Wayne Churches, Drexel & Childs, Wendell & Smith, Wayne Estate

On Sunday, June 28, of this year, the Wayne Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated 62 years of worship in the church edifice located at the busy intersection of State Highway 252 with Bloomingdale avenue.

It was on Sunday, June 28, 1891, that the dedication services were held and the first sermon preached in the church, which had been erected through the efforts of a small group of Methodists who were recent arrivals in Wayne. The acre of ground on which it stood had been the gift of Drexel and Childs of the Wayne Estate, who in the middle of the 1880’s started the development of Wayne as we know it.

Up to this time the Methodist Church was the fourth church to be erected in Wayne, antedated only by the Wayne Presbyterian Chapel and the Presbyterian Church on Lancaster Pike; the First Baptist Church, which up until two years ago stood on the southeast corner of Conestoga road and West Wayne avenue, and by St. Mary’s Church, on the southeast corner of Lancaster Pike and Louella avenue.

The Presbyterian Chapel was built in 1870, a gift to its charter members by one of Wayne’s most distinguished citizens of that period, J. Henry Askin. The present church building was erected in 1890, replacing the first small building, which was originally known as Music Fund Hall. St. Mary’s Church was completed In 1889. Thus, within a two-year period, four large church buildings were erected in the small suburb of Wayne.

Less than ten years before the Wayne Methodist Church was built, the land on which it stood was still part of the farm of Izzachi Fritz. lt was not until about the middle 1880’s that Audubon avenue was laid out, running south from Lancaster Pike and joining Conestoga road at the corner where Dr. Truxal’s house now stands. The part that extends a short distance past the church has recently been renamed South Wayne avenue, as has Summit avenue, which is its direct continuation south to Conestoga road. This stretch of road is also part of State Highway 252, all of which, from Lancaster avenue to Conestoga road, now is known as South Wayne avenue.

It is interesting that the Wayne Methodist Church should stand not far from Conestoga road, since part of this one time narrow Indian trail was known as “Methodist Hill.” That was in the early days of the Radnor Methodist Church in Rosemont, the oldest Methodist Meeting House in Delaware County. Its one-story log cabin structure, built in 1783, was replaced by the present building in 1833. At various times some alterations and changes have been made in it in the 120 years of its existence. Amid its old graves it now stands in its quiet beauty and dignity, almost directly across from the Rosemont school, a center of Methodist activity for that entire vicinity.

How the the present Methodist Church in Wayne came into existence is recorded in a foreword in the “Minute Record of the Board of Trustees and Corporation of the Wayne Methodist Episcopal Church” lent to your columnist by Albert Ware and his sister, Mrs. Gertrude Ware Case. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Ware, were among the four families named In the Minute book as “among the newcomers to purchase from Wendell and Treat all of them Methodist families from Philadelphia and pioneers for our denomination in Wayne.” The other three were Mr. and Mrs. Walter G. Sentman, Mr. and Mrs. Homer J. Hoey and Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Williamson.

The half dozen pages of this history are written in beautiful penmanship as easy to read as a typewritten page, and in the concise style characteristic of the man who wrote them, Mr. William Post, who, with his family lived for many years on Beechtree lane, in North Wayne. Mr. Post has written:

“About the year 1881, the Wayne Estate, composed of George W. Childs, A.J. Drexel and the heirs of Francis Drexel, determined to develop and bring into the market a large plot of ground (in all about 600 acres) in and around Wayne, Delaware County. The town program at this time contained one large general store, one summer hotel, about 20 dwellings and a Baptist and a Presbyterian church, the latter a gift complete from J. Henry Askin, Esq., whose mansion adjoined the church property, and from whom a large part had been purchased.

“In 1885 Mr. Wendell and Mr. Smith, progressive Philadelphia builders, were induced to enter upon extensive building operations, first on the south side of the railroad and shortly thereafter to the north side. In the course of a few months a number of handsome modern dwellings were not only erected but sold and occupied.”

Under Frank Smith, of Philadelphia, who was later made superintendant of building of the Wayne Estate, Wayne, according to Mr Post, “took on a new aspect and became a pushing, prosperous town – a complete system of underground drainage was established, the electric light plant was erected, board walks laid and many improvements added, all of them calculated to popularize and make Wayne in an especial degree an attractive home spot.”

Among the purchases of the new Wayne houses were the seven Methodist families already named. “About a year later”, writes Mr. Post, “came David Brown and hls wife and Miss Mary A. Brown, also Methodists, from Philadelphia. In the next three years no accessions were made to their small colony although extensive additions had come to the town in all material aspects. However, in the spring of ’89 this Methodist contingent was further re-inforced by Joseph P.P. Brown and family, Frank W. Carr and family, A. M. Bosse and family, and Dr. Charles D. Smedley. These new accessions gave occasion for frequent converse among the Methodists, both on the train and in their homes, relative to the formation of a church organization.

“As a result or this often repeated interchange of thought, James Brown, A.M. Ware and James Williamson sought an interview with Mr. Frank Smith, manager of the estate, in which the needs of the society were canvassed and formal requests made that a suitable plot of ground might be set aside by the estate for Methodist uses until such time as the proper buildings could be erected thereupon.”

The rapid program of plans toward the erection of the church as completed in 1891 will be told in next week’s installment of this column.

(Mrs. Case and Mr. Ware have lent your columnist several pictures to be used in connection with this series, among them a picture of their parents as they left their home on West Wayne avenue to attend services in the new church. Also included is a very recent picture of the church. Other pictures, particularly very early ones, of the church or of those connected with it will be welcomed by Mrs. Patterson, Wayne 4569.)