A Patriotic Pastor

The following short biography by Joseph H. West, of Hamilton Square, was found in the Allentown Messenger dated January 11, 1912:


The first pastor of the Imlaystown Baptist Church, then called Upper Freehold Church, and located where the “Old Yellow Meeting House” now stands, was Rev. David Jones.


Mr. Jones was born in Delaware in 1736, became a Baptist in 1758, studied for the ministry with Rev. Isaac Eaton, in this State, and with Rev. Abel Morgan, of Middletown, and preached occasionally at Freehold, Cranbury and Crosswicks. He was one of the constituent members of the Imlaystown church, and was ordained as its first pastor in 1766.


In 1772, Mr. Jones went on a gospel mission to the Shawnee and Delaware Indians, which was not successful, and he returned to the Imlaystown church, remaining till the war of the Revolution broke out. He was exceedingly patriotic and was so hated by the Tories of Monmouth that, believing his life to be in danger, he left Imlaystown and became pastor of the Great Valley Baptist Church, in Chester county, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1775.


On the occasion of the observance of the Continental Fast, this old-time pastor preached a sermon before Colonel Dewee’s regiment that was printed and distributed through the colonies. It was on “Defensive War in a Just Cause, Sinless.”


In 1776, Rev. Mr. Jones was made chaplain to a Pennsylvania regiment, under St. Clair. At Ticonderoga, when a battle was hourly expected, he delivered another powerful discourse, which was also published, something unusual for those days. He served in two campaigns under General Gates. He was with Wayne at the battle of Brandywine and at Germantown.


When Wayne’s troops were rused in the night attack at Paoli, Mr. Jones narrowly escaped the massacre. The neighboring farmers gathered up the 53 slain Americans the next morning and buried them, marking the spot with a pile of stones, and when, in 1817, the first Paoli monument was erected there, Mr. Jones came and delivered the address, being then past 80, and it was his last public act.


Chaplain Jones was at Whitemarsh and Valley Forge, with Wayne at Monmouth, and in all the campaigns till the surrender at Yorktown, when he returned to his farm and church. He was so active that General Howe once offered a reward for him, and a lot of troops were sent to Great Valley to arrest him, but failed. Once seeing a British trooper dismount and enter a house for refreshments, leaving his pistols in the holsters of the saddle, Jones took the pistols and entered the house and compelled the trooper to go with him to Wayne’s camp. Wayne roared with laughter at the idea of his chaplain’s capturing a British dragoon.


Mr. Jones was also chaplain with Wayne against the Indians in 1794, and when the war of 1812 broke out, being 76, he served as chaplain under Generals Brown and Wilkinson till its close.


Rev. David Jones died in 1820, in his 84th year, and was buried in the Great Valley church yard, in sight of the historic Valley Forge.


[A possible result of Rev. David Jones’s ministry prior to the spring of 1775, the following Upper Freehold Town-Meeting Minutes dated May 4th of that year.]


This day agreeable to previous notice a very considerable number of the principal inhabitants of this Township met at Imlay’s-Town:


John Lawrence, Esquire in the chair. When the following Resolves were unanimously agreed to:


Resolved, That it is our first wish to live in union with Great Britain agreeable to the principles of the Constitution; that we consider the unnatural civil war which we are about to be forced into, with anxiety and distress; but that we are determined to oppose the novel claim of the Parliament of Great Britain to raise a revenue in America and risk every possible consequence rather than submit to it.


Resolved, That it appears to this meeting that there are a sufficient number of Arms for the people.


Resolved, That a sum of money be now raised to purchase what further quantity of Powder and Ball may be necessary; and it is recommended that every man capable of bearing arms enter into Companies to train and be prepared to march at a minute’s warning; and it is further recommended to the people that they do not waste their Powder in fowling or hunting.


A subscription was then opened, and One Hundred and Sixty Pounds instantly paid into the hands of a person appointed for that purpose. The Officers of four Companies were then chosen, and the meeting broke up in perfect unanimity. /s/ Elisha Lawrence, Clerk.