Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Description of an Eyewitness Account of Interior of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester During the Revolutionary War

Following the Battle of Pelham on October 18, 1776, British and German troops occupied the still unfinished church building on the village green in Eastchester. On October 24, 1865, Rev. William Samuel Coffey of St. Paul's Church in Eastchester delivered a "Commemorative Discourse" during the Centennial Celebration of the erection of the church building. In the discourse, published by Perris & Browne in 1866, Rev. Coffey relates a brief eyewitness account of the church building during the Revolutionary War. That account has been excerpted from the Discourse and appears below, followed by a citation to its source.

"The War of the Revolution discovers to us the town of East Chester, with its people greatly divided in sentiment, a severe sufferer between the contending forces. Brothers separate from brothers -- sons from their fathers. Old Col. Jonathan Fowler with as loyal a hear as ever beat to the toast of the King, in sadness sees his son Theodosius a Captain in the American Army, and in recruiting service on this Green, throw down on the drum head the two shillings, which, received, binds the enlistment of some son of one of his old neighbors. Ward is arrayed against Ward, and the Pells across the Creek, best friends of the Church, take up arms against each other. By both the opposing forces, at several different periods, the new building was used for hospital purposes. An eye-witness, our informant, remembered the appearance of the interior during a British occupation of it. There is no floor, the sleepers are not even down, but along the sides of the building are seen large pieces of timberupon which the sick are sitting or reclining. Alas for the ravages of war! the shingle-sided old Church, now about eighty years old, is its victim, but blessed be God, under no more repulsive circumstances than being made use of for fire-wood for the sick and dying in the hospital. But some possible consequences of the destruction have been avoided; for faithful hands have conveyed away the old Prayer Book and Bible, and the bell, and perhaps Church papers, and have safely buried them from view until peaceful days shall again dawn. In what place can they be concealed with greater propriety than upon that of the Vincents? A tribute, to-day, to those secreting and guarding [Page 7 / Page 8] hands, and thanks to a merciful Providence, which has permitted us to be summoned this morning to the Services by that bell, and to conduct them from the pages of those venerable books."

Source: Coffey, William Samuel, Commemorative Discourse Delivered at the Centennial Anniversary of the Erection and the Sixtieth of the Consecration of St. Paul's Church, East Chester, West Chester Co., N.Y., October 24th, 1865, pp. 7-8 (NY, NY: Perris & Browne, 1866).

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