Thomas Dungan, an old minister, came from Rhode Island to the colony of Penn in 1684. He gathered a church at Cold Spring, near Bristol, Bucks County, of which, says Morgan Edwards in 1770, "nothing remains but a grave-yard and the names of the families that belonged to it, the Dungans, Gardners, Woods, Doyles, etc." He died in 1688, and was buried at Cold Spring. Even the grave-yard has disappeared now, and only the foundations of a wall can be traced, which formed a part of the church or a portion of the cemetery wall. The church itself disbanded after a brief but useful existence.
The second church founded in Pennsylvania was the Lower Dublin, or Pennepek. In the year 1686, Elias Keach, of London, a wild young man, arrived in Philadelphia. He dressed in black and wore bands to pass for a minister. He obtained an opportunity to preach in the house of a Baptist in Lower Dublin, and when he had spoken for some time he "stopped short, looked like a man astonished, and the audience concluded that he had been seized with some sudden disorder." But they speedily learned that he was deeply convicted of sin. He went to Fattier Dungan, of Cold Spring, who pointed him to Jesus; he soon had peace in believing, and he was baptized and ordained by Mr. Dungan. He formed a church of twelve persons at Pennepek in January, 1688, and became their pastor. He labored with burning zeal, and, considering the difficulties, with astonishing success, through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and established missions at "the Falls (Trenton), Burlington, Cohansey, Salem, Pennsneck, Chester, and Philadelphia," and he maintained preaching at Cold Spring and Middletown. He had the zeal of an enthusiast, and "he was considered the chief apostle of the Baptists in these parts of America." He returned to his birthplace in 1692, but the missions in several cases became churches, and the spirit he planted in these communities created the Philadelphia Association a few years after he left the colony.
The Great Valley church was constituted in 1711. The Brandywine church was formed in 1715. The Montgomery church was organized in 1719. The Tulpehocken church was founded in 1738, and the Southampton in 1746. The Philadelphia church had an existence either as a branch of Lower Dublin or as an independent community
from 1698, the former is the more probable. But in 1746, to settle doubts on this question and to protect legacies, the church was formally incorporated. The New Britain church was organized in 1754, and the Vincent in 1770.
Since our national independence was secured, about 200 churches have arisen in the counties east of the Susquehanna River and its North Branch. Some of these became extinct, or changed names and locations, so that a clear and complete sketch of them all, however interesting, would be entirely impracticable in this work.
The first known English Baptist preacher on the Susquehanna was the first person named as slain in the first Wyoming massacre, in 1763. He was William Marsh, a New England Separatist, but came from Wantage, N.J., into Pennsylvania. The first church was formed in Pittston, in December, 1776. The first Baptists in Northern Pennsylvania were from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. They were Revolutionary soldiers and pioneers of the settlements, both ministers and private members.
A portion of Southwestern Pennsylvania was taken up by Virginians. There were Baptists among them, and a church was founded at Aughwick, Huntingdon Co., in 17716; at Konoloway, Bedford, in 1764; at Sideling Hill, Fulton, in 1790; at Turkeyfoot, Somerset, in 1775; at Great Bethel (Uniontown), Fayette, in 1770; at Goshen, Greene, in 1773; at Peter's Creek, Washington, in 1773; at Pigeon Creek, in 1775; Loyalhanna, in 1775; Forks of Yough, in 1777. Enon church arose in 1791; Beulah, Cambria Co., in 1797; Pittsburgh in 1812. These facts show the progress of settlements, without attempting details of the scores of churches which have arisen on and west of the Susquehanna.
Associationsare yearly meetings of messengers of churches combining for spiritual improvement, to ascertain changes, and to confer as to measures for promoting their sentiments. Their powers are advisory. The following are the regular Baptist Associations in Pennsylvania:
1707. Philadelphia, the first Association in America, now 174 years old.
1776. Redstone, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, finally absorbed by others about 1841.
1807. Abington, in Lackawanna County, and west and north of it.
1809. Beaver, on west central border of the State.
1821. Northumberland, in the east-central (Lewisburg) region.
1823. French Creek, in the northwest corner of the State.
1826. Bridgewater, out of old Susquehanna, in Susquehanna County and eastern Bradford.
1830. Centre, a missionary body in the Juniata River region.
1831. Central Union, in and west of Philadelphia.
1832. Monongahela, a missionary body, southward of Pittsburgh.
1835. Bradford, North, mostly from Old-School Chemung.
1837. Clarion, north-central, west of the Alleghany Mountains.
1839. Pittsburgh, in and around that city.
1843. Wyoming, from Bridgewater, in Wyoming and Luzerne Counties.
1843. Tioga, from Bradford, mostly in Tioga County, northern tier.
1847. Clearfield, central, both sides of the Alleghanies.
1848. North Philadelphia, from Philadelphia and Central Union.
1859. Ten-Mile, southwest corner of the State.
1865. Oil Creek Association was formed.
1870. Wayne, from Abington, northeast corner of the State.
1875. Reading, in east-central, or Schuylkill coal region.
1876. Indiana, south of Clarion, west of the Alleghanies.
1878. Wheeling, in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
East Pennsylvania Welsh Association is more than twenty years old.
There are about forty Welsh churches, and half a dozen German, of the regular Baptist faith not connected with English Associations
All our churches in Potter and McKean Counties, and a number of the others on the northern tier, associate with bodies in New York State.
There are 23 Associations in this State, 568 churches, and 64,572 members. There are 503 Sunday-schools reported, with 6120 officers and teachers, and 50,860 scholars. Six Associations make no report of Sunday-schools, when most probably every church has one.
When, it is remembered that Pennsylvania was chiefly settled by Scotch-Irish and Germans, that is, by people intensely Presbyterian or tenaciously Lutheran, nearly the most difficult material on earth out of which to make Baptists, and that few members of our denomination, comparatively, came from Europe, the progress of the Baptists is remarkable.
EducationPennsylvanians led in forming the first Baptist academy in this country, Isaac Eaton's, at Hopewell, N.J., 1756, and also in establishing their first college, Brown University, Providence, R.I.,
in 1766. Dr. Samuel Jones conducted an academy at Lower Dublin from 1766 to 1794. In 1814 an education society for the Middle States was formed in Philadelphia. Its master-spirit, Dr. William Staughton, had for some years taken ministerial students to his home for private instruction, and in 1818 he and Prof. Irah Chase hired rooms for the same object. The institution was removed to Washington City, and in 1821 appeared as Columbian College. The Hamilton (N. Y.) Institution, now called Madison University, received material aid from Pennsylvania. In 1832 the Northumberland Association proposed a Manual Labor Academy, principally to aid ministerial students, but waived it in favor of the proposal of Philadelphia brethren to found an institution at Haddington. And when the Haddington effort failed, the Northumberland friends rallied, and in 1846, Prof. S. W. Taylor opened a high school, which developed into a college, with academic and theological departments, and a female institute, now called the University of Lewisburg. By amicable arrangement, the theological department was, in 1868, transferred to Crozer Theological Seminary, at Upland, Delaware Co.
The academies under the direct control of the Baptists of the State are five in number: the University Academy, at Lewisburg, founded in 1846; the Reid Institute, in Clarion County, established in 1863; Monongahela College Academy, in Greene County, instituted in 1867; Keystone Academy, in Wyoming County, opened in 1868; and Mount Pleasant Institute, in Westmoreland County, founded in 1873. The University Female Institute at Lewisburg is not included in the above list. It is the only ladies' institute within the State, and is connected with the university, thus enjoying peculiar advantages. It embraces a regular college course, and has hitherto been awarded a large share of public patronage.
During the past year the number of instructors attached to these academies was 37, and the number of students 641. At a very low valuation, the amount invested in these schools is $160,000. These institutions are of recent origin, and it is believed that the Baptists of Pennsylvania will soon start new schools in other localities.
LiteratureThe first known American work in favor of distinct Baptist principles is attributed to John Watts, of Pennepek, and was printed in the year 1700. It was designed mostly for children and youth. No copy of it is known to the public. Morgan Edwards, of Philadelphia, wrote historical sketches of priceless value of the Baptists in several of the colonies. Doctors S. Jones, Rogers, Staughton, Holcombe, Belcher, Malcom, Curtis, Brantly, Sr., Ira M. Allen, Geo. B. Ide, and J. Newton Brown among the dead, and H. G. Jones, Jr., Anderson, Magoon, Cathcart, Pendleton, Dyer, Spencer, J. Wheaton Smith, Dr. W.W. Keen, Francis Jennings, J. Spencer Kennard, Justin R. Loomis, and others among the living. Robert Lowry's hymns are sung around the world. Any attempt to name the books, or other most worthy products from the pen of our people, might seem invidious, and it is hardly possible to make such a record complete.
The following are names of Baptist periodicals that have been or are still issued in Philadelphia: Latter-Day Luminary, Christian Index, The World as it is and as it should be, Religious Narrator, Christian Gazette, Baptist Record, Christian Chronicle, National Baptist, Baptist Quarterly, and several for children and Sunday-schools, with millions of pages of tracts and books from the American Baptist Publication Society.
From 1825 to 1827, at Montrose, Davis Dimock issued the Baptist Mirror, or Christian Magazine. In 1827, Eugenio Kincaid, at Milton, published a Literary and Evangelical Register. And Pittsburgh has furnished one or more periodicals adapted to the wants of Western Pennsylvania.
BenevolenceEarly minutes of the Philadelphia Association are very meagre, yet they give proofs of efforts to send the gospel to the destitute at home, to use the press for the common good, and to aid young men in preparing to be able ministers of the New Testament. Before and after the Revolution they sent evangelists into the new fields on the Susquehanna, and at an early day they transmitted money to Hindoostan, and to Burmah soon after missions were opened there.
In 1800 a Philadelphia Domestic Mission Society was formed. In 1810 they reported seven men in their service, Thomas Smiley, on the West Branch; Thomas G. Jones, in Pennsylvania and Ohio; Henry George, at Owl Creek, in Ohio; William West, near Lake Erie; and Brethren Montague, Bateman, and Cooper on both sides of the Delaware. In 1827 the Philadelphia and other similar local societies began their union as the Baptist Missionary Association of Pennsylvania. At its semi-centennial, in 1877, it reported a total expenditure of $282,189 in its fifty years' work, during which it had aided 233 churches and made 1430 appointments of home missionaries, who had reported about 17,000 baptisms.
The Baptist General Tract Society, formed in Washington City in 1824, came to Philadelphia in 1826, and is now known as the American Baptist Publication Society. It has constantly enlarged its power in the production of wholesome reading, its business department aiding its large outlays in
benevolence. It was many years located at 530 Arch Street, but now has spacious and eligible accommodations, as denominational and book headquarters, at 1420 Chestnut Street.
The Pennsylvania Baptist Education Society, founded in 1839, has vigorously prosecuted its aims, with great advantages to the rising ministry, and through them to the church and to the world.
Among the promoters of every good enterprise may generally he found a fair proportion of Pennsylvania Baptists. In the first national foreign mission meeting were Staughton, Rogers, Holcombe, Proudfoot, Randall, White, Peckworth, H. G. Jones, Sr., Hough, and Mathias. The Baptists of Pennsylvania are generous contributors to home and foreign objects.
The university at Lewisburg has extensive and beautiful buildings and a handsome endowment. Crozer Theological Seminary, in its home and in its endowment, is a monument of liberality. The white marble house of the American Baptist Publication Society cost $258,000, is entirely out of debt, and was paid for chiefly by Pennsylvanians. The fifty-six Baptist churches of Philadelphia have a greater number of splendid church edifices than any one of the other denominations in the city, and they are nearly all free from debt.
The Baptists of Pennsylvania are thoroughly united, and they are praying, working, and giving to spread the knowledge of Jesus in a way that inspires the hope that in twenty years, with God's blessing, they will double their numbers.
[William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; rpt. 1998. - jrd]
Return to Pennsylvania Baptist Histories
Return to American Church Histories
Return to Baptist History Homeplace