Connecticut Farms Church History

view of the church from the cemetery

In the summer of 1667, the Rev. Abraham Pierson and his followers from Connecticut traveled for weeks under difficult circumstances to find a new settlement. The beautiful land they chose was outside Elizabethtown, fertile with an abundance of streams and within a few hours of the port. They named it "Connecticut Farms". From here, they traveled four or five miles, each way, every Sunday, through Indian country, by horse and wagon, in all kinds of weather, over dusty or muddy "roads" to attend church in Elizabethtown. Tiring of this travel in 1730, they erected a frame structure on the rise of the hill, along the main road and named it after the town.

photo of the church dated around 1890

The church and community prospered for the next fifty years until war came to Connecticut Farms. On June 8, 1780, after their defeat at Springfield, retreating British and Hessian troops pillaged and ransacked the town, shot Rev. Caldwell's wife at the Parsonage, and burned most of the buildings, including the church. All records of that time were lost. Undaunted and with some help from two neighboring churches, the farmers began to rebuild on the same site. On Sunday morning, one could see the parishioners marching along with their benches, boxes, boards and chairs, as there were no pews.

Bronze plaque on the original structure

The 1800's were not always easy. In 1806, the Sunday school was started in Potter's corncrib. At times, finances to support the church were sparse and the Trustees sold the grass and apples from the Church orchards and cemetery. The congregation went through years of decline and revival, as did the country. A new manse was built just after the turn of the century and additions to the original structure were added in 1920 and 1949. The membership continued to grow. In 1970, the church and cemetery were designated as an historic site - the first in New Jersey to be listed in the Register of Historic Places.

photo from around 1903

In 275 years, the congregation called Connecticut Farms has been served by seventeen ministers and has had its share of peaks and valleys. We are now in a time of renewal and growth. While we value our history, we are determined to shape the future with a ministry of compassion and outreach.

Yesterday...               ...and today.

Aerial photo of the church dated around 1970 Aerial photo of the church dated 2002

Aaron Thompson - Fifer 1 Regt. NJ Militia - Revolutionary War — July 3, 1792

Why Aaron Thompson? He recorded every hymn. He played at every battle in the revolutionary War.

We had a reenactment some time ago. A fifer at that reenactment gathered all the musicians to his grave site to have a service in his honor.

His statement was to a Fifer, "This is Holy Ground."

Look up Aaron Thompson in the church cemetery database!

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: Barbara Garrabrants - Church Historian

Yes, there were two bowling alleys in the gym prior to the church addition in 1948-1950. They apparently were put in when the Parish House was added in the 1920’s. They ran the length of the gym, under the windows, culminating where the room is today that Matt Glaser and the Senior Highs use for Sunday School. They were lower than the regular gym floor and covered by sections of flooring that were removable when the alleys were used. The alleys themselves were a beautiful finish and we children were not allowed to walk on them or to bowl. That was for the adults. They also said that the balls were too heavy.

Of course, there were no automatic pin setters at that time and, so, besides having to remove the flooring, the men had to recruit someone to set up the pins. Sometimes, if no one was available, some of the older boys were allowed to do that. The pins were in the area of Matt’s classroom.

I say “men bowling” because I don’t remember any women bowlers. Besides the Women’s Association of that day, there was a Men’s Club. The men would bowl after their meetings.* As a child of the time, I can remember that infrequently, we children were allowed to bowl a little with supervision. That was a “big” deal. There was never an “official game.”

Finally, the gym floor was in bad shape and needed to be replaced. Dave said the alleys needed refinishing and were warped so that the balls didn’t roll straight. The pins were getting round bottoms and didn’t sit well. The removable sections of flooring were in bad shape and Dave said when a basketball hit a joint it would fly off in any direction. Besides, their Men’s Club had dwindled so much that it was disbanded and the alleys were no longer used. I also think the main floor was not in the best of condition, so they decided to remove the alleys and “lay down” a new, sturdier floor. I don’t remember if this was at the same time as the 1948-1950 addition or slightly after.

* Dot Geoghegan said the Masons and Square Club also met at the church and may have bowled.

Barb Garrabrants -- Church Historian


Further historical information:

Check out the historic Connecticut Farms Church Cemetery

Cemetery web site image

A web site devoted to the history and people of the Connecticut Farms Cemetery. The site includes many photos, including historical headstones. Many of the Epitaphs are documented. The site even includes a searchable database of those interred.

Union Township Historical Society Photos

Union Township Historical Society photo gallery

This web site has many photo galleries from the Union Historical Society in Union. There are many before and after images as well as maps.

The Caldwell Parsonage Museum

To explore more of the rich colonial heritage Union (formerly Connecticut Farms) has to offer, visit the Caldwell Parsonage, Caldwell Avenue, Union, New Jersey. Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. weekdays. Email: caldwellparson@aol.com. Phone: 908-687-7977. Admission is free.

The following brochure (in PDF format) is available for download: here. It was shared with us by Mr. Michael Yesenko, President of the Union Township Historical Society.

Built by Connecticut Farms Church in 1782 - 1783 after the original parsonage was burned down, it served as the church parsonage for most of the nineteenth century. The need for extensive repairs and its distance from the church prompted the church to built a new parsonage (manse) adjacent to the church in 1901, on Stuyvesant Avenue. The Parsonage house as well as the Church are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Library of Congress Web Site

Connecticut Farms Church at the Historical Collections for the National Digital Library Historic American Buildings Survey / Historic American Engineering Record

Library of Congress image

In the 1930s, as a WPA project, the Federal government hired surveyors and architects to architecturally render and catalogue colonial sites throughout America. Connecticut Farms Church was among those included. A team spent several weeks at the church in 1939, crawling and climbing from cellar to steeple. These drawings provide an interesting glimpse of the church at that time. Much of the present structure remains true to the drawings. The originals are stored at the Library of Congress and can be accessed by this link.

National Register of Historic Places

Building - #70000398 at the National Register of Historic Places

Visit: National Register of Historic Places