Sunday, June 26, 2011

Of Church and Family

The growth of Powelton after 1860 was reflected in the growth of its churches. The two most prominent reminders of that are the Metropolitan Baptist church, which was originally the Northminster Presbyterian Church, and St. Andrew and Monica’s Protestant Episcopal Church. Both churches were originally small congregations serving the population of Mantua. Powelton families played central roles in the growth of both after 1860. The long-term association of the Andrews family with Northminster Presbyterian is a part of that story.
Northminster Presbyterian Church c1900
Northminster Presbyterian began about 1837 as a small “Sabbath-school” that met at a house near 33rd and Spring Garden Sts. In 1846, it moved to a new, small church at 3500 Spring Garden which is still in use as a church today. It was organized under the name The First Presbyterian Church of Mantua. With the growth of Powelton, the church purchased the lot at 3500 Baring St. and in 1875 they moved into the substantial building we see today. With the declining importance of Mantua, the church was renamed Northminster Presbyterian. (More information about its history is available from the Interactive Map for 3500 Baring St.)

Undoubtedly there were many families in Mantua and Powelton that played important roles in the growth of Northminster Presbyterian. However, one family in particular seems to have been at the center of the church’s growth after 1860. The Alexander Andrews family was one of the first to move into the heart of Powelton. One daughter married the pastor who oversaw the building of the new church and the other daughter married a future treasurer and elder of the church.
Alexander Andrews (1812-1887)

Alexander J. Andrews was born in 1812 in Upper Oxford, Chester Co., Pa. In 1838, he married Amelia D. Van Amringe of Philadelphia. Her father was born in the Netherlands and her mother was born in England. Both parents died before her 10th birthday. Alexander worked as an engraver in Philadelphia and as a machinist and machine manufacturer in Providence, R.I. and Philadelphia. In 1851, his business failed wiping out his resources. In 1856, he turned to the grain business at 31st and Market Sts. and from then on, he was quite successful.
Amelia Van Amringe Andrews (1810-1873)
In 1859, the family acquired the land at 3507 Baring St. through a trust administered for Amelia by Henry S. Cochran. (This was not the Henry Cochran who later built a house down the block at 3511 Baring St.) In the 1860 census, Amelia claimed $8,000 in real estate and $1,000 in personal property. Alexander didn’t list any assets. When they moved to the north side of Baring St., the south side of the block and most of the neighboring blocks were probably still wooded lots.
In 1866, their daughter, Louisa (age 19), married Rev. Henry Augustus Smith, D.D., Pastor of the First Mantua Presbyterian Church (also called the New School Presbyterian Church) at 35th & Spring Garden. In 1870, he oversaw the purchase of the lot at 3500 Baring St. across the street from the Andrews home. The new church, now named Northminster Presbyterian, was opened there in 1875. Henry and Louisa lived at 3413 Hamilton St. with their son and two daughters. Louisa died in the late 1870s and in 1880, Henry and the three children (ages 11, 8, and 4) were living at 3705 Hamilton St. He resigned his pastorate at the Northminster Church in 1882 claiming ill health. He died the next year at age 50.

The Andrews’ second child, Frederick, was born in 1851. He entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1867, but left after his freshman year. In 1869, his father built a new warehouse and grain elevator at the southwest corner of 30th and Market St. He made Fred a partner and renamed the business Alexander J. Andrews & Son. Fred married Mary Schoonmaker, the daughter of a prominent Civil War hero and business man from Pittsburg. They moved to Haverford. In 1900, they were living Plainfield, N.J. where he was in the produce exchange business.

Amelia Andrews died in 1873 at age 63. In 1882, Frederick and Euretta sold 3507 Baring St. which they had inherited from their mother. Alexander was apparently retired and living with either Fred in Haverford or Euretta on 35th St. Alexander Andrews died in 1887.
Euretta Andrews Alexander (1853-1823)

The year following her mother’s death, their second daughter, Euretta (age 20), married Edward P. Alexander. He had been living with his brothers, Charles and Henry, at 3626 Baring St. They ran Alexander Brothers Leather Belting Co. In 1873, Edward had purchased the back of the church’s lot from the Northminster Church of which he was a prominent member. Edward and Euretta built a house there (306 N. 35th St.), renovated it several times, and lived there until 1922. Euretta died the next year at age 70.
Edward P. Alexander (1844-1927)

Edward and Euretta Alexander were active members of Northampton Presbyterian. In 1873, a list of churches contributing to temperance meetings lists Edward as treasurer of Northampton. In 1891, he was elected one of the three church elders and in 1897, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a candidate for the position of pastor was entertained at the Alexander’s home. (The candidate was apparently unsuccessful.) Edward and Euretta had four children: two boys and two girls. Both sons went into the family business.

One son, Julian, married a local girl, Virginia Hill, at Northminster Presbyterian in 1914. Virginia grew up at 3416 Baring St. and her father, Horace G. Hill, grew up at 3405 Hamilton St. Her grandfather, Horace Hill was an accountant and served as auditor for several Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia. Horace G. Hill was a physician at Jefferson hospital and chief medical director of Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance. He died in 1901 at age 42 from “la grippe.” At the time of the marriage, Virginia’s mother was living at 409 N. 36th St.

After Julian and Virginia were married, they moved into their new home at 3417 Race St. They had two daughters, Juliana and Louisa, who were the great-granddaughters of Poweltonians Alexander and Amelia Andrews and Horace and Mary Hill. Virginia was still living at 3417 Race St. in 1950.

Northminster Presbyterian moved to Drexel Hill in 1956, taking the church’s cherished bells from the tower. In 1975, they merged with St. Paul’s United Church of Christ to form the Collenbrook United Church. The church at 3500 Baring was sold to Metropolitan Baptist church in 1956.

Erratum: Julian and Virginia Alexander had a son and a daughter, Julian and Louisa.  (10/2/2012)


  1. The date given here for the move of the congregation to Drexel Hill should be 1956, not 1946. My grandfather, Edward B. Shaw, was the last minister of the Church when it was still on Baring Street, and he retired when the Church moved in 1956. Shortly before this, he presided at my confirmation (rather early for this, since I was only eight or nine, but he wanted to do this for his grandson while he was still serving as minister at Northminster). I hope the mistake on the date can be corrected to avoid confusion for readers.

    Robert B. Shaw

    1. Thanks for the correction. I have corrected the text.