As we celebrate over 190 years as an established church, we reflect on both good times and bad. The history of the church in America is complicated, and that complexity is reflected in the life of Marshallton Church. Sometimes, the church has influenced life in the village and the world, and sometimes the winds of history have buffeted the church. Regardless, the church stands today united in mission and ministry to be the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world. Significant Dates and Events
In the beginning… – The year is 1812. James Madison is the president of the United States. A young United States of America is again entering into an armed conflict with Great Britain that will result in the burning of the Capitol and the White House. Napoleon Bonaparte, a major player in the background of the conflict, is the emperor of France. The national anthem is two years from being written.
Back in the gently rolling hills of Chester County, PA, the first Methodist worship service in the Village of Marshallton is conducted by the Rev. Alban Hooke from Hopewell and held in the barn of Moses P. Hiddleson. (Both men are buried in the church cemetery, as is the congregation’s second pastor, the Rev. Adley Magill.)
1828 – Marshallton became “an established church” with
the Rev. Daniel Parrish of the West Chester church visiting
to preach here regularly. Services were held in a
wheelwright shop or a congregant’s home.
1829 – The original church building is dedicated.
1832– A revival is held resulting in the following journal by John S. Inskip(1)
I was awakened and converted to God at Marshalton (sic), Chester Co., Pa, April 2, 1832, under the ministry of Rev. Levi Scott, now one of the bishops of the M. E. Church. Although I encountered much opposition from my misguided parents, the Lord sustained and directed me. Aided by divine grace, I continued steadfast, and “witnessed a good confession” for Christ. At length, it was impressed upon my mind, that God had called me to the work of the ministry. A field of labor being opened, I commenced my itinerant life, and consecrated myself to the service of God, and the responsible duties of my calling.
John later became a pastor, published author and worldwide leader in the Holiness Movement. He was the first president of the United States National Holiness Association. The Holiness Movement began among Methodists and culminated in the founding of the Assemblies of God denomination.
1849 – Burial grounds are enlarged and enclosed with the current stone wall through a gift of $3,200 from one John Mills who died. The cemetery property was renamed “God’s Acre”.
1850 – Wagon shed (still standing) is erected with money from Mr. Mill’s legacy.(2) Note the antique car parked in the shed (circa 1930).
1859 – Marshallton is named an official “Station” (meaning it would have its own pastor, rather than
one pastor caring for four churches on a circuit).
1877– During the pastorate of the Rev. John O’Neill, the congregation constructs the first parsonage
across the street from the sanctuary (north side of Strasburg Rd.) The building was subsequently used
for classrooms as the church grew, and it was eventually sold.
1891 – The current sanctuary is built after leveling the original building. The church is named Inskip Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church after John S. Inskip. The stone marker above the front bell tower entrance holds the Inskip name and building plates. The cost: $4,262.
1909 – The pastorate of the Rev. William Cann is marked by the installation of the current church bell. Rev. Cann is buried near the cemetery entrance.
1924 – Sanctuary is electrified and gas lamps are removed.
1926 – Electric theatre organ is installed.
1928 – In October, the church celebrates its 100th anniversary with a full week of services. Copies of
the week’s activity bulletin have survived to the present.
It remains a source of anguish to this parish that during the week anniversary, the KKK officiated a
service during a time of resurgence in the United States generally and Chester County in particular.
1935 – A small fire in the church on February 25th is quickly extinguished, causing the loss of only one
Sunday’s use of the building.
1943 – Marshallton Methodist Episcopal church charters Boy Scout Troop 52, still in operation today. (3)
1946 – Excavation of the basement to accommodate a growing Sunday school begins. Today, that
portion of the church houses a commercial kitchen, youth room, prayer room, restroom and storage
closet. Also, the rear of the sanctuary is re-modeled to include two classrooms, stairwells, and a loft.
Pews are installed shortly thereafter.
1953 – Pipe organ is installed to replace the electric theater organ.
1954 – Mrs. Merrill Cann initiates the collection of books for a church library.
1959 – Wall to wall carpeting introduced in the church.
1966 – A new parsonage (circa 1914) at 1288 West Strasburg Road is purchased. The building has
subsequently served as a youth center. Renovations were completed in 2018 and the house is currently
1989 – The term of Pastor Charles Evans ends in tragedy as Mrs. Evans takes her life.
1998(4) – New educational building with classrooms, offices, and Fellowship Hall is dedicated. Completed during the term of Rev. John Taylor, the decade also saw the expansion of the parking lot, the sale of one parcel and building, and the creation of a permanent easement from the sold parcel to accommodate the
expanded parking and a storage facility. The total cost of the land development and building addition was $450,000, one hundred times the cost of the current sanctuary building!
1999 – Our signature stained glass window is installed in the sanctuary and is backlit (5). The window is a gift from Arlene Cunningham in memory of her husband, Owen
2000 – MUMS Preschool is incorporated formalizing a ministry that had long standing at the church. The school provides a Christian based curriculum for 3 year olds and Pre K three mornings a week during the school year. The preschool sponsors an annual community Easter Egg hunt on the church grounds.
2003 – Air conditioning is installed in the sanctuary.
2004 – Sanctuary is renovated, including a new electric organ to replace the pipe organ, relocation of the choir loft, organ and piano, opening up the rear (adding fifty more seats), painting, staining and installing new carpet throughout.
2004 – Gary Knerr moves out of the parsonage and the parsonage is converted to ministry use, including servicing the youth program.
2005 – Scott Widmer is appointed to Marshallton Church full time. The congregation had shared a pastor periodically with Romansville United Methodist Church between the terms of John Taylor and
2010 – On July 7, a contingent of Marshallton youth and Hungarian students participating in the
Atlantic Bridge exchange are involved in a Duck Boat incident in the Delaware River in which the
Duck Boat was sunk by a larger craft. Two Hungarians perished in the crash. Pastor Scott Widmer
exercises his significant counseling skills during a time of extreme loss and grief. Bishop Peggy
Johnson comes to Marshallton to minister to the congregation.
2014 – The congregation receives a $780,000 bequest from the estate of Winfred Johnson. The
principal is restricted to new construction. The earnings may be used for building maintenance. The
historic stained-glass windows are given an exterior protective covering at a cost of $30,000. The
remaining $750,000 is invested.
2016 – A new pastor is appointed, Steven J. Handzel, CPA, as Marshallton reduces pastoral coverage
from full time to ¾ time. The change in allocation is requested by the church for financial reasons.
Pastor Steve is also appointed to ¼ extension ministry as business manager of Linwood Height’s
preschool (Sonrise Christian Day School).
2017 – The outdoor church labyrinth is restored as an Eagle Scout project along with the seating area
in God’s Acre.
The Village of Marshallton relocates its annual Memorial Day service to God’s Acre at Marshallton Church.
2018 – On January 7, Marshallton Church celebrates its 190th anniversary as an established
church as well as the 75th anniversary of the chartering of Boy Scout Troop 52.
On January 7, the 10:30 worship service welcomes Bishop Peggy Johnson for her second visit to the congregation. The church recognizes the 100th birthday of its most senior member, Evelyn Fair.
Marshallton Church charters Explorer Club 19, an all-girls group as a predecessor to an all girl’s Troop to be chartered in 2019 as Scouting – BSA services both young men and women.
February 2019 – Troop 19 is chartered as one of the first in the nation to provide scouting for young
January 2020 – Marshallton Church resumes its status as a full time pastorate.
March 22, 2020 – Marshallton Church closes its doors to corporate worship for the first time ever in
the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In immediate response, the church upgrades its digital platform
to enhance virtual worship.
Other Noteworthy Facts
Ninety-one pastors served this congregation from 1812 to 2018, some only serving less than a year, others as long as a decade. Pastors with the longest tenures are:
Rev. Scott Widmer, 11 years (2005-2016) Pastor Scott ministered to the church during a time of
extreme loss, the 2010 Duck Boat accident.
Rev. Joseph Herr, 10 years (1976-1986) It was Pastor Herr who authored the original history
from which much of this synopsis has been drawn.
Rev. John Taylor, 10 years (1989-1999) It was during the tenure of Pastor Taylor that the most
significant capital expansion project(s) in the church history took place.
Rev. William Cann, 7 years (1909-1916) The Cann family still actively participates in the life of
Four persons entered the pastoral ministry from the Marshallton congregation:
John S. Inskip
Linda W. George.
Pastors Serving Marshallton Church following the church being named an “Official Station” (6)
Joseph Smith 1859-1860
Joseph Cook 1861
Samuel W. Kurtz 1862-1863
W. H. Fries 1864
A. A. Fisher 1865
John Edwards 1866
Jeremiah Pastorfield 1867-1870
Edward Townsend 1870-1871
Frederick Illman 1872-1873
Thomas Montgomery 1874-1875
John O’Neill 1876-1877
W. W. Wisegarver 1878-1880
J. T. Gray 1880-1883
J. Dungan 1883-1886
Joseph H. Smith 1886-1887
L. L. Hughes 1887-1890
H. C. Boudwin 1890-1893
T. H. Dodd 1894-1995
E. Townsend 1895-1899
E. D. Decker 1899-1901
Matthias Barnhill 1901-1904
John Bell 1904-1907
G. R. Tompkins 1907-1909
W. L. Cann 1909-1916
W. K. McNeal 1916-1918
E. W. Carpenter 1918
Allan Haldeman 1919-1920
J. Gilbert Lynn 1921
Eugene Markley 1921-1923
Christian Fry 1923-1924
J. Holland Heck 1924-1928
R. W. Thompson 1928-1930
A. J. Lawson 1930-1933
T. G. Minker 1933
J. B. Matlack 1933-1937
A. B. Herr 1937-1940
E. Roy Eshleman 1940-1946
Wilmer T. Kennedy 1946-1947
F. Ellsworth Henry 1947-1951
Blake E. Nicholson, Jr. 1951-1953
Julius H. Myers 1953-1960
William J. Keeler 1960-1966
Oliver J. Friedel 1966-1970
Richard W. Howarth 1970-1976
Joseph F. Herr 1976-1986
Charles Evans 1986-1989
John Taylor 1989-1999
Gary Knerr 1999-2003
Edwin R. Green, Jr. 2003-2004
Scott Frieden-Veitch 2004-2005
Scott Widmer 2005-2016
Steven J. Handzel, CPA 2016-
(1) http://www.enterhisrest.org/testimonies/john_inskip.pdf accessed March 25, 2017.
(2) 1930s photo found on page 323 of Between the Brandywines: A History of West Bradford by Catherine Quillman available at West Bradford Twp Building. The church pictured was constructed in 1891 carefully working to preserve the shed.
(3) All Boy Scouts of America units are owned and operated by chartered organizations. As of 2010, the United Methodist Church was the second largest sponsor of Boy Scout Troops in the United States. (The LDS is the largest but is developing its own program and is withdrawing its youth from the BSA).
(4) White on black etching of proposed church expansion from 1994 church directory.
(5) The stained glass window is featured on the letterhead in this history.
(6) Pastors in italics are interred in God’s Acre, In addition, two pastors who served before Marshallton was named an official station are in the cemetery: Rev. Hooke and Rev. Megill.