Thomas Wharton

The bronze plaque located at the Duke Street entrance into the church, as well as a weathered marble stone located in the exterior west wall, indicate that Thomas Wharton Jr. is buried at the church. Who was he and what is his significance?

Thomas Wharton Jr. was born in Chester County, PA in 1735. He was born into one of Philadelphia’s most prominent early Quaker families. The Wharton family was involved in various areas of business and service, including shipbuilding for the Continental Navy. Members of the Wharton family served in the Continental Congress and the State Legislature, as Mayor of Philadelphia and on City Council, and in positions of military leadership. In 1762 Wharton married Susannah Lloyd at Christ Church (Anglican), and thus they were disowned by the Quakers of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Friends. They had five children, but Susannah died ten years later. Wharton then married Elizabeth Fishbourne, and with her had three more children.

Thomas Wharton became a merchant and was well established for his character as well as his business acumen. Following the passage of the 1765 Stamp Act, Wharton became an early and resolute supporter of the American cause. After news of Britain’s closure of Boston Harbor reached Philadelphia, a public meeting was held on 20 May 1774 at which Wharton was chosen as a member of the Committee on Correspondence. Later that year Wharton became one of twenty-five citizens who formed the Committee on Safety, which was Pennsylvania’s governing body in the early days of the Revolution. Two years later he became President of that body. As such he was a member of the committee directing that a new Constitution be drafted for the state, and on 28 September 1776, Pennsylvania did adopt a new State Constitution. This document created an Executive Council of twelve men. On a joint ballot of the Council and the General Assembly, Wharton was elected the first President of the Supreme Executive Council, a position analogous to the modern office of Governor.


Pennsylvania State Constitution, adopted September 28, 1776

In September 1777, with British forces poised to take Philadelphia, the Executive Council evacuated to Lancaster. It was at this same time that the Continental Congress also evacuated to Lancaster and then to York. In May 1778, with the Council still in Lancaster, Wharton died at the age of 43. He was given an elaborate funeral with full military honors, in accordance with his position as Commander in Chief of the State’s forces, and was buried beneath the floor where our pulpit was once located. (That location was in the center of the east wall.) Wharton had not chosen to become a Lutheran, but rather Trinity was the only church to offer to take his remains.


Wharton’s plaque, outside of the Duke Street entrance to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Lloyd E. Bull, Property Committee Chairperson  

This material taken from Wikipedia and other sources.