Born on October 7, 1732, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, George Duffield was educated at Newark Academy, Delaware, and then at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), graduating in 1752. He studied theology under Dr. Robert Smith of Pequea and served for two years as a tutor in Princeton (1754 - 1756). He married Elizabeth Blair on March 8, 1856. She died in 1757. He remarried on March 5, 1759, to Margaret Armstrong.
He was ordained in September, 1759, and appointed to the Pennsylvania frontier over Presbyterian churches at Carlisle, Big Spring (now Newville) and Monaghan (now Dillsburg). In summer and fall of 1766, Rev. Duffield and the Rev. Charles Clinton Beatty made a missionary tour through the western valleys of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. He provided services to families scattered throughout the region and to establish Churches.
In 1771, he was asked to take the pulpit of the Pine Street (now Third) Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. There was a dispute over his appointment between "Old Side" and "New Lights or New Side," which Duffield espoused. It was resolved and Duffield kept his post.
Duffield served as Pine Street Presbyterian Church pastor from 1772 until his death on Feb. 2, 1790. During the Revolution, Reverend Duffield was appointed the third chaplain of the Continental Congress, serving along with the second chaplain, Anglican William White, Christ Church, Philadelphia. He also served as a chaplain with the Pennsylvania militia.
John Adams, who attended the Pine Street Presbyterian Church while in Philadelphia, called him a man of genius and eloquence. On May 17, 1776, Adams listened to a sermon where Reverend Duffield likened the conduct of George III to the Americans to that of Pharaoh to the Israelites. Duffield concluded that God intended the liberation of the Americans, as He had intended that of the Israelites. Afterwards, Adams wrote to his wife :
" Is it not a saying of Moses, Who am I that I should go in and out before this great people? When I consider the great events which are passed, and those greater which are rapidly advancing, and that I may have been instrumental in touching some springs, and turning some small wheels, which have had and will have such effects, I feel an awe upon my mind, which is not easily described. Great Britain has at last driven America to the last step, complete separation from her; a total, absolute independence. . .. "
Rev. George Duffield received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Yale College in 1785. In 1789, he was elected the first Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly. His published works were, "An Account of a Missionary Tour through Western Pennsylvania, in 1766," by order of the Synod, and a "Thanksgiving Sermon on Peace," December 11, 1783.
Oil on canvas by Charles Peale Polk, 1790
Independence National Historical Park Collection, Philadelphia
The original church, a rectangular brick Georgian structure, was designed by Robert Smith and constructed in 1767/68. It was a one-story building with gables at each end.
In 1837, the church was expanded by the addition of a second floor and new roof
(see drawing below)