St. Thomas’ is blessed with a long and rich history. It is the 27th oldest continuously worshiping faith community in the country.
In 1683, William Penn granted five thousand acres of land to Major Jasper Farmer. This area is roughly the boundaries of present-day Whitemarsh Township. Although Major Farmer was unable to settle in Pennsylvania, his son Edward did, and donated one acre of ground for a log church in 1698. This was deliberately burned in 1710 to be replaced by a small but sturdy stone church.
This second church had no pews- worshipers stood during services. For the next one hundred and seven years, it was known simply as “the little Church at White Marsh” and served as a union church of various Christian denominations. The church and graveyard suffered extensive damage following the Battle of Germantown as the Americans fought their way to Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War.
It was decided to build a newer, larger church. The third church was consecrated by Episcopal Bishop White and given the official name of St. Thomas’ Church in 1818. Fifty years of gradually declining membership followed, but the Sheaff family helped the church survive. Ellen Sheaff had a schoolhouse built in 1853 and her brother John supervised the early stages of construction of the present church.
The fourth building for St. Thomas’ Church was consecrated in 1881 and appears largely the same today. The narthex and balcony additions in 1964 gave a new, three-door entry and additional seating. In 2009, a labyrinth was constructed near the church, giving those who walk there an opportunity for meditation and contemplation.
The cemetery and memorial gardens make up a significant portion of the 48-acres grounds. Among those buried here are medal of honor winners, noted politicians, famous composers, founding families, and war heros from every war since the American Revolution.
Historical programs, church, carillon and cemetery tours are available. Contact the History Committee – 215-233-3970