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History of Old Brick PB Church, Maryland.
Publication: Commemorative Address 2018

Author: Stephen R. Aquino
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A Brief History of Old Brick or Old Harford Primitive Baptist Church,    Delivered July 29th, 2018 at a meeting commemorating Old Harford.

Steven Bloyd Moderator -  Jonathan Cook, Sermon


History of Old Harford Church by Stephen Aquino


     Maryland was one of the original thirteen states of the Union. Churches were established here long before the American Revolution.

About a hundred years before Harford Church was constituted, Maryland was settled as a Colony and named after England's Catholic queen HENRIETTA MARIA, the year, 1634.

Maryland’s first capital was the Colonial City, St. Mary’s City.

New England was not the only destination sought by those fleeing religious persecution. In 1632CECELIUS CALVERT, known as LORD BALTIMORE, was granted possession of all land lying between the POTOMAC RIVER and the CHESAPEAKE BAY. Lord Baltimore saw this as an opportunity to grant religious freedom to the Catholics who remained in Anglican England. Although outright violence was more a part of the 1500s than the 1600s, Catholics were still a persecuted minority in the seventeenth century.


Many early settlers came to Maryland and avoided the Northern Colonies for the same fears they left England. Catholics, as well as all other religious peoples, would benefit from The Toleration Act of Maryland. This law was written and enacted in 1649 allowing a broad latitude in religious toleration. So, while northern Anglicans and Presbyterians disdained Catholics in the New England states, and the Episcopalian in Virginia giving the Non-Conformists, Separatists, New Lights and Baptist persecution, Maryland was quickly being the place to live for both Catholics and Baptists.


So, the first inhabitants were a mixture of mostly Catholic country gentlemen. But as time went on, the economy and freedom act would also draw workers and artisans who were mainly Protestant. Catholics soon found themselves in the minority. Baptist settlers from the southern Colonies seeking escape from Virginia persecution were also joined by the new arrivals from England. Many Dutch Baptists filled Pennsylvania and the Welsh were arriving in Delaware. Maryland’s Colonial economy was booming thanks to seaports like Baltimore and Annapolis along with major trade routes connecting the north of the Mason Dixon and points south.



These early years were important to our Baptist heritage. In 1701, the Church from Pembroke, Wales, a group of Welsh Baptists, settled on a swampy tract of land in Delaware known as the Welsh Tract. This church was prominent to help establish fellowships like Iron Hill, London Tract and Hopewell are a few names we might be familiar with. These churches were fed ministerial help for years prior to their constitution. These churches theologically were Particular Baptists. That is, they believed in Particular Redemption in contrast with General Baptist who believed in General Atonement.

In 1742, a new church was constituted named Chestnut Ridge not far from where we meet today. It was considered a General Baptist church under the leadership of Henry Sator. A good man, very benevolent

in assisting the construction of meetings houses. He was born in England and once in Maryland, then Baltimore County became a prominent member of society.  The covenant of this newly formed church was presented to the Governor and the Court, then under a Catholic Province, and was protected under the Toleration Act of Maryland. This covenant is recorded in History of Maryland Baptists, by David Benedict, 1848.

Henry Sator would also have various ministers come and preach. Among them were Particular Baptists, who, after 7 years of visitation and preaching had persuaded about 14 souls. Consequently, this group was formed under a new church with the ministerial assistance of Peter Van Horn and Benjamin Griffith. The name of the new church was called Winter’s Run for a creek so named not far from where we are meeting today. I understand that this meeting house sits within the forks of Winter’s Run between Jarrettsville and Upper Cross Roads.


The county of Harford was not yet formed. So, when the county office in Joppa moved to Baltimore City in 1768 the residents pressed for help in forming a new county. They were greatly inconvenienced in having to ride their horses all the way to Baltimore for public and government duties and business. So, a petition was presented to the Legislature of 1773, which resulted in the passage of a law for a new county to be known by the name of Harford.

According to The History of Harford County, “In the year 1771, Frederick, the sixth Lord Baltimore, died in Italy, aged forty-one years. He left no legitimate children, and the title became extinct; but by his will, Henry Harford, a natural son, was made proprietary of Maryland, though a minor, and the county formed three years later was called Harford from the young head of the province.”

It was during that time that Winter’s Run Church became known as Harford Church. Years later the Philadelphia Association listed this church as the ‘Baltimore’ church. Eventually, like other churches in Baltimore were constituted and joined the Association or were in correspondence that the name ‘Harford’ would be used. Other names by which this congregation would be known as ‘Old Harford’ and ‘Old Brick.’

Elder John Davis

The name of a new Pastor, John Davis is mentioned in The Maryland Baptist History which will also summarize what has just been saying. Quote:

 “A few years after the constitution of the Church at Chestnut Ridge, some of the members who preferred the doctrines of the “Particular Baptists,” obtained letters and constituted and new Church at

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Winter’s Run, In Harford County. This was in 1754. They were immediately received into the Philadelphia Association. [Revs.] Benjamin Griffith and Peter Van Horn were their ministers. They afterward assumed the title of “Harford Church.” John Davis, a young preacher, from Pennepek, PA, was called, and remained pastor until his death in 1809, aged 87 years.”

A copy of a summary of the Church’s records appears in Joseph Watts' the Rise and Progress of Maryland Baptists. The record, written in October, 18o3, states the following: "The Church of Jesus Christ in Harford County, in the State of Maryland, was constituted on the first day of November in the year of Our Lord One Thousand seven hundred and fifty-four, then under the pastoral care of Elder John Davis who still continues to preside over her." It is also mentioned that the Church was enrolled in the Philadelphia Association of Baptists as early as 1755.

Elder John Davis, originally from England, whose father was a proprietor in England, sent his son bricks. According to the Fallston-Upper Cross Roads Bicentennial Committee, The Gateway, 1970, the bricks were sent over on ships and arrived in Joppa from which they were hauled to the building site on packs of mules.

In another account additional detail is given, “The brick for the construction of this building was shipped by permission of Lord Baltimore, from the brickyard of the father of Elder John E. Davis, near London, England, to this country; and Elder Davis conveyed them, by pack-saddle from the Patapsco River, near Baltimore, to the site on which the church is located, a distance of approximately 25 miles. The church building was remodeled and repaired in 1787, using the original brick.”

And, in a Life Sketch by Elder F.E. Thompson, which appeared in the Primitive Baptist Publication, For the Poor, Elder Thompson said, “The sisters of the church carried them from the port, in Baltimore, on pack mules.”

The following notes are from the old minutes of the [Philadelphia Baptist] Associational Minutes recorded after the death of Elder John Davis:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Bro. Davis discharged the duties of his office for [53] fifty-three years, the longest pastorate known in this region among Baptists. All who knew him represent him as having been a man of eminent piety, sound views, consistent character, and fervent zeal. He traveled much, and generally on horse-back, preaching Christ wherever he went. The woods, the school house, the barn, the cabin, the parlor, the meeting house, were all alike to him places of worship and of labor. Nor did he fail to preach to the solitary traveler on the highway. While manifesting this primitive zeal, he was sometimes called to endure primitive persecution, for though the law guaranteed protection to his calling, yet there were not wanting “lewd fellows of the baser sort” who resorted to violence, in their efforts to hinder the gospel.”

Joseph H. Jones, in his pamphlet, said, “I have been informed by one who knew him well, that he would sometimes be late in getting to Sater’s, when he would pleasantly say, “Well, brethren, old John Davis is as sure as a gun, but not quite so quick!” Frequently this detention would arise from his becoming so engaged in his meditations on the way, that the horse on which he rode would stop in a fence corner to nip grass, while he, with Bible in hand, would sit on his saddle, until some passer0by would say to him, “Father Davis, it is near meeting time’ The reply would be, “Is it? dear me!” and he would jog along.” This recent historical note must actually be referring to Elder Davis when he was a young man still going to Chestnut Ridge. If so, even as a young man he was given to the service of God and His word.

Now it is common knowledge that David Benedict, and also the Maryland Baptist History were sentimentally in favor of the General Baptists. They called the Particular Baptist anti-missionary and also used the word ‘infected’ whenever a congregation leaned toward the Old School Baptist doctrines. But ironically, it was Harford church that was a mother church for many other congregations. Churches like Gunpowder, Fredericktown (now Frederick), Westminster Church, First Baltimore church, and Taneytown came out of the efforts of Harford Church.


Following the long-held pastorate of John Davis, other pastors included elder Absalom Butler, Thomas Barton, Thomas Poteet, and William Wilson. The more modern Pastors included Elder Cubage, about 1937. Afterward, Elder F.E. Thompson of Fountain Green Road.  Elder Richard Tillman, then pastor of Mt. Carmel Church in Churchville, held monthly meetings at 2:30 PM, and ultimately a group from Mt. Carmel received letters to reconstitute Old Brick Primitive Baptist Church. Elder Tillman, up until recently due to health concerns, stepped down after some 28 years of faithful service. Consequently, the church disbanded and most of the members to date relocated their memberships to other Primitive Baptist Churches. In attendance, at this commemorative meeting today, is former pastor, Elder Richard Tillman, for which we are grateful. We Thank God for you brother Richard for your gospel labors.


This church house represents one of the earliest Baptist churches in Maryland and in America. For this reason, it has been the subject of many articles.  In an August 11, 1991 article By Samuel Goldreich, a Baltimore Sun Staff Writer, The Church, he wrote, has survived Indian attack, a Civil War fire and Hurricane Agnes. But its future has been threatened as the church members died or moved to other parishes.

The Maryland Historical Society, writes, 1974, “It is believed that the building was constructed in 1754. The church was remodeled in 1787. A floor was added and other repairs were made. Changes are evident in the brick work around the windows. The high, Roman arched windows were changed to a rectangular shape. The original yellow poplar seats put together with wooden pegs are still intact. However, about 60 years ago, the early sound board over the pulpit remains, but lowered.”

“This is a small, flemish bond brick church, one story high and 3 bays by 3. It has a central chimney of corbelled brick which accommodates a flue from a stove standing in the center of the large room. The gable flank roof is covered with slate and has box cornices. The two windows on the east side are 15 lights over 15. The double-hung doors in the center bay are wood with five molded panels on each. Brick arches can be seen above the windows and door on this side. A high, semi-circular arch is directly above a low semi-elliptical arch. Above the door, near the roofline, is a datestone. The datestone has a semi-circular brick arch above it and it reads " 1787 B M. 11 On the North and south sides, windows are 12 lights over 12 with a semi-elliptical arch over each. Double-hung doors are wood and have 4 molded panels on each. On the south side, two windows are located at the top of the gable end. These windows have wood plank shutters and these are always closed.”


There are many that look at buildings and call them outdated by modern times, “an antique, a relic from the past. What use to be.” But we ask the question, is there hope today?

In 1977, then, Sister Jeroline Dickerson wrote a comprehensive History on London Tract Church and mentioned the Plans by the Delaware River Basin Commission to build a dam about a mile and a half north of Newark. This proposed Dam would literally sink the London Tract Church and all the tomb stones and graves would have to be moved. In this article, Sister Jeroline expressed dire concern when she said, “Although progress must continue, it seems so futile and heart-breaking to see precious old spots like London Tract Church simply obliterated, only to be remembered in the pages of history books. If this destruction should occur, it can reassuredly be said that the London Tract Primitive Baptist Church and especially the generations of people associated with her, along with the principles and practices she so valiantly embraced, will never be forgotten or destroyed as long as there are people on the face of the earth.”

It is our hope today, not to know Old Brick Church as a memorial to something old and forgotten, but a place where the truths of long ago Particular Baptists, may still be preached and believed.

Oh, that it might be said again of the Lord Jesus Christ, that it was “noised that He was in the house!” That our people would bring in others, sick and diseased by sin, as the one sick of palsy lowered down through the broken-up roof so that he could hear The Lord preach the word. (Mark 2:1-4)

May the Lord Jesus Christ be preached again and might sinners, blessed by sovereign grace, be partakers of the powers of the world to come.


larry heldman  

Elder James Compton (1905 - 2007)
Elder James Compton was the original founder of the 'Gospel of Grace Tape Supply.' His collection of tapes began as he traveled to Church meetings and Associations recording sermons on Reel to Reel. He has maintained this library of sermons faithfully over the years and are now the foundation of PB Sermons. org. This web site is dedicated to Elder James Compton (1905 - 2007)