LPC Celebrates 325 years of Worship

Mark Your Calendars for

October 21 & 22, 2017


Did you know that Lewes Presbyterian Church has been a congregation since 1692? On the weekend of October 21-22, we will be celebrating our 325th birthday with a special look at our rich heritage through song, special services, skits and much more. 


Our congregation is extremely privileged to be celebrating 325 years of continued Presbyterian worship here in Lewes, Delaware. Because of the dedication to a strong faith and a perseverance through wars, financial depressions, epidemics and theological differences of our early church leaders, The Lewes Presbyterian Church has survived to give us a home we love and cherish. Let us be ever thankful to the people who have gone before us who were steadfast in their faith in order to give us their legacy of working for God’s kingdom.


We are so very fortunate to be part of a church that was founded in the early beginning of our nation. We have had leaders who helped in establishing the Presbyterian Church and those who fought for our national independence and freedom. For 325 years, we have had strong individuals who were diligent in their faith and heroes of all kinds who deserve our reverence. Let us continue our proud heritage and proceed to be a God-centered refuge in the town of Lewes, Delaware and beyond.


Please plan to be with us to celebrate the faith of our fathers, both then and now, and for the future.


Marianne Miller

Colonial Leaders and Heroes


Samuel Boyer Davis

The people of our early church were largely Scotch-Irish immigrants who had fled Northern Ireland because of British religious persecution. In 1692, Samuel Boyer Davis arrived in Lewes to engage in business and preach part-time to a small band of Presbyterians. In 1707, Thomas Fenwick donated one hundred feet square on the northwest corner of his property to the Presbyterian “professors for a meeting house, school and burial ground;” a frame building was erected in 1707 to house the new congregation and provide a school.   

Rev. John Thompson

The first full-time minister for our congregation was John Thomson, who had been a student at the University of Glasgow; he came to the colonies in 1715 from Ulster, Ireland and to Lewes in 1717. He served the Lewes congregation from 1717-1729, and during this time a new brick church was built that served the congregation for almost 150 years. John Thomson was an original member of the General Synod of the Presbyterian Church, which first met in 1717, and he became moderator of the New Castle Presbytery the following year; in 1719, he was elected president of the Synod of Philadelphia. He was instrumental in getting the Presbyterian Church to require pastors to adopt the Westminster Catechism as their statement of faith, and helped to establish a fund for matters of Christian education and adequate financial support for ministers, two objectives dear to his heart. He was a leader in the very early establishment of the Presbyterian Church because of his scholarship and faith. We should be very thankful and proud of his work in the beginnings of our own church, as well.  

Col. David Hall

Another hero of our church’s ancestry is David Hall, a Presbyterian who became Delaware’s 15th governor and who is buried in our churchyard. Throughout the 18th Century until 1775, Delaware had not attained the status of a separate colony because its three counties were part of Pennsylvania under William Penn, but it had its own assembly. The three counties sent representatives to the Continental Congress, and from the time these delegates met in Philadelphia in September 1774, Delaware was treated as a separate colony. After the Declaration of Independence, “colony” was changed to “state” and Delaware was now encouraged to join the rebellion against Great Britain. The state contributed 750 men to the war effort. David Hall, born in Lewes in 1752, served in the Revolutionary War, first as a captain, joining the 1st Delaware Regiment in the battles of Long Island and White Plains, and later he was promoted to Colonel in 1777. After the war, he returned to Lewes to practice law and was elected governor in 1802, serving until 1805.

Growing Through Troubled Times

The early 1800s presented many challenges to our early congregation. There was inadequate funding for a full-time minister so we shared a minister with the Cool Spring and Indian River churches. Rev. Matthew Wilson went by horseback, preaching to each church on a regular basis.

 

The whole town of Lewes was shocked in 1810 when President Madison declared war on Britain; this war was often called “The Second War of Independence.” This was due to the interference by the British with U.S. trade and the impressment of American sailors into British service. In 1813 the British blockaded the Delaware Bay and regular troops from town were assembled. When a British commander asked for provisions from Lewes, the Governor came to Lewes and refused his request. The commander threatened to destroy the town and on April 6 and 7, they bombarded it for 22 hours. There was great fear and concern by those living nearby and many of our congregation chose to flee to farms seven miles away. They worshiped at Cool Spring till events subsided.


The war ended in 1814. Life returned to normal with Rev. Copes, our minister since 1807, who conducted classes for our youth and Sunday services as usual. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1822. After a brief three-year stay by Rev. Ogden, he was replaced by John Mitchelmore, a young missionary from Dartmouth, England and a Princeton graduate. His youth and enthusiasm energized the congregation and in 1830 construction began on our new church on King’s Highway near the site of the old brick church. It was completed and dedicated on August 26, 1832. Unexpectedly, Rev. Mitchelmore drowned in the Delaware River when a steamboat on which he was riding blew up on March 4, 1834, leaving the congregation greatly saddened. He was replaced by several different ministers for short periods of time.


In the mid 1800s there appeared to be a shortage of pastors in the area and communication with our national Presbytery was not clear. Our church was geographically removed from the churches in New Castle and Baltimore and it was uncertain to which one we belonged. On March 28, 1858 it was resolved that we apply to the Baltimore Presbytery to be taken under their care, which was done the following day. On April 6, 1858 our representative requested the Baltimore Presbytery to appeal to the General Assembly with an overture to reorganize a Lewes Presbytery. The earlier Lewes Presbytery had been dissolved in 1838 and consisted of churches in the southern area.


It is evident as the history of our church moved forward that God’s presence was with our predecessors in faith, determination and love.