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HISTORY OF THE FIRST CONGREGATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH AT SPRINGFIELD
To record some facts, sparing them oblivion... To teach of our ancestry of past proud deeds...To acknowledge the good hand of our God towards us & help;. “
1664Group of settlers from Long Island settled in what is now Elizabeth, New Jersey. The area was inhabited by the Minnisink Indians (Leni-Lenape tribe) — their trails are the roads of today.
17911717 Earliest recorded history of inhabitants in what is now known as Springfield. There were only houses between Morristown and Elizabethtown. What is now Springfield was apart of the town and parish of Elizabeth.
1745First Congregation of the Presbyterian Church at Springfield was organized by the Presbytery of New York from the Church of Connecticut Farms of which it was a part.
1746First house of worship (a log church) was built about half a mile north of the present church. Research indicates that its approximate location was in the vicinity of Spring Street, Millburn.
1751Church incorporated as the “First Congregation of the Presbyterian Church at Springfield”.
1761(Possibly 1762). Second house of worship built on the site of the present church. Burned by the British on June 23, 1780.
1764First parsonage built (August 22nd)
1776(July 4th) Declaration of Independence
1780The local citizenry threw in their lot after the Declaration of Independence, enlisting in the Continental Army, and using the church as a center for public stores. Worship services were conducted in the garret of the parsonage.
June 23rd The British march to Morristown was stopped at Springfield. In the heat of the battle, the Watt’s Hymnal incident took place. The Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, James Caldwell, was a Chaplain in the Continental Army. When it appeared that his men were short of wadding for their guns, he went to the Springfield Church and took an armful of Watt’s Hymnals. These he gave to the men for wadding with the exhortation - “PUT WATT’S INTO THEM, BOYS!”
(In commemoration of this incident, Bret Harte wrote the well known poem entitled “Caldwell at Springfield”. The original painting by John Ward Dunsmore captioned “Battle of Springfield, New Jersey”, hangs in Fraunces Tavern, New York City, and a copy hangs in the Springfield Municipal Court. )
The British, in their retreat, set fire to the Presbyterian Church, all the houses in town except five, and the ripening wheat fields where the Villagers had hidden their belongings. The townspeople, cast down but not discouraged, worked to rebuild the town and met for worship in the old parsonage barn since they had outgrown the garret (or attic) of the parsonage.
Foregoing plans to build of brick, plans for a cedar shingled church building were projected. Work and material contributed, by members of the congregation, money donated by neighboring churches. Services were held in the same church in which we worship today.
1792Bell donated by Samuel Tyler and installed In Tower.
1793 (May 27th’)Township of Springfield incorporated.
1818 First Sunday School founded by the Misses Catherine and Elizabeth Campbell and Mrs. Mary TenBroeck.
1826 First stove in church.
1856 Lecture Room (Present Chapel) built.
1868 (August) Renovation, including furnace, new pews with no doors, windows on either side of pulpit removed, wooden posts supporting church gallery replaced by iron ones.
1875 Lecture Room (Present Chapel) received 14 foot addition for Infant Classes.
1892 Tower Clock installed.
1899 Kitchen added to Lecture Room and Church wired for electric light.
1905 (June 23rd) Continental Soldier statue erected by the State of New Jersey, making this the smallest State Park in New Jersey.
1936 Presbyterian Cemetery Gateway (gift of Edward S. Pettigrew) erected.
1937 Chape1 (Old Lecture Room) enlarged, 3 Sunday School rooms on second floor added.
1950 Population of the Township of Springfield - 7,218.
1952 Parish House Annex built for additional classrooms, offices, auditorium and dining room.
1956 Carillon added.
1959 Parish House annex built for additional classrooms.
1960 Population of the Township of Springfield - 13,955
1977 Air conditioning added to the sanctuary.
1980 Population of the Township of Springfield - 13,955
1983 The Tower removed.
1984 Sanctuary restoration including new foundation, steel tie rods across sanctuary, iron posts supporting Church gallery replaced by steel ones, insulation and sound system added.
1985 Exact replica of tower installed.
1987 Sanctuary parking and handicap access
1990 State and National Register of historic places
1990 Population of the Township of Springfield- 13,420
1991 Sanctuary exterior restoration with new insulation and hand-split cedar shingles and restored windows, doors, molding.
1995 Celebrated our 250th anniversary May 21, 1995. New roof installed.
2016 Roof reinforced, replacement windows installed in chapel and exterior painted.