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  early churches of New Jersey

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Trinity Church
Newark, Essex County


The tower, steeple and front portico of Trinity were built in 1743, making this the oldest church in Newark. The nave was so badly damaged by British troops during the Revolution that it was torn down and rebuilt in 1810. Until Trinity was formed in 1730, the puritan church (Old First; initially a Congregation church but it later became Presbyterian) had a monopoly on religion in the city. Josiah James is listed in the records as the architect of this fine example of a Wren-Gibbs style church.
     When Saint Phillip's Church burned, that congregation was invited to merge with Trinity and the church is now known as Trinity-Saint Phillips.
     In 1883, the History of Essex and Hudson Counties described the church, " The building has suffered but little from changes since its erection. The old front, of Grecian style, with massive pillars of stone, built in 1743—44, still remain as first constructed. The old tin roof has given place to one of slate, and the plain windows have been replaced by elegant stained glass, yet the general appearance of the building is the same as when the builders first entered its sacred doorway one hundred and forty years ago from that grand old avenue of elms. The chancel is surmounted by a beautiful Gothic arch and three windows, the central one large and highly-ornamented, made up the picture in the background. The finish of the interior is elegantly chaste and harmonious; the organ facing the pulpit, and near the old tower, is perfect in the style of its decoration."
     The compendium also provides this account of the founding of Trinity:
"Col. Josiah Ogden was a leading member of the community,— a pillar of the First [ Presbyterian] Church. He was a man of energy, wealth and influence. His father was David Ogden, who came from Elizabethtown and settled in Newark about the year 1676. Col. Josiah’s mother was the noted Elizabeth Swaine, whose first husband, the gallant Josiah Ward, died soon after the settlement of the town, leaving her a comely widow. From 1716 to 1721 the colonel represented the town in the General Assembly. He appears to have been a man of strong individuality, holding positive and decided views regarding things spiritual as well as things temporal. On a certain Sunday in the fall of some year close to 1733, Col. Ogden, contrary to a rule of the First Church, went into his field and saved his wheat, which was exposed to serious loss from long-continued rains. En passant, it may be remarked that Col. Josiah seems to have been, like many truly good and worthy Christian people of the present day, a firm believer in the new dispensation which says the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. For his daring conduct he was subjected to the discipline of the church, accused of having violated the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, and publicly censured. The Presbytery reversed the decision of the church, righteously deeming the act of Col. Ogden one of imperative necessity, and tried to pour oil on the troubled waters. It was too late. Around Col. Ogden rallied a considerable body, who openly began to declare themselves dissatisfied with the Presbyterian form of church government."

National Register.




Copyright (c) 2001 Frank L. Greenagel