Frank Rosebrook Symmes.

History of the Old Tennent church : containing : a connected story of the church's life, sketches of its pastors, biographical references to its members, all its earlier record lists, full quotations of its earlier historical records, a complete list of burials in all its graveyards, many of its loc online

. (page 1 of 42)
Online LibraryFrank Rosebrook SymmesHistory of the Old Tennent church : containing : a connected story of the church's life, sketches of its pastors, biographical references to its members, all its earlier record lists, full quotations of its earlier historical records, a complete list of burials in all its graveyards, many of its loc → online text (page 1 of 42)
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Presented by W(SV . c3 7^ . ^ vA YVn rr\ (£y S

sec #11,226

Symmes, Frank Rosebrook, 186
Hlseory of the Old Tennent c



ldTennent Church



A Connected Story of the Church's Life,

Sketches of its Pastors,

BiOGRAPHicAi, References to its Members,

All its Earlier Record Lists,

Full Quotations of its Earlier Historical Records,

A Complete List of Burials in all its Graveyards,

Many of its Local Traditions,

Most of its Important Illustrations and Maps.

An Account of the Battle of Monmouth,

And a Large Collection of Genealogical Notes.


Rev. Frank R Symmes,


George W. Burroughs, Printer.


o] tlie vicinity of

The Old Scots e^nd Tcnneni Churche
.Scale —l.milo'io linch.

-NLcmmoiilli County
N^^^v Je,»-stv.

T;ik(.n trf)in llic State topographical maps of George H. Cook and C. C. Vernicule.


The title page shows what this book is. As a second edition of The
History of Old Tennent it is a rewriting- of the first, much the same in
matter and arrangement ; but corrections have been made, and very much
new material added, with a few changes in form throughout. Also a
number of new pictures and maps will be found in this print ; but the
author regrets that, though seeking for it, he was unable to find and obtain
a picture of Rev. Robert Ro}-. The author has performed this work amid
his bus}- pastoral and ministerial duties, and can laj' no claim to studied
elegance of language. He has sought rather, with much care and review,
to be exact and accurate, but even in this respect does not claim that the
book is absolutely perfect, for unknown mistakes might be discovered.
Nor is it claimed that the book is exhaustively complete, for the study is
one that is almost interminable especially as to family history. The
author is much indebted to Rev. Allen H. Brown, Rev. Henry G. Smith
and many others for assistance afforded, materials furnished, and for loans
granted ; and especially to James Steen, Eatontown, N. J., for aid in gen-
ealogical research. To the List of Authorities the reader is referred for
further study in Old Tennent history ;— and to these authorities the author
hereby makes due acknowledgment for their invaluable help. Trusting
that the book may prove of some value and interest to students in its line,

it is sent out on its wa}'.

Frank R. Svmmes.

Tennent, N. J.
June, 1904.


Records of the Old Tennent Church.

The Log College Archibald Alexander.

Constitutional History of Presbyterian Church in the United States of

America Charles Hodge.

Records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
History of the Presbyterian Church in America .... Richard Webster.
History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland . . Robert Wodrow.

History of the Presbyterian Church in Trenton, N. J John Hall.

Annals of the American Pulpit William B. Sprague.

History of the Old Scots Church Henry Goodwin Smith.

Various Historical Sketches Allen H. Brown.

Historical Sketch of Monmouth Presbytery Joseph G. Symmes.

Minutes of the Presbytery of New Brunswick.

Minutes of the Synod of New Jersey.

Minutes of the General Assembly.

Minutes of the Presbytery of Monmouth.

Contributions to Earlj' History of Perth Amboy . . . Wm. A. Whitehead.

Contributions to P>st Jersey History Wm. A. Whitehead.

History of Monmouth County, N. J Franklin Ellis.

Court Records in Monmouth County, N. J.

Life and Times of Rev. Richard Baxter Wm. Orme.

Brick Church Memorial (Marlboro, N. J.) Theodore W. Wells.

Memoirs of Rev. David Brainerd Jonathan Edwards.

Life of John Brainerd Thomas Brainerd.

Publications of New Jersey Historical Society.

Historical Sermons Archibald P. Cobb.

Manual of the Village Presbyterian Church, Freehold, N.J.

Presbyterian Church in Jamesburg, N.J Benjamin S. Everitt.

Presbyterian Church in Allentown, N.J George Swain.

Records of the Presbyterian Church in Manalapan.
Papers in Library of Princeton Theological Seminary.
Collections in the Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia.

Records of the Descendants of John Foreman Wm. P. Forman.

New Aberdeen James Steen.

Historical Notes on Presbyterian Church in Shrewsbury . Rufus Taylor.
History of Freehold Presbyterian Church, Charlton, N. Y. . R. H. Stearns.

Biography of George Whitefield Joseph Belcher.

Indians of New Jersey Wm. Nelson.

Historical Lectures by D. V. McLean.

History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Edwin Salter.

Old Times in (^Id Monmouth, printed by James S. Yard.

Genealogical Papers James Steen.

Old Stone Church (Cohansey) Epher Whitaker.

History of Leacock (Pa.) Presbyterian Church P.J.Timlow.

New Jersey Archives.




Near the center of the rich agricultural county of Monmouth in
New Jersey stands an old church building of colonial style and im-
posing appearance, attracting the attention of passengers in trains on
the nearb}' Pennsjdvania railroad, and the interest of constant visitors
who enter its doors and enroll their names in the register on the
church desk, and who usually come by carriage on the Freehold-
Englishtown road crossing the Manalapan and Patton's Corner road.

This sanctuary, now widely known as Old Tennent, is a relic and
a witness, a land-mark and a monument. It is a treasured heritage
from stern and sturdy servants of God transmitted to their descend-
ants through a number of generations, testifying to the history of a
rugged faith in the eternal word of the Lord and of a noble and stead-
fast adherence to principle. This house is the proof positive of the
sacred past speaking to the observing present. That splendid pro-
found document, the Declaration of Independence, a parchment care-
fully preserved under glass is fading in its ink, and possibly will soon
need to be deposited in a dark case to preserve the clear strong chir-
ography of its precious page ; but Old Tennent edifice was standing
twenty-five years before the Declaration was written, and through all
the years since has stood exposed to the weather of storm and sun
and wind, straight and strong to-day, and good for many years more
if with God's providence her children will love her with faithful care.

As has been said this old building stands for an old organization
or church, which has more than once changed its title or designating
name. The present corporate name of the church is "The First
Presbyterian Church of the County of Monmouth." Its earliest for-
mation is called the "Old Scots Church." Afterwards, for more than
one hundred vears it was known as the "Freehold Church," and


under this name it acquired its reputation. But in nieniory of the
saintly John Tennent, and of the long and efficient services of his
brother William Tennent, Jr., as pastors, it took the name of the
"Tenntnt Church." By this name it has been enrolled in the lists
of the General Assembly since 1859. This avoids confusing this
church with the one organized in Freehold village in 1838, and which
now is incorporated "The First Presbyterian Church of Freehold,
N. J." And finally, from the dignity of its great age and its inter-
esting historical association it has been colloquially styled "The Old
Tennent Church. ' ' Thus following the successive stages of its history
it might consistently he called The Scots-Freehold-Tennent Church.
And though designated b}- all these different names its history is that
of a continuous organization.

The history of a rural church is largely composed of an account of
its organization, a description of its edifices, a record of its pastors, a
story of its worshiping families, and a narrative of its local events.
In this respect an increasing interest gathers around Old Tennent,
ecclesiastical, genealogical and historical. That Old Tennent had an
origin, and somehow in process of time an organization, is certain.
But it is impossible to make a precise, correct, and authentic state-
ment as to just when, where and how the organization was effected.
Probably it will never thus be exactly known. Conjectures can easilj-
be made and ap})ear very plausible ; but they are sometimes mis-
leading, and sometimes diminish the credibility of a hi.storian's page.
Inferences are of value onl}- .so far as the reasons or arguments for
them are .set forth by the presentation of pertinent facts. In this
strain much of the .story of Old Tennent's organization must be told,
for in the absence of j^ositive statement there are nevertheless .some
relevant facts from which inferences ma)' be drawn that will form a
.story that approaches being irrefutable. facts are :

First: Old Tennent was of Scotch origin. Freehold township
was largely settled by Scotch peoi:)le, which suggests Old Tennent's
extraction. But this fact is settled l^y the explicit statement of Wil-
liam Temient, Jr., writing from Freehold, Oct. 11, 1744, to Rev. Mr.
Prince of Boston. In that letter he describes the character of the re-
vi\'al at that time in h'reehold, and he makes this historical paragraph,
— "This place lies southwest from New York, and is distant from it
about fifty miles. It was the first in the East Jersey, on the'


side of the Raritan river, which was settled with a gospel ministry.
This was owing, under God, to the agency of some Scotch people
that came to it ; among whom there was none so painful in this bless-
ed undertaking as one Walter Ker, who, in the year 1685, for his
faithful and conscientious adherence to God and his truth, as professed
by the Church of Scotland, was there apprehended and sent to this
country, under a sentence of perpetual banishment. By which it
appears that the devil and his instruments lost their aim in sending
him from home, where it is unlikely he could ever have been so ser-
viceable to Christ's kingdom as he has been here. He is yet alive,
and blessed be God, he is flourishing in his old age, being in his 88th
5'ear." At the close of this letter Mr. Tennent's church officers add,
"ATTESTATION to the preceding Account by the Ruling Elders and
Deacons of the Congregation of Freehold. "We the subscribers. Rul-
ing Elders and Deacons of the Presbyterian congregation of Freehold,
having had perfect knowledge of the circumstances of this place, some
of us from the first settling of it, and others of a long time, do give
our testimony to the truth in general, of the above letter of our Rev.
pastor. May the Lord make the same of use for carrying on his
glorious work begun in these lands, and make the name of the dear-
est Jesus glorious from the rising to the setting sun.

Walter Ker, Robert Cumming,

David Rhea, John Henderson,

William Ker, Samuel Ker.

Freehold, in New Jersey, October nth, 1744." (Log coUege Apudx,)
Thus Wm. Tennent's statement was foiuided on the testimony of
living witnesses, Walter Ker in particular, who might be styled The
Father of Old Tennent. That the Scotch were persecuted for loyalty
to their church is a matter of history. From Wm. Tennent's state-
ment it is not improbable to suppose that more than one that wor-
shiped in the Old Scots meeting house had been a sad witness of such
atrocious work as that of Viscount John Graham (Claverhouse) and
his dragoons, and of the horrible tortures and dreadful sufferings of
the prisoners in the damp and foul Dunottar Castle ; and had heard
"the piteous prayers" of their Covenanter brethren, (read wodrow )

The Covenanters were chiefly Scotch Presbyterians that hated and
opposed prelacy. They believed that Christ is the head of the church,
and the authority in all true religion, and that no man could usurp
these prerogatives. The}- would not unite in worshij-) that was led


and governed b}- so-called functionaries. Therefore they refused to
conform to the zealous effort of King Charles the Ilnd to impose the
rites and modes of prelatic worship upon them. Disobedience to the
king's order b}- these non-conforming Presbyterians was especially
manifested in their attendance on "conventicles," or gatherings for
worship apart from the established church, and often held in private
houses or in retired glens. This opposition to the king's will was the
cause of a bitter and bloody persecution of twenty-eight years, from
1660 to 1688. "The Highland Watch, as it was called, was let loose
upon the country (Scotland) : its inhabitants were spoiled of their
goods ; cast into prisons, banished, and sold as slaves ; and multitudes
of them shot in cold blood, and otherwise butchered, sometimes with,
and sometimes without, form of law." (orme.) Some have estimated
that during these twenty-eight years about 18,000 people were either
banished or put to death.

During the summer of 1685, in the period of the " Killing times"
so called, about one hundred men and women were imprisoned in
Dunottar Castle, a strong fortress in eastern Scotland, built on a great
rock looking out over the North Sea. It is now in ruins. Here
these people were shut up in a vault which "was ankle deep in mire,
with but one window overlooking the sea. They were without any
conveniences for sitting, leaning or lying, and, indeed, so full was
the place, that little more than sitting room was afforded. Stifled for
want of air, .stinted for both food and water * ^' * ^- many died, and
others became afflicted with diseases." (whitehead ) And when several
attempted to escape, some were retaken and subjected to excruciating
torture by having matches put between their fingers and kept burning
for three hours. The scars of these and other barbarous tortures
were carried by the persecuted ones through after life. This reminds
one of the story of the " Black Hole " in India, seventy years later.
Toward the close of the summer these Dunnottar pri.soners were
marched down to Leith, most of them on foot, "and their hands tied
behind their back with small cords," making a weary journey of six-
ty-six miles after their dreadful incarceration.

Previous to this, a certain George Scot, laird of Pitlochie, having
been fined and impri.soned a number of times for the sake of his relig-
ion, determined to sail for the plantations in East Jersey, seeking to
find there a refuge from the troublous times in his native land. Per-
mi.ssion was granted him by the authorities to pass from the kingdom


"without any Let, Impediment, or Molestation." He chartered a
vessel, "the Henry and Francis, of Newcastle, a ship of 350 tons, and
twenty great guns, Richard Hutton, master," or captain. Then he
publicly announced his purpose of sailing to the colonies, and invited
and solicited others who were of his mind, and like him persecuted,
to take passage along with him. Scot's project was quite extensive.
He put out a volume of 272 pages under the title "The Model of the
Government of the Province of East New-Jersey in America; and en-
couragement for such as design to be concerned there." (read in n. j. Hist,
soc. coiiectious. Vol, I.) Many joined Scot's company. Most of the Dun-
ottar prisoners, then lying in the tolbooth at Leith, were sentenced to
perpetual banishment to America, because they tenaciously and con-
scientiously held to their religious principles. A considerable portion
of them was transferred as a gift to the laird of Pitlochie; that is, he
was to carry them to America and there dispose of them so as to re-
ceive their passage money. But verily, in this way, he was acting
as a quasi deliverer to these poor persecuted and mutilated prisoners.
The vessel set sail from the port of Leith on September 5, 1685,
having on board in all about 200 persons, of whom 72 are said to have
been banished prisoners. One historian relates how these prisoners
suffered on shipboard by being disturbed in their worship under deck
by the captain causing great planks to be thrown down among them.
The voyage was sadly disastrous. A sickness of virulent fever broke
out, especially among the prisoners; but also among the passengers
and crew. About 60 people died, and their bodies were committed
to the deep. George Scot and his wife were among this number.
John Johnstone, son-in-law (to be) to George Scot, took his place in
directing the voyage, and in disposing of the so-called prisoners. The
captain proposed then to sail to Virginia or to Jamaica; but the winds
set toward New Jersey, and there on its shores, probably near Perth
Amboy, the vessel finally arrived near the middle of December 1685,
after a voyage of about 100 days. Many if not all of the prisoners
were, in process of time, cited before the legal authorities of the prov-
ince, and settlements made for their passage money; after which they
went free. Whitehead, in his book "Contributions to East Jersey
History" p. 28&29, gives the names of nearly one hundred persons
that came to New Jersey on the "Henry and Francis" with George
Scot's company, and this list may be compared with some names in
the early histor}' of Old Scots.


A goodh- iuiniV)er of those that came in the ship "Henry and Fran-
cis" moved to New F'ngland, and some returned to Scotland. Some
evidently settled in Monmouth County. Walter Ker, as Whitehead
says, "may have been a passenger with Scot." Beyond a doubt
some of these passengers and prisoners joined in the formation of the
church .society of those who finally built the Old Scots meeting
The name of George Scot, the Scotch Covenanter extraction, the
names of the church officers, and the early name of "Free Hill"
given to the eminence on which the old building stood, are all in line
of the outcome of George Scot's It is an exceedingly
difficult matter to po.sitively identify persons in the records of the past
because of the wide possibility of mistake in making all references to
them, in location, chronology and circumstance, corroborate ; never-
theless James Steen, in his valuable sketch "New Aberdeen," has
unquestionably establi.shed the fact that John John.stone, .son-in-law
and companion to George Scot on his disastrous voyage, is the same
man whose name is mentioned, as one of the acting trustees in
the deed for Old Scots ground given by Alex. Napier 1727 : — and
therefore his name stands with Walter Ker's as a charter promoter of
Old Tennent. In the aforesaid deed the name of Peter Wat.son is
mentioned .second as acting trustee for Old Scots. In a letter to his
cousin in Aug. 1684, ((luoted in Scots Model) he Said "There are here vcry
good religious people. They go under the name of Independents,
but are most like the Presbyterians, only they will not receive every-
body into their society. We have a great need of good and faithful
ministers, and I wish to God, that there would come .some over here ;
they can live as well and have as much as in Scotland, and more than
many get. We have none within all the Province of East Jersey
except one who is a preacher in Newark ; there were one or two
preachers more in the province, but they are dead, and now the peo-
ple they meet together every Sabbath-day and read and pray and
sing psalms in their meeting-houses." Steen, in a separate sketch,
also identifies this man and jxnnts out that his Presbyterian churchly
influence in Monmouth County antedated that of Walter Ker ; and
that his wife's name was Agnes, and he had sons William, Gawen,
and David. If that Gawen Watson was the .same as the one who

married Euphame , who owned a pew in Old Tennent for many

years, who died Aug. 24, 1771, aged 86 yrs. 8 mos. and was buried
in a jirivate grave-iihjt near Perrineville, and who appears to have


had two sons Gavven and Peter, and two daughters Eupheme that

married Joseph Ker, and Ann that married Walter Ker, then

the influence of the longing heart of old Peter Watson, the Scotch
Presbyterian, was felt through Old Scots down into Old Tennent,
and he may thus be considered a so-called charter associate with
Walter Ker and John Johnstone.

And there were others who aided in forming Old Scots about whose
names and services we wish we knew more. It is said that in 1855
in the Amboy bay might still have l>een seen the remains of an old
ship named the "Caledonia," which had been commanded by Robert
Drummond. Ancestral tradition widely handed down in the Ander-
son family says that Capt. John Anderson commanded the "Cale-
donia :" this, of course, may have been at a different time from that
in which he commanded the "Unicorn" in the Darien expedition.
Dr. Arch. Alexander says in his "Log College" p. 103, "This con-
gregation owed its origin to some Scotch people who were cast on the
Jersey shore ; the vessel Caledonia, in which they sailed, having been
stranded on our coast." Possibly because of the old and unservice-
able condition the Caledonia was deserted presumably in 17 15, and a
storm breaking its moorings to the Ambo}' wharf, it drifted away to
its wreck. Some people have still preserved relics in the shape of
canes &c., made from the timbers of this old vessel. It is supposed
that this ship brought emigrants from Scotland as early as 16S5, and
it is a matter of history that it bore to New Jersey many Scotch fam-
ilies about 17 15. Some of these possibly joined with the early wor-
shipers in Old Scots church. And so also some of the settlers that
came over with Lord Neil Campbell (brother to the Karl of Argyle)
in 1685, or through his instrumentality afterwards, may have had
their names enrolled among the Old Scots members, as some of their
names favorably compare with early records of the church, (see x. j.

Archives, ist Ser. Vol 21, p. 68. Also Whitehead's ■•Contributions to East Jer.sey History" p 22.)

Later on, the early lists of officers, members, and supporters of
Old Tennent discover such family names as evidently indicate the
amalgamation of French Huguenot, Reformed Dutch, and English
Presbyterian with the Scotch element, which latter at the first pre-
dominated. It might also be noticed that Old Tennent is a farmers'
church, having been originated for the most part by land-holders or
planters, and has always been and is to-day largely composed of hus-
bandman of the .soil.


Second : Old Temieiit was formed into a church about 1692. This
fact is based on a letter by John Woodhull, D. D., dated April 23,
1792, in which he says "The church was formed about an hundred
years ago, chiefly by persons from Scotland." (quoted iu Hodges consti.
Hist. pres. ch. Part i p. 65.1 Here again we have a competent and reliable
authority in the character of the man and in the relations of his offi-
cial position. But his expression is only general, or approximate,
and leaves the reader to understand that Old Tennent was formed
somewhere about 1692. Possibly Dr. Woodhull did not state the
exact date because he did not know it ; and that because there was
no exact date : and if there had been, he .surely would have known
it and would have stated it. Rev. Isaac \ . Brown, in a foot-note in
his sermon at the funeral of Dr. Woodhull 1824, found authority for
saying concerning Old Tennent, "This Congregation was regularly
organized, June 3, 1730. Before this, it had nominally existed a
short time and enjoyed the Pastoral labours of the Rev. Joseph Mor-
gan" \:C. Yet long before this date Old Scots was considered a very
church by the County Court ; and from Dr. Hodge we learn that it
was the only church at first, in Jersey, belonging to the Philadelphia
Presbytery. Rev. D. V. McLean, D. D., in a lecture 1866 on Free-
hold Church, says "The exact date, however, of the actual organiza-
tion of the church cannot now (1866) be fixed with our present light
on the subject. More thorough investigations, however, it is con-
fidently believed will disclose facts which ma}' enable us to fix the
exact date, or at least to approximate verj- near to it." As Dr. I\Ic
Lean had access to all the old records of Old Tennent before some of
them were de.stroyed by fire in 1869, it appears that the records that
were burned could not have stated the date of the organization. But
those records may have been the foundation for the statement Dr.
McLean makes further on in his lecture, viz. : "The Scotch Pres-
byterians who settled in Freehold, prized the ordinances of religion
.so much, that they sacrificed everything rather than surrender them

Online LibraryFrank Rosebrook SymmesHistory of the Old Tennent church : containing : a connected story of the church's life, sketches of its pastors, biographical references to its members, all its earlier record lists, full quotations of its earlier historical records, a complete list of burials in all its graveyards, many of its loc → online text (page 1 of 42)