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Millburn: 1857 - 1957
They Built Churches

By the Millburn Centennial Committee

Originally appeared in 1957
This Web version, copyright 2004

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  • St. Stephen's Church

  • St. Rose of Lima's

  • Christ Church

  • The White Oak Ridge Chapel

  • The Wyoming Presbyterian Church

  • The Millburn Baptist Church

  • The African M.E. Church
  • A Sunday School reputed to be the first in New Jersey met in the wash house of the Samuel Campbell homestead on Brookside Drive in 1818.

    "The Fighting Parson," Rev. James Caldwell, Pastor of Elizabeth Presbyterian Church, not only ministered to the religious needs, but in his office at 40 Main Street, Millburn, acted as Washington's Quartermaster. His deathless rallying cry at the battle of Springfield, as he stuffed the pages of Watts Hymnal into the cannon for wadding, "Here, boys, give 'en Watts," as commemorated by Bret Harte in his poem "Parson Caldwell."

    A fairly authentic story tells that in the early 1740's, a small roughly constructed church was built at about what would now be the corner of Main Street and Meeker Place, and the Rev. Timothy Symms was installed in it as pastor in 1746. In addition to his home near the church, the minister was given 100 acres of land on Parsonage Hill Road for "glebe", from which he had a right to cut wood, or to use in any way he wished for maintenance. This grant also provided a name for "Parsonage" Hill Road. The church was a a few years later rebuilt in Springfield as the Springfield Presbyterian Church.

    In October, 1831, the first of the permanent churches established in the community was organized by William Parsil, as the "Oak Ridge Sunday School Association," and held its meetings in the schoolhouse.

    However, although Mr. Parsil's Association is the first permanent church, it was not the first Sunday School. In 1818 a Sunday School, said to be the first in New Jersey, was organized, and held its services in the washhouse of the Campbell homestead on Brookside Drive, then called the Valley Road.

    St. Stephen's Episcopal Church held its first service in a room over a store in Millhurn Center on October 17, 1851. Soon afterward, through the generosity of Israel D. Condit, in donating land, the present church was built on Main Street. It is interesting to note that the founders' group was incorporated as "Rector, Wardens and Vestry of St. Stephen's Church, Millville."

    St. Rose of Lima's R.C. Church was organized in Springfield in 1852, later moving to its present location in Short Hills, although Catholics of the community had been hearing Mass in the home of John Hogan, No. 79 Old Short Hills Road, Short Hills, as early as 1847.

    On October 18, 1858, a group of nine men and women organized the Millburn Baptist Church, and on August 10, 1859, the corner stone of the present building was laid, on land at the corner of Millburn Avenue and Spring Street, donated by Mrs. Isabelle Lee.

    A Church to he known as "The Wyoming Presbyterian Church" was formed, and the congregation of 30 met for the first service on November 9, 1873, in the railroad station, with the Rev. Brown Emerson preaching on the text, Genesis 28:17, "How Dreadful is this Place. This is none other than the house of God; and this is the Gate of Heaven." Services were held there for several years, the organ being trundled every Sunday in a wheelbarrow. The first Wyoming public school classes were also held in the railroad station Other churches took their places in the permanent scene. In 1879 the African M. E. Church was founded, and services were held in a rented hall. In 1881 it had two members and a minister, but a small place of worship was erected on Mechanic Street. The present Church, known as "Mount Zion African M. E. Church" was built at 54 Church Street in 1902.

    The establishment of Christ Church Parish was primarily due to Stewart Hartshorn who donated the land and $1,000 in cash. The organization was completed on September 20, 1882, with fifty members, and held its first ser- vice in the Music Hall on October 15th, 1882, with Rev. Frank L. Humphreys, the first rector, conducting the service. On Trinity Sunday in 1884 the Con- gregation joined in prayer for the first time in its own building-the fieldstone Gothic church which, with additions and enlargements, is still in use.

    Some ladies and gentlemen of St. Stephen's. Seated second from left, first row, is Miss Amelia Park, Church organist for 54 years, and Sunday School teacher for 70 years.
    These seven churches were the permanent houses of worship established before or soon after the incorporation of the Township.

    The Springfield Presbyterian Church was for many years, starting with the days when this area was part of a royal colony, the center of the religious life of a majority of the people, and around it, too, the tides of war ebbed and flowed on many an anxious day. However, as only those institutions which come within the physical boundaries of the present Millburn Township are recorded here, the full history of this church, "Mother" to so many others of like denomination, must be omitted.

    A perusal of the newspapers of the last decades of the 19th century shows that attempts were made to establish other churches. For a few years, the "Congregational Church of Short Hills" met on Sundays in the Music Hall, a Union Sabbath School held classes in the school house on Old Short Hills Road, and another Union Sunday School also met at various times in the Music Hall. A Methodist Church known as "The Tabernacle" held services on Taylor Street for a time, but a majority of people of the Methodist faith continued to attend services in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Springfield, and no church of that sect became permanent here.


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