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History of

Zion United Methodist Church
Rev. Richard L. Workman
242 Kings Highway
Clarksboro, NJ 08020
(856) 423-2000
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Zion Methodist Church of Clarksboro NJ
Photograph of Zion Methodist Church, Clarksboro, NJ
Photograph from the East Greenwich Master Plan, 2004

History of the Zion United Methodist Church

Although the history of the Zion United Methodist Church (from "East Greenwich Township Centennial" booklet, by Laura Getsinger) states that "the first Methodist Episcopal Church built in the state of New Jersey was at Berkley [Mt. Royal], in 1766. Here Methodism began--in East Greenwich Township, which was then part of Greenwich Township,"--this is not completely accurate.

In fact, the original deed of the church at Berkley [located on King's Highway within the current St. Peter's burial ground], to Edward Evans and eleven of his followers by Uriah Paul, on November 29, 1770 specifically states, that "the said half acres of ground...for the use of an English Church to be built and Burying Ground." What is known indeed is that after a few years of being without a preacher, Methodist preachers were invited to this early church, with a congregation made up mostly of those who followed the Church of England, along with Methodists and Quakers.

In 1772, Robert Blackwell was appointed missionary here by the Church of England. He was appointed the manager of this church in 1773. In June of 1774, the church managers agreed upon several regulations, including "that from this day forward no person shall preach in this House but the Clergy of the Church of England," and offering to refund subscriptions to the Methodist or Quaker portion of the congregation.

Since the Methodists were not recognized, the congregation split; part remaining Methodist; part remaining with the Church of England. Records found in St. Peter's parish minutes state the rules that were set up concerning the use of the chapel by the Methodist Society, for its meetings.

Two of the managers, Joshua Paul and Jeffrey Chew, remained with the Methodists, and refused to serve as managers and withdrew. This gave complete control to the Church of England, and the Methodists were not allowed to preach here. The property, however, could not be transferred until a settlement could be arranged with some of the Society This meeting was held September 13, 1774.

On March 9, 1775, it was found necessary to adopt less liberal terms for the repayment of money to those who were dissatisfied, and to order that "No person shall preach in this house but the clergy of the Church of England." Soon after this action, the managers of the Methodist's Society built at church at Berkley [Mount Royal], about one mile from the present Zion Methodist Church. No date of this building can be found, and some believe it was located near Green's Lumber Yard.

Because of the rapid growth of a class at Clonmell Gibbstown, the class at Berkley faded. Benjamin Weatherby, a local deacon of the Society, as tradition has it, placed this frame church on wheels, and moved it to Clonmell, in the middle of the night. [SEE PHOTO BELOW].

Photograph courtesy of the Hagley Museum & Library
Do not reuse without their written permission.

The Old Stone House, Repauno Works--Originally the Mullen Farm House before Repauno began operations on the site.

"On 27 Aug 1789, Robert Newell, John Vanneman, Samuel Lodge, Paul Bright, Edward Barton, Michael Turner and John Drummond of the Methodist Episcopal Society of Clonmell bought one-quarter acre of land for five shillings for a Preaching House and graveyard. A local deacon organized people to put a house on wheels and moved it to Gibbstown. The church is the frame building behind the stone Mullen farm house."

My thanks to Dave Drummond for pointing out the location of this photograph, and to Hagley Museum & Library for allowing me to use it here.

Whether the Class worshipped in the building that was moved, or if they held their meetings in private homes has not been determined, but the remaining members did attend a great revival meeting at Bethel, Hurffville. History and facts about Methodism are missing until 1793 when a deed was given to Joseph Adams for the Old Stone Church at Oak Grove, near Swedesboro. This is now the oldest standing Methodist Church in South Jersey.

After the removal of the Mount Royal Chapel, nothing of Methodism in Clarksboro is known until 1832, when the Rev. William H. Stevens, in charge of the Salem Circuit, began to preach in the schoolhouse at Clarksboro. This school was located on the north side of the present church addition.

In September 1832, a class was formed at Clarksboro. Gideon Zierns was a member, as were Lewis Rice, Job Lawrence, Kesiah Lawrence, Peter Hughes, Ann Hughes, Joseph D. Green, Mary Green, William Kessler, Eliza Kessler, Thomas Locke, William Jordan, William Cowgill, Mary Ann Hughes, and Rosanne Early. Rice who had been a member of Carpenter's Landing [Mantua] was appointed leader.

Services were held regularly on Sunday afternoons and the preaching was done by local men. These meetings were held in the home of Job Lawrence, a class leader and one of the first trustees of the church. Mr. Lawrence also donated the ground on which the church was finally built.

Decorated doorway at Zion United Methodist Church (on right side of building)

November 23, 1832, the Methodist Society, or Congregation of Christians of Clarksboro, met at the home of Job Lawrence. Excerpts from these minutes state: "On motion of Nathaniel Turner, the Rev. Walter Burrows was called to the chair, and John C. Eastlack chosen secretary. Joseph D. Green, Nathaniel Turner, John C. Eastlack, Lewis Rice and Job Lawrence were chosen trustees of the M.E. Church at Clarksboro and assume and take it upon themselves the name of 'Zion'." These trustees met at the office of Samuel Sailer at Clarksboro on Nov. 30th to take the oath of office. The deed and election was recorded in the Clerk's office in Woodbury on May 8, 1833.

The Society then felt the need for a church building. Subscribers were obtained and the building was started April 1833. The church was finished and dedicated September 1834 with the Rev. Bartholomew Wood preaching the sermon.

The Rev. William H. Stevens was pastor and Rev. John Walker was junior preacher. December 14, 1833 Rev. Stevens died of consumption, and Rev. Walker became preacher with Rev. Robert Luttor became junior preacher.

In 1883, the Board appointed a building committee to erect a new church. Built at a cost of $4500 the building was dedicated on December 6, 1883, and this is the building the Congregation worships in today.

In 1899, it was decided to build a new parsonage. The old parsonage was sold and the house moved to Weatherby Avenue, Clarksboro. Stained glass windows were added to the church in 1928, and the front steps were replaced with a narthex.

In 1953, an addition was added to relieve overcrowding in Sunday School classes. In 1974, it became necessary to have a larger sanctuary, and a wall was knocked out to seat approximately 50 more persons. The stairway was changed and the interior of the church was completely remodeled and renovated. In 1981 the minister was Rev. John J. Hamilton. Jr.

In 1859, the church graveyard was erected. The cemetery is located directly behind the church, and is accessible from Shady Lane Road. See photographs below.

See the list of some veteran's buried in this cemetery.

Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery, photo #1
View of Zion United Methodist Cemetery from Shady Lane Road
View of some stones looking out toward Shady Lane Road
Two of the older tombstones

Another older tombstone



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