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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The "A Triad Of Churchyard Members" Story

These two rounded stone tops on the pillars that lead into
the churchyard at St. James are the oldest features on the
grounds.  They were carved from sandstone by Lancaster
stonecutter Tobias Reem in 1762.
It was an ordinary day.  Heading out of the St. James Churchyard after getting a few photos of tombstones that I needed to illustrate some of my recent blog stories.  As I walked toward the Orange Street gate I stopped and looked at a few more grave sites that I found interesting.  Naturally snapped a couple more photos and thought I would research the history behind the person's name on the stones.  Well, today I have added three more brief stories about some of the historical people of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania who were members of the same church where I am a member.  All three have a tie to the church as well as to the fledging young country that we know as the United States of America.  Follow with me as I give you a brief glimpse of some of American's heroes of the past.

THOMAS COOKSON - What I found most interesting was his headstone which sits in the wall of St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, PA.  It is embedded in the wall behind the organ.  Mr. Thomas Cookson, Esq. lived on East Orange Street in the city, but I have been unable to determine the exact address.  
The church Mr. Cookson helped to build.
He was born in Sunderland, in the country of Durham, England in 1710 and arrived in Lancaster in 1740 where he was appointed Justice of the Peace and Register of the County five years later.  He was also a surveyor for the Proprietaries and became the first Chief Burgess of the new Lancaster Borough in 1742.  He was a member of the original congregation of St. James Church and was their first Warden.  The church was established in 1744 and Mr. Cookson worked diligently to raise the money needed to complete the original limestone church, appealing to prominent friends in Philadelphia for support.  The first church was completed in 1753, just before he died on March of that year. 

Jasper Yeates home on S. Queen St.
JASPER YEATES - Jasper was born in 1745 in Philadelphia and graduated from the College of Philadelphia with a Bachelors of Arts degree in 1758.  He studied law and was admitted to the Bar of Philadelphia in 1765 at the age of 20. He then traveled to England to study at the Inns of Court for his legal training and returned to Lancaster, PA where he became a prominent member of the bar as well as a member of St. James Episcopal Church.  During the American Revolutionary War he sided with the Patriots and served as a commissioner to investigate Native American affairs in Pittsburg in 1776.  
Yeates tombstone/monument in the
St. James Churchyard.
After the publication of the Declaration of Independence, no public services were held in St. James for more than five years to prevent destruction to the building.  On April 1, 1778, church treasurer, Jasper Yeates, paid John Maurer for "fitting two keys to two padlocks for the gates and belfry doors."  The next day he also paid Paul Zantzinger, later chief burgess of Lancaster, "for two pounds of nails for boarding the windows and putting up new pales."  The account books of the treasurer show that the collection on Sunday, June 23, 1776, amounted to three shillings and six pence (about 84 cents); no further collections are recorded until September 16, 1781.  Shortly after that date church records show he was elected as a Vestryman and Warden.  During his career he built a library of legal books in several languages totaling 1,043 volumes which are housed in the library of LancasterHistory.org in Lancaster. Mr. Yeates lived in a Georgian style home in the first block of South Queen Street in Lancaster City.  It is now on the register of historic places. 

THOMAS BARTON - Mr. Barton was an Irish divine, meaning that he was a native of Ireland, but descended from an English family that settled there in the reign of Charles I.  Born in 1930, he graduated from Dublin University and eventually emigrated to America in 1751 and opened a school in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
The front of his memorial in the churchyard
He was a tutor for two years until marrying Ester Rittenhouse in 1753. They returned to England where he received episcopal orders and then once again returned as a missionary until 1759 when he arrived in Lancaster and became the third rector of St. James.  He remained here for nearly 20 years until he had to decide between his loyalty to England or his new country.  
The rear of the memorial stone
He chose loyalty to the Crown during the American Revolution so he and the Patriot members of St. James decided to close the church in 1776 for the duration of the War.  After his ensuing resignation, he was given an escort to the British Lines in New York City and denied right of return to Pennsylvania. He was heartbroken and became incurably ill and died in 1780 at the age of 50. He is buried in St. George's Church in New York City, but still has a headstone in the churchyard of St. James Episcopal Church where he still had supporters and admirers.

Well, if you have ever traveled to Lancaster and visited St. James' churchyard, you would know that my list of famous and revered members of the church who are buried in the churchyard could go on and on forever.  I have chosen these three as a start and perhaps on my next visit will pick a few more and write about them.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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