Source: J. Percy Crayon, Rockaway Records of Morris County, N. J. Families, (Rockaway, N.J., Rockaway Publishing Co., 1902)
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
THE CHURCH OF ROCKAWAY, N. J.
Much useful information is lost to the church and to the world for want of a record of the early settlement and progress of the churches. The many difficulties and prejudices of sectarianism in all new settlements, tend greatly to impede the progress of true piety, and much that might be gained by united effort and pious instead of party zeal, is lost by a desire to promise particular tenets instead of the religion of our Savior, "which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercies and good fruits," etc.
The Presbyterian church at Rockaway may be said to have been founded about the year 1766, although the first meeting-house (of wood) was raised in September, 1752. The building was the united effort of many denominations and considerable sums were given by other congregations. The pious Colonel Jacob FORD, Sen., of Morristown, gave one hundred pounds. The house was enclosed and benches placed on the ground floor, and divine service held in it in the situation until 1768, when the pulpit and seats below stairs were built. In this situation the house remained until the year 1794, when it was ceiled and the galleries made and seated, as it remained until the new meeting-house was finished as it now is of brick, and dedicated on the sixth day of September, 1832.
The first written record of the parish, wherein they appear to be taking a name, and assuming a denomination, is dated December 23, 1766, when it was voted "to appoint a committee to sign an article of agreement to join with Parsippany n calling and settling a Presbyterian minister to preach, or settle, for both parishes jointly."
On the 2nd of March, 1767, the parish met to consider of and give Mr. James TUTTLE as a candidate to preach at Rockaway and Parsippany, when it was voted to give Mr. TUTTLE a call; and accordingly at a parish meeting on 11th of May, 1767, held for that purpose, a committee was appointed to sign the call for Mr. James TUTTLE to settle with Rockaway and Parsippany, and Deacon David BEAMAN was appointed to go to presbytery, carry the call, and obtain an answer.
In April 1768, the Rev. James TUTTLE was ordained at Parsippany as minister for that congregation and Rockaway. This was the first settled and ordained minister in Rockaway. Mr. David BEAMAN was appointed chorister, and Mr. Jacob ALLERTON to read the psalm. It appears that sixty pounds was the sum named for the minister’s salary; this for one half the time was equal to one hundred and sixty dollars a year.
In October, 1770, owing to the continued illness of Rev. Mr. TUTTLE, the parish voted to sue for the dismission from the Rev. Mr. TUTTLE, when the presbytery should sit, and a petition was signed accordingly, but on the 9th of April, 1771, the decease of the Rev. Mr. TUTTLE having taken place, the parish voted "to present a petition to the presbytery for them to send a candidate if they can, if not, to grant the parish liberty to hire a minister that shall be judged of good standing by some persons that they shall appoint."
In January, 1772, a contract was made with the Rev. Mr. SIMSON to preach for eighty-five pounds, light money, a year, and have use of the parsonage. April 1, 1772, appointed Jacob FORD, June, a committee to carry the petition of the parish to the presbytery at Trenton, and voted, "to give Mr. SIMSON twenty-six shillings for every Sabbath he has, or shall preach for us, until the meeting of presbytery in New Brunswick". It appears Mr. SIMSON, having preached twelve Sabbaths at the meeting house, declined the call presented to presbytery for a settlement; and the congregation remained without a settled pastor, and renewed their application to the New York Presbytery for supplies; and on 20th April, 1773, it was voted at a parish meeting to send Mr. Isaac SARGEANT to New England for a minister; but in May, 1773, the vote to send to New England for a minister was rescinded, and a request made to presbytery for supplies. A list of the names of the ministers who preached as supplies is given to preserve names of the then presbytery – viz.: Rev. Mr. MURDOCK, Rev. Thomas LEWIS, Rev. Timothy JONES, Rev. Jacob GREEN, Rev. Mr. CLOW, Rev. Mr. BURNET, Rev. Mr. LYON and Rev. J. GROVER.
In September, 1773, the congregation at Parsippany made a request to the congregation at Rockaway to join them again in obtaining a settled minister; but their offer was declined, and the parish voted to request presbytery to send them a candidate for settlement or supplies as before.
In May, 1774, the parish made out a call for the Rev. Matthias BURNET, which was presented to the presbytery, then sitting at Elizabethtown, in which they state the society consists of one hundred families who have raised, and offered him for his support, one hundred pounds (two hundred and sixty-six dollars) annually, with the parsonage with one hundred acres of land, with a house thereon in decent order, and to find him his firewood at the door.
The Rev. Mr. BURNET took six months to consider the call, and then declined to accept it. From this time until 17th March, 1775, the parish received supplies from presbytery, and part of the time hired the Rev. Joseph GROVER as a candidate, who afterwards was settled at Parsippany; after which the parish voted to invite a Dutch minister from Hackensack for a short season; when Mr. DERONDY, a minister of the Reformed Dutch Church, supplied the pulpit for seventeen Sabbaths; after which, on the 12th April, 1779, the parish hired the Rev. Mr. Noble EVERETT as a candidate for six months, with a view to settlement, but which he afterwards declined.
During this period of the Revolutionary War, for the most part of the time, the congregation was supplied by presbytery. No church records or session book having been kept, no records can be referred to, to state the increase of the church. There is occasionally mention made in the parish records of the number of baptisms of infants, but nothing in relation to the progress of religion. The names of particular individuals as officers in the church, occur in the records, but the number of the members or other matter relative to the church proper cannot now be known.
The Rev. Mr. John JOLINE (as appears by the records in April, 1779) had preached as a candidate for six months; but for reasons not stated, no settlement took place, and the Rev. Mr. DERONDY was engaged again in November, 1779, and continued through the winter following until April, 1780.
In May, 1780, an effort was made to obtain a candidate from New England through Mr. CHAPMAN, then minister at Orange. No record appears of the success of this application; but in August, 1780, the Rev. Lemuel FORDHAM was engaged for a short season, and then a Mr. GILBERT was engaged for several Sabbaths as a candidate for settlement, and in October, 1780, a petition was made to presbytery for the Rev. Mr. FORDHAM to be appointed as a probationer with a view to settlement.
In May, 1781, the parish voted to petition presbytery that Mr. FORDHAM be continued as a candidate for the space of six months ensuing; and it was further voted that the Rev. Mr. FORDHAM be permitted to preach the same sermons at Rockaway that he preaches at Succasunna, as he may think proper; from which it is inferred that Mr. FORDHAM preached but half the time at Rockaway during these six months.
A great depreciation of the currency of the state having taken place, the parish agreed to pay fifty pounds I produce, to pay the salary, to whit: iron at twenty-four shillings per cwt., wheat at six shillings per bushel, rye and corn at four shillings, or in money as much as would purchase those articles.
From October, 1781, to April, 1874, the Rev. Mr. FORDHAM was a stated supply foe one half the time at fifty pounds a year; and in April, 1874, the Rev. David BALDWIN, who formally was a preacher at Black river in Morris County, accepted a call and was installed over the congregation, with a salary of eighty pounds a year, the use of the parsonage, and firewood found him at the door.
That part of divine service pertaining to the singing of psalms, and what version of the psalms should be used in worship, having made great uneasiness and great inquietude, in April, 1786, it was voted to appoint four choristers to set the tunes: "that Benjamin JACKSON, Francis McCARTY, and Jacob LYON be appointed choristers, that they sing in the afternoon, without reading the psalm line by line, and David BEAMAN to sing the fore part of the day, unless otherwise agreed on by Mr. BEAMAN and the other choristers; and that they sing any "psalms that are sung in the neighboring churches as they shall judge proper."
At a parish meeting held on 14th February, 1787, the Rev. Mr. BALDWIN made a proposition to the parish, viz.: the parish to give him one hundred pounds in cash, to assist in purchasing him a small settlement; and that he would relinquish twenty pounds a year of his salary, and thus have only sixty pounds a year with the use of the parsonage and firewood as usual."
This proposition of Mr. BALDWIN ‘s was agreed to, and at the same time the parish agreed to incorporate themselves agreeable to an Act of Assembly, passed March 16th, 1786.
On the 6th March, 1787, the parish met according to appointment and proceeded to elect their first Board of Trustees; when "Williams WINDS, Stephen JACKSON, Abram KITCHELL, Benjamin BEACH, Job ALLEN, David BEAMAN and David BAKER were elected; who accepted the appointment, and do call themselves by the name of the First Presbyterian Congregation at Rockaway, in the County of Morris." A certificate of which under the hand and seal of the clerk of Morris County of Morris is dated 22nd March, 1787.
April, 1789, some further difficulty having arisen respecting the singing in church, it was voted at a parish meeting to have the psalm read line by line , or by two lines, in singing in the future, except on particular occasions.
On June 17th, 1780, at a parish meeting, Mr. William ROSS, having served the parish as an elder of the church for several years, desired to resign his office as an elder of the church. The parish accepted his resignation, with their thanks for his services.
This fact is mentioned to show that the method of electing officers of the church must have been by the parish and not by the church only. Mr. David BEAMAN, at the same time, resigned his office, as elder and chorister for the parish, when a like vote of thanks was given.
In July, 1789, at a parish meeting, the Rev. Mr. BALDWIN requested the parish to express their views on his appointment by presbytery to preach among vacant congregations, to which the parish unanimously assented. This is the first intimation of a missionary step, which in later times has been so successful in spreading the gospel, and no doubt has the promise of God with it to the end of the world.
January 4th, 1792, at a parish meeting, a proposition of the Rev. Mr. BALDWIN was presented to the parish, expressing his willingness to be dismissed, or to be continued as the parish might think proper. Whereupon it was voted to pay up Mr. BALDWIN’s salary to the first of June, 1892, and after that time the parish considered Mr. BALDWIN under no further obligation to them, nor the parish to Mr. BALDWIN; and that Mr. BALDWIN have liberty to make engagements at his pleasure.
From what can be gathered from the records and the recollections of those now living, the church must have been in a low state. The attendance on the Sabbath did scarcely number thirty of all persons, and many times not more than half that number, but the hope of better times brightened upon the congregation. Some few who were left who prayed, and perhaps in proportion, as many as Elijah were astonished to hear prayed. The Lord put it in the hearts of the people to bestir themselves, and to rebuild the tabernacle of the Lord. Accordingly we find on the 14th May, 1792, at a parish meeting, the pious and devotedly good old minister, Mr. BALDWIN, paid off to his satisfaction, with his prayers and benediction on the people that God had once placed him over; and thereupon it was voted to apply to Mr. John J. CARLE to supply us as a candidate. Thirty-five for it, one against it.
The mode of singing was again adjusted by the appointment of Benjamin JACKSON, Russel DAVIS and Daniel HURD as choristers, and that they act discretionary when to sing without reading the lines.
On 18th June, 1792, it was voted unanimously (sixty-five present) to present a call to the next New York presbytery for Mr. John J. CARLE for a settlement; which was accordingly presented and accepted; and in January, 1793, Mr. CARLE was ordained and installed pastor over the church and congregation. This was the first ordination witnessed at Rockaway, the meeting house being then without gallery or walls; and having stood forty years, and many efforts had been made to have a settled minister. After the death of the Rev. Mr. TUTTLE, a new state of things occurred. A regular session of the church was formed and although no list of its members appear entire, yet a few were found ready to come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty; and the five years ministry of Mr. CARLE added quite a goodly number to the church; but in the wise providence of God, we were again, in the spring of 1801, deprived of the stated ordinances of the gospel.
The Rev. Mr. CARLE asked and obtained a dismission from the parish, and the parish became (as it truly was) like sheep without a shepherd. Part of the time with supplies from presbytery, and part of the time with preachers of other and sometimes strange doctrines, until in the mercy of God, we once more emerged from the dark cloud which hung over us; and in the fall of 1808, obtained a settlement of present pastor, Rev. Barnabas KING, who was ordained and installed pastor of our church and congregation on the 27th December, 1808.
And under his administration the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad, and for which we desire to bless his holy name. While we would show the great disparity of the numbers of the church in October, 1808, being then only thirty-five in all, and among them it might be said there was only three men that would pray in public, if they ever prayed at all; but under a faithful and pious ministry of twenty-five years, the Lord has increased the church to the present number of three hundred and thirty-one members in regular standing.
Note. The new meeting house at Rockaway is of brick, forty-seven by sixty feet, twenty-one feet above the water table; steeple eighteen feet square, forty-two feet high, four pedestals, three feet square, with four pyramids ten feet high on each corner; four Gothic windows in each broadside and two in the pulpit end, each one hundred and eleven lights of glass; finished inside with galleries, ceiled, and seated in a plain, neat manner and painted white. About one year in building.
Transcribed by: John Cresseveur