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

What Did King George III Really Say?

Religion played a major role in the American Revolution by offering a moral sanction for the opposition to British rule, by ensuring the average colonist that the revolution was justified and a righteous cause. And, many a minister led the cause right from their pulpit on Sunday mornings.

American Presbyterians frequently claim that King George III of England, referred to the American Revolution as "The Presbyterian Rebellion". Did he really say that?

Several years ago Steve Salyards set out to find the original source from which the quote was taken. Unfortunately, he found that documentation was lacking and settled on "maybe" or even "probably".

"The Rebellion" or, on our side "The War of Independence" was a Presbyterian cause. Presbyterians today are well aware that the only active Presbyterian minister to sign the Declaration of Independence was John Witherspoon, President of the College of New Jersey, a Presbyterian College. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, 34 were Episcopalians, while only 6 were Presbyterian. King George could have called it the "Episcopalian Rebellion".

Our Church history starts with freedom to worship. And so, the rebellion or revolution became personal. With Reverend James Caldwell preaching from our pulpit and fighting for the cause, The Battle of Connecticut Farms took place right outside our front door. Our first church was burned to the ground by the British and Hannah Caldwell, wife of the Rev. Caldwell was killed in our parsonage by the British. A Presbyterian Rebellion? Maybe not... but a cause lived and died for by many Presbyterians.

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 by appointment and special events. Email: 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