Copyright © 2011-2016 John N. Lupia III

Watkinson, Rev. Mark Richards (1824-1877), born October 24, 1824 in Camden, New Jersey. He married Sarah E. Griffith (1832-) and they had a son Mark W. Watkinson (1863-).

His seminary training was at the University of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, later named Bucknell University, and then at the Columbian College, now George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. In October 1850 he first served at the First Particular Baptist Church in Ridley or Ridleyville, Pennsylvania. On June 10, 1852 he was ordained a Baptist minister at Ridley, Pennsylvania. He started Broadway Baptist Church. He was the minister at The Old Baptist Meeting House also called the First Particular Baptist Church, Ridley, Pennsylvania (now Prospect Park, Delaware County, Pennsylvania). Later in 1872, Ridley was established as Ridley Park, and later on in 1887 changed to Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. (This church has been modernized and enlarged, and is now Prospect Hill Baptist Church, Seventh & Lincoln Avenues, Prospect Park, Pennsylvania.)

The Rev. Watkinson left the church in 1853 to take up service as the pastor of the Schuylkill Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he remained until 1861 to serve as pastor at the First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, but soon left at the outbreak of the Civil War returning to Ridleyville in June 1861 where he remained until 1864. At last he was elected as pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church (Maryland) built in 1873 by Mrs. Mary A. Dodge. He died on September 26, 1877, at the age of 52, and is buried in the Pemberton Baptist Cemetery, Pemberton, Burlington County, New Jersey.

On November 13, 1861 he wrote to Secretary of the Treasury, Samuel P. Chase the following :

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

As a result of Rev. Watkins’ letter we find that in the following week Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, then the Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition.

According to the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, Congressional authority regulated and prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States. Accordingly the United States Mint could not make changes without the consent and enactment of law by Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for a new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either OUR COUNTRY, OUR GOD or GOD, OUR TRUST should appear as the motto on the coins. In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:

I approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on that with the Washington obverse the motto should begin with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST.

Congress passed the Coinage Act (1864) on April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. In God We Trust first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

Bibliography :

American Baptist Register, for 1852, page 412

George F. Adams, History of Baptist Churches in Maryland Connected with the Maryland Baptist Union Association (Baltimore, Maryland : J. F. Weishampel, Jr., 1885) : 184