This history is found on pages 25-31 of the Minutes of the East New Jersey Baptist Association, 1872. The author's name is not mentioned. - Jim Dvuall]
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE
BAPTIST CHURCH AT MOUNT BETHEL
Before the mighty struggle for American Independence and the commencement of our national existence, this church had its origin. It has been in existence more than a century. Its place of worship is on Mount Bethel, an elevation of land in Warren [T]ownship, Somerset county.
It was constituted on the 29th of October, 1767, with a membership of eighteen, (eight males and ten females,) who were dismissed from the church at Scotch Plains.
The following are the names of the constituent members: Benjamin Sutton, Sr., Benjamin Sutton, Jr., David Jennings, Abner Sutton, William Worth, John Worth, John Pound, James Sntton, Elizabeth Tingley, Hannah Coon, Mary Sutton, Rosanna Couvart, Anna Worth, Lois Sutton, Dinah Worth, Patience Bloom, Alche Worth, Elizabeth Hayden.
1. The first Pastor, Rev. Henry Crosley, was one of the original members of the Scotch Plains Church. He appears to have been a man of fervent piety and very active zeal in the cause of Christ. He received a license, to preach about the year 1750, and was settled over a church on Schooley's Mountain, where he was ordained in 1753, and where he remained about two years.
His next settlement was at Wolverton, where he was about three years. He was pastor of the Roxborough church, Penn., for a number of years. After serving the church at Mount Bethel, he labored at Mannahawkin, Morristown, and Red Stone, Va. Of the time and place of his decease, we have no information.
2. The Rev. Abner Sutton, who succeeded him, was a native of Bernards Township. He was one of the constituent members of this church, and by it was licensed to preach. He preached at Salem before he became pastor of this church. After he settled here, he remained till he was called home to glory. He died February 26th, 1791, in the 50th year of his age.
3. The Rev. Jacob Fitz-Randolph, the third pastor, was a native of Samptown. He was born in the year 1757, and was baptized in June, 1786. He accepted a call from the Mount Bethel Church to become their pastor. He was licensed by the Scotch Plains Church in the early part of 1791, and was here ordained in June or July of the same year. He labored here about three years, and then accepted an invitation to labor with the church at Samptown. He was subsequently dismissed from the Samptown church, and with a number of others, raised the banner of the cross in Plainfield. They were organized into an independent church in 1818. He served this church several years, till he was disabled by a stroke of the palsy. He survived this affliction about one year, when he was removed to the spirit-world.
4. The Rev. Lebbeus Lathrop, who succeeded him, was probably a native of New England. He removed from the State of New York to this place in June, 1794. He was dismissed in January, 1805, to unite with the church at Warwick. He removed from that place to Samptown, where he died.
5. His successor was the Rev. John Ellis. This worthy minister of Christ was born in England, February 9th, 1767; was bred a farmer, but at the age of 19 (in the year 1786), he removed to London, where he probably engaged in the mercantile business. Here, under the ministry of the Rev. Rowland Hill, he was brought to lie at the foot of the cross, where for weeks he much doubted the possibility of salvation. But it was the pleasure of Immanuel to cast on him an eye of pity, and give him "joy and peace in believing." And to use his own words, "for weeks my comforts, nay, transports, were such that I felt gazing upon Immanuel as the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." He became a member of Mr. Hill's church, and, with his approbation, commenced preaching the gospel. He emigrated to America in November, 1795, and settled in Pennsylvania.
Having become a Baptist after being convinced of the scriptural mode of baptism, he married and removed to Philadelphia, where, under God, he was instrumental in gathering the 2nd Baptist Church in that city. In July, 1805, he became pester of the church at Mount Bethel. Several worthy additions were made during his stay. He removed to Kingwood in 1818. In 1854, he was living in Norwalk, in the 87th year of his age. Of the time of his decease, we have no information.
After Mr. Ellis left Mount Bethel, the church was destitute of a pastor about three years.
6. The Rev. Mr. Elliot, an Englishman by birth, took charge of the church in 1816. He removed here from South River, and remained two years, when he left and went to Northfield, where he died.
7. The Rev. John Watson, an Englishman, who succeeded him, commenced his labors in the Autumn of 1818, and closed them in 1820. He afterwards left our connection and united with the Seventh Day Baptists. He closed his earthly career at Northfield.
8. The Rev. Morgan R. Cox was the 8th pastor. He is a native of Trenton. Soon after he began his labors here he was ordained pastor of the church. He served the church from that time till 1848, a period of 21 years. During his pastorate, the church was blessed with two precious revivals. He removed to Upper Precinct, Cape May County. Afterwards he preached at the Cross Roads (now Dayton), and at George's Road.
9. The Rev. Edward C. Ambler received a call from this church in the spring of 1849. He is a native of Danbury, Conn., and from the Baptist Church in that place he obtained license to preach. He was ordained in New Milford, Conn. He removed to this place from Pleasant Valley, New York, and during his stay with the church his labors were most signally blest. He closed his labors with this church in the spring of 1851, and became pastor of the then new church at Millington. He removed from Millington to Wearts Corner, now Weartsville. During the late war he was a chaplain for three years, and a prisoner in Libby Prison for four months.
After Bro. Ambler left, the church was destitute of a pastor for some months, but was well supplied with preaching. The Rev. Thomas W. Haynes, a native of Tennessee, who at a subsequent period had charge of the church, was a supply for about three or four months.
10. The Rev. Jacob Timberman was the successor of Bro. Ambler. He is a native of Philadelphia, Pa., but was brought up in New Jersey. He had, some mouths previous to his coming to this place, left the Methodists, in whose connection he bad been a minister many years, and united with the Baptists. He was called to take charge of this church December 6th, 1851, and was ordained January 10th, 1852. He gave up the charge of the church in December, 1858, but remained awhile with us, after which he removed to Sandy Ridge. He was afterwards pastor of the church at Mansfield.
After Mr. Timberman closed his labors here, the church was again destitute of a pastor, but not all the time of preaching. Bro. Orville Morse supplied the pulpit for some time during this period.
11. On January 14th, 1855, the committee on supplies was instructed to procure the ministerial services of Rev. Thomas W. Haynes for an unlimited term. He continued to labor as a supply till he was called as pastor; said call was made in July, 1856. Mr. Haynes continued his pastoral labors till the summer of 1859.
For a while after Mr. Haynes left, Mr. Crampton, then a licentiate, supplied.
12. On the 11th of September, 1859, the Rev. Thomas H. Cole was called as a supply; and on the 27th of November following, he received a call to the pastorate for one year from the 1st of April ensuing. The year for which he was called had not expired, when, at his request, the church relinquished their claim on him as pastor.
The church were again destitute, but were supplied part of the time by the Rev. Andrew Hopper, then pastor of the Millington church, and afterwards by a Bro. Taylor.
13. On the 2d of March, 1862, Mr. William Pike, formerly of England, was called to the pastoral office for one year from the 1st of April ensuing. He remained about four and a half years.
After being destitute of regular preaching for some time, the Rev. Z. Grenell, then pastor of the Millington church, was called as a supply; and continued to labor as such nearly four years. His services at Mount Bethel being in the afternoon of every Lord's day. His labors with us were very acceptable; but he closed them in consequence of having accepted a call from the church at Hackensack.
14. Rev. T. Simpkins, from England, who was residing in the neighborhood at the time, commenced his labors as pastor after Bro. Grenell's term expired. In the fall of 1872 he left us, and took charge of the church at Lawsville Centre, Pa.
After Bro. Simpkins left, the church secured the services of Bro. Gibb, pastor of the church at Millington, who continues to occupy our pulpit on the afternoon of every Lord's day.
A number have been licensed by this church to preach the Gospel. The Rev. Abner Sutton, and his brother James, two of the constituent members, were licensed by them.
1. Abner has been noticed as one of the pastors of the church.
2. James became the first pastor of the Tuckahoe Baptist Church, and afterwards removed to Cow Marsh, Delaware, and from thence to Red Stone, Virginia.
3. Searing Stites, a native of Warren township, was licensed to preach during the ministry of Mr. Cox. Pro. Stites was for sixteen years pastor of the church at Hamilton Square. After leaving the charge of that church he preached for two years at Penn's Neck. At this place he was called to his reward.
4. Runyon Coon was licensed June 16th, 1836. He subsequently removed to Ohio.
5. Thomas A. Morton, a native of Scotland, was brought to profess faith in Christ, and was baptized during the revival of 1850-51. He was licensed the 18th of May ensuing. He afterwards removed to Illinois, where he was ordained.
6. John Crampton was licensed October 15th, 1856. But the church at a later date excluded him from its fellowship.
7. Conrad Fugeman, a German, was licensed June 13th, 1857, to preach occasionally to the Germans in their language, they being numerous in the vicinity. But he was subsequently excluded.
8. John S. Mallette was licensed June 8th, 1862. He is still a licentiate of this church.
9. Jacob Smith was licensed in April, 1866. He was at that time laboring as a colporteur of the American Tract Society. He afterwards closed his labors as colporteur, and received ordination at Aldenville, Penn. He has been active in the ministry in different places since he left the church at Aldenville.
We do not know who were the first deacons, but Mr. John Worth, one of the constituent members, was chosen deacon on probation as early as January 4th, 1769. It is presumed he remained in office till he was removed by death. He appears to have been a prominent man in the church, and was at times chosen moderator of its meetings.
June 21st, 1786, Colonel Ephriam Martin, David Ayres and Elijah Smith were chosen deacons. The former of these moved away; the other two remained in office till death removed them.
Oliver Stelle served the church for some time as deacon.
Moore Compton was for many years a faithful deacon. He remained in office till October 15th, 1851, when he was dismissed to unite with the [F]irst Baptist church in Plainfield. He has since passed away.
Ephriam Stelle and Andrew Smalley. also served the church for many years as deacons. The former continued to serve the church till 1851, when he and many others were dismissed to. constitute the church at Millington.
He was a deacon of that church till his death, which occurred January 1st, 1854.
In consequence of removal to another place, Deacon Smalley's connection ceased with this church.
Lewis Mundy, one of the deacons at the present time, was chosen to that office the 17th of May, 1851.
Anthony Compton and Israel C. Mundy, who are now deacons, were chosen December 25th, 1851, and, with Bro. Lewis Mundy, were ordained January 10th, 1852.
Simeon Mundy is also one of our deacons. He was chosen July 12th, 1863.
The whole number of clerks that have served the church since its constitution, is not known, but the name of Abner Sutton appeared as first on an old church book. Samuel Vail was in 1788 chosen to that office. More recently, Deacon Andrew Smalley served as clerk for many years. The names of his successors arc Lewis Mundy, Daniel Corry, John S. Mallette, William Jennings, Morgan C. Jennings, present clerk.
There were formerly, besides the clerk to keep the records, a clerk to raise the tunes and a reading clerk.
Many have been dismissed from this church to unite with others; And some, at different times, for the purpose of uniting in the formation of new churches.
In December, 1801, nine persons were dismissed to form a church at Black River. Since then, other members have been dismissed to unite in the formation of new churches.
In 1851, this church was not a little weakened by the organization of a new interest, composed of a large number of its members, who resided on the north side of Dead and Passaic Rivers. Seventy-six members, including some of the most wealthy and influential, were dismissed by letter, in order to constitute said interest, now known as the Millington Church.
During the years of 1785-86, the church was blessed with a precious revival; and more than eighty were added to it by baptism in less than thirteen months. This revival occurred during the pastorate of Rev. Abner Sutton. In 1803, Mr. Lathrop, pastor, there were several additions by baptism. Another revival occurred in the year 1822, when probably twenty or more were added by baptism. This was during Mr. Watson's ministry.
In 1832, the church was again blessed with a revival, when about 25 or were added to it. During the year 1837, the church experienced another refreshing, and a goodly number of precious souls were gathered in. About forty were received into the church by baptism. The last two named revivals took place while the Rev. Mr. Cox served the church as pastor.
But the greatest and most important revival with which this church was ever favored, occurred in the fall of 1850, and, the whiter following. The power and goodness of God were then displayed in a wonderful manner. The work was general. The rich and the poor, the aged, the middle-aged and the young, the bold transgressor and the moralist, were included in the number of those who professed faith in Christ and united with the church. The whole number baptized during this great and glorious ingathering of souls was one hundred and seven. One hundred and fourteen were baptized during the Associational year. The Rev. E. C. Ambler was then the much esteemed pastor. In the autumn of 1856 seventeen persons were baptized by Mr. Haynes.
In the autumn of 1859, after Bro. Thomas H. Cole commenced his labors with the church, as the result of extra efforts, more than ordinary interest was manifested, and some were added to the church.
In the fall of 1871 and the winter following, Bro. Simpkins, pastor, there were extra meetings and some interest, but no large ingathering. But few were added to the church.
The early history of the church shows that the admonition of the Apostle concerning going to law before unbelievers, was regarded for it was "Agreed that one brother shall not sue another at the law without first acquainting the church with the circumstances of affairs."
So strict was their discipline, that brethren were to be called to account for being absent from the monthly meetings.
From some old "minutes" we learn that before the East New Jersey Association was formed, this church belonged to the New York Baptist Association. It probably belonged to the Philadelphia Association before uniting with that body.
It may be interesting to know what was the strength of the church with respect to numbers, in the latter part of the last and the beginning of the present century. The whole number of members, according to information obtained from an old church book, was 105 in 1797, 113 in 1798, 118 in 1800, and 119 in 1801. The whole number was probably about 220 or more, at the time those constituting the Millington church asked to be dismissed. It undoubtedly numbered more at that time than at any other time since its organization. In 1852, the number reported to the Association was 140, and in 1854, 100. The present number is 52.
Warren [T]ownship was, at the time the church was constituted, a part of Bernard. The meeting house was at first situated in a place now known as Washington Valley, between Mount Bethel and Plainfield, about three miles from the former and three and a half from the latter place. It was removed from the Valley to its present location probably in the year 1785. During the, summer the meeting house was moved to Mount Bethel and there rebuilt, the Sabbath meetings were held in a barn near by.
It has since then been twice repaired, viz.: in 1818 and in 1839.
Adjoining the meeting house is a burying ground, in which are the remains of some who were prominent in the church at an early period of its existence. The remains of the Rev. Abner Sutton, second minister of the church, rest there. He was at first buried in Bernards, but subsequently his remains were removed to Mount Bethel. He is said to have been the first person buried there. His wife, Mary Sutton, who died December 12th 1798, in the 56th year of her age, rests by his side in the slumbers of death.
Here are also the remains of the excellent Deacon John Worth, on whose head stone is the following epitaph:
"A faithful Christian Deacon, father, friend,
He loved his Lord and served him to the end; From serving tables here, the saint is gone To share the Banquets round his Master's throne."
The inscription on the only noticeable headstone standing in the old burying ground in the Valley, is as follows:
"Here lies ye body of Hannah ye
Wife of Thomas Coon. She died
Martch [sic] ye 7th 1796 In ye 45th
Year of her Age."
The general harmony of the church has been undisturbed for some years past; though within the last quarter of a century there have been times when the peace of the church was disturbed, and the faithful had cause to lament.
After an existence of more than a century, this church, whose light has at times shone brightly from Bethel's mount, now gives but a faint light; yet it is still shining.
But our prospects are not cheering. Our number, which is small, is much scattered, there being but few living near our house of worship. Many of the people in the vicinity are from a foreign land or of foreign descent. There is a German Congregational Church near Mount Bethel and not far in another direction is the Millington church. Yet here is a field for cultivation, and Christian labor is needed. Let not the field be abandoned. And may the Great Head of the Church again bless this withering branch of Zion.
[From East New Jersey Baptist Association Minutes, 1872, pp. 25-31. This document is from a photocopy of the original at the Rare Books and Special Collections Library, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. John S. Mallette, a licentiate of the church at that time, appears to be the author of this work. Scanned and formattted by Jim Duvall - 2004.]
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