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TOWN HOUSE OF NICHOLAS WALN, 254 SOUTH SECOND STREET
STOCKER HOUSE, 402 SOUTH FRONT STREET (CENTRE) BISHOP WIITE HOUSE 400 SOUTH FRONT STREET (TO RIGHT)
the whole church resound with his strong, deep and grave tones.” After the Revolution, when there was a ripple of improvement in the general musical situation in the new-born Republic, the efforts of church musicians to raise the standard were apparently not looked upon with favour. Joseph Fry, or his successors, did not “make a cheerful noise before the Lord” to the taste of the congregation, for in 1785 the vestry passed a resolution that the clerks be desired to sing such tunes only as are plain and familiar to the congregation; the singing of other tunes, and frequent changing of tunes, being to the certain knowledge of this vestry, generally disagreeable and inconvenient.”
Music of another kind, the music of the bells, seems to have been more to the popular liking. The bells were always being pealed, so that the German traveller, Doctor Schoepf, said that you would think you were in a papal or imperial city--there was always something to be rung. From the time that the “ring of bells”—the first in the Colonies—was first hung, their metal throats were busy proclaiming all sorts of things from the anniversaries of King Charles's Restoration, Guy Fawkes's Day, and the King's birthday, down to bi-weekly markets or the arrival in the Delaware of the Myrtilla, Captain Budden's ship, in which the peal had been brought out from London.
While Philadelphia was the seat of the Republican Court, the grandeur of Christ Church congregation was increased. The arrival of the worshippers in damasks and brocades, velvet breeches and silk stockings, powdered hair and periwigs, was a sight to see. Some came afoot, others drove in chairs or clattered up in cumbrous, awe
some coaches, with two or four horses, while Washington's equipage, drawn by six cream-coloured steeds, added the final touch to the imposing spectacle.
But apart from all this state and pomp, there was the humbler side of church life. There were the Sunday afternoon catechisings when the good Bishop heard the children of the congregation and their servants and apprentices” repeat their “duty towards God” and their
duty towards their neighbour,” and expounded to them such things as a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health. Not long ago there were gentlemen still living who remembered that, as children, they had to stand in the aisle at St. Peter's and repeat their catechism to the venerable white-haired bishop.
The public career of Bishop White is so well known that it would be carrying coals to Newcastle to dwell on the subject. His private life, however, is not so familiar to most and it forms a valuable commentary on the ways of the time in which he lived. As might be expected, the Bishop took a lively interest in everything concerning civic life. One instance of this was his active membership in the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company, one of those useful volunteer organisations that did such yeoman service in the preservation of property before the formation of a regular fire department.
On occasion of fire, the members, who were pledged to the common service and served without reward, rushed to the scene of conflagration, dragging the engine and hose-cart by ropes. The engine was pumped by hand. Those who were not pumping or playing the hose busied themselves carrying the leathern buckets, six of which
each member bound himself to keep in his house. These old buckets and the fire-hats belonging to the members of the several companies are now held in high esteem as honoured relics in the families of their descendants. Among Bishop White's fellow-members in the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company, at one time or another, were Andrew Hamilton, Provost Smith, Francis Hopkinson, Benjamin Chew, the Reverend Richard Peters, the uncle of Judge Peters, Jared Ingersoll, John Cadwalader, and Samuel Powel. The rolls of other fire companies bore names quite as distinguished. Hand engines and hose-carts were kept at various convenient places. For a time some of the apparatus was housed in the lower part of the old market-house at Second and Pine Streets.
A glimpse of a still more intimate phase of the Bishop's character we get from an interesting account of his earlier life, long before he appeared in any public capacity, left by a lady slightly the prelate's senior, who had been his constant playmate from early childhood.
Billy White was born a bishop. I never could persuade him to play anything but church. He would tie his own or my apron around his neck for a gown and stand before a low chair which he called his pulpit; I, seated before him on a little bench, was the congregation, and he always preached to me about being good. One day I heard him crying and saw the nurse running into the street, calling him to come back and be dressed. He refused, saying “I do not want to go to dancing-school, and I won't be dressed, for I don't think it is good to learn to dance." And that was the only time I ever knew Billy White to be a naughty boy.