By Rev. Percy R. Stockman
The following is an excerpt of a biography written by Rev. Percy R. Stockman to honor the long and devoted service of Rev. Snyder B. Simes and his wife Eleanor Richard Simes to Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church. It was published in a special edition of the church bulletin on December 8, 1918.
Mr. Simes’ maternal grandfather was John Binns, an Irish patriot, whose zeal led to his incarceration in the Tower of London, followed by being sent in exile from England and the Colonies. He came to America in 1798, settling near York, Pa., and removing to Philadelphia in 1802. He became a prominent jurist and served as alderman of the city. He was the political sponsor of Governor Simon Snyder, of Pennsylvania, and one of his sons was named Simon Snyder Binns. His youngest daughter, Matilda, married John W. Simes, Jr., and became the mother of Snyder Binns Simes.
On his father’s side, Mr. Simes’ grandmother was Mary Forman, whose brother, General Forman, was in command of the Colonial Army in the Battle of Germantown.
Born November 17, 1842, Mr. Simes grew up in the atmosphere of old-fashioned Philadelphia, and was a noble example of its intellectual, conservative and refined spirit. He was educated in the public schools of the city and graduated from the Central High School on February 16, 1860.
He was a member of the Moravian Church from childhood, and attended Moravian College at Bethlehem, Pa., with a view to entering the ministry; but objecting to the form of government of that body, he withdrew and joined the Protestant Episcopal Church. He entered the Seminary at Princeton in 1862, and remained there until 1864. In the meantime the Philadelphia Divinity School of the Protestant Episcopal Church was founded and he took the last year of his course there.
Mr. Simes was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Stevens, of Pennsylvania, in Epiphany Church, at Fifteenth and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, June 23, 1865. As the assistant of the noted Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, the Rev. Richard Newton, Mr. Simes began his ministry. On January 14, 1867, in the Epiphany Church, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Vail, of Kansas.
Eleanor Richards Simes was the second daughter of Samuel Simes, brother of John W. Simes, Jr., and a prominent Philadelphia druggist, whose place of business for many years was at the N.W. corner of Twelfth and Chestnut Streets. From earliest childhood she was associated with the Church of the Covenant, which at that time was located on Filbert Street above Seventeenth. For many years she had a large infant class in the Sunday School there, which she taught until her marriage. It was said of her that she showed remarkable judgment and tact as a young woman, which characteristics remained throughout her life. One of her family describes her “as a sister, loving, patient, thoughtful, true as gold, untiring and discreet.”
Mr. and Mrs. Simes were married in the Church of the Epiphany, by Doctor Newton, on Tuesday, December 8, 1868, and five days later Mr. Simes preached his first sermon as the Rector of Gloria Dei Church.
An Evangelical Churchman
As a preacher Mr. Simes was direct, devotional, simple and evangelical. His services were orderly and appropriate to the atmosphere of the Church. He was one of the last of the distinguished group of Philadelphia clergymen, who could be described as “low Church gentlemen of the old school.” He always observed the custom of preaching in the black gown of an earlier period. A clerical friend wrote of him in an obituary notice, “Mr. Simes was rarely, if ever, absent from his pulpit. His sermons were clear forceful and helpful. No one could attend the Church services and listen to his pure Gospel teaching without being spiritually benefited, and feeling that ‘it was good for him to have been there.’ ” In the early years of his ministry he instituted many special services which became very popular and the means of drawing large numbers to the Church.
A Most Notable Rectorship
As a period of the history of Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Church, Wicaco, which stands out preeminently for its contribution to the development and prosperity of the Church, the Rectorship of Mr. Simes holds a unique place in the record of the Church’s ministry. As the fifteenth Rector of the Parish, whose forty-seven years in that office cover a longer span than that of any of his predecessors, and as the Superintendent of its Sunday Schools, Mr. Simes served with marked results both spiritual and material. His wife and close companion in all good works, Eleanor Richards Simes, was a leader in all the Church work of that period, and the teacher of some of its notable Bible Classes. Jointly, they were the spiritual guides and guardians of more than a generation of affectionate parishioners, children of the Church, and followers of the faith personified in them.
On the 50th Memorial anniversary of his first service at Gloria Dei, some members of the congregation vividly recalled meeting Mr. and Mrs. Simes for the first time and worshipping under his leadership. They were remembered as a handsome couple, gracious and kindly, of distinguished presence and winning personality. Mr. Simes was of large physique, but not overly strong.
Placing Mr. Simes along with Doctor Collin and Doctor Clay as the three outstanding Rectors of Gloria Dei, the Rev. Herbert J. Cook wrote the following poem as a tribute to Mr. Simes on the forty-first anniversary of his rectorship:
Two centuries these temple walls have stood
‘Mid busy haunts of men, and moss-grown graves
Six generations here have had the Food
Of Christ, and heard the Gospel pure, that saves
The soul, and helps men live the life of love.
Three pastors true, for well-nigh six score years,
Have walked with God, and taught of things above,
And shared, with all alike, their smiles or tears.
Three voices sweet have led in Prayer and Praise,
Three hands have broken here the Bread of Life,
And three, have guided souls in Heavenly ways.
In peace and quiet, far from worldly strife,
Still leading on thy Flock, through grace, aright;
For thee, “At evening time it shall be Light.”
After Labor, Rest
On June 13, 1915, Mr. Simes bade the congregation farewell for the summer, and preached on the text, “The Lord Watch Between Thee and Me, When We Are Absent One from Another,” Gen. 31: 49; remarking that this had been suggested to him by a verse recited by a member of the Infant School the previous Sunday. While spending the summer at Falmouth, Mass., he was taken suddenly ill and died on the eighteenth of July.
The funeral services were held in the Church, on Wednesday the 21st, both Bishops of the Diocese attending and a large number of the clergy, besides a congregation of friends and parishioners that more than filled the edifice.
Mrs. Simes remained at the Rectory during the winter of 1915-16, faithfully helping to keep the congregation together and participating with the Church Wardens and the lay reader in directing the Parish work. Upon the installation of Mr. Simes’ successor, in the fall of 1916, Mrs. Simes went to California for the winter, seeking rest and health. She returned in the Spring, identifying herself once more with all the Church interests, and was a most faithful attendant at the services. Her frail and failing physique could not thwart the spirit of earnestness and devotion which was so characteristic of her. In February, 1918, her health rapidly gave way, and her death came quietly on the twenty-first.
Funeral services were held in Gloria Dei Church on the afternoon of the twenty-sixth. Interment was made in the same plot where Mr. Simes had been buried, in the Churchyard. One stone cross marks their common grave; bearing witness that, in death, as in life, they are as one.
“By their fruits ye shall know them,” said our Blessed Lord. Of Mr. and Mrs. Simes it may be said that they were both possessed of a devout spirit, leading to conscientious service; a sound mind, giving wise counsels; and a wholesome affection, which inspired confidence and loyalty.
Rev. Snyder Binns Simes
Nov. 17, 1842 - July 18, 1915
Rector of Gloria Dei Church
Eleanor Richard Simes
June 24, 1842 - Feb. 21, 1912
Rev. Snyder B. Simes
In Quietness and Confidence
Shall Be Your Strength
Always Abounding in
The Work of the Lord
Note: inventory details pertain to the marker in the churchyard only.
Type of Marker: Other
Date of Marker (estimate): 1915
Issues: Biogrowth, soiling
Recommended Treatment: Cleaning w/biocide
Historic Integrity: Intact
Structural Integrity: Excellent
Material Integrity: Excellent
Legible Inscription: Excellent
Inventory Number: 137
Historic Number: 345
Cemetery Section: 5
Marker Height /Length (in): 72
Marker Width (in): 33
Marker Thickness/Depth (in): 33