William

William Henry Roll


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The wind whispers through the trees, recalling words and dreams and memories of those who left us long ago. --Unknown


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The First Presbyterian Church
Main Street and Springfield Avenue, Springfield, Union, New Jersey


1791

First Presbyterian Church, 1791


Source: Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record Documentation, drawings and photographs.


Built in pre-Revolutionary days, the First Presbyterian Church at Springfield finds itself in a modern environment with a church plant suitable for a hundred years ago. The church was in the thick of the Battle of Springfield in the Revolution. From it arose the saying, "Give 'em Watts," because hymn books were used for wadding in muskets, and Isaac Watts, the world's most prolific hymn writer, had contributed most of the hymns in the books. This historic church was established in 1745.

Source: New York Herald Tribune, April 10, 1932.



About 1935

First Presbyterian, about 1935


Source: Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record Documentation, drawings and photographs.


The first edifice was built of logs in 1745, at what is now Millburn, New Jersey. In the old burying-ground, now owned by the S. A. R., is a tomb-stone of William Stites, dated 1727. At that time the Briant family came here, and there were only three houses between Elizabeth and Morristown, but in 1738 Springfield alone had three houses. These belonged to the Denman, Van Winkle, and Whitehead families. Previous to the building of the church, the pioneers were accustomed to walk to Elizabeth to church. It was in 1746 that Rev. Timothy Sims became pastor, and it was in after years that his grandson, Captain Sims, created much excitement by a theory that the center of the earth was inhabited and that people were to be reached from the pole. He petitioned Congress to fit out an expedition to ascertain the correctness of the statement, but Congress replied by saying that there were enough people living on the outside without hunting for more inside. In four years of this pastorate there was given to Mr. Sims and Peter Dickinson, their heirs and assigns, 100 acres to be held by them for the use of the minister of the parish "for all time and never to be sold or disposed of for any other use, and in return a pint of spring water was to be given when demanded on the premises."

The second house of worship was built in 1761 on the site where the present church stands. It was this church which took such an important part in the Battle of Springfield. The houses in Springfield were burned at that time, as well as the church, by the British.

During the Revolution Mr. Van Arsdale was the pastor and in that period the members passed through many trying experiences. The present structure was built on the site of the previous one and completed in 1791. The building is of handmade cypress shingles and hand-wrought nails and is at the corner of Morris Avenue and Main Street. It was built by members of the church, many of whom are buried in the old cemetery across the street. They cut the best timber from their farms and took it to town, and with their own hands fashioned and built the structure. The women took food from their homes and served it to the men during the building.

The bell in the steeple is made from one which was in the old church before the Revolution, and called the Jersey farmers to battle on June 23, 1780. It was cast in England in 1722.

Source: Newark Evening News, 1928


The First Presbyterian Church, organized out of a portion of the Connecticut Farms congregation, was incorporated September 25, 1876. The first house of worship was built in 1746, about a half mile north of the present church, and tradition says it was a log structure. The second meeting house was erected in 1761, on the site of the present church, and was burned by the British, June 23. 1780. The present edifice was erected in 1791.

The Pastors and dates are as follows:

Timothy Symmes 1746-1751
Nathan Kerr 1763-1765
Jacob Van Arsdale 1774-1801
Gershon Williams 1801-1818
James W. Tucker 1818-1819
Elias W. Crane 1820-1826
John D. Paxton 1826-1827
Wm. Gray 1828-1829
Horace Doolittle 1830-1833
John C. Hart 1835-1843
Edward E. Rankin 1844-1850
Wm. E. Locke 1851-1852
Orlando L. Kirtland 1853-1872
Marcellus Bowen 1872-1874
Henry W. Teller 1874-1883
Geo. H. Stephens 1883-1886
Wm. Hoppaugh 1887-1913
Geo. A. Liggett, Ph. D. 1913-

The church was remodeled and renovated previous to the celebration of the 125th anniversary in 1916. There are two cemeteries connected with it.

Source: Honeyman, A. Van Doren. History of Union County, New Jersey, 1664-1923. Vol. 1. New York, New York: Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1923 p, 428.



Meeting house

Meeting house, Springfield, New Jersey


Another Presbyterian Church illustrated in this chapter is that in Springfield, New Jersey, situated not very far from the Newark church, but constructed of wood, of simple design, and resembling more nearly the Tennent Church than that at Newark. It is probably as nearly typical of the country meeting houses of late Colonial times as any building could be, and aside from the belfry there is nothing to distinguish it from a big storehouse or dwelling house of the period. But like many of the Colonial buildings, in spite of its extreme simplicity it is possessed of considerable charm, because of the excellent proportions of the cornice to the mass which it surmounts, the pleasing texture of the surfaces, and the feeling of scale due to the distribution and division of the window openings. The original church at Springfield was built in 1761, and was burned on June 20, 1780, during the battle of Springfield. It had been previously used by the Colonial government as a storehouse for supplies for the Continental army, necessitating the utilization of a neighboring bam for services; the present structure was rebuilt on the old foundation, and was opened for worship on November 20, 1791. The exterior is of hand-split shingles, and as was the case with all buildings of that period, the ironwork, even to the nails, was hand-made. The interior was done over about 1880, when the small iron columns supporting the balcony were substituted for the older ones, and the stencil patterns were applied to the walls. The statue in front of the church rep-resents a Continental soldier, and was erected in memory of the skirmish fought there, during which the church was held by Continental troops and attacked by the British, while the Reverend Mr. Caldwell, the pastor of the church, although not actively engaged in the fight, tore up the Watts hymn books for wadding, and threw them to the soldiers, crying out, "Give them Watts, boys; put Watts into them."

Source: Embury, Aymar. Early American Churches. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1914, pp. 101-103. A photograph of the interior of the church is included.