James Family Archives


•  Researching the Past

•  Education for the Present

•  Preservation for the Future



James Family Proposal for Radnor United Methodist Church Property

In conjunction with the GAR Museum and Library of Philadelphia




•     Radnor United Methodist Church. (“RUMC”) is located at 930 Conestoga Road, in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania and has been home to a Methodist congregation since the early 1780s. It consists of an historic church sanctuary, built in 1833, and an adjoining structure consisting of meeting rooms, classrooms and a kitchen, one section built in the early 1950s, and an addition dating to the 1980s. In recent years the congregation has dwindled to the point where it is no longer viable. The remaining members of the congregation are concerned to find a way to insure the preservation of the historic character of the building and grounds.


•     The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Civil War Museum and Library. (“GAR Museum”) is located at 4278 Griscom Street, Philadelphia, is the only Civil War museum in the Philadelphia area. The GAR was a veterans’ organization for Union soldiers, with posts in many communities across the north (like today’s VFW Posts). As the last veterans died and posts closed, artifacts and records of dozens of Philadelphia posts were consolidated in the collection now managed by the GAR museum. The museum is currently looking to relocate to a new and more accessible site. Initial contacts indicate interest on the part of the GAR Museum in the RUMC property as a potentially suitable site for its future home. The GAR Museum also strongly prefers to purchase a property, not lease one.


•     The James Family. The (“James Family”) is one of approximately 43 families that founded Radnor Township, Pennsylvania with the migration of David James (circa 1660-1739) & Margaret Jane Mortimer from Radnorshire, Wales in the fall of 1682 with Sir William Penn having arrived at Penns's Landing October 28, 1682 and immediately settling 100 acres of land surrounding the hill upon which Radnor United Methodist Church was constructed. In the Fall of 1777 following General George Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brandywine and the British occupation of Philadelphia the James family homestead in Radnor Township was raided by the British Army and stripped of all worldly possessions as punishment for the family offering up three sons in defense of the new nation including Enoch James (born 1739), Elias James (born 1744) and Daniel James (born 1750). Between this event and the Winter of 1777 while General George Washington wintered the Continental Line at Valley Forge, the James family represented by Evan James (1715-1794) [son of David James and Margaret Mortimer] and Evan’s wife Margaret James made the decision to construct a Methodist Church atop the same hill where there family spent its first winter in 1682/83 residing in a cave. On October 29, 1783, one month following the end of hostilities between the newly formed United States of America and the British Empire Evan James and his wife Margaret formally appeared before Justice Thomas Lewis and conveyed the hill top property to the Methodist Church under the following terms, "for seven shillings a half-acre of ground on which a meeting home was to be built… in which the doctrine of John Wesley as set forth in his four volumes of sermons and in his notes on the New Testament were to be preached and no other.” These provisions were made under the express agreement that should the property ever cease to be used for a Methodist Church, the property would immediately revert back to the possession of the James Family.




•     Historic and Community Significance. The Radnor congregation began in the 1770s, as Methodist preachers began meetings in the home of the James family, who had founded the local community, known as Garrett Hill, in the 1680s. The James family donated land along Conestoga Road for a log church building erected in 1783. Many early Methodist pioneers preached here, including Francis Asbury, first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and Richard Allen, founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Buried in the large, (still-active) cemetery which adjoins the church are founding members of the Methodist Church, many veterans of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, as well as World Wars I and II, in addition to prominent members of the local community. The church property is considered the “anchor” of the Garrett Hill community, and has significance to the African American community, regional and national Methodists, veterans organizations, the James family which spans the entire United States and all interested in preserving sites of historic significance in the Philadelphia region. The church is also used as a polling place, and a community center for various groups.


•     Ownership and Deed Concerns. In the United Methodist Church, local church properties are held in trust for the larger denomination, through a “trust clause” inserted into property deeds. Typically, this means that whenever a church property is sold, approval must be sought by denominational officials, who have final say on the disposition of assets. In the case of Radnor, however, the congregation and its deed pre-dates the formation of the Methodist church, and the deed lacks the trust clause. In fact, the deed stipulates that if the congregation ever ceases, the land is to revert to the descendants of the James family. The James family is aware of this and has been engaged over the years with the preservation of the church and cemetery, and has indicated its willingness to actively participate in the efforts to preserve the property, including fundraising.


•     Property and Maintenance Concerns. A major complication in any sale of the property is the presence of its large cemetery, which would remain the responsibility of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church in perpetuity after the congregation disbands. Annual maintenance costs associated with the cemetery  amount to between $20,000-$25,000, not including restoration costs to damaged or fallen stones. There is also significant work needed on the buildings to do repairs and upgrades to bring it up to code. The Radnor Church has no debt, and the congregation retains an endowment of approximately $800,000.




•     Preservation Fund. Create a preservation fund, consisting of the $800,000 endowment and additional funds raised through supporters of the church preservation effort. This fund would be dedicated to the maintenance and repair of the cemetery and the 1833 church structure. The fund can be managed by a board, which can include seats for various stakeholders (e.g., representatives of the Radnor Historical Society, the Methodist Church, and the James family, GAR Museum, etc.).


•     Sale of Property to GAR Museum. Sell the property to the GAR Museum and Library at a price significantly below market value: 1) as a community service; 2) to facilitate necessary repairs and renovations to the property which would be the responsibility of the GAR; 3) to reflect easements/agreements on the part of the GAR Museum to allow continued use of the property for worship and other community uses. The James Family suggests a price of $250,000.


•     Methodist Church Payment. The purchase price paid by the GAR Museum would be forwarded to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, which would relinquish all claims on the property, avoid potential legal challenges to the deed, and be relieved of any further responsibilities for the maintenance of the cemetery.


•     Methodist Worship Service Easement. As part of the agreement of sale, the GAR Museum and Library would agree in the appropriate legal manner to allow ministers and members of the United Methodist Church and/or its successors and the AME Church to hold occasional or even regular services in the sanctuary, subject to reasonable negotiations over scheduling. The GAR Museum would be asked to allow its facility to be available for occasional community uses including use as a polling place; and would remain open to the James Family for visitation.


Dated: October 21, 2020


Between October 22, 2020 and October 25, 2020 the preceding draft proposal was reviewed and deliberated upon by a quorum of confirmed descendants, members of the James Family whose names appear below. Upon a vote of either yea or nay said members of the James Family did render a unanimous decision adopting the proposal and agreed to forward said proposal to the interested parties identified above.


Kathleen Dooley Wolfe, David Wolfe, Olivia Silva, Sarah Higginbotham, Emily Akers

Edward "Pete" Dooley, Betty Dooley, Steve James, Kimberly A. Sibley, Johnnie James

Connie James, David Curtis, Avery James, Martha Waltman, Dottie Wickham James

Douglas B. Cook, Carolyn Pugh, Larry James, Alice Louise Denson, Nicky James Harris

Gloria Mobley, Seth James, Noah James, Jaine Robinson, Janis Kay Carson Jarvis

Sandra James, Brian James, Rachell James, Toni Lynn James, Wendy James Reigle

Nicoleta Rus-James, Gary James, Beth James, Barbara Crooks James, Royce Donna Lee Lawrence

Lynne James, Steve Brannon, Karen James, Virginia Ann Willhite, Kathy D. James Palmer

Olimpio Arellano, Sean James, Lynda Henry, William Guerreo, Donna Hicks Williams

Marty Rutledge, Shawna Sartin, Scott Williams, Lyndsey Haggard, Lyman Ondus James

William James, David Rees, Bryan James, Wendy James Lovegren, Tami-Jo Boyntn Hallman

Chuck Laymon, Perry James, Jimmy Willhite, Charlene James Newman, Tammy James Smitherman

Mendy James, Jean Powers, Ginger Willhite


The unanimous decision having been made, it is hereby resolved that the above proposal be

submitted for consideration to the interested parties identified within the proposal.


Dated: October 28, 2020