No. 15 June 2002
The authoritative source
early churches in New Jersey
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 welcome and solicit all contributions and suggestions from our
New last month
the emphasis in this website is on the architectural aspects of the early
churches of New Jersey, we've noted the architect or master builder wherever
that information was available. We have compiled a directory of individuals
and firms who worked in the state, and offer it now, even in incomplete
form, for suggestions, corrections and additions.
Voices of Morebath
you identify this church?
Calvary Brethren Church,
Franklin Twsp, Hunterdon
photo of the month
St Joseph's Church
A dozen at-risk buildings are noted. Submit your nomination for the most
endangered churches in the state. We will research the submissions and
feature one each month, then maintain that list indefinitely.
Do have additional information about any of the buildings in this article?
Or perhaps an old photograph or an article that can enrich our knowledge?
Please submit that information for the benefit of other visitors.
to use this site
Architects & master builders
Consult the database
Annotate the database
Upload a photo
Suggest a church for inclusion
List of churches, by county
Links to related sites
of the month
removed from the gaze of the cultured and the pious"
The Sourland Mountain is a 17 mile long ridge that runs northwest from
Lambertville in Hunterdon county through Mercer county north of Hopewell
ending in Somerset county just short of Neshanic. Historically, it's been
a place to hide out; Lenape Indians hid there from marauding Iroquois,
Thomas Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence hid from British
soldiers, gangster Carlo Gambino went to ground there, and moonshiners
hid their stills from revenuers before, during and after Prohibition.
The mountain was home to Eugene O'Neill, artist George Bellows and, of
course, to Charles & Anne Lindbergh until the kidnaping of their son
The mountain really isn't much of a mountainthe
highest point is only 568 feet above sea level, some 200 feet above the
surrounding farmland. It's rocky and heavily wooded. A few narrow roads,
some dirt, snake through it, which is part of the attraction, as it's
a refuge for a number of contemporary homes as well as a scattering of
ramshackle cottages. There's no village on the mountain, but severalWeertsville,
Ringoes, Lambertville, Blawenburg, Hopewell, Neshanic, and Clover Hillsit
just off the slope, encircling it like gates to an old walled city. Sometime
after the Revolutionary War, a former slave who had purchased his freedom
from General Rufus Putnam, opened a tavern there, Put's Tavern, "far
removed from the gaze of the cultured and the pious," and hosted
any number of cockfights, prize fights and other dubious entertainmentswhich
may explain why it is also home to four small 19th century churches.
In 1843, a Methodist class was organized
area, and by 1865 they had erected a delightful stone building, the Mt.
Zion Methodist Episcopal Church. It has Gothic-arch windows and simple
hammerbeam arches supporting the roof, very unusual in a small vernacular
About the same time that church was built, a black congregation erected
a smaller wood frame building somewhere on the mountain, the Zion AME
Church (below). The building was moved to "the
hollow" in this century, and services are still regularly held. In
view of the substantial black population of the area at the time of the
Civil War, it is surprising there are so few AME churches
in the regiononly two others in Somerset, one in Hunterdon and one
other in the northern section of Mercer. This is a charming building,
with its sawtooth band at the base of the gable and the round inserts
in the windows to emulate the Romanesque style that was popular at the
In 1876, or thereabouts, several Reformed
and Presbyterian churches in the region decided that someone needed to
bring religion to residents of the mountain, so they appointed a committee,
raised funds, hired a minister and built a small wooden mission. It was
simply called "the mountain mission," and was nominally under
the supervision of the Reformed church in Harlingen. The mission (below,
what I believe was the mission) now sits in Hunterdon county, at the corner
of Lindbergh and Burd Roads, but it was originally sited in Somerset,
probably in Montgomery Township, and moved sometime in this century.
The remaining of the four churches on the
mountain, the Mt Hope Christian Church, located on Mountain Church Road,
was built sometime before 1880 but perhaps as early as the 1860s. It continued
to hold services well into this century, but I am unsure when they were
discontinued. It is now a private residence. The editor of the 1881 History
of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties refers to it as "that feeble Unitarian
society on the mountain,"
confusing the Unitarians with the Campbellite Christian denomination,
which he also does in the instance of the Christian church in Little York.
The area that early German settlers found
unsuitable for farming, hence the name "sourland," nevertheless
proved fertile enough for these four congregations to take hold, in spite
of the low population density, and for two of them to last more than a