|History of the Early Settlement and Progress of Cumberland County By L. Q. C. Elmer - Chapter 5|
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THE first organized church in this region of which there is any authentic record was the old Cohansey Baptist Church, although it is believed the Cohansey Presbyterian Church in Fairfield was cotemporaneous, if not earlier. Many Baptists and Presbyterians came into the county together from New England and Long Island. Morgan Edwards, who was from Wales; and is mentioned in Sabine's History of the American Royalists, published a History of the New Jersey Baptists in 1789, which is now a rare book. He states that "about the year 1683, some Baptists from Tipperary, Ireland, settled in the neighborhood of Cohansey; in 1685, arrived Obadiah Holmes, from Rhode Island. About this time Thomas Killingsworth settled not far off, which increased the number to nine souls, and probably as many more including the sisters; the above nine, with Killingsworth, formed a church in the spring of 1690. The Baptist church from which it sprung in Tipperary, called Cloughkatier, was flourishing in 1767 when I visited it."* -
"In 1710 the Rev. Timothy Brooks, and his company, united with this church; they had emigrated hither from Massachusetts, about 1687, and had kept a separate society for 23 years, on account of difference in opinion relative to predestination, singing psalms, laying on hands, &c." He continued to be the pastor until his death in 1716. As early as 1702 he purchased 107 acres of land at Bowentown, comprising the farm on which the brick house on the hill stands, which was afterwards conveyed to the trustees of the Cohansey Baptist Church, and held as their parsonage until 1786, when it was sold to David Bowen, and was for several years the residence and property of Ebenezer Elmer. It is said there was a meeting-house, erected and occupied by Brooks' society,
*Rev. Mr. Wright, in his recent historical sketch of the Roadstown Baptist Church, says Cloughketin (as he spells it) Church was still in existence in 1838.
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opposite the parsonage, which stood a few rods south of the road, about forty rods west of the brick house, and was still in use within the writer's memory.
In 1711 Edwards says, the society put up a building on the lot afterwards occupied, a little east of Sheppard's mill, South Hopewell. It is supposed, however, that this is a mistake. The Baptists about this time built a log house in that part of Fairfield called Back-Neck, the graveyard attached to which is still visible, and it is most probable that this is the house he refers to, for he says the title proved defective and the tradition is that there was no little difficulty in fixing upon the proper location in 1741.
At this time a new wooden church building was erected on the ground south of the road leading east from Sheppard's mill, where the old, graveyard still remains. One of the stones has on it this inscription. "In memory of Deborah Sweeney, who departed this life the 4th day of April, 1760, in the 77th year of her age. She was the first white female child born in Cohansey." Edwards says, this house was 32 by 36 feet and "had a stove." By this is meant that it had a stove when he wrote- in 1789, and this was so unusual as to claim special mention. Very few churches in this region, were warmed with fires until after the commencement of the present century, and they were not then introduced without much opposition from old people, who thought them needless, if not dangerous. For many years a stove was not to be had; and open fireplaces, which were alone used in dwellings, were not suitable for a church. After stoves were introduced, so long as wood continued to be burned, that is to say until about twenty or twenty-five years since, they did not comfortably warm the buildings, it being common for females to have footstoves in their seats. It is also to be noticed that most of the early churches were built near to running streams, for the purpose of enabling those who attended to procure water for themselves and their horses. It was common for the minister to hold two services on the Sunday, with an intermission of an hour or half hour; a practice which was continued at Fairfield within the memory of the writer. The old frame house remained until after 1804, about which time the new brick church was erected at Roadstown, to which the congregation removed.
Brooks was succeeded by William Butcher, who died in 1724, and was succeeded by Nathai'nkins from 1730 to 1754. Robert Kelsay, from Ireland, came to Cohansey in 1738, became a Baptist
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in 1741, and pastor in 1756, dying in 1789. He frequently, if not statedly, preached in the court-house at Cohansey Bridge, where there was no organized church of any denomination until forty-five years after it became the county town. Henry Smalley succeeded him and died in 1839. The particulars of the various churches in the county it is not proposed to continue longer than during the first years of the present century. This church consists now of 288 members.
Edwards states in his history that "Mr. Wrightman, one of their ministers, was invited to preach at Fairfield in 1714, but forgettig his situation, he talked away as if he had been in a Baptist pulpit, and eight Presbyterians joined the society." But in a note he adds, "Since I have been informed but four joined Baptists, the other four were baptized to ease a scrupulous conscience, and then returned to their own church." Those were days. of controversy. He says, "In 1742 a great stir in Cape May; but some one of the party converts joining the other party, caused a howling among the losing shepherds and issued in a public challenge. Mr. Morgan accepted; his antagonist was Rev. Mr. Finley. The contest ended as usual in a double triumph; but two things happened to mar the glory of the day. One was a remark that a stander-by (Mr. Leeman) was heard to make. He was a deist, and therefore a disinterested person. He said, "The littleman (Finley) is thrown down, and his antagonist will not let him rise for another tussle." Both parties published their discourses.
Among the members of the old 'Fairfield congregation was Nathan Lawrence (or as he spelled his name, Lorrance), who was a large property owner at Cedarville, on the southern side of Cedar Creek. He became a Baptist, and was perhaps one of Wrightman's converts in 1714, and was so zealous in propagating his new faith as frequently to journey with the ministers to Cape May and other places. He erected a meeting-house on his own land, where the Baptist meeting-house now stands, a little south of the schoolhouse. Dying early in 1745, he, by his will, dated November 23, 1744, left to his two sons, Jonathan and Nathan, and three daughters, several tracts of land and other property, and to his daughter Abigail Elmer (the writer's grandmother) "all that messuage called Flying Point, except one acre where the Baptist meeting-house now standeth, where the Baptist members that liveth on the south side of Cohansey Creek shall think fit to take it, to her or her heirs
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forever by her present husband, Daniel Elmer;" they to pay a certain sum to two of his daughters and complying with what shall be hereafter enjoined. "I also lay and enjoin a penalty on all or any of my afore-mentioned children, whereby they, any one or more, shall forfeit all their lands above mentioned, to their other brothers and sisters, to be equally divided between them, or pay ten pounds current money, amongst their brothers and sisters, for every time that any of them shall be convicted, or that it shall be made to appear by any one or more of them, that any one has agreed or. obliged him or herself to pay, or has paid any sum of money, or any consideration whatsoever, toward supporting or maintaining minister or congregation of those called Presbyterians, direct or indirect."
This part of the will, however, appears to have been treated by all concerned as more brutem fuimen, and disregarded. The daughter and husband were, or soon became, member of the Presbyterian church, and the other children supporters of it. The testator was buried in the ground annexed to the meeting-house, where his tombstone was formerly to be seen; but his two sons were buried in the old Cohansey graveyard, on the river side, at New England Town. The meeting-house does not appear to have been used by the Baptists, who were either ignorant of the will, or preferred to concentrate their support on the new house recently erected in lower Hopewell. During many years after this, those living south of the Cohansey were accustomed to cross that river at a place something more than a mile above Greenwich, which was long known as the Baptist Landing.
The house at Cedarville appears to have been possessed by Daniel Elmer during his life, and after the split in the Presbyterian church, it was said was frequently used by preachers of the new light side, and among others, by the celebrated Whitfield, in 1748. It was removed by Timothy Elmer, son of Daniel, and converted into a barn on his property below the tavern of Cedarville, prior to 1780. The lot s afterwards, about 1828, sold under the Elmer title, although then claimed by the Baptists, who soon purchased it, and erected on it the house now in use.
A descendant of the Rev. Mr. Brooks, who states that he had been a member of the church thirty two years, and a deacon twelve, had a bitter controversy in the year 1765 with Jonathan Bowen, father of Jonathan Bowen, afterwards of Bridgeton, who
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was also a prominent member of the church, which involved in it the pastor, Mr. Kelsey, whose daughter had married a son of Mr. Bowen. This resulted in the expulsion of Mr. Brooks from the church communion, and caused him to print, "A plowman's complaint against a clergy than, being a letter to the Baptist Association of Philadelphia." The pamphlet exhibits a sad want of temper, and shows that the prevalent habit of freely indulging in the use of strong drink, which in those days occasioned much scandal in all the churches, had much to do with it. The dispute grew in part out of a controversy about a lot claimed to belong to the parsonage, at the southwest corner of Bowentown Cross-roads. Mr. Kelsey, it appears at length, preached a sermon, taking as his text the 17th and 18th verses of the 16th chapter of Romans. This was of course very offensive to the deacon, who proclaimed before he left the house, and repeated it in his pamphlet, that he wished the minister to preach Christ crucified, and not Jonathan Bowen crucified.
Edwards says that in 1716 several of the Baptists embraced the sentiments of the Sabbatarians, who insisted that the seventh day Sabbath was of perpetual obligation. This led to the establishment of the Shiloh Seventh Day Baptist Church about the year 1736. The founders were John Sweeney, Dr. Elijah Bowen, John Jarman, Rev. Jonathan Davis, Caleb Ayres, and others. About the year 1790 a considerable number embraced the Universalist sentiments of Winchester, some of whom became in fact deists, whereby the society was much disturbed and troubled. This difficulty has now passed away, and the society, as well as the town itself, surrounded by fertile land, has greatly improved. Their tenets are believed to be the same as those of the regular Calvinistic Baptists, with the exception of that relating to the observance of the Sabbath. At their first organization they erected a wooden meeting-house, which, about the year 1761, was superseded by the o brick building still standing on their burial-ground lot. This latter was in its turn superseded in 1854 by the present neat edifice of brick, a little nearer to the town than the old one. They have also a neat and commodious school-house of two stories, in which a good school is maintained.
An offset from this church has a building, not very distant, just within the limits of Salem County.
A regular Baptist Church was formed at Dividing Creek, in
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Downe Township, by members of the old Cohansey Church in the year 1761, and still continues to flourish, having now 222 members.
There were also for many years a church called the West Creek Baptist Church, a little west 'of the boundary between Cumberland and Cape May. The old meeting-house is still standing, but does not appear now to be used.
The Baptist church in Bridgeton, known as the Second Cohansey, was erected by the old Cohansey Church in 1816, during the pastorate of Mr. Smalley, and continued to worship in connection with them until 1828, when they were constituted a separate church, and the Rev. George Spratt was chosen their pastor. In 1857 they erected a new and larger building on the north side of Commerce Street. Their members now number 348.
Another offset from the old Cohansey is the church at Greenwich, which erected a neat edifice on the north side of the main street in 1844. They were constituted a separate church in 1850, and now number 115 members.
A church was constituted at Cedarville in 1836, and numbers now 114 members.
Millville Church was constituted in 1842, and has 44 members. That at Newport was constituted in 1852, and numbers 147 members. The aggregate number of members in all the regular Baptist churches of the county is 1218.
In 1863 a Baptist church was constituted in Vineland, and a meeting-house erected. In 1868 the old Second Cohansey Baptist meeting-house on Pearl Street, Bridgeton, was enlarged, and a new church constituted, which is now (1869) very flourishing.
No records or documents remain from which it can be ascertained when the "Cohansey Church" of Fairfield was first established, although there can be but little doubt that it was not later than 1690. At first it was like the churches of Connecticut, independent. The Presbytery of Philadelphia, with which it became united in 1708, was first established in 1705. Before this time a log meeting-house had been erected at the place known as New England Town Cross Roads, probably on the lot situate on the south bank* of the Cohansey, where the old graveyard still remains.
The first minister known to have preached here was the Rev. Thomas Bridges, belonging to a family of considerable importance
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in England, who graduated at Harvard College, and, after being engaged in mercantile pursuits, went to England, and returned to Boston in 1682, with testimonials from John Owen and other eminent Dissenters. He appears to have preached for some time in the West Indies. About the year 1695-be came to Cohansey, and located several tracts of land. How long he preached at Fairfield is uncertain; but he is said to have been called from there in 1702, to be the colleague of Mr. Bradstreet in Boston, where he died in 1715, at the age of fifty-eight. Whether any one succeeded Bridges before 1708 is unknown. Early in that year, at the instance of his college classmate, Jedediah Andrews, who came to Philadelphia in 1698, and became the pastor of the first Presbyterian church there, being ordained in 1701, Joseph Smith, a graduate of Harvard, who had been licensed as a preacher, came to Cohansey. Andrews wrote to him that they were "the best people of his neighborhood." Smith met the Presbytery in May, 1708, and was ordained and installed in May, 1709; but, complaining of negligence in making up his support, he soon returned to New England.
In 1710 Samuel Exell came to Cohansey, but in 1711 the Presbytery wrote to the people that, "by the best account they had of him, they judged him not a suitable person to preside in the work of the ministry." In 1712, John Ogden represented the church in the Presbytery as an elder, and by him a petition was sent o which no answer was returned. In 1713 Ephraim Sayre appeared as elder, and asked advice about the choice of a minister. They sent Howell Powell, who had been ordained in Wales, and he was installed pastor, continuing until 1717, when he died, leaving descendants still maintaining a respectable position in the county.
About this time, or perhaps sooner, the old log meeting-house was superseded by a comfortable frame building, covered on the sides, as well as the roof, with what in this country are called shingles. It stood on the southeast corner of the old graveyard, and was furnished only with benches, upon which the audience sat. About the year. 1775 it became so dilapidated as to be unsafe to preach in, and the benches were taken out, and placed under a large white-oak tree at the corner of the lot, which has been cut down; and there, in good weather, the pastor preached. Old inhabitants of Fairfield have said, and probably with truth, that no person ever rode to this church in a wheeled vehicle. It was not
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until 1780 that the "old stone church," now in its turn deserted, was fit to preach in.
Henry Hook, from Ireland, came to Cohansey in 1718, and was installed pastor. During his time there was a congregation at Greenwich, to which it would seem that he ministered. In April, 1722, Andrews writing to Mather, says: "The week before last, by the pressing importunity of the minister of Cohansey, I went thither to heal some differences between the two congregations there, which being effected contrary to expectation, such charges were laid against him as have subverted him from acting there or anywhere else." He removed to Delaware, and the New Castle Presbytery met at Cohansey to investigate the case. The judgment was, that though several things were not proven, yet it was due to rebuke him openly in Fairfield meeting-house, and to suspend him for a season. Noyes Parris, a graduate of Harvard, preached to the congregation from 1724 to 1729, when having fallen under serious imputations, he in a disorderly manner withdrew to New England.
In 1729 Rev. Daniel Elmer came from Connecticut, and was ordained and installed the pastor. His, wife, and the wife of Joseph Smith, who had been settled here a short time twenty years before, were connections of the Parsons family, so that it is probable Elmer was sent here by Smith. He was a graduate of Yale College, and bad for some time taught a grammar school at West Springfield. He found the title of the property at New England Town in a very unsatisfactory situation. He, however, soon built himself a comfortable house, near the meeting-house, which was burned down shortly before his death. The church records were then destroyed. He cultivated the farm adjoining, and it is believed was sometimes employed as a surveyor, a business to which his eldest son Daniel was educated, and which he followed until his death.
In the year 1741 the great schism occurred in the Presbyterian body, by which it was separated into two parties, called old-lights and new-lights, Mr. Elmer adhering to the old-lights. Whitfield preached in 1740 at Greenwich, and produced a powerful effect on many of his hearers, including the younger Daniel Elmer, who was then married and lived €at Cedarville. He joined the new side, and was accustomed, for several years, to pass by his father's meetinghouse, and go to Greenwich, which had a new-light minister. When the meeting-house near his residence, built by his
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father-in-law Lorrance, came into his possession, he was in the habit of having the prominent new-lights preach there; and among them, the tradition always has been, Whitfield. This must have been during his second visit to this country, about 1747-8. It is certain that the breach went so far, that his children, born in 1750 and 1752, were baptized by Mr. Hunter, and not by his father, as the older ones had been. The writer heard from his father, that upon one occasion, when his son was present, the father preached on the subject of the schism, and became so pointed in his remarks that Daniel left the house. His father, seeing this movement, directed one of his elders to go out, and require him, in God's name, to return. He refused to obey the summons, and upon the elder being asked if he had summoned him in God's name, he replied, no; that he did not see that he had any authority to do that. Thereupon, after a considerable pause, the old gentleman said, "Perhaps we had better drop the subject," and did so. The minister appears to have frequently complained of his troubles to the Presbytery. In September, 1754, the Synod appointed a committee to endeavor to remove the difficulties in the congregation; but his death in January, 1755, put an end to the proceedings.*
* Rev. Daniel Elmer was the grandson of Edward Elmer, who came over from England to America as one of the congregation of Rev. Thomas Booker, in 1632. They constituted a church at Cambridge, Massachusetts, but in 1636, with Hooker at their head, and carrying Mrs. H. in a litter, driving 160 cattle, for the sake of their milk to use by the way, and to stock a new settlement, went across the wilderness to Hartford, Connecticut. Edward was a magistrate, and purchased a large tract of land on the Podunk River, and was killed by the Indians in 1676.
The family name was originally Aylmer-in Latin, Almer and were settled In England as early as 1306, one of them being a Chief Baron of the Exchequer. John Aylmer, who was educated at Oxford, and was a Protestant, was tutor of the celebrated and unfortunate Lady Jane Grey, and was, in 1568, by Queen Elizabeth, made Bishop of London, by the name of John Elmer. Edward is believed to have been his grandson.
Daniel Elmer had three eons and four daughters, all of whom left descendants, still remaining in the county, and now become very numerous. His oldest son, Daniel, born in Massachusetts, who died in 1761, clerk of the county court, was a leading citizen at Fairfield, and so was Theophilus. Most of the name now residing in Bridgeton are descendants of Daniel second, Charles H. Elmer, Esq., being the heir, according1to the rules of the common law; and his son Daniel, the seventh oldest son In regular lineal descent, bearing that name.
Rev. Jonathan Elmer, long a prominent Presbyterian minister In Essex County, N. J., before the Revolution, was a cousin of Rev. Daniel, and has left descendants living in the northern part of the State and In New York. One of his brothers, who was a Colonel in the Connecticut line, was commissioned as Samuel Elmore,
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The people now showed a disposition to unite, and in June, 1755, Thomas Ogden, one of the elders, proceeded to New Haven with a letter from Dr. Alison, of Philadelphia, to Mr. Stiles. He writes: "These wait on you in favor of the church at Fairfield, in New Jersey, which was formerly under the care of Mr. Daniel Elmer. They were divided in his time, but have now agreed, by advice of our Presbytery, to invite a minister from Connecticut, and, if they can be happily supplied, to bury all their contentions, and to unite under his ministry." No minister was found in Connecticut; but William Ramsey, of Irish descent, who had graduated at Princeton in 1754, soon went to Fairfield, and was licensed and ordained, and settled there by the Abingdon Presbytery, a new-light Presbytery, to which he belonged in 1756. In 1758 the breach of the Presbyterian church was healed, and the two hostile Synods united; after which Mr. Ramsey and his church joined the old Presbytery of Philadelphia. He was a man of ardent piety and eloquence, and succeeded in producing harmony. The members, as recorded in his record of the Session in 1759, were 78. In 1758 he married the eldest daughter of Col. Ephraim Seeley, of Bridgeton, his congregation including persons residing there and at the Indian fields. Col. Seeley was himself a Baptist, but his wife, in 1761, connected herself with Mr. Ramsey's church, and the family attended his services. Upon the occasion of his marriage his people purchased a parsonage, consisting of a farm of 150 acres in Sayres' Neck, about a mile southwest of where the old stone church now stands; and here he resided until his death in 1771. About 1765 a powerful revival of religious feeling
He was succeeded by the Rev. William Hollinshead, who was quite distinguished as a preacher, and who was installed in 1773. The troubles and privations produced by the Revolutionary War
and having afterwards adopted that spelling, his descendants continue to write their names in that way. Several of the name of Elmore have lived in the Southern States, and perhaps still do; one of whom was formerly a senator of the United States from South Carolina, and one was Treasurer of the "Confederate States," when the seat of government was at Montgomery.
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fell heavily on the congregation, and, to increase their difficulties, it became necessary to build a new meeting-house. The ground was purchased in 1775, and subscriptions obtained to commence the work. It was, however, suspended until 1780, when, under the energetic superintendence of Theophilus Elmer, one of the son of Rev. Daniel Elmer, who resided at New England Town, it was resumed. In September, 1780, Mr. Hollinshead preached the first sermon in it, but a year elapsed before it was completed, and rules adopted for selling and renting the seats. Those down-stairs were' rented at the annual rental of £65 l0s., and those up-stairs at about £36; in all £100, or $266. In 1783 the society was incorporated by a special act of assembly; and in the same year Mr. Hollinshead left, having been chosen pastor Of the principal church in Charleston, South Carolina, where he remained until his death. A very signal revival of religion occurred in the winter of 1780-81. The next spring forty-eight new members were added, and the succeeding winter forty-six more followed by a few others; in all, during these years, one hundred and fifteen.
In 1786 the parsonage was rented on shares. In 1788 the Rev Ethan Osborn, then 30 years old, of Litchfield, Connecticut, having visited Philadelphia, was induced by the Rev. Dr. Sproat to extend his journey to Fairfield. He preached for them on trial, according to the fashion of the day, for six months. March 11th, 1789, the trustees' book records: "It was agreed to pay 15s. bard money per week for the keep of Mr. Osborn and horse." This sum was nominally two dollars; but paid in hard money, and making allowance for the difference in prices, was equivalent to five dollars in specie now. Having received a unanimous call to be pastor, he accepted it, and was ordained and installed December 3d, 1789.
In 1794 he married Elizabeth Riley, residing at Indian-fields near Bridgeton, whose parents formed a part of his congregation, and commenced housekeeping at the parsonage. After a few years, however, he preferred to follow the New England fashion of having a homestead of his own, and accordingly purchased, and enlarged the house, about a mile from his church, on the northeast side of the road to Cedarville, where he took up his residence in 1803, and continued to occupy it fifty-five years; transmitting it to his family, one of his sons now owning it. His salary at first was £100; soon after his marriage it was raised to £125, but in 1802
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and of course included the use or rent of the parsonage farm. In 1807 it was resolved to sell the parsonage, and the salary was put at $400. In 1809 the salary was raised to $450, and in 1812 to $500. Upon this pittance he raised a large and interesting family, and although of course always straitened, lived, according to the habits of his day, in comfort. The writer well remembers calling at his house, with a company of young persons, to see his eldest daughter, then a young lady of prepossessing manners and appearance, in the year 1814. Some one asking for water, it was brought in a glass pitcher, but no drinking glasses. With a peculiar pleasant smile Mr. Osborn remarked, "I would tell you that all our glasses got broken, and in these war times we could not afford to buy any more, but it rather mortifies Mrs. Osborn (who was present), so I suppose I mustn¹t say anything about it."
Mr. Osborn was a remarkable man, and obtained a character and influence, not only in his own congregation, but throughout the county, which no one else can expect to emulate. So scattered was his congregation, and such had been the effect of the destitution of preaching, following the removal of Mr. Hollinshead, that he found only 125 members on his arrival. But his labors were greatly blessed. In 1809 and 1810, there was a special awakening, so that 120 members were added to his church. In 1819 there was again a revival, 56 being added at one time. Again in 1827 there were 51 additions; and in 1831 about 80 were added. The total number of members at that time was 336; and the congregation had so increased that the old stone church had become filled. Not a pew, and scarcely a sitting either on the floor or in the spacious galleries, could be obtained by a new-corner. During his pastorate, which lasted fifty-five years, he admitted more than six hundred members to the communion of his church. In 1836, having reached his 78th year, Rev. David McKee was installed as co-pastor, and he relinquished $200 of his salary. Mr. McKee continued in this relation about two years. In 1844 Mr. Osborn resigned, at the age of 86. His last sermon was preached in 1850, in the old stone church, being a solemn farewell to that place, hallowed by so many endearing associations, and to the people so long under his charge. From this time his faculties gradually decayed; but he survived eight years longer; at the time. of his decease, lacking only three months and twenty days to make his age one hundred years.
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The lower part of the township having, during the fore part of this century, very considerably increased in population and wealth, a disposition began to be shown to establish a new church at Cedar. vile. In 1819 the question was brought to a vote of the congregation, when 43 voted in favor of the proposition and 45 against it. About 1837 occurred the division of the Presbyterian church into Old School and New School. Mr. Osborn belonged to the New School party, but the preference of many of his church was for the other side. This led to the establishment of the brick church at Cedarville, which now numbers 195 members.
A New School Presbyterian church was also established about the same time at 'Cedarville, which still continues, numbering 120 members. The congregation worshipping in the stone church soon removed to the village of Fairton, where a handsome edifice was erected, and the church there now numbers 140 members; claiming, it is believed without dispute, to be the legal successor of the old Cohansey Presbyterian Church; thus, after near a century and a half, multiplied to three; having three pastors and an aggregate of 355 members.
At what precise time a Presbyterian church was constituted at Greenwich there is no means of knowing. From the letter of Andrews, referred to in the account of the church at Fairfield, it appears there was a separate congregation there before 1722, to whom the minister at Fairfield was accustomed to preach. There was a constant intercourse between the two places, many of the settlers at Greenwich having gone there from Fairfield. Both places, a1though spoken of for many years as Cohansey, or as in Cohansey, were named from towns in Connecticut. In 1717 land was conveyed by Jeremiah Bacon to trustees, for the people called Presbyterian on the north side of Cohansey. Although' this mode of referring to them has been thought to indicate that they were constituted a distinct church before this time, the language is entirely consistent with the people being still connected with the Cohansey church at Fairfield. Settlers 'were constantly arriving from Scotland and the north of Ireland, most of whom established themselves on the north side of Cohansey, so that while the New England element prevailed at Fairfield it was otherwise at Greenwich; and when the division occurred, the former, as a general rule, adhered to the old side, while the latter were warm supporters of the New Lights, or followers of Whitfield.
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There is no evidence in the minutes of the Presbytery and Synod of an organized church at Greenwich until 1728, when Ebenezer Gould, a graduate of Yale, and friend of Daniel Elmer, was installed the pastor. A wooden meeting-house was erected a little before this time, but in a few years was superseded by one of brick 34 by 44 feet, which was not finished until 1751, although occupied for worship several years sooner. It was considered at this time the largest and most imposing church edifice in South Jersey. At first the only pews it contained were those constructed around the walls, each pew being built at the expense of its occupant, the area in the middle being furnished with benches. The galleries were originally reached by a stairway on the outside of the building. It stood on the lot still used as a burial place at the place usually called the "head of Greenwich," and remained until when one of brick was erected on the opposite side of the street; enlarged to its present dimensions in 1860.
Gould left in 1739 and went to Long Island. The church remained vacant several years, but was from time to time supplied by Tennant, Blair, and other eminent ministers of the new-side. The celebrated Whitfield preached here in 1740, not in the church building, which could not hold his hearers, but on the side of the hill, northeast of the church, then covered with the original forest. His journal records that he crossed the Delaware from Philadelphia in the morning of Monday, preached in the middle of the day at Gloucester, then the county seat, and in the evening at Greenwich, where he passed the night. This was at or near the place now called Clarksboro, then and still the township of Greenwich. On the next day he rode to Pilesgrove, now Pittsgrove, and preached there. The next day he preached at what he calls Cohansey, no doubt meaning Greenwich, from whence on the next day he went to Salem and preached there. At Greenwich, his journal states, "The words gradually struck the hearers till the whole congregation was greatly moved, and two cried out in the bitterness of their souls after a crucified Saviour, and were scarcely able to stand."
Andrew Hunter, from Ireland, an uncle of another Andrew Hunter, father of the present General Hunter, and of Andrew Hunter, Esq., deceased, an eminent lawyer at Trenton, and formerly Attorney-General of this State, was settled in 1746 by the New Brunswick Presbytery, controlled by the New Lights with which the church remained connected until the union of the two parties, when
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it returned to the Presbytery of Philadelphia. He was also installed pastor of the Deerfield church, this connection remaining until 1760. He died in 1775 of a malignant dysentery, which was very fatal that year. A vacancy then occurred, during the troublesome time of the Revolution, and the church was obliged to depend upon casual supplies. In 1782 George Faitoute was installed, remaining until 1790, when he removed to Long Island. He, however, occasionally officiated afterwards at Greenwich, the writer having been baptized by him there in 1793.
In 1795 a union was formed with the newly-constituted church at Bridgeton, and William Clarkson was installed as the joint pastor, remaining until 1801, when he removed to Savannah. Jonathan Freeman succeeded him in 1805, and remained pastor until 1822, when he died. The practice of these ministers was to preach in the morning of the Sabbath at Greenwich, and in the afternoon at Bridgeton. After 1810, when Mr. Freeman took up his residence in Bridgeton, he also preached in the court-house in the evenings of Sunday and Wednesday.
A parsonage farm was purchased for the Greenwich pastor in 1754, near Bowentown, immediately south of the Baptist parsonage. Mr. Clarkson and Mr. Freeman both resided here during the early part of their settlement, but they both soon removed to Bridgetown. It was sold in 1811.
The upper part of Deerfield and Hopewell townships, especially in the neighborhood of the streams flowing into the Cohansey, having a fertile soil, were settled at a pretty early date, among whom were a number of Presbyterians. They, in union with the people of Pilesgrove, of which Pittsgrove then made a part, took measures as early as 1732 to organize a religious society. In 1737 a log building was erected for worship in Deerfield, and the Rev. Daniel Buckingham preached there, and at Pilesgrove, in 1738. The Pilesgrove people insisted upon having a distinct organization, and after much contention, a commission of the presbytery acceded to their request, on condition that the house should not be nearer to the Deerfield house than six miles. David Evans was settled at Pilesgrove, but the Deerfield Church went over to the new side, and depended on supplies until they united with Greenwich, in 1746, and Mr. Hunter became the pastor of the united churches. This connection, being found too inconvenient, was dissolved in 1760.
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The next pastor at Deerfield was Simon Williams, who was settled in 1764, and remained two years. In 1767 Enoch Green became the pastor, and so continued until 1776, when he died. He was much esteemed as a preacher and scholar. For several years he taught a classical school. In 1777 John Brainerd, a brother of the celebrated missionary, David Brainerd, was settled. He died in 1781. Both these ministers were buried there. In 1783 Simon Hyde was installed, but he died during the same year. In 1786 William Pickles, an Englishman of extraordinary eloquence, was installed. It was not long, however, before he showed himself unfit for the office, and he was deposed by the Presbytery. John Davenport succeeded him, being installed in 1795, and was dismissed in 1805. Nathaniel Reeve was installed in 1795, removing in 1817 to Long Island. Several others have succeeded, in all not less than seven. The church is now prosperous, numbering 145 members. This church is believed to be the only one in the county retaining a farm attached to the parsonage. Besides the farm it owns a considerable tract of wood land, which has been the means, by the sale of the wood, of adding considerably to its resources. The stone church now occupied was built in 1771 and enlarged and improved in 1859.
Bridgeton remained without any organized church, or any place of worship but the court-house, forty-five years after it became the county town. The Presbyterians residing there or in the vicinity worshipped at Fairfield or Greenwich, and the Baptists at the old Cohansey church, in Lower Hopewell. The question of having a church in the town began to be agitated, however, about 1770. An unexecuted will of Alexander Moore, on file in the surrogate's office, dated in that year, contains a devise of a lot of land 13 by 15 perches, lying within and described on the plan of the town made for him by Daniel Elmer, on the east side of the river, for the sole use of a Presbyterian meeting-house and burial-ground; and also a legacy of £50, to aid in building the house. The lot was situated on the north side of Commerce Street, a little above where Pearl Street now is. In 1774 some subscriptions were made to carry out this plan, and stone was brought on the lot, but the building was never commenced. The stones were used in building a house, which used to stand nearly opposite the proposed site at the corner of Commerce and Pearl Streets, which for many years was owned and occupied by Mark Riley, who belonged to a family
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from Connecticut who settled at an early day on the Indian Field tract. /
At this time, and during several years afterwards, the most influential, and indeed the larger part of the inhabitants, lived on the west side of the river. There was no little strife in regard to the site. Dr. John Fithian offered a lot at the southeast corner of Broad and Giles Streets. Several meetings, to agree upon the place, were held without any result. At length, in 1791, through the influence of Dr. Jonathan Elmer, Col. Potter and Gen. Giles, Mark Miller, the son and heir of Ebenezer Miller, who was a Friend, agreed in consideration of a promise made by his father, to give the lot, containing two acres, then and still at the extreme west end of the town, "to be used, occupied, and enjoyed by the inhabitants of Bridgetown forever, for the purposes of a burying-ground for all said inhabitants generally, and for erecting thereon a house for the public worship of Almighty God." To this lot additions were made by subsequent purchases.
About £600, or $1600, were subscribed, and the building commenced in 1792, but the money raised was only sufficient to put up the walls and roof of the house. In 1793 a law of the State was obtained, authorizing the trustees to raise $2000 by means of a lottery, in accordance with a practice then very common. By this means the money was obtained, and in 1795 the house was so far completed as to be opened for public worship. At this time the public, or, as it was still called by old people, the King's highway to Greenwich, ran through the middle of the lot, a little south of the church building; but it was now altered by extending to Broad Street, or, as it was then called, High or Main Street, up to Fourth Street, as West Street was then called, and the road to Greenwich passed to the north and west of the church lots. The fence around the graveyard was first put up and the old King's highway closed in 1802. Many of the posts, which were of red cedar, are now, after a lapse of sixty years, in good condition. In 1792 a church had been duly constituted by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, which united with the church at Greenwich, and so continued until the death of Mr. Freeman in 1822.
Brogan Hoff became the pastor in 1824, and left in 1833. The session-house at the corner of Commerce and Pearl Streets was built in 1826, and continued to be used there for lectures, prayer meetings, and the Sabbath school until 1863, when it was removed
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to its present site. In 1834 John Kennedy became the pastor, and removed in 1838.
In 1835 the congregation resolved to build a new church edifice on the east side of the river, which was done, and the house on Laurel Street was opened for worship in 1836. In 1839 Samuel B. Jones became the pastor, and continued until 1863, when he resigned. It contains now 281 members.
A second Presbyterian church was organized in 1838, and the stone church on Pearl Street erected in 1840, at first in connection with the New School Presbytery of Philadelphia, but afterwards united with the Presbytery of West Jersey. It has 120 members. Recently, in 1869, a new building has been commenced on Commerce Street, and a church organized designated the West Presbyterian Church of Bridgeton.
A Presbyterian church was organized at Port Elizabeth in 1820, but was soon removed to Millville, where most of the elders and members resided. In 1838 a house was erected in the latter place which was enlarged in 1855. There are now 73 members. There is also a new church at Vineland. The whole number of Presbyterian churches in the county at this time being nine, three of which are in connection with the New School Presbytery, and six: with the West Jersey Presbytery, Old School, numbering together about 1250 members.
Smith, in his history of New Jersey, published in 1765, describing the then condition of Cumberland, states that the places of worship were Episcopalians one, Presbyterian four, Baptist two, Seventh-day Baptist one, Quakers one. What place of worship of Presbyterians besides those at Fairfield, Greenwich, and Deerfield, he refers to, is uncertain. Probably it was a church erected by the German settlers in Upper Hopewell, near the place now called New Boston, about the year 1760, which it appears by the deed was called the German Presbyterian Church. It is not known whether it ever had a regular pastor, the building never having been finished. It stood, however, until about the year 1812, and the graveyard still remains. The worshippers united with the neighboring Presbyterian churches. The Swedes erected a church on the east side of Maurice River, opposite Buckshootem, in 1743, in which worship was maintained by the Missionaries from Sweden, until after the Revolutionary War, when it went to decay, and has long since entirely disappeared.
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An Episcopal church was erected at Greenwich about the year 1729, by Nicholas and Leonard Gibbon, of the established church in England, on land belonging to the last named. It is not known whether it was ever regularly consecrated and received as a regular church edifice, although it was occasionally used for service by the rector of the Salem church. After the removal and death of the founders, it seems to have fallen into neglect. The building, which was of brick, or a part of it, was for some years occupied as a stable, and some thirty years ago was entirely taken down. Leonard Gibbon and his wife were buried in the chancel. Recently their remains were carefully removed by some of their descendants and deposited in the Presbyterian graveyard. It was found upon this occasion, although the gravestones were in the proper positions, that, either by mistake or design, the husband had been buried at the side of his wife, with his head in the direction of her feet.
A church of the Episcopal order was established in Bridgeton in 1860, which has erected a handsome edifice on Commerce Street, and settled a rector, having - members. There are also Episcopal churches in Millville and Vineland, in which there are regular services by a missionary.
There are also Roman Catholic chapels in Millville, Port Elizabeth, and in Bridgeton.
The German population of Bridgeton to the number of about 100, in conjunction with others in Millville, maintain a Lutheran minister, who preaches at the two places on alternate Sundays in the German language. A new church building has been commenced on Street, Bridgeton. There is also a neatly erected chapel in Upper Deerfield, in connection with the Lutheran church that has long existed at Friesburg, in which the preaching is now in the English language.
Mark Reeve and others at Greenwich applied, in 1690, to the Salem monthly meeting of Friends, to assist them in building a meeting-house, which was erected where the present old Friends' meeting-house now stands, on a part of Reeve's sixteen acre lot. It was what is termed an indulged meeting, or meeting for worship only, being under the care of Salem meeting, and continued so until 1770, when this and the meeting at Alloway's Creek were united and formed one monthly meeting, to be held alternately at each place. The number of Friends that settled at Greenwich or elsewhere in the county was never large. At the time of the great
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division of the society in 1836, into the two parties generally called Orthodox and Hicksite, the former being the most considerable in number, retained the old building where they still worship. The members of both sexes number about -. The other party built a new house on the main street about a mile northward of the old one, and continue to worship there. They number about members.
A Friends' meeting-house still remains at Port Elizabeth, built in 1800, but the society is now nearly or quite extinct.
The first Sunday school taught in the county was opened in the Academy on Bank Street, Bridgeton, by Ebenezer Elmer, in 1816. In the course of a few months a regular society was formed and a school commenced in the old court-house, which continued to be taught there until 1829, when it was removed to the new session house at the corner of Commerce and Pearl Streets. While kept in the court-house although most of the teachers and scholars were Presbyterians, it was a union school. At first, owing to a strange misconception of the true object of such schools, which is to teach religious truths and other learning, only as a means of acquiring religious knowledge, many even religious and well-informed parsons opposed them. Some thought they would interfere with that family and pastoral instruction of youth which Presbyterians especially had always practised, while others held back from that reluctance to understand and engage in a new enterprise which is so common. At first these schools were looked to mainly as a means of instruction for the poor. Soon, however, the great good found uniformly to result from their establishment, not only to the poor and neglected classes but to all the youth, recommended them so strongly that they were gradually introduced at different places. About 1830 they were adopted by the churches of all denominations, lost their union character, and are now carried on in connection with most of the places of religious worship in the county by the different societies using them.
The Methodists made but little progress in the United States until after the Revolution. Almost all the preachers were from Great Britain, and all imitated John Wesley in their hostility to the resistance made by the colonies to the measures adopted by the King and Parliament. It was not until 1784 that they became an independent society, and adopted the name of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States. Prior to this time the
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sacraments and other ordinances were administered only by the bishops and priests of the Episcopal church, or in rare instances by the ministers of other denominations, to which the converts to Methodism happened to be attached. The first annual conference, which was held in 1773, appointed John King and William Watters to travel and preach in Jersey. Watters is said to have been the first native American appointed as a travelling preacher. The salary allowed in 1784 was sixty-four dollars, and the same sum to the wife if there was one. The preachers, however, were entertained without charge to them by their converts and other friends, who commonly had some allowance made to them for doing so by the societies.
As early as the year 1780 there were some converts to Methodism at Port Elizabeth and its vicinity. The, first church building in the county for the exclusive use of this society was erected there in 1786, on ground donated for the purpose by Mrs. Bodley. A Mr. Donnelly, who was a local preacher there, died before this time. In 1798 Dr. Benjamin Fisler, who commenced his ministry in 1791 and preached in Camden, and in 1797 travelled on the Salem Circuit with William McLenahan, which included Salem, Cumberland, Cape May, and a considerable part of Gloucester County, on account of his feeble health, located at Port Elizabeth, where he was an acceptable local preacher for half a century. He wits an intelligent man, who had read a good deal, and although a firm believer in the doctrines taught by Benson and Watson, had no respect for Dr. Clarke's Commentary, which he thought contained many dangerous errors. He once told the writer he would not allow Clarke's Life of the Wesley Family, interesting as it is, to be read by his children, on account of the currency it gives to the story of the ghost, thought to have haunted the house of John Wesley's father, which practised rappings something like those made by the modern spiritualists. In those days ghosts were received with more credit than now; Wesley's belief in them having influenced many of his followers.
About the same time Eli Budd, from Burlington County, belonging to a family of Friends, who were among the original settlers of that county, several of whom became Methodists, and some were preachers, purchased land on the upper part of Manamuskin, and commenced making iron. His son Wesley was quite distinguished as a preacher, and in 1799 rode the Salem Circuit. Afterwards he established iron-works at the place long called Cumberland Furnace,
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now Manamuskin Manor; but in the language of Raybold, whose "Reminiscences of Methodism in West Jersey," contains many interesting particulars of which free use has been made, "he made a shipwreck of his character, happiness and hope," and it may be added that he also made shipwreck of his worldly prosperity, having failed in 1818, and being unable to retrieve his fortune, soon left the State. His father and brother maintained a good character. Early in this century a church was built near the iron-works and a society organized. which, however, when the works were abandoned in - soon became nearly or quite extinct. Recently it has been revived. Fithian Stratton, a .famous but very eccentric preacher, also gathered a society at his settlement on Menantico. He was originally a member of the Presbyterian church in Deer. field, and fell under church censure for improper conduct apparently growing out of his violent temper in 1779, and appears to have afterwards abandoned that church and joined himself to the Methodists. Preachers of this denomination began to gather societies within the bounds of the Deerfield congregation as early as 1780, in which and in subsequent years some members of that church were censured for irregularly withdrawing from its communion and joining the Methodists without a regular dismmission. In 1799, Mr. Stratton, who had then become a Methodist preacher, sent a written request to the pastor and session to be permitted to preach in the church; but this was denied on the ground of his previous conduct. He died in 1811, soon after which his projected borough at Schooner Landing came to an end.
The church now called Woodruff, in the neighborhood of Carllsburg, was composed originally of several Presbyterians from the Deerfield church. The meetings were held at first in a schoolhouse; Preston Stratton, the class-leader, being a brother of Fithian. In its best days this class had about twenty members. When Preston Stratton left, his place was supplied by Joel Harris, but be also soon moved away, and the class went down, the members joining another class in Broad Neck. Preaching was resumed in 1823 and a new class established in 124, of which the late Judge Woodruff became the leader. In 1829 a house was built to be used as a school-house as well as for preaching, and after this there was regular preaching. In 1841 the existing church building was erected, the membership then being twenty-five. This church has never been a principal station, but has been either a part of a circuit, or
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of some other station, sometimes Bridgeton, sometimes Willow Grove, sometimes Pittsgrove in Salem County, and now of Cohansey.
Port Elizabeth circuit has connected with it five other churches. one of which, viz., West Creek, where there were Methodists as early as 1790, and a church edifice was built in 1826, is in Cape May. Some of the members, however, reside in this county. At Heislerville the gospel was preached first in a private house in 1800. A meeting-house was erected in 1828, superseded in 1852 by a new and larger edifice. Leesburg society was commenced, about 1806, and the old church built about 1816, taken down in 1864, and a new and handsome building substituted. It is called "Flickman Church." Dorchester is a branch from Leesburg, formed in 1856, and a house built the same year. The old church, which was at one time the place of worship of a flourishing society while Cumberland furnace was carried on, but which had become dilapidated and the society almost extinct, had its place supplied by a new edifice in 1862, and the prospect now is that its congregation will steadily increase.
Michael Swing was the pioneer of the Methodists in Fairfield, to which place he came from Pennsylvania about the year 1790. He began, according to the usual practice, to hold meetings in private houses, and being a man of property and the owner of a farm adjoining the old Presbyterian graveyard on Cohansey Creek, which in his lifetime belonged to the Rev. Daniel Elmer, he in 1819, very much at his own expense, built the church near New England town Cross-roads, which has ever since been known as the Swing meeting-house. It was for a long time the only Methodist meeting-house in the township, and was the third or fourth in the county.
Raybold tells us that in 1800, R. Swain and R. Lyon travelled the Salem Circuit, and that on one occasion Lyon announced at a meeting held in Fairfield, that on that day four weeks he would be there, "preach, pray, work a miracle, and have a revival." Swing (Irving he calls him) disapproved this proceeding, and wrote to Swain to try and meet Lyon at Fairfield, in order to keep him in order. Both the preachers attended at the appointed time, and there was a great crowd, excited by the announcement of the miracle. Swain preached; then Lyon arose and proclaimed, "Lyon is here, and he will yet preach; the miracle is there," pointing with
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his hand; "whoever saw the Presbyterian minister and his flock here before? Now, I shall preach, and the Lord will do the rest; we shall see the revival." He did preach, and a great revival followed, and the whole affair passed from the minds of the people, who were top happy in grace to be very critical. This proceeding, strange as it now seems, was very much in character with many things done by the early preachers, and the part assigned to Mr. Swing agrees with. his character. He was a prudent man, an excellent preacher, and much esteemed not only by his own society, but by pious people of other denominations. He was a zealous and active member, and officer of the Cumberland Bible Society until his death in 1834, at a time when most of the Methodists declined to unite with it.
The church he built is now a separate station; called from the name of the town near by, Fairton. Formerly it belonged to Cumberland circuit, and was then made a station in connection with Cedarville, where a society was formed in 1833 and a church edifice erected in 1836. Cedarville became a separate station in 1861.
Methodist circuit riders, local preachers, and exhorters appear to have established meetings in many different parts of the county between 1780 and 1800. The whole county, and most of the time Cape May, belonged to the Salem circuit until about 1809, and the district of New Jersey included the whole State and a considerable part of New York. In 1811 the district was divided into two, but was united in 1816 and so remained until separated in 1823. In 1847 the upper part of the State became a part of Newark Conference, the lower part, south of Elizabeth, being the New Jersey Conference, comprising four districts, with each a presiding elder.
The labors of the itinerant preachers were very arduous and self-denying, and were greatly blessed in the conversion of many sinners. Raybold gives this illustration of what he terms a cure for the itinerant fever, as related to him by one of the circuit riders: "Many years ago I travelled Cumberland circuit. There was residing upon the circuit a brother P-, a most devotedly pious young man, and a local preacher of some few years' standing. He resided upon a good farm of his own, where with his small family he could live very comfortably indeed, and make money too; but whenever I went there he could talk of little else than travelling to preach the gospel more fully. He was of rather a
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feeble frame and delicate health, and I informed him, it was my judgment he never could stand constant labor in preaching, while he could make himself very useful in his present position. The Lord, I told him, did not require of men a work for which they were physically unfitted. All my reasoning would not satisfy him; so at last, during the winter, I requested him to meet me at a certain point and take a tour of two weeks on his native circuit, and after that he could tell, perhaps, whether travelling and preaching agreed with his constitution. At the appointed time and place we met. For a week the appointments required two sermons a day; and on Sundays three sermons, besides meeting classes and other business matters; travelling for many miles through the woods and over bad roads on horseback, in weather severely cold, for a greater part of the time. I kept him at work steadily, occasionally meeting the class myself. Towards the end of the second week, I found he was becoming too feeble to go on much farther.
"One morning, as we started for the next daily task, heavy clouds hung over, the wind howled among the trees, and snow began to fall quite thickly. Brother P- stopped his horse, and said, 'Had we not better put up somewhere? it will be a storm.'. 'A storm,' I replied; 'we never stop for a small snow-storm.' Poor P wrapped himself closer in his overcoat, and said no more. That night finished the work of the circuit for the time; we had finished the two weeks, and he was anxious to start for home, distant some forty miles. The family where we stayed were up at three o'clock to start for market, and brother P- entreated me to arise at breakfast and start for home. To please him I did so. We were soon on the saddle, and in the clear moonlight of an intensely cold morning we rode about twenty miles without a word of conversation. As the sun arose we came in sight of my residence, but he had to travel twenty miles farther to reach his home. When we were about to part, he stopped his horse, and I said, 'Now, P-, what do you think of the itinerancy?' 'Ah, brother,' said he, 'it will not do for me; I cannot stand it; I had no idea of the toil and exposure, the privations and sufferings.' 'Why, my dear brother,' said I, 'you have been on the lightest work, and in the best part of the circuit; if this specimen discourages you, I do not know what you would say to other scenes.' 'Ah,' said he, 'I had better stay at home and attend to my family and farm, and leave the itinerancy to those who are stronger t1ian I am; this trial will satisfy me.' Poor
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P- went home, and had a spell of sickness, but he was cured of the travelling Fever."
Bridgeton was for several years within the Salem circuit. John Walker, one of the preachers, formed a class about the year 1604, several Methodists having before this moved into the place. William Brooks, who then carried on a tannery at the southeast corner of Broad and Atlantic Streets, on the west side of the river, was the class-leader, and his house was usually the place of meeting and of entertainment for the preachers. Among the early converts was Jonathan Brooks, who was for many years a local preacher, and the leading Methodist of the town.
He was a good specimen of an old-fashioned Methodist. An illiterate man, knowing very little but what he learned from the Bible, and his own experience as a Christian, of good practical sense in all matters not too much influenced by his prejudices, an earnest exhorter, and maintaining a character above suspicion, he exercised a great and deserved influence, not only in his own society, but among the Christian people of other denominations. He had no toleration, however, for any departure from the early usages of the society; thought a minister would be spoiled by rubbing his back against a college, and opposed till the last, singing in church by note, or with the aid of a choir. Having been him. self ordained as a deacon, and not entitled to administer the sacraments, he considered himself deprived of a privilege he ought to have, and was earnest for a reform, which he did not live to see. When the first Conference, at which Bishop Hedding presided, was held in Bridgeton in 1838, he groaned not only in spirit, but very audibly, that only one minister appeared with the old Wesley coat, and but very few exhibited any other than white pocket handkerchiefs, remarking to the writer, that the passion for an educated ministry, singing out of music-books., &c, with which all the young people were so taken, be feared would ruin the church.
The building now used as a chapel, and standing at the corner of Bank and Washington Streets, was erected where the brick church now stands on Commerce Street, in 1807, and was consecrated by Rev. Joseph Totten, then the presiding elder of the district, whose residence was on Staten Island. Before long Cumberland Circuit was established, of which this church formed a part until 1832, when it became a separate station, and so remains. The new brick church was built in 1833. It deserves notice as showing
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the importance of the two towns; that now the district covering the southern counties of the State is called Bridgeton district, and Salem ranks as a station. The brick church on Fayette Street, called Trinity, was erected in 1854, and that on Bank Street, called the Central M. E. Church, in 1866. Nothing perhaps marks more decidedly the change in the Methodist church than that nearly all the circuits of the county have been abolished, and now most of the principal churches have separate pastors.
Millville contained a few Methodists as early as 1810. Long before this time a class existed at White Marsh, distant about four miles, between Millville and Fairfield. The meetings for preaching in the town were for some time held in a building erected as a school and meetinghouse for all denominations. In 1817 it was a regular station of the circuit riders, and about the year 1822 a building of stone, commenced for a dwelling, was purchased and converted into a church. In 1844 the old church was taken down and the edifice, now called the First Church, erected in its place. In 1857, the Second Church, in the upper part of the town, near the cotton mills, was erected.
There were a considerable number of Methodists within the boundaries of the township of Downe as early as 1800, in which year a class was formed at Haleysville, a settlement a little west of Mauricetown. In 1811 a church building was erected there, which was occupied until 1864, when it was superseded by a new one. In Mauricetown the society worshipped in a school-house until 1842, when a church was erected, and this church now gives the name to the station. A Captain Webb, of the English navy, is said to have landed at Nantuxet before 1800, and preached a sermon in a barn, and thus commenced a Methodist society, who built a meeting-house in 1804, which was burned in 1812. The society after this used a store house. In - they erected the present building at Newport.
A society was commenced at Dividing Creek in the early part of this century, who erected a house in-.
There is also a mission station at Port Norris, one at Buckshutem, and another at Centre Grove.
A class of Methodists was formed and met in the school-house at Jericho, some time before 1842, and in 1846 they erected the meeting-house in which they now worship at Roadstown. In 1856
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the house in Upper. Hopewell, called Harmony, was erected. These two churches are now united in one station.
Full statistics of the numbers during the successive years that have elapsed since its commencement, if they could be obtained, would present us a proof of the peculiar adaptedness of this society to expand and fill up the waste places in the land, and of the remarkable and praiseworthy zeal and energy of the preachers and members. The number of members returned for Salem circuit in 1789 was 680, and in 1790 it was increased to 933. In 1808 the Cumberland circuit, which then included Cape May, returned 700 members. In 1832 Bridgeton station returned 357 members, one preacher, and Cumberland circuit 955 members and two preachers; returned, being only those belonging to the Conference, and not including the local preachers and exhorters, of which there were several. The Minutes of the Conference for 1864 returns Bridge. ton, Commerce Street, 542 members; Trinity, 220; Roadstown and Harmony, 98; Fairton, 133; Cedarville, 145; Newport, 160
Mauricetown, 273; Millville (Second Street), 460; Millville (Foundry) 175; Vineland, 35; Port Elizabeth, 504; Woodruff and Cohansey, 86; numbering in all 2831 members, besides those returned as probationers. Some of the members returned as belonging to the Port Elizabeth Station, reside in the county of Cape May, but there are others connected with stations out of the bounds of the county who reside within it, so that the number in the county may be safely set down at 2800. Making all due allowance for the greater facility of becoming members of this society as compared with some other denominations, this certainly exhibits a wonderful progress. And when it is added, that the society has constantly employed about ten regular ministers besides twelve or more local preachers, and that the gospel is statedly preached nearly every Sunday and frequently on other days in at least twenty different houses, the evidence of zeal and industry is very complete.
Besides the white congregations, there are two places of worship occupied by the colored persons, one at Spring town and one at Piercetown, who are supplied by circuit riders appointed by a colored presiding elder, there being, by a late arrangement, two distinct districts of colored preachers who belong to the General. Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. These two societies have about 80 members.
The Methodist Protestant church originated. about the year 1828.
Soon after they built a meeting-house at Cedarville, which, however, after a few years, was sold, and belongs now to the New School Presbyterians. In 1847 a society was organized in the old schoolhouse called "Friendship," on the road leading to Centreville; subsequently a new building was put up there and it is now connected With Bridgeton, where a house was erected on Laurel Street in 1861. The members of the two number about 160. There are also small societies and places for preaching at Newport, Port Norris, Millville and Cassaboom, a few miles northeast of that place. There are about 120 members in these societies, making the whole number about 280 members.
The first African Methodist Episcopal church in this county was formed at Springtown in 1817, and the members then and for some time afterwards were commonly called .Allenites, from the name of their first bishop, who resided in Philadelphia. Their first small church was burned and was replaced in 1838 by the present edifice of stone. This society has now 126 members.
At Gouldtown a society was formed in 1820, and after a few years the school-house in which they worshipped until recently, which was built originally by Presbyterians at a place about a mile and a half northeast of its present location, was presented to them and moved. The existing neat edifice was built in 1861; the number of members is 85.
A society was formed at Port Elizabeth in 1836, a meeting-house built in 1838, and there are now 19 members. The society in Back neck, Fairfield Township, was formed in 1838, built a house in 1850, and has now 12 members.
The Bridgeton society was formed in .1854, and the next year erected their meeting house in the southwestern part of the town. There are now 92 members, of which about 27 have been added recently. A society was formed at Millville in 1864, which is taking measures to erect a house, numbering now 16 members. It will be thus seen that the colored race, depressed as they are by many discouraging circumstances, have the gospel preached to them, and have about as many church members in proportion to their numbers, as the more fortunate whites.
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