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Notable Members

Our story is peopled by faithful leaders and laity who have established a long history of selfless dedication to unpopular ministries, a liberal tradition of outreach and openness to others, and an indomitable ability to sustain the church's mission and ministries through adversities and setbacks.

The Reverend David Jones was pastor during the American Revolution and was well known for his great patriotism and ability to "rouse the spirit" of the Continental Army.  He was distinguished as chaplain to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne during the Revolutionary War and narrowly escaped death at the "Paoli Massacre."   Also a trained doctor, he performed surgery as needed and helped in gathering supplies for the Valley Forge encampment.  An outspoken leader among Baptists of his time, he served as pastor in our church from 1775 to 1786 and from 1793 to 1820.  During his long career, he led pioneering and unpopular missionary journeys to preach to American Indians.  His notable sermon, Defensive War in a Just Cause Sinless**, preached that the fight for liberty was honorable in the sight of God and that the "defensive" American Revolution was a "just cause" permitting Christians to forsake anti-war beliefs and take up arms against a divinely-instituted King.  At age 76, Rev. Jones left the church to serve as a chaplain with the army in the War of 1812.  Rev. Jones is buried in our cemetery.

The Reverend Leonard Fletcher was pastor from 1832 to 1840.  During this time, he baptized more than 400 people, started several of our eight daughter churches, and formed the Wilberforce anti-slavery societies for Tredyffrin Township and Chester County.  Rev. Fletcher is buried in our cemetery.

Rachel Cleaver was a laywoman who, with her husband Isaac and five other members***, left the church in 1821 to become a medical missionary team to the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee.  Members of this early missionary team taught trades such as blacksmithing and life skills to the Indians at a time when anti-Indian sentiment was rising in the nation.  In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act under which four Indian tribes including the Cherokee were relocated by forced marches to Oklahoma, freeing 25 million acres in the southeast for settlement.  This "Trail of Tears" resulted in the deaths of about 4,000 out of 15,000 Cherokee marchers.  Mrs. Cleaver died in 1836 and is buried in the church cemetery.

The Reverend Doctor Joseph Sagebeer was pastor from 1904 to 1926.  He led the church during a time of transition and established a liberal open tradition that has survived to the present.  He is buried in the church cemetery.

The Reverend William T. Vandever served as pastor from 1929 to 1935.  Rev. Vandever dealt with a lull in membership that followed Dr. Sagebeer's long ministry and made young people the largest group in the church.  He baptized many of today's elder members.

The Reverend Samuel E. Smith, pastor from 1945 to 1951, established new leadership after World War II and convinced the members to adopt our first by-laws.  Predicting correctly that the estates around the old Meeting House would soon become housing developments, he convinced the congregation to sell the winter church and parsonage in Berwyn and move back to our current location, the property that had been the center of the church 200 years earlier.

The Reverend Chester T. Winters was pastor from 1953 to 1990.  Rev. Winters led the congregation as we made the move and reached out to our new neighbors near the old Meeting House.  An excellent public speaker and historian, his messages and personality were well-received by the developing community.  Attendance at worship services grew and as a result, a balcony was added in the meeting house during renovations in 1970.  During Rev. Winters' ministry, the William Maxwell Scott Church School Building and a parsonage on North Valley Forge Road were built.  Many current members fondly remember his visits and his birthday letters.  Rev. Winters retired because of poor health and was honored as Pastor Emeritus shortly after his retirement.  He remained in the church community until his death in 1994, and members of his family remain active in congregational life today.  Rev. Winters is buried in the church cemetery.

** Delivered July 20, 1775.
*** Rev. Thomas and Elizabeth Roberts; Evan and Elizabeth Jones; Isaac and Rachel Cleaver; and John Furrier, according to The History of Chester County, p. 260.