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  early churches of New Jersey

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Mt. Zion African Union Methodist Protestant Church


Marshalltown, Mannington Township, Salem County
Roosevelt Avenue
founded c.1841, built 1879-87

The A.U.M.P. Church is the oldest independent black denomination in the U.S., chartered in 1813 as the Union Church of Africans, although it was usually called the "African Union Church." It initially followed the church governance practices of the Methodist Protestant church, and that's how they arrived at the name. There are only a handful of A.U.M.P. congregations in the state. Between 1818 and 1835, eight African Union churches were organized, including one at Salem and another at Baileytown. The earliest record of this church is for the election of trustees for the African Union Church at Haines Neck in 1844. Thomas Marshall was one of the trustees.
The Marshalltown church is a wide three-bay, two-story building, with later appendages to the side and rear; those were often added as a study for the minister and a rest room, neither of which figured in the original plans. It sits on low brick piers, a type of construction not common in this state. The triple window with a small square window above is an unusual feature. The ground-floor windows have small panels of colored glass. There is an original sentry-box chancel at the rear, as well as the later appendages. The cornerstone reads "1879," but a local newspaper for October 18, 1887 says "the new A.U.M.P. church at Marshalltown . . . is rapidly nearing completion."
     Marshalltown was variously known as Frogtown, Marlboro and Marshallville. It was an early black community and once had two black churches, this one and a Little Bethel A.M.E. According to a 2010 survey, this congregation is considered "active," but is down to two worshippers. Janet Sheridan notes that "Mt. Zion was ideally situated geographically to spirit fugitive slaves across the Delaware River and Bay into New Jersey. There is no documented Underground Railroad activity in Marshalltown, but there were known routes through Salem County, and black church networks near water routes were a key mechanism for transport. Marshalltown's ideal location as an isolated, remote settlement with a church and school on a water route is suggestive."