Welsh Tract Baptist Church

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Welsh Tract Baptist Church
Welsh Tract Church Newark Delaware.JPG
Welsh Tract Baptist Church, October 2012
Welsh Tract Baptist Church is located in Delaware
Welsh Tract Baptist Church
Welsh Tract Baptist Church is located in the US
Welsh Tract Baptist Church
Location Welsh Tract Rd., Newark, Delaware
Coordinates 39°39′1″N 75°45′7″W / 39.65028°N 75.75194°W / 39.65028; -75.75194Coordinates: 39°39′1″N 75°45′7″W / 39.65028°N 75.75194°W / 39.65028; -75.75194
Area 5 acres (2.0 ha)
Built 1746
NRHP Reference # 73000527[1]
Added to NRHP March 1, 1973

Welsh Tract Baptist Church is a historic Baptist church on Welsh Tract Road in Newark, New Castle County, Delaware. It was built by Welsh settlers in 1746 and is a simple rectangular brick building with a wood-shingled jerkinhead roof.[2]


Welsh Tract Baptist Church in 1936

The Baptist movement had gained significant ground in England and Wales during the religious turmoil that embroiled the British Isles through the 17th century. Although the Tolerance Act was passed by the English Parliament in 1689 in an attempt to end the religious strife, by the end of that century, new efforts were being made by the English Crown to reinforce the hegemony of the Anglican church over all "Dissenter" groups in the realm. In the spring of 1701, sixteen Baptists, in the counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen, South Wales, resolved to go to America. They formed themselves into a church, with Thomas Griffith, one of their number, as Pastor. They embarked at Milford Haven in June, 1701, arriving in Philadelphia September, 8th, the same year. Local Baptist leaders advised them to join an established congregation nearby along the Pennepeck Creek.

The immigrant group settled there for about a year and a half. During that time they kept together as a distinct church, held meetings at each other’s residences, and observed the ordinances of Christ in a manner they had brought with them from Wales. In the two years, twenty-one persons were added to their number.

The ceremony of laying on of hands was the principal, if not sole, means of introducing singing, imposition of hands, church covenants, etc., among Welsh Baptists, and they maintained that practice in Pennsylvania. But not without some difficulty, as appears from the following history translated from the Welsh Tract book:

“But we could not be in fellowship (at the Lord’s table) with our brethren in Pennypack and Philadelphia, because they did not hold to the laying on of hands, and some other particulars relating to a church; true, some of them believed in the ordinance, but neither preached it nor practiced it; and when we moved to Welsh Tract, and left twenty-two of our members at Pennypack, and took some of their members down with us, the difficulty increased. We had many meetings to compromise matters, but to no purpose, till June 22d, 1706; then the following deputies (naming twenty-five persons) met at the house of Bro. Richard Miles, in Radnor, Delaware County, Pa., and agreed

  • That a member of either church might transiently Commune with the other.
  • That a member who desired to come under the laying on of hands might have his liberty without offence.
  • That the votaries of the rite might preach or debate upon the subject with all freedom, consistent with charity and brotherly love.

But three years after this meeting we had reason to review the transaction, because of some brethren who arrived from Wales, and one among ourselves, who questioned whether the first article was warrantable; but we are satisfied that all was right, by the good effects which followed: for from that time forth our brethren held sweet communion together at the Lord’s table, and our minister, Rev. Thomas Griffiths [sic], was invited to preach and assist at an ordination at Pennypack, after the death of our Bro. Watts. He proceeded from thence to the Jerseys, where he enlightened many in the good ways of the Lord, insomuch that, in three years after, all the ministers and about twenty- five private members had submitted to the ordinance.”[3]

Because of the discomfort created with the other Baptists in Pennypack over the Welsh practice, the Welsh Baptists soon decided to seek a new home. In 1703, they purchased 30,000 acres in New Castle County, Delaware, near what is now known as Newark, Delaware, deeded by William Penn in the 1680s to three Baptists: David Evans, William Davis, and William Willis. Known as the Welsh Tract, it included Iron Hill and reached all the way to its northern slopes, now part of Interstate I-95.[4] A small meeting-house was erected on the property, and the community became known as the "Emigrant Church", in part because of the then-unusual practices of laying of hands and singing of psalms.[3] This church stood until it was replaced with a new edifice, built in 1746. Thomas Griffith served as the first pastor of the church until he died on July 25, 1725, aged eighty years.[5][6]

The Church and its practices served as a "mother church" for other Baptist communities established in Delaware and elsewhere, including the London Tract, Duck Creek, Wilmington, Cow Marsh, Mispillion, and Pedee (South Carolina) Baptist churches. Its practices became standard practice for Baptist churches throughout the Middle States.[7] Paul Palmer, founder of the "Palmer" branch of the Free Will Baptists, attended Welsh Tract Baptist Church in the 1700s.

The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[1]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Edward F. Heite and Rosemary Troy (July 1972). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Welsh Tract Baptist Church" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  3. ^ a b "Early Baptists of Philadelphia, 1877, Ch. 3". Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  4. ^ "A Guide to the History and Heritage of Pencader Hundred: Welsh Tract Baptist Church". Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  5. ^ "History of the Welsh Tract Baptist Church, Pencander Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware". Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  6. ^ Christian, John T., History of the Baptists, Vol. II, P. 121
  7. ^ Pa. Hist. Magazine, Records of Welsh Tract, published by Delaware Historical Society, Issue ix, p. 61.

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