Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: 1943 Volume 5 Number 4, Pages 81–82

The First Baptist Church of Berwyn

Ruth J. Moore

Page 81

On the evening of September 23, 1896, a number of Christian believers, former members of the Valley Baptist Church, met in a small building on Waterloo Road, Berwyn, owned by one of their number, P. W. Lobb. At this time it was decided to meet again on September 30 for the purpose of organizing a church.

Therefore, on the evening of September 30, another meeting was held in Mr. Lobb's hall (over the old bakery at Waterloo Road and Lincoln Highway). It was unanimously voted that a church be organized, to be known at the First Baptist Church of Berwyn.

Messrs. J. J. Dewees, A. S. Latch, T. L. Wiggins and Pusey Pennock were elected as deacons. Steps were at once taken to have the church recognized by the Baptist Union of the Philadelphia District. Another council was called on March 2, 1897, consisting of pastors and delegates from the following churches - New Tabernacle, Belmont Avenue, Gethsemane, Mantua, 34th Street, Willistown, Fourth, Frankford Avenue, and First Church, which comprised the Union at that time. This council reported favorably on recognizing the First Baptist Church of Berwyn, On the same date the recognition services were held, the sermon being preached by Rev. A. F. Williamson of the Belmont Avenue Church of Philadelphia.

During the first few months, the gospel was preached by Rev. Charles Furman. On January 13, 1897, a call was extended to the Rev. A. F. Greening, who accepted. He became the first pastor on February 15, 1897. Membership numbered at this time about fifty-two. Services were held in the Odd Fellows' Hall and continued there until March, 1898, when the group moved to the Presbyterian Hall, where they met until February, 1903. After the resignation, September 1, 1897, of Pastor Greening, Rev. Furman again came to preach from time to time until the call to Rev. John G. Fryer on August 31, 1898. Under the direction of Pastor Fryer, the church began to show signs of growth.

During all this time, the members had been looking forward to the building of a church home. In March, 1902, Deacon T. L. Wiggins donated to the church a lot of ground on Waterloo Road, north of Berwyn Avenue, on which a building might be erected. At the regular business meeting held September 3, 1902, the trustees were authorized to give out plans for a building. On October 13, 1902, ground was broken. The building progressed slowly. Not until January 3, 1904, were services held in it, and then only in the basement. The cornerstone was laid with appropriate services on February 28, 1904. The building was dedicated November 17, 1904, at which time Rev, A. F. Williamson preached the sermon. The adjoining lot was purchased in 1917.

There are memorial windows to Mrs. Sidney Crawford, Preston W. Lobb, Deacon Jonathan R. Holland, Laura Emma Holland, Sarah P. Holland, Deacon T. L. Wiggins, Fern and Oliver Wiggins, Martha L. Wiggins, George S. Robb and Lottie R. Robb, Mrs. Emily Heyselman.

Rev. John G. Fryer resigned November 30, 1904, at which time the membership had increased to 74. In January, 1905, Rev. E. S. Sellers came to supply until, on May 7, 1905, the church extended him a call to the pastorate, which he accepted. He was then a student at Temple.

Page 82

Berwyn First Baptist Church

On June 29, 1905, Pastor Sellers was ordained, after being passed on by a council consisting of members from the various churches of the Central Union Association. The church progressed under his ministry until his health failed in December, 1912. In October, 1913, he returned to the pulpit and stayed until 1917, when he was succeeded by Rev. Herbert Hargrave, who remained until October, 1921. Rev. J. G. Booker served from 1921 to 1925, Rev. G. O. Read from 1925 to 1927, Rev. Franklyn Wiley from 1927 to 1935, and the present incumbent, Rev. James F. Cowee, from October, 1935, on.

An organ was installed in 1925. It was in January of this year that the church unanimously voted that all moneys for church and benevolent purposes must come through direct sacrifice of the giver, and that no benefits of any kind would be given. (The church has prospered under this ruling. A new baptistry and heating plant were installed in 1932, and in 1941 the lecture room of the church was remodeled.)

At this time the church membership numbers 158, the Sunday School enrollment 160. Mrs. Henry Cathcart is president of the Ladies' Aid, Mrs. George Stiteler of the Women's Missionary Society, George Pyle of the Christian Endeavor Society, and W. T. Comer of the Men's Brotherhood.

The Financial Secretary is Mrs. Vida Griffith, with Miss Edith Cathcart as her assistant, and the treasurer is Miss Sarah Pyott.

The deacons are W. H. Ford, B. B. Longaker, A. W. Armstrong and Henry Fietz. Trustees include Robert Campbell, John Chattin, W. T, Comer, Orlie Cookingham, Leon Cunningham, Horace Downing, Morris Lobb, Walter Motley, and George Stiteler.

It is interesting to note that of the 52 charter members, five are still on the church roll - Mrs. Harry Woodward, Mrs. Phineas Pyott, Mrs. Jennie Wolf, Miss Ida Davis, and J. W. Leamy. Seventeen of the congregation are in the armed services, five being overseas.

The church has had but three clerks - T. C. Morton, W. C. Latch, and B. B. Longaker, who is serving his 29th year, and who furnished much of the data in this article.


Page last updated: 2012-03-30 at 14:24 EST
Copyright © 2006-2012 Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Permission is given to make copies for personal use only.
All other uses require written permission of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.