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Aston Presbyterian Church
(Formerly Second Presbyterian Church, Chester, (later Aston) PA)

Aston Presbyterian Church
(Photo from a church bulletin, Summer 1966)

 


(Photo from a church bulletin, Summer 1969)

2401 Baldwin Run Dr.
Aston, PA 19014-2204

Phone: (610) 494-6072

Former Pastors  |  Church History   |  Membership Directory

A 1927 picture of Second Presbyterian Church courtesy of The Rev. Joe Hess, frjoehess@cs.com

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of this church, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com


Former Pastors Rev. Martin P. Jones, (1866-1868)
Rev. Augustus T. Dobson, (1869-1881)
Rev. Thomas J. Aiken, (1882-1885)
Rev. Joseph Vance, (1887-1900)
Rev. David A. McWilliams, (1901-1902)
Rev. William MacFarland, (1903-1909)
Rev. Harvey W. Koehler, (1909-1917)
Rev. Howard J. Bell, (1918-1923)
Rev. W. Potter VanTries, (1923-1926)
Rev. Charles E. Graf, (1927-1946)
Rev. Douglas A. MacMurchy, (1946-1961)
Rev. Robert L. Seaman, (1962-1965)
Rev. Robert P. Boell, (1966-1986)
Rev. N. Scott Cupp, (1987-February 1997)
Rev. Pam'la Cowan, (January 2000-Present, 2001)

Church History A History from the 100th Anniversary book
A History from the 125th Anniversary book

The following "History; Highlights of The Past by William R. Schuler, Sr." was taken from the church's 100th Anniversary book printed in 1966 and was provided to us courtesy of Bill Schuler, Jr., billruthschuler@juno.com:

It was late in the year 1862 when the founder of this Church, Thomas Reaney, who was a generous man, and one who did not confine his interest in the people who worked for him to merely selfish business reasons; but was also interested unselfishly in their spiritual welfare. It was with this sense of responsibility for their spiritual welfare that he became more convinced of the need of Christian training for their boys and girls.

On December 14th, 1862, through his efforts and the sympathetic response of the people of the neighborhood, a Sabbath School was started in the "Academy" building. This was a private school on Second Street in Chester which was later purchased by the Chester School Board and became the Gartside School.

These early workers no doubt appreciated the use of this building, but longed for a home for their Sabbath School. Thomas Reaney understanding this desire and realizing the need, with the assistance of his son William B. Reaney, built the former Church building and gave it as a gift to the congregation. It was erected on land purchased and given to the congregation by Mr. Reaney, his son William, and Samuel Archbold, a partner in the Shipyard. On February 15th, 1866, at 4 p.m. thirty-three persons of the "South Ward" and a committee from the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia met in the new house of worship at the corner of James St. and Ulrich St. (now 3rd and Ulrich Sts.) for the purpose of organizing a Church according to the ecclesiastical policy of the so called New School Presbyterian Church. The early rolls of this church contained many of the prominent families of the then existent part of Chester. The Act of Assembly incorporating the City was passed Feb. 13th, 1866 and the City Charter had just been received. The new church was therefore in memory of the event called "Chester City Presbyterian Church" a good name but one that has proved misleading, as there are now four other Presbyterian churches in the city. At the annual meeting of 1875, the congregation unanimously resolved to change the name from "Chester City" to the Second Church. Two years later this was declared illegal and the resolution expunged. This was a mistake of judgment, as the Charter provides for amendments.

The history of this Church is filled with many periods of high spiritual and enlightening mountain top experiences; as well as periods of depression and discouragement. Space and time will not permit the recording of all those experiences or to recount the many fine men who have occupied this Church's pulpit as its ministering Shepherd. Each in his own way has contributed to the faith and inspiration of the membership and friends of this Church. The same is true of the many men and women who have served this Church as its Elders, Trustees, Deacons and Sunday School teachers, and those leaders of the various groups connected with it. There is no doubt that those who have known "Old Second" for these many years will be able to recall those of their era and visualize them and their contributions to the welfare and spiritual growth of that particular period in this Church.

The writer of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary account closed with these words: "Would that we could call the roll of all our faithful workers of the present time! These are writing deeply upon the hearts of all an affection and respect which will live long in the future. Our prayer is that God may continue to bless them and make them a blessing for the advancement of His Kingdom in Second Church. It is to God we commend the future."

How well the writer's words were to come true. Fifteen years later on February 28th, 1956 at 5 p.m. in the afternoon a general alarm fire burned out the 90 year old Second Presbyterian Church, twin-spired landmark at 3rd and Ulrich Streets. This stately edifice which for almost a century had withstood the storms of life was now reduced to rubble. Little wonder there were many tear dimmed eyes, for its lifelong friends realized that the Church would never rise again on Third Street. It was almost as if you were watching the death of a dear friend. And yet it was not a death scene, because the Church of Christ is more than stones and mortar and lofty towers. The Church is a living organism; a fellowship of kindred minds bound together by a mutual love for Jesus Christ. So what at the moment seemed to be the end of Second Church, was in reality a new beginning. For like the legend of Phoenix, there arose out of the ashes a new and more glorious Temple to the gory of God and the service of men.

Three years later on March 22, 1959 this new edifice was opened for worship. It was fitting that this the sixth Presbyterian Church to be established in Delaware County, should return to the area where many of the early Presbyterians were located and whose tradition in Presbyterianism is historical.

It is very difficult to write a complete history of this or any other Church. There are many influences at work among a loyal and faithful body of Christians that it is impossible to follow all their spiritual activities or to gather the results of those activities. There have been times of great spiritual awakening, when many were added to the Church; there have been times of spiritual depression when it may have been questioned whether God was still blessing His people and answering their prayers. There have been times when the very life of this Church ahs been threatened due to local economic conditions. It was as tho' God was trying the faith of His people by these very conditions. But perhaps the best history of a Church that anyone can present is that Church at the time when its history is to be rehearsed, for it is then that the fruits or results of past faithfulness as well as the grasping of the opportunities or challenges now present. It matters not how many members that have been added, how great the striving of the Spirit of God with sinners in days gone by; how many have answered the Spirit's bidding to aid in the ingathering of souls in the days gone by; only as the past has produced workers for the present, only as from past experience in the harvest fields have we learned to recognize that the field is now "White unto the Harvest", only as the past has equipped the present generation to come to grips with the responsibilities of the present time; only then can we review the past and an account of the present Church's activities help us today. It is upon such as past that we as a Church are looking and which we have the privilege of rehearsing. Faithfulness has marked its officials both spiritual and temporal, obedience to the whole Church structure and its tenets; consecration to the service of Christ, and fidelity to His cause are characteristics which make a happy and united people.

The future of this Church can be adequately expressed in the words of the Rev. Mr. Joseph Vance, D.D., its pastor and historian on the 25th Anniversary, "The past is a sealed book to be opened only at God's great day of account. No mistake or neglect can be undone. The future is before you. It is with you, under God, to say whether this Church shall go on to better work or 'at a poor dying rate."

It is up to you to give the answer; yours is the responsibility.

Pray for the Spirit - Wait for the Spirit - Sing in your heart

"Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove!
With all Thy quickening powers;
Come, shed abroad a Savior's Love,
And that shall kindle ours."


The following "Brief History of Second Presbyterian Church" was taken from the church's 125th Anniversary book printed in 1991, and dedicated to the memory of William R. Schuler, Sr., was provided to us courtesy of Bill Schuler, Jr., billruthschuler@juno.com:

1866 - 1868 Rev. Martin P. Jones

Second Presbyterian Church, was organized February 15, 1866. Thirty-three persons were received by certificate and ten were received by profession of faith. Thomas Reaney, owner of a shipyard in the area, gave the first building of the Church, located at Third and Ulrich Streets, Chester. Also, two paid-up insurance policies worth $4,000.00 each were given by the donor. During the pastorate of Rev. Jones, the Sunday school enrollment was at 150 members. One year later the enrollment was 230. The enrollment was high considering at the time there were only 661 pupils enrolled in the public schools in Chester during this period. Records indicate that Rev. Jones was paid $1,500 per year to become the first pastor of the Church.

1869 - 1881 Rev. Augustus T. Dabson

Records indicate during the pastorate of Rev. Dabson, the Ladies Aid Society was started.

1882 - 1885 Rev. Thomas J. Aiken

During the pastorate of Reverend Aiken, 664 people were enrolled in the largest Sunday School enrollment in the history of the Church. During this pastorate it was determined to establish a Mission Sabbath School in the growing population of South Chester. On May 21, 1882 the Bethany Mission was organized in Zebleys Hall at 5th and Highland Avenue. In the year of 1883 a new chapel was built at 3rd and Harwick Streets. This Mission became the Bethany Church. During Rev. Aikens' ministry the Church celebrated their Twenty-fifth anniversary.

1887 - 1900 Rev. Joseph Vance

In 1889, during the pastorate of Reverend Vance, the front of the Church was enlarged with an addition of twenty feet, along with the green stone facing and the northwest tower. Ten years later, in the year of 1899, the eastern tower along with a new roof design was completed. The year 1890 saw the start of the Christian Endeavor with 55 members.

1901 - 1902 Rev. David A. McWilliams

1903 - 1909 Rev. William MacFarland

1909 - 1917 Rev. Harvey W. Koehler

During the Pastorate of Rev. Koehler, saw the purchase of the first Manse at Fifth and Kerlin Streets and the erection of a new iron fence to encompass the Church yard. During the year of 1916 Second Presbyterian Church celebrated their 50th Anniversary.

1918 - 1923 Rev. Howard J. Bell

During the Pastorate of Rev. Bell the Manse was sold and a new Manse was purchased at 325 West Ninth Street. It was during this pastorate that the Church had their largest church membership, 569.

1923 - 1926 Rev. W. Potter Van Tries

1927 - 1946 Rev. Charles Earl Graf

During the Pastorate of Rev. Graf, a week long celebration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Second Presbyterian Church was held.

1946 - 1961 Rev. Douglas A. MacMurchy

It was during the Pastorate of Rev. MacMurchy, on February 28, 1956 a general alarm fire destroyed the ninety year old church building. Because of the many family bonds within the Church and dedication within the congregation the Church did not disband after the devastating fire. Within weeks the Church secured the help of the YMCA for future services. During the next three years services were held in the YMCA while a committee was charged to secure new property outside of the City limits and to start construction of a new facility. On Palm Sunday, March 22, 1959, just three years and 22 days after the fire, the Church held its first worship service in the new facility in Aston Township. The building was formally dedicated on May 17, 1959. The Reverend Douglas A. MacMurchy died on June 12, 1961 while serving as Pastor. In memory of his important contributions during this period in the life of Second Presbyterian a room would be dedicated in his memory in a future new addition that would be built in 1977. The new room would be called "The MacMurchy Room" in honor of his accomplishments.

1962 - 1965 Rev. Robert L. Seaman

During the Pastorate of Rev. Seaman, a new manse was purchased in the community on Park Lane. During the year of 1964 a fund raising campaign was conducted for the paving of the parking lot and debt reduction on the mortgage of the original facility.

1966 - 1986 Rev. Robert P. Boell

It was during the Pastorate of Rev. Boell that the results of the campaign started by Rev. Seaman came to realization, and the paving of the parking lot as well as the access street leading to the parking lot was completed. It was during this term that a pipe organ was installed, and some major maintenance needs were completed. In 1976 the mortgage was paid on the sanctuary and the all purpose room. A task force in 1976 studied needs for expanded facilities for weekday and Sunday activities. The congregation voted on a building proposal and elected a committee to carry out the plans. Construction on the building addition started in December 1977. The total cost for construction, was near $150,000. On September 17, 1978, the new building addition was dedicated. In 1979 a Day Care and Learning Center was started. One hundred and eighteen years after the organization of the Church, the name was officially changed from Second Presbyterian Church to Aston Presbyterian Church.

November 1987 - Present Rev. N. Scott Cupp

Rev. Cupp arrived at the Aston Presbyterian Church from Nashville, Tennessee just in time for Christmas.

In the first three years of Rev. Cupp's pastorate, our congregation has changed from an older church to a younger one. Where you once saw middle aged people, you now see young families and children.

The Sunday School program is growing once again as more and more children attend. In addition, there are educational and fellowship programs for younger adults. An ecumenical singles program is drawing people from all over the county.

Plus or minus thirty-something, a group of young parents, meets regularly for fun and fellowship. They provide a support group for each other in a changing world.

The church continues to reach out to the community in several ways. It offers the use of the facilities to groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts. The Pre-School and Day Care program is one of the finest in Delaware County.

In the summer of 1989 the long awaited storage room was added to the church. Most of the work on this room was completed by the men and women of the congregation. As a result of those efforts, there is a new spirit of cooperation among the members.

Beginning in the early spring of 1990, the pastor and an advisory group began to work on a Statement of Purpose. This statement would describe how the church thought of its mission and ministry. In May of that same year a statement was presented to the members of the congregation. It was enthusiastically endorsed.

Then, in the fall of 1990, after talking with many of the groups of the church, the Session decided to change the worship schedule. The change was small. Rather than gather for worship at 11:00 the congregation now gathers at 10:30. The Church School hour was also changed. The adult classes meet earlier and the children attend church school while the adults are at worship. Response to these changes is generally positive.

And so, here we are, poised to enter our next 125 years. The course we have laid will emphasize Children and Youth ministries, community ministries, revitalizing existing members and adding new people to our family. With God's guidance, as in the past, we will be faithful.

Dates such as above are easy to research through the history of the Church and to state in a booklet such as this, but the real history of a church involves the people and their programs. It is not easy to mark when an excellent Sunday School class was held, a Sunday School picnic, an influential sermon preached, a stimulating Bible School Conducted a thrilling missionary society UPW endeavor had, a Day Care child development or a person saved for Christ. Yet these and not dates of buildings erected and destroyed or properties purchased are our primary history for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Willaim R. Schuler Sr.

 


"The Second Presbyterian Church is in South Ward, west of Chester Creek, situated on the corner of Third and Ulrich Streets, and was erected in 1867. The Rev. A. T. Dobson is the minister."

Chester (and its Vicinity,) Delaware County in PA – Published 1877 – John Hill Martin, Esq.
fully indexed by John A. Bullock III., Graphic Details Publications


The original Second Presbyterian Church building located at 3rd & Ulrich Streets in Chester was destroyed by fire on February 28, 1956.


2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/22/07