Skip to main content

Full text of "The Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge, N.J. : a historical discourse delivered by the pastor, Rev. John C. Rankin, D.D., August 11th, 1872 ; with supplement, March 24, 1892 ; with review of later history by Rev. Lauren G. Bennett"

See other formats


3 1833 02685 2076 

Gc 974,902 B29rn 

Rankin, John C. 1816-1900. 

The Presbyterian Church in 



Press of 

MacCrellish & Quigley Co. 
Trenton. N..I. 

The Presbyterian Church 



Delivered by the Pastor 


AUGUST nth, 18T2. 


N4ARCH 24tti, 1892. 

With Review of Later History 





«^t<.t^^^"'' olio 



Church founded in early part of eighteenth century. 
This building erected in 1839. 

Historical Discourse, 

"Remember the days oe old, consider the years oe many 
generations: ask thy eather and he will shew thee ; 

THY elders and they WILL TELL THEE/' — Detlt. 32 : 7. 

The duty of learning from the history and experiences of the 
past is often presented in the Scriptures. It is as reasonable 
too as it is scriptural ; and on its observance the progress of the 
human race largely depends. No picture is more beautiful, no 
exercise more profitable, than that of the "fathers and elders" 
instructing the young in the things which have come to pass. 
Without this every age would begin the world afresh, and the 
human family remain forever in its infancy. 

Convinced, as I am, of the great importance of the study of 
history and of its intrinsic interest to the thoughtful mind, it is yet 
with no little misgiving that I attempt to lay before you a some- 
what detailed account of this church and congregation. ' The 
strong conviction that something of the kind is due alike to our 
forefathers, to ourselves and to posterity has long rested on my 
mind; but the assurance that much time, expense and patient 
labor would be required in collecting and arranging such ma- 
terials as are available, long deterred me from the undertaking. 
Had the full tax in this respect been foreseen, this production had 
probably never been inflicted upon you. It is but proper, also, 
here to add that the most painful thing connected with these 
labors is the fact that, after all, the information obtained in regard 
to our early history is so incomplete. Still there is no little satis- 
faction in feeling that a faithful effort has been made; and that 
about all of our early history that can be rescued from oblivion is 
now discovered, and may be put in shape for easy preservation 
and reference. As the distance grows greater between the 
founders of our Zion and their descendants, the latter would 
never forgive us should we suffer the glimpses of light which at 
this day might be gathered to a focus entirely to vanish away. 

As to the materials available for such a history, I am sorry to 
say that the Sessional Records (the first and most authentic 


source of information, to which we look most naturally), as far as 
they were kept at all, prior to the settlement of Dr. Finley, 1795, 
have absolutely perished. His immediate predecessor was a 
physician as well as a preacher ; and, according to tradition, kept 
his medical and ministerial accounts mingled up on the same 
pages of his day-book. Our lately departed friend, Dr. S. S. 
Doty, whose memory was very remarkable, has often told me that 
during his early life in the family of Judge Southardj his father- 
in-law, he had seen one of these old manuscript volumes lying 
about, out of which a leaf was now and then torn to wipe a razor ! 
Such a deed should render the perpetrator immortal, and can be 
pardoned only on the ground that the value of the record, like 
passing opportunity with the young, was unknown. 

And yet, even if these volumes had been preserved and handed 
down to us, they would not have talcen us back to the point where 
our greatest difficulty as well as our greatest anxiety lies, i. e., the 
origin of the church. And for the time they might have been 
supposed to cover, our loss is in some measure compensated by 
the fact that the Trustee book, for that period, is in our posses- 
sion. It bears on its cover the following inscription: "The Book 
of the Congregation of Bernardstown, A. D. 1763, 1815." This 
is the first and oldest of our church records now extant. The 
earliest date in this musty old volume is Nov. 12th, 1764; and 
though for many years thereafter the entries are very brief and 
very irregular, still, as will be seen in the sequel, they afford con- 
siderable light on this part of our subject. In going further back 
than this, we depend entirely on traditions and on outside records, 
mainly those of the New Jersey Historical Society, in Newark, 
and the minutes of the old mother synod of Philadelphia. 

Among the floating statements as to our origin, that which 
assigns to us the greatest age is in the New Jersey Historical 
collections (new edition of 1852, page 442), and is in these 
words : "Baskingridge was early settled by Scotch Presbyterians 
and a log church erected about the year 1700." The next is in a 
"History of the Presbyterian Church of Madison, N. J.," drawn 
up some years ago by the Rev. Mr. Tuttle, then the pastor of that 
people. He says (pp. 10, 11) : "The first church ever organized 
in what is now the County of Morris was the old Presbyterian 
church in Whippany, which was formed about 17 18. . . .In 
Baskingridge, some Scotch Presbyterian families, who had settled 


there, were worshipping in a log meeting-house which they had 
erected a year or two previously." Where the data on which these 
statements rest are to be found I have not been able to discover. 
I am convinced, however, from evidence that will be presently 
adduced, that the first is entirely incorrect, and that the second, 
though not very far astray, yet gives us a few more years of 
ecclesiastical life than we can justly claim. 

There could have been no church here, of course, before there 
were Christian inhabitants, and the earliest definite account of the 
settlement of this neighborhood (no doubt the true one) places it 
in A. D. 17 1 7. If there were settlers here prior to that time they 
must have lived among the Indians, simply occupying, without 
owning, the land. For in that year "John Harrison, of Rockie 
Hill," who seems to have been a large dealer in real estate, bought 
of an Indian chief, whose name was Nowenoik, the whole tract 
which has ever constituted a large part of this congregation, in- 
cluding the site on which the church stands. Harrison's deed 
from the Indian chief is dated June 24th, 171 7, and calls for about 
three thousand acres, bounded on the east by the Passaic river, on 
the south by the Dead river, on the west by Green brook, and on 
the north by Penn's brook, and a short line uniting it to the head- 
waters of Green brook, These two brooks rise very near each 
other on the northwest corner of the old Parsonage farm, now- 
owned by Dr. Minnard, and flow, the one (Penn's brook) into the 
Passaic river, through the farms of Messrs. Heath, Gidney, De- 
Coster and Cross; the other into Dead river, below Liberty 

As early as A. D. 1701, Plarrison had been appointed by the 
Governor and Proprietors of East New Jersey, then resident in 
England, to purchase the claims of the aboriginal owners to 
certain tracts of lands of which this must have been one. Though 
claiming to hold the entire State, by virtue of the King's grants, 
which they had purchased of the original receivers, still they 
thought it best to buy off these Indian claims ; hence Harrison's 
transactions, which were very large. 

He paid $50 for this three thousand acres, and the validity, 
of his title v.^as recognized in all the subsequent changes. From 
his name, and the shape of the tract, it was long known and 
spoken of familiarly as "Harrison's Neck." The original deed of 
Nowenoik, and a map drawn about the same time, are on file in 

Newark, among the papers of the New Jersey Historical Society. 
No deed in the township, it is beheved, runs farther back. 

After the death of Harrison, his son Benjamin sold the whole 
purchase to Daniel Hollingshead and George Rissearick, who 
again sold one-half of their interest to Col. John Parker, of Am- 
boy, and James Alexander, of New York. By these four it was 
regularly surveyed in 1727, and laid out in lots or farms of from 
one hundred and fifty to two hundred acres each. These were 
drawn for, in lottery fashion, by the four joint owners at the 
spring term of the Supreme Court for 1728, held in Perth Amboy. 
The respective parties were then left to dispose of their lots on 
their own terms. James Alexander (the father of William Alex- 
ander — Lord Stirling) seems to have drawn what has since been 
known as "the Stirling property," some six or eight hundred 
acres, in beauty and fertility unsurpassed by any land in the 

Up to the time of Harrison's purchase, therefore, there could 
have been no actual freeholders settled on this tract. There were, 
however, some scattered families in the vicinity occupying lands 
to which they had no legal title; a mode of settlement that has 
been more or less common ever since, in new parts of the country. 
In 1720 Cornelius Brees, of Staten Island, bought land of James 
Alexander, "on the east side of the north branch of Dead river, 
at the southwest corner of the Parker and Alexander purchase, 
said land being nozv in the occupation of James Pitney." James 
Pitney then, the first actual English settler whose name has 
been found, and who, as we shall see, was one of the original 
Trustees of this congregation, was living in this region, some- 
where near where Halsey Dunham now lives, one mile south from 
Liberty Corner, in 1720. So also was Henry Rolfe, whose name 
occurs in the same year, and one of whose family, probably his 
son Samuel, was another of our original Board of Trustees. 
Others, also, were probably here in the same way. Several com- 
plaints against "squatters" are found about this time. In 1729. a 
few years later, James Alexander directs his agent, Daniel Shoe- 
maker, to dispossess certain parties then occupying his lands, and 
give the right of possession to others. John Ayers is known to 
have settled in this county in 1717, probably somewhere on the 
Millstone river. In 1727 his son, Obadiah Ayers, is mentioned as 
having lands in this vicinty ; the father, apparently, either having 

removed here himself or bought lands for his children in this 

There were then actual settlers here as early as 1720, who 
subsequently were active and prominent in the movements of the 
church. Among these were Pitney, Rolfe, some of the Ayers 
family, perhaps, and probably others whose names are not given. 
In 1728 John Budd, an elder in the Presbyterian church, in 
Philadelphia, in writing to his agent here, speaks of "the hundred 
acres I lately gave away" ; and in 1737 specific mention is made 
of his conveying one hundred acres '(probably the same before 
alluded to) "for the use of a meeting-house." 

Here we see then the source from which the old parsonage 
farm came, and at the same time that at least from 1720, or a 
little before, the elements which constituted our church and con- 
gregation at the beginning were gathering together in the neigh- 

Precisely when and where they first assembled for worship 
cannot be determined. It is morally certain, however, that they 
were not long without some place, and the probability is that at 
least as early as 1725 there was a nucleus of praying men and 
women who came together somewhere near this spot, for the 
worship of Almighty God. At the same time that Harrison's 
purchase was being divided up and settled, Penn's agents and 
others were at work all around us in laying out and disposing of 
lands. Penn's Brook is a boundary line for Harrison, in 171 7, 
and inasmuch as Basking Ridge was unquestionably the first 
religious centre of the neighborhood, this fact tends to give addi- 
tional plausibility to the statements above. 

Passing now from these probabilities and conjectures, the first 
authentic date in our history is on the original deed of John Ayers, 
conveying a certoin plot of ground to Obadiah Ayers, Mordecai 
McKenne, James Pitney, George Pack, Samuel Rolfe, Daniel 
Morrice and Thomas Riggs. This document is dated February 
8th, 173 1, and conveys to said trustees one and one-half acres 
of land, "on or near the middle of which now stands a house 
built and intended for the exercising of religious worship in." 
This was, no doubt, the old log meeting-house of traditionary 
notoriety. One hundred and forty-one years ago it stood on this 
spot, with a thickly wooded grove around it. Whether it had 
been standing some little time before the deed was given (which 


is not improbable), or whether they had before worshipped in 
some other building — the school or session house which always 
preceded or accompanied the church in those early days; or 
whether there had been any public worship here anterior to that 
date, cannot be positively determined. In all probability, the 
first work of our sturdy ancestors as they began to form a com- 
munity her was the erection of a school-house, where some of 
them taught the children of their families in winter, and where 
the parents assembled for prayer before they had either church 
or minister. The known habits of the age, as well as the language 
of the deed, which speaks of "houses" as being on it at its date, 
point in this direction. The same circumstances that made this 
the religious centre, must also have made it the educational centre 
even earlier. The school or session house therefore probably 
went tip from 1720 to 1725; the church soon followed, from 
1725 to 1730, and was made secure to trustees as above, February 
8th, 1 73 1. 

In 1733 the name of Basking Ridge first appears on the pages 
of our ecclesiastical records — (spelled uniformly in all early docu- 
ments as here written; which shows the purely English origin 
of the name, and that it grew out of the fact that the wild 
animals of the adjacent low lands were accustomed to bask on 
our beautiful ridge ) . There was as yet no church at Morristown. 
There was, in fact, no such town. That place was then known 
as West Hanover; and its scattered inhabitants had been con- 
nected in worship with Hanover up to this date. In the wide- 
spread congregation a disagreement arose about locating the 
church building and especially as to deciding the point by casting 
lots. The dispute became so earnest that a division of the con- 
gregation was threatened; to prevent which, if possible, the 
pastor, the Rev. Jno. Nutman, brought the matter before the 
Synod, for settlement. After repeated hearings, the Synod 
advises the West Hanover or Morristown people not to separate, 
but to continue their connection with Hanover, or, if any of 
them found it more convenient to worship at Basking Ridge 
"until they, as well as the said neighboring congregations, be more 
able to subsist of themselves separately." This was in September 
(21st), 1733, and shows that at that time a congregation, known 
to the Synod as not very well able to subsist of itself, was here 
and had doubtless been forming here for several years. 

The oldest grave-stone discovered in our yard is that of Henry 
Haines, who died June 9th, 1736; but there certainly must have 
been interments here before that date. Tradition says that the 
late Col. John Brees is known to have spoken of seeing a stone 
with the date 1719, though it cannot be found now. 

The first minister of the gospel known to have labored here 
was the Rev. John Cross, who became a member of the Synod 
of Philadelphia in 1732, and seems to have begun his labors in 
that year. It is not known that he was ever installed as a regular 
pastor over this church, but it is certain that he preached here, 
with more or less regularity, from 1732 to 1741. He seems to 
have been rather a self-willed man, who followed his own course, 
without much regard to ecclesiastical law and order. On the 
next day after his reception as a member of Synod he withdrew 
from the meeting without permission, and was censured for his 
conduct. Three years later complaint was made to Synod against 
him by his Presbytery, "that he absented himself from their 
meetings and removed from one congregation to another without 
the concurrence of Presbytery." For this he was again censured, 
and admonished "to be no more chargeable with such irregu- 
larities for the future." 

He was not here, therefore, all these years. The reason may 
have been that the congregation was still too weak to "subsist" 
alone, so that he was compelled to seek elsewhere for support. 
How much of his time was thus taken up, or how much was 
spent here, it is impossible now to determine. This whole region 
was now rapidly filling up with inhabitants, and, no doubt, as 
the size and strength of the congregation increased they gave 
him a better support, and he gave them more labor. After a 
time this became his permanent home. When the celebrated Geo. 
Whitfield visited this place November 5th, 1740, he stayed at 
Mr. Cross's house, two miles from Basking Ridge, probably the 
house owned by the late Judge Goltra, near Liberty Corner. 

Whitfield speaks of a wonderful work of grace as then in 
progress, the first great revival, no doubt, that had occurred in 
this part of the country. As many as three hundred persons are 
said to have been awakened at one time under the preaching 
of Mr. Cross. "When I came to Basking Ridge," says Whitfield. 
"I found that Mr. Davenport had been preaching to the congrega- 
tion. It consisted of about three thousand people. In prayer 


I perceived my soul drawn out, and a stirring of affection among 
the people. I had not discoursed long, but in every part of the 
congregation some-body or other began to cry out, and almost 
all were melted to tears. At night also there was preaching to 
an immense audience in Mr. Cross's barn, when God was present 
in great power. One cried out. He is come, He is come; and 
could scarce sustain the discovery that Jesus made of himself to 
his soul. Others were so earnest for a like favor, that their eager 
cries compelled me to stop. Most of the people spent the re- 
mainder of the night in prayer and praise. Oh, it was a night 
much to be remembered! Next morning, I with pleasure took 
my leave of them, and rode agreeably in company with many 
children of God to New Brunswick, twenty-three miles from 
Basking Ridge." 

Mr. Cross could not have continued to labor here much longer, 
as his successor came in 1741. The last mention of his name, 
in Presbytery or Synod, occurs in 1746; but the time of his death 
and the place of his burial are unknown. His death must have 
occurred between 1756 and 1750, as in this latter year, his wife, 
"Deborah Cross, widow," is mentioned as buying certain land 
from James Alexander. His grave, too, is probably in our yard, 
though marked with no stone, as this was the resting-place for the 
dead at that time, and he probably died at home. His farm, which 
embraced several hundred acres, was one of the finest sections 
of the township, and descended to his heirs. His deed to it was 
obtained in 1741. During his ministry, in 1737, the parsonage 
farm of 100 acres was given by Jno. Budd, of Philadelphia, 
though it is not probable that Mr. Cross ever occupied it. 

Within the decade from 1730 to 1740 the population of this 
section of the county had greatly increased. The congregation 
too had, within this time, assumed definite shape and standing. 
It will be proper, therefore, at this point, to notice a little more 
particularly a few of the important families who were very 
prominent in our early history. Among these the first place is 
undoubtedly due to the Ayers family, whose progenitor, John 
Ayers, moved from Woodbridge, N. J., into Somerset County, in 
the same year that Harrison bought this tract from the Indian 
chief. He died in 1732, at the age of sixty-nine; but, if buried 
here, his grave is not to be found. He left seven sons, John, 
Thomas, Obadiah, Nathaniel, Benjamin, Moses, and Aaron, all 

of whom lived in this neighborhood and one of whom was the 
great grandfather of the late David Ayers. of this place. Most 
of these had large families, and together were the most numerous 
and influential of our ancestors. John gave the site of the church 
for a nominal consideration ; Obadiah was the first-named trustee 
on the list; and for one hundred and twenty years the family 
lasted among us. But, alas, as with all things in this changing 
world, time has done its work with them. The very name has 
passed away from among us, though many of the descendants 
are doing good in other places. We owe them a debt of grati- 
tude which should never be forgotten. 

Next to this was the family of the first preacher, who left one 
son (it is believed that Mr. Cross had more than one son) and 
two daughters. The son, Robert, was the father of eleven 
children, of whom the late James Cross was the youngest. Among 
them were eight sons and three daughters. Their descendants 
are very numerous and widely scattered, one of whom is the 
Rev. J. B. Cross, of Baltimore. Of the two daughters of the Rev. 
Jno. Cross, one married a McEowen, and was the grandmother 
of the late Alexander McEowen. The other married Daniel 
Cooper, and was the grandmother of William and Alexander 
Cooper, of Long Hill. The descendants of both the daughters, as 
well as of the son, have been very prominent and useful in the 
congregation. Mrs. Gertrude Cross (relict of James, grandson 
of Rev. John) has yet in her possession a treasured article of 
silver, marked "John and Deborah Cross." 

About the same time (1732) came the Cauldwell, Carle, 
Cooper, Boyle and McEowen families to Long Hill; the Annin 
family to Liberty Corner (formerly called Annin's Corner), and, 
to other parts of the congregation, the Riggs, Conkling, Alward, 
McCollum, Dayton, Doty, Boylan, Heath, Hall, Lindsley, Rickey, 
Lewis, Anderson and Hand families, into the particulars of whose 
history we have not time to enter, but all of whom became 
numerous and influential. Among these patriarchal ancestors was 
John Annin, great-grandfather to the late William; Solomon 
Boyle, great-grandfather to Augustus A., now living on the an- 
cestral farm; John Hall, great-grandfather to Samuel, lately 
removed from our vicinity ; William Conkling, great-grandfather 
to Isaac, lately deceased; Henry Alward, great-grandfather to 
the late Jonathan ; Daniel Cooper, great-grandfather to William 

and Alexander; Jacob Carle, grandfather to the late Daniel; 
Daniel Heath, grandfather to Mrs. Barclay Dunham; and John 
McCollum, believed to be the great-grandfather of our present 
elder, A. B. He died April i8th, 1760, at the venerable age of 
one hundred and three years. Another family worthy of par- 
ticular mention was that of Alexander Kirkpatrick, who came into 
this neighborhood in 1736, and settled on Mine Brook, on the 
farm lately owned by Henry Baird. In reaching that point, his 
company traveled on foot from Bound Brook over an Indian path 
— no road having yet been opened. On their way they saw a land 
tortoise in their path, and taking it to be a rattlesnake, they 
kept at a respectful distance by a circle through the woods. 
Mr. Kirkpatrick \\ as a staunch Presbyterian, and for a hundred 
years his family stood prominent among us. His son David, who 
was twelve years old when his father came to this country, is 
said to have planted walnut trees on the Mine Brook Farm, out 
of which, some time previous to his death, he caused the boards 
to be sawed and laid up to dry, that were to be (and were) 
used in making his cofiin. The late Rev. Jacob Kirkpatrick, D.D., 
of Ringoes, and his cousins, Walter and Hugh Kirkpatrick, whose 
remains lie in our yard, were the great-grandsons of the first 
settler, Alexander. Like many others, this honored name has 
passed from among us ! 

To finish these family notices, it may be stated here, though 
a little out of time, that in 1755 came the father of Henry 
Southard, when the son was but eight years old. The position 
and influence of this family in the neighborhood and in the 
nation for the next hundred years is too well known to require 
further notice. About the same time must have come the Guerin, 
the McMurtry and other families, whose descendants are yet 
with us. Such were some of the substantial materials occupying 
these beautiful hills originally, and gathered, most of them, into 
our first congregation by the Rev. Jno. Cross. 

In 1742 Basking Ridge and Staten Island asked for the minis- 
terial services of Mr. Charles McKnight, the son of a Presby- 
terian clergyman in Ireland, and supposed to have come to this 
country, a young man, about the year 1740. He was taken under 
the care of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, June 28, 1741, and 
ordained on the 12th of October of the next year. He probably 
served both congregations. Either for the excellence of his gifts, 


or from the scarcity of ministers, he seems to have been much 
in demand among the churches, as several other congregations 
desired his services at the same time. He remained here only 
about two years, and in the autumn of 1744 was installed pastor 
of Cranberry and Allentown. During the revolutionary struggle 
we find him preaching at Middletown Point, Shark River and 
Shrewsbury. He was captured and imprisoned for a time by the 
British, and soon after his release died, January ist, 1778, having 
been a trustee of the College of New Jersey for more than twenty 
years. Of the churches to which he last ministered one became 
extinct, and the others were vacant, one thirty-two and the other 
forty years. 

Mr. McKnight's successor here was the Rev. Joseph Lamb, 
who was graduated at Yale College in 17 17, and ordained by the 
Presbytery of Long Island on the 6th of December of the same 
year. The scene of his first labors was Long Island, but in 1744, 
having been called tO' Basking Ridge, he removed to this place, 
and became a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick. 
No particulars of his pastorate here are known. Dr. Brownlee 
speaks of him as "a Scottish worthy" ; but he was probably a 
native of Connecticut, though of Scotch descent. He is the first 
of the pastors of this church who died in her service. His sepul- 
chre is with us, Und his tombstone bears the following inscription, 
here transcribed for the double purpose of throwing light on the 
character of his preaching, and as a specimen of the obituary 
literature of the age. "Here lies the remains of the Rev'd. Joseph 
Lamb, who departed this life, July the 28th, A. D. 1749. Etatis 
Suae 60. 

The terrors dire from Sinai's Mount, 

Thy mouth did once proclaim. 
As well as messages of grace 

In thy great Master's name. 
But with pure ethereal fires, 

With Seraphim above ; 
We hope and trust thou now dost sing 

The wonders of his love." 

The congregation has so grown under his ministry that the 
original log-house was no longer large enough to contain the 
audience. It w^as, therefore, taken down, and the venerable frame 
building which stood for ninety years, and was then superseded 
by the present house, was erected. According to a well-authenti- 
cated tradition, the frame of that building was put up on the very 

day of Mr. Lamb's death. A brief description of it will be given 
at another point in the narrative ; but it was doubtless, in size and 
comfort, a decided improvement on the old log-house. With 
Mr. Lamb, the days of our juvenility may be said to have passed 
away. We now became firm and strong. 

Following him came the Rev. Samuel Kennedy, M.D., who 
was born in Scotland, in the year 1720, and received his educa- 
tion in the University of Edinburgh. His theological studies 
were pursued in this country under the care of the Presbytery 
of New Brunswick, by which he was licensed to preach in 1748 
and ordained in 1750. His settlement here took place in June, 
175 1, and lasted thirty-six years, i. c, until his death, August 
31st, 1787. The character and fate of the records he kept have 
been mentioned above. For a little more than half the time of his 
ministry^, however, /. e., from 1764, we have the Trustee book 
already described, containing more or less full acconnts of the 
proceedings of the congregation. From this time, therefore, we 
come into clearer light, though for many years still the record 
is very meagre. The first record in this volume is in these words : 
"The following is the account and proceedings of the committee 
appointed by the Presbyterian congregation of Bernardstown 
(formerly called Basking Ridge) to receive and dispose of the 
money left to said congregation by Mr. Samuel Brown, in and by 
his last will and testament, which bears date the 17th day of June, 
1763." This committee consisted of Edward Lewis, John Carle 
and Nathaniel Ayers, who were chosen on the 12th of November, 
1764. The money bequeathed was £200, the interest of which, 
according to the terms of the will, was "to be yearly, every year, 
from generation to generation forever, paid unto the regular 
Presbyterian minister of the congregation for his support." 

Many items of interest might be extracted from this book. 
Among the first things found in it is a plan of the house of 
worship as it then stood. It contained fifty-two seats on the floor, 
and twenty-six in the gallery — seventy-eight in all. This is the 
frame building which in 1749 had superseded the original log- 
house. It seems to have been about fifty-five feet long by thirty- 
five wide, having its length east and west, with pulpit in the north 
side, and the greater part of the seats running lengthwise of the 
house, with the inevitable "sounding-board," no doubt, over the 
minister's head. 


Among the earliest entries these statements occur: "It was 
agreed that the congregation shall take the parsonage place in its 
own care, and instead thereof, pay Mr. Kennedy £20 yearly as 
an addition to his salary" ; for the first year thereafter, it was 
rented for £g, and for several succeeding years for £12. This 
arrangement, with a salary of £110 above the parsonage rent, 
seems to have lasted many years. In 1786 a new contract was 
made with Mr. Kennedy, whereby he was to receive £120 yearly 
and the "benetit of the parsonage free, the house and land kept 
in repair and fire- wood cut and delivered without any of his 
expense." The sexton's salary at this time was fifteen dollars 
per annum, and, as a sample of the thorough democracy of the 
age, it is stated that the parish meeting of the same year, "ap- 
pointed Joseph Roy and Joseph Annin, to give out the lines, and 
John Annin and Jeremiah Sutton, clerks, to sing." 

Passing from this old volume to other sources of information, 
it is known that Mr. Kennedy was, for a considerable time, at 
the head of a classical school in this place. Being a highly accom- 
plished scholar and possessing great wisdom and energy as a 
disciplinarian, his school was extensively patronized and sent many 
of its pupils to the College of New Jersey. He was distinguished 
for the purity and elevation of his Christian character, and made 
it manifest to all by his daily conversation, that he walked with 
God. For the following incident touching his ministry, we are 
indebted to the Rev. Samuel Kennedy Talmadge, D.D., whose 
father was an elder of this church at this period, and" named his 
son after his pastor, as a token of his high regard for him. 
"There had been a season of unusual coldness in the church, and 
the pastor had become not a little discouraged in view of the 
apparent fruitlessness of his labors. On a certain Sabbath, at the 
close of public services, he resolved to spend the whole of the 
following week in earnest prayer and devout study, with a view 
to prepare a sermon that might rouse the congregation from this 
spiritual torpor. He fulfilled his purpose — immediately selecting 
his text for the next Sabbath, and devoting the whole of the 
intervening week to maturing and arranging his thoughts. When 
the Sabbath came he felt strong in the belief that he had produced 
a sermon that would move his people ; and confidently expected 
to witness some special tokens of the Divine presence. After 
singing and prayer, he gave out the second hymn, and took his 


Bible to open to the text. But, strange to tell, he could not call it 
to his mind — text, chapter, book, even subject, had deserted him. 
The congregation had finished singing, and in a half-bewildered 
state he rose and gave out another hymn. He turned over the 
leaves of the Bible, hoping to find some passage on which he could 
found an extemporaneous discourse; and his eyes lighted re- 
peatedly on one text upon which he thought he might say some- 
thing — if my memor)^ serves me, it was — "The wicked shall be 
turned into hell and all the nations that forget Cod." The sing- 
ing being again concluded, he rose, overwhelmed with agitation 
and distress, and preached a sermon which melted down the whole 
congregation and was the commencement of a wonderful revival 
of religion. He said he had never in his life before enjoyed so 
much freedom or exercised so much power in the pulpit. He 
went home weeping and rejoicing; saying that God had answered 
his prayers in a manner fitted at once to humble the unworthy 
instrument and to exalt the riches of his own grace. 

Of this revival I find no other record, but cannot doubt its 
reality. In his "Annals of the Presbyterian Pulpit," Dr. Sprague 
says : "Mr. Kennedy was very diligent in the discharge of his 
pastoral duties, and his labors among his own people and else- 
where were eminently successful. Several extensive revivals of 
religion occurred under his ministry, in consequence of which his 
church greatly increased in both numbers and strength. His 
influence was by no means confined to his own congregation, but 
extended to the whole surrounding region, and operated nowhere 
perhaps more powerfully than in the judicatories of the church." 

Living as he did during the turbulent times of the revolution, 
it is not uninteresting to remember that one of his parishioners 
during the whole of his ministry w^as William Alexander, famil- 
iarly known as Lord Stirling, an intimate and trusted friend of 
Washington ; and also that while he was here that self-conceited 
and much overestimated man, Gen. Charles Lee, was, on the 13th 
of December, 1776, captured by the British dragoons, from the 
house now occupied by James H. Thompson, Esq. 

The grave of Mr. Kennedy is with us, and also that of his wife, 
who, by seven months, preceded him to Heaven. The poetry of 
his epitaph is an improvement on that of his predecessor. 


"God's holy law thy mouth proclaimed, 

Pure Gospel flowed through every vein, 
To dying men they lips proclaimed 

The glory of thy Saviour's name. 
Sleep then beneath this earthly clod, 

Thy flesh shall see its Saviour — God, 
Till the bright morning shall appear, 

And thou thy Saviour's image bea'-." 

For nearly eight years after his death the pulpit of this church 
was vacant ; but in the winter of 1795 Mr. Robert Finley, a young 
licentiate of great promise, was sent by the Presbytery of New 
Brunswick \o preach for a few Sabbaths. The attention of the 
congregation was soon fixed upon him as a pastor. During this 
long vacancy they had become divided and distracted, but with 
singular unanimity and high hopes all parties united in the call for 
his services. It was accepted and his installation took place on 
the 17th of June, 1795. 

From this date begins the brightest period of our history. Mr, 
Finley was young (24), healthy, ardent, judicious, highly edu- 
cated and eminently pious. A volume might be written respecting 
his labors here if time permitted. With his pastorate our Ses- 
sional Records begin and are thenceforward complete. The first 
recorded meeting of the session was held in September, 1795, 
when, with the Pastor, the following Elders were present, viz. : 
John Carle, Hugh Callwell. Henry Southard, Thomas Kirk- 
patrick, Philip Lindsley, Jacob Rickey, David Lyon, Jno. Annin 
and Robert Dayton — 9. These, it is believed, were all the mem- 
bers of session at that time. 

The first roll of church members that has reached us was 
formed in 1804. There were then two hundred and twenty-seven 
communicants of, whom seventy- four were in membership before 
Mr. Finley's settlement; and one hundred and twenty-seven had 
been received within the preceding twelve months. This large 
ingathering was part of the great work of grace which spread 
with such wonderful rapidity and power over the whole country 
about that time. The preceding seven years of Mr. Finley's 
ministry had not been particularly successful, only twenty-five per- 
sons having been added to the roll of communicants within that 
period. But now a blessed harvest was granted, and many 
precious sheaves were gathered. Among these, and probably the 
last survivor of them all, was Sally Lewis (Mrs. Sarah Dayton), 
who, in the eighty-eighth year of her age, left us but a few months 


ago for her heavenly rest. It ought to be recorded here, also, that 
during this precious ingathering of souls our Friday evening lec- 
ture and prayer-meeting was instituted, and that it has never been 
intermitted since, not even when the pulpit was vacant. May it 
ever be appreciated by all who are within the reach of an easy 
attendance, as an important means of grace both to their own 
souls and to the general interests of the congregation ! 

The remaining years of Dr. Finley's ministry were accom- 
panied with accessions to the church of from one to twenty-four 
each year, by which the church was still more enlarged and 
.strengthened. In 1815 especially a very precious work of grace 
-occurred, the influence of which is felt to this day. The celebrated 
classical school, which he conducted with so much ability, shared 
largely in the blessing, and nearly every member in the advanced 
class for that year was hopefully converted. Some nine or ten 
of them became preachers of the gospel, of whom the Rev. B. C. 
Taylor, D.D., pastor of the Reformed church in Bergen, still 
survives. His recollections of the scenes of that revival are of 
thrilling interest. 

Dr. Finley was a man of commanding influence, who swayed 
the mind of his people, and largely of those around him wherever 
he went, almost at his pleasure. Bad boys were not unfrequently 
sent to his school with special reference to this trait of his char- 
acter ; and in some places this circumstance gave to our beautiful 
village the unenviable soubriquet of Botany Bay. Not all, how- 
ever, of his pupils were of the class just named. Many were most 
exemplary in life, and in subsequent years took high rank among 
the most distinguished men of the country, of whom may be 
named, Theodore Frelinghuysen, Samuel L. Southard, Commo- 
dore Stockton, David Kirkpatrick, Wm. L. Dayton, and others. 

The pastor of this church was one of the first, if not the very 
first, who introduced into his school and congregation the system 
of Bible class instruction, which has since become such a mighty 
engine for good. Through his influence mainly it was endorsed 
and recommended to all the churches, first by his Presbytery, then 
by the Synod of New York and New Jersey, to which he belonged, 
and then by the General Assembly. Through his instrumentality 
undoubtedly, more than any other man, was established the Amer- 
ican Colonization Society, which has done so much for the colored 
race, both in this country and in Africa. He visited the City of 


Washington, conferred with President Madison, Henry Clay, 
John Randolph and other leading men, and arranged and was 
present at the public meeting, on Saturday, the 28th of December, 
1816, when it was organized, with Bushrod Washington as its 
first President. 

His mind seems ever to have been on the stretch for measures 
of usefulness. Early and late, within and without the boundaries 
of his own parish, he was ever at work. So busy was he that on 
one occasion, having taken an early breakfast, he was about to 
leave home without observing the usual form of family prayers. 
His foot was actually in the stirrup to mount his horse, when the 
good elder at whose house he was staying reminded him of the 
omission, quietly remarking, "you may have need of them before 
night." The gentle rebuke was accepted, the duty at once 
attended to, and the order of the family never neglected after- 
wards. In 1801, in addition to his other labors, we find that the 
parish meting actually appointed him general collector of his own 
salary, in connection with several assistants. In most of the local 
improvements of the village and neighborhood he was first to see 
and advise, and then foremost to carry out. 

As a preacher he was gifted with unusual powers both of 
speech and of action. Would that I could reproduce one or two 
of the scenes connected with his ministry! During the great 
revival of 1803, after unfolding the atonement of Christ, its 
wonderful fullness, freeness and efficacy, he came at the close to 
warn his hearers against the sin and danger of slighting such an 
amazing provision. He represented the wrath of God against 
such conduct as a boiling gulf, toward which sinners were rapidly 
floating, and when they were just ready to fall over the precipice 
into the abyss below, by a bold stroke which only a master could 
give, he seemed at once to throw himself between them and their 
awful doom, exclaiming, "Stand back! stand back! Oh, sinners, 
let me push you away from this fiery deep" ; when the whole 
assembly, as if moved by an electric impulse, assumed a half- 
rising posture as though they would recede from the fearful 
doom. On another occasion, in preaching his farewell sermon, 
he fell upon his knees, and delivered the latter part of his sermon 
in that posture, without in the least suggesting the idea that his 
action was overwrought or affected. 


Before dismissing his ministry, it should be stated that imme- 
diately after the great revival of 1803 the house of worship was 
found too small for the congregation, and was, therefore, en- 
larged by adding twenty-eight pews on the floor and twelve in the 
gallery, making one hundred and eighteen pews altogether. It is 
a little singular that this addition on the floor was almost exactly 
what was repeated in our late enlargement, and that it made the 
house then precisely what it is now, as to the number of seats. 
The number of pews then rented was one hundred and one, and 
the highest rent paid was $14.74, the seats on the right and left 
of the pulpit being valued considerably higher than those in other 
parts of the house. 

The liberality of the congregation at that date, and the general 
spirit of the age as to benevolent contributions, may be judged of 
by two receipts carefully filed among the papers of the trustees, 
and on which a venerable name, very familiar to some of us, is 
found. David Comfort, treasurer of the Presbytery of New 
Brunswick, acknowledged $18, as given in 1809, and $27.75, in 
181 1, for benevolent purposes. These figures probably express 
all that was done for outside objects in those years. Last year 
our aggregate was $705 — more than twenty-five times as much, 
with a membership about equal. 

Dr. Finley's pastoral relation with this church was dissolved 
April 22, 18 1 7, having lasted about twenty-one years. He was 
released, with great reluctance on all hands, that he might accept 
the Presidency of the University of Georgia which had been ten- 
dered him. He went thither (Athens, Georgia) at the advice of 
his brethren, and entered at once with great earnestness into the 
labors of his new field, but was soon arrested by a fatal disease, 
and died on the third of November of the same year. His widow 
and family returned to this place, and remained here a few years. 
Of his nine children, four were sons, all of whom were graduated 
at the College of New Jersey, and all became ministers of the 
Gospel except the youngest, who died while pursuing his theo- 
logical studies. Mrs. Finley died September 23. 1844, in Leb- 
anon, Illinois, while on a visit to her eldest son. 

The successor of Dr. Finley to the pulpit of this church was the 
Rev. William C. Brownlee, D.D., who began his labors on the 
30th of April, 1 81 8, and was installed as pastor on the 9th of June 
following. The congregation was now large and strong, covering 


the whole township of Bernards, and running over ahnost an 
equal territory in the adjoining county of Morris. The people 
came mostly on foot or on horseback, or in an occasional farm 
wagon, from New Vbrnon, from Long Hill, from Stony Hill, 
from Liberty Corner, from Mine Brook, and from the Mountains 
toward Mendham. No other church as yet existed in all this 
space. Now there are eleven congregations besides our own in 
the same territory. 

One of the first works done by the new pastor was to visit the 
entire congregation, and take a complete census of his parish- 
ioners. This was done in about three months, beginning in the 
autumn after his settlement. As the result, he records the names 
of two hundred and sixty families, comprising in all seventeen 
hundred individuals, whose names, with the ages of many, are 
given with scrupulous exactness. This list is interesting and 
instructive in several ways. It shows the size and strength of the 
congregation, with the large field in which the pastor was called 
to operate. It shows, moreover, that families had not learned in 
these early days to scatter abroad as they have done since. 
Among the heads of families, seven bear the name of Doty; six 
each the name of Lyon, Lewis and Saunders; five each the name 
of Cooper, Southard, Cross, Hand and Miller; four of Ayres, 
Riggs, Boyle, Lindsley, Kirkpatrick, Annin, Heath, McMurtry, 
Guerin and Wilson; and more than a dozen other names have 
three families each to represent them. The size of families, too, 
is another impressive feature of this list; from eight to twelve 
olive plants around the table was the common size of the house- 
hold. In one instance, the good pastor, after recording the names 
of twelve hving children, adds, "and three dead," without giving 
their names. In another instance he chronicles the fact that a 
certain woman was the mother of eighteen children, nine sons 
and nine daughters. Undoubtedly the average family was much 
larger then than it is at present. How are we to account for the 
difference ? Still another impressive lesson from this list is as to 
the rapidity with which congregations change and names pass 
away. The two hundred and sixty families then numbered, 
comprised one hundred and forty-one names. Of these only 
fifty now remain among us. Ninety-one names have become 
extinct in the congregation in fifty years. Others have taken 
their places, but these, where are they ? Gone, not only from here. 

but many of them from history altogether! Oh, hand of time — 
what a blotting out dost thou make as thou sweepest over the face 
of society ! 

Dr. Brownlee began his labors here under very favorable 
auspices. In the prime of hfe (about 35), in a large field where 
good seed had been sown, with a flourishing academy, we might 
reasonably look for the most favorable results. Nor are we 
disappointed ; each year of his ministry was a year of ingather- 
ing, but especially so was the year 1822. During the whole sum- 
mer of that year the Lord was pleased to pour out His Spirit 
upon the congregation, and in October one hundred and four 
persons were added to the membership of the church, on profes- 
sion of their faith in Christ, the largest addition ever made at 
one time. Thirty-eight were baptized at the time of their recep- 
tion. From this large accession, fifty years ago, only two are 
now left among us.* 

The record of their admissions is careful to state that "they 
were all examined : 

"i. On personal religion, the state of their exercises, feelings, 

"2. On the doctrines of God's Word, taken up systematically; 
on the being of God ; on the Scriptures, divine decrees, election, 
limited atonement, etc., etc. 

"3. On the nature, authority, uses, ends, etc., of the holy 

Surely nothing but true and intelligent piety could undergo 
all this. 

Dr. Brownlee was a broad-shouldered, large-headed, round-faced 
Scotchman, with resolution and thoroughness written on every 
feature and expressed in every tone. He must have been a very 
rigid disciplinarian, or the members of his church, many of them, 
notwithstanding their examination, must have been very loose in 
their deportment, for at almost every meeting of the Session 
some one was under trial, often three or four, and sometimes half 
a dozen at once. Not having their children baptized was an 
offense calling for discipline in those days, though most of the 
charges preferred were of a more criminal nature. His pastorate 
closed in October, 1825, having lasted seven and a half years. 

* One of this number, Mrs. E. R. Fairchild, still lives (March 24th, 1892). 


He was called from here to the professorship of languages in 
Rutgers College, New Jersey, as his predecessor had been to the 
presidency of Athens College, Georgia. From there he was called 
to b€ collegiate pastor of the Reformed Protestant Church in the 
city of New York, in June, 1826. For nearly twenty years there- 
after he was among the most prominent men of the country as a 
scholar, a preacher, a pastor and a controversialist. Few then 
gave to Romanism harder blows than he. But, alas ! while in the 
prime of his life he was stricken with paralysis, from which, after 
lingering more than sixteen years, he died February loth, 1860, 
leaving a fragrant memory and an enviable reputation. It may 
probably be unknown to many present that soon after leaving 
here he wrote two tracts of considerable size having their scenes 
in this field. ^'The General's Widow" and "The Spoiled Child" 
were their titles. They were published by the American TracJ: 
Society, and may yet be had at its depository. 

Dr. Brownlee's successor was the Rev. John C. Van Dervoort, 
who was installed in September, 1826. From this time onward 
the events of our history are so recent, and there are so many 
living witnesses to all that has transpired that a few sentences will 
serve to convey all that need now be said. Mr. Van Dervoort 
was an earnest, warm-hearted, evangelical preacher, whose labors 
were blessed and crowned by the ingathering of many souls into 
the church. In 1829, especially, there was an unusual work of 
grace, in which fifty-six persons were hopefully converted and 
enrolled as members. On the whole, however, the strength of 
the congregation rather declined during the ten years of his 
ministry. The classical school, though continued, was not as 
flourishing as formerly. New Vernon organized a church for 
itself, and took away considerable strength on that side. A little 
later Liberty Corner followed in the same action on another side. 
In the meantime the agricultural resources of the neighborhood 
had suffered very materially by unwise husbandry, and emigra- 
tion of families and young men had set in as the necessary con- 
sequence. All this was loss to our congregation in particular, 
though not to the church of Christ as a whole. 

Mr. Van Dervoort was released by the Presbytery, to accept a 
call to another field, in the spring of 1834; and in the autumn 
of the same year was succeeded by the Rev. John Anderson, a 
foreigner (from the North of Ireland!), who, after trial of one 

year, was ordained and installed on the 28th day of October, 1835. 
With the brogue and some of the eccentricities of his country, he 
still seems to have been abundant in labor, and tO' have given 
general satisfaction to the congregation. In the report of his 
first and only family visitation, which is very full and minute, he 
gives "308 families, comprising 1,672 individuals, of whom 258 
are members." In less than a year after his installation (August, 
1836), he was, at his own request, released from his pastoral 
charge, that he might accept a call to the Canal Street Presbyterian 
Church, in the city of New York. When consenting to his re- 
moval, the congregation adopted the follow^ing minute, the first 
and only record of an opinion or feelings, touching the death or 
removal of a pastor : "We feel that we shall loose the labors of 
a truly pious and talented divine, and the society of a man whose 
gentlemanly deportment has ever justly secured for himself a 
grateful remembrance in our recollections." 

After a vacancy of nearly two years, the Rev. Oscar Harris 
was installed as his successor, on the 27th of March, 1838. He 
was a ripe scholar, a fine theologian, a modest, retiring, gen- 
tlemanly man, who commanded the respect of all who knew him. 
The causes already reverted to continued to operate, however, 
and the classical school went down entirely, so that the congrega- 
tion gained no strength, to say the least, during his ministry; 
but for this he ought not to be held responsible. It would have 
been true under almost any preacher. The neighborhood had 
been declining for several years ; and yet, to the credit of all, it 
should be said, that during this pastorate, and almost immediately 
after it began, in 1838, ourpresent commodious and comfortable 
house of worship was erected. About this time a gradual im- 
provement in methods of cultivating the soil began to take place, 
and the neighborhood began to rise in strength and resources. 
The coming of the railroad recently has greatly accelerated this 
upward movement. 

This pastorate ended in the spring of 185 1 by the resignation 
of Mr. Harris, whose health had been very infirm for one or two 
years. On the 4th of September, of the same year, the present 
incumbent, who is the tenth in the line of pastors, was installed. 
In extreme bodily weakness, and with many fears, he came among 
you, and, by the grace of God and your clemency, has continued 
until the present time, twenty-one years. His predecessors have 


all gone to their reward. He. too, must soon follow. Oh, for 
grace to be found faithful ! It is no credit to him, to claim 
that some advances have been made within this period. The 
whole neighborhood has advanced not a little during this time, 
and it would be greatly to our disgrace if we had not made some 
progress, also. The old parsonage farm was long ago sold, and 
its proceeds used in part to build the new church, and in part to 
meet annual deficits. But within this twenty-one years we have 
built a conunodious parsonage, erected a new and comfortable 
lecture and Sababth school room, which is already too strait for 
us; once refitted and then enlarged and ornamented the church, 
until it is now as large and as handsome as the congregation can 
desire. With this, the membership, which had declined to one 
hundred and seventy in 185 1, has again advanced to two hundred 
and sixty, and the benevolent contributions have increased many- 
fold. While mentioning these things with gratitude, beloved 
brethren, let us still feel that we have been unprofitable servants. 
And now, with such a history; with so many personal and 
family hopes identified with this church, with such a door of 
usefulness open before us in the neighborhood and in the world, 
shall we not, with redoubled energy and devotion, consecrate our- 
selves to our God, the God of our fathers, and, above all. The God 
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? And "Unto him that hath 
done all things for us, and is able to do exceeding abundantly 
above all that we ask or think, according to the power that 
worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, 
throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." 

Basking Ridge, N. J., March 24th, 1892. 
A new edition of the foregoing discourse being called for, it is 
but proper that a brief sketch of the twenty years that have 
elapsed since its publication should be added by the writer. With- 
in this period extensive and important changes have taken place 
in our geographical borders. The building of the railroad seemed 
to develop the nucleus for a new congregation at Stirling; and, 
accordingly, a church was organized there in 1873. This was 
done with the cordial approval of the Pastor and Session of the 
parent church, and into the new organization several of our 
important families entered. This diminished our numbers and 


contracted our borders very materially in that direction. At the 
same time the advent of the railroad brought into prominent 
notice the beautiful hill or mountain district to the north of us. 
This soon attracted the attention of several wealthy g-entlemeii 
of New York City, as affording- attractive sites for country resi- 
dences. The earliest among these were A. V. Stout, Geo. B. Post 
and Geo. I. Seeney, each of whom erected a handsome mansion 
and became an extensive owner of real estate. Largely through 
their presence and influence others have followed in the same 
course, until most of the farms on these beautiful hills, originally 
belonging to the Basking Ridge congregation, have passed into 
their hands, and the families that occupied them have removed 
to other localities, many of them beyond our boundaries. This 
has resulted necessarily in great changes in that direction also. 
It is matter of congratulation, however, that these gentlemen, 
with their families, have largely and generously identified them- 
selves both with our churches and our general local interests. 

In 1887 our Lecture and Sabbath School room having become 
too strait for us, a new and commodious chapel was erected, 
and furnished with carpet and chairs, at an expense of about 
twenty-three hundred dollars. In the previous year a new organ 
had been purchased at an outlay of more than one thousand 
dollars. At this date (1892) arrangements are complete for the 
thorough renovation of the interior of the audience-room of the 
church, the cost of which will be about twenty-five hundred dol- 
lars. This is probably the last work, in the way of material 
improvement, that will be attempted under the present pastorate. 
When completed, there will probably be little more to desire in 
that direction for many years to come. 

The spiritual history of the church during these forty years 
is, of course, its most important and interesting feature. All else 
has Ijeen subordinate to this one great end. During all these 
years divine service has been held every Sabbath in church or 
chapel. The attendance of the people upiDn the ordinances of 
God's house has been general and uniform. There have been 
many seasons of special religious interest, the most remarkable 
of which were in 1874 and in 183. In the former year forty- 
nine persons, and in the latter fifty-one, were added to the church 
on profession of their faith in Christ. Another of these refresh- 
ing seasons has just passed, as the result of which fourteen per- 


sons were for the first time admitted to full membership. In all 
these spiritual movements there has been a quickening of God's 
people which has been most gratifying. This is particularly mani- 
fest in the one last referred to, and especially so in the impulse 
given to our beloved young people. Never before have they been 
so well organized or animated by such a hopeful spirit as at 

Amid all the changes by deaths, removals and curtailment of 
boundaries, it is a matter of thankfulness that the number of 
communicants and the average size of the congregation remain 
very much the same. Since September 4th, 1851, six hundred 
and ninety names have been added to our roll, of whom four 
hundred and fifty-two were received on profession of faith, and 
two hundred and thirty-nine on certificate from other churches. 
The membership at present is two hundred and forty-five. There 
have been four hundred and eighty-eight baptisms, two hundred 
and ninety-one marriages, and three hundred and forty-five 
funerals. The liberality of the people, both in self-support and 
in contributions to benevolence, if not all that it should have been, 
has yet been gratifying and encouraging. Never has such cheer- 
fulness in giving been manifested as in the subscriptions to the 
improvements now in progress. For the spirit of harmony that 
has always prevailed, and for the encouraging prospects before 
us, let us be grateful to God and faithful to duty. 



Rev. John Cross, pastor McKnight, pastor 

Joseph Lamb, pastor 

Samuee Kennedy, M.D., pastor. . . . 

Robert Fineey, D.D., pastor 

WiLEiAM C. Brownlee, D.D., pastor, 

John C. Van Dervoort, pastor 

John Anderson, pastor 

Oscar Harris, pastor 

John C. Rankin, D.D., pastor 

Edgar C. Mason, pastor 

John T. Reeve, D.D., pastor 

Lauren G. Bennett, pastor 

D. 1732 

185 1 


' 1913 

to 1 74 1. 




Roll of Officers in 1872. 




Peter D. Cross, 
John V. Stevens, 
Alexander Cooper, 

James L Hill, 
Abram B. McCoeeum, 
Calvin Thompson. 


John H. Lyon, Prcs. Ira B. Pruden, Treas. 

Edward A. Webster, Sec. 
Benyeu Dunham, John L. Van LiEw, 

John H. Anderson, Thomas Lewis. 


David B. Heath. 


Roll of Officers in 1892. 




Abram B. McCollum, Cavin D. Smith, 

Calvin Thompson, Jas. H. McCollum, 

Wm. DeMun, C. B. Dunham, 

Stephen C. Dayton. 


P. C. Henry, Pres. 
John L. Van LiEw, Sec. and Treas. 
C. D. Smith, John V. Bunn, 

S. C. Dayton, Wm. DeMun, 

Thomas Lewis, Wm. R. Bromfield, 

A. Irving. 


David R. Moffatt. 


Review of the Later History of the Presbyterian 

Prepared by the Pastor, Lauren G. Bennett. 

During the seven years of my pastorate in Basking Ridge there 
have been many requests for a new edition of Dr. Rankin's 
Historical Discourse and SuppeEment. There have been so 
many changes in the congregation in recent years that it is prob- 
able a majority of those now worshipping here are not famiHar 
with what is beyond all question the best, in fact so far as I am 
able to learn, the only complete history of our church. With the 
approach of our two-hundredth anniversary these demands for a 
new edition have become more frequent and insistent, indicating 
a general and commendable desire on the part of the congregation 
for a better acquaintance with the history of the church we love. 
Since it seems a most appropriate time for the refreshing of our 
minds in the achievements and lives that have entered into the 
making of our history, I am undertaking, upon the urgent request 
of many to whom this church is very dear, to add a short survey 
of her more recent life. It is my purpose to center these com- 
ments about the lives of those who, in the Providence of God, 
have had the privilege of laboring here as pastors. I shall, there- 
fore, without going too much into detail give some personal im- 
pressions of the pastorates of Dr. Rankin, Mr. Mason and Dr. 
Reeve, together with a few facts having to do with my own 

In Dr. Rankin's Historical Discourse and Supplement he 
modestly disclaims holding any large place in the life and work 
of our beloved church. He refers with great generosity of spirit 
to the services of those who had gone before him in this pastoraj 
office, but with regard to his own work his comments are few. 
I never knew Dr. Rankin. He went to his eternal reward thirteen 
years before I came to preach the Gospel in the pulpit which in 
forty-four years of unremitting labor of love had come to be a 
part of the very life of this great man of God. He had retired 
from active service five years before his death, and two pastorates 
of four and twelve years had intervened between the ceasing of 
his jvork and the beginning of my own pastorate. Now after 
these seven years in which I have had the opportunity of forming 


a deeper acquaintance with the life of this community, I look back 
on the life of this man and count it a joy to join my voice with 
the great multitude in this vicinity who to-day rise up to call him 

It is impossible to speak in extravagant terms of his life and 
work. Mere words can never do justice to such a life. Now 
after the lapse of all these years the impress of his life upon the 
church he loved, and the community in which he lived, remains as 
a glowing tribute to the man in whose footsteps we could well 
desire to follow. He preached the Gospel in great earnestness 
and vigor, and in his pastoral visitation his faithfulness was 
unfailing. The secret of his great usefulness, however, was in 
the life he lived with God. His prayer life and his diligence in 
the study of the Word of God receive frequent comments from 
those who knew him as pastor. 

It is a remarkable tribute to Dr. Rankin's zeal and influence 
as a preacher and pastor that even with his advancing years the 
work of the church did not falter. The largest ingathering of 
souls during his pastorate came after thirty-two years of service. 
What an evidence of the worth of the long pastorate! He kept 
pace with the changing times and was not slow to recognize the 
necessity of some changes in method. It was during his pastorate 
that the Woman's Missionary Society and the Christian Endeavor 
Society were organized, and these societies have contributed 
greatly to the spiritual life of the church. His life has left a 
wonderful impress on the community. 

Finally the burden of advancing years became so heavy that he 
was compelled to give up the active pastorate. With great 
reluctance his beloved congregation acquiesced in his desire and 
he retired July 28, 1895. He continued to live in the village until 
his death April 24, 1900. He died as he had Hved, strong in the 
faith, beloved by his own church, respected and esteemed by all 
who knew him. Few churches have had such a pastor. Few 
pastors have had such an influence. Truly it can be said of him 
"Though he die yet shall he live." His picture or his autograph 
may be found in many of our homes, but what is of vastly greater 
importance his memory lives in the hearts and lives of those to 
whom he ministered. 

He was buried beneath the old oak. What a fit resting place 
for the earthly tabernacle of the man so intimately identified with 


our church ! A tablet was placed in the rear of the church by the 
congregation bearing this inscription : "And they that are wise 
shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn 
many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." 

It was in April, 1895, that Presbytery dissolved the pastoral 
relation of Dr. Rankin with the understanding that he was to 
continue until his successor was chosen. With commendable 
promptness the congregation set about securing a new pastor. On 
July 28 Dr. Rankin preached his last sermon, and with him in 
the pulpit was Rev. Edgar C. Mason who had been chosen by the 
congregation as the new pastor. Mr. Mason began his pastorate 
the following Sabbath, and again we point to an example that 
should be held up to other churches. There was no long interim 
which is always so harmful to the spiritual life of a church. 

The new pastor brought a vigor, earnestness and vision that 
gave a great impetus to the work and forward step in the church 
activities. There are several things in this short pastorate of four 
years that deserve special mention, and as I look back to them it 
is with a feeling that I am able to appraise them at their true 

When Mr. Mason began his work the church membership was 
226; when he closed his work, October 15, 1899, there was a 
membership of 283. In a community having little or no growth 
this must certainly be considered a creditable advance. But the 
interesting thing about it is that during his pastorate the church 
had one of the greatest additions by profession of faith in her 
long history. On December 5, 1897, fifty-nine persons were 
received into the membership, forty-six of whom came by pro- 
fession of their faith in Christ. Many of these persons are todaj 
among- our most faithful members. It was a day not only of un- 
usual significance because of the large number uniting, but a day 
in which many useful lives were dedicated to Christ. I believe 
there have been few days of equal significance in this church. 
So far as I am able to learn it is the largest addition in one day 
since the great awakening during the pastorate of Dr. Brownlee 
in 1822. The Sessional Records indicate that the spiritual con- 
dition of the church had frequently been a matter of discussion 
and prayer, so we know beyond any doubt that this notable day 
was not a mere coincidence but a definite fruit of the spirit. 


There were other advances of scarcely less significance dur- 
ing the days of Mr. Mason's leadership. The Sunday School 
made a remarkable gain in membership, being more than doubled 
in numbers between 1896 and 1898. A Home Department and 
Cradle Roll in the Sunday School and a Junior Christian En- 
deavor Society were organized, and in every way there is an 
evidence of an earnest effort to make all activities of the church 
measure up to their greatest opportunities. 

The thing which to us is the most constant remembrance of 
Mr. Mason's work, aside from the presence and help of those 
whom he was instrumental in leading to Christ, was the assum- 
ing the support of a foreign missionary, Rev. W. T. Mitchell. 
We must not forget that in large measure the pastor was building 
on the foundation of those who had gone before in his office, 
particularly Dr. Rankin, who was most zealous and earnest in 
preaching a gospel for the whole world ; but it is of lasting 
credit to Mr. Mason that he had the vision and courage to lead 
his congregation to this very definite work outside the immediate 
neighborhood. It was in November, 1898, that the congregation 
undertook this work, and Mr. Mitchell has continued during these 
twenty-two years the faithful, devoted missionary of this church 
in Mainpurie, India. No single undertaking of the church has 
been more fruitful in a spiritual way. There are many in our 
membership to-day who can trace their world vision of the world 
for Christ to a personal interest in Mr. Mitchell as our repre- 
sentative. At various times there has been a generous response 
in the congregation to urgent appeals from Mr. Mitchell which 
could not be met by the Board, and it has always been with great 
profit to the givers. When on furlough Mr. Mitchell always 
visits the community, and in 191 5 he, with his family, occupied 
the manse during the pastor's vacation. 

Mr. Mason's pastorate closed October 15, 1899. The con- 
gregation was then without a pastor until the following spring, 
the pulpit being supplied by visiting ministers during the interim. 

On June 6, 1900, the congregation called by unanimous vote 
Rev. John T. Reeve, a young man who had just finished his 
course in Princeton Seminary. There have been many times when 
God's leading has been apparent in our church, but never were 
the evidences more unmistakable than in this call. While the 
community was not growing to any marked extent many changes 
had taken place and many other changes were soon to follow. 


It was the time when the typical rural aspect was being given the 
color of a semi-suburban community. Many improvements had 
been or were about to be made. Good roads, commuters' trains, 
electric lights, water system, better schools, are but a few of the 
many influences that were helping in this transformation. If 
our church was in any way to face these new conditions without 
losing ground she must have as a pastor a man of vision, cour- 
age, sound judgment, and willingness to work as well as the 
always necessary qualities of piety and knowledge of the Scrip- 
tures. The choice of pastor could not have been more happy or 
fortunate. It was the hand of God. Doubtless many felt this at 
the time, but now, after twenty years, the evidence of it is un- 
mistakable. The young pastor took up his work with an energy 
and in a power that were prophetic of great usefulness, and the 
church entered upon what is unquestionably one of the greatest 
periods of her development. Dr. Rankin, in his Historical 
Discourse;^ calls attention to what he considered the brightest 
part of our church's history in the pastorate of Dr. Finley. The 
pastorate of Dr. Reeve was certainly one of equal achievements, 
though by the very necessity of the case the two were not alike. 

The beginning of Dr. Reeve's pastorate was not easy. There 
were circumstances and conditions that required the greatest 
tactfulness. There were new people to be attracted and held by 
our church, people whose early environment had not been that of 
a community similar to ours. There were improvements to be 
made in church property, for nothing the church owned was in 
good repair. There were new methods to be introduced, for, 
after all, Christ fitted His work and His methods into the times 
in which He lived, and this was His evident purpose for every 
apostle and minister who should preach His gospel. The old 
standards of organization, equipment, finances, had to give way 
to the more modern standards. All this had to be done without 
losing the essential emphasis, that of the Christ working in the 
hearts of men. It is doubtful if a man could be found in the 
whole Presbyterian body who could have done all this better than 
the man chosen by the congregation. 

Dr. Reeve began his work undaunted by any difficulty, and 
these were many, any one of which might have broken the spirit 
of a man less earnest in purpose. The thing that impresses me 
as I attempt to review this pastorate is the permanent quality 


of the things accompHshed. This applies not only to the material 
improvements but to the spiritual work around which all our 
energies should center. 

In the changes made in the church property a new idea seems 
to have been emphasized. What has been done has been done 
well. No longer is there any mere, make-shift in alterations 
that have become necessary. From the laying of the new floor 
of the church porch, to which Dr. Reeve refers in his historical 
sermon as one of the first improvements of his pastorate, to the 
crowning achievement in a material way, the rebuilding of the 
church, this idea of permanence stands out. Repair bills have 
been small, and will continue to be small for many years, all 
because those who builded were looking not to the present alone 
but to the future. 

I shall probably not be able to tell of all that was done in a 
material way during the twelve years of this pastorate, but by 
depending on the historical sermon of former reference and by 
calling upon my own observation I shall attempt to call atten- 
tion to some of the outstanding features. 

The building now occupied as a Public Library was at this 
time our chapel, and it seems to have occupied much of the earli- 
est thought of the new pastor. First it was painted, then a 
new front was added, and the grounds about it were made more 
attractive. The unsightly hitching-posts about the church were 
removed and the gutters laid and the roads improved. At about 
the same time the carriage sheds were built on a strip of land 
that had been purchased adjoining the old cemetery on the north. 
This improvement was one that meant much, especially in stormy. 
weather, for it provided for the comfort of the horses. Within 
the past year about two-thirds of these sheds have been removed, 
for with the coming of the automobile their usefulness is not as 
great as once it was. 

The manse, while comfortable in some ways, was most incon- 
venient and by no means modern. In 1903 it was rebuilt, giving 
us what is unquestionably one of the most comfortable, con- 
venient and pleasant manses in the country. It is in excellent 
repair, and we have every reason to believe it will for many years 
be a great comfort to the families of pastors who may succeed 
to this office. 


The groimds were receiving more attention every year, and 
the old cemetery was about this time redeemed from what had 
been an ahiiost impenetrable wilderness, and given its present 
attractive appearance. The planting of shrubbery has helped to 
no inconsiderable degree in this transformation. To-day these 
grounds are regarded by all visitors as among the most attractive 
to be found anywhere, and many expressions of admiration are 
to be heard on almost any occasion. 

All this time it was constantly being held in mind that some- 
thing must be done with the church building. The interior had 
grown dingy, the east wall was considered unsafe, the detached 
chapel was not satisfactory. Finally, in October, 1907, the 
actual work was begun. The first Sunday in July, 1908, the 
building as we now have it was opened for use. These twelve 
years of constant service have not robbed our church building 
of its attractiveness, and to-day it stands as a monument to the 
far-reaching vision of the pastor, the skill of the architects, 
George B. Post and Sons, and the generosity and devotion of 
the congregation, who by their gifts of more than $27,000 made 
it all possible. We are told by those who have visited many 
churches that ours compares favorably with the most attractive. 
There is an atmosphere of worship about it that has been helpful 
not only to the worshipper in the pew but to the preacher in the 
pulpit. It is our earnest hope that no disaster may overtake it, 
and that it may be preserved in its present form for many years. 

The Italian church at Bernardsville, made necessary by a 
flourishing work that had been going on several years, was 
erected. A little later the Italian manse was erected and the 
grounds beautified. Then the cemetery was enlarged, a new 
roof placed on the church, the old barn on the manse property 
turned into a convenient garage, and many other changes and 
additions that have resulted in giving us what is without doubt 
one of the best of church properties. 

But we must not lose sight of the spiritual work during this 
pastorate, for it was here the greatest progress was made. At 
the beginning of Dr. Reeve's work there were 277 members ; 
when he closed his work in the autumn of 19 12 the member- 
ship, including that of the Italian Mission, was 445. The Sun- 
day School, which had fallen away somewhat a year prior to his 
coming, was reorganized and the membership and attendance 


steadily increased well beyond any previous record. All organi- 
zations in the church were greatly stimulated and new societies 
were added, notably the Ladies' Aid Society and the Men's 
Brotherhood. A greater frequency of meetings of the Session 
and more businesshke methods in the Board of Trustees are 
other evidences that a new day had dawned in the life of our 

Every year there were added to the church many new mem- 
bers by confessing Christ as their Saviour. The total received 
in this way during the twelve years was 286, while 118 united 
by certificate from other churches. There were on several occa- 
sions special evangelistic services resulting in a deepening of the 
spiritual life and the winning of souls, but as I read the records 
I am impressed with the fact that this large addition to the mem- 
bership was the result of faithful pastoral visitation and per- 
sonal work rather than a spasmodic effort at infrequent inter- 
vals. The attendance upon all services greatly increased, the 
gifts to benevolent and missionary purposes advanced by leaps 
and bounds until our church became the leader of the Presbytery 
in per capita gifts, a position which it has held ever since. 

One of the outstanding features of this pastorate was the 
work among the Italians. The changing conditions, before re- 
ferred to, had brought into the community a large number of 
foreign-speaking people, among whom the Italians predominated 
in numbers. Nothing had been done for these people in the way 
of social or spiritual uplift. They were in the community but 
not of it. They had no more than nominal allegiance to any 
church, and in^ many cases not ev^n that. Dr. Reeve led the 
way in a new and vigorous work among these neglected people. 
At first it was the bringing an Italian preacher from New York, 
Newark or Bloomfield Seminary, and the holding services at 
various points in the township. A Sunday School was organ- 
ized in Bernardsville, and the attendance of the children was 
large. It became apparent that something more permanent must 
be done, so a resident minister was secured and plans laid for a 
church. These plans were rapidly carried out and a beautiful 
and substantial stone church was erected. This proved a great 
stimulus to the work and an enthusiastic and earnest congre- 
gation was soon worshipping regularly, being ministered to by 
Rev. Tommaso Barbieri. The Sunday School continued to 


flourish. With the completion of the church and manse we to- 
day have what in many ways is one of the best established and 
organized Italian Missions in the Eastern States. The build- 
ings and equipment are among the best, and only the limited 
population keeps this work from taking rank with that in the 
larger centers. 

Many other evidences of vigorous leadership are to be found 
in the records of these twelve years. Whatever divisions there 
may have been were entirely lost to view and memory. For 
harmony and unanimity of action the church became almost a 
model. The result was a new prominence, not only in the com- 
munity but in the larger ecclesiastical relationships. It is a time 
long to be remembered by those who were active participants in 
it, and to which future generations will look with grateful 

Dr. Reeve had many opportunities to go to other fields of 
labor, but he resolutely refused all such invitations until 1912. 
In this year he was called to the pastorate of the Fourth Church 
in Philadelphia, and with deepest regret the congregation acqui- 
esced in his request for a dissolution of the pastoral relationship. 
He preached his last sermon late in September. 

The present pastor was installed March 26, 191 3, after having 
supplied the pulpit about two months. The events of this pastor- 
ate are too fresh in the memory of the congregation to merit a 
review. We leave to those who may come after us the summing 
up of whatever we have failed to do or what in the grace of God 
we may have accomplished. 

When I began my pastorate the total membership was 436, 
several having been dismissed in the interim before my arrival. 
Since that time we have received 141 by profession of faith in 
Christ and 85 by certificate. There have been many deaths and 
removals, so the total membership now is 476, of which number 
60 belong to our Italian Mission. We reported a membership 
of 297 in our Sunday School at the beginning of the present 
church year and 35 in the Italian School. The Home Depart- 
ment and Cradle Roll are not included in these numbers. The 
membership in the Church and Sunday School is for the most 
part loyal and faithful, and there have been many gratifying 
responses when the call has come to make some new sacrifice or 
take some forward step. I have felt many times that whatever 


has been accomplished during these seven years has been the 
mere building upon foundations which others by, forethought 
and devotion had laid, and I may say in the words of Dr. Rankin, 
"It would be greatly to our disgrace if we had not made some 

We should here record the contribution our congregation 
made to our country's defense in the great world conflict. When 
the foundations of liberty were threatened forty-nine communi- 
cant members of our church entered the armies defending the 
right. Of these three young men in the prime of young man- 
hood made the supreme sacrifice. William B. Neill, James For- 
rester and Joseph Labadia were killed in battle. With solemn 
hearts we reverently record their names and their deeds, and, 
that they may not have died in vain, we prayerfully renew our 
covenant of devotion to our God and our country. 

Our beloved church looks hopefully to the future. We are 
determined to let no achievement of the past dim our eyes to 
what ought to be and can be her future glory, the glory of in- 
creasing usefulness as a faithful servant of the Christ whose 
name we bear. United heart and hand in the work made dear 
to us by so many sacred memories, we lift our eyes to our Lord 
and offer our prayer of dedication : 

"Lead on, O King Eternal : 
We follow, not with fears ; 
, For gladness breaks like morning 

Where'er Thy face appears ; 
Thy cross is lifted o'er us; 
We journey in its light: 
The crown awaits the conquest ; 
Lead on, O God of might." 


Roll of Officers in 1920. 




G. S. VooRHEES, Clerk, 
Frederick Childs, 
Charles L. Roberts, 
Samuee a. Allen, 
Chester C Brown. 
Heman Childs, 

Leslie W. Blazier, 
Samuel S. Childs, 
Leonard W. Hyer, 
LivOYD H. Nelson, 
Dr. C. M. Henry,, 
Ulrich Eberhardt. 


G. H. DoBBS, Secretary, 
Fred McMurtry, Treos. 
G. L. Peck, 
Thomas Ramsdale, 
Peter McArthur. 
David Neill, 

Fred Ortman, 

Luther Childs, 
John D. Cross, 
J. Herbert Childs. 
Harry Higgins. 


CiiAs. L. Roberts, Prcs. 
P. C. Henry, Treas., 
Dr. C. M. Henry. Sec.. 
Theron B. Smith, 

David Neiel, 
William Childs, Jr. 
Ulrich Eberhardt, 
g. s. voorhees, 

R. A. Henry 



NOV 95