The Founding of Hanover Street Church

It was shortly before the Revolution that the church we now call Hanover was formed. In the latter part of 1771 and early 1772, a rift began in the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, when the friends of the Rev. Joseph Smith began to agitate for his undivided labors as pastor of the church to the exclusion of their regular pastor, the Rev. William McKennan, whom they shared with Red Clay Church. Apparently the division in the congregation reached an impasse; the friends of the Rev. Smith withdrew from First Presbyterian Church and built a church at the southwest corner of Queen and Walnut Streets in Wilmington. The church was dedicated on Oct. 24, 1772, and was known as the Second Presbyterian Church. This was its name until 1787, when, by virtue of an act passed by the Assembly of the State of Delaware, it received the name of the Christiana Presbyterian Church.

The church building on Queen Street — today it is called Fifth Street — was later known as the Old Stone Church. The Rev. William W. Taylor, in his remarks during the One Hundredth Anniversary of Hanover, describes the church. “It is still standing on the old spot, Fifth and Walnut, and you may see its stoney material and thick walls, though now enlarged over its original size and shape. At first it was square, and I used to hear people say it had been used as a stable by the British, in the Revolutionary War, when it was probably in an unfinished state; at least it needed some repairs after they were done with it. The pulpit was placed on the west side, fitted only one preacher at a time, with a small enclosure at its foot, shut in on the front railing; a brick paved isle running in front, north and south, and another shooting at right angles to this, eastward to accommodate a large door, set in the east wall, the only way of incoming and outgoing. This was a large two-leafed circular-topped door, the inside fastening consisting of long iron bolts, shooting into grooves at the top, with shorter ones at the bottom.

“How they heated the house in those days I do not remember, or whether attempts were made, but I can almost see old John Anderson, the sexton, or his poor idiot son, bringing coals in a foot stove for some of the old ladies, every Sabbath morning.

“A gallery was built on three sides of the church, as high as the pulpit, furnished with one row of large square pews all around, having an entrance from a little isle running around the inside of the wall, and finished in front with an open breastwork, made of little turned rods. The pews below were long, rather than square, with straight backs.

“About 1820, the old building was enlarged by advancing the north wall fifteen or twenty feet, into its present size and shape, when a complete transformation was made in pews, pulpit and galleries, and doors, the old windows probably remaining as they had been, on account of the solidity of the walls.

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