STONE CHURCH aka ADAMS MEETING HOUSE
OAK GROVE CHURCH
near Woolwich & Swedesboro NJ
2011 is the church's 218th anniversary!
Stone Church (Adams Meeting House) - photograph taken June 2005 by Janice Brown
Old Stone Church, located at the intersection of Oak Grove and Meeting House
Roads, midway between Swedesboro and Bridgeport, in New Jersey, is said to be
the oldest Methodist Church in South Jersey. It is also known in earlier days
as the "Adams Meeting House," and "Oak Grove Church." This
area of town was known as the "Adams Neighborhood, as the church was built
on a corner of the farm of Joseph and Elizabeth Adams. Later Mr. & Mrs. Adams
gave an acre of adjoining land for use as a burial ground. This cemetery is remarkable
because of the small proportion of children's graves in it.
Church was organized under an indenture signed before Joseph Blackwood, judge
of Gloucester County, on December 31, 1793. This indenture contains the following
statement: "John Adams of the Township of Woolwich, County of Gloucester,
State of New Jersey, and Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, Superintendents of the
Methodist Episcopal Church in America -- under articles in form of Doctrine, contained
in or of discipline, revised and approved of by the general Conference held at
Baltimore in November 1893."
The church was built in 1793 by local
farmers who needed a place to gather and worship the then new Methodist religion
that was spreading throughout the land. Using local field brownstone and timber
cut from neighboring woods, they constructed this very modest and plain church,
a church to serve families as far away as Penns Grove, Woodstown, Ewan, Bridgeport,
Center Square, Swedesboro, Paulsboro Mount Royal and Pedricktown.
church is built of dressed brown stone, and the interior walls are of rough plaster
more than a foot thick. The lumber--oak, cedar, and heart pine--is heand hewn
and crude nails are handmade. The long wooden benches are the original ones, but
the pulpit is a restoration (reportedly this pulpit came from Trinity "Old
Swedes Church" in Swedesboro by 1915, when the renovations of that church
were completed, and a new pulpit installed).
The first members of the society
to worship in the meeting house were Joseph Adams, Benjamin Adams, Samuel Black,
John Davis, George Horner, Malachi Horner, William Keyser, Isaac Shute, and David
Shute. Several of these are buried in the church yard and descendants of many
of these families live both in the area and elsewhere. Additional early members
include: John Becket, Ephraim Colt, E.C. Talman, Samuel Newton, and David Wolf
(to name a few).
The Old Stone Church was a part of the Old Salem Cicruit
for many years, and was regularly supplied by the preachers appointed to that
circuit until the year 1831. (Many early circuit riders came from Pennsylvania
and Maryland to preach John Wesley's new religion to the area). Farmers and other
settlers on the southwestern side of the Raccoon Creek paddled small boats across
the stream, and walked from there to services on Sunday morning. Those from Center
Square crossed in a barge, landing near the Black Farm.
In the middle of
the 1880's the circuit riders were replaced with pastors who were assigned to
charges, sometimes two or three churches. Old Stone became a part of the Swedesboro
charge, and was supplied by the pastor there. Sunday school classes were held
regularly at the Old Stone Church until about 1918. Since that time, the contribution
which the Old Stone made to the growth of Methodism in South Jersey has been marked
by an anniversary service each year.
The church has been called the "Mother
of Methodism" in Gloucester County. Bethesda United Methodist Church of Swedesboro
now cares for the church and the grounds, and is one of her children. Some older
people in the area recall attending church, Sunday School, and picnics in the
grove of trees when the church was the rallying point for the Methodists in the
church was closed about 1989 due to termite and water damage, but was restored
over a four-year period, completed in 1993 in time to celebrate its 200th anniversary.
the church is closed except for the Annual Anniversary Service held
at 3:00 PM on the third Sunday of May each year, and an occasional service
held there during the warm months; at which time it assumes an air of
the past, complete with lighted kerosene lamp chandelier and worshippers,
once again, filling the old pews. In addition, each year, on Christmas
Eve, there is a service at 11 PM open to the public.
On the 1st Saturday of June of each year, a Strawberry Festival is held,
sponsored by the Old Stone Preservation Committee, to raise money to
support the church mission and also to help preserve and maintain interest
in this historic building. [Some photographs of the 2005 Strawberry
Festival are shown above. The people are warm and welcoming, the cake
delicious, and it is simply a lovely, old-fashioned event for people
of ALL ages].
In 2011, the Strawberry Festival will be held Saturday, June 4th from
2-5 PM at the Old Stone Church.
Directions to the Church:
From Kings Highway, any direction. Take Kings Highway toward Swedesboro
[if you are in Swedesboro, head north out of town]. At the intersection
of 322 [you will see Kingsway High School] head west [the OPPOSITE direction
from the onramp to the NJ Turnpike]. Go straight to the traffic light
(you will see a Wawa store) and continue to go STRAIGHT. About a half
a mile away, the next road will be OAK GROVE, turn right here. Continue
about 3/4 of a mile to a crossroads, and bear right. The church is immediately
on your right.
If you would like to contribute to the fund used to preserve this
building and grounds, please contact Marvin Dare at 856-467-2797, Charles
Holman 856-467-1994, or the Bethedsda U.M. Church below
Bethedsa United Methodist Church
1435 Kings Highway
Ed Rusk, Pastor
Source of Information: several brochures distributed by the Old Stone
Church preservation committee, and the Bethedsa United Methodist Church.
NOTE (Disclaimer): All of these photographs are the personal property
of the webmaster, Janice Brown. They may NOT be used for any purpose
without her express WRITTEN permission. One exception, is that the Bethedsa
United Methodist Church and/or the Old Stone House Preservation Committee
may use the photographs for any of their specific publications, as long
as there is NO charge for same.