An American Family History

Hopewell Baptist Church

  Also called The Old School Baptist Church  

The Pennepek (Pennepack) Baptist Church, also known as Lower Dublin is in in Bustleton, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Dutch were the first Europeans claim land in New Jersey. The region became a territory of England in 1664 when an English fleet sailed into New York Harbor and took control of Fort Amsterdam.

from A History of Baptists in New Jersey by Thomas Sharp Griffiths

Hopewell is a colony of Middletown Church. Some of its constituents were from Penepack Church [Pennepek Baptist Church], Pennsylvania. Morgan Edwards explains and says of Jonathan Stout third son of Richard Stout, of Holmdel, a constituent of Middletown Church and who emigrated from Middletown (Holmdel) in 1706, the first settler of Hopewell, that

six of his children are said to have gone to Pennsylvania for baptism, others were baptized here (Hopewell), in all seven.

These seven, and the six, and their father and mother, fifteen were the constituents of Hopewell Church.

The Church was organized at Mr. Stout's house, April 23rd, 1715, and worshipped for thirty-two years in the homes of the Stouts. The first meeting house was built in 1747, on a lot, the gift of John Hart, Esq. Rev. Oliver Hart was pastor. In 1790, the pastor said:

That from first to last half of the members had been of that name (Stout) and about as many more of the blood of the Stouts, who had lost their name by marriage.

The mother of Jonathan, Penelope Stout, of Middletown, lived to be one hundred and ten years old, and saw her descendants to the number of five hundred and two in eighty-eight years. These Baptists were Baptists. They went to Penepack, a long distance, to join a Baptist Church rather than violate their convictions of truth and duty. Evidently to them fellowship with error was something more than feeling. Doubt overhangs the early ministry at Hopewell, both at to who they were and as to the time of their services. Mr. Edwards only names Messrs. Simmons and Eaglesfield, licentiates as preaching in the earliest times.
Baptist churches were found in early colonial settlements and grew out of the English Separatist movement and the doctrine of John Smyth who rejected infant baptism.
Hopewell is currently in Mercer (formerly Hunterdon) County, New Jersey. Mercer County was formed in 1838 from portions of other counties including Hunterdon. Early settlers found that their deeds were worthless and they were forced to repurchase their land or relocate. On April 23, 1715 the settlers who stayed organized Hopewell Baptist Church.
Mister ( Mr.) was derived from master and Mrs. and Miss were derived from mistress. They indicated people of superior social status in colonial America.

Historically an esquire (Esq. or Esqr.) was the title of a man who ranked below a knight in the English gentry. Later it designated a commoner with the status of gentleman and was used by attorneys.

Early European settlers in the American colonies were mostly farmers and craftsmen. They had to work hard to provide daily neccesities for themselves.
Diseases have transformed history and the lives of our ancestors.

New Jersey's first permanent European settlement was in 1660.

from A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America by David Benedict

Hopewell—This church is distinguished, as above, from the township where the meeting house stands, in Hunterdon county, bearing N. E. from Philadelphia, at the distance of 40 miles; the dimensions of the house are 40 feet by 30; built, in 1747, on a lot of three quarters of an acre, the gift of John Hart, Esq.

One of the three families, who first settled in the tract, now called Hopewell, was that of Jonathan Stout. . .Mr. Stout's family, including the father and mother, furnished eight members for the church. Seven other members are supposed to have been Thomas Curtis, Benjamin Drake, Ruth Stout, Alice Curtis, Sarah Fitzrandolph, Rachel Hide, and Mary Drake; and these fifteen persons on the 23d of April, 1715, were organized into a church by the assistance of Abel Morgan and John Burrows, with their Elders Griffith Miles, Joseph Todd, and Samuel Ogden, and the same year they joined the Philadelphia Association.

This church is remarkable for the number of ministers, who have been raised up in it. Thomas Curtis, John Alderson, John Gano, Joseph Powel, Hezekiah Smith, John Blackwell, Charles Thompson, and James Ewing, were all licensed or ordained at Hopewell.

It is natural to think, that the first preaching of Believer's Baptism, at Hopewell, was owing to Jonathan Stout's settling in the parts; and it is inferred from the church records, that from the settlement of Mr. Stout, to the constitution of the church, which was a period of nine years, that Messrs. Simmons, Eaglesfield, etc. from Middleton, were the men who preached here; neither of whom was ordained. . .

We have already seen that Jonathan Stout and family were the seed of the Hopewell church, and the beginning of Hopewell settlement; and that of the 15 which constituted the church, nine were Stouts. The church was constituted at the house of a Stout, and the meeting were held chiefly at the dwellings of the Stouts for 41 years, viz. from the beginning of the settlement to the building of the meeting-house, before described.

Mr. Hart was of opinion (in 1790,) that from first to last, half the members have been and were of that name; for, in looking over the church book, (saith he) I find that near two hundred of the name have been added; besides about as many more of the blood of the Stouts, who had lost the name by marriages. The present (1790) two deacons and four elders, are Stouts; the late Zebulon and David Stout were two of its main pillars; the last lived to see his offspring multiplied into an hundred and seventeen souls."

On April 23, 1715, a meeting was held at the home of Joseph Stout, at which time a church was constituted. There were twelve charter members, viz., Joseph Stout, Jonathan Stout, Thomas Curtis, Benjamin Drake, Hannah Stout, Ann Stout, Ruth Stout, Sarah Fitzrandolph, Rachel Hyde, Ann Curtis, Mary Drake, Sarah Smith. The presbytery was composed of Elder Abel Morgan (from Pennypack), Elder John Burrows (from Middletown), and brethren Griffin Miller, Joseph Todd, and Samuel Ogborn.     

After many years of meeting in homes and having problems securing a place to meet, it was decided to build a meeting house.  Twenty members were baptized from 1715 to 1728 and by 1747 there were 65 members.  A meeting was called on June 19, 1747, held at the home of Henry Oxley in Hopewell (then known as Columbia) at which time David Stout, Benjamin Stout, and Henry Oxley were chosen managers to build a meeting house. After agreement to build a meeting house, a great revival took place in the church which put a stop to frolicking and gaming in the neighborhood. 

The first church was built of stone. As quoted in the records, they went to work to draw stones in August 1747 and sometime that winter following got it fit for meeting. As most persons came a long distance, they did not want a short sermon and preaching might last two hours. They held their business meeting on Saturday which consisted of a sermon, reviewing prospective members, disciplining members and matters concerning the expenses of the church.  Persons were baptized on Sunday in a nearby brook. Sermons on Sunday were one to two hours.     

On October 30, 1748, Elder Isaac Eaton was called from the Baptist Church of Southampton, Pennsylvania. He was ordained November 23, 1748. Elder John Gano was a member here, and was ordained here in 1755. John Hart, signer of the Declaration of Independence, is buried beside the meeting house; he was not a member of the church, but gave land to the church on which the building was erected. Many veterans of the Revolutionary War are buried in the cemetery by the church.

In 1769 a new law required that church societies be granted a charter in order to own land, buildings, monies and goods. A petition was forwarded to then Governor William Franklin of New Jersey for a Charter from King George III of England, which was received Dec. 11, 1769. By this act the governing body received this name "The Trustees of the Baptist Congregation of Hopewell." Eight Trustees were chosen. Cost of Charter: 7 pounds 15 shillings. In 1798, by an act of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, the church was incorporated as a body politic which gave it authority to own land.

In 1811 the First Baptist Church of Hopewell was dismissed from the Philadelphia Association to join an association in New Jersey. The church was rebuilt in 1822 on the foundation of the first church and appears today as it did in 1822.  From the stepping stone of the first meeting house, in April 1775, Col. Joab Houghton stood on a Sunday morning and announced,

Men of New Jersey, the Redcoats are murdering our brethren in New England! Who follows me to Boston!

and the lady folks watched as their men rushed to the aid of Lexington and Concord, where the battle ensued which would become legendary as the one in which the shot was heard around the world. Col. Joab Houghton is buried near the church, and an inscription with this message is recorded on the stone on the front of his crypt.

Hunterdon County was originally part of Burlington County, West Jersey. It was set off from Burlington County on March 11, 1714. It included Amwell, Hopewell, and Maidenhead Townships.

Baptist churches were found in early colonial settlements and grew out of the English Separatist movement and the doctrine of John Smyth who rejected infant baptism.
Scarlet fever is a rash that is caused by strep infections.

The New England Meetinghouse was the only municipal building in a town. Both worship and civil meetings were held there. It was customary for men and women to sit separately and the town chose a committee once a year to assign seats according to what was paid, age, and dignity.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the 13 colonies which became the newly formed United States.

George III ruled Great Britain from October 25, 1760 to January 29, 1820.

The Town Records of Hopewell, New Jersey by Lida Cokefair Gedney (comp.), published . by New Jersey Society of the Colonial Dames of America, 1931.

Regarding the Hopewell Baptist Church in 1747: For a year and a half this continued with only an occasional ministerial visit, and the compiler of these records, Mr. Isaac Eaton, expresses woeful lamentation over their condition. Mr. Malachia Bonham attended nearly every Sabbath day [Sunday] for more than a year and Mr. James Carman with Mr. Benjamin Miller administered the ordinances. 

On June 19, 1747, the above ministers were called and chosen to meet with the congregation for the purpose of settling the differences that had disturbed the congregation. Differences were discussed and arbitrated, a marked revival of enthusiasm and spirituality developed, and many in the congregation seemed to seek the Lord mourning and weeping as they go with their faces Zionward. The ministers preached with fervor and power and soon there was such an apparent revival in Religion that there was in great measure a happy Stop put to Frolicking and Gaming in the neighborhood. The Joyfull Sight appeared of Souls flocking to God as Doves to their windows and Joyning with the Church from time to time. 

Within this context, Mr. H. E. Bonham has suggested that this revival was motivated by a lethal outbreak of scarlet fever or diphtheria which caused many deaths. Indeed, this may be true from a local perspective, but in a much broader sense it was undoubtedly a manifestation of the First Great Awakening, which can be most accurately described as a general revitalization of Protestant religious piety that swept through the North American colonies between the 1730's and the 1770's.





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©Roberta Tuller 2023
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