Historic Churches and Graveyards in Warren County

Stones of Silence

by Kathryn Ptacek

Ruins of the Spring Valley Christian Chu rch in Hardwick. The church was part of the Christian Connection, the first American church, a loosely formed group not affiliated with any European denomination Photo by Diane Pratt.

Weekend travelers can find many reasons to visit old churches with graveyards: love of architectural details, interest in gravestone art and epitaphs, a passion for genealogy, a search for history, or simply the enjoyment of walking through a quiet place filled with so many long-ago stories. Where better to start than in Warren County, which boasts over forty churches built before the turn of the twentieth century. Those with graveyards number far less, though, and a few selected ones are listed below. For a serene afternoon's outing, take a camera or a sketchbook along, or perhaps paper for rubbings as you wander through these stone testaments to Warren County's history. It won't be time wasted.

Note on gravestone motifs: A common design on graves is a tree (perhaps a weeping willow) that symbolizes the biblical Tree of Life; a lamb indicates innocence and/or a child's burial place, while an upright hand, palm out, points upward to Heaven. Flowers prove a common theme as well, symbolizing many different things, including beauty, sorrow, respect, grief, condolences, etc., while wreaths generally mean victory.

Old Presbyterian Burial Ground in Hackettstown Center
Below: First Presbyterian Church, Hackettstown

Hackettstown's Second Presbyterian Church actually predates the First which sits on the other side of Main Street. Although the congregation was founded in 1763, the actual church was built in 1819. A Greek portico--erected in 1838--was added to what looks like a more traditional meetinghouse church of white clapboard.

To the right of the church behind a stone wall lies the cemetery, with a couple of hundred markers; this cemetery dates from the late 1700s. Numerous sandstone markers can be found, along with one displaying an angel with a dour visage, perhaps carved by Uzal Ward of Newark; many have epitaphs engraved on them, although some are too weathered to read now. American flags and round Revolutionary War emblems mark the two dozen or so patriots who fought in that conflict (but lived to come home) and rest here.

As a bonus, walk across the street to The First Presbyterian Church, which is actually the third one built by the congregation, this time in 1860 at a cost of $18,000. The white clapboard church's style is an example of Wren-Gibbs architecture (common for America's early churches--rectangular, tower or spire toward the back, interior galleries, etc.) The large memorial stained glass windows were installed around 1906 or 1907 when the church was remodeled. It is now considered the oldest church in town.

Child's grave in Marksboro.

The Marksboro Presbyterian Church (Rt. 94, Marksboro NJ) in Frelinghuysen Township was founded in 1814 by Reverend Robert Finley of Princeton. At that time, the area was part of Sussex County. This small meetinghouse-style church was built in the 1880s, and maintains an old belfry; the carillon is now electric.

A number of graves date back to the first few decades of the nineteenth century, and some Civil War soldiers are buried here. In the far right corner of the cemetery note the Andress family plot with its immense marker with a carved urn and burial shroud. A lamb atop a small gravestone, located at the front of the burial ground close to the black iron gates, marks the grave of a very young child. The epigraph reads: "Dearest Davy / Thou Did'st But / Touch The World / On The Way to Glory."

From Marksboro, head west on Rt. 94 for a short distance, then turn left onto Rt. 521 before entering Blairstown. South of the Rt. 80 overpass you'll find the old town of Hope (Rt. 521 meets Rt. 519 at Hope).

Center: Hope Moravian Cemetery with St. John United Methodist Church and St. Luke's Episcopal behind

The St. John United Methodist Church (354 High St., Hope NJ), with a stone and board construction, was built in 1876 in the Gothic Revival style (the congregation was founded in 1826). Alongside stands the Moravian Cemetery, dating from the mid-1700s (the first marker is dated 1768); a black iron arch announces the cemetery. The Moravians settled in "Greenland," as they called in, after leaving Bethlehem (PA). These people of German descent were known for their numbered gravestones embedded in the ground, many of which can still be seen here.

Especially notable among the markers is a Celtic cross and graves of Civil War veterans, as well as the many epitaphs. One reads: "Lord Jesus, Receive My Spirit / Let me die the death of the right- / eous, and let my land end be like his." A large marker at one end of the cemetery is "dedicated to the sacred memory of 62 persons who died in the early Moravian settlement of Hope, NJ." This list of names and dates of births and deaths was erected in 1966 by the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen.

A handful of the blue limestone houses built by the Moravians can be seen around the town; "year" plaques can be seen on the houses. Their own "Gemeinhaus", or meetinghouse dating from 1781, still stands at the corner of High St. and Rt. 521, but now houses a bank. Much of the architectural detail remains, including an impressive wooden stairway inside.

St. Luke's Episcopal Church (346 High St., Hope NJ) sits just a few buildings away from the Methodist church. Reverend William Bulgin, the pastor in 1832, designed the Gothic Revival structure. Inside can be found a curved staircase and stained glass windows, all of which came much later. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Oxford Hazen ChurchSouth of Hope stands the Presbyterian Church of Oxford at Hazen (Rt. 519 and Brass Castle Rd., Hazen NJ), erected in 1856. The congregation of this brick meetinghouse-style church was founded in 1729, and lies outside of Oxford on the road to Belvidere, the county seat. Visitors should note the unusual scalloped eaves of the roof and the stained-glass windows in the front. The graveyard features half a dozen or more above-ground crypts, including one with an open end ... and which proved empty. This is also the last resting place of one Joseph Mackey (Apr. 12, 1741 - Oct. 12, 1798), captain in the first Regt NJ T&P, Revolutionary War, or so reads a bronze plaque inset before the soldier's gravestone. The visitor can see other Revolutionary War and Civil War graves as well.

Farther down the road, the Presbyterian Church of Harmony (Rt. 519, Harmony NJ) seems to float in a sea of gravestones. A visitor can stand amid the stones next to the parking lot and see the top of the Delaware Water Gap in the distance. The white clapboard meetinghouse was built around 1890, although the congregation was founded in 1807. One plinth's epitaph reads: "until the day break." Two graves mark those of a sister and brother--both died on the same day, but two years apart. The girl was three days short of her first birthday, the boy only a month and a half old. Phlox weaves a pink and white carpet between the old headstones, dating back to the early 1800s and including veterans of the Revolutionary War and Civil War, along with a World War I vet. A statue of a woman in classical dress and leaning against a stone rests here as well.

The Old Greenwich Presbyterian Church (17 Greenwich Church Rd., Stewartsville NJ) lies south of Harmony and was founded in 1740. The plaque, dated 1930, at one entrance to the stone church is dedicated "to the memory of the revolutionary patriots buried in Old Greenwich Cemetery," and it lists nineteen names. The plaque at the other entrance is in "honor of General William Maxwell," and was given by the Sons of the American Revolution in 1942. Maxwell, a Brigadier General in the Continental Army, is perhaps the most famous person buried in the cemetery. Washington wrote that he was "an honest man, a warm friend to the country." A plaque marks his crypt.

This graveyard is many times bigger than the other cemeteries listed, and iron gates with a green "G" inside a green wreath open to let the visitor drive in. One epitaph reads: "Let worms devour my wasting flesh / And crumble all my bones to dust / My God will raise my frame anew / at the revival of the just."

The stone at a child's grave reads: "Tread gently by the grave / Where little Willie sleeps." Curiously there are no other graves nearby.

Numerous flags and plaques dot the graves of the veterans of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II, even now that those men are passing into history.

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Pamela Boehr
05 May 2013, 01:14
Looking for BELL ancestors.\r\nIsaac in particular.
Jane Kemmerer
17 Dec 2012, 06:07
Forks U.C.C. at Stockertown,Pa. is celebrating its 200th anniversary. We had a pastor, Rev. Floyd R. Shafer who traveled to Oxford, N.J. once a month to preach and serve communion to a German Reformed congregation. This had to be between 1910 and 1940. I would appreciate any information or a picture of the church he served there. Thank you. Waiting to hear.\r\nJane Kemmerer
William VanNatta
23 Nov 2012, 12:41
So I'm looking for my 5x great grandfathers gravesite. Stephen Vanatta born 1775 died about 1863 or before. Lived in Mansfield NJ I have found info that he was a builder. i found info that he built a grist mill at Point Mills on the Mustconetcong creek. His wife Elizabeth Arnwine is buried in Pleasant Grove cemetery on Califon rd Morris county. One of his sons was a Jacob Vanatta who was a attorney and Attorney general for the state at one time. Thank you
18 Sep 2012, 01:52
Thank you for another great post. Where else could anybody get that type of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I'm on the look for such information.
Fred McRae
15 Jul 2011, 16:49
I am writing in response to the posting of Ellie Markell. I am interested in the family bible of Jacob Pace and Mary Leffler. Mary Leffler is my 3rd great aunt. Any information in the bible about the family would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.\r\n\r\nFred McRae
Ellie Markell
06 Jun 2011, 21:11
I live in Oakridge, Oregon and I am in possession of a bible that belonged to the family of Jacob and Mary Leller Pace. Their son John and his wife Mary Frome are buried at the Old Oxford church cemetery, or the Old Hazen Presbyterian Church Cemetery. I don't know if I am a relative or if the family of my ex-husband are relatives - but I have the bible. I want to give it to the ancestors of the Pace family but I am unable to find a link to connect me to a current email address or a current name of a relative. There are several large Pace families I have read about on genealogy websites but I am not sure which family are the descendants listed in this bible. The bible was published in 1860 - it is a standard size bible and it is very fragile and worn. There are many personal notes written in the bible. An obituary is sewn on the back page of Lillie May Bentz of Easton, PA. She died in 1883 and her parents are Jesse and Sylvia Bentz. I know how much family means and what a treasure a family bible is and I very much want to return it to the rightful owners. Thank you for your assistance.
Lucretia Agostarola
11 May 2011, 15:16
Dear Reverend and Research staff:\r\nMy grandmother, Lillian H. Messler Mattis is buried at the Methodist Cemetary in Lebanon, NJ. She is the same gravesite area as her husband and several children (including a baby). One plot, I am told, is empty. \r\nI live in Arizona and cannot come to NJ as yet to take photos myself.\r\nI ask if someone would take pictures of the cemetary stones. If my grandmother was married to my grandfather at your church, I would love to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate or license.\r\nPlease tell me how much I must send ($). My address is: Lucretia Ann Mattis Agostarola, PO Box 6237; Goodyear, AZ 85338.
Bill Powers
23 Oct 2010, 08:04
I am married to Carol Jean Maxwell who is a descendent of the BG William Maxwell. Her father, Richard, 83yo, still farms near Dodge City, KS. We visited the church and cemetary 23 October 2010 the day of Richard's grand-daughter's marriage near Lebanon, NJ.
James Scabet Jr
06 Sep 2010, 14:06
I came accross a small cemetary on the Old Mine Road just off of Rt 206 in Montague. There seems to be a Stoll family plot in there among some war time graves. Are there any records on ths site.
Ed Wilczynski
23 Aug 2010, 12:08
Looking for plot information on ROSE MELICK HALL she is my great grandmother , also on Elizabeth Linn melick , my great great grand mother. \r\n Thank You
30 Nov 2009, 07:57
Correction in regard to the Marksboro Chruch - the current structure was built sometime after a fire destroyed a far more elaborate and rather grand looking church sometime in the mid 1940's.
Charlene Gould
25 Oct 2009, 14:55
I am looking for info about the Edwin Gould family. We know that our family lived in the area and that he was a veternarian working usually with horses.  Would love to know where they lived and if there are any relatives still in the area. charlene gould
06 May 2009, 19:09
I have been told that my ancestors are buried in a large cemetery that has a river running thru it!Anyone know which cemetery that is? I have just recently found after a 17 year search (via the internet}a photo of My 4th great grandfathers head stone in Buttzsville Methodist Episcopal Church cemetery. If anyone can help me find the head stone of his wife Margaret Howard - Flatt, daughter of Samuel and mary according to her Marriage record. or the headsones of her parents it would be appreciated so much. thank you!
Ann Searle
03 May 2009, 15:29
I'm looking for any responses that were made to the request below from Sundae. I recently took photos of this beautiful church and would like to be able to put a name to this beautiful structure.\r\n\r\nSundae\r\n19 Sep 2008, 16:05 \r\nThere is an old church (1912 is imprinted on the top step) on Puffer Road in Allamuchy. I am wondering what the name of that church is and if it is possible to have a wedding there. Anyone have any info?
Nancy Parker
11 Feb 2009, 18:35
researching family history in this area\r\n(Hazen, Oxford, etc.)\r\n\r\nFather Paul J Rittenhouse\r\nGFather William Stewart Rittenhouse\r\nGGFather supposed to be a Peter A Rittenhouse but cannot connect\r\n\r\nWm. Buried three church hill cem. lower mt. bethel pa\r\n\r\nANY HELP APPRECIATED\r\nWM HAD SISTER ELISABETH MARRIED A KITCHEN AND A BROTHER ARTHUR\r\n\r\nFAMILY STORIES STRANGE - TOLD WM.STEWARTS FATHER HAD FARM IN HAZEN SOMETHING HAPPENED, CHILDREN PUT WITH OTHER FAMILIES - ANY HISTORY PERTINENT APPRECIATED\r\nTHANKS
Kate Ogden
26 Dec 2008, 09:42
I would also be interested in info about Uzal Ward and in acquiring a photo of the gravestone mentioned above, if possible. For others who are interested, there's info on Ward in the book New Jersey Cemeteries and Tombstones by Veit and Nonestied. I've posted some photos of old NJ gravestones on my website:\r\nhttp://www.artofnewjersey.net\r\n\r\n
Elon Ward Botts, Jr
16 Dec 2008, 20:50
I would be interested in knowing more about Uzal Ward, to see if their is a relationship to Joseph, Israel, and Elias ward, if so some activities pertaining to him. I have writings of Elon Ward, who wrote in his 83rd year (1803) going back to three sons and a father that fought in the Revolutionaty War, later headed to Clermont County, Ohio, Madisonville, Ohio . I haven't looked at it in a while. The original Ward family came from England.
Joe Connolly
05 Dec 2008, 07:10
Do you have any info.on the old church circa 1811 on Mount Bethel Rd. in Mansfield Twp.It has a very old cemetary on it with deceased fron the 1770?The old stone church is on the State Historic Register Bldg.
19 Sep 2008, 16:05
There is an old church (1912 is imprinted on the top step) on Puffer Road in Allamuchy. I am wondering what the name of that church is and if it is possible to have a wedding there. Anyone have any info?
Emily Sim
06 Sep 2008, 18:19
Growing up in Stewartsville, we were always taught that Chinacook, the real last of the Mohigans, was buried in the graveyard at the Old Presbyterian Church. Legend has that he was buried under the pine tree just to the right of the main gate. The old pine tree that originally marked his grave fell about 10-15 years ago and was replaced with a young pine.
25 Aug 2008, 10:20
I would like to say that i really like your blog www.njskylands.com a lot \r\nnow.. back on topic haha \r\nI cant say that fully agree with what you typed up... care to explain more?
Paul Shaw
04 Apr 2008, 15:26
Why do you think the stone at the Second Presbyterian Church is by Uzal Ward? Do you have a date, name of deceased or photo? I am researching Mr. Ward's stone.
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