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 Radnor War Memorial, part 2 – American Legion, Chew Family, WWI

On Sunday afternoon, May 28, 1922, two days before Memorial Day itself, Radnor township’s memorial to its servicemen who gave their lives in World War I was unveiled. The unveiling ceremony was performed by a little girl and two small boys, all the children of men who fell in battle. They were Frances Cotter, daughter of William Powell Cotter, Supply Company, 315th Infantry, who was killed in September, 1918, and Pennington Howard Way and Gordon Townsend Way, sons of Lt. Pennington H. Way, of the 96th Aero Squadron, who was shot down in a fight with eight German planes at the beginning of the St. Mihiel drive. These three children pulled the cords which drew back the veiling flags from the bronze.

This ceremony followed the dedication address given by Senator George Wharton Pepper, who was introduced by Captain Sydney Roberts, at that time commander of Anthony Wayne Post, American Legion, under whose auspices the ceremonies were held. Senator Pepper said in part:

“It seems to me that but little speaking is in order when grateful friends gather to pay tribute to those who did not speak, but achieved. We are assembled here where two roads meet and where the stream of life flows ceaselessly by. Presently we shall pass on and everything will look as it was before we came. But in that brief interval something will have happened that will have changed the spot forever.

“In that brief time, we shall, by dedicating this memorial, have given it a tongue with which to speak. It will bid the traveler pause and listen to the message that this spot is sacred forever to the men and women of this community who offered their lives when their country called. Twenty were taken. Today that 20 are part of the great community of invisible comrades, an army of occupation on that far shore, holding a place there for those of us who prove worthy. Shall we not here highly resolve to lead our lives so that when we join those twenty they will salute us?”

In the bright sunlight of a quiet Sunday afternoon, members of Anthony wayne, American Legion, Bullock-Sanderson Post of Ardmore, and John Winthrop Post, of Bryn Mawr, headed by the Marine Band from the Navy Yard and a detachment of Marines, had marched from St. Davids to the center of Lancaster Pike and Ivan avenue when the war memorial stood ready to be unveiled.

The memorial itself stood on ground owned by the Chew family since pre-Revolutionary days. On behalf of his family, David Chew presented the property to Radnor township “forever” as part of the dedication services. These services were opened with a prayer by the Rev. Richard H. Gurley, chaplain of Anthony Wayne Post, followed by the singing of “America” by the children of the township schools. The report of the Monument Committee was read by its chairman, Mrs. Robert G. Wilson. After Mr. Chew had presented the deed to the property to William S. Ellis, then chairman of the Board of Commissioners, it was accepted on behalf of the people of the township by Mr. Ellis. Following the unveiling, the Marines fired a salute of three volleys and trumpeters played “taps.”

Several thousand people were present for this occasion, among them the families of servicement for whom special seats had been reserved. Servicement whose names are commemorated on the bronze plaque include those of Norman B. Hallman, William Bateman, Philip Overton Mills, Clinton Van Pelt Newbold, Thomas Roberts Reath, George H. Righter, David Rupp, 3d, William Henry Sayen Schultz, Alec Scott, Joseph Odorisio, William Powell Cotter, William Craig Dickson, Howard Ray Duncan, George Farrell, Thomas Foy, Clarence Patton Freeman, Edward Gallagher and Joseph M. Gardner. Above these names is this inscription:

“To the men and women of Radnor township who served in the World War and to those who gave their lives.”

The bronze bas-relief was the world of Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, of the University of Pennsylvania. In writing of it, Edith W. Powell, columnist of the “Public Ledger,” made some interesting comments. “Dr. McKenzie’s bas-relief,” she says, “shows at the top, forming a freize, a group of soldiers with pointed bayonets rushing up and forward . . . In this tablet the value of space for emphasis is at once obvious. The general design could not be more simple or more forceful and direct in the delivery of its message . . . First of all, in the freize Dr. McKenzie has succeeded in producing a convincing effect of strain and onrushing motion, a most difficult performance . . . it is not hard to realize that the necessity to incorporate a number of their pointed bayonets in a sculptured design presents a problem requiring considerable engineering ingenuity, and a delicate sense of composition. Dr. McKenzie’s management of the bayonets could not be more successful or interesting . . . Consider how their horizontal lines lead to the impression of thrust, and observe how expertly the directions of them are related to each other and to the carved boundary at the bottom.”

Dr. McKenzie himself gave high praise to Louis S. Adams, the St. Davids architect who designed the monument. “Mr. Adams,” he said, “has an unusual sense of fitness. Not only is the monument very fine in design, but it seems to me a matter of particular comment that he has so stained the marble with rusty color that it harmonizes with the field stone of the wall. I feel sure many architects would have been satisfied to leave the glaring white of the marble as it was.”

The beauty of the monument has always been enhanced by the background of trees. The planting of flowers and shrubs on the plot was the especial gift of school children of Radnor township.

The account book of the Memorial Fund, so carefully kept by the treasurer, Miss Grace Roberts, shows that in all $9,610.78 in money contributions was received for the erection of the Memorial. This represents contributions, both large and small, from many hundreds of people. In addition, there were countless gifts other than money, such as the land given by the Chew family, the stone for the wall, plans for the memorial, printing of all stationery, slides for motion pictures, bunting and flags for the dedication, the services of buses, the use of chairs for the dedication and many other items of equal importance. The monument was in truth the gift of the community itself to commemorate its warrior dead of World War I.

Until almost a month after the dedication checks continued to come in. By the middle of August all bills were paid. And on June 7, 1924, more than $1200 was turned over to the Board of Commissioners for the care and upkeep of the memorial, where on each Memorial Day since 1922 homage has been paid to the men of Radnor township who lost their lives in World War I.

(Your columnist is indebted to Miss Grace Roberts for the information contained in these two articles. Miss Roberts has not only kept intact the financial records, but the minutes of all meetings, the correspondence in regard to the memorial and several interesting newspaper clippings.)

The Radnor War Memorial, part 1 – “Society Circus”, WWI, Chew Family

July 4, 1951, passed as quietly in Wayne as many another July 4 of other recent years has done. On Monday, September 3, Labor Day will pass just as quietly. Practically the only outward indication of a holiday on these occasions is the constant flow of traffic from early morning until late at night along our great Lancaster highway. In the past there have been big celebrations in our small suburb, such as the “Society Circus” on Labor Day, 1913, when some 10,000 people gathered on the School Field to participate in a day and an evening of much fun and frolic. And this has been but one of many large holiday celebrations in Wayne.

But Memorial Day is somehow different, perhaps because of the feeling that we who live must never fail to pay tribute to those whose lives have been given for their country. Of late years ceremonies have been small and quiet. But, at least, there is always the decoration of graves and the march to the Radnor Township War Memorial on Lancaster and Ivan avenues. Its dedication on Sunday, May 28, 1922, was a solemn and impressive occasion. At that time it was the memorial to some 20 men from Radnor township who had given their lives in World War I. Within the last few years there has been another dedication added to the men and women of our community who lost their lives in World War II, in the Memorial Library of Radnor Township.

From the time of the conclusion of World War I, citizens of Radnor township had felt that their township, like many of its neighbors, must commemorate its war dead in some fitting way. Various plans were informally discussed from time to time, but it was not until the fall of 1921 that definite action was taken.

The first meeting of which there are minutes is the one of October 24, held at the home of Mrs. Robert G. WIlson in St. Davids. Those present in addition to the hostess were Mrs. William Henry Brooks, Mrs. Benjamin Chew, Mrs. Adolph G. Rosengarten, Mrs. J. S. C. Harvey, Mrs. Walter S. Yeatts, Mrs. A. A. Parker and Captain Clifton Lisle. Committee members who were absent included Mrs. Louis Jaquette Palmer, Mrs. Lewis Neilson, Miss Grace Roberts and Monsignor C. F. Kavanagh.

The form of the memorial had evidently been decided upon previously, as a large boulder with a bronze tablet and surmounted by a bronze eagle. Later there was an alternate plan for a “doughboy” instead of the eagle.

The big question of the moment seemed to be the selection of a suitable site for this boulder. Mrs. Brooks, as chairman of the committee on location, reported that her committee had made a tour of possible sites along Lancaster avenue from Rosemont to Wayne. As they progressed westward the first location to which they gave favorable consideration was the point where Radnor road meets Ivan avenue at the Pike, on the property owned in part by the Chew estate and in part by S. Deas Sinkler. “This location,” the minutes of the meeting state, “is considered to be the nearest to the geographical center of the township on the highway, and is desirable for the reason of the available space and the improvement it would be to the present dangerous crossing.”

Other possible sites, in the estimation of the committee, included the corner of Pembroke and Lancaster ovenues and the grounds in front of the Library. The triangle in the center of Pembroke avenue where it meets the Pike seemed to present a natural setting. Also this site was close to the center of Wayne. Still another location was brought to the attention of the committee at a later meeting when Oswald Chew spoke of the gold course, with the beauty of its background.

At the next meeting of the general committee, it was unanimously voted to place the memorial on the south side of Lancaster Pike at its intersection with Ivan avenue. The ground for this was given by the Chew family.

The plans for a large boulder were soon abandoned in favor of those for the memorial as it now stands. This was designed by Louis S. Adams, a well-known Philadelphia architect who lived in Radnor township. Appropriately Colonial in style and set against a background of trees, its design called for a low wall of stone with benches of stone in front of it. In the center there was to be a bas-relief of bronze showing a group of soldiers going over the top, bayonets in hand. This was to be the work of Dr. R. Tait McKenzie, of the University of Pennsylvania.

With definite plans in hand the committee set to work to raise the $10,000 which was the estimate cost of the entire project. Some few checks had already been received before letters were mailed to all citizens of the township, giving each one an opportunity to contribute in any amount, however large or small, to a project that was to be one “of the entire township, not of any special organization.” From that point work on the memorial was so steady and so rapid that it was easily ready for unveiling on the Sunday before Memorial Day of 1922.

Mrs. Robert G. Wilson was general chairman of the entire project form its beginning, while Miss Mary DeHaven Bright was secretary and Miss Grace Roberts, treasurer. In addition to those already mentioned in this article the following served actively on the Memorial Committee: Rev. Dr. W. G. W. Anthony, Mrs. Archibald Barklie, Mrs. W. Allen Barr, Rev. J. W. Brooks, Rev. J. C. Burbage, A. W. Canizares, Robert K. Cassatt, Captain Benjamin Chew, David S. B. Chew, Charles E. Clark, William S. Ellis, Rev. J. W. Elliot, Mrs. F. B. Embick, Rev. R. H. Gurley, Miss Nancy Hallowel, C. Willing Hare, Horace B. Hare, Mrs. C. C. Harrison, DeWitt P. Henry, William K. Holman, Dr. G. L. S. Jameson, Dr. Guy C. Lawson, John D. Lengel, Rev. Crosswell McBee, George McFadden, Mrs. Paul Denckia Mills, Mrs. W. A. Nichols, Major M. A. Pugh, Henry Roever, S. V. Rowland, Rev. E. W. Rushton, Rev. Charles Schall, Mrs. Emilie Sayen Schultz, C. C. Shoemaker, S. Deas Sinkler, Mrs. A. G. H. Spiers, Louis H. Watt, W. A. Wiedersheim, 2d, James M. Willcox, Mrs. John P. Wood and William T. Wright.

St. Martin’s Church, part 3 – Richard H. Gurley, WWI

By his resignation to become effective next month, the Reverend Richard H. Gurley terminates a pastorate of more than 30 years’ duration at St. Martin’s Church, Radnor. In accepting his resignation, the members of the Vestry paid tribute to the long and amicable relations which have existed between Mr. Gurley and the members of the parish. As a final expression of their esteem they have elected him Rector Emeritus for life.

In October, 1920, Mr. Gurley came to St. Martin’s as curate in charge of the parish from St. James Church, then at 22nd and Walnut streets, Philadelphia, a church that has since gone out of existence. And on March 21 of the following year he was called as Rector of St. Martin’s, to succeed the Reverent George Lamb. He was the eight minister to serve the church in Radnor, and the first to conduct services in the Chapel at Ithan, which had just been completed at the time.

The Reverent Percival H. Hickman, who was elected rector of St. Martin’s Church on September 23, 1887, immediately after it became a parish in its own right following several years as a mission chapel of the Church of the Good Shepherd, tendered his resignation less than two years later as a “consequence of the difference of judgment as to the conduct of the parish”, to quote from the original old record book of the church.

He was succeeded by the Reverent George A. Hunt, who served from July, 1889, to November, 1891. Other rectors have been Winfield S. Baer, November 1892-June 1898; A. A. Abbott, June 1898- September 1898; Frederick A. Schultzburg, October 1898-May 1900; George A. Hunt, April 1900-September 1904, and George W. Lamb, 1904-1920.

Standing alone in St. Martin’s Church in the quietness of a weekday morning not long ago, a gentle rain falling outside, the 64-year-old edifice gave the writer the feeling of a House of God that has been reverently and lovingly cherished by its parishioners throughout all the years of is existence. Perhaps its very size makes for a certain feeling of intimacy. The many memorials, all bearing names of those closely connected with the establishment and growth of St. Martin’s, show that it is here especially that their families would have their lives commemorated.

The rood screen is known as the handsomest in any diocese in Pennsylvania. The work of the Gorham Company, of New York City, it was given by Thomas Newhall in memory of his mother, Eleanor Mercer Newhall. One large stained glass window is in memory of James W. Paul, Jr., another commemorates Margaret Perkins, Morris Wister Stroud and William Daniel Stroud, Jr., while still another is in memory of Fleurette LeBenneville Bell. A fourth commemorates Anna B. Schmidt.

The beautiful organ was presented to the church by the family of Frances Drexel Paul; the Alms Basin is a memorial to J. Franklin McFadden; the wall lanterns were given in memory of C. William Hare by Esther D. Hare; the Baptismal Font commemorates the Rt. Reverend Samuel Babcock Booth, D.D., Bishop of Vermont, 1883-1935.

Following the death of Theodora Rand Gurley, wife of the Reverent Mr. Gurley in April, 1945, a number of gifts were made to the church in her memory. Among these are the baptismal font light, the eight church lamps, and a small stained glass window near the baptismal font.

There are other memorials, too, throughout the church, none more far-reaching in its deep significance to many families than the Carillon Chimes. These have been given “to the glory of God in devoted memory of those from this parish whose lives were taken in World Wars I and II, and as a tribute of honor and respect to all of our fellowship who in these wars have served our country in its times of crisis”. Names from World Wars I are Thomas Roberts Reath, Norman Beadle Hallman and Lewis Gouverneur Smith. Those from the second war are James Dillon Jacoby, David Montgomery Haughton, George Lee Jameson Forster, Edgar Dunbar Morris, Jr., David DeHaven Conley, George Rushton Howell, Jr., John Morton Pool, 3d, John Warren, Christine Blackadder Weston, Louis Crawford Clark and Peter Van Pelt. The names have all been inscribed on a handsome bronze plaque on the right wall of the church.

For more than 25 years Mr. Gurley has been chaplain of Paoli Troop I, which last month celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding, and is one of the oldest Scout troops in America. On Boy Scout Sunday, which is celebrated in connection with Boy Scout Week each year, services have been held in St. Martin’s Church since 1926. Of those who have marched up the aisle, proudly erect in their Scout uniforms, five who were members of the Church have died in the uniforms of their country. Their names stand on the bronze honor plaque. David Conley, Lee Forster, David Haughton, Edgar Morris and George Howell.

The present Rector Warden of St. Martin’s is T. Truxtun Hare, while the accounting warden is Ledyard W. Heckscher. others serving are Edward S. Buckley, Arthur H. Clephane, Richard S. Crampton, A. Reynolds Crane, M.D., Y. Parran Dawkins, Jr., Hervert S. Henderson, Stanton C. Kelton, Vernon S. Mollenauer, William R. Spofford and W. Furness Thompson.

In closing the series of articles on St. Martin’s Church, Radnor, the write wishes to acknowledge her indebtedness to Mr. Gurley, who has permitted her the use of the old church records, in addition to giving of his own time. Thanks are also due to the church secretary, who has been most helpful with supplementary information.