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American Revolution

The Baptist Church in the Great Valley During the American Revolution

(Taken from A Social History of the Baptist Church in the Great Valley by Harold L. Twiss, which contains full documentation for this excerpt. The paper draws upon the church records, wills and probate inventories, United States Census records and other sources. A graduate of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Twiss worked for many years as an editor of religious books.)

The Baptist Church in the Great Valley could not help but be involved in the American Revolution that swept past its doors. David Parry, a member of the church, was a Captain in the Associates Regiment, which was organized for home defense by royal decree after the defeat of the British and colonial forces at Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) on August 9, 1746. In 1758 an expedition under the leadership of General Forbes to retake Fort Duquesne included Joseph Mitchell, whose wife Ann was a member of Great Valley. He was paid three pounds and fifteen shillings for hauling baggage from Ft. Loudon to Ft. Bedford and twenty-seven pounds for hauling goods from Carlisle to Bedford.

When the Continental Congress called for a day of prayer and fasting on July 20, 1775, David Jones, then pastor of Great Valley, was invited to preach to a gathering of the troops. He had come to the church from Crosswicks, New Jersey, where his support of the cause of American Independence had aroused a great deal of opposition from loyalists. More than 3000 men gathered at the church, along with members of the congregation and other spectators. Drawing upon the text of Nehemiah 4:14 calling the Jewish people to defend homes and families, Jones argued that to fight for their liberty was honorable in the sight of God. The Pennsylvania Gazette of August 16, 1775, announced the publication of his sermon, "Defensive War in a Just Cause Sinless," and its availability at nine pence from booksellers in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Burlington. In 1776, David Jones offered his services as a chaplain to the army and was assigned to the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion under Anthony Wayne.

The area around Great Valley was the center of fighting in the fall of 1777. After the Battle of Brandywine, from September 18 to 21, the British army camped in the area southwest of the intersection of Swedesford and Baptist Roads and General Howe made his headquarters in the home of Samuel Jones, a deacon in the Great Valley church. Samuel's son Nathaniel was captured by the British when he attempted to cross through the lines. When the American army was routed at Paoli, David Jones, then serving as a chaplain, escaped injury or capture. Washington's army, after failing to defeat the British at Whitemarsh and Germantown, withdrew to Valley Forge for the winter. The house built by Morris Edwards, a founding member of the Great Valley church, and occupied by his daughter and her husband, was used by General Varnum for his quarters during the encampment. While David Jones was with the army at Valley Forge, he used his home as a base to gather supplies from the surrounding area for the beleaguered troops in the encampment. Griffith Jones, the grandson of Griffith John, an elder in the church, died of camp fever while at Valley Forge in 1778. During their advance, the British troops plundered the countryside. The list of claims for loss includes a claim from the Baptist Church in the Great Valley for communion ware, baptismal garb and sexton's tools for a total of six pounds, eight shillings, ten pence. Nevertheless, the Baptist Church in the Great Valley survived the trials of wartime, and in 1805 built the stone meeting house the still serves the church.

© Copyright Harold L. Twiss, 1998.