Lewes Presbyterian Church
Presbyterianism came early to the Eastern Shore and Sussex County as Scots and Scotch-Irishmen sought refuge from the oppression of Charles II of England. In 1683, the Presbytery of Laggan, Scotland sent Rev. Francis Makemie to America and through his leadership the American church grew rapidly.
The congregation at Lewes was established under Rev. Samuel Davis. In 1707, the congregation built a small wooden church on land which was donated by Thomas Fenwick.
In 1727, a brick church was built which served as a school and church until 1832 when the present church was consecrated during the ministry of the Rev. John Mitchelmore. A centograph is displayed in the vestibule of the church in memory of Rev. Mitchelmore who drowned in the Delaware River. In 1871 the brick church was demolished.
During the Revolution, one of Lewes' most colorful patriots was Presbyterian minister, Rev. Matthew Wilson, who was a scholar, teacher, author and preacher. He held degrees in medicine and divinity and had a great knowledge of law. He was so fervent a patriot that he wore the word "Liberty" on his hat. His first son, James Patriot Wilson, was a lawyer, then a minister who served the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for 40 years. James Patriot's son was President of Delaware College and the Union Theological Seminary. Thus the Wilsons continued the high standard of education which had been initiated by Rev. Matthew Wilson. It was he who suggested that an institution of higher learning be established 50 years before Delaware College was founded.
Alterations have been made over the years to the present church which formerly had a balcony around three sides of the interior. The original windows were three sections of leaded glass panes which were replaced in 1926 by six exquisite stained glass windows which now beautify the sanctuary. Two more windows were placed in the vestibule in 1965. One is in memory of Mrs. Lena Tammany. The circular one on the landing is in memory of the beloved pastor, the Rev. William Leishman who served the church for 34 years.
The organ and the choir were established in the balcony until 1877 when both were moved to the newly constructed choir loft. The Mustard property on the northwest side of the church was purchased and laid out in cemetery plots. The trustees also bought the Wesley property on the other side of the church where they built a manse. The present manse was built in 1959.
By 1886, extensive renovations were made to the interior and exterior of the church. The side galleries were removed and a steeple was built for a 1,000 pound bell. A new organ was installed in the choir loft. A pipe organ was purchased in 1900 and the church was redecorated. The Sunday School building was constructed in 1914. Additions and changes have been made to the entrance over the years, the last one in 1931 when the original doorstep was placed to the right of the vestibule.
One of the most valued possessions of the Lewes Presbyterian Church is her Session Book which was begun in 1756 by Rev. Matthew Wilson. The book contains the records of baptisms, marriages and funerals, as well as comments made about the social behavior of some members of the church who did not always exemplify the strict doctrines against liquor and gambling. In 1992, the book was placed in the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia for safekeeping.
One of the finest gifts to the church is the silver communion service which is believed to have been a gift of Col. Samuel Boyer Davis who commanded the Delaware militia during the bombardment of Lewes by the British in 1813. Col. Davis was the great-grandson of Rev. Samuel Davis.
Today the church continues the traditions established over 300 years. Perhaps our most beautiful tradition is our Candlelight Service at Christmas which was first held on December 16, 1934. Each year, the Nativity window is lighted from the exterior of the church. Then at the close of the service, as each worshiper holds a lighted candle, the church is darkened and voices are raised in a Christmas hymn which reminds us all of God's precious gifts to us.
Good luck on this week's contest!
Information used on this page comes from: http://www.lewestoday.com/presbchurch/history.htm
Photos were taken by Lewes Realty, Inc. staff and are copyrighted by LRI.
Use of photos are only by written permission.