An American Family History

Seventh Day Baptist Church

Learn more about the Dunham family.

Extracts from New Jersey Archives Relating to the Dunham Family. Volume I., page 134.

About 1700 or 1701 a number of the members of the Piscataqua [Piscataway] Baptist Church in Piscataqua township, Middlesex County, withdrew from that church and formed a separate congregation, observing the seventh day as the Sabbath. They chose a minister and deacon October 11th, 1705, and in the fourth month, 1707, organized a Seventh Day Baptist Church with eighteen members.

Edmund Dunham, one of the originators of the church, having been ordained at Westerly, R. I., in 1705, was the first pastor; he had been a lay preacher in the Piscataqua [Piscataway] Church since 1689. He continued pastor of the new church until his death, March 7, 1734, in his 72nd year. He was succeeded in 1745 by his son, the Rev. Jonathan Dunham, who had preached to the congregation as a licentiate for many years. The record of the ordination of Edmund Dunham.

The Church of God keeping the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, living in Piscataway and Hopewell in the Province of New Jersey, being assembled with one accord at the house of Benjamin Martin [father-in-law of Zedekiah Bonham Nehemiah Bonham] Piscataway, the 19th day of August, 1705, we did then and there and with one mind choose our dearly beloved Edmund Dunham, who is faithful in the Lord, to be our elder and assistant according to the will of God, whom we did send to New England to be ordained, who was ordained at the church-meeting in Westerly, R. I., by prayer and laying of hands by their elder, William Gibson, the 8th day of September, 1705

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.

Piscataway Township in New Jersey was first settled in 1666 by Quakers and Baptists who had left the Puritan colony in New Hampshire.

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.
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.
from Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America by Albert N. Rogers, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference

The beginning of the Seventh-day Baptist church in Piscataway, New Jersey, does not apear to be connected with any Seventh-day Baptist church. Hezekiah Bonham was the cause of the investigation which led several to embrace the Sabbath. We do not know that he was a Sabbath-keeper or a church member even. If he was a Sabbath-keeper, we do not know how he came to embrace the Sabbath, whether by his own study of the Bible and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, or by the labors of Eld. Abel Noble or some one else.

From the Journal of Samuel Hubbard we learn that the Sabbathkeepers in Newport and western Rhode Island were in communication with the colonists in these parts and it is more than possible that Mr. Bonham, as well as Eld. Abel Noble and Eld. John Davis of Trenton, N. J., came to a knowledge of the Sabbath through the Sabbath-keepers in Rhode Island.

This we know: Hezekiah Bonham was found working on Sunday by Edmund Dunham, who was a deacon with license to preach in the Baptist church of Piscataway, located at what is now Stelton. Dea. Dunham was on his way to fill a preaching appointment, and finding Bonham at work on the Firstday of the week, rebuked him for desecrating the Sabbath. The latter challenged Dunham to find a single passage of Scripture proving that Sunday was to be sancitified as holy time. Dea. Dunham thought this a presumption, but not recalling any such passage, commenced to investigate for himself, with the result that he was convinced of his error and turned to keep the Sabbath. Before deciding thus to do, he laid his trouble before some of his brethren, but got no help. On account of this agitation other members of the church soon embraced the Sabbath and Dea. Dunham commenced to hold meetings on the Sabbath in his own house.

As in Newport, R. I., thirty-five years before, the attempt to remain in the Baptist church made matters worse and they soon became very serious.

Minister was arrayed against minister, deacon against deacon, and brother against brother, until those who kept the Sabbath thought that, for peace sake, and for conscience sake, they better withdraw and raise a standard of their own.

This they did to the number of seventeen, in 1705. Dea. Dunham was chosen pastor and sent to Rhode Island for ordination. He went to what is now the First Hopkinton church and in the meeting-house where the Ministers' Monument now stands was ordained by Eld. William Gibson, October 22, 1705, (New Style and according to the records of the church in Rhode Island). This was three years before the Sabbath-keepers who became what is now the First Hopkinton church separated from those of like precious faith in Newport, but they had then worshiped twenty-five years in the house in which Eld. Dunham was ordained and had been keeping the Sabbath thirty-nine years.

The members of this church were widely separated as to location. There are records of church meetings in Trenton, thirty miles from Piscataway, and Hopewell a few miles north of Trenton. Under the leadership of Eld. Dunham the church grew rapidly and in 1722 there were seventy-five members. ...

As already indicated the first pastor was Edmund Dunham. He was about forty years of age when he embraced the Sabbath and had been a deacon twelve years, with license to preach. This well prepared him for his work. He served till his death, in 1734. Jonathan Dunham, son of the first pastor,

A militia is a military unit composed of citizens who are called up in time of need.

Deacons played a respected and important role in early New England churches. They sat in a raised pew near the pulpit and had special duties during communion.

Mister ( Mr.) was derived from master and Mrs. and Miss were derived from mistress. They indicated people of superior social status in colonial America.


Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2020
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