The Bible (Psalm 44:3) – Donegal Presbyterian Church – Mt. Joy, PA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 40° 06.066 W 076° 33.956
18T E 366526 N 4440153
All that remains of this witness tree is a huge, flush stump, & 2 markers . This marker was placed in 1919 & celebrates s the deep historical connection this tree had with the Revolutionary War & its Parishioners & bears a Biblical verse.
Waymark Code: WMGV4P
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 04/10/2013
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member Outspoken1
Views: 6

The granite historical marker with the bronze tablet commemorates the sublime Revolutionary even which occurred under the tree. That marker reads:

Inscription on bronze tablet
Beneath This Witness Tree
A New Born Patriotism
Found Notable Expression

On A Sunday Morning in September 1777 an Express
Rider Came To Tell The Congregation Of
That The British army Under Lord Howe Had Left
New York To Invade Pennsylvania. This News De-
Manded From Them All A New Attitude Toward The
Facts Which Challenged Them To Show Proof Of
Their Patriotism. Their Pastor The . . . .
Had Been Accustomed To Offer Prayers For The
King Of England. Pastor And Congregation Gath-
Ered Under This Historic Tree, And Together Joined
Hands, And Under Its Shade Pledged Their Loyality
To The Cause Of Liberty And The Founding Of A
New Nation In This Western Land.

The Rev. Colin McFarquhar Was A Graduate of Edinburgh University
Scotland. A Scholar Of The Highest Attainments And Finest Christ-
Ian Character. he Came From Garelock, Dumbarton County, Scotland Near
The Firth of Clyde, And On May 22nd, 1776, Was Received Into The Presbytery
Of Donegal. For Ten Years He Was Separated From His Family Who Were De-
Tained In Scotland Until After Freedom Was Declared, When They Rejoined
Him In Donegal. His Pastorate In This Church Lasted For Thirty Years Un-
Til 1806, When Upon The Death Of His Wife, He Resigned His Charge. He Died
In 1822 At His Daughter's Home In Hagerstown, MD. And His Remains Were
Brought Here Where They Lie In God's Acre Nearby.

Among The Names of The Families Who Were Members Of
Donegal Church About That Tie Were The Following
(52 family names are then listed)

"For They Gat Not The Land In Possession By Their Own
Sword, Neither Did Their Own Arm Save Them: But Thy
RIght Hand And Thine Arm And The Light Of Thy Counten-
Ance, Because Thou Hadst A Favour Unto Them."

Psalm 44:3

Inscription on base of granite monument

Placed By The Donegal Society
June 19, 1919.

Right from Maytown 0.2m. on an unmarked road to a junction with another road; L. here 1.2 m. to a junction with another road; R. here 0.9 m to the DONEGAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, a well-proportioned Colonial structure, with stuccoed walls and gambrel roof, erected about 1740 for a congregation organized about 20 years earlier. In front of the church is the WITNESS TREE, beneath which, in June 1777, the Tory pastor was forced to raise his hat in allegiance to the Revolution. On a Sunday morning Colonel Alexander Lowrey rode up to the church and interrupted the singing with shouts of 'Orders to march!' The congregation began filing from the church; Lowrey stated that he had orders to proceed to the brandywine, where Washington was opposing Howe's advance on Philadelphia. To the pastor, the Reverend Mr. McFarquhar, he said, 'No more shall you pray for the King.' McFarquhar refused to deny fealty to King George but was made to retract under the oak tree. --- Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State, 1940, p. 443

This is an exciting place to visit if you love American history and if you are an avid waymarker who likes to crosspost; there is something here for everyone. There are several historical markers, including an NRHP sign as well as several interpretives and markers which speak to the storied history of this site. There is also a witness tree, now chopped down, where church folk gathered under to pledge allegiance to their new country. An obelisk/monument for the Revolutionary War is also on the grounds as well as a very old cemetery.

The witness tree, a former giant oak has always been the focal point of this site. The original Witness Tree was a stately white oak that grew and flourished for nearly three centuries, but sadly had to be replaced. The current Witness Tree was grown from the original tree, and stands in the same spot as a proud testimonial to the preservation of the Donegal Society and the Donegal Presbyterian Church. SOURCE

and now a word from Wikipedia:

The church was built in 1732, and is a 1 1/2-story, three bay by five bay, stuccoed stone building with a gambrel roof. The chapel underwent a remodeling in 1851. The adjacent cemetery is enclosed in a rough hewn stone wall built in 1791. The property also includes the William Kerr Study House, a 1 1/2-story, five bay brick dwelling originally built in 1810 and expanded in the early 20th century. The building was restored in 1976. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

In 1777, during worship services, word came to the congregation by way of an express rider, that the British General Howe was about to invade Pennsylvania. The message relayed was that the British army had advanced and had forced Washington's troops to retreat to Chadds Ford. The rider found Colonel Alexander Lowry, who was attending worship at Donegal that Sunday, and shared the news with him, to encourage Lowry to organize his men to come to General Washington's defense. Upon learning this news, the congregation gathered around a white oak tree just outside the sanctuary. With hands joined, they vowed allegiance to the cause of the patriots, and their minister, Rev. Colin McFarquhar, who up until that time had always prayed for the King of England, united with them. From that time onward, the tree was known as the “Witness Tree.” The original Witness Tree grew and flourished for nearly three centuries, but sadly succumbed to disease. A cast iron memorial exists in its place now. SOURCE

The Witness Tree is also mentioned in the NRHP nomination form from 1984: A white oak, approximately 340 years old, standing seventy-five to one hundred feet in height, is the center of the Witness Tree tradition. A monument in front of the tree preserves a tradition of loyalty and honor that was pledged in a time of great indecision. In 1930 the tree was treated by experts who prescribed the present iron fence and planting of the pachysandra to preserve moisture around the base of the tree. The tree is also protected by concealed lightening rods. A plaque underneath the tree proclaims its importance, and recalls September 1777 and the instant this simple oak became a symbol of liberty to, and a new nation for new people SOURCE

The majestic oak was struck by lightning many times and finally, after more than 200 years, succumbed to disease in the early 1990s, despite many attempts to save it. When the tree had to be removed it was sad for everyone. The tree was converted into fine furniture and little mementos, courtesy of the Donegal Society. A cast iron memorial exists in its place now. That marker reads:

On This Sacred Spot for 260 Years Stood The
Majestic White Oak Tree Known As The Witness Tree.
Despite Preservation Efforts, The Tree Succumbed To
Old Age And Was Solemnly Removed On June 3, 1991.
Its Memory Symbolizes The Patriotism And Love Of
Freedom Which Characterized The Early
Scots-Irish Presbyterians.

Donegal Society - 1995

Donegal Presbyterian Church 1891 Donegal Springs Rd Mt. Joy, PA 17552

Website: [Web Link]

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