In July, 1864, a committee was appointed to take care of repairs to the meeting house, “the roofing of the house and rebuilding the chimneys to be first in order and carpet for the floor and after that the painting of the woodwork of the house and then blinds for the windows if funds hold out.”

There is frequent mention of the little old school house which antedated even the church building itself. One note states that “it is to be rented to the School Board for $25 per year.”

On September 13, 1861, “it was resolved that this church observe the 26th day of the month as set apart by President Lincoln as a day of humiliation, prayer and fasting for the blessing of the Lord on our country.” Those were the early days of the War of Secession. This September 13 was a time following closely on the Battle of Bull Run, the first serious encounter of the War, a battle in which Northern forces suffered great defeat at the hands of the Confederates. Although no further reference is made in the minutes to the Civil War, its outcome must have been a source of great satisfaction to members of the Radnor Baptist Church, with the strong anti-slavery attitude they had always maintained.

A simple marginal note in the first Record Book of the church states that “Deacon Siter departed this life July 24, 1857.” Members of the church meeting of July 23 had stated that “Bro. G. Philips was appointed collector of the pastor’s salary in place of Bro. Siter, who is not able on account of sickness.” For 16 years William Siter had served his church faithfully and well, after having been the leading spirit in starting it. Among three interesting old parchment documents held by the remaining trustees of the church property when it was sold recently, was the “Charter for Incorporating the Radnor Baptist Church.” William Siter is named in it as one of the original seven trustees, the other six being George Philips, John Beaver, George W. Lewis, Samuel Jones, Gideon D. Thomas and WIlliam Supplee. This was dated November 30, 1842.

Of the other old documents, one is the deed of recording the gift of land to the church on April 28, 1843, “from William Siter and Emily, his wife.” The third document is the deed of an acre of ground given by the church by Emily Siter on the sixth day of April, 1861. By that time only three of the original trustees were in office. The others serving were Thomas R. Pelty, John Jones, Charles Pugh and Peter Bloom.

For almost 50 years the congregation of the Radnor Baptist Church used the small building originally known as Music Fund Hall as its meeting place. Then, at a church meeting held on July 22, 1889, the minutes state that “after a very earnest prayer by Bro. Miller, we decided to tear down the old church and build a new one.” At a September 15 meeting it was further resolved “that the trustees of the Radnor Baptist Church arrange to have the old meeting house torn down and a new one erected and that they further be empowered to take all essential measures to secure the money to meet the indebtedness incident to the construction of the building.”

The old minutes book of the Radnor Baptist Church tells nothing of the actual building of the church that is now being demolished. if anyone knows who the architect and builder were, how the funds for it were raised, and any other details, will that person get in touch with Mrs. Patterson, Windermere Court, Wayne 4569?

(To be continued)

Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 6 – investigates drinking and swearing

The minutes of the first few years of the existence of the Radnor Baptist Church make entertaining reading, not only as the history of the founding of one of Wayne’s early places of worship, but also in the insight they give into what might in these days be considered the private lives of the members of the congregation. In the 1840’s there was seemingly little privacy in the lives of any one connected with the church.

At a business meeting held on January 20, 1848, one of the matters under consideration was “a charge preferred against Sister T. for accusing Brother M. of swearing and telling lies”. Later Brother L. “was appointed to visit Brother M. to investigate these charges.” Then the committee in charge of looking into the case reported that they have been informed that “the charge of swearing was true, but did not know that lying was included.” Then Sister J. and Sister B. testified that “they too had heard Brother M. swearing.” By May a committee of five was appointed to meet Brother M. and his accusers “at the school room on Saturday evening at 6 o’clock.” It would be interesting to know the final outcome of Sister T.’s accusation. But by June the case against Brother M. was “indefinitely postponed” when “accusation failed to be made out”, even though Brother M. “was called up through the committee.” In all the matter of Brother M. was before the church some six months.

Then there was the case of Brother B., when information was laid before the Church that “he had been drinking intoxicating liquor” and “a committee was appointed to visit him and inquire into the facts”. This committee reported that the Brother in question had acknowledged that he “had drunk intoxicating liquor at the time reported, but took it as a medicine. Thinks he ought to be allowed to drink when in need of it, and was deceived with respect to our principle.”

That committee was dismissed after making its report and another was named “to labor with Brother B. and endeavor to bring him to see his error.” This second committee reported that he Brother in question “drinks as a medicine.” They requested him to “attend Church Meeting, and he thought he would.” Whereupon the second committee was discharged. The minutes of church meetings for some months after that report that “the case was laid over.” But, finally “Brother B. being present, made a statement of his views and feelings to the church, and on motion was restored.” Whether he was permitted to continue “to drink as a medicine” is not quite clear in the minutes, however.

Committees were continuously being appointed to inquire into the cases of those who had “absented themselves from the house of worship.” In one such case when two sisters “were waited on”, it was found that one “had united with the Methodist.” The other “had not, though she worshiped with them, and neglected her place in her own church. She promised to appear if she could possibly leave home.” Brother E. stated that he had not “felt fit to come to the communion table.” However, in absenting himself “he had no hard feelings against any one member of the church . . . he had been led to see the wrongfulness of his conduct.”

Apparently the committees in the end always obtained the answers they had been appointed to seek out!

Under “new business” of the Church meeting of June 19, 1845, there is one paragraph which states “whereas improvement of singing in our church is desirable, therefore, Resolved, that as many of those who sing as may be disposed to do so are hereby permitted to sit together for that purpose.” The, apparently as an afterthought comes the concluding sentence: “The foregoing is not intended to prevent any from singing.”

When one Brother who had been connected with the Church from its earliest beginnings asked for his letter of dismissal, another Brother was appointed to call upon him for his reasons for such a request. The main grievance, it appeared, was “that he had been displaced form leading the singing rather uncourteously.” Whereupon “the church passed the following Preamble and Resolution: Whereas Brother A. feels that the church has acted disrespectfully towards him in appointing a singer in his place without consulting him, therefore resolved that this Church acknowledges its error and hereby instructs the Clerk to write to Brother A. the acknowledgement and ask his forgiveness.”

Brother A. said he did “forgive the offense, but still requested his letter.” This the Church did not see fit to grant, “deeming his reasons for leaving as insufficient.” However, Brother A. persisted to the point of finally obtaining his letter.

Personal difficulties were not confined to members of the Church, however, After serving more than three years as its minister, Brother Hobart tendered his resignation on the grounds of “diversity in the views entertained by some members of the Church and myself.” He also stated that “duty requires that I should provide for the wants of my family and pay my honest debts.” And he does not see that he can do this “under existing arrangements.” Apparently even as long ago as the 1840’s a yearly salary of $350 was not enough to support a family! For although Brother Hobart had asked for an increase to $400 the second year of his ministry, he had apparently never received more than $350. And even this amount had been hard to obtain by solicitation from members of the Church, as various notes in the minutes bear witness. The situation came to such a pass in the matter of arrears in the minister’s salary that those who could not show good reason for failing to meet their pledges could be suspended from membership.

After several ministers had declined calls to the Radnor Baptist Church the committee reported a satisfactory interview with Brother J. Perry Hale, whose “views coincide with the church in essential matters. he would be willing to labor with the church if he feels duty points that way. And thinks $400 would be necessary to meet his wants.”

Brother Hale received an unanimous call to the church. However, his pastorate lasted a scant two years. In December, 1846, he tendered his resignation, to take effect the following April. His reasons were given in the simple statement “whereas several of the Brethren think that it would be better for both me and the church were I to resign the charge of the church, I hereby tender my resignation.”

By April Elder Thomas Goodwin was called to the pastoral care of the Church until the ensuing April 1, 1848. The committee who were responsible for calling him “promised in behalf of the Church to raise for his support $350, which terms were by him accepted.”

Apparently the early years of the Radnor Church were difficult ones for all concerned.

(To be continued)

Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 5 – opposition to slavery

The Church Covenant o the Radnor Baptist Church, written in February, 1841, shows members of that denomination to have been not only a deeply religious group of people, but very strict in their mode of life. The Sabbath Day was to be observed as much as possible in holy worship by “avoiding all unnecessary work or visits”, or the “reading of political and wordly newspapers” or “engaging in casual conversation”.

And equally clear is the church rule of temperance which states, “We also agree that we will not use intoxicating drink ourselves, nor traffic in them as a beverage . . . We will not provide hem as an article of entertainment or for persons in our employment and in all suitable ways we will discountenance their use throughout the community”.

A few months later in a letter written to the brethren of the Central Union Association the members of the Radnor Baptist Church amplify their stand on temperance in the paragraph stating that, “We believe that the cause of Temperance is the Cause of God, and that we are called upon by the interests of Zion and the well-being of Society to take a decided stand, and exclude from our pulpit and communion those who traffic in intoxicating drink, or who by their practice and conduct sanction the evil of intemperance.”

Provision is even made in the Church Covenant for the peaceful settlement of personal disputes in the paragraph that states, “We agree that if at any time a case of difference arises between any of us in our secular concerns which we cannot settle ourselves we will refer the matter in dispute to a committee chosen from among ourselves.”

Although there seems to have been some difference of opinion on the moral aspects of slavery among members of the Great Valley Church before certain of them left to establish the new church in Radnor Township, there was unanimity in the latter congregation. In their covenant they go on record as stating that “we believe that to hold and traffic in human beings are moral evils and opposed to the spread of the Gospel.”

Later in the Church’s letter to the Central Union Association, the members further amplify their stand in the matter by stating that the practice of slave holding is “Directly at war with the precepts of the New Testament which commands us to love our neighbor as ourself, and to do unto others as we should that they should do to us . . . therefore we cannot feel free to receive to our communion as a Christian or Christian minister a slave-holder or an apologist for the systems of iniquity”.

This matter was evidently one of deep concern to the church for some months after this letter was written a lengthy preamble and resolution couched in no uncertain terms were presented by Brother Hobart, minister of the church, and adopted by the congregation. Because slavery permits every crime known to the laws of God and man, and sanctions the most enormous outrages upon virtue, humanity and religion, that have ever marked the region of tyranny or the dark spirit of religious persecution” certain resolutions were adopted. Among them was one stating that the Radnor Church could not recognize as “a gospel Church” any that numbered slave holders in its membership. Another was that the church deny membership or communion to those known to be slave-holders “either in theory or in practice”. And almost needless to say “no minister known to be guilty of the sin of slaveholding” was to be permitted in the pulpit.

That this strong anti-slavery sentiment did not always pervade the Great Valley Baptist Church is dramatically told in an account of the events that led up to the founding of the new Church. This account was perhaps written for some church anniversary, since it is entirely separate from the church records although enclosed within the book. Certainly it strikes a more informal note than the church record! Of one of the ministers of the Great Valley Church the account says, “Rev. Leonard Fletcher was a strong anti-slavery man. he had been in the midst of slavery and knew it in its length and breadth, in its secret wickedness and its outspoken horrors. Hence, on suitable occasions he exposed its enormities and unmasked its hideousness. And hence, too, the warm hearted convert that hung on his words caught his spirit and learned to pity the slave . . . Slavery and intemperance were constant subjects of prayer in our meetings together . . . The one has perished in throes of blood and ruin–the other still lives to curse the land”

From this it seems obvious that the account was written after the Civil War which occurred some years after the new church was founded. At any rate, “As long as Mr. Fletcher continued Pastor of the Great Valley Church the anti-slavery element had a warm friend and faithful adviser, but he was called upon to leave us, and the man who succeeded him was his opposite, strongly pro-slavery. To show his knowledge of Bible lore, he quoted Scripture to show the rightfulness of slavery, his denunciations of the Abolitionists were greatly relished by the pro-slavery element, and many of them thronged to hear him denounce the erring friends of humanity . . .

“Among his hearers that day was one who was active in getting up this building–oh, how he gloated over our exposure. The Bible teacher and the Bible scoffer occupied the same plain. Herod and Pilate were friends. But the teacher from the pulpit and the scoffer from the pew utterly failed to drive them from their purpose, the resolve to establish a new interest became more fixed. It had been much thought of, no doubt prayed over, spoken of quietly, but no longer with bated breath, but out bold-spoken and fearless.”

The inference from this informal account of church matters back in 1841 and even before, seems to be that a difference of opinion over slavery had much to do with the separation of the small group from the parent church. It might also appear that Brother William Siter, after his conversion not only ceased to labor on Sundays, as told in our earlier accounts, but also turned from pro-slavery to anti-slavery. For he might easily have been the “scoffer” who afterwards was “active in getting up this building”, since his name more than any other is prominent in the early annals of this building up of the first small Radnor Baptist Church.

(To be Continued)

Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 4 – Great Valley Baptist Church members create new church at Carr’s Corner, Siter Family, Music Hall Fund


The signing of the petition on February 6, 1841, by 79 members of the Great Valley Baptist Church for dismissal from that church in order that these members might form a new church of their own in the vicinity of Carr’s Corners in Radnor township, was the first formal step toward that end. Before the new congregation was really established in the small building that had once been known as Music Fund Hall, many meetings had to be held and much business had to the transacted. Some of these meetings were held in the old Carr’s Corner schoolhouse, while many others were held in the home of Brother William Siter. This was probably the old Siter homestead which once stood on the site of Herman Lengel’s present home at 250 Conestoga road.

At a meeting at which “as many of the individuals as could find it convenient assembled together to be constituted into a regular Church of Our Lord and Saviour,” a council of six men was appointed, from whom D. Bernard was named as moderator and D. A. Nichols as secretary. This council agreed that brethren present form other neighboring churches should be invited to participate in the deliberations. This resulted in representation from Great Valley Baptist Church, and from Baptist churches in Norristown, Phoenixville, Newtown, Lower Merion and Valley Forge. According to the quaint wording of the old record book of the church:

“After some questions had been asked, articles of faith and covenant were read and the Council retired for deliberations, and after consultation were unanimous in declaring that there was no proper reason why the Brethren and Sisters named in the letter should not be constituted into a regular Baptist Church. Hence they proceeded to the public recognition in the following order of exercise.”

This order of exercise consisted of singing, reading of the Scriptures, prayer, the sermon, the “Right Hand of Fellowship,” the “Constituting Prayer,” charge to the church, address to the congregation and the benediction.

Then came the matter of a minister for the new Radnor Baptist Chruch. At a meeting held on April 1, 1841, it was unanimously agreed “to give Brother Hobart a call to supply the church for a year” from that date. The license which he presented at a special meeting of the church, held in July, stated that “our beloved brother Isaac M. Hobart . . . is a regular member of the Calvinistic Baptist Church of Christ in Lyme, in good repute with us as a young man of piety, correct morals and promising gifts; and he has been regularly approbated by us as a licentiate preacher, sound in the faith of the gospel.”

Brethren George Phillips, Zimmerman Supplee and William Siter were appointed at the April meeting to inform Brother Hobart of the call and “to confer with hi on terms.” The three reported back at a somewhat later date that these terms would be “three hundred dollars and expenses to and from the city.” Although the congregation voted unanimously to accept Brother Hobart, they added that when the committee of deacons waited on him they were “to prevail on him if it could be, to lower the terms.” Brother Hobart must have proven most acceptable to his congregation, for by the following year he had the temerity to ask for a salary of $400!

Brother Adam Siter was elected sexton of the church, “with the understanding that a collection would be taken up for him every quarter.” A later note in the record book shows that the first collection amounted to $7.57. Brother George W. Lewis was appointed church clerk and he was “directed to procure a blank book in which to record the proceedings of the church.” This is undoubtedly the book which is now before your columnist as she writes. Its pages are frail with 100 years of existence, their one-time white surface brown and stained, their edges soft and crumbling, yet the record of those early days of the church, written in a fine, regular hand, are almost as legible as when they were penned by Mr. Lewis.

Other business to come before the spring meetings were the appointment of a building committee “for altering the house,” to consider the building of a school house, and to acquire ground for horse sheds and a graveyard. The board of trustees reported that they had obtained this additional portion of ground from brother William Siter at the approximate price of $760 which, in addition to the original price of $700 for Music Fund Hall, brought the total purchase price to $1,460. However, “the additional purchase bro. Siter was willing to relinquish for the sum of one dollar, which added to 700 dols. the sum to be paid for the first purchase, amounted to $701.” However, bills for repairs on Music Fund Hall amounted to $245.43, and as the total amount for subscriptions from church members amounted to only $383 to date, “the debt against the church” was $563.43.

Other urgent matters in the first months of the new church’s existence, in addition to financial ones, were the decision in regard to the form of the charter to be forwarded to the State Legislature, “praying for an act of incorporation” and steps to be taken in regard “to offering themselves for union with the Central Union Association.” Eventually, both charter and membership in the association were obtained. Another matter of business was to have the church insured in the Mutual Insurance Company of Chester County.

In September, 1842, the Radnor Baptist Church was in difficulties with the parent church when they accepted as members “in good standing and full fellowship” four former members of the Great Valley Baptist Church was were “under censure for specific improprieties,” according to a letter received form the other church. This was done “before the cause thereof was removed.” This the Great Valley Baptist Church considered “in violation of the usages of the denomination, contrary to the spirit of the gospel of Christ, which requires that ‘all things shall be done decently and in order’.”

In reply, the Radnor church stated that the four members in question had come to them “as members of no church, and as such we received them in the relation of their Christian experience,” adding that “we still regard your body as our mother church and regret exceedingly that she has thought proper to disinherit us.”

(To Be Continued)

Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 3 – Spread Eagle Inn, Siter Family

The William Siter whose conversion to the strict precepts of the Baptist faith from his former more wordly ways of thinking, and who was in a large measure responsible for the founding of the Radnor Baptist Church, belonged to a family whose name has appeared more often that any other in the early history of Radnor Township as it has been sketched in this column. In 1791 his grandfather, Adam Siter, ran the first small Spread Eagle Inn on the old Lancaster Turnpike. Later two other Siters, John and Edward, were in turn associated with the second and much large Spread Eagle Inn. The beautiful Siter farm covered much of what is now South Wayne. Part of the land around Martin’s Dam was once owned by this same family.

Mrs. Emily Siter Wellcome tells us that the family was one of the early Welsh settlers to whom William Penn gave a grant of land in what was later to become Radnor township. The original part of the house where she now lives at 415 West Wayne avenue with her daughter, Rosita Wellcome and her brother, George Siter, was probably built in the late 1600’s. Like the other Welsh houses of that period, of which there are a number still remaining in the township, the Siter house was built of stone, with two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. The thicknesses of the old stone wall of Mrs. Wellcome’s living room gave evidence of the age of the house.

Somewhat puzzling to us at first was the present outside appearance of the house, stince it so closely resembles certain of the Wayne Estate houses. The explanation seems to lie in the fact that it was remodeled in 1890 by Mrs. William Siter, Mrs. Wellcome’s mother. it was at this time that large numbers of Wayne Estate houses were in the process of construction, and it seems quite possible that Mrs. Siter patterned her home after one of the popular type of that era. At the same time that she enlarged the little four room stone home, built by Welsh ancestors, she also built the house just to the west of her that is now occupied by William M. Zimmermann, Jr., and his family, and which for many years was occupied by the late Eber Siter and his family.

According to the old volume of “Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Chester and Delaware Counties”, lent to us by Mrs. Wellcome, Adam Siter, that first early proprietor of the little old Spread Eagle Inn had several children, among them William, who married Mary Taylor. There were six children born to this union. David, the eldest, “kept store for some time at the Old Eagle house on Lancaster turnpike”, in a section that was known for some time as “Sitersville”, even on the post office records. “John married and settled in Radnor township near the village, of Ithan, where he followed farming” according to the old genealogical records.

“Adam and William, the twin brothers (born December 8, 1798) received, under their father’s will, a tract of land containing 192 acres where South Wayne now stands, and here they conducted farming.” After Adam married, he sold his interest to William, who continued the cultivation of the farm and the old Siter saw and grist mill, which stood upon the property. William married Emily Worthington, a daughter of Eber Worthington, of West Chester. The twin brother, Adam, married Margaret Brooke, while one sister, Anna, became the wife of Enoch Davis and the other, Elizabeth, married John Yocum.

Joseph M. Fronefield, Jr., in writing of the Wayne of the 1880’s, when he came to this community and established his small drug store in what was then known as Wayne Lyceum Hall, now the newly remodeled Colonial Building, told of what he could see from the door of his shop:

“I could look out the drugstore door (it had now window on the pike) and see cattle grazing in the meadow where the business block, fire house and school houses now stand. This was part of what was known as the Siter farm. Its buildings stood on Conestoga road, about where the residence of F. A. Canizares now stands. The old Siter homestead burned in later years when owned and occupied by R. H. Johnson. The spring house was near the rear of what is now the Wayne Apartment House at the corner of West Wayne and Bloomingdale avenues.”

(Note: The old Siter household to which this refers was one the site of the present Herman Lengel house, 250 Conestoga road. The former F. A. Canizares house is at 240 Conestoga road.)

The William Siter who owned so much of what is now South Wayne was the same William Siter who, with is wife, the former Emily Worthington, was the leading spirit in the founding of the Radnor Baptist Church. Their son, another William Siter, married Sarah Martin, daughter of Richard and Hannah Moore Martin, both of English birth. Sarah Martin is the Miss Sallie Martin referred to in a number of articles in this column as the teacher of the Wayne Lyceum School and also as one of the editors of the “Weekly Gazette”, that early Wayne paper published in 1871-72. When the Wayne Lyceum Hall was dedicated on October 24, 1871, Miss Martin was one of the speakers on the program. Two of the children of these William Siters, George Siter and Emily Siter Wellcome, are among the four living trustees of the old Baptist Church who negotiated its present sale.

Seventy-nine persons signed the petition presented at a special meeting of the Great Valley Church on February 6, 1941, for letters of dismissal “for the purpose of constituting a Church at Radnor Hall, which on motion was granted,” to quote the exact wording of church records, now over 100 years old. Written in ink, these records and signatures are still so clearly legible that there can be doubt about only one or two of the signatures. They are names of families who had much to do with Radnor township in its early days. Descendents of some of them are still living here.

The “written request” was signed by George Joseph, Samuel, Sarah, Elizabeth, Alice and Susanna Lewis; Christian, Margaret, Sarah Jane, Mary Ann and Elizabeth Miller; William, Louisa, John, George, Mary Hughes, Elizabeth, Peter and Zimmermann Supplee; Mahlon, John, Elizabeth, Elijah, John, Jr. and Hannah Wilds; William, Lucy, Emily, Mary Ann, Sarah and Adam Siter; Charles and Sarah Ann Stout; Thomas and Ann Petty; Jacob, Eliza and Mary Huzzard; Samuel, George, Ann, Mary, and George, Jr., Bittle; Merriam, Hannah and Joseph Hunter; Mary Ann and Sarah Bowman; Jane and Mary Ann Smallwood; Samuel and Emma Crew; John and Elizabeth Aikens; George and Hannah Phillips; Margaret and Abraham Richardson; Jacob Wismer, Jacob Taylor, Ann Hampton, James Carr, Jr., Elizabeth Meredith, Mary Ann McKnight, Mary Marion Loveat, George Murry, Samuel Hanson, Nancy Davis, Mary Rulong, Isaac Millenn, Benjamin Snively, Theodosia Riddle.

(To be continued)

Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 2 – Radnor Science & Musical Hall


Music Fund Hall, the small building shown in the picture illustrating the column this week, was built “some time in or about the year 1832” by “a band of unbelievers in the neighborhood round about.” This neighborhood was then known as Carr’s Corner, now the intersection of Conestoga road and West Wayne avenue.

The picture plainly shows that Music Fund Hall once stood on the exact location of the First Baptist Church, now in process of demolition. The building to the right in the picture was built before Music Fund Hall. Known as the first school in the township, its outside appearance has been little altered by the passing years.

During the period when, as described in last week’s column, “there was a deep religious feeling pervading this portion of the Master’s Vineyard,” there is evidence also that this feeling was by no means all-pervading. While “the prayer circle and the conference room were the delight” of some, there were others who were more worldly-minded.

Among the favorite places of meeting for the deeply religious element was Carr’s School House, the small stone building still standing just to the right of the old Baptist Church. “Here,” according to old records, ” had been enjoyed many seasons of comfortable refreshings from the presence of the Lord – around here were numbers to fill a house at short notice. They turned to this spot, but the Lord ordained otherwise.”

For, whether in a spirit of perversity or because it seemed a suitable location, it was on a piece of ground immediately adjoining the old school house that the “band of unbelievers in the neighborhood” chose to erect a building of their own planning. It was to be one “where gatherings could be had, and of such a character as would draw away the minds of the young from the serious, and thus weaken and eventually overcome the growing religious feeling,” to quote from the old church records.

And “among the foremost in this scheme was Mr. William Siter,” the man who a few years later was to become one of the first four deacons of that early Baptist Church and up to the time of his death always one of its strongest supporters.

In the quaint wording of the old church account of the erection of Music Fund Hall, Mr. Siter “furnished the ground, and the work was started with a will and pushed on with a vigor that was wonderful, in due time the house was finished and ready for the dedication services. It was resolved to open it with a concert. This would not shock the feelings of the people. The affair was published around the neighborhood and the time drew on. At this time there was a protracted meeting in progress at the Great Valley Baptist Church. A Mr. Griswold was the Preacher, and he warned the young to avoid being trapped by the specious title of the meeting, but to bear in mind that whatever gloss they might appear to throw over it, the true object was opposite to the spread of the Redeemer’s Kingdom.”

“The concert was a failure,” is a brief summary in the church account. Whether the “band of unbelievers” tried entertainments in any other form is not recorded. Perhaps they were too discouraged by the failure of their first attempt. At any rate, when a little later “the band” tried to get a title, their plans met with their final setback. For Mrs. Siter refused her name to the title deed!

What happened to Music Fund Hall in the years between 1832 and 1841 is not quite clear in the old records. “The band of unbelievers” collapsed when “Mr. Siter was overtaken by the Holy Spirit and he was a changed man, the things that he once loved he now hated.” At any rate, “after the dissolution of the association the house passed into the hands of brother William Siter, and he offered it to the new interest at less than cost, $700.” By this time it seems to have been known by a more pretentious name than its original one, the later name being “The Radnor Scientific and Musical Hall.”

In 1841 the new interest “paid brother Siter $700 for the building and the ground occupied by the Music Fund Hall.” This was after a petition to the Great Valley Baptist Church had been circulated and signed by some 61 people living in the vicinity of Carr’s Corner. In the petition, request was made for the “construction of a new church.” Once letters had been granted by the Great Valley Church to the persons named in the petition, plans for the meeting place for the new congregation grew rapidly. Certain alterations were made at a price of $246, increasing the total cost of the newly acquired building to $946.

Later on in this same year, that of 1841, the new church built a school house at a cost of “about $300.” As time went by there were other improvements, including horse and buggy sheds, a vault, a parsonage and a stable. This brought the total expenditure up to what seems now the more than modest figure of $2840. By the time the church celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1881, the total expenditure for the church property had grown to $3946, as shown in the report given at that time. Improvements in the interior had included the remodeling of the small church and of the school house. It probably remained without further changes for the next nine years, when in 1890 the large stone edifice that supplanted it was built.

(To be continued)

Wayne’s First Baptist Church, part 1 – Music Fund Hall, William & Emily Worthington Siter, Louis Fillipone, Carr’s Corner

In “The Suburban” of three weeks ago the sale of the old First Baptist Church was reported. The big gray stone building with its high bell tower and its 600-pound bell, has stood in quiet dignity for 61 years on historic old Conestoga road, where that one-time narrow Indian trail meets West Wayne avenue. In 1890 the handsome edifice was built to house a congregation far too large for its first small home on the same site, the old-time Music Fund Hall, given it in 1841 by William Siter, a member of one of the earliest of the Welsh families to settle in and around Radnor township after the coming of William Penn in the early 1680’s.

According to the original church records, hand-written, frail old pages now brown with age and ragged from the turning of many hands, the real history of the Baptist congregation goes back even farther than that time in 1841, when it was fist housed in Music Fund Hall. For it was “during the fall of 1831 and for several succeeding years” that “there was a deep religious feeling pervading this portion of the Master’s Vineyard, and multitudes were brought to see themselves lost sinners; few escaped its influence. The feeling, that Salvation through the Blood of Jesus was necessary, was general.”

For a decade these devout people traversed the hills along rough country roads to worship in the Great Valley Baptist Church. Among the most faithful of these was Emily Worthington Siter, wife of William Siter. According to a thick tome on the “Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Chester and Montgomery Counties” Mrs. Siter was “a devout and earnest Christian woman, while her husband, who was a very energetic and worthy man in all the affairs of life, did not attend any church, and gave little heed to the observances of the Sabbath Day, continuing without interruption his daily routine of toil and business.”

This indifference to the Sabbath Day on the part of the husband gave his good wife so much concern that she “resolved that she should rescue him from his ways of error.” And so it was that “upon one occasion she appealed in prayer to the Almighty Lord to shield and save her erring husband. Hearing her supplication, the strong man of iron nerve could no longer resist, and at once went to the side of his wife and promised to accompany her and the children to church that same Sunday morning, and from that day until the time of his death he was a regular attendant at religious services, and was ever after known as a devout and Christian man.”

A more intimate account of the scene of this conversion was recently given this writer by Mrs. Emily Siter Wellcome, who lives at the old Siter homestead on West Wayne avenue. Mrs. Wellcome says that family tradition has it that her grandmother was kneeling in prayer behind a corn shock in the field, where her husband was at work on Sunday morning, when he chanced to overhear her supplication. He was so moved by the earnestness of his wife’s prayers that he immediately unhitched his team of work horses and drove the children and her to church.

From that day on William Siter’s religion became a very real factor in his life. When “in the latter part of the Year of Our Lord, 1840,” to quote again from the old church record book, “many of the friends of Zion, members of the Great Valley Baptist Church who had been much exercised on the subject of establishing an independent church in the neighborhood of Carr’s School House” circulated a petition “to ascertain the number who would be willing to cast in their lot together,” William Siter’s name appeared with that of his wife, Emily.

Before the Music Fund Hall was used as the first church building of the new congregation, meetings were sometimes held in Mr. Siter’s own home. At such a meeting, held on February 27, 1841, he was elected one of four deacons of the new church, the other three being George Phillips, William Supplee and Hughes Supplee.

When the recent sale of the old church property, fallen into disuse since the building of the Central Baptist Church, was consummated, two of William Siter’s grandchildren were among the four remaining trustees to negotiate the sale. They are Emily Siter Wellcome and her brother, George Siter, of Wayne; Lillian Childs Williamson, of Media, and May Morris Dawson, of Collegeville. The latter two are also descendants of founders of the First Baptist Church.

The property bought by Louis Fillipone consists only of the church building itself and some ground surrounding it. The building is to be demolished and the ground levelled off to provide a suitable site for a new, handsome store which Mr. Fillipone proposes to erect there. Not included in the sale are the little old stone building to the right of the church and the old parsonage which stands between the old graveyard and the tracks of the Philadelphia and Western Railway.

The former is the small stone building which originally housed the first school in Radnor township at what was then known as Carr’s Corner. This building ante-dates the old Music Fund Hall, built about 1832. When the small stone structure and the parsonage have been sold, the proceeds will be added to those from the sale of the church itself. With this money the old graveyard, in which the founders of the church are buried, will be fenced in, while the old tombstones will be straightened and the grounds beautified. And thus, too, will perpetual care be guaranteed to the last resting place of those who founded the church 110 years ago.

(To Be Continued)

The forming of Delaware County, part 4 (churches) – Old St. David’s Church, St. Mary’s Episcopal, Radnor Baptist Church

Whatever the different motivating factors behind the coming of the early settlers from Europe to the New World which was America, these people were on the whole extremely religious. William Penn, when he sailed up the Delaware River to land at Upland, found that the Swedes and the Dutch both had established places of worship, humble though they were.

The Swedes, who had made the first European settlement in Pennsylvania of which we have any record, that at Tinicum, in Delaware County, had been given land for the erection of the log church by their governor, John Printz. To this small edifice on Tinicum island members of its congregation came in canoes from their various settlements along the Delaware River. Reverend John Campanius, who had some to America with Governor Printz, was then pastor, a man who has been called Delaware County’s first prominent theologian.

Born in Sweden in 1601, Campanius died in 1683 after spending 40 years of his life as a missionary among the Delaware Indians, and as pastor of that first little Lutheran Church on Tinicum Island. The first leader of a religious denomination in Pennsylvania, he had completed the earliest translation of a European language into an Indian one before returning to his native Sweden in 1649. This translation was that of the Lutheran Catechism into the Delaware Indian tongue.

Of the first little log church on Tinicum Island nothing is left to indicate even the location, or that of the graveyard connected with it. Its congregation transferred its affiliation to other churches, and at about the beginning of the Eighteenth century the small edifice fell into ruin. The second Lutheran congregation in Delaware County was organized in 1878 by —– in Chester. Others sprang up from time to time until now there are a large number of churches of that denomination scattered throughout the county.

The Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, held meetings in Upland as early as 1675. A few years later a group of them purchased a lot on what is now Edgemont Avenue in Chester where they erected a place of worship in 1691. However, the very first meeting house to be built in Delaware County was that in nearby Haverford Township. This was erected in 1688-89. Radnor Meeting was another of the very early structures having been built shortly after Haverford Meeting. The present lovely old edifice, dating back to 1718, is one of the landmarks of Radnor Township, as is the Old Store across Conestoga Road, where the friends who later made up Radnor Meeting congregation met before their own first little church was built.

The second oldest church structure in the county is one as familiar to most of Wayne’s citizens as any of its own churches, picturesque Old St. Davids, located in Newtown Township. This small ivy covered Episcopalian Church on the slope of a hill amid towering trees dates back to a period prior to 1700, when its congregation was first organized. For one half century after the original small structure was built, no floor was laid and no pews built. The congregation sat on benches, originally furnished by the occupants. The old graveyard with its crumbling headstones surrounds the church on three sides. Among the graves is that of “Mad” Anthony Wayne of Revolutionary fame.

Among other very old Episcopal churches in the county are St. Paul’s in Chester, completed in 1702, and St. John’s in Concord Township, built only slightly later. In about 1725 “the Chapel” at Marcus Hook was built. It remained nameless until 1760 when the brick structure which replaced the original small frame one was called St. Martin’s. In our own township, the Church of the Good Shepherd, in Rosemont, was organized in 1869 after meetings had been held for several years at Woodfield, and at the residence of Mrs. Supplee in Radnor. The corner stone for the church building was laid in 1871. Since then the chapel, the parish house and the rectory have been added.

St. Mary’s Memorial Episcopal Church in Wayne was erected in 1890, after eight years of preliminary meetings, while St. Martin’s in Radnor has been active since 1887.

The Baptist Church in Birmingham Township, Delaware County, was the third of that denomination in the state of Pennsylvania. A log meeting house was built in 1718 after a period of years in which meetings were held in private homes. In 1770 the log structure was replaced by a stone building which sufficed until the present church was built a hundred years later.

Radnor Baptist Church originated over the anti-slavery agitation in Great Valley Baptist Church, when Rev. Leonard Fletcher and his followers, who were opposed to slavery, asked for letters to form a new church. These letters were granted to 79 persons, who formed Radnor Baptist Church in 1841. They purchased the “Radnor Scientific and Musical Hall” which they used for a church building until 1890. Later the Central Baptist Church of Wayne was organized with the original building still standing between Lancaster Pike and West Wayne avenues, near the center of Wayne.

As early as the beginning of the 18th Century there were log cabin Presbyterian Churches in Delaware County, with thier congregations made up principally of Scotch-Irish immigrants. The first Presbyterian Church in Delaware County was organized in Middletown Township in about 1728. In 1762 the log cabin was replaced by a stone building to which the congregation brought their own charcoal foot-stoves. In 1879 this building was destroyed by fire. But before the year was out a new edifice had been dedicated, and quite recently a new church wing built on colonial lines has been added to the older structure.

In 1818, the Philadelphia Presbytery ordered two churches established, one in Springfield and the other in Aston Township. The former never even reached the point of organization. Of the latter, which was known as the Blue Church, or Mount Gilead, nothing now remains of the building which became inactive after a few years of existence.

Among other Delaware County Presbyterian Churches that were organized a hundred years or more ago are the Marple Church near Broomall, built in 1835; the Darby Presbyterian Church, originally started along Congregational principles in 1845; the Presbyterian Church of Darby Borough, founded by twenty people in 1851; a Presbyterian’s chapel in Todmorton, originally built for employees of Crookville Mills in 1850, and Leeper’s Church in Ridley Township, built before 1850.

The Wayne Presbyterian Church was organized almost 51 years ago in June, 1870. The first church building, still standing to the East of the present one, was built by J. Henry Askin on land which he had donated. He also built the first manse, the large white house facing South on Lancaster avenue, several blocks from the church. This old Manse is now the home of Mr. Walter Lister.

(To be continued)