No. 49  July 2005
The authoritative source on early churches in New Jersey

ISSN 1543-3250



   
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We've created a database and photographic inventory containing more than half the 18th & 19th century churches in the state and add to it each month. We solicit all contributions and suggestions from visitors.

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dissent over abolition

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When Church Became Theatre

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Trenton - Word to the World

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Pompton Plains Reformed

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Feature of the month

a chronology of political, social & economic events

As we seek to understand why the Jersey churchscape differs from that of other states it is essential to focus on political, economic, and social events, not just the religion of the early settlers (most of whom were not affiliated with any religion) or on architectural styles. Some of these events, like construction and completion of the Morris Canal, were largely regional in their impact, whereas others affected all areas of the state and the country. I have sketched out a chronology of significant events affecting New Jersey's churchscape, adding only the briefest of notes regarding the significance.

1626   Dutch establish New Netherlands, headquartered on Manhattan
             Island
1630-1660 Dutch settlements in Bergen & Hudson counties
1660   Fire burns London; Christopher Wren commissioned to rebuild
             churches; his plans will become influential in colonial cities
      •     Religious freedom tolerated by Dutch West India Company
1664   English oust the Dutch from New Netherlands; Charles I grants
             ownership & governance to his brother, the Duke of York, who will
             later become James II
      •     Puritan settlers from New England buy land in Elizabethtown;
             Baptists & Quakers buy into Monmouth County
1666   Proprietors establish religious freedom as an important term of
             settlement
      •     The colony attracts dissenting sects, especially Baptists, Quakers,
             Presbyterians, and some German Pietists
1666   Puritan congregations from Massachusetts & Connecticut settle
             Newark & Woodbridge; given wide latitude over civil governance
1676   East & West Jersey established as proprietary colony
       •    Scotch-Irish important in East; Penn & other Quakers obtain
             significant interest in West Jersey
1670s Initial Quaker settlements in Burlington, Salem, Gloucester
      •     Settlers from Barbados settle in Essex & Morris, establishing
             the slave system in those counties, which spreads to Monmouth
      •     Dutch settlers from Long Island move into Somerset & Monmouth
1685   Revocation of Edict of Nantes in France causes flight of Huguenots
             (French protestants), some of whom settle in Jersey
1682   Penn acquires proprietary rights to Pennsylvania & establishes
             Philadelphia; formerly substantial Quaker immigration to Jersey
             is shunted to Pennsylvania
1688   English oust James II (who was sympathetic to Catholics),
             ascension of Protestants William & Mary
1702   SPG established; begins to subsidize missions in Jersey as a
             counterweight to dissenting sects
      •     Earliest surviving church (St. Mary's) erected in Burlington
1703   East & West Jersey established as a crown colony
      •     Anglicans favored by royal governors, but dissenters are too
             strong to be repressed
1704   English Parliament passes the Test Act for Ireland,
             disenfranchising dissenters—especially Presbyterians
       •    Scotch-Irish Presbyterians from Ulster (Northern Ireland)
             emigrate to Jersey and Pennsylvania
1719   Most Puritan (Congregational) congregations affiliate with
             Presbyterian Synod in New Jersey
1720s  Heavy German immigration into Pennsylvania; overflow to West
             Jersey
1720-40 Great Awakening gets started in Raritan Valley; Frelinghuysen,
             Whitefield, Tennent are leading preachers
      •      Old Light-New Light splits Presbyterian church; Coetus-
             Conferentie dispute riles the Dutch Reformed church
1746    College of New Jersey (Princeton) established to train
              Presbyterian clergy
1755    Braddock's defeat sends Pennsylvania settlers fleeing to the east
1765    Stamp Act arouses colonists; resistance abetted by Presbyterian
              ministers in several congregations
1766    Queens College (Rutgers) established to train Dutch Reformed
              clergy
1776    Independence declared
       •     Most Episcopal (Church of England) ministers leave the state
       •     Methodist ministers recalled to England by John Wesley; all but
              Francis Asbury leave the country
1776-1784 War disrupts the economy; churches used to house troops,
              hospitals, and some are destroyed
1784    Asbury pledges Methodist loyalty to America, secures
              acceptance of Methodist church by Washington & officialdom
1789    Revolution in France brings wealthy aristocrats & their architects
              to America; initial impetus for Greek Revival style
1801    Success of Cane Meeting in Kentucky signals rise of camp meetings
              and revivals as recruiting method
        •    Extensive organizing by itinerant and circuit preachers, especially
              in rural areas by Methodists, later by Baptists & Campbellites
1816    Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal church in
              Philadelphia; several early AME congregations in Jersey
1820s  Beginning of substantial immigration from Ireland and Catholic
              areas of Germany
1820-1840 Second Great Awakening; even Presbyterian & Reformed
              congregations conduct revivals; church membership rises
1826    Hicksite schism in Society of Friends prompts construction of
              additional Quaker meetinghouses
1830s  Construction of Morris Canal and Delaware & Raritan Canal brings
              Irish laborers to central counties, at least temporarily. Mines and
              ironworks
reopen, bringing new affluence to some regions
       •     Methodists become largest denomination in the state; Methodist
              leader Nathan Bangs urges Methodist to take more prominent role,
              which encourages them to build larger & grander churches
       •     Sunday School movement, started in the U.K. in the 1780s, gathers
              adherents here, often as a substitute for formal education;
              Many schools lead to establishment of permanent congregations
1833    Balloon-frame construction of a church in Fort Dearborn (IL)
              revolutionizes building methods in this country
        •    President Andrew Jackson withdraws federal funds from the Bank
              of the United States and deposits them in state banks which offer
              easy credit on purchase of western lands; population in many
             Jersey counties declines because of westward migration
1837   Panic of 1837 brings bank failures, suspension of most building
1830s-1840s Completion of canals and railroads stimulates agricultural
              areas by opening urban markets for produce
1837-1850s Abolitionist movement gathers momentum, brings schisms in
              Methodist, Baptist & Presbyterian denominations & congregations
1840s  Rise of industrial economy concentrates immigrants in
              manufacturing centers of Hudson, Essex & Passaic
1844    Adoption of new state constitution ends official discrimination
              against Catholics; the church is now allowed to own land
1846    Episcopal Bishop Doane sets Gothic Revival style as the only
              appropriate one for Anglican churches
1848    Revolutions in Europe prompts German Catholics & Jews to
              immigrate in substantial numbers
1840s  Railroads cause boom in rural areas by improved accessibility
              to urban markets
1850s  Catholics become largest denomination in the state
        •    Steam-powered sash-and-blind (and other architectural elements)
              manufacturing is widespread, dropping the cost of elaborate styles
1861-1865 War-based economy benefits the state; rise of a mercantile
              class in cities
        •    Builders & contractors begin to call themselves architects
1860s  Substantial manufacturing centers in Paterson, Newark, Jersey
              City, Trenton, Camden attract immigrants
1873-1879 Financial Panic of 1873 disrupts the state's economy for
               several years; most church building suspended
1880s   Substantial Italian immigration, largely to urban areas
        •     Extension of railroads enable affluent commuters to work in
               the city and live in the country; gives rise to upscale churches in
               Madison, Morristown, Summit, Short Hills, Bernardsville, etc.
        •     Immigration of Jews from eastern Europe & Russia; establish-
               ment of Jewish agricultural communities in south Jersey
1890s   Establishment of nationality-based Catholic parishes in many
               urban areas following extensive immigration

Note that this is a selective or interpretive chronology, including events that seem significant in my understanding of the development of religious architecture in this state. A chronology for Pennsylvania, and certainly for Virginia or Connecticut, for example, would be rather different, although some events would have similar importance throughout the country. As always, corrections and suggestions are solicited.


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