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Prospect Hill Baptist Church

The First Particular Baptist Church of the Township of Ridley

Prospect Hill Baptist Church

Prospect Hill Baptist Church; Photo courtesy of "Joker" Jack Chambers, April 2001

Photo courtesy of "Joker" Jack Chambers, jokerjak908@yahoo.com

7th & Rt. 420 N
703 Lincoln Avenue
Prospect Park, PA 19076-1519

Phone: (610) 532-9000

Former Pastors  |  Church History  |   Membership Directory

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: The First Particular Baptist Church of the Township of Ridley


William S. Hall, 1830-1831
Robert Compton, 1832-1839
John P. Hall, 1840-1845
Charles C. Park, 1845-1847
John W. Gibbs, 1848-1850
Rev. Mark R. Watkinson, Photo courtesy of Prospect Hill Baptist Church
Rev. Mark R. Watkinson

Photo from a church publication

Mark R. Watkinson, 1850-1853
Samuel W. Zeigler, 1854-1856
Isaac Gray, 1857-1858
Thomas Goodwin, 1860
Mark R. Watkinson, 1861-1864
John W. Entrekin, 1865-1866
Supply Ministers supplied by Crozer Seminary from 1867-1871
Charles E. Harden, 1872-1874
John R. Downer, 1875-1879
Charles Deitz, 1880-1885

Prospect Hill Baptist Church

Rev. W. S. Catlett, Photo courtesy of Prospect Hill Baptist Church
Rev. W. S. Catlett

Photo from a church publication

W. S. Catlett, 1888-1899
F. G. Merrell, 1899-1911
William R. McNutt, 1912-1916
Powell H. Norton, 1917-1923
A. C. Cheetham, 1923-1924
G. A. Clark, 1924-1927
William Hunter, 1927-1937
Thomas J. Hopkins, 1937-1939
Homer S. Trickett, 1940-1949
Thomas E. Pugh, 1950-1952
L. Earl Jackson, 1952-1962
William R. Tasker, 1962-1981
Ken Fey, 1982-1988
Douglas Scalise, 1989-Present

Church History: The following information courtesy of "Joker" Jack Chambers, jokerjak908@yahoo.com

"Prospect Hill Baptist is known for its "In God we Trust" on US coins. A former Pastor (Watkinson) felt that the civil war was going to leave the country with a bad name, "brother fighting brother in a civil war", and wrote a letter to then Sam Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, suggesting "God, Liberty, Law," be put on the coins. A Committee later settled on "In God we Trust" and the words first appeared on a 2 Cent coin.  A sign has hung on the outside of the Church for many years announcing the birthplace of the phrase."

The following histories were supplied by Prospect Hill Baptist Church and shared with us by "Joker" Jack Chambers:

The First Particular Baptist Church of the Township of Ridley

Prospect Hill Baptist Church

The First Particular Baptist Church of the Township of Ridley

A group of twelve baptists met at the home of William Trites.  Reverend Joseph H. Kennard of Blockly Church was the leader with Joseph Walker of Marcus Hook, moderator.  Reverend William S. Hall, a 21 year old minister, was placed in charge of the church by Reverend Joseph Kennard.  The congregation grew in size rapidly and moved from the Trites home to the subscription school at what is today, 13th and Lincoln Avenue.  By April 1831 plans were made to build a church.   Brother William Trites gave a small plot of ground behind his house to be used for the church.

On September 20, 1832, the cornerstone was laid and in late April of 1833 the church was open for services.  The church was 30 x 40 feet, made of rough stone.  In 1841 horse sheds were built between the church and Springfield Road (Lincoln Avenue) for the congregation to use for their animals.

A small cemetery was added in 1838 on ground behind the church.  The oldest grave in the cemetery is that of Daniel Trites, son of William who died in November 1830, a month before the church was founded.  On September 22, 1842 the church was granted a charter by the Court of Delaware County and was incorporated as "The First Particular Baptist Church of the Township of Ridley".

In October 1850 Reverend Mark R. Watkinson was invited to serve the "First Particular Baptist Church of the Township of Ridley".   Watkinson was born in New Jersey in 1824 and had not been ordained as a minister at this time.  He was ordained in May 1851 and served the church until May 1853.

During his pastorate he baptized Sarah I. Griffith, who would become his wife.  He was serving the First Baptist Church of Richmond, VA when the Civil War broke out.  Watkinson moved back to Ridleyville and by June of 1861 he was preaching at the First Particular Baptist Church again.  He replaced Reverend Thomas Goodwin who resigned as minister of the church but stayed in Ridleyville as Postmaster.

Watkinson served the church for $5 a week as a supply minister.  While serving here he wrote his "In God We Trust" letter.   Where Watkinson lived at this time is not known, though he may have stayed at the White Horse Tavern with the Reverend Thomas Goodwin.

Watkinson's letter suggested the motto "God, Liberty and Law".  Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury acted on Watkinson's letter by referring the matter to James B. Longacre, Mint Engraver.  The Treasury Department considered a number of mottoes, but "In God We Trust" was chosen and first put on two-cent coins in 1864.  Watkinson died in 1878 and his contribution of this phrase was largely forgotten until the 1950's when research uncovered his role.   In April 1962 a plaque was placed at the site of Watkinson's Church, now the Prospect Hill Baptist Church on Lincoln Avenue, Prospect Park, Pennsylvania.

A parsonage was purchased from Patrick McClaskey in 1866 for $3,500 and it was located approximately where Lafayette Avenue and Chester Pike meet today.  It is not known where earlier ministers lived.

In the late 1860's money was raised to build a new church.

In early 1872, the town of Ridley Park was founded by a group of railroad men who called themselves the Ridley Park Land Association.  This Association in order to spur sales, offered a number of local churches free land and money if they would move and build their churches in Ridley Park.  The First Baptist Church accepted and informed the Association in May, 1872 that they would build in Ridley Park.

On May 30, 1873 ground for the new church was broken and it was dedicated on May 7, 1874.  A small part of the congregation still wanted to meet in the old church in Prospect Park.

The Prospect Park church was repaired with a new roof and floors and Sunday School services were held there at 2:30 p.m., however, church services were held in Ridley Park.

By the mid-1880's the congregation had split and on May 18, 1887 12 members moved back to the old church and formed what is now Prospect Hill Baptist Church.


Prospect Hill Baptist Church

The name Prospect Hill came from the original name of the area that was used in the 1820's and 1830's.

"The old Baptist Church will hereafter be known as the Prospect Hill Baptist Church, of Ridley Township.  The anniversary of the Sunday-school of this church was held on Sunday evening last.  The church was beautifully embellished with flowers, and the attendance was so large that many were unable to gain admittance.  Addresses were made by Wm. H. Tumbleston, Supt. of Powelton Avenue Baptist Sunday-school, West Philadelphia, and by G. W. Quick, a student at Crozer Seminary.  There are 230 scholars in this school, and the average attendance during the year was 197."

[Morton Chronicle, June 2, 1887]

The Prospect Hill Baptist Church was incorporated April 3, 1888 and the congregation continued to meet in the old meeting house.  In late May 1893 ground was broken for the new church.

"A great concourse of people gathered on the site of the proposed new edifice of Prospect Hill Baptist Church, on Tuesday, to witness the groundbreaking.  The ceremonies were of a simple character, speech making and formalities having been dispensed with.  After a prayer and the singing of an appropriate hymn, Mrs. Neal Duffee, who witnessed the original cornerstone laying 61 years ago, was accorded the honor of digging the first shovelful of earth, and was followed by Bethel M. Custer, Matthew Henderson, and others.  A Strawberry Festival was held on the grounds by the ladies of the Church, during the day, and a handsome sum was realized for the building fund."

[Morton Chronicle, May 30, 1893]

Church services were held in the Masonic Hall until the church was finished.  The cornerstone for the new church was laid on August 14, 1893.

"The services attending the laying of the cornerstone of the handsome stone edifice of Prospect Hill Baptist Church, were held in the Masonic Hall, at Moore's, on Saturday afternoon last.  A goodly number were in attendance notwithstanding the drizzling rain that prevailed at the time and which made it necessary to adjourn to the hall.  Rev. W. S. Catlett, whose labors as pastor of the Church have been abundantly successful in promoting its spiritual and material welfare, presided over the exercises.

"The congregation then proceeded to the site of the new church, where the jar was placed in position by C. H. Jacobs, of the Board of Trustees.  The cornerstone was laid by the pastor, Rev. W. S. Catlett, assisted by Deacons Matthew Henderson, John H. Duffee, Nelson Woodward, and Bethel M. Custer.  A fervent and eloquent prayer was offered by Rev. C. H. Bond, of the Second Church of the Disciples of Christ, Philadelphia, and the benediction was pronounced by Pastor Catlett."

[Morton Chronicle, August 18, 1893.]

Building problems held up the church dedication but the matters were finally cleared up and the church was dedicated on October 27, 1895.

"The beautiful new stone edifice of the Prospect Hill Baptist Church was dedicated yesterday, the dedicatory sermon being preached at the morning service by Rev. H. G. Weston, D.D.L.L.D., president of Crozer Theological Seminary.

"The main auditorium, which has a seating capacity of 300, was tastefully decorated with plants and flowers, as was also the adjoining Sunday School room, which has a seating capacity of about 200.  These two rooms were thrown into one, by the removal of the sliding partition and were well filled with an attentive audience.

"The opening hymn, 'All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name' was heartily sung by the choir and congregation, after which Dr. Weston, in the absence of Rev. Milton G. Evans, D.D., read the scripture lesson, Acts 2nd Chapter, from the 23rd verse.  Dr. Weston also offered prayer.

"The dedicatory prayer was offered by the Pastor Rev. W. S. Catlett.  The pastor also read a statement of the work in connection with the new edifice, the financial statistics being handed him by Charles H. Jacobs, Treasurer of the Building Committee.  The actual cost was $11,500, which amount has all been paid, though it was found necessary to borrow about $5,000, which constitute the net indebtedness.

"The first contribution was received on June 20, 1892, and the cash subscription to date totaled the handsome sum of $3,717.89.   Materials have also been donated amounting to $1,500, and Samuel A. Crozer donated $1,000 cash.  Mrs. Joseph Ward donated the pulpit furniture and a beautiful flower stand in memory of her late husband.  The communion table was donated by Mrs. Jane Taylor, whose father laid the cornerstone of the old church, erected in 1832.  The central window, which is a beautiful work of art, was dedicated by the congregation to the pastor, Rev. W. S. Catlett.  The other large memorial window is dedicated to Edward L. Mintzer and wife, who were killed in the terrible railroad accident at South Street, Philadelphia, some years ago.  In the center of the window, near the top, is the portrait of their son, Walter, who was sitting by their side when they were so suddenly torn from him.  The evening sermon was delivered by Rev. E. H. Johnston, D.D., professor of systematic theology of Crozer Seminary.

"The offering during the day was exceeding liberal and gratifying."

[Chester Times, October 28, 1895.]

An addition was built to the church in 1956.

2001 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07