An unusual historical observance
Written by Forrest Moyer on April 22, 2020
This brief article was written by John Ruth for the MHEP Newsletter, January 1994. It recounts a patriotic event that took place at the Towamencin Mennonite Meetinghouse in 1993.
The Towamencin congregation received a request from the Daughters of the American Revolution for permission to relocate a marker the organization had placed, in 1927, at the junction of the Sumneytown Pike and Old Forty Foot Road, just across the intersection from the Meetinghouse. A current (in 1993) widening of the Pike was leaving the marker obscured by a larger barrier.
The marker commemorated the death of Brigadier General Francis Nash of North Carolina, one of General George Washington’s officers at the Battle of Germantown in October 1777. The wounded Nash had expired in the farmhouse of Adam Gotwals on the Forty-Foot Road, and been buried beside the Mennonite meetinghouse.
There had been an obelisk for General Nash in the cemetery since 1844, which had been put there without ceremonies. The fact that in 1927 the congregation seems to have declined permission for another military marker in their graveyard (though permitting one beside the obelisk in 1936), accounts for the marker’s being placed across the road.
“In 1844 a monument was erected in the cemetery in honor of General Nash. In 1936 an effort was made to remove his body to Nashville, Tennessee, which city was named in his honor, but the Mennonite trustees would not give their permission for his removal. The proposed action was considerably discusses in the local press…. Finally another monument was erected for General Nash, and his body still rests in the cemetery of the “Baptist [Mennonite] Meeting house” along the Sumneytown Pike.”J. C. Wenger, History of the Mennonites of the Franconia Conference, 1937, p. 153
This time, however, the trustees allowed a relocation to the cemetery itself.
The day of dedication, October 12, 1993, brought several surprises. The size of the delegations of the D.A.R. exceeded some expectations, as several out-of-state buses and many cars covered the parking lot. But the major unexpected factor was rain. This led the visitors to request the privilege of holding their observance indoors.
While on the one hand the ceremonies were most inappropriate for a Mennonite meetinghouse, on the other the congregation did not want to be inhospitable. So, in view of the emergency, and with the understanding that this was done with reservations as to the theme, permission was granted.
What followed was a proceeding never before witnessed in one of our churches. To the sound of fife and drum, persons dressed in military costume marched down the center aisle, through a full house, carrying a flag. State Senator Edward Holl played taps and the Star-Spangled Banner on his trumpet. There were about eighteen features on the program, including the Pledge of Allegiance, presentation of colors, recognitions, prayers — in fact, everything hut the scheduled firing of a volley. Then some of the groups (largely elderly women) moved outdoors for the unveiling of the bronze marker, now refurbished and placed on its solid stone backing near the Forty-Foot Road end of the cemetery. All these proceedings were videotaped, at the D.A.R.’s request, by Jay Ruth.
Thus, as in 1777, 1844, 1927 and 1936, the military-minded world came to call at the door of a congregation seeking to preach the Gospel of the Prince of Peace.
To learn more about the Continental Army’s encampment at Towamencin, read Brian Hagey’s illustrated summary: The Continental Army at “Headquarters Towamensing” 1777
You can also follow Brian’s Facebook page “Towamencin History” for lots of interesting history of life in the township.