Finding Meeker’s Meeting House, the story of an overlooked Revolutionary War era church near the New York – New Jersey border.
By Rev. Douglas J. Douma, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY
In the year 1780—or sometime previous—a meeting house was built on the land of Samuel Meeker in northwestern New Jersey near the New York border. People came there for worship over a period of only ten or twenty years but left just a scant record behind. In this article I seek to piece together the record of Meeker’s Meeting House and tell its history, arguing that upon its closure the people who had worshipped there went on to establish three area churches with long histories. The founding of one of these churches, Westtown Presbyterian Church, I contend, brought the place name of the former meeting houses’s location (West Town) with it and led to the naming of its hamlet (Westtown, NY) after the church. Finally, I will argue for the identification of the meeting house’s location long obscured by the ravages of time.
Samuel Meeker (1747 – c. 1804) was a landowner and major in the Sussex County, NJ militia, known for his bravery—or perhaps bravado—in the lead up to a patriot defeat in the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Minisink on July 22, 1779 where forty-eight patriots were killed and Meeker himself wounded. Meeker owned a number of properties in New Jersey including an 186-acre farm in Wantage Township where by 1773 he resided after financial difficulties forced a sale of his previous residence.1 Part of the property extended beyond the border with New York, a line which was disputed between the two provinces and was only settled in 1769 and first surveyed in 1774.
That a meeting house was built on Meeker’s Wantage farm is first known from the will of Mary Lockwood, dated Oct. 1, 1780 which speaks of the Presbyterian meeting house on Samuel Meeker’s land. The witnesses on the will included Nathaniel Meeker (Samuel’s brother) and Cotton Mather who would later be connected with the Presbyterian Church of Westtown. Such connections will become important later as we show continuity from Meeker’s Meeting House to the Westtown Presbyterian Church.2
Who built the meeting house—whether Meeker himself, or someone else with his permission—is unknown. Given Meeker’s known financial strain it is possible that others would have footed the bill while he allowed use of the land. However, when Meeker sold the farm the “edefices buildings emoluments advantages hereditaments and appurtenances,” according to the deed, went with it. Half of the farm was sold in 1787 and the remainder in 1792. From the description of the property boundaries it appears that the sale in 1787 intentionally avoided the land where the meeting house sat. But certainly when the remainder of the land sold in 1792 the meeting house was no longer on Meeker’s land but on that of Samuel Cole, the new owner of the whole farm. But, as one researcher has suggested, perhaps to respect the efforts of others who contributed to the building of the meeting house a stipulation in the deed of sale stated that the grantee (Cole) could not interfere with the Presbyterian meeting house and its operations. Thus worship could continue there, and did for about another ten years.3
Equally unknown is why a Presbyterian meeting house was built at that location. The need for such a place of worship may be explained in part by the fact that there were no other Presbyterian churches in the area at that time. Such a need also may partially be explained in noting that the Meeker family had Presbyterian connections in generations past.
While the meeting house was called Presbyterian there is no record of a Presbyterian minister ever preaching there. Rather, the only man known to have preached there was a Dutch Reformed minister. The records of the Dutch Reformed churches show that starting in 17884 Rev. Elias Van Bunschoten (1738-1815) of the Clove Dutch Reformed Church preached also for a congregation in “Westtown.” Because the Clove was unable to meet Van Bunschoten’s salary, an arrangement was made in 1791 for the Westtown congregation to share a portion of his time and contribute to his pay. In 1793 the Clove and Westtown Churches united together and sent a request to the clerk of the peace for the county of Sussex to record them by the name and title of “The Trustees of the United Dutch Reformed Congregations of the Clove and West Town.”5 In the introduction to Minisink Valley Reformed Dutch Church Records, Royden Woodward Vosburgh refers to the group Van Bunschoten preached to as “The Dutch Reformed Church of Westtown” and claims that they were “probably located in the present village of Westtown, in the town of Minisink, Orange County, N.Y.”6 Vosburgh, as we shall see, incorrectly identified the church’s location.
We must understand that “Westtown” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries applied not to the present hamlet, but to an area centered near the New York / New Jersey border.7 The term “Westtown” (and its variants Westown, and West Town) is thought to derive from the fact that the area is “West of the drowned lands,” a swampy lowland through which the Walkill river passes. On John Eddy’s 1818 Map of New York, the label “Westown” is applied to today’s Unionville which only chose its present name at a village meeting on Feb. 1st, 1822.8 Tanner’s 1819 Map of New York shows less detail but again locates “Westown” near the New York / New Jersey border at present day Unionville. Finley’s 1827 Map of New York continues to call the border village “Westtown” (now with two t’s) even though it’s name had officially been changed four or five years earlier. Only starting in 1828, with Thomas Gordon’s Map of New Jersey (and its detail over the border into New York) do we see Unionville and Westown located and labeled as they are now known. The fact also that the “Trustees of the United Congregations of the Clove and West Town” sent their incorporation document to Sussex (in New Jersey) and not also to some jurisdiction in New York, further evidences the fact that the “West Town” church was in New Jersey.
Today’s hamlet of Westtown, NY seems to have only taken that name after the original Westtown Church (Meeker’s) closed and some of its people established the “Presbyterian Church and Congregation of West Town in the Town of Minisink” as it is named in an 1803 deed. Previous to that time the area of the modern hamlet of Westtown was only known as the Town of Minisink, and “Westtown” had only been applied to Meeker’s Meeting House (as it did on the 1793 deed). Only in 1811 (five years after the church was built) is the hamlet first mentioned without specific reference to the church when a farm was offered for sale “Lying on the main road from Deckertown and Westown.”9 Shortly thereafter, in 1812, the “Goshen and West Town Turnpike Company” was established, the act of which mentions “the village of West-Town.” Therefore, I contend, the placename “Westtown” moved when the church did. Former Minisink Town historian Doris Cole reached the same conclusion years ago, writing, “The village of Westtown probably derived its name from the church.”10
While it is known from the records that a late 18th century meeting house existed on Meeker’s land, there is no known evidence of any church in the hamlet of Westtown prior to the Westtown Presbyterian Church erected in 1806. Thus it is likely at Meeker’s Meeting House where the Presbyterian Society at Westtown regularly came together for worship. This society met for legal organization on Jan. 26, 1790 at the house of Sylvanus Loree and while the deacons who signed the certificate, John Hazen and James Brown, were indeed from the hamlet later called Westtown, of the trustees listed Amos Wilcox was from Waterloo Mills, and Henry Tucker was an early resident of Unionville. We can see then that it was a presbyterian society for the whole area stretching north to the hamlet of Westtown, west to Waterloo Mills and Unionville, and south to Meeker’s Meeting House.11
While there is no record of Meeker’s Meeting house as an organized Presbyterian church, the Presbyterian Society at Westtown appears to have joined the Associate Presbytery of Morris County in 1790.12 This presbytery, which existed from 1780 to about 1820, was independent of the main body of Presbyterians and functioned in an almost congregationalist manner. But while the group was Presbyterian in its charter, they eventually hired the Dutch Reformed minister Elias Van Bunschoten to preach for them and in 1793 even incorporated as a United Congregation with the Clove Dutch Reformed Church. According to Vosburgh, Van Bunschoten preached at “Westtown” from 1791 and “at least until May 4, 1802 when the parsonage jointly owned by the two churches was sold.” Vosburgh calls Westtown a Dutch Reformed Church but then notes that later it “was organized as a Presbyterian church on March 10, 1803.”13 That is, he sees the Westtown Dutch Reformed Church as one and the same church with the Westtown Presbyterian Church whose certificate of organization, dated March 10, 1803, he is referring to.
Doris Cole also reached the conclusion the Westtown Dutch Reformed Church met at Meeker’s Meeting House. After laying out essentially the same facts as I have above, Cole concluded, “These facts plus W. J. Coulter’s [a respected local historian] opinion and my own opinion the Pres[byterian] Meeting house and the Westtown Dutch Ref[ormed] Congregation are one and the same and are the roots of the present Westtown Presbyterian Church. These facts give that it was Pres[ent] in 1780, and perhaps due to the lack of ministers joined with the Clove for a minister supply. I find more reference to it as just the Westtown Congregation rather than the Westtown Dutch Reformed Church.”14
Assuming Cole’s conclusion (held also by King15 and by Stephens16) and assuming that this group was meeting for worship at Meeker’s Meeting House, it is natural to ask why did they cease worshipping there? We likely will never know precisely. But the death of Samuel Meeker some time before 1804 (perhaps in 1802)17 may have affected the situation such that the owner of the land, Samuel Cole, no longer desired to continue the agreement in the deed allowing the congregation to use the meeting house on his property.18
In a sermon in 1844 Presbyterian minister Peter Kanouse, who had preached in a number of area churches including Wantage (Clove) and Unionville, claimed that Van Bunschoten withdrew from preaching at Westown when the Clove grew in membership and was able to pay his full salary.19If such is the case then perhaps the lack of an available preacher contributed to the lack of use of the meeting house, and it would tell us that the connection to the meeting house was ended by Van Bunschoten himself, not the congregation or the owner of the property. But I suspect Kanouse may have the order reversed—Van Bunschoten’s congregation grew only after Meeker’s Meeting House was closed down. One writer tells us “He [Van Bunschoten] seems to have enjoyed a precious season of revival in 1803, during the spring and summer of which forty-two were added, by confession, to the communion of the Church.”20 This is near the same time (March 1803) that Westtown and Unionville were having meetings to begin their churches. It seems likely that the Clove’s influx of parishioners in 1803 was not the result of a sudden revival but an increase in membership due to transfers from the recent closure of Meeker’s Meeting House.
As Meeker’s Wantage farm sold through the years it found it way into the ownership of Samuel Christie who at some point removed some of the headstones from the cemetery associated with the meeting house and used them as a walkway on his property.21 Four of those moved stones still exist at the farmhouse, and all of them are Meeker’s or related to the Meeker’s. The extant gravestones have the names Jephtha Meeker, Asa Meeker, Isaac Dixson, and Thadeas Dixon.22 Jeptha Meeker (1767-1812) was a nephew of Samuel’s, the son of his older brother Nathaniel Meeker. Asa was a son of Jeptha’s who died as an infant. Isaac Dixon (1786-1814) is connected to the family through marrying Jeptha’s niece Phoebe Clark (1792-1874) and Thadius Dixon (1761-1814) was Isaac’s father. A fifth stone found by local resident Harold Ayers in the 1960s is that of Samuel’s brother, Nathaniel Meeker (1741-1804). In addition to these stones, the history says Samuel Meeker was buried at the same location.23 This makes at least six burials there ranging from 1798 to 1814.
After the Presbyterians left the meeting house it may have been used by the Baptists. One writer in (and its not clear if this comment was original in 1874, or added in revisions in 1903 or 1955) referred to it as a Baptist church saying, “The writer has always understood from oldtimers that a Baptist Church stood somewhere in the vicinity of the present Christie [Samuel Christie, the third owner from Samuel Meeker] place just south of Unionville.”24 This would indicate that by that point (whether 1874, 1903, or 1955) the structure was derelict or removed rather than being used for some other purpose. While the building did remain, it may have been used by the Christie family as a schoolhouse or as part of a nearby tannery.25
However Meeker’s Meeting House ended, it is clear that from its people arose three other churches: First Presbyterian Church of Wantage, First Presbyterian Church of Westtown, and First Presbyterian Church at Unionville.
Of these three churches it is perhaps fitting to begin with the First Presbyterian Church of Wantage for it is in a sense the continuing Clove church but under a new name. The fact that this is called the “First” Presbyterian Church of Wantage indicates that no other presbyterian church had yet been established in the township. That is, Meeker’s Meeting House never took up that name.
When forty-two members were added by confession to the Clove Church in 1803 it is likely that some (or many) of these came from “Westtown” as that church closed down. Since the Clove and Westtown had been united—at least in having the same minister if not the same session of elders—a connection already existed making it easy for those worshipping at Meeker’s to easily join the Clove. Those who either liked Van Bunschoten’s preaching or who were geographically closer to the Clove than to the new church being built in the hamlet of Westtown would have found reason to continue under his preaching at the Clove.
Others from Meeker’s seem not to have officially joined the Clove, but to have moved in next door for a time only to later to join together with the Clove in forming a new—and presbyterian—church. Some from Meeker’s Meeting House, says Stephens, “chose to build a small structure right next to the Clove Church and continued to occasionally borrow Reverend Elias Van Bunschoten of the Dutch Reformed Church. After his death, the Presbyterians, in their small and informal church, outnumbered the Dutch Reformed Church’s membership. In 1817, the Clove Church was dissolved and the Dutch Reformed congregants joined the Presbyterians, converting the Clove Church into the First Presbyterian Church of Wantage.”26 According to King, “This church [the Clove] flourished until the death of Rev. Van Bunschooten in 1815. After his death another pastor of the Dutch Reformed denomination could not be obtained due to a shortage of pastors.”27 And Rev. Kanouse explained, “Soon after the demise of the Rev. Mr. Van Benschooten the Clove Church was dissolved by a vote of its members, passed November 24th, 1817, and merged in the First Presbyterian Church, Wantage, which was organized under the Jersey Presbytery, August 11th, 1818 with twenty-five members, viz. twelve males and thirteen females.”28
The First Presbyterian Church of Wantage continued operations for over one hundred years, even splitting off members who formed other area churches. Today the 1829 building is in the National Historic Register and managed by the non-profit Friends of the Clove Church who hold an annual service at the church.
While some of the members of Meeker’s then-closed meeting house transferred over to the Clove, others continued to work for a Presbyterian Church closer to the original meeting house location. Their efforts succeeded when they built Westtown Presbyterian Church in 1806 a few miles north of their previous worship location.
One of the strongest points of connection and continuity between Meeker’s Meeting House and the Westtown Presbyterian Church is seen in that Jeptha Meeker (Samuel’s nephew) is on the list of contributors to the building of the Westtown Presbyterian Church in 1805, giving $10, yet when he died in 1812 he was buried back at the Meeker’s cemetery by the meeting house.29 Also notable is that four of the nine men who signed the 1793 Clove and Westtown incorporation (Jacob Cole, John Neely, Robert Robertson, and Henry Tucker) are later involved at the Westtown Presbyterian Church.
With repeated names shown in bold, the following documents show considerable continuity across the three organizations, from the Presbyterian Society at Westtown to the Westtown Dutch Reformed Church (Meeker’s Meeting House) and finally to the Westtown Presbyterian Church:
1780 Will of Mary Lockwood (mentioning the meeting house): Nathaniel Meeker, Cotton Mather.
1790 (January 26th) Presbyterian Society at Westtown: Sylvanus Loree, John Hazen, James Brown, Frederic Delano, Henry Tooker, Amos Wilcox, John Davis Jr., John Whitaker.
1793 (April 20th, recorded August 24th) Clove and Westtown incorporation: Benj. Coykendall, Jacob Cole, Abraham Quick, John Neely, Jacob Dewitt, Robert Robertson, Peter Bahm, Peter Vanaten, Henry Tucker.30
1803 (March 10) Westtown Presbyterian Church incorporation: Paul Lee, Jacob Cole, Ezra Corwin, Richard Whitaker, Joshua Sayre, and Cotton Mather.31
1805 (July 10) List of contributors to the building of First Presbyterian Church of Westtown. This has two pages of names including notably: Benjamin Cole, Jacob Cole, Ezra Corwin, Abraham Hazen, Samuel Hazen, Israel Lee, Paul Lee, Sylvanus Loree, Cotton Mather, Jeptha Meeker, John Neely Jr., John Neely Sr., Roberts Robertson, Joshua Sayre, Henry Tucker, and Richard Whitaker.
1805 (August 19th) Westtown Presbyterian Church incorporation: Sylvanus Loree, Cotton Mather, David Christie, Ezra Corwin, Joshua Sayre, Israel Lee, Henry Tooker.
1807 (September 14th) Westtown Presbyterian Church incorporation: John Neely, Benjamin Cole, Cotton Mather, Ezra Corwin, Israel Lee, David Christie, Joshua Sayre, and Henry Tooker.
Westtown Membership List32: Many names including Henry Tucker (12 Jan. 1811), Jacob Cole (2 May 1812), John Neely (21 Dec. 1808), Paul Lee (20 May 1809), Ezra Corwin (14 Jan. 1809), Richard Whitaker Jr. (12 Feb. 1816), Joshua Sayer (15 Dec. 1820), Catherine Meeker (Wife of Jeptha) (1 Nov. 1816), David Christie (3 Dec. 1815), Benjamin Cole (12 Jan. 1809)
It is apparent that there was a single movement of presbyterianism in the area which underwent change from a mere society without a place to worship, to a church with a relatively short-lived meeting house, to finally building in a permanent location before later connecting to the national denomination, the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
The third church which arose from those who previously worshipped at Meeker’s Meeting House is the one closest to it, First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, just one mile away.
Shortly after the meeting house ceased to be used, meetings were held in Unionville and Westtown in the very same month, March 1803, to form their own Presbyterian societies and seek to build their own churches. (Thursday the 10th of March at Westtown and Sunday the 20th of March at Unionville) It is no coincidence that these meetings happened near the same time, but surely relate to each place having their own desire for a house of worship following the closure of Meeker’s Meeting House. Without the finances to immediately build their own church, the people of Unionville likely met in houses for a time or attended the Westtown church. Around 1815 and 1816 a large number of Unionville people joined the church at Westtown, and Samuel Van Fleet was chosen as an elder there. In time, however, the people of Unionville saved enough money to build their own church. Since the name “Westtown” was already taken, they needed a new name for both their church and for their town. The village in 1822—in a meeting Samuel Van Fleet attended—then voted to change their name to Unionville. Shortly thereafter, in 1824 or 1825 the church building was completed and it took the name First Presbyterian Church at Unionville. For the next few years the people of Unionville either continued to worship in Westtown and/or borrowed the services of Westtown’s minster Thomas Grier at their own church. Finally Unionville was recognized as a particular church by Hudson Presbytery on September 20th, 1831 with Samuel Van Fleet as the first member listed and among the first elders of the church.33
One connection from Meeker’s Meeting House to Unionville is seen in two marriages between the Meeker and Clark families, prominent in the founding of the Meeting House and Unionville Church, respectively. Lt. James Clark and Sarah Van Auken Clark had eight children including Abraham Clark (1783-1861) who sold the land to the Unionville Church on which the it was built, Catherine Clark (1766-1846) who married Jeptha Meeker, and James A. Clark (1768-1855) who married Jeptha’s sister Mary Meeker Clark (1770-1836). James A. and Mary are all listed among the charter members of the Unionville Church. One Catherine Clark is also listed but this is more likely Abraham’s wife Catherine or James A. and Mary’s daughter Catherine since the surname Meeker is not used. Shortly after the church’s founding, Sarah Meeker (likely Sarah Jane Meeker (b. 1791 – d. Nov. 25 1863), the daughter of Jeptha Meeker and Catherine Clark)34 also joined the church (Nov. 15, 1831) as did Miss Malvina Meeker (1833).
While Westtown may have a stronger claim to be the continuing church from Meeker’s Meeting House, Unionville must be considered as the younger sibling of Westtown with inheritance rights from Meeker’s all its own.
THE LOCATION OF MEEKER’S MEETING HOUSE
While Meeker’s Meeting House is no longer standing, it may be possible to determine where it once stood.
I first found reference to the meeting house in Doris Cole’s notes in the Minisink museum. She wrote “Early records seem to point to the fact that our church was first located near the New Jersey border on the lower road.” Trying to track down the location more precisely, a local man informed me of a church once standing on the corner of Lower Road and Oil City Rd., but that turned out to have been the Orange Baptist Church which resided there from 1822 to 1852 before their congregation built anew in Unionville. I then got in contact with Jennie Sweetman, a long time writer of local history for the New Jersey Herald, who informed me that the Meeker property is now the Stephen’s farm in Wantage, NJ.
When I visited the Stephen’s Farm, Jon Stephens pointed out the location of the meeting house as across the highway on an old road bed on land now owned by the Federal Government. Yet on that site there were a number of candidate locations for the meeting house. At least three ruined structures are present at that site.35
There was also Lawrence E. King’s claim that Samuel Meeker was buried “between the junction of two old roads.” Ignoring Highway 284 which was built in 1923, there were still multiple candidates for a “junction of two old roads.”
A breakthrough in the search for the meeting house location occurred when local resident Mark Wallace contacted Ray Ayers who’s father had found the Nathaniel Meeker stone. Ray Ayers (1945–), the son of Harold Ayers, makes for the vital link to finding the meeting house location. When he was a child his father bought the farm from Harry W. Christie and Harry told them where the meeting house was located. And Harry (1875-1961), the son of Samuel Christie (1840-1918), would have been the person best situated to know the location of the meeting house, having grown up near the site. According to Ray Ayers, none of the three present ruins are from the church. One of those buildings, he recalled was used as a tenant house for workers on the farm. (And this, the largest of three, is likely what is shown on topographical maps of the area in 1906 and 1908.) The two smaller structures nearby were associated outbuildings. All of these seem likely to this author to have been originally part of the Christie Tannery being as they are near the creek providing the water necessary for the tanning process.
As for finding the precise location of the meeting house, on the morning of July 23, 2022, walking to the site, Ray informed Mark Wallace and I of what he had heard from Harry Christie. The meeting house was located there on the SE corner of two old roads that form a “T” within a stone’s throw of the Appalachian Trail, now covered in part by boulders which were pushed there from above by a bulldozer in Ray’s lifetime to clear land for farming. And, he informed us, his father found the Nathaniel Meeker gravestone while harrowing the ground up the hill to the east of that location. Unfortunately no foundation stones are present at the site, possibly having been taken away for use in other places in years past.
Since Unionville was in the early years called “Upper Westtown” it is plausible to think the original location of “Westtown” was somewhere “lower.” And it was near Lower Road, near the drowned lands, on which Meeker’s Meeting House was built. The elevation readings I took support the theory that Westtown was originally near or at Meeker’s Meeting House. Each of today’s Unionville and Westtown sit at about 550 ft elevation above sea level, but the site of Meeker’s meeting house is at about 450 ft elevation. So Unionville (once referred to as Upper Westtown) is only upwards compared to the old Westtown, not any higher than the modern hamlet. This correlates well with the proposed site of the meeting house.
The proposed location in part explains why the meeting house has been overlooked. So close to the New York – New Jersey was Meeker’s Meeting House that it seems to have largely been off the radar of historians of Orange County (NY) and Sussex County (NJ) alike.
While there should be much confidence in this proposed site as the actual site of Meeker’s Meeting House, a “smoking gun” is needed for confirmation. Perhaps someday confirmation would come by way of a found Samuel Meeker gravestone or an old metal communion token or some other artifact. Until then the remnants of Meeker’s Meeting can best be seen as the living witness continuing in the churches its people helped to form.
1 Jennie Sweetman, “Meekers made mark in Sussex County,” New Jersey Herald, May 6, 2018.
2 “The Presbyterian Church, now located in Westtown, New York, was started in a First Presbyterian Church erected on the Theodore M. Stephens farm just west of the state line. Bearing this out is a section of the will of Mary Lockwood in the Recorder’s Office, Newton, New Jersey, date October 1, 1780, which refers to a Presbyterian Meeting House on the lands of Samuel Meeker. The building is no longer standing and records do not tell us exactly where this church was located.” – History of Wantage, ed. Lawrence E. King, 1976, p. 107. Similarly, former Minisink historian Doris Cole’s wrote in her notes, “Taken from Will of Mary Lockwood (on file Newton) will dated Oct. 1, 1780. Speaks of Presbyterian meeting house on Samuel Meeker’s land. Wit: Nathaniel Meeker, Cotton Mather, Aron Everitt.” However, I was not able to find the “will of Mary Lockwood” for verification. Wills prior to c. 1800 no longer reside at Newton, NJ but seem to have been removed to a state archive.
3 Samantha Stephens, “Local History Through the History of a House,” Bard College, 2011, p. 32-33. See also: Ann Bain, Life on a Sussex Farm, p. 12.
4 Van Bunschoten is recorded as preaching at Westtown starting in 1788 while also preaching at Minisink, Walpack, Mahakemack, and the Clove. See: Charles E. Corwin, A Manual of the Reformed Church in America, 1922, pp. 537, 761.
5 “Clove and West Town,” Recorded 24th August 1793, Book – Incorporations A, Sussex County Clerk’s Office – Newton, NJ.
6 Minisink Valley Reformed Dutch Church Records, 1716-1830, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1913, Reprint 1992, p xvii-xviii.
7 “What was then [before 1800] called Westtown took in a very large territory. It went beyond Unionville and the State Line to the south and a mile or so more to the north.” – Notes of Doris Cole, Minisink Museum.
8 “The area was first known as Tucker’s Store because Henry Tucker kept a store in his house. In 1792, he had purchased sixty acres of land from William Ellison of New Windsor. Mr. Tucker’s neighbors were Richard Whitaker, James Clark, and George Kimber. By 1823, the area was referred to as Westtown or Upper Westtown. There was another village named Westtown about three miles north. Citizens of the Upper Westtown area assembled in the common school in February 1823 and voted to change the name of their village. Samuel Van Fleet chaired the meeting and Dr. Sylvester Austin acted as secretary. A resolution was adopted to change the name from Westtown to Unionville.” – Minisink, A Bicentennial History, 1988, p.227. See also: “Was it probable that the latter [Rev. Van Benschoten] passed from the Clove to preach in what we now call Westtown, N. Y., over the intervening territory at Meadville and near the state line where we have shown by a previous paper that an Episcopal minister Caleb Hopkins, was at one time engaged? Not at all. In the face of all previous statements we conclude that the Westtown referred to by Reb. [sic] VanBenschoten was the village now know as Unionville. We assert our belief upon the discovery of papers by Miss Myra Case, of Westtown. She has papers showing that her great grandfather, John Case, who owned, lived, and died on, the farm later owned by John R. Halstead at Unionville, had all his letters addressed to him at Westtown, as that place was then called. At that time two villages by the name of Westtown in the town Minisink led to many mistakes on the part of strangers to correct it a meeting of the citizens of the Westtown and vicinity herein written of, or was called in 1822, and the name changed to Unionville. Miss Case has a copy of the Goshen, N. Y., Farmer printed Feb. 10Th, 1823, in which appears a notice of the change. It is as follow: ‘PUBLIC MEETING’ ‘The citizens of the village of Westtown and vicinity being assembled by the previous appointment in the common school room in the village of Westtown, in order to take into consideration the necessity of altering the name or style of the place aforesaid. ‘Samuel VanFleet was called to the chair and Dr. Sylvester Austin was appointed secretary. Whereupon it was resolved: 1st. That it is expedient to alter the name or style of this village, as there is a village about the distance three miles north of this place bearing the same name. Strangers and travelers commit many mistakes and are reduced to many difficulties in traveling and directing letters. 2d. That the name of this village which lies most south-wardly, and is nearest the Jersey line, shall hereafter be known by the name of Unionville. 3d. That the chairman and secretary sign the proceedings of this meeting and that they be published in the newspapers of the county. Feb. 1St, 1822. SAMUEL VAN FLEET, Chairman, SYLVESTER AUSTIN, Secretary.’” – Records of Unionville, N.Y. and Pioneer Families of Northwestern New Jersey, Chinkewunska Chapter, Newton, N.J., 1937, p. 16-17.
9 “A Farm for Sale,” Orange County Patriot, January 1, 1811.
10 Notes of Doris E. Cole at the Minisink Museum, Minisink, N.Y.
11 “The Presbyterian Society at Westtown met for legal organization at the house of Sylvanus Losee [sic, Loree], Jan. 26, 1790. The certificate then executed was signed by John Hazen and James Brown, deacons, and the trustees named were James Brown, Frederic Delano, Henry Tooker, Amos Wilcox, John Davis Jr., and John Whittaker.” – History of Orange County, NY, 1683-1881, Edward Manning Ruttenber, 1881, p. 667. “Sylvanus and Eda Loree (probably Lowrey) resided about two miles east of Unionville. They or their ancestors owned a large tract of land, most of which is now the Halstead property.” – Ruttenber, p. 661. [This could be the place of “J. Halsted” on Lower Road on the 1851 “Map of Orange County” near the Loree Cemetery, or of “J Halstead” on the 1859 “Map of Orange and Rockland Cos., New York,” near the New Jersey border and thus close to Meeker’s]
12 See: Henry Addison Harlow, A History of the Presbytery of Hudson, 1681-1888, p. 54. Harlow’s information is verified by a document in the Westtown Church archives titled “Historical Sketch – copied from papers with the books of records of the Presbyterian Church of Westtown” which states “Jan. 26, 1790, the people of Westtown in the township of Minisink assembled at the house of Sylvanus Loree, agreeable to the appointment as the law directs and by a plurality of votes chose James Brown, Frenchie Delano, Henry Tooker, Amos Wilcox, John Whitaker, Trustees for the Society in and about Westtown to be known as the Presbyterian Society at Westtown – that is to say, the new Presbytery of Morris County, sig and Sealed, John Hazen, L.S., James Brown, L.S. Acknowledge before County Judge William Thompson, Jan. 27, 1790 and recorded the same day by Thomas Moffat, Clerk.” The society’s connection with that presbytery may have come about through the work of the Rev. Silas Constant of that presbytery who in 1783 preached at Peter Ayres and Daniel Dunns in Wantage. Or the connection may have come about through Amzi Lewis who preached at Florida, NY and Warwick, NY and was also a member of the Associated Presbytery of Morris County. Notable also is that the Presbyterian Church of Ridgebury, which was organized in 1792 also was part of the Associated Presbytery of Morris County.
13 Minisink Valley Reformed Dutch Church Records, 1716-1830, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1913, Reprint 1992, p xvii-xviii.
14 Notes of Doris E. Cole at the Minisink Museum, Minisink, N.Y. [Note: Doris Emily Ford Cole (Feb. 23, 1922 – Jul. 3, 1993) was the wife of Harvey B. Cole (May 20, 1920 – Feb. 22, 1986)] Note: William John Coulter (b. Jan 20, 1890 – d. Jun. 6, 1975) was a genealogist, historian, author, and writer-columnist for the Wantage Recorder. See also: “Her [Miss Myra case of Westtown, N.Y.] grandfather, John Case, resided on and owned for many years what is now the Mrs. John R. Halstead, farm in Unionville where he died. His post office address was then Westtown, N. Y., and it seems that was the original name of the village now called Unionville, and it was called Westtown up to 1822. There were, up to that year, two Westtowns in the town of Minisink, and great perplexity was caused by the similar names. … The Westtown he [Rev. Elias VanBenschoten] at that time preached to was not the Westtown of to-day.” – Records of Unionville, N.Y. and Pioneer Families of Northwestern New Jersey, Chinkewunska Chapter, Newton, N.J., 1937, p. 14-15.
15 King, p. 107.
16 Stephens, p. 19-20.
17 “He [Samuel Meeker] lived until about 1802.” – History of Wantage, ed. Lawrence E. King, 1976, p. 104.
18 Stephens, p. 37.
19 “At the first, being unable to pay their minister one half of a very small salary, the Clove united with Westown in his support, and his labours were divided between the two places. But the Clove Church soon increased, so as to be able to pay a full salary, from which time the Rev. Mr. Van Benschooten withdrew from Westown and devoted his whole time to the Congregation in the Clove.” – Rev. Peter Kanouse, “A Historical Sermon Designed as a Memorial to the Inhabitants of Wantage, Sussex Country, N.J., Preached January 7th 1844, In the Second Presbyterian Church, Wantage.” Printed at the Office of the New Jersey Herald, 1878, p. 18.
20 “The Rev. Elias Van Bunschoten,” New-Brunswick Review, February, 1855, p. 577. Note: The list of new members joining the Clove in 1803 may have significant overlap with who was attending Meeker’s Meeting House. The Clove records say that on Apr. 22, 1803 the following were received by confession of their faith: “Caty Ayer the wife of William Colm, Elizabeth Beamer the wife of Joel Croel, Elizabeth Colm the wife of Jacob Ayers, Solomon Cortright and his wife Hannah Ayers, Andrew Van Sickle and his wife Sarah Cortright, Samuel Brinck and his wife Mary Roleson, Henry Rolseon and his wife Mary Van Sickle, Phebe Ayers the wife of John Drake, and James McCoard. Then on June 15, 1803 the church received the additional following members by profession of their faith: Sarah Cortright the wife of Jonathan Medag, Margaret Hoppaugh the wife of Israel Ayers, Caty Van Sickle the wife of James McCoard, John Roleson and his wife Lidy Van Sickle, Benjamin Van Sickle and his wife Deviche Quick, Anny Van Sicke the wife of Andrew Comton, Peter Van Sickle and his wife Rebeckle Beamer, Moses Jones and his wife Elizabeth Van Sickle, Mary Pangburn the wife of Charles Roseson Deceased, Naomy Van Sickle the was of James Hufman, John Drake, Levi Ayers Jun., Temperance Wick the wife of Levi Ayers, Abraham Richards and his wife Hannah York, Josephe Roleson and his wife Hannah Van Sickle. And on Aug. 20, 1803 others “were receive as Members of the table of the Lord”: Joel Croel, Christian Creter widow of Andrew Tomson, Teunis Heness and his wife Margaret Lickers, Andrew Van Sickle, Marey Rese the wife of Casparus Ross Junr, Pheby Cole the wife of Josephas Cole Deceased, James Huffman professed June the 18, 1803, and Pheby Russel the wife of Levi Ayers Jun. See: A Copy of the Minute Book of the Dutch Reformed Church of the Clove, Wantage Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, 1934, p. 3.
21 “In order to make the house look nicer, [Samuel] Christie also took the remaining headstones from the graveyard of the Presbyterian meeting House and built a walkway to the front of the house.” – Stephens, 44.
22 The four stones read as follows:
Jeptha Meeker dis March 21st 1812 aged 45 years 27 days
Asa Meeker dis July 25th 1798 aged 3 months
MEMORY of ISAAC. DIXSON. WHO DIED March 25th 1814 AGE 25 YEARS
MEMORY of ThADEAS DIXON. WHO DIED MARCH 15TH 1814 AGE 52 YEARS 10 MONTHS AND 10 DAYS
23 “He [Samuel Meeker] was buried in the Christie School Burying Grounds, a neglected spot in which it is impossible to identify his unmarked grave. This old cemetery is between the junction of two old roads on the Theodore M. Stephens property. Harold Ayers found a fieldstone marker from this old burial ground. Inscribed on it was: “Nathaniel Meeker, Died May 2, 1804, 63 Years of Age.” – History of Wantage, ed. Lawrence E. King, 1976, p. 104-105. See also: “About 10 years ago [c. 1975], Harold Ayers uncovered a field stone marker for Samuel’s brother, Nathaniel, who died on May 2, 1804, at age 63 years.” – Jennie Sweetman, New Jersey Herald, March 31, 1985. The date of the discovery of the gravestone was given as the 1960s by Harold’s son Ray Ayers, interviewed by Doug Douma and Mark Wallace, July 23, 2022.
24 Rev. George F. Love, “History of the First Baptist Church of Wantage, Sussex, New Jersey. Ed. Rev. James Bristow. 3rd edition. New Jersey, W.J. Coulter 1874, 1903, 1955, p. 5.
25 “Another old settler was Samuel Christie, born in 1792 in Orange County, New York. He purchased a farm in Dunnvale in 1832 from Samuel Meeker. Christie was a man of great agricultural ability who also operated a tannery situated near the brook which ran through his farm land.” – History of Wantage, ed. Lawrence E. King, 1976, p. 104. See also: “Samuel Christie purchased the farm in 1832 now owned by the grandson where he devoted himself to general farming and to operate a tannery.” – The Elston Family in America, James Strode Elston, 1942, p. 225
26 Stephens, 20.
27 King, p. 53.
28 Kanouse, p. 18.
29 “First Presbyterian Church, Westtown, New York – A list of contributors of the building of the First Presbyterian Church Westtown, Orange County, New York, July 10, 1805” kept at the Minisink Museum, Minisink, N.Y.
30 Note that Cole, Neely, Robertson and Tucker are all on the 1790 census in Minisink, NY.; Benjamin Coykendall and Abraham Quick are listed in 1789 as among the Trustees of the Clove Church. Jacob Dewitt and Peter Vanaten are also associated with the Clove Church baptisms list.
31 “This church is rather noted for the number of times it has deemed it necessary to effect a re-incorporation. March 10, 1803, a second certificate was recorded, including the names of Paul Lee, Jacob Cole, Ezra Corwin, Richard Whitaker, Joshua Sayre, and Cotton Mather. A third certification, under date Aug. 19, 1805, contains the names of Sylvanus Losee [sic, Loree], Cotton Mather, David Christie, Ezra Corwin, Joshua Sayre, Israel Lee, Henry Tooker. A fourth certificate, under date of Sept. 14, 1807, contains the names of John Neely, Benjamin Cole, Cotton Mather, Ezra Corwin, Israel Lee, David Christie, Joshua Sayre, and Henry Tooker.” – Ruttenber, p. 667. Note also: A copy of the first session book of Westtown found in their records has elders Nathaniel Chandler, John Neely, Phillip Lee, and Hezekiah Taylor chosen 21st Dec. 1808 and ordained 8th January 1809. Those elders and the aforementioned Benjamin Cole and Ezra Corwin are among the members received 14th January 1809. Paul Lee is listed among those received into the church 20th May 1809. Henry Tucker was received 12th January 1811. Note also: “Cotton Mather and Increase Mather, whose staunch old Massachusetts names indicate their native place, resided, the first near Westtown, the other east of Unionville a mile and a half.” – Ruttenber, p. 661
32 “Westtown Presbyterian Church Membership List,” Minisink Museum.
33 A History of Hudson Presbytery, 1681-1888, Henry Addison Harlow, 1888, p. 103.
34 Sarah Jane Meeker (b. 1791 – d. Nov. 25 1863) married Lindsley Meeker (1792-1869) (a 4th cousin) and gave birth to Asa Dolson Meeker (b. Dec. 22, 1833 – 1907). Another possibility is that “Sarah Meeker” is Sarah Meeker (b. Circa 1760), the widow of Increase Mather Jr. (b. 1758 – d. 1816).
35 Structure 1 – Foundation 30’ x 18’ with center support wall halfway. Door SW corner. Well behind Structure 1. “Structure 1” is likely shown on a USGS topographical map in 1908. Structure 2 – Only two walls extant, near or on the old road bed north of Structure 1. Structure 3 – A small square just south of Structure 1.
Mark Wallace (Left) and Ray Ayers (Right) at the site of Meeker’s Meeting House