The White Oak Ridge Chapel
The history of Millburn's permanent churches begins with a day in October, 1831, when William Parsil, descendant of one of the first settlers in Millburn Township, called together his neighbors on the White Oak Ridge and talked to them of the need for establishing their own meeting place for a Sunday School and other Sabbath observances. Since 1823 people from the Ridge community had been attending services in the Chatham Village Presbyterian Church.
Going to Church was not an easy matter in those days, even under the best of conditions, but the spirit of religion seems to have been kept alive in Millburn no matter what the vicissitudes. As we have mentioned before, people walked to Elizabeth in the early days of the settlement; then Pastor Timothy Symmes conducted services for his small congregation in a little rough building on Main street, near what is now meeker place. That building disappeared so long ago that it is scarcely more than a matter of legend, but from it grew the Springfield Presbyterian Church which became the people's bulwark during the dreadful days of war. For many years after the Revolution adherents of other denominations travelled to Orange, Madison, and Chatham to satisfy their spiritual needs, and distance never seems to have dampened the ardor of the faithful. The Springfield Methodist Church and the Livingston Baptist Church were established early also and numbered some Millburn citizens among their congregations.
However, on the day when William Parsil talked to his neighbors he was following the instincts of his ancestors and establishing another pioneer outpost.
From that meeting grew the Oak Ridge Sunday School Association and the White Oak Ridge Chapel which on October 14, 1956, observed its 125th anniversary.
At first the meeting had no ordained minister and Mr. Parsil, noted as a singer, managed the school and led the singing. He was assisted in the Bible and catechism classes by Jacob Morehouse, John Denman, Aaron Ross, and Mrs. Parsil.
The group met in the one-room public school house which served the children of that section for many years. No written records are available as to the progress made by the Sunday School Association for the next few years. Undoubtedly like other organizations it had its good times and bad times, but it lived. After Mr. Parsil's death in 1850 the Sunday school had a desperate struggle and at times had to be temporarily disbanded, although the Rev. J. M. Ogden of Chatham came to preach once a month. The trouble was caused not only by the loss of Mr. Parsil's strong guiding hand, but by the loss of many old parishioners who had moved away or died.
In 1857, Mr. A. M. French was asked to reorganize the Sunday school, and with 16 pupils classes were reformed, teachers were appointed, and William H. Parsil, son of the founder, was made Secretary and Librarian. Mr. French continued to serve as Sunday School Superintendent for 22 years until 1879 when he resigned because of age. At the time of his resignation he said that he had driven more than 5,000 miles by horse and buggy to serve his church.
By 1860 the number of members had doubled and they no longer met in the school, but in the homes of members. Membership was not only confined to those of the Presbyterian faith, but Methodists, Baptists and Episcopalian families also joined and worked together in a harmonious union service. Dr. J. M. Ogden continued to preach once a month.
In 1865 there were 65 pupils and Miss Mary Wallace was added to the teaching staff. The one-room school house was no longer adequate, but the cost of a church building of their own still seemed prohibitive. However, in 1871, William H. Parsil provided the impetus by giving to the Association, land for the erection of a church. other friends, numbering 62, came forward with funds and by October 22, 1871 the dedication of their building took place, and it was reported that after all debts were paid, $15.26 still remained in the Treasury. The dedication exercises were conducted by the Rev. William C. Wallace and J. E. Hancock.
The Oak Ridge Union Sunday School Association was formed on June 26, 1871, and was eventually legally incorporated, with a Board of Trustees to handle its affairs.
Association with Mr. Parsil at that time were members of the Ross, Drew, Denman, and Morehouse families, all pioneer settlers on the "Ridge". It is interesting to find that descendants of some of those families are still active members in the Chapel.
The oldest living member now is Mrs. Nellie Doremus, who will be 94 years old on December 7, 1957. Mrs. Ross would be a distinguished member of any group. She came to Millburn in 1882 to teach in the White Oak Ridge Public School, so that she is the oldest living member of the Millburn Public School System. She served on the Board of Education, and helped organize and hold office in several Township Clubs.
The church building, as well as the congregation grew. A wing was added to the chapel, electric lights were installed. Another wing was added to the primary room, and finally a belfry was built, and in 1946 for the 115th anniversary of the founding, a bell calling the people to worship was rung for the first time by Halsey Vreeland, the oldest member of the church at that time. Preaching services fluctuated through the years, although the Sunday School operated fairly regularly. Since 1953, however, regular weekly services have been hold, and the work of the little chapel has been enlarged to include Scout Troops, Missionary Work, Young People's Societies, and other functions of a progressive modern church. Rev. P. H. Burgess is 1976 Pastor.
The 125th anniversary service on October 14, 1956, brought people from all over, including Township governing officials, to pay tribute to a small religious body which had grown strong against many odds.
St. Stephen's Church
The next church to become permanently established here was St. Stephen's, and its beginnings go back to an upper room over a store in Millburn center. Most people called Millburn "Millville" then, and its population of less than 1,500 were farmers, millworkers, a few mill owners, and a handful of others who were artisans, storekeepers, and mechanics. In the upstair's room on October 17, 1851, sixty people waited for the Rev. Eugene Augustus Hoffman, a missionary sent out by Grace Protestant Episcopal Church in Elizabeth, and, as events proved, listened to him earnestly.
The time was evidently ripe for the establishment of a church here. With the exception of the White Oak Ridge Sunday School Association, there was no Protestant Church of any kind between Springfield and Livingston. Sixty adults out of the small population of the day was a goodsized gathering for a first meeting of any kind, and the report made by the Rev. Mr. Hoffman to his superiors of the Diocese of New Jersey, at its annual convention held the next May, points to the fact that the people were eager for a church and were not particular as to its denomination. Few of them were adherents of the Episcopal faith for Mr. Hoffman writes, in his report:
"By your direction I commenced holding services in Millville, on Wednesday evening, 17th October, 1851. Since that time to the present (1st May) the services have been continued weekly, with but two exceptions. The attendance has averaged from 70 to 80 persons. Though the people were entirely ignorant of the services of our Church, when they were commenced, a growing interest has been shown in them; and the responses are now made with as much propriety as in many old Parishes. On the 1st of April we obtained the permanent use of a convention room; and the attendance has been greatly increased. I have no doubt that if it were possible for me to hold a service there on the Lord's Day a congregation of one hundred and fifty persons would be constantly in attendance. The position of Millville is central, and commands a large field, already white for the harvest..."
The Rev. Hoffman's hopes were soon to be realized for the Millville group numbered among its member's one who had the means and the desire to help Mr. Hoffman reap his harvest. That man was Israel D. Condit who had reached a position of wealth and influence in the community. He not only assumed the position of leader in the absence of a visiting minister, but opened his home on Millburn avenue to the needs of the young parish. on January 17, 1853, he called a meeting there to elect a first vestry, and Mr. Condit and Mr. Hoffman were appointed to select a name. Two days later, in the presence of the Rt. Rev. George W. Doane, Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey, and seven visiting clergymen, the group was incorporated as the "Rector, Wardens, and Vestry of St. Stephen's Church, Millville." Mr. Condit and George W. Campbell were wardens, and the seven vestrymen were Isaac M. Hand, Hugh Allcock, Isaac Martin, Amzi Condit, William Marshall, Thomas C. Bradbury, and Edward Clayton. The name, "Millburn," was substituted for Millville after Millburn's incorporation.
After that, events moved rapidly. A building committee was named immediately, and Mr. Condit donated a piece of land, 150 x 200 on Main street, across from his mill, and the cornerstone was laid on August 29, 1853. The building was consecrated by Bishop Doane on July 24, 1856.
The building, which is the building we still know as St. Stephen's accommodated 300 people. It was built almost entirely of wood, with oaken beams, many handhewn from trees on the property, and with a slate roof which has endured for more than a hundred years. Much of the construction was held together with handcarved wooden pegs, and where nails were needed, hand made nails from Samuel Bailey's old forge were provided.
The church was built according to plans of A W. Priest and the beautiful simplicity of its American Gothic style is a tribute to both the parishioners and Mr. Priest, for the prevailing style of that period was a very ornate one. The entire cost of the church, the organ, and the bell was about $9,000, to which Mr. Condit made a major donation.
In January, 1856, Rev. Horace Hall Reid was appointed as the first regular rector and he served until 1859. The Rev. Mr. Reid was also interested in education, for soon after he came here he founded the first private school, Hobart Hall, which stood behind his house at the corner of Hobart avenue and Old Short Hills road. His wife was one of the first teachers. The Rev. Mr. Reid also served as Superintendent of Millburn's Public School System.
In March, 1870, St. Stephen's established its own parochial school in a house donated by Mr. Condit and known as "The Mountain House." This building is still standing on Church street. Dr. Julius David Rose, an eminent scholar of his day, was appointed headmaster and the school flourished for many years. The first Board of Trustees of the School provide us today with the names of some prominent Millburn citizens of that day?besides Mr. Condit, Lawrence Benedict, Edward S. Renwick, George W. Campbell, Jr., A. H. Dyett and Dr. E. T. Whittingham served in this capacity.
The first child baptized in St. Stephen's was William John Hamilton, and the present cross on the steeple was given in the 1930's as a memorial to him. The first organist was Reinhold Summers who had come to the United States in the 1850's from Germany. Mr. Summers was one of the many liberals who were political refugees from the Germany of that time seeking asylum in the United States. He taught music here and composed religious music for his adopted church. He was succeeded on his death in 1869 by miss Mary Amelia Park who continued to serve for 54 years. Miss Park also taught Sunday School there for over 70 years which would certainly seem to be an all time record.
Mr. Condit continued as a prime benefactor of the church helping it through many financial crises, and also donated to it eight acres of land for a cemetery, consecrated on October 5, 1858. Edward S. Renwick was another who gave it substantial aid, and in the 1930's, Edward S. Pettigrew donated the cemetery gates, fences, complete landscaping of the church grounds and cemetery, and several modern improvements to the building. It is interesting to note the landscaping was designed by Frank Schmidt, great grandson of William Marshall who had laid out the original plan for the cemetery.
On July 4, 1886, St. Stephen's Church celebrated its own independence. The "Millburn Budget" of July 7, 1886, reported that St. Stephen's was now independent of any encumbrance or debt, the mortgage of $2,657.00 having been paid. The Rev. T. I. Holcombe's sermon that day has present day overtones. He talked on the relationship between Capital and Labor, as one of the serious questions of the times, and also warned against "Communists and Anarchists" who were almost without exception agnostics and infidels."
In October, 1951, St. Stephen's observed its Centennial. The Rev. Hugh Wentworth Dickinson became Rector in March, 1922, and served St. Stephen's until his retirement on June 15, 1957, a longer pastorate than any in the Township. The new Rector, Rev. James Elliott Lindsley, assumed his pulpit on September 1, 1957. The 1976 Rector is Rev. Joseph D. Herring.
St. Rose of Lima R.C. Church
The first services for Catholics in this vicinity were conducted by priests from St. Peter's Church, Barclay Street, New York, in 1804 or 1805. They were held rather infrequently for a visit by a priest entailed a long journey by boat from New York to Elizabeth and then by stage to his destination. The first masses were read out-of-doors or in the home of some hospitable church member. However, the first mass for which a definite record has been kept, was said at the home of Lavelle duBerceau on Park Avenue, Madison, on July 30, 1825.
Many of the attendants at those first services were French emigrants who had been driven out of France, Santo Domingo, Martinique, and Guadeloupe by revolutions there. Some had also come from France with Lafayette, or during the French Revolution. Many settled along the road from Elizabeth to Bottle Neck (Madison).
Some of them lived in Springfield. That there were French families living nearby soon after the beginning of the 19th century is verified by the fact that in the New Jersey Journal (Elizabeth Daily Journal) various items appear in which French family names are involved. One date-lined, Springfield, May 10, 1801, is an offer of $10.00 reward for the return of a Negro man named Cuff, 22 years of age, who had run away from F. Della Croix, on July 11, 1801, S. Dalla Croix of Springfield advertised that he had lost his old snuff box, and on May 11, 1806, Tregait deBeaumont announced that he would open a Dancing School in Elizabeth. The names of some of the other families living adjacent to Morris Turnpike were Beaupland who built his home on the present Bottle Hill Tavernland; Baron deBeisaubin who was Louis XVI's bodyguard, Blanchet, and Thebaud. Some of these families returned to their homes when peace came, but others stayed and their descendants are still living in Madison.
After St. John's Church was built in Mulberry Street, Newark, in 1827, the Rev. P. Moran made monthly journeys to the parish which comprised of Springfield and the present Millburn, and conducted services at the home of Charles Fury of Springfield. on the map of 1850 the name "C. Fury" appears on Morris Avenue. The Furys and Mrs. Matthew Dougherty were said to be the only Catholic families living in Springfield at that time, but presumably others from outlying districts attended in sufficient numbers to make a small congregation.
By 1841 the number had increased. Besides the Furys, and Doughertys, Arthur McCormick, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lynch, Mr. And Mrs. Michael English, Daniel Coughlan and Bryan Dunig(c)an, and their families, were living in Springfield, and the Terence Hogan and John Kearney families and Maurice Lonergan, had settled in Millburn. Springfield then became a mission of the Madison church, and in 1847 the Rev. Luis Dominic Senez, a French priest, was assigned to celebrate Mass and teach catechism to the children, fairly regularly, at the homes of Michael English or Daniel Couglan in Springfield, and John Hogan, on "the short hills road" (now 79 Old Short Hills road). Father Senez was an old-time missionary. it is said that he would ride from town to town, to venues, or public sales, or wherever crowds gathered, seeking out members of his faith, informing them of an approaching service, and urging them to be present.
In 1849 on Father Senez's return to France, Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid of the Madison church took over the Springfield assignment. From a letter written by him several years later, when he had become the Bishop of Rochester, same of the facts of his early days in Springfield may be ascertained.
Writing to the Rev. James H. Corrigan, President of Seton Hall College in 1884, Bishop McQuaid says:
"Your favor of the 26th is at hand. Some of the facts relative to the opening of the Mission in Springfield I can furnish. When I took charge of Springfield as an outlying mission of Madison in April, 1848, Mass had been said only on weekdays. After the opening of the Morristown Church (another mission out of Madison), in 1848, Mass was said in Springfield once a month on Sunday. That Sunday, Morristown was left without a Mass.
In 1852 owing to increasing numbers it was thought advisable to build a church..."
Bishop McQuaid then goes on to explain that in proceeding to buy a lot for a church it was necessary to proceed warily. Religious tolerance had yet hardly become universal and there was still much prejudice against Catholics having a church here. A suitable site was finally found in Springfield on the main road "leading to Elizabeth where the road from Newark strikes in." (probably near the intersection of Millburn avenue and Morris turnpike). A contract was entered into with the owner to purchase for $250.00 an acre. However, when word got around that the property was being purchased in order to erect a Catholic church the owner refused to go ahead with the sale, blaming his withdrawal on his wife's refusal to sign the papers. Negotiations were carried on further, and the price was raised, but the matter was eventually dropped.
However, the Church's good friend, Daniel Coughlan, came forward with an offer of an acre of land free, and his offer was finally accepted. Bishop McQuaid says that the offer had always been open, but because the ground was wet and not very desirable for any building purposes, they had hoped to purchase a better site. Again referring to the 1850 map, the Coughlan property is placed on the northwesterly side of Morris turnpike, southeast of the present Short Hills avenue. A brook then ran through the property. Work was commenced on the church building on the Coughlan property in October, 1852, and the building was blessed by the Very Rev. John Loughlin, Vicar General of New York, on the Sunday after Christmas, 1852. The church was 40 x 30 feet, and cost $1600.00. On the day of dedication all indebtedness had been paid, except for two notes of $100.00 each. The money was collected, according to the old collection book, in small sums from all over the Madison mission outposts, including Morristown, Mendham, Baskingridge, Providence, Chatham, Columbia, Hanover, Whippany, Speedwell, etc.
In September, 1853, Father McQuaid was transferred to Newark and the Rev. Father Michael A. Madden took charge of the Madison church which continued to minister to Springfield. The Springfield church prospered and an addition was built to it in 1855.
After the removal of Seton Hall College from Madison to South Orange in 1860, Springfield came under the administration of the priests of the College. Bishop McQuaid, in his letter above referred to said, "it did the young priests of the College good to ride over on a crispy winter's morning to get a slight taste of the missionary life."
The Church was not without troubles. Once lightning destroyed the sanctuary. A series of acts of vandalism were committed against it. In 1859 it was robbed, the carpets torn from the floor and scattered in shreds about the edifice and church vestments were destroyed. Soon after 1860 the Catholic population of Millburn increased over Springfield to such an extent that plans were made to move the church here. Father Louis Schneider assumed charge of the Springfield church in 1868, and by his efforts the present site of St. Rose of Lima's in Short Hills was purchased, consisting then of six acres of land on which were located a dwelling house and hat shop. The shop was later remodelled for a parochial school and Mass was said in it for a time. Father Schneider is buried in St. Rose's Cemetery here in accordance with his wish.
The Rev. L. S. Dagnault became the first resident pastor here. He also attended Cranford and Westfield, and later Union was added to the duties of the St. Rose of Lima pastorate, so that Union residents no longer had to walk or ride four miles to attend church. In 1880 the church building was moved from Springfield to the present site of St. Rose of Lima's. It is said to have been six weeks on the road during the course of its one-third of a mile journey.
In an article appearing in the Newark Evening News, at an unknown date, but probably sometime in the 1880's, it says:
"St. Rose's Church is small and not imposing. It is not surmounted by skyscraping steeples or cross, yet its walls have enclosed many an eloquent sermon and in it have ministered at one time or another as Pastor more priests who have attained eminence in the Catholic church than in any other parish in New Jersey..."
The article then goes on to cite as examples, Father McQuaid who became Bishop of Rochester; Father W. M. Wigger who became Bishop of the Newark Diocese; Michael A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, and James H. Corrigan, President of Seton Hall.
Another Pastor who should be mentioned in this history is the Rev. Francis J. Hourigan who was drowned in Manasquan on July 11, 1933, while attempting to rescue a young girl. The girl was saved, but he died.
The little wooden church moved over from Springfield was replaced by a brick church in 1912, and the latter church was again replaced by the present beautiful American Colonial building in 1955. The present Pastor is the Rev. James F. Ryan. The 1976 Pastor is Bishop John Dougherty.
First Baptist Church, Millburn
Mrs. Isabella Lee became 70 years of age in 1857, the year Millburn Township was incorporated. At the age of 70 most people have either retired, or are seriously thinking of giving up most activities. Mrs. Lee, however, if she took notice of her birthday at all, paid it little heed, for she was soon to step into Millburn's history as the founder of the Millburn Baptist Church, and her life's real work was to begin. For the remaining 14 years of her life, and until her death in 1871, she would be its benefactor and ardent supporter.
For one or two years previous to 1858, services according to the tenets of the Baptist creed had been held intermittently in Washington Hall on Millburn avenue. In the summer of 1858, Mrs. Lee promoted a meeting to consider organizing a Baptist Church. A Baptist Church could be legally incorporated at that time by a group of representatives from existing churches. The call, therefore, went out to neighboring churches, but only four responded. However, Mrs. Lee's devotion to her task was not dampened and another call went out to which delegates from eight churches came to consider such an organization. As 14 persons had signified their intention to join the proposed church, the delegates recommended that a church be established, and a public meeting called for that purpose, on October 18, 1858. The meeting took place as planned. Nine members became Trustees. Besides Mrs. Lee the others were Samuel Edwards, Sidney W. Edwards, William Hastings, James James, Mrs. Sally Drew, Mrs. Catherine Green, Mrs. Susanna Marsh and Mrs. Julia A. Spangler. Articles of faith were drawn up and eventually the church was admitted into the fellowship of the East New Jersey Baptist Association. When the Northern New Jersey Baptist Association was organized in 1872, it became a member of that governing body. The Rev. H. C. Townley, a young graduate of Rochester University became the first Pastor. For a time the little congregation continued to meet in Washington Hall, although on fine Sundays in the summer of that first year they met in David Brison's wooded grove which was located approximately where Whitney road now lies.
However, Mrs. Lee then donated land she had purchased at the corner of Millburn avenue and Spring street, and $1,000.00 in cash for the building of an edifice. Henry Cyphers of Newark was engaged as builder, and the cornerstone was laid on August 10, 1859. Into the cornerstone went a copy of the New Testament, copies of the articles of faith and covenant, the names of the trustees and building committee, minutes of various Baptist bodies in the State, copies of Baptist newspapers, and a daguerreotype of Mrs. Lee.
The Church had many struggles in its early days. The Congregation was small. Some of its more affluent members suffered in the Civil War financial depression. Funds were lacking to pay the minister and make needed repairs. Indeed, in 1866, the annual report of the State Baptist Convention speaks of the Millburn Church as "nobly pushing her way up through obstacles which at one time seemed unsurmountable." It was said of Mrs. Lee that she would not keep a carriage for herself so that she would have more to give to her church.
Other difficulties arose. A Baptist Church formed in Summit took away some members of the congregation. Lightning struck the spire. Legal difficulties were encountered because of some technicalities overlooked in the original incorporation and the land title had to be cleared. But the spirit of the church remained strong, and the few faithful members never gave up. Finally, the tide turned. A revival set in. A part-time minister was found to serve for $6.50 a week and use of the parsonage. A plea for funds to renovate the structure went out. Practically the whole building had to have repairs. A report of the day stated that "the roof had decayed; the sides were bulging out because of structural weaknesses, the interior needed remodeling and everything from the weathervane to the cellar needed repairs." But the money was found and over $3,500 was paid out for the necessary work, and in February, 1889, a rededication of the church took place. The Short Hills "Item" of July, 1889, reported that the Church was free of debt other than the mortgage of $3,000 for the Parsonage.
The Millburn Baptist Church has had 19 Pastors. The present minister, Rev. Romaine F. Bateman, began his pastorate on October 4, 1931, which makes him, in point of years served, Millburn's senior minister, now that Mr. Dickinson is no longer here.
The Wyoming Presbyterian Church
Few railroad stations have had the distinction of serving every seventh day as a House of God, yet that honor began for the little building owned by the D. L. & W. Railroad, near the northeast corner of Wyoming and Glen avenues (then called Laurel street) on Sunday, November 9, 1873, when the group which was to become the Wyoming Presbyterian Church gathered there that Sunday morning to hear the Rev. Brown Emerson preach his first sermon on Millburn Township. Thirty people assembled that morning, which must have included every man, woman, and child in that section of the Township.
Rev. Emerson chose his text well. Seeking in Genesis, he read about Jacob's vision and his building of a holy place out of a stone and holy oil. Jacob named it "Beth El" which, of course, are the Hebrew words for "House of God." Jacob's exclamation was the text for Mr. Emerson's sermon:
"How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!" (Genesis 28:7).
Rev. Mr. Emerson had come to Wyoming seeking health. He had been born in New England, but a few years before 1873 he had moved to southern New Jersey, and finally came here. There were no Sunday trains, so that the decision to turn the station to good use on Sunday was a happy thought, for the people there who "wanted preaching and a Sunday School." Mr. Emerson and his supporters petitioned the Presbytery of Morris and orange for recognition, and on April 21, 1875, the "First Presbyterian Church of Wyoming, New Jersey" was officially created.
The Church had fourteen members. Besides the Rev. Mr. Emerson and Catherine, his wife, they were Murdock Howell and Sallie, his wife, Luther W. Badger and Jennie, his wife, Isaac H. Clearman and Mary, his wife, Robert C. Melvain and Sophia, his wife, Jacob Hardenburgh, Elizabeth, his wife, and Julia Ellen, their daughter, and Mrs. Helen Barnes. Mr. Emerson's daughter, Isabella, later Mrs. Frederick R. Stoneall) who would be, in Millburn's Centennial year of 1957, the Church's oldest living member, had not yet been born in the year her father created his "Beth El" out of a railroad station.
Not too long after the church came into official existence, Mr. Emerson again became ill, and the church was forced to struggle along without a minister, and in fact had no duly appointed minister until 1886 when the Rev. Thomas Heywood became the first installed minister.
Without a minister, and with only fourteen members, the normal thing would have been for the congregation to fall apart in a short time, or seek religious affiliation elsewhere. However, that did not happen, for the decision to build prevailed. In 1878 they purchased land from Luther W. Badger and in 1883 Edward Hand gave them an adjoining plot, and a wooden church was erected on the site of the present church, at a cost of $3,141.96. This cost covered not only the building, but the horse sheds, equipment and insurance. The first service in it was held on December 31, 1883.
When the Rev. Heywood was called to take the pastorate he was hailed as "an earnest worker in the fields of temperance and religion," the former qualification being an extremely important recommendation for him in those days when the "Demon Ran'' was being fought so furiously all over the land.
Mr. Heywood had hardly taken his position, however, when legal troubles beset his church. A member of the Presbytery discovered that the church had not been properly organized and the church was put under the control of a commission until the requirements could be met. The Commission's control lasted from 1886 until 1890 when Rev. Mr. Stephen C. Leonard was called to be a part time minister.
The Rev. Brown Emerson died on June 16, 1887, in the midst of these difficulties and the church lost its most valiant friend. In the sessions record of the Elders for that year the entry appears that "To his (Mr. Emerson's) fostering care the church mainly owes its existence. He died respected and beloved by the whole community."
The Church had a succession of ministers, sometime part time only, sometimes a supplied preacher, but the membership rose slowly and steadily, first to 18, then to 35; to 48 in 1910, to 55 in 1912, to 62 in 1913. The Rev. George T. Eddy's ministry lasted 12 years, until 1925, and was the longest in the history of the organization up to that time. The membership rose from 62 in 1913 to 120 in 1925 when he resigned. Rev. Eddy's record as minister was later exceeded by that of Rev. Ralph H. Read who served from 1937 until 1954.
In 1931 the physical facilities of the church were inadequate for its constantly increasing membership and Robert Upjohn was engaged to make plans for a new building. The result was the new church which we see today, of simple New England Colonial architecture, dedicated on June 5, 1932. The cost was $61,031.92.
The gutting by the destructive fire of 1956 brought sorrow to every citizen of Millburn who had come to love the sight of the slim Sir Christopher Wren type steeple rising above the trees on the mountainside. The wing on Linden street which houses the church school, dedicated on December 20, 1951, escaped the full force of the fire.
As of 1956 the Congregation has grown from 14 in 1875 to over 700, but the same strong will which had carried the church through the lean, hard years has now restored the building from the ravages of the fire. Fortunately the white spire was not destroyed and through the quick and efficient work of skillful members of the Congregation, temporary electric line was rigged up immediately, powered by current supplied by neighbors, to restore the lighting the evening after the fire to one of Millburn's best known landmarks. Rev. Dr. Donald Morrison Meisel assumed his duties on January 1, 1955. Rev. Ronald W. Johnson is Minister (1976).
Christ Church in Short Hills
The first meeting, out of which grew Christ Church in Short Hills, was held on March 28, 1882. The "News Item" of October, 1888, says the meeting was held at the home of William M. Deen, which was located at 19 Chestnut place. Other accounts say it was held in the Music Hall. However, although the place of this historic meeting may not be fixed, the date and purpose are certain. It was called to discuss the means whereby an Episcopal Church could be established in Short Hills. The first step was the obtaining of the consent of St. Stephen's Church, Millburn, and of Bishop Thomas A. Starkey, of the Diocese of New Jersey.
The next day, March 29, fortified by a petition signed by a "majority" of the residents of Short Hills, a committee called on the Rev. Dr. Lewis P. Clover, Rector of St. Stephen's and sought his approval. It is interesting here to note that a "majority" of the residents actually numbered 18 men. Stewart Hartshorn led the signers and the others were William R. Bliss, James R. Pitcher, Charles T. Root, George M. S. Horton, V. March, Devereau Toler, C. S. Henry, W. I. Russell, L. C. Goodrich, A. B. Jennings, Wellington Campbell, M.D., A. C. C. Foye, C. H. Humphrey, John H. Bradbury, William M. Deen, DeLacy Cleveland and William E. Toler.
Although Dr. Clover received the committee cordially, he asked that the request for approval be put in writing which the committee proceeded to do immediately. The letter was signed by John W. Bradbury and W. M. Deen, and it stated that the Parish boundary was to embrace "all that section of Millburn Township lying north of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, from the Summit line to the Orange Mountains."
Strange as it seems now, no answer to that letter was ever received, and word soon spread that the Vestrymen of St. Stephens 23.
were opposed to the establishment of another church of the same denomination nearby. But the Committee was not deterred from its purpose. A petition was made to the Diocese and to St. Peter's Church, Morristown, and thereafter a hearing was called by the Diocese's Standing Committee for April 19. At the hearing, St. Stephen's representative asked for an adjournment in order for him to be able to gather additional facts to support their view. This request was granted. The Diocesan Committee then sent a set of questions to the Christ Church Committee asking a few pertinent questions: one, was it proposed to purchase land and pay for same, and to whom would the land be conveyed?; two, was it proposed to build a church and who would pay for it? and three, what would be the probable source of the support of the parish thereafter?
In a history of Christ Church compiled in 1920, an explanation and apology was made for the attitude of St. Stephen's at that time. The writer said,
"The formation of an Episcopal Church in Short Hills would be likely to result in the immediate withdrawal from the older parish of some of its most useful members, would deprive it of much of its revenue, and would, perhaps, for all time, divert the source of its natural growth and development. Its very existence was threatened, and to those of its members who had been brought up in the older parish, and loved it, such a prospect was truly devastating."
However, at the end of April, 1882, when the Committee here received the questions from the Diocese it took its troubles to Stewart Hartshorn, Devereaux Toler, John H. Bradbury, DeLancy Cleveland and William M. Deen called on him personally. Mr. Hartshorn then came forward with an offer which, as events proved, amply satisfied the Diocesan authorities and removed all doubts as the proposed church becoming a charge on the Diocese. Mr. Hartshorn not only promised to donate a suitable piece of ground, but would also donate $1,000.00 in cash toward the erection of a building, or would build the building himself charging the parish as rent only the interest on the cost. The former offer was eventually accepted.
The third question asked by the Diocese was answered, temporarily at least, by the collection of $1,140.00 in advance subscriptions toward the support of the Parish.
Finally, on the 17th of May at the home of Daniel Dodd in Newark all parties met. The minutes report that a "full and warm discussion was had on both sides." The final decision of the Diocesan Committee was received on July 8, 1882, consenting to the formation of Christ Church in Short Hills, Township of Millburn, and the formal canonical consent was received from Bishop Starkey in September.
On September 20, 1882, the organization was completed. John H. Bradbury and DeLancy Cleveland were elected Wardens, and Stewart Hartshorn, William M. Deen, James R. Pitcher, Devereux Toler and Dr. George H. Rose were elected vestrymen. A communion service, the first gift of its kind, was received that day from Dr. Rose.
The first big, and for a time, it seemed, almost unsurmountable, steps were passed, and all the new Parish needed was a minister and a place of worship. Mr. Hartshorn quickly supplied the latter. A room on the ground floor of his Music Hall was fitted up as a chapel, and a young man, Rev. Frank L. Humphreys of nearby St. Cloud, was asked to conduct the first service, on October 15, 1882. The collection that day amounted to $15.26 which was considered munificent. Two weeks later Mr. Humphrey was called to the Rectorship at a salary of $1,000 a year, and on December 1, 1882, he assumed charge of the Parish as its first Rector. Mr. D. Spinning was engaged as Sexton at a salary of $1.00 a week, payable monthly. Mr. Spinning served for more than forty consecutive years.
The parish was then legally incorporated as "The Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Christ Church in Short Hills," and plans were made for the building of a church to seat 200 people and cost about $5,000. Charles A. Rich was selected as the architect. The original building, the nucleus of which is still used today, was of stone 70 x 25 feet, with porch, nave and chancel, low walls, a bell turret and a terra cotta interior finish.
Even as today the estimated cost of the building was exceeded, and in the end the new church cost $7,500.00. A pipe organ costing about $1,275 was purchased by subscriptions. The Church was completed under the Rectorship of Rev. M. M. Fothergill and the little congregation met in the finished building for the first time on Trinity Sunday, June 8, 1884. The Church was consecrated on November 13, 1884. Many of the furnishings were gifts from the parishioners, some donated as memorials, and included the altar and reredos, a brass cross and vases, brass altar rail, marble font, oak pulpit, clergy stalls, alms box, credence, a carved oak Bishop's chair, altar hangings, an Agnus Dei and a bell which summoned the congregation first on Whitsunday of 1886.
For about 25 years the church depended for its support mainly on rental received from pews, but in May, 1909, that charge was discontinued as offerings became sufficient to carry costs.
The first home of the Rector was in the residence of F. H. Copeland on Short Hills road, but in 1886, Mr. Hartshorn donated a plot of ground for the building of a rectory, and in May, 1888, the present rectory was completed at a total cost of $6,496.00, exclusive of furnishings.
The next few years, following the completion of the Church, saw it struggling through many financial crises. The principal reason for this situation seems to have been that the population of Short Hills at that time was a transient one. Many rented homes for a year or two and then returned to the city or elsewhere, so that a firm hard core of parishioners to whom the support of their church was a first consideration, had not been formed. At one time a paid organist had to be dispensed with; another time Mr. Spinning was asked to accept $15.00 in full payment of a $25.00 bill for extra services and expenses, because the extra $10.00 would have been a hardship. But gradually, the membership increased and the deficits decreased, and as people began to make Short Hills their permanent year round homes, loyal and generous friends stood by in emergencies.
The membership finally outgrew the building and changes and additions were made in 1907, 1916 and 1936, and since 1950 substantial enlargements have been undertaken and more are being planned. Another generous gift of land by Mr. Hartshorn made possible the construction of a parish house and its later improvement. That was the fourth substantial gift of land by Mr. Hartshorn.
Christ Church has had only three Rectors since 1885, which seems like a record. Dr. Napoleon Barrows took over the Rectorship on August 25, 1885, and served until May 31, 1904. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles Malcolm Douglas who was Rector until 1940. The Rev. Herbert H. Cooper who had been selected in 1935 to assist Rev. Mr. Douglas became the Rector in 1940. Rev. George W. R. MacCray is Rector today.
Congregation B'Nai Israel (History prepared by Dr. Max Gruenewald)
The origin of what was to become Congregation B'nai Israel of Millburn can be tracted back to the beginning of this century. Jewish families, few in number, residing in Millburn, Springfield, Vaushall and Union, met for religious services in private homes or in rented stores. Later on for several years, High Holy Day Services were held in the Parish House of St. Stephen's Church with Rev. Hugh W. Dickinson extending the hospitality of his church to the Jewish group.
Although the number of Jewish families increased steadily, it was not until 1924 that ground on Lackawanna place was purchased from the Casa Colombo Club and that a contract was signed with the firm of Rieber & Long for the building of a Synagogue. At the laying of the cornerstone, Rev. Hugh W. Dickenson and Rev. LeRoy Lincoln, ministers of St. Stephen's Church, and Millburn Baptist Church, respectively, participated, thus lending emphasis to the fact that this first Jewish house of worship had come about not only through the determined effort of the pioneering Jewish families, but also through the generous assistance of Christian neighbors.
The building was completed just before the High Holy Days of the year 1925. During the following years the Congregation was consolidated. Classes were instituted for the children and rooms in the temple were made available for social and cultural needs of young and old. The classes developed into a regular religious school with Mrs. Rae Hoffman as principal. In 1943, Melvin Kieffer was installed as the first Rabbi. At that time about 80 families belonged to the Congregation. When Rabbi Kieffer joined the army as a chaplain in 1944, Dr. Max Gruenewald substituted for him. In the fall of 1946, he became Rabbi Kieffer's successor.
Immediately after Dr. Gruenewald's installation plans were formulated for the purchase of a site for a new synagogue. Through negotiations with the Township Committee the present site at 162 Millburn avenue was eventually obtained in exchange for the old synagogue on Lackawanna place.
Percival Goodman was chosen as the architect for the new building, and the firm of 0. A. Peterson was entrusted with the construction. At a congregation meeting Percival Goodman, who is also a Professor at Columbia University, in the School of Architecture, explained his thoughts about "Building a Synagogue in America in our time," his plans were approved.
On May 14, 1949, ground was broken and on October 8, 1950, the laying of the cornerstone took place. The new synagogue was dedicated on April 29, 1951, with Dr. Max Arzt, Professor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, delivering the dedicatory address. The architecture of the building immediately attracted nationwide attention. It was hailed as an outstanding example of modern religious architecture. It was also the first one to introduce abstract art. Three artists were commissioned. Adolph Gottlieb designed the Ark Curtain, Robert Motherwell created the mural, and Herbert Ferber the sculpture, "The Burning Bush." The actual work of making most of the Ark Curtain, including sewing, embroidery, applique work, etc. was done under Mr. Gottlieb's direction by the women of the Temple who gave their time and skills to its creation. These works of art were dedicated at a ceremony highlighted by an address of Renee d'Harmoncourt, Director of the Museum of Modern Art of New York City. Two stones of synagogues in Mannheim, Germany, destroyed by the Nazis, were sent to Millburn through the American Jewish Army Chaplain stationed in Heidelberg. They were set in the Memorial wall of Millburn's synagogue.
The continued growth of the congregation made the acquisition of more land necessary, and an annex was erected including additional school rooms, a library, and a large auditorium. The same architect and contractor were employed for the new building, and it was dedicated on January 22, 1956, with Herbert Abeles, President of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Board, as guest speaker.
In 1946 there were 48 children taught by two teachers; at the end of 1956, there were 250 children, taught by five teachers. The Synagogue is affiliated with the United Synagogue of America. Its main services are conducted by Dr. Gruenewald, Michael Alexander the Cantor, and a voluntary Choir of members. 1976 is Rabbi DeVictor A. Mirelman. Dr. Max Gruenewald Rabbi Emeritus.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Short Hills Ward. (History prepared by Bishop E.M. Thomas)
Like most branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Short Hills Ward had very small and humble beginnings. It started as a small missionary church in Newark in July, 1922, when G. Stanley McAllister, then a Mormon missionary, later a vice president of Lord and Taylor, was appointed presiding Elder. Sunday services were held in Achtelstetter's Restaurant building on Broad street, in rooms above the dining room. There were about 15 members of the Church at that time in this area.
A little later a few New Jersey families joined the church and a small group of converts from Holland came to America and added to the branch. In 1928 it moved to Masonic Hall, at Orange and Sixth streets, Newark. The membership reached about 200 that year. Midweek services were held at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark.
In 1932 a small tract of land and a recreational club house at 40 Whittlesey avenue, West Orange, were purchased and remodeled to use as a little chapel. Here the membership grew to about 450. Growth would have been much greater, except that many of the converts moved west to join the main body of the church in Utah and surrounding states. This little chapel drew members from as far away as New Brunswick, Mendham and Leonia, as well as from the Oranges, Newark and Elizabeth.
In 1953 the Whittlesey avenue tract was purchased by the State to make room for the Garden State Parkway, and the building on it was torn down. A seven-acre tract of land was than purchased on White Oak Ridge road, Short Hills. Plans were drawn for the present building to cost $300,000. Pending its construction the Congregation met in the Florence Guadineer Junior High School in Springfield.
The ground breaking ceremony was held in October, 1953. Chairman Hill of the Millburn Township Committee welcomed the newcomers to Short Hills and a number of other community leaders attended and extended their goodwill and best wishes. The excavation, concrete foundations, and masonry work, also the heating and plumbing facilities were contracted, but the remainder was built by the voluntary labor of over a hundred doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists and craftsmen of the Mormon faith, and by a few of their friends who were not members. As of March 1, 1956, the building was completed in all but a few minor details, and was completely paid for. No Mormon chapel is ever dedicated until it is clear of all forms of debt.
The Church was dedicated on September 16, 1956, with Secretary of Agriculture. Ezra Benson, a member of President Eisenhower's Cabinet, delivering the dedicatory address.
The first regular meeting in the new building was held in July, 1955. The Junior Sunday School facilities were then unfinished, but were soon made available. They are a miniature replica, in most respects, of the main chapel. The latter accommodates about 300 persons. It has choir spaces for a choir of 60 members. None of the officers or leaders of the Church receive any salary or pay of any kind. The members perform all the functions and duties such as preaching the sermons, leading the singing, playing the organ, etc.
The present leader is Bishop E. M. Thomas (as of 1957), a lawyer with Esso. Other leaders are professional men employed in numerous well known institutions, throughout this area. As of 1956 the membership in the Short Hills Ward was about 600. They are from Essex, Union, and Morris Counties. Non-members are permitted to attend services at any time, a fact which Bishop Thomas says, is contrary to the usual belief. Bishop Robert C. Fletcher is leader (1976).
History of the Community Congregational Church, Short Hills (Prepared by Rev. H. Otheman Smith, D.D., Minister)
The Community Congregational Church in Short Hills has had a brief but a full and eventful existence. Sponsored by the Middle Atlantic Conference and the Board of Home Missions of the Congregational Christian Churches, it was given a comity assignment by the New Jersey Council of Churches after a survey had revealed that a new church was needed and wanted in this community. The first service was held on Sunday, September 27, 1953, and the Church School was started the following Sunday. The congregation met in the Racquets Club for its Sunday services from September 27, 1953, through April 11, 1954. On Easter Sunday, April 18, 1954, services were held in the Short Hills School on Hobart avenue where they continued through March 24, 1957. On March 31, 1957, the congregation moved into its own building at the corner of Parsonage Hill road and Hartshorn drive.
The congregation was formally organized as a church with 126 charter members, and received into the fellowship of Congregational Christian Churches on December 6, 1953. This service was held at the Short Hills Country Day School.
On November 10, 1954, the Reverend H. Otheman Smith, D.D., who had brought the first congregation together and had served as Pastor under the employ of the Middle Atlantic Conference since the first service, was unanimously called by the church to be its Minister. On March 13, 1955, he was formally installed, with Dr. Ralph W. Sockman of New York preaching the installation sermon.
In the first year, a parsonage located at 29 Hobart avenue was purchased as a home for the Minister and as a place where activities of the church could be held. Also a five-acre tract of land at the corner of Parsonage Hill road and Hartshorn drive was secured for the site of the future church building. In November, 1954, less than a year after its organization, the church conducted a campaign among its members for funds for the erection of its building. On June 5 of the following year, groundbreaking ceremonies were held, and a beautiful colonial building representing an investment of some half a million dollars has been completed. A parking space for 250 cars has been provided in the rear of the building.
In the four years since its organization this church has grown to over 800 members, and its Church School now numbers over 400 including an active Women's Guild of 250, a young married group of 80, and junior and senior high school organizations of some 90 young people. This past year a full scouting program. for Cubs, Scouts and Explorers was inaugurated. This Fall a men's organization called, "The League of Congregational Men," was formed with John C. Hover as president, Mrs. Otho A. Shipley, Jr. is President of the Women's Guild.
On October 14, 1956, the cornerstone was laid, at which Dr. Fred S. Buschmeyer, the then acting Minister and Executive Secretary of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches was the speaker. The dedication services were held from
October 27, 1957, through November 3, 1957. The dedication of occurred the church occurred on October 27 at 4:30 p.m. Dr. Trumen Douglas, Executive Secretary of the Home Mission Board was the preacher. On October 30 there was a church dinner at which the speaker was Dr. Halford E. Luccock of Yale Divinity School, and on November 3 at 11 a.m. the service of the dedication of the memorial was held with Dr. H. Otheman Smith officiating.
The present officers of the Church are: Church Chairman, Hugh L. Macmillan, Jr., Clerk, Gerald G. Harrison; Treasurer, Paul A. Seibold; Auditor, Herbert C. Englert, Alfred H. Hauser is Chairman of the Church Building Council and William G. Lupton, Jr. is Chairman of the Building Fund Raising Committee.
There are nine members of the Board of Trustees?F. Willard Griffith, Chairman, Albert J. Williams, Secretary, Walter Beinecke, Jrs., Allan D. Forbes, George M. Dean, Alfred H. Hauser, William G. Lupton, Jr., Hobart C. Ramsey and Charles W. Scott. The Council of Elders consists of Rev. H. Otheman Smith, D.D., Chairman, Dr. Lawrence E. Ulvestad, Clerk and George D. Atwood, Elder-at-Large. William E. Repke is Chairman of the Deacons, and John E. Schmitt is Secretary; Mrs. Marshall L. Posey is Chairman of the Deaconesses, Mrs. Kenneth G. Engler is Vice Chairman, and Mrs. Douglas H. Springer is Secretary. Rev. Kenyon Wildrick is 1976 Chairman (in place of Rev. H. Otheman Smith, D.D.).
Temple B'nai Jeshurun
In 1848, 12 German emigrants arrived in Newark from war-ravaged Germany, and on August 20, 1848, they founded a House of Worship which they called "B'nai Jeshurun"?Children of the Upright.
Renting an upstairs room on Halsey Street, Newark, (then Harrison Street), they worshipped there until 1858 when they had amassed sufficient funds to build a small temple at Washington and William Streets.
Rabbi Joseph Leucht was called and ministered to the Temple until 1905 when Rabbi Solomon Foster succeeded him. In 1915 a fine new Temple was built on High Street at Waverly Avenue, Newark.
Rabbi Foster served the Community and Temple for 40 years when he became Rabbi Emeritus and was succeeded by Rabbi David H. Wice. Rabbi Wice was succeeded five years later by Rabbi Ely E. Pilchik who still serves B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, and Rabbi Foster continues there as Rabbi Emeritus.
As the Jewish community moved to the suburbs the Temple followed and in 1950 built in South orange. A decade later, B'nai Jeshurun congregation completed its new Temple on South Orange Avenue, Short Hills, to serve the new era.
The Short Hills Temple has flexible seating arrangements to enable it to accommodate 350 to 2700 people. In establishing its Temple here the Congregation hoped to provide a cultural center for people of all faiths. Architecturally, B'nai Jeshurun is a handsome example of modern religious edifices.
Since its establishment in Short Hills the Temple has presented programs in Music, Drama, Literature, Science, Modern Dance, and other cultural forms, bringing here distinguished representatives in many fields. Most programs are open to the public.
The foregoing are the histories of the churches which became permanent institutions in Millburn Township. A few other attempts were made at establishing churches or Sunday schools here, but they were either abandoned or absorbed into the larger religious groups.
A Congregational Church of Short Hills met for a few months in the Music Hall in the 1880's and during the same period a Union Sabbath School met in the public school on Old Short Hills road, at the head of Parsonage Hill road. Another Union Sunday School met in the Music Hall at various times with the Rev. A. B. Rich, D.D., of the Crescent, acting as its Superintendent.
On a map of 1872, a lot on Taylor street between Main St. and Spring street, is shown, containing a building marked, "M. E. Church." This may have been the same building which several years later housed a Negro church rival to the other A.M.E. Church. No permanent Methodist Church was established here, and the Springfield Methodist Church since its founding in 1827 has served Millburn people of that denomination. However, Millburn citizens had a part in establishing it. The first meeting to consider its founding was held in the home of Philemon Dickinson in the old stone house on Millburn avenue, which played a part in the Vauxhall road battle on June 23, 1780, but was torn down many years ago. Application was made to the Springfield Academy to meet there, but permission was refused, after which the congregation met in a local grist mill sitting, it is said, "on sacks of grain and bales of hay."
Millburn seems always to have been a church-going community, and its churches have grown strong and influential with the years. Many had humble beginnings and experienced hard struggles for existence, but strengthened by those early trials they have reached a vigorous maturity.
History of the Oak
Ridge Sunday School Association, 1882.