VIDEO, PHOTOS & STORY -- Site of former church is the burial place of three Delaware governors, two survivors of the Titanic, a former pilot who set the world altitude record in 1936 and veterans of most of the wars in which America has been involved
State and town leaders joined members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and community residents Sunday for the dedication of the Delaware historic marker at St. Peter’s Cemetery on North Main Street in Smyrna.
Located across the street from Wright Municipal Park, the cemetery is where the church was located from 1762 to 1827, before a new church was built on North Union Street. The cemetery is the burial site of three Delaware governors, a British Air Commodore who set the world altitude record in 1936, two survivors of the sinking of the Titanic and veterans of most of America’s wars.
Among the honored guests at the dedication were U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, state Sen. Bruce Ennis, state Rep. Bill Carson, state Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, Smyrna Mayor John Embert and Clayton Mayor David Letterman.
Master of ceremonies Bob Merrill said the process of obtaining the marker took about two years, with the application process, the records search and deciding the wording on the marker. Merrill led the effort by St. Peter’s Church in applying for the marker, while Ennis and Carson sponsored the state funding.
Katie Hall, director of the state historic marker program for the Delaware Public Archives, said, “Thank you for your persistence, but it’s appropriate the way things worked out that we are doing this during Smyrna’s 250th anniversary.”
Hall said the new marker is one of about 670 throughout the state.
“Each marker tells a piece of Delaware history,” she said.
Merrill said he hopes the marker will bring more attention to the cemetery. The church at the site was dismantled but stones from the old church were used in the new church and in the walls of the family cemetery plot for John Cummins, one of the wealthiest men in the state who donated money for the new church.
The Cummins plot is near the grave of Thomas Collins, who was governor when Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution.
“It’s so nice to have the history of St. Peter’s Church and the people buried in the cemetery remembered today and for generations to come,” said Merrill.
St. Peter’s Rector Donna Jean Kiessling complimented Merrill’s work on the project.
“It’s great to have the marker, as one of many historic sites in Smyrna that have been recognized, and Bob has been wonderful. He loves history and wants it celebrated and remembered,” said Kiessling. “We need to know where we came from to know where we’re going, and I’m very appreciative of Bob’s efforts with this and in all the organizations Bob is involved with in Smyrna.”