Do you remember the 2004 film National Treasure? Among the scenes set in Philadelphia is one in which Benjamin Gates (played by Nicholas Cage) is pursued by the henchmen of Ian Howe (Sean Bean) through an old graveyard. That cemetery belongs to the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, a place of great importance within American Presbyterianism. It was also known as the “Church of the Patriots.” Dating to 1768, the church is the only remaining Presbyterian building that predates the American War of Independence.
The movie was filmed here over several days, and the church highlights this history.
So many civil and ecclesiastical luminaries were laid to rest in this cemetery. The list includes William Hurry (1721-1781), who rang the Liberty Bell when the Declaration of Independence was read publicly on July 4, 1776; Jared Ingersoll (1749-1822), who signed the U.S. Constitutions; and others who served in the Continental Congress, fought in the War of Independence, and contributed in other ways to American society.
At least seven authors at Log College Press are buried here, including George Duffield II (1732-1790), Moses Hoge (1752-1820), John Blair Smith (1756-1799), John Ewing (1732-1802), Stephen Henry Gloucester (1802-1850), Thomas Brainerd (1804-1866), and Hughes Oliphant Gibbons (1843-1910). Duffield, who served as pastor of Old Pine from 1772-1790 and as chaplain to the Continental Congress, is further commemorated with a distinctive sculpture at the cemetery.
Archibald Alexander once served as pastor of Old Pine.
A run through the cemetery by Nicholas Cage may inspire lovers of American Presbyterian history to take a walk through this church and its graveyard where history does indeed seem to come to life. Just around the corner, moreover, is the Presbyterian Historical Society, where statues honoring American Presbyterian heroes of the faith reside. One special city block in Philadelphia is a place that Presbyterian historians will cherish and appreciate long after Benjamin Gates escapes with his life. It is a National Treasure.