DELAWARE became an independent State in 1776; it contains three little counties, Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex; in the first there was a Baptist society as early as 1703; they settled near Iron Hill; from them, their sentiments took a spread northward, as far as London Tract, in Pennsylvania; northeast, to Wilmington; east, to Bethel; west, to Elk-river, in Maryland; southward, to Duck-creek in this State; and to the Pedeeriver in South-Carolina.
This society was from Wales, and about the year 1733, eight or ten families more, from the same country, made a settlement at Duck-creek, in Kent county, from whence their sentiments spread to Cowmarsh, and Mispillion, and to Georgetown in Maryland.
About the year 1788, Elijah Baker and Philip Hughes, who had been laboring on the eastern shore of the Chesapeak Bay, in Maryland and Virginia, came to the county of Sussex, and made many proselytes, and planted two or three churches.
Delaware, at present, contains seven or eight churches, and one small association, which bears the name of the State.
The histories of three of the churches, viz. Welsh Tract, Duck Creek or Brynsion, and Wilmington, will be related. The Welsh Tract church is thus distinguished from a large tract of land of the same name, surrounding the place of worship in Pencader, county of New-Castle. The house is a neat brick building,40 feet by 30; it was erected in 1746, and is situated 42 miles, in a south. western direction from Philadelphia.
To come to the history of this church, we must cross the Atlantic and land in Wales, where it had its beginning in the following manner. “In the spring of the year 1701, several Baptists, in the counties of Pembroke and Caermarthen, resolved to go to America; and as one of the company, Thomas Griffith, was a minister, they were advised to be constituted a church; they took the advice; the instrument of their confederation was in being in 1770, but is now lost or mislaid; the names of the confederates follow: Thomas Griffith, Griffith Nicholas, Evan Edmond, John Edward, Elisha Thomas, Enoch Morgan, Richard David, James David, Elizabeth Griffith, Lewis Edmond, Mary John, Mary Thomas, Elizabeth Griffith, Tennet David, Margaret Mathias, Tennet Morris: these sixteen persons, which may be styled a church emigrant, met at Milfordhaven in the month of June, 1701, embarked on board the good ship William and Mary; and on the 8th of September following, landed at Philadelphia. The brethren there treated them courteously, and advised them to settle about Pennepek; thither they went, and there continued about a year and a half; during which time their church increased from 16 to 37. But finding it inconvenient to tarry about Pennepek, they, in 1703, took up land in NewCastle county, from Messrs. Evans, Davis, and Willis, (who had purchased said Welsh Tract from William Penn, containing upwards of 30,000 acres) and thither removed the same year, and built a little meetinghouse on the spot where the present stands.”
This removal left some of their members near Pennepek, and took some of the Pennepek members to Welsh Tract, yet neither would commune with their neighbors, on account of a difference about laying-on-of-hands; for the church of Pennepek had grown indifferent about the rite; but that at Welsh Tract deemed it a prerequisite to the communion of saints. To remedy this in-convenience, the churches appointed deputies, to the number of twenty-four from both, to compromise matters as well as they could; who met for the purpose, June 22, 1706. The following history, translated from the Welsh Tract church-book, will give the reader a view of this whole transaction, and the happy termination of these disputes. “We could not be in fellowship, at the Lord’s Table, with our brethren in Pennepek and Philadelphia, because they did not hold to the laying-on-of-hands, and some other particulars 1 relating to a church: true, some of them believed in the ordinance, but neither preached it up, nor practiced it; and when we moved to Welsh Tract, and left twenty-two of our members at Pennepek, and took some of their members down with us, the difficulty increased: we had many meetings in order to compromise matters, but to no purpose till June 22, 1706: then the deputies, who had been appointed for the purpose, met at the house of brother Richard Miles, in Radnor, and agreed, that a member in either church might transiently commune with the other; that a member who desired to come under the laying-on-of-hands, might have his liberty without offense; that the votaries of the right might preach or debate upon the subject with all freedom, consistent with brotherly love. But three years after this meeting, we had reason to review this transaction, because of some brethren, who arrived from Wales, and one, among ourselves, who questions whether the first article was warrantable. But we are satisfied that all was right, by the good effects which followed; for from that time forth, our brethren held sweet communion together at the Lord’s Table; and our minister (Thomas Griffith) was invited to preach and assist at an ordination at Pennepek, after the death of our brother Watts. He proceeded from thence to the Jersey, where he enlightened many in the good ways of the Lord, insomuch that in three years after, all the ministers, and about fifty-five private members had submitted to the ordinance.”
The Welsh Tract church was the principal, if not the sole means of introducing singing, imposition of hands, church covenants, etc. among the Baptists in the middle States. The Century Confession was in America, before the year 1716, but without the articles which relate to these subjects; that year they were inserted by Rev. Abel Morgan, who translated the confession to Welsh, about which time it was signed by one hundred twenty-two members of this church. These articles were inserted in the next English edition, and adopted with the other articles by the Philadelphia Association in 1742.
The pulpit of this church was filled by great and good men of Welsh extraction, for about 70 years.
The first minister was Thomas Griffith, who emigrated with the church.
All we can learn of him, is, that he was born in Lauvernach parish, in the county of Pembroke, in 1645, and after faithfully serving this church twenty-four years, died at Pennepek, July 25, 1725.
Mr. Griffith was succeeded by Elisha Thomas, who was born in the county of Caermarthen, in 1674. He emigrated from Wales with the church whereof he was one of the first members, and died, November 7, 1750, and was buried in this church-yard, where a handsome tomb is erected to his memory: the top-stone is divided into several compartments, wherein open books are raised, with inscriptions and poetry both in Welsh and English.
Mr. Thomas’s successor was Enoch Morgan. He was brother to Abel Morgan, author of the Weilsh Concordance. Their father was Morgan Ryddarch, a famous Baptist minister in Wales; but it was a common thing, in that country, for the children to take the personal name of their father instead of the sirname, only joining to it the names of their progenitors, by a string of aps 2 Mr. Morgan was born in 1676, at a place called Alltgach, in the parish of Lanwenrog, in the county of Cardigan. He arrived in America with the Welsh Tract church, whereof he was one of the constituents; he took on him the care of the church at Mr. Thomas’s decease, and died in 1740, and was buried in this grave.yard, where a tomb is erected to his memory.
The next pastor of this church was Owen Thomas. He was born in 1676, at a place called Gwrgodllys, in Cilmanllwyd, and county of Pembroke. He came to America in 1707; took the pastoral care of the church at Mr. Morgan’s death, in which office he continued until 1748, when he resigned it, to go to Yellow Springs, where he died, November 12, 1760. Mr. Thomas left behind him the following remarkable note; “I have been called upon three times to anoint the sick with oil for recovery; the effect was surprising in every case, but in none more so, than in the case of our brother Rynallt Howel: he was so sore with the bruises which he received by a cask falling on him from a wagon, that he could not bear to be turned in bed: the next day he went to meeting.”
The next in office here was David Davis. He was born in the parish of Whitechurch, and county of Pembroke, in the year 1708, and came to America when a child, in 1710; was ordained in this church in 1734, at which time he became its pastor; he continued in this office 35 years, viz. until 1769, when he died. He was an excellent man, and is held dear in remembrance by all who knew him. Two of his sons were preachers.
Jonathan was a seventh-day Baptist, and John was some time pastor of the 2d Baptist church in Boston, Mass.
Thus it appears, that hitherto the pastors of this church were all Welshmen. Those who have succeeded were native Americans, and the first was John Sutton, whose biography may be found in the history of the Emancipating Baptists, in Kentucky. He took on him the oversight of this church in 1770, and resigned it in 1777, to go to Virginia.
The next to him was John Boggs, who was ordained to the pastoral office here in 1781. He was born in East-Nottingham, in 1741; was bred a Presbyterian, but embraced the Baptist sentiments in 1771. He died at Welsh Tract, of a paralytick stroke, in 1802, and was succeeded by Gideon Ferrell, the present pastor. Mr. Ferrell is a native of Maryland, and was born in Talbot county, in 1763. He was bred a Quaker, but was baptized by Philip Hughes, in 1770. As Mr. Boggs, his predecessor, was much inclined to itinerate in the surrounding country, for which employment he was well qualified, Mr. Ferrell had preached for the church once a month, and sometimes oftener, for the space of about seven years, before he was invested with the pastoral care of it. The Welsh Tract church is very handsomely endowed; for after all the casualties which have befallen its temporalities, it has about thirteen hundred and thirty dollars in funds, at interest, and a lot of six acres, on which the meeting-house stands, and a plantation, the bequest of Hugh Morris, on which its pastor resides.
This church is the oldest in the State, and has now existed upwards of years. It has been the mother of the Welsh Neck church in South-Carolina, the London Tract, the Duck Creek or Brynsion, and, in some measure, of Wilmington, Cowmarsh, and Mispillion, and was one of the five churches which formed the Philapdelphia Association, in 1707.
DUCK-CREEK, OR BRYNSION This church, which was formerly distinguished by the first name, but now altogether by the latter, is situated about 70 miles to the south-west of Philadelphia. The meeting-house was built of brick in 1771, on a lot of one acre, the gift of John and Philemon Dickinson.
The tract of land which was called Duck Creek Hundred, was settled in the year 1755, by a number of Welsh families, some of the Independent and some of the Baptist denominations. The Independents built a meetinghouse on the lot where the Baptist house now stands, and called it Brynsion, viz. Mount-Sion. They had divine service performed in it by Presbyterian ministers, viz. Rev. Messrs. Thomas Evans, Rees Lewis, David Jenison, etc. But in process of time this Independent society dwindled away, partly by deaths, and partly by emigrations; and the Baptists made use of their house while it stood. The Independents neglected to have the lot conveyed over to them; for which reason it reverted to the Dickinsons, and continued in their hands, till conveyed to the Baptists at the time above specified.
The Baptists who settled here were about 8 or 10. The names of the heads of them follow, viz. James Hyatt, Nathaniel Wild, David Evan, Evan Rees, David Rees, James Howel, Evan David Hugh, Joshua Edwards, etc. This last was an exhorter among them, until he went to Pedee, in South- Carolina. These Baptists emigrated hither, chiefly from Pencader, in Newcastle county, and were members of Welsh Tract church. In May 18, 1735, Rev. Hugh Davis, of the Great Valley, preached to them at Brynsion meeting-house; otherwise they held their worship at the house of James Hyatt. In September 18, 1737, Rev. David Davis, of Welsh Tract, administered ordinances here; worship was then held at the house of Evan David Hugh; in 1749, Rev. Griffith Jones settled at Duck Creek, and continued among these people to his death, in 1757. In the spring of 1766, Rev. William Davis, from New-Britain, settled here; but he died the 25th of September following. After him, Rev. Messrs. David Davis, John Sutton, John Boggs, etc. ministered to them, till their number increased to thirty. Then they petitioned Welsh Tract for leave to become a distinct church. These thirty persons were constituted a church by Messrs. Boggs and Fleeson, November 24 1781; and in 1786 were received into the Association of Philadelphia.
The ministers who officiated at Duck Creek, while it was a branch of Welsh Tract, have already been mentioned. The first pastor, which it had after it became a separate church, was Eliphaz Dazey, who continued with them a short time, and then resigned, and was succeeded by James Jones, their present pastor.
WILMINGTON THIS church is of later date than some other churches in Delaware, which are at present less distinguished.
There were a number of individuals in this town for about twenty years before the denomination began much to flourish and prevail.
About the year 1769, Baptist ministers began to preach in Wilmington, in a transient way, but without any apparent success; and the few members began to despair of seeing a church arise in the town. And the first time that a prospect opened to the contrary, was in 1782, when Rev. Philip Hughes came to print a volume of hymns. He preached here, and gained some attention. In the month of April following, Mr. Thomas Ainger and family settled in the town; he was a member of the Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, but his wife a professed Baptist; he constantly maintained family worship without any uncommon effect for a time. One Lord’s-day evening, he read the 20th chapter of Revelation, and found a strong impulse to comment upon it, particularly on the l2th verse. This diffused seriousness through the family, and laid a foundation for a religious society, in which good was done. Two of his apprentices and some others, attribute their conversion to this society. It quickened four more, who had been converted long before; these were baptized by Rev. John Boggs, May 25, 1784; their names were Thomas Ainger, Rachel Ainger, Noah Cross, and Mrs. — Ferries. The same year, 1784, Rev. P. Hughes came to town to print his book on baptism, which detained him near two months; he preached all the while, sometimes at a Presbyterian meeting-house, and sometimes at the town school-house, which collected many hearers. By him were baptized four persons who had been awakened at the said society, viz. Robert Smith, John Redman, James M’Laughlin, and Henry Walker. Messrs. Fleeson and Boggs continued to visit the place alternately every week. More were baptized by them, insomuch that a sufficient number of materials for a church were soon prepared, and in October, 1785, Messrs. Fleeson and Boggs, with Abel Griffith and Eliphaz Dazey, met and gave them fellowship as a Gospel Church. The names of the constituents were, Thomas Ainger, James M’Laughlin, Thomas Williams, Henry Walker, Joseph Tomlinson, John Redman, Robert Smith, John M’Kim, Curtis Gilbert, Sarah Stow; Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Mattson; to these twelve, must be added four more; who had been baptized elsewhere, Viz. John Stow, Elizabeth Way, Thomas Stow, Abigail Ainger.
The church was received into the Association of Philadelphia the year following.
Thomas Ainger, who began the domestic meetings already mentioned, commenced preaching in this church the next year after it was constituted, and was ordained the pastor of it in 1788, by Dr. Samuel Jones, David Jones, and Eliphaz Dazey. This office he filled with reputation, until his death, which happened in 1797.
For a few years after Mr. Ainger’s death, the church was supplied by the occasional labors of Mr. John Boggs, sen. Gideon Ferrel, John Ellis, and Joseph Flood. Mr. Flood did, indeed, exercise the pastoral care of it, for a short time, when he was excluded for immoral conduct, and afterwards went to Norfolk, in Virginia, and was the cause of much evil and confusion. But during the ministry of Mr. Flood, notwithstanding the blemishes of his character, there was a very considerable revival, and many were added to the church.
After remaining in a measure destitute for about five years, this church had the happiness to settle, for its pastor, Rev. Daniel Dodge, under whose ministry they have been prosperous and happy.
Mr. Dodge, whose father was a native of Ipswich, in Massachusetts, was born in Annapolis Royal, Nova-Scotia, in 1775; but the most of his days have been spent in the United States. He professed religion at the age of 18, and united with the church in Woodstock, Vermont, then under the pastoral care of Elder Elisha Ransom. In 1797, he went to Baltimore, and preached in various places in Maryland and Virginia, before he settled in Wilmington.
Mr. Dodge has baptized 115 perons, who have united with this church since he became its pastor. The sisters of this church collected in about twelve months upwards of three hundred dollars towards paying the expense of finishing the meeting-house.