Old Tennent Presbyterian Church

In 1727, members from a congregation from the Old Scots ground near Wicatunk, New Jersey received a permit from King George to erect a church. The church was erected in 1730 and dedicated on April 18, 1731. The Church was built on what was early called "White Hill" because there were numerous white-oaks on and around it. The Church was forty feet long and thirty feet wide. The first acre of ground on White Hill was given to the Church May 1, 1731, by William Ker, son of Walter. Walter Ker is considered the Father of the Old Tennent Church. The Reverend William Tennent, Jr. was made pastor of this new Church in 1733. A cemetery was begun on the grounds of the Church. The earliest known burial was that of John Mattison on October 7, 1744. Once then many people have been buried in the cemetery and continue to be to the present day. In March, 1735 the congregation purchased a 150 acre farm for the parson's home. The Old Tennent Parsonage stood until it was taken down in 1861. The congregation enlarged and it became necessary to build a new building. This building was made twice as large as the first one, sixty feet long and forty feet wide, seating 400 people. It was erected in 1750, near the spot on which the previous building stood on White Hill. In 1777, after forty four years of being pastor, Reverend William Tennent died and was buried beneath the middle of the floor of the Church. It is believed this was done because he was a strong supporter of the Colonists' cause and it was feared that his grave in the open yard might be destroyed in those troubled times. A marble tablet was erected to his memory in 1818. On Sunday, June 28, 1778, the Battle of Monmouth took place near the Church grounds. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Monckton, a British soldier was killed during the battle and the Americans buried his body on the grounds of the cemetery. In the summer of 1913, the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the American Revolution placed a British flag on the grave as a gallant tribute to a brave enemy. During this battle the Church building was used as a hospital for the Americans after the battle. Stains of blood from a dying American soldier may still be seen on one of the pews of the Church. During the 1850's, grist mills had been in many areas, and the neighborhood often bore the name of the miller. There was also a custom to calling notable cross-roads by the term "Corner," applying to the nearest neighbor's name. There were many prosperous farms producing grains, grasses, fruits and vegetables, and farming was the principal occupation. Around the Church was considered peaceful and rural quiet. The members were predominately farmers. In 1859 the name of the Church became "The First Presbyterian Church of the County of Monmouth." In October, 1920 it became known as Old Tennent Church. On June 23, 1868, the church had a strawberry festival. This festival grew into the Harvest Home Festival which was held in late August, because of the harvesting of grain and potatoes. Members donated food items for the supper. The meal cost 35 cents in those days. A band played for entertainment. This tradition continued for quiet some time and was stopped for a period of time in the church's history. This year our troop participated in this old tradition at Harvest Home Festival and helped serve the meals. Charles Sanford is a very important figure in the Old Tennent Church's history. He was born in Tennent New Jersey and was a member of the church and attended its school. While growing up he realized the need for improvements to the Church and Church grounds. He vowed that he would "care for the church when he was in a position to do so." He did become prosperous and at the age of seventy he became a major benefactor of the church. His generous efforts were over an eighteen year period until his death at the age of eighty eight in 1928. The fence and gate posts were given to the church by him. The dates 1731 for the year the Church was built, and 1912, the year the posts were erected are on the posts. Mr. Sanford is responsible for the church becoming prosperous. Among his accomplishments were repairing, painting and refurbishing the church, expanding church grounds, purchasing a water system for the cemetery, fencing the cemetery, purchasing land for and building a home for the cemetery caretaker. He established three endowment funds for the church and cemetery and made extensive contributions to them. Among other things he also repaired and painted the parsonage, relocated and rebuilt the church's horse sheds providing financial assistance in building a Sunday school building. He provided leadership in erecting the Soldiers and Sailor's Monument and persuading his many wealthy friends and relatives to invest and contribute to the project. On November 20, 1920 monument was dedicated in memory of soldiers and sailors of Monmouth County who served in World War I, many of whom are in unknown graves in foreign lands. Names were engraved so they will not be forgotten. Reverend Charles Harnish Neff was the eighteenth pastor of the church. He was pastor from 1926 to 1963. He died in 1963 from cancer. The building where we meet was named for him in 1964. On May 8, 1939, there was a fire in the Sunday School Building. It was discovered by patrons of the Silver Tavern, and the Church was saved from disaster. An addition was made to the Sunday School Building in 1955. The old parsonage building was sold and a new one was erected and Reverend Neff moved in July 31, 1959. The Old Scots Building was erected in 1972 and serves many purposes. At first it was rented out to nursery schools to help defray the cost of building the structure. Meetings are also held in this building. The building was named for the Old Scots ground where the original church was in Wicatunk, New Jersey in the early 1700's. Today, the Old Tennent Church is a part of our nation's and community's rich history. Our Boy Scout Troop 180 is proud and grateful to be associated with such an institution. Old Tennent Church has been in existence for over 300 years. The pastor of the church is Reverend MacKenzie.

Written by David Ross

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