Gloucester Co NJ - History & Genealogy  
 
 

OLD STONE CHURCH aka ADAMS MEETING HOUSE
aka OAK GROVE CHURCH

near Woolwich & Swedesboro NJ
2014 is the church's 221st anniversary!


Old Stone Church aka Adams Meeting House
Old Stone Church (Adams Meeting House) - photograph taken June 2005 by Janice Brown

The 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.

Old Stone 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.

The 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 area.

Photographs-outside and inside of Old Stone Church
(see disclaimer at bottom of page for use of these photographs)
all taken 2005 by Janice Brown
Sign outside Old Stone Church
Photograph Old Stone Church aka Adams Meeting House,  New Jersey
Outside and sign at old Stone Church, New Jersey
Close up view of outside of Adams Meeting House NJ
Back view from Graveyard of Adams Meeting House aka Old Stone Church NJ
Inside Adams Meeting House aka Old Stone Church
View of Pulpit - Adams Meeting House aka Old Stone Church NJ
Kerosene Lamp in Old Stone Church NJ
One of two narrow stairways in Adams Meeting House, Old Stone Church NJ
View 1 upstairs Adams Meeting House NJ
View 2, Upstairs Adams Meeting House aka Old Stone Church NJ
Looking down at pulpit in Adams Meetings House NJ
Graveyard at Old Stone Church
View of Adams Meeting House graveyard, from outside
View of Graveyard at Old Stone Church from the gate
View #1 of Adams Meeting House cemetery
    
View #2 of graveyard at Adams Meeting HouseView #3 Graves - Adams Meeting House aka Old Stone Church NJView #4 - Graveyard Adams Meeting HouseView #5 - Adams Meeting House Cemetery
    
View from inside Adams Meeting House Looking outMr. Homan selling tickets to the Strawberry Festival in 2005People enjoying strawberry short cake at the Strawberry Festival, June 2005Quite a crowd gathering at the Old Stone Church during the Strawberry Festival in 2005

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.

Today, 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
Swedesboro NJ
Ed Rusk, Pastor
Office: 856-467--0127

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.



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