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Early History of First Baptist Church
Chester, Pennsylvania
"The Baptists, in the fall of 1854, began a series of monthly religious services in Chester, which were held in the old Court House for four years, Rev. Wm. Wilder officiating. Early in the spring of 1858, John P. Crozer, Esq., donated a lot of ground on the corner of Penn and Second streets, on which, during the summer of the same year, Benjamin Gartside erected a chapel for the use of the Baptists, at a cost of $1100, which building, in the rear of the present church edifice, is now occupied as an infant Sunday School. This chapel was formally opened for religious services in August, 1858, and from that time preaching was regularly held every Sabbath afternoon by Rev. W. Wilder, of Upland, and Rev. Miller Jones, of Marcus Hook. Here the infant congregation worshipped until the 24th of September, 1863, when the chapel was recognized as the First Baptist Church of Chester. The membership at that date consisted of 21 persons, who had been mostly dismissed by letters from the Upland Baptist Church. Immediately after the recognition, an effort was made to secure a permanent pastor, and in Jan., 1865, Rev. J. Newton Brown, D.D., was called to supply the pulpit for three months, and continued to preach for five months, when, on the 1st of June, Rev. Levis G. Beck became the first regular pastor of the church and continued in that capacity for nearly two years, when he resigned his charge to accept the appointment of Secretary of the Pennsylvania Baptist General Association. It was during this time that the present church edifice was completed, at a cost of $16,000. It is a brick structure, 90 by 46 feet. On the lower floor, above the level of the street, is the lecture room and Sunday School, and in the rear, the pastor's study and a Bible class room. The auditorium is in the second story, and is beautifully furnished. The wall and ceiling are tastefully painted in oil colors, and a fine organ placed in the gallery at a cost of $2,000. This church is claimed, in its ventilating facilities, to be superior to all other public buildings in Chester, and will seat comfortably 600 persons. After the resignation of Mr. Beck, the church was dependent on supplies for the pulpit until Nov., 1866, when the Rev. A. F. Shanafelt, the present pastor, was called. In March following he entered upon his pastoral duties. A number of prominent Baptists immediately purchased a lot of ground adjoining the church, and a parsonage was erected thereon by the liberality of Benjamin Gartside, Esq., at a cost of over $4,000, which was occupied by the pastor in December, 1867. The church is in a flourishing condition, and has now over 250 members."


[From Chester (and its Vicinity,) Delaware County in PA - Published in 1877 - by John Hill Martin, Esq; On-line edition by Google. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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