Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1993 Volume 31 Number 4, Pages 157–160

A Chapel for Devon: The Beginnings of St. Johns Presbyterian Church

Eva Davies Noll

Page 157

In April of 1892 ten men from the Devon area met at the home of Mr. J. Lewis Twaddell on Valley Forge Road. Their purpose was to start a Sunday School in Devon; it was soon known as the Devon Sabbath School. Hoping eventually to become a Presbyterian Church, they applied to the state of Pennsylvania for a charter.

The charter of incorporation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for "The Devon Chapel" was signed a little over a year later, on "the Fourteenth day of June A.D. One Thousand Eight Hundred and ninety three" by the leaders of the Devon Sabbath School: J. H. Jefferis, of Wayne, and F. E. Hastings, J. Lewis Twaddell, Louis Warner, and S. D. Walton, all of Devon. The charter was registered in the Court of Common Pleas in West Chester, and notice of this action was duly published on June 19, 1893.

The purpose of the corporation, as stated in its charter, was the "support of public worship according to the faith, doctrine, discipline and usages of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America", with "the business" of the corporation "to be transacted in the village of Devon, County of Chester and State of Pennsylvania".

This charter, now one hundred years old, hangs in the Kean Room of St. Johns Presbyterian Church.

The real estate firm of Coffin & Altemus, the developers of the village, donated a piece of ground, containing 344/1000 of an acre, on Berkeley Road in Devon for the chapel. During that summer of 1893 a frame building was erected on the site, at a cost of $3500.

Page 158



To the Honorable, the Judges of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania:

In compliance with the requirements of an Act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania entitled "An Act to provide for the incorporation and regulation of certain corporations" approved the 29th day of April A.D. 1874, and the supplements thereto, the undersigned all of whom are citizens of Pennsylvania having associated themselves together for the purpose of the support of public worship, and desiring that they may be incorporated according to law, do hereby certify:
FIRST-the name of the proposed corporation is THE DEVON CHAPEL.
SECOND-said corporation is formed for the purpose of the support of public worship according to the faith, doctrine, discipline and usages of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.
THIRD-the business of said corporation is to be transacted in the village of Devon, County of Chester and State of Pennsylvania.
F0URTH-3aid corporation is to exist perpetually.
FIFTH-the names and residences of the subscribers are as follows
J. H. Jefferis, Wayne, Pa. F. E. Hastings, Devon, Pa. S. D. Walton, Devon, ft. J. L. Twaddell, Devon, Pa. Louis Warner, Devon, Pa.
The corporation has no capital stock. The membership shall be composed of the subscribers and their associates and of such other persons as may from time to time be admitted in such manner and upon such requirements as may be prescribed by the by-laws. The corporation shall nevertheless have power to exclude or suspend members for such Just and legal causes and in such legal manner as may be ordained and directed by the by-lavs.
SIXTHthe oversight and management of said corporation shall be vested in a Board of Five Trustees, the majority of whom shall be laymen and the names and residences of those who are chosen Trustees for the first year and who shall hold office until their successors are legally elected, are as follows:
J. H. Jefferis, Wayne, Pa. F. E. Hastings, Devon, Pa. S. D. Walton, Devon, Pa. J. L. Twaddell, Devon, Pa. Louis Warner, Devon, Pa.
Ths said Trustees shall be elected annually by the adult members of tha corporation from among the adult male members thereof at such time and place aa may be provided in the By-laws.
SEVENTH-the said corporation shall have power to hold, purchase and transfer such real and personal property as its purposes may require, not exceeding, however, the amount limited by lav. All of the property of the corporation shall be under the control of the Trustees or their successors, who shall not, however, have the power to grant, bargain, sell convey or dispose of any real estate belonging to the said corporation, or in any manner charge or encumber the same without first having the consent and approbation of two-thirds of the lay members of said corporation, convened by virtue of a notice published from the pulpit for at least two Sabbaths prior to the data of such meeting, which notice shall briefly express the object of said meeting.
ElGHTH-the by-laws governing this corporation shall be made and adopted at a meeting of the corporation called for that purpose. No amendment shall be made to this Charter nor to the by-laws except at a meeting duly called after two weeks public notice thereof, which notice shall contain the nature of the proposed amendment or by-law and with the consent and approval of two-thirds of the lay members of the said corporation.

WITNESS our hands and seals this Fourteenth day of June A.D. One Thousand Eight Hundred and ninety three.

Transcript of the Charter of The Devon Chapel

Page 159

The chapel was formally dedicated on August 20th. In the local newspaper on August 19, 1893 this announcement of the dedication appeared, entitled "In a Religious Mood": "The new chapel at Devon will be dedicated tomorrow, August 20th at 4:30 P.M. You are cordially invited to attend. Among those of prominence are the Rev. William H. Gill D.D. of Philadelphia, Rev. William Patton of Wayne, Rev. John G. Booker, Rev. Thomas Aiken, Rev. Charles Straw of Berwyn. Mr. James Morrison, the well known tenor, will sing. No subscriptions will be solicited."

The membership of the Chapel increased as the town of Devon grew, and in 1900 the name was changed from "The Devon Chapel" to the Devon Church. A full-time minister, the Rev. Joel Swartz D.D., had been called in 1897 in anticipation of becoming a full-fledged Presbyterian Church.

Early in 1903 a petition presented to the Presbytery of Chester was approved, and the congregation of the Devon Church voted to change the name to St. Johns Presbyterian Church.

In respectful memory and grateful thanks for the accomplishments of these early founders who so firmly laid the foundations of St. Johns Presbyterian Church this Centennial of The Devon Chapel and its original charter is dedicated.

[Note: In conjunction with the observance of St. John's Centennial this summer the author compiled a list of other interesting events that also occurred in 1893, both local happenings and events on the national and international scene. The local events that she noted in her compilation are included below.]

Page 160

Unfortunately, the backdrop for all three areas was the "Panic of '93", which, in fact, turned into a full-scale depression.

Nonetheless, in January of 1893 construction began on the Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, and in July the cornerstone was laid for the Chester County Hospital in West Chester.

New alterations, designed by Frank Furness, to the Pennsylvania Railroad's Broad Street Station were completed, and at this time there were some 530 trains a day going in and out of the station, carrying 60,000 passengers.

The main section of the Lit Brothers department store was designed. The first concrete arch highway bridge in the world was erected in Philadelphia. A motion picture projector was built and used at the Franklin Institute.

H. J. Heinz received a patent for his "57 Varieties" label.

Closer to home, the Wayne Presbyterian Church built a new sanctuary, and St. Katherine of Siena, of Wayne, built a temporary chapel for use until a larger church could be afforded.

On April 21st The Chester County Historical Society was organized.

In November the Eliza Cathcart Home opened its doors. It is now the oldest nursing home on the Main Line.

And the encampment at Valley Forge was officially recognized when the area became the first state park in Pennsylvania. The ceremonies took place at Washington's headquarters on May 30, 1893. (Incidentally, in the 53d Congress, installed in 1893, "George Washington" was the Christian name of eight of the Congressmen!)


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