150 Years Strong: The Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg

The Presbyterian Church in the Late 1800s Editor's Note: The Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg celebrates 150 years of spiritual and community leadership June 5, 2004. This article highlights its glorious past and contains pictures of areas not usually seen by visitors.

      The early community now known as Jamesburg was settled mainly by those of Scottish Prebyterian conviction, and grew up as a mill site in the center of the area served by Protestant churches in Tennent, Cranbury, and Spotswood. As the village of Jamesburg increased in size and importance as a railroad center, religious serves were held with some regularity in the local schoolhouse until 1853 when trustees were elected and a building commmittee authorized to erect a church to be known as "The Prebyterian Church, Jamesburg, New Jersey". The land where the church and manse now stand was given by James Buckelew, the man for whom the Borough is named. The first piece of the building erected is still the main part of the sanctuary and was forty-five feet long and thirty-eight feet wide with a spire and stained glass windows. It was situated upon an eminence which made its spire visible from all entrances to the town.

      On June 6, 1854, the New Brunswick Presbytery convened at Jamesburg and a church was organized consisting of the following eleven charter members: John Calvin Vanderveer, Hannah Hunt Vanderveer, Samuel Marryott, Ann Maria Griggs Marryott, James Mount, Mahala Everett Mount, Margaret Snedeker Buckelew, Catharine Vanderveer Applegate, Sarah Davison, John Booream Johnson, and David C. Bastedo. Mr. Vanderveer and Mr. Johnson, having previously been ordained in Cranbury and Tennent, served as the first two ruling elders.

      The first pastor, the Reverend J. Halstead Carroll, was ordained and installed on May 30, 1855. The early years of the church's life were beset with financial difficulties, horseshed problems, and building repairs; nevertheless, the membership steadily increased. The first addition of many to the building became necessary in 1867 because of the demand for pews which were individually rented.

Inside the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg in 1883.       The Reverend Benjamin S. Everitt, D.D. was installed as the third pastor in 1870 and continued to serve for twenty-seven years during which time there was much activity in all branches of the church's life: administration, finance, interest in missions, membership, and revivials. At one communion service alone, one hundred thirty-seven new members were received!

      The social hall to the rear of the church building and the two transepts in the church were added in 1871 and in 1883, the present two-towered front was erected including the vestibules. By 1885 gifts of land from the heirs of Abraham S. Davison and James Buckelew increased the extent of the church property to almost its present size.

      Throughout the early days of the church youth groups flourished. The second Young Peoples' Society of Christian Endeavor in the State of New Jersey was organized February 10, 1883 and the New Jersey Christian Endeavor Union itself was organized in the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg on December 1, 1886.

Inside the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg today.       Mrs. George A. Helme, wife of the Helmetta tobacco factory owner, knowing of the great need for better kitchen facilities and more church school rooms, offered to build an addition to the church in honor of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac S. Buckelew. On November 12, 1933 "Buckelew Memorial", an addition extending northward thirty-two feet with an overall width of fifty feet, was dedicated. The plan of the church now assumed the figure of a cross.

      Extensive renovations to the interior of the sanctuary in 1950 included a new organ, new lighting, hardwood flooring, painting, and pew renovation. October 8, 1950 was observed as Dedication Sunday and a covered dish luncheon followed morning service.

      In 1958 the church underwent yet another major renovation program whereby the chapel meeting room was completely refinished, a new modern kitchen was installed, and the old kitchen space made available for use by church groups. New stairways and doors were installed. In 1961 the church purchased the adjoining property at 177 Gatzmer Avenue and renovated it so that the first floor contained pastoral and church offices and the second floor became an apartment. Extensive renovations were made in the manse and the exterior of the church was painted.

      In more recent years the church facilities have been used by Headstart and the H.R.C.A. Day Care Center. Many Boy Scout Troops have been supported by the church. Currently Boy Scout Troop 54's headquarters are in the building. The social hall and kitchen are available for all community groups to use.

The Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg as it appears today.       Repairs to the interior, most notably the tin ceiling in the sanctuary, has been completed recently. The social hall has been renovated yet once again and new restrooms have been built. Future plans for the church include razing the back portion of the building and rebuilding it, thus enlarging and modernizing the Sunday School classrooms, adding a choir room, church office, and making the building ADA compliant.

      The Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg has had a marvelous history over the past 150 years. Despite setbacks it has overcome many hurdles and grown to a tremendous size. The church is more than just a religious institution. The Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg is a community cultural center for the community's young and old that will carry on its traditions for another 150 years!

Click Here for Pictures of the Prebyterian Church of Jamesburg
Click Here to View Historical Pictures of the the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg

Taken from 125th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church of Jamesburg: 1979
Edited and Amended for the Internet by Thomas C. Bodall
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