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.
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.)
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).
John Adams’ quotes
He referred to Duffield as “my parish priest” in the book, “George Duffield, Revolutionary Patriot.” In addition, Ronn Shaffer, Old Pine’s now-deceased, long-time church historian, said Adams referred to Duffield as “The Patriot Pastor” and to Old Pine Church as “The War Office."
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.