Jenny Lind

By Michael Schreiber

Jenny Lind was the first international superstar of the musical world. The frenzy over her visit to the United States in 1850 even surpassed that of the “British Invasion” of the Beatles a century later. Yet those who met the “Swedish Nightingale” described her as being incredibly modest and generous. She gave large sums of money to charities and the poor, and regularly gave free concerts at Swedish churches in America—including one at Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’ Church) in Queen Village.

Nells Laickan (1666-1721)

Nils Lycon died at ‘Pour Island’ on December 4, 1721 at the age of 55, survived by his wife and six daughters.*

On January 12, 1691. ‘Nicholas Nellson’ asked the Board of Property to replace his meadow north of Philadelphia because it was being drowned by a new mill. Otherwise, however, he was known as Nils Lycon (by its many spellings), the eldest son of Peter Nilsson Lycon. He lived on a tract adjoining Shackamaxon known as ‘Poor Island,’ granted to his father in 1680, surveyed in 1683, and conveyed to him before his father’s death.

Captain Joseph Blewer (1734–1789)

Rev. Carl Magnus Wrangel married Joseph Blewer and Sarah Lindenmeyer at Gloria Dei Church on September 26, 1759.

Joseph Blewer being a ship captain assumed an active role in the War of Independence. In November 1775 Captain Blewer was in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was directed by General George Washington to deliver a letter to John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress. In June1776 Benjamin Franklin and others including Captain Blewer met at Carpenter’s Hall creating the Committee of the City, Council of Safety.

Sarah J. Fosque (1828-1903)

“Mrs. Sarah J. Fosque, aged seventy-five years, died suddenly at the Virginia Home for Incurables Sunday morning about 5 o’clock.  She was subject to heart attacks and this disease as the cause of her demise.  A few moments before she died she rang the bell for a nurse and told her when she came that she wanted the doctor at once.  Before he could get down the steps she was dead.

The remains were shipped yesterday to Philadelphia, where she was born and had a number of relatives.  She married Captain William F. Fosque, of Accomac County, and survived him several years.  She possessed considerable property at the time of her death and was by no means a charity patient at home.  She was a staunch but very liberal minded Episcopalian, frequently, when in better health, attending Methodist camp-meetings and taking great interest in the work of all denominations.  She thought Easter the choicest day on the calendar and this was the day of her death.”

Source: “Obituary.” Richmond Times 14 April 1903: 2. Print.

Reverend John Craig Roak (1898-1989)

John Craig Roak served as Gloria Dei’s rector from 1933 to 1972. Reverend Roak guided his congregation through the end of the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and all but the very end of the United States’ involvement in Viet Nam. Social changes during his tenure at Gloria Dei included the Great Migration of African Americans from the South, the Civil Rights Movement, the rekindled Women’s Movement that began in the 1960’s, President Lyndon Johnson’s experiment with the Great Society, and increasing immigration from “new” parts of the world, especially Southeastern Asia and Latin America.

Reverend Jehu Curtis Clay (1792-1863)

Jehu Curtis Clay served twice as an assistant to Nils Collin, and succeeded him in 1831. Clay was Gloria Dei’s pastor during some of the most difficult times in the history of the United States: the sectional controversy of the 1850’s, and the first years of the Civil War. He also guided the congregation through an era of impressive growth and fundamental change. The sexton’s house and the present rectory were both constructed in the 1830’s. In the 1840’s, the annex churches at Kingsessing and Upper Merion separated from Gloria Dei, and all three joined the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. Gloria Dei was renovated extensively, a necessity for a congregation that outgrew its church building.