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)