Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 2
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: January 1939 Volume 2 Number 1, Pages 9–15
The Berwyn Methodist Episcopal Church
In the spring of 1881 the Rev. Andrew Cather, a supernumerary minister of the Philadelphia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, living on a farm near the Eagle (now Strafford) Station on the Pennsylvania Railroad, organized a Sunday School in the home of Peter W. Zeigler, at that time living in the old Lamb Tavern, N. E. corner of the Baptist Road and the Lancaster Turnpike (now Devon). Mr. Zeigler was a member of Christ M. E. Church, West Philadelphia.
Shortly afterward, a frame chapel, 30 x 50 feet, of overlapped hemlock boards and tar paper roof, was erected at a cost of less than $200 on ground on the north side of the railroad and east side of Waterloo Road (opposite the present Devon Station). This church was on land of James C. Brooks. Mr. Zeigler was the first Sunday School superintendent. The teachers were James H. Dawson, his wife, Mattie H. Dawson, Fannie H. Fry and John F. Glosser.
In 1882, Mr. Zeigler having removed to Philadelphia, at the solicitation of the Rev. A. L. Wilson, then pastor of Bryn Mawr and Bethesda charges, James G. Francis was appointed to the superintendency. The Sunday School was held in the afternoon and was followed by preaching service, at which Enoch S. Wells, William A. Fisher, Dr. Lynn, and various local preachers officiated. The Radnor M. E. Church gave the pulpit stool and pulpit cushion.
John F. Glosser and his family had moved into the former Springhouse Tavern. His large family were close friends of the Cathers' large family.
Notes from the first meeting of the trustees April 18, 1882, read as follows:
"A meeting of the Trustees of Eagle M. E. Chapel, elected by the first Quarterly Conference of the Bryn Mawr and Bethesda Circuit was held this evening at the house of Bro. John Glosser at Berwyn. Present - Rev. A. L. Wilson, John F. Glosser, William H. Jackson, James H. Dawson, James G. Francis. The meeting was opened with prayer by Rev. A. L. Wilson, when the meeting proceeded to organize, and Rev. A. L. Wilson was on motion elected president, James G. Francis secretary, and John F. Glosser treasurer.
"It is understood that Eagle M. S. Chapel be the name of the enterprise for the present."
In the meeting of May 16, 1882, Mr. Glosser moved that no horses be permitted to be hitched to the trees, but that they be fastened to fences or posts, and that a notice be put up to that effect.
Other names mentioned that first year were C. A. Lobb, W. H. Jackson, B. S. C. Thomas, Wellington Townsend and William A. Bell.
In the winter of 1883 a tremendous snowstorm, accompanied with rain, caused a collapse of the roof of the little chapel, and the building was ruined.
A number of the members of the charge having residence in or near Berwyn, it was resolved to hold the services there, and Berwyn Hall was accordingly rented for $50 a year, including janitor service and fuel, from the Berwyn Hall and Library Association, I. A. Cleaver, Secretary. This is now the home of Lewis Treen. The adjoining sheds of the Presbyterian Church were used for horses and carriages. The Sunday School opened May 4, 1884, after preaching service. The church was connected with the Salem charge, and therefore the Rev. Edward Townsend of Salem became pastor of the Berwyn M. E. Church.
But the Methodists longed for a building of their own. Several sites were considered, among them one on Lancaster Pike, but the price was deemed too great. Land at this time was selling for $1000 an acre. On November 21, 1884, a lot 80' x 227', extending from Church Avenue to Waterloo Road, was purchased for $600. This has proved a better location.
At the Conference of 1885 Berwyn was set off from Salem as a separate charge with a pastor to be supplied. Rev. J. F. Crouch, Presiding Elder, secured the services of Daniel Hartman, a supernumerary of the Central Pennsylvania Conference. Dr. Hartman received a salary of $400. He also supplied the Presbyterian Church for a time. A balance of $300 on the church lot was paid this year.
August of 1885 marked the arrival of the Armstrong family from Philadelphia. Today, in addition to Mrs. Irvine Armstrong, one of the original settlers, children and grandchildren are faithful Methodists, outnumbering any other family. In April 1886 the Lamborns moved to Berwyn from Marshallton. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are likewise active in church affairs.
In December of 1885 a congregational meeting was held, wherein the twenty present signified their desire for a stone building costing $2500 to $3000. Collection books were distributed to members only. Theodore Beaumont, grandfather of Miss Jean Beaumont (another third generation Methodist) offered 40 perches of stone and two good days' hauling.
In the spring of 1886, the Rev. Alexander M. Wiggins was appointed pastor of the church. During his pastorate there were some conversions and some additions made to the membership by certificate. Alexander W. Armstrong is a namesake of his.
The Board of Church Extension in 1887 granted a loan of $1200 and a gift of $500, enabling the church to begin erection. Ground was broken May 5, 1887 for a building 38'x 58', with a Sunday School room in front, communicating with the auditorium by means of curtains. James H. Dawson donated horse hire. There were other donations of labor and material. Irvine Armstrong was mason, W. H. Burns carpenter, Elijah Wilds plasterer, J. S. Rush (son-in-law of the Rev. Townsend) painter.
On September 19, 1887, a vote of thanks was tendered to Mr. Perry for the gift of the cornerstone.
In the trustees' minutes of September 22, 1888, Mr. Francis reported donation of a large bell from Mr. John Field, of Fletcher M. E., Philadelphia.
"On motion it was agreed that we apply to the proper authority for a church charter--to be chartered as the Berwyn M. E. Church."
Messrs. Carter, Francis, and Richard F. Dawson, Jr., were appointed to the committee. Rev. Samuel C. Carter was pastor from 1888 to 1889.
"On motion it was agreed that the chair system be adopted for the Sunday- School and Church, provided that we have ample room for kneeling."
This October 19, 1888
In November, 1888, the Church Extension Society granted a loan of $2000, and on December 30, 1888. dedicatory services were held. Rev. William Swindells, Presiding Elder of the South Philadelphia District, preached the morning sermon. Others participating were Bishop Cyrus D. Foss, Rev. Thomas J. Aiken, Rev. H. B. Garner, Rev. Daniel Hartman, Rev. Edward Townsend and Rev. G. W. Clark. In the evening the Rev. John F. Crouch, Presiding Elder, West Philadelphia District, preached.
Memorial windows include those to Orpah W. Hook, Cheyney Dawson, William and Rebecca Armstrong, Isaac Fimple, Sr., Ruth A. Francis, and Jane Fimple. The main window, east end, was presented by the Sunday School, and others by the Carpenters, Rev. Edward and Martha Townsend, Mrs. Sarah B. Francis, and James F. Boyer.
In the spring of 1889 Rev. C. W. Straw was appointed pastor. Since he had not yet finished his studies at Dickinson College, the Presiding Elder appointed the Rev. G. W. Clark, a local preacher residing in Philadelphia, as a supply until the graduation of the Rev. Straw in June 1889. The latter, preached his first sermon in Berwyn, July 7, 1889. During the year the congregation steadily increased in numbers and the general interest of the church advanced.
At the Conference held in March 1890, the Rev. Straw was reappointed. The year was marked by steady growth in every department of church work. The Sunday School was thoroughly organized into a Juvenile Missionary Society. A Young People's meeting was inaugurated. Benevolent collections were double the amount of the preceding year; the church debt was reduced, . and a revival lasting three weeks resulted in accession of seventeen persons by probation, and two by certificate.
The church charter was granted, by Judge William B. Waddell, West Chester, February 21, 1890, and recorded in Corporation. Book No. 3., page 352, February 27 of that year. The subscribers were James H. Dawson, James G. Francis, Richard F. Dawson, Irvine Armstrong, J. T. Wilson, James Frank Boyer, Gideon T. Ritner, and Albertus Jones.
At the close of 1890 the trustees began negotiations for the purchase of a property for parsonage purposes, located almost directly to the rear of the church lot, fronting on Waterloo Avenue. This property, then occupied by Mrs. Seasholtz, was a 2 1/2 story frame dwelling. Adjoining this was a lot owned by Dr. R. B. Okie. These two lots with dwelling were subsequently purchased. Subscription books were issued for the parsonage fund. The house was first occupied by the pastor's family April 1, 1891, In January 1904 this parsonage was sold to Warden T. McLees, who occupies it today.
In the fourth year of the Rev. Straw's ministry, the following prominent persons visited the church: Bishop Henry W. Warren, who presided on a Sunday morning in May, and Bishop John H. Vincent, who lectured under the auspices of the Epworth League, on the evening of February 8 on the subject, "That Boy." Rev. Straw is now living in Llanerch. He preached on the 45th anniversary of the Berwyn Church in 1936.
In 1894 the church report read,
"The conference year closed with a healthy spiritual condition throughout the church. Benevolences were abreast of the preceding year, the missionary collection being 20% in advance of that of 1895, and for the rest, all claims met."
Rev. Franklin F. Bond was pastor from 1894 to 1896, and was very popular.
In late 1895 the church installed electric wiring, which ended the worry of the trustees over new wicks, lamps, and their safety. But a new problem arose. Lights went out during a Christmas entertainment, and there was a suggestion in the trustees' meeting that a complaint be made to the electric company.
There was a significant entry in the trustees' minutes of September 18, 1893.
"Bro. Francis moved that Bro. (C. S.) Quimby be authorized to secure the services of his brother and stereoptican in connection with his lecture entitled "Ten Nights in a Bar Room."
This lecture was given in the spring of 1894, and in March 1896 the Rev. Alden Walker Quimby began a pastorate lasting twenty-six years.
He was a man of varied interests. His astronomical studies were of considerable value. His visual observations of the sun's surface covered a period of thirty-three years, and this record is continued today by H. B. Rumrill.
Mr. Quimby's ability as a raconteur is well-known. He wrote one novel, "Valley Forge," which ran into several editions. Of this book someone said that the author must have been a great walker, for in the story, the characters walked everywhere. That is true. The gentle, kindly pastor was a familiar sight for miles around. He said he was Walker by name and nature.
As early as April 27, 1896, he offered to lecture at various churches toward reducing the church mortgage. This, together with his personal solicitation of wealthy residents in the vicinity, was largely responsible for the canceling of the mortgage in 1918.
Seldom did one see him alone; children were always at his heels. He would often visit the school playground, where youngsters gave him rapt
attention as he wove fascinating tales about them and their playmates. The writer well remembers many mornings when he skipped down the hill to the post office with her, meanwhile making up entertaining little stories and verses. Another favorite memory is the night she was introduced to the mysteries of the moon's craters through the telescope in the parsonage yard.
He said of himself that he was no preacher, but there was scarcely anyone in the community who did not in some way come under his influence, and on occasion the forcefulness of his speech was marked.
Toward the close of 1921, he became ill, and on September 23, 1922, at the age of sixty-six, he died. The church was not large enough to hold the people who attended his funeral. Just as in life, he drew no lines of color or creed, so it was after death. The afternoon sun streamed through the stained glass window and fell across his face, as if Heaven itself were giving benediction to a well-loved son.
In May 1903 Miss Jennie Miller's ivy was planted, and still graces the stone walls of the church.
A new and larger parsonage was built by Robert H. Armstrong on the lot back of the church, fronting on Waterloo Avenue, in 1904, and the Rev. Quimby and his family moved in.
Bishop Berry preached at the opening services of the silver anniversary of dedication in December 1913.
On July 1, 1918 the governing power of the Board of Trustees was transferred to the Official Board, consisting of Trustees, Stewarts, Committee Chairmen, Presidents and Superintendents of all Societies and Schools within the church.
The church's pipe organ was dedicated as a memorial to the Rev. Alden W. Quimby, D. D., on November 18, 1923. Bishop G. Bickley Burns preached the sermon. The music committee at that time consisted of Messrs. Louis Burns, Joseph Manypenny and Robert Armstrong. So today the music Mr. Quimby loved so well serves as a reminder that his influence lives on.
The bell tower was deemed unsafe and removed in September 1925. It is hoped to rebuild it later. And in April 1931, after being considered for some years, the work of excavating the cellar and making another room for suppers and social gatherings was begun. Labor was furnished by the young men of the church, and the room, much used, is a credit to them.
The pastors, their service and present location follow:
Rev. J. C. Tennant Supply May 1922 to January 1923
A single characteristic of these preachers who, in conformity with Methodist custom, are changed by the Conference every few years, is their interest and participation in community affairs.
Sunday School superintendents throughout the years have included Peter Zeigler, James G. Francia, James H. Dawson, and Thomas Wood, the present superintendent. Upon resigning as a member of the Official Board, after more than fifty years' service, Mr. Dawson was made a life member of the Board, with voting power. The other members include Robert H. Armstrong, President, Irvine G. Armstrong, Secretary, and Horace H. Lamborn, Treasurer, Louis W. Burns, Thomas Wood, J. P. Manypenny, H. G. Seaman, W. K. Groff and Guy N. Williams.
Organists have been Annie Glosser, Mrs. J. G. Francis, Bessie Armstrong, Edna Lamborn, Mary Quimby -- daughter of the Rev. Alden W. Quimby, and for a few years teacher of German in Tredyffrin-Easttown High School, Martha Armstrong, Vesta Hill, Jane Siner, and Emilie McCarns, the present organist.
There have been various organizations connected with the church -- Senior and Junior Epworth League, Junior Missionary Society, and Queen Esthers. At present there is a Ladies' Aid of which Mrs. J. P. Manypenny is president, a Young Women's Missionary Society, of which Mrs. Frank F. Walker, Jr., is president, a Ninety and Nine Club for the young people, led by Alexander Armstrong and Ida Lyshon, and a Men's Brotherhood, headed by Frank Groff.
Other personalities throughout the years might be mentioned -- Irvine Armstrong, who, from August 1885 to his death in 1930, was a loyal member, Gideon T. Ritner, treasurer and trustee for many years, and James G. Francis, who served as secretary for thirty-five years. The minutes written by Mr. Francis are unusually interesting. James H. Dawson, so far as is known, is the only living member of that first little congregation.
The oldest entry of a member in full connection is James F. Boyer, received by letter from the Waynesburg M. E. Church on September 21, 1884, by the Rev. Edward Townsend, when Berwyn was still connected with the Salem charge. He died on February 28, 1895, and after his name is written, "A noble and useful man."
The oldest entry of a member on probation is that of Albertus Jones, received January 27, 1889, by the Rev. Samuel C. Carter.
Oldest record of baptism is Mary Jane Armstrong, February, February 16, 1888, the Rev. Alexander M. Wiggins officiating.
Oldest marriage on record -- Charles G. Baldwin of Berwyn and R. Anna Entriken of Malvern. Married May 6, 1890 by the Rev. C. W. Straw.
But it must be borne in mind that these records are not complete.
An outstanding characteristic of the Methodist congregation is their willingness to work. One evidence of this occurred at the turn of the century, when difficulty in securing a satisfactory janitor was experienced. The Ladies' Aid Society in turn acted as sexton for several months until one was secured. One festival and supper given by the ladies in 1891 netted $88.13, another in 1892 $94.00 -- both large sums for those early years.
Mark, too, the indomitable courage of a people whose collections from December 4, 1887 to April 2, 1888 totaled only $12.69; with a membership of 27, building a church costing approximating $10,000. That their faith was justified has been proven. Today the membership is 140. The Sunday School has a roll of 130.
The Methodists have always been much interested in music and social gatherings. As early as October 1885 a concert was held in Trinity Presbyterian Church for the benefit of the building fund. Four Philadelphia artists and Mrs. Fannie Hornbrook of Berwyn participated. There were other concerts -- by the South African singers in 1899, the Ft. Valley Jubilee Singers in March 1900, and the Berwyn Choral Society in May 1903. One wonders what the Mignonette Social held in July 1891 was.
A lecture on Samoa was an early feature, and in October 1898
"a lantern exhibition of the present war with Spain."
Then, too, the church was used for public gatherings, notably Easttown commencement in 1892 and the baccalaureate services in 1903. In December 1900 permission was granted for the public school board to give four lectures under the patronage of Henry T. Coates. The Law and Order Society observed there the first anniversary on April 11, 1891.
And so we leave the Methodists -- a cordial, friendly congregation.
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