1770s Presbyterianism in Wantage, New Jersey

I’ve been continuing research on what I call “Meeker’s Meeting House,” an overlooked late 18th Presbyterian church in Wantage, New Jersey near the New York border.

Recently in this research I found church records (minutes of the Presbytery of New York, and the Presbyterian Church General Assembly) noting preachers being sent to “Wantage” for supply of churches without pastors in the 1770s. The earliest reference to “Wantage” is 1775, but presbytery records before that time are lost. Wantage is also noted in 1776, 1779, 1780, and 1781.

If these are references to Meeker’s Meeting House, it would push back the earliest known date of its existence. Currently the earliest date known for the meeting house is in a will from 1780.

That the Presbyerian records refer to “Wantage” is interesting. The church is later called “Westtown” but this term is first known to have been used for the church in 1790. (It is also used in 1793, and possibly in 1788) So I had done most of my research searching for “Westtown.” Now, I think more research, especially for the early years, should be done under the name “Wantage.”

But is the “Wantage” in the Presbyterian records referring to the Westtown church (Meeker’s Meeting House)? There is another option. On the other end of the township, in Beemerville, there was an early church known as the Log Meeting House that was shared among various Christian denominations including Presbyterians. But when did the Log Meeting House begin? I’ve not been able to find out that information. It might not be known. One reference says its record begin only in 1794. If that is so, then the 1770s reference to preaching in Wantage are most likely at Meeker’s. But another note in Beemerville history says the church (the people, or the building?) goes back to 1740. If this is the case, that is VERY early for this area.

An additional reason for thinking “Wantage” is Meeker’s is that of the preachers sent there in the 1770s/80s (Joseph Grover, Ebenezer Bradford, Jacob Van Aertsdalen, Thaddeus Dod, Nathan Ker, Abner Brush, John Joline, Peter Fish) some were later members of Jacob Green’s “presby-gational” Associate Presbytery of Morris County which the Westtown church sought to join in 1790.

One other point of interest I’ve discovered is a baptism Jacob Green performed in Wantage in 1771 of six children of Michael Crossman. At the same time Crossman joined Green’s Hanover, NJ church. The fact that a minister traveled a good distance for the baptism, and the fact that Crossman didn’t join a church more near by seems to indicate that there was no Presbyterian church in Wantage in 1771.

This is all leading towards Meeker’s being built some time in the mid 1770s. But references are so scarce, that much is conjecture.

What next? It seems I have to be more clever and more persistent with my searches to discover any new information.