Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex

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Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex
Donegal Presby Old n New PA.JPG
The original church is in front
Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex is located in Pennsylvania
Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex
Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex is located in the US
Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex
Location Donegal Springs Rd., East Donegal Township, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°6′4″N 76°34′0″W / 40.10111°N 76.56667°W / 40.10111; -76.56667Coordinates: 40°6′4″N 76°34′0″W / 40.10111°N 76.56667°W / 40.10111; -76.56667
Area 7.5 acres (3.0 ha)
Built 1732
Architectural style Federal
NRHP Reference # 85001482[1]
Added to NRHP July 02, 1985

Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex is a historic Presbyterian church complex on Donegal Springs Road in East Donegal Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The church was built in 1732, and is a 1 1/2-story, three bay by five bay, stuccoed stone building with a gambrel roof. The chapel underwent a remodeling in 1851. The adjacent cemetery is enclosed in a rough hewn stone wall built in 1791. The property also includes the William Kerr Study House, a 1 1/2-story, five bay brick dwelling originally built in 1810 and expanded in the early 20th century. The building was restored in 1976.[2]

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.[1][3]

In 1777, during worship services, word came to the congregation by way of an express rider, that the British General Howe was about to invade Pennsylvania. The message relayed was that the British army had advanced and had forced Washington's troops to retreat to Chadds Ford. The rider found Colonel Alexander Lowry, who was attending worship at Donegal that Sunday, and shared the news with him, to encourage Lowry to organize his men to come to General Washington's defense.

Upon learning this news, the congregation gathered around a white oak tree just outside the sanctuary. With hands joined, they vowed allegiance to the cause of the patriots, and their minister, Rev. Colin McFarquhar, who up until that time had always prayed for the King of England, united with them. From that time onward, the tree was known as the “Witness Tree.”[4]

The original Witness Tree grew and flourished for nearly three centuries, but succumbed to disease. A cast iron memorial exists in its place now.[5]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System.  Note: This includes Lise Catharina Ritsch (July 1984). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Donegal Presbyterian Church Complex" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-02-18. 
  3. ^ Chiat, Marilyn Joyce Segal (1997). America's religious architecture: sacred places for every community, Preservation Press Series. John Wiley and Sons. p. 465. ISBN 0471145025, ISBN 978-0-471-14502-8.  p.92, note that Chiat misidentifies the county as Franklin County.
  4. ^ Donegal Society brochure from Donegal Presbyterian Church
  5. ^

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