Who Were the Duffields?

by Richard Tritt


The Duffield name is one that is often heard in conjunction with First Presbyterian Church.  The family was very important to the early history of our congregation.  Just who were these Duffields and what did they do?


The first Duffield associated with Carlisle was George Duffield (1732-1790).  Born in Lancaster County, young Duffield came to Carlisle in 1757 and infiltrated the congregation at Meeting House Springs.  He moved the New Side faction of the parish to Carlisle where they met in a frame meeting house at Hanover and Pomfret Streets.  He served as their minister from 1759 to 1772.  At the same time he also served the churches at Big Spring (Newville) and Monaghan (Dillsburg). He is remembered as an ardent, animated and popular preacher.  He married Margaret Armstrong, a sister of General John Armstrong of Revolutionary fame, who was an elder in Duffield’s church. From the fall of 1772 until his death in 1790, he had an historic pastorate at the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.  During the American Revolution, he served as a chaplain of the Continental Congress and was so obnoxious toward the English that they put a price on his head. 


George Duffield II (1794-1868) was a grandson of the first George Duffield.  He was also raised in Lancaster County.  At the age of 21, he visited Carlisle and was prevailed upon to supply the vacant pulpit at First Presbyterian. Dr. Davidson had died three years before.  He saw a divided and embittered congregation.  They were so pleased with his preaching that they extended him a call.  He was ordained and installed in September of 1816.  He served the congregation for 18 years, gathering into his church 720 members by profession and 182 by certificate.  In 1816 he organized a Sabbath school, the first in the region.  It was intended for those children whose religious education was neglected at home.  From Carlisle he moved to the First Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan.  He served there until his death at the age of 73. 


George Duffield II returned to Carlisle on several occasions after his tenure at First Presbyterian.  He was the principal speaker in July of 1857 for the centennial of the Stone Meeting House.  His historical address was titled “One Hundred Years Ago.”  His son, Rev. George Duffield, Jr., was also present at the celebration.  Another son, D. Bethune Duffield (1821-1891), wrote a Commemoration Hymn that was sung at the centennial celebration.  He was a poet and attorney who lived in Detroit.


George Duffield, Jr. (1818-1888) was raised in Carlisle, a son of the First Presbyterian Church who became an ordained Presbyterian minister, serving in Philadelphia.  He wrote the words to the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”  The text was written in 1858 as a tribute to an associate, a young evangelist who was killed in an accident.  The text was set to a hymn tune, became popular and was sung by both sides during the Civil War.  George had a son Samuel who was also a Presbyterian minister and hymnologist.


The Duffields returned to Carlisle one final time in May of 1868.  This time there were three clergymen, Rev. George Duffield, Sr., Rev. George Duffield, Jr., and Rev. Samuel Duffield, father, son and grandson.  The morning sermon was delivered by George, Sr.  It was described in the Carlisle Herald as “of unusual length…eloquent and impressive.” During his delivery, many in the congregation “melted in tears” and appeared to be deeply affected.  “It was indeed a touching scene to hear the sobs and see the tears of gray-haired men and women, many of whom he had baptized and admitted to church membership, as they listened to the words of their spiritual father.”  It was a memorable day as the congregation of First Presbyterian Church said their final farewell to the Duffields, a family that played such a large role in the early history of the church.