Archiver > PA-OLD-CHESTER > 2001-05 > 0990231208

From: "Kenneth V. Leasa" <>
Subject: Phoenixville Mennonite Church
Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 20:13:28 -0400

This church is located on the southwest corner of Church and Main streets.
Futhey and Copes (History of Chester Co.) have a few paragraphs on this
place. Much more can be found in J. C. Wenger¹s History of the Mennonites of
the Franconia Conference, Teford, PA, 1937, pp. 213-15. Wenger tells the
tale of how the church dwindled in numbers in the mid-1800s and was taken
over by a Lutheran congregation who gradually obliterated a large cemetery
to expand their church buildings. Wenger notes: "As one walks by the
beautiful lawn of Central Lutheran Church today (i.e., 1937) he would never
imagine that he was looking on a lot where about a hundred Mennonites have
been laid to rest."

Another good source on this subject is PA Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker who
was an accomplished historian as well as politician and whose ancestors,
especially Bishop Matthias Pennypacker, were very much part of the
Phoenixville Mennonite Church. Pennypacker has much to say on the church in
his book: Annals of Phoenixville and Vicinity: From the Settlement to the
Year 1871, Philadelphia, 1872, esp. p. 181 and following. In 1871 Governor
Pennypacker foresaw the fate of this sacred spot: "The meeting house,
occupying as it does, a square of the most valuable ground in the borough,
at the intersection of two of the principal streets, is like some trembling
old man, who has met with success in his prime, but whose friends have
fallen from his side until he is left helpless and alone, and whom the eye
of covetousness watches impatiently as he totters toward the grave. Stores
and business places are springing up around it threateningly; already the
march of improvement has shorn it upon three sides; and on the opposite
corner, an imposing structure, built on the bones of the earliest settlers
of Phoenixville, tells in the mocking gloss and glitter of its newness, the
fate that awaits the things of the past." (quoted in Wenger, pp. 214-15)

I have an article from a Phoenixville newspaper in 1905 about how a number
of the old Mennonite graves were disturbed in the construction of a new
church building. The article mentions specifically the graves of Mary
Pennypacker (1731-1791), John Pennypacker (1771-1794) and Matthias
Pennypacker (1742-1808). "This last named was the first preacher of the
local Mennonite Church, and later became a bishop in the church. He was the
great grandfather of Governor Pennypacker." The article goes on to state
that "about a dozen graves have been unearthed in the ancient graveyard and
several of the bodies have been claimed by descendants, and buried in the
old Green Tree Cemetery in Montgomery County. The remains of the other
Mennonites will be again interred in the churchyard of the old church."

Does anyone know where Green Tree Cemetery is? Does anyone know where
Matthias Pennypacker is now buried? It seems his great grandson, the
ex-governor, would have surely seen to a proper reburial and replacing of
his gravestone. But maybe not. He may be one of those Mennonites who were
reinterred in the Phoenixville cemetery. J. C. Wenger notes that: "A more
regrettable act (than building the Sunday School annex mentioned in the 1905
news story) was the burying of all but one or two of the tombstones in the
cemetery surrounding the church building." This does seem incredibly stupid
- a genealogist can only shudder at the thought of a hundred or so 18th and
19th century gravestones lying there just out of sight in downtown

> From:
> Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 21:35:48 EDT
> To:
> Subject: Phoenixville Mennonite Church
> Hi Listers,
> Does anyone know the current street location of the old Phoenixville
> Mennonite Church? I have an article from 1923 stating that it is located in
> the center Phoenixville and was then in possession of the Central Lutheran
> congregation.
> Thanks for any help.
> Don

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