The Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest in America.
On October 15, 1720 a group of Presbyterian settlers purchased 81 perches of land (about 1/2 acre) on the east side of Brandywine Creek in Birmingham Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania upon which to build a church and bury their dead at a cost of “one peppercorn yearly, if demanded.” The church or meeting house was built of slabbed logs on this triangular piece of ground near the Mason-Dixon line.
This first church became dilapidated and too small for the growing congregation, so on August 22, 1774 trustees of the congregation purchased another triangular piece of land comprising an acre and 114 perches on the west side of Brandywine Creek in New Castle County for “five shillings currency.” This is the location of our present church, but the first church on this site was built of black oak tree trunks and became known as the “Old Log” church. Some tombstones from the meeting house burying ground were brought to this location, but the bodies remained behind in Birmingham Township.
During the War for Independence, General George Washington’s army encamped for a time on the grounds of the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church. Rev. Thomas Read, the minister at that time, drew a map for General Washington showing a route for the army to cross the Brandywine Creek and approach Chadds Ford, where the Battle of the Brandywine was fought on September 11, 1777.
In 1859, the congregation decided to replace the Old Log church. The new brick church, the core of our present building, was built across a driveway from the Old Log, Its cornerstone was laid on September 1, 1859 and a sealed tin box was placed inside the brickwork at the southeast corner of the sanctuary. The box contains religious and secular newspapers, some written documents, American coins and a list of those who had helped to finance the $5,000 building fund. The new church was dedicated on November 8, 1860, when the congregation was just 40 members. The Old Log church was taken down in October 1861, and its timbers were reused for horse sheds behind the new church; these sheds were in use until 1929.
In 1890 a vestibule was added, which allowed several extra rows of pews to be installed. The stained glass windows on either side of the sanctuary were installed about the same time. The stained glass windows at the rear were installed in the 1970’s. The vestibule was altered in 1929 by having a cellar dug out below where a kitchen and toilet were added. Raising the vestibule ceiling and adding a steeple to the church allowed an organ room to be created above the sanctuary. In 1950,major additions to the church were made at a cost of $50,000. A two-story brick addition on the north and west sides of the original church building added classrooms, a chancel, a choir room, and a small library. The existing cellar was enlarged to accommodate a modern kitchen, bathrooms and a pastor’s study in the basement.
Further renovations and additions in 1992 and 2008 added more office, classroom, choir and music space for our active congregation and made the church more accessible with the addition of an elevator and handicap accessible restroom. The kitchen and restrooms have been updated and, just this year, a new roof was installed.
This year, in preparation for Lower Brandywine’s 300th Anniversary, stained glass windows in the sanctuary were professionally repaired and renewed. We trust in God that the light from these windows and from the congregation of the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church will continue to shine brightly as a Beacon in the Brandywine Valley for another 300 years.
Ministers of Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church 1730 – 2014
- Rev. Robert Cathcart November 1730 – 1754
Rev. Joseph Smith April 19, 1769 – August 26, 1772
and October 27, 1774 – April 29, 1778
Rev. William R. Smith January 11, 1780 – October, 1785
Rev. Samuel Henderson November, 1813 – August 1814
Rev. Thomas Love December 1, 1825 – October, 1856
Rev. David W. Moore May 9, 1861 – October 15, 1872
Rev. George E. Jones June 19, 1873 – July 1, 1877
Rev. Robert Graham January 22, 1878 – September 30, 1883
Rev. Thomas R. McDowell May 22, 1884 – April 1, 1889
Rev. James T. Marshall October 13, 1889 – March 25, 1894
Rev. Samuel L. Irvine October 25, 1894 – October, 1903
Rev. John Newton Kugler September, 1905 – November 9, 1908
Rev. Thomas S. Armentrout January 27, 1909 – October, 1927
Rev. Colin C. Weir May, 1928 – February 1, 1933
Rev. Donald C. MacLeod April 16, 1933 – April 27, 1942
Rev. John Oldman, Jr. October 18, 1946 – August 5, 1959
Rev. Richard A. DeMott March 13, 1960 – September 8, 1964
Rev. Robert F. Scott October 10, 1965 – August 31, 1986
Rev. Roy A. Martin, Jr. May 22, 1988 – April 4, 1999
Rev. David E. Lovelace November 12, 2000 – present
- Rev. Emma M. Horn, May 19, 2019 – present
- History compiled by Elder Joanna L. Kelly
- Edited by Bruce Webber
- September, 2019