For a limited time this fall, docents will be on site to share stories behind some of our most celebrated “permanent residents.” Space is limited so reserve your spot today.
The churchyard is open for self-guided tours daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (weather permitting). Walk around the churchyard and read the text panels that tell personal stories about many of the people buried here. You’ll learn a lot.
Old Pine’s churchyard is filled with the flags of 285 Revolutionary War veterans
We know of no churchyard in this area – in a place chock full them – that has so many soldiers from the War of Independence buried in it.
These are the people who founded this church
Sure, we have one delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the U.S. Constitution buried here. But most of the graves here are of people who had “boots on the ground.” People who made extreme personal and family sacrifices to defend their new country.
Many of them were Scotch-Irish, some who carried their hatred of Britain with them from Europe.
This church was founded by rebels
The members hired the Rev. George Duffield to be their preacher – even though the First Presbyterian Church was against it.
The church doors were even locked when Rev. Duffield first came to preach. Legend says supporters threw him into the church through a window, then unlocked the doors for the parishioners.
While Rev. Duffield was preaching that day, a messenger from the King’s Court came in and read Rev. Duffield “The Riot Act.” A member of the congregation grabbed the man, set him down outside, and said, “Continue Mr. Duffield.” (You’ll see Rev. Duffield’s tree sculpture on the western side of the churchyard.)
In Duffield, they got a fighting preacher – the British put a 50 £ price on his head
Duffield later became Chaplain of the Pennsylvania Militia and co-Chaplain of the Continental Congress.
Eleven days after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Rev. Duffield announced to his congregation: There are too many able-bodied men here today. Tomorrow, I shall join the cause.” The next day, 91 men from the church followed their pastor. (In eight years of the Revolutionary War, 590 men from Old Pine served the cause of freedom – from one small parish).
- George Whitefield, who led the Great Awakening, spoke on the site of this church before it was built.
- Even though Philadelphia is mostly associated with William Penn and the Quakers, by 1739 Presbyterians outnumbered all other denominations in Philadelphia.
- Twice Rev. Duffield refused an invitation to become the assistant minister at the Second Presbyterian Church, because he was not the right person for that congregation. He was right for the Third.
John Adams’ quotes
He referred to Duffield as “my parish priest in the book, “George Duffield, Revolutionary Patriot.” In other sources, he called Duffield “The Patriot Pastor,” and referred to Old Pine Church as the War Office.
British Treatment of Old Pine
Being known as the “Church of the Patriots” did not help when the British occupied Philadelphia from Sept. 1777 to June 1778.
They used Old Pine Church as a hospital. Tore up pews and the pulpit for firewood. Then used it as a stable. They left it with four windowless walls, a cedar shake roof and a strong barnyard smell.
They also buried 100 Hessian troops here in our churchyard. We also have one Tory.
One report says: “The new Pine Street Church was dismantled; the pews and all available woodwork has been used for firewood; the graves around the church had been dug up and the entire burial ground desecrated.”
How the British left the church: 4 walls open to the winds with a cedar shake roof overhead and a strong barnyard odor inside
Number of total people buried here: Over 4,000 in less than one acre
How: Parfait burials; four levels; up to 4 adults or 6 or 7 children
These were not talkers about freedom. They were people who sacrificed everything to gain our independence.
Special churchyard tours, conducted by docents, must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.