The Roxiticus Congregation and its Descendants

by Tammy Scully

The history of worship in Morris County is older than the county itself. Established in 1739, the county had been home to settlers in the eastern regions since 1695. Settlements in the western portion came soon thereafter, in the early 1700s. And the building of churches began. The many denominations represented in each and every town today offer diverse options for modern worshippers. However, when people were few and far between; when roads were mere footpaths; and when preachers were scattered far and wide; "local" services served the needs of everyone, no matter what denomination they professed. As the population grew, and the communities could support their own ministers, churches proliferated. An assortment of denominations began to establish themselves.

The second offspring of the Roxiticus church was the First Congregational Church of Chester. The congregation ultimately built their current Greek Revival style church in 1856. The chapel was built in 1873

One of the oldest churches in the county was built in 1718. Although the original building is no longer standing, the circa 1834 church at Route 10 and Whippany Road serves an active congregation. The First Presbyterian Church of Whippany can trace its roots back to the earliest Morris County settlers. Likewise, many of today's congregations in the western part of the county can claim a heritage traced to the Roxiticus congregation, circa 1738.

Roxiticus is no longer a name of a place in Morris County. It was an Indian name, given to the region including today's Mendham and Chester Townships. Here, along Route 24 in the area now known as the Ralston section of Mendham Township, the Roxiticus meeting house was built. This log structure, built in 1738 and no longer standing, was crudely constructed. Without window glass, heat, or any decorative touches, it fulfilled the spiritual needs of its worshippers, but not much else. Congregants traveled from today's Chester, Mt. Olive, Mendham, and Roxbury Townships to attend services. Roads were simple paths through the wilderness, and getting to services and back was a daylong affair. In 1740, a "great revival" took place in a barn in Bernards Township, and 3,000 people from all over the region were said to have been in attendance. It is soon after this revival that the Roxiticus congregation began to have discrepancies over church policy, and the decision was made to form another church.

The First Presbyterian “Hilltop” Church in Mendham

The "Hilltop" church, as it is affectionately known, was established in 1745. It is located at 20 Hilltop Road, Mendham. There was no Mendham then, only a wayside inn known as the Black Horse. The church founders established the place name of "Mendham", and the town, founded in 1749, ultimately grew around the church. The present building, circa 1860, is the fourth church erected on the site. The first church was replaced by the congregation in 1816, and the next two both were destroyed by fire. The New England style church sits majestically on its hilltop, with a lighted tower and numerous elegant windows reflecting back to the time when Mendham was a quiet rural village.

The second offspring of the Roxiticus church was the First Congregational Church of Chester. After the split from the Presbyterian faction of the Roxiticus worshippers, the congregants established their own organization in 1747. They ultimately built their current church in 1856. The building, in Greek Revival style, boasts an 1873 organ and beautiful tromp l'oeil paintings. The chapel was built in 1873.

The Hilltop Presbyterian congregation was still serving the outlying areas in 1750, when permission was sought to establish another Presbyterian church in a more convenient location for those further west. The First Presbyterian Church of Roxbury was built along today's Pleasant Hill Road, Chester Township, in 1750. The road, then known as the "Landing Road", was the main route continuing on to the Suckasunny Plains and into Sussex County. The congregation erected a new building at this site in 1825, providing more amenities than the earlier log structure. Drawings of this "Hill Church" show a modest frame building with double entry doors and numerous windows. These early buildings were believed to have been in the southwest corner of the cemetery property, and no longer exist. The cemetery here, still in use but no longer owned by the congregation, contains the graves of some early prominent citizens, including General Cooper and his family (Cooper's Gristmill). The congregation became known as the First Presbyterian Church of Chester, and moved from this site around 1851. The current stone chapel located at the entrance to the cemetery is circa 1903.

The Cooper grave

Meanwhile, while still at the Pleasant Hill site, the congregation again split into two factions. The First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna, built on Main Street in Roxbury Township circa 1760, was the result of this division. During the Revolutionary War, this church, along with the churches at Mendham and Chester, was used as a barracks and hospital for the soldiers. The smallpox epidemic left many soldiers buried in these graveyards. Interestingly, the ministers of Morris County emphasized the need for their congregations to be inoculated against the dreaded disease. Few citizens became ill despite the presence of the sick soldiers. The current church building, erected in 1853, was enlarged in 1872. It is said that the cornerstone contains relics from the earlier church building on the site. The Eliza Stoddard Memorial Chapel, circa 1887, was erected in honor of this young girl, who is said to have shown an uncanny devotion to God. She died in 1886, at the tender age of 16.

Back in Chester, the Presbyterian Congregation relocated from Pleasant Hill Road down to the center of the growing town. The Community Presbyterian Church of Chester, at 220 Main Street, was built circa 1852 in the Greek Revival Style which was popular at that time. The chapel, circa 1872, is connected by a modern addition.

It is interesting to compare the First Congregational Church of Chester, the Presbyterian Church in Chester, and the church of the Succasunna Presbyterians. All three were built in the 1850's, and all three have chapels added in the 1870's. This reflects the growing population and prosperity of the area. Remember, in early days the congregation had to raise money to build its church and the parsonage, and to support its pastor. A popular way of doing this was to "auction off" the church pews, with the best seats going to the highest bidders. The last rows were left open for the general public. Of course, this usually meant that the most prominent families had front row seats at each sermon! It was also common for churches to share ministers in hard times. This happened both within and across denominations. The Presbyterian churches of Succasunna and Chester shared preachers during the American Revolution. Later, other local congregations shared buildings and pastors, as we shall see.

The Mt. Olive Presbyterian congregation officially left the Chester church in 1838, while still at Pleasant Hill. However, prior to this there had been an old log church erected for use of all denominations in the Mount Olive area. This structure was an "outpost", used only occasionally. In 1809, a new building to be used jointly by the Presbyterians and Baptists was constructed. By 1852 the Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church was built. It is located alongside the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, at the old Mt. Olive Village site, on Flanders-Drakestown Road. The building has been converted into a unique private home. The historical marker at the site provides information on the old village. The Baptist meetinghouse, circa 1855, is in excellent condition although no longer in use. The Mt. Olive Academy, a stone building circa 1837, is also located here.

Trained eyes will notice the transition from the square tower to the octagon shaped steeple on the United Methodist Church in Flanders. For a complete inventory of historic New Jersey churches and insights into their architecture, visit

The next group to diverge from the Chester congregation was the Flanders contingent. Their 1852 original church building was destroyed by fire in 1901. This led to the Methodist congregation of Flanders loaning the Presbyterians the use of their church for services until a new church could be erected. This new church, circa 1905, is located at 76 Main Street, Flanders. It is now home to the Calvary Bible Chapel. The Flanders congregation again combined services with the Flanders Methodist Church from 1930-1957, due to a decline in the area's population and depressed economic conditions. The two united briefly as the "United Church of Flanders". Summer services were held in the Flanders Presbyterian Church, which had no heating system. The Flanders Methodist Church held winter services which both the Mt. Olive and the Flanders Presbyterian congregants attended. In 1960, these two Presbyterian churches permanently merged. The Flanders Presbyterian Church became the active site for services, and the Mt. Olive church served as home to the Pax Amicus Theater group prior to becoming a private home. The Flanders United Methodist Church still actively serves worshippers.

Lastly, in 1874, the Budd Lake Union Chapel, located on Sandshore Road, in the Budd Lake section of Mt. Olive Township, was built. Its land was deeded solely for the establishment of a non-denominational church, by John Budd 2nd. This branch of the Budd family descended from John Budd of England, who came to America in 1637 seeking relief from religious persecution. The original owner of this and surrounding lands was his great-great-grandson, the Revolutionary War Colonel John Budd 1st. The Budd family had attended worship services in Chester. Budd Lake was becoming a popular resort town, and the Union Chapel would be able to serve the spiritual needs of the Budd family, other area residents, and visitors alike.

The Budd Lake Union Chapel today consists of the original building, expanded in 1928, as well as the attached "Faith Hall". The building features numerous stained glass windows and a large, circular window above the entry. The diminutive Faith Hall was originally an Episcopal Church slated to be demolished during the construction of Route 80. In 1960 it was purchased by the congregation to serve as Sunday School rooms, and moved to its current site. The Budd Lake Union Chapel has undergone many different phases through the years. At one time, the famous Schooley's Mountain House Resort provided luxury carriage rides to its guests wishing to attend services at the Chapel. At some point, year-round services were suspended, and only summer sessions were offered do to lack of participation. Following WWII, the church again experienced a period of growth, but by the 1970s had declined to seven members! Pastor Rupprecht, currently serving the congregation today, is credited with revitalizing the church and making it the vital, thriving community it now is.

Religion in Morris County today is diverse and plentiful. Numerous denominations are well-represented in almost every town. The architecture of these places of worship ranges from churches on the National Register of Historic Places to contemporary visions of avant-garde design. Should you take our church tour, remember that many of the roads on which you will travel are built upon the early footpaths of the American Indians, and the wagon-trails of the first settlers. Notice also places of worship not mentioned in our brief history. These too have roots in the past, in the development of our communities, and in the heritage of Northwest New Jersey.

Sunday School

An autumn Sunday afternoon drive through western Morris County reveals extraordinary beauty in these grand country churches.

Beginning in Mendham Boro, on Route 24, (Main Street), turn at the Black Horse Inn onto Hilltop Road. Turn left at the crest of the hill, onto Talmadge Road, where the parking lot for the First Presbyterian Church is located. As you drive this route, remember that this church served worshippers as far away as Roxbury Township and Mt. Olive, when the fastest mode of family transportation was a horse and carriage!

Proceed back to Main Street and make a left back onto Route 24, being especially attentive to the Ralston Historic District as the road descends from Mendham Boro, to Mendham Township, and into Chester Township. It is along this stretch that the original log "Roxiticus" church was built, from which all the other churches we are visiting, descended. Then known as the "King's Highway", and later the "Washington Turnpike", Route 24 was part of the original main thoroughfare between Elizabeth and Easton, Pa.,

Community Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Chester.

Continue until the traffic light at Chester Boro, where you will make a left turn onto Main Street. The Community Presbyterian Church of Chester is located on the left. This is the second home of the Chester Presbyterian congregation, after their move from the Pleasant Hill site to the downtown location in 1852. This portion of Main Street was not in existence until after the town began its main development around 1800. The original road detoured southeast behind the current Main Street, along Budd Avenue, and continued onto today's Hillside Road, where we are headed next.

Above: Calvary Bible Chapel in Flanders. Below: Budd Lake Union Chapel

Travel through town and turn right onto Hillside Road. There are mine tunnels and shafts far underground here, part of the legacy of the Chester iron mines. Hillside crosses the old railway bed soon after you turn off of Main Street, and the Congregation Church is on the right. This group divided from the original Roxiticus Church and established themselves in 1747, just before the Presbyterian faction, based at the Hilltop Church in Mendham, separated to form the Roxbury (now Chester) congregation. At the "Y" intersection, bear right. This is now Pleasant Hill Road. This was part of the Landing Road, which led to the "Suckasunny Plains", and into Sussex County. Follow Pleasant Hill Road across the Black River and up the hill, where you will see the Pleasant Hill Cemetery on the left. It is here that the Presbyterian congregation was located from 1750 -1852. Continue straight past Welkind Rehabilitation Center, and stay right around the sharp curve. Look for Reger Road on your left, and then be alert for the next "Y" intersection just ahead. You will bear LEFT to continue onto Pleasant Hill Road in Roxbury. (Straight puts you on Ironia Road. Should this occur, continue on until Golf Course Road, a left turn. You will rejoin Pleasant Hill Road, Roxbury Township, at the end of Golf Course Road). At the Yield sign, bear left.

At the stop sign, turn right onto Eyland Avenue, and proceed until the intersection of Route 10 several miles down the road. Cross straight over the highway, and turn left at the stop onto Main Street, Succasunna. The First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna is on the right, next to the Succasunna United Methodist Church. Both churches and their cemeteries are important pieces of history in this region. Mahlon Dickerson, the first governor of NJ, is buried at the Presbyterian cemetery. The Methodist Church is circa 1852, with the "L" addition in 1891.

First Presbyterian Church of Succasunna

Continue on Main Street to the light at Hillside Avenue. Turn left and proceed straight back across Route 10. Follow Hillside Road, bearing right at the intersection with Eyland. Turn left onto Main Street, Flanders, at the United Methodist Church. This church, circa 1857, shared services with the Presbyterian congregation several times in the early 1900's. Continue to the stop sign and turn left. The Calvary Bible Chapel now occupies the 1905 building erected by the Flanders Presbyterian congregation. The current Flanders United Presbyterian Church, of modern vintage, is on Drakesdale Road.

Bear right at the intersection and travel to the light on Route 206. Proceed directly over the highway. At the stop sign, turn left. Make the right onto River Road, and continue until Flanders-Drakestown Road on the right. Follow until just prior to the intersection with Mt. Olive Road, and the historical marker and buildings of Mt. Olive Village will be on the left. The private home to your left was the Presbyterian church, circa 1852.

Turn left onto Mt. Olive Road, take Route 46 westbound, and proceed to Sandshore Road, on the right. The Budd Lake Union Chapel is on the right. Turn onto the side street alongside the Chapel for parking, and to proceed back to Route 46. From here, Route 80/206 interchanges can be accessed, via Route 46 eastbound, several miles down the road.

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Christine Izzo
03 May 2015, 14:41
I am looking for Mary Caroline Burd, William G. King, Adam King and Margaret Grant King. Mary Caroline Burd, dau. of Bartholomew Burd and Sarah Prudden Burd moved to Hanover from Morristown about 1830. She is in Hanover with husband William King on the 1840 census. Does anyone have any info, documents? Marriage info, esp reference to William being son of Adam King.
Jan Douglas Stephens
20 Nov 2013, 10:24
I am the 6th ggs of Richard and Dolly Stephens . I have some knowledge of Samuel and Daniel .Samuel is my 5th ggf .His son Richard II moved his family to Knox County Illinois in 1827, where we have remained ever since . Inquiries are invited . Jan Stephens 407 South Market , Knoxville ,.Illinois61448
Marda Olson
24 Apr 2013, 08:44
Hello: I am looking for information on Jemima Minthorn, born sometime between 1728 and 1732. There is confusion about her parents; some say they were William and Mary Gilbert from Connecticut. Jemima married Caleb Leonard January 27, 1748 in the first Presbyterian Church of Morristown. Caleb's family is well known. I am interested in a birth date for Jemima and the name of her parents if possible. I would also be interested in knowing her death date and location. It is thought that she died sometime in 1768 in Mendham. Thank you, Marda
Christine Izzo
28 Feb 2013, 14:32
I am looking for information on John Prudden who joined the congragation of Black River May 25, 1801.
Mike H Mendham
20 Jun 2011, 21:18
I was looking at a map of the east coast of the USA ,looking at name's that I new from when I lived in England U/K . The first one that hit me was my Name family has had this name for years ,then there is my old home town of King"s Lynn Norfolk,I was thinking did some of my ansecters come over here. we found out MENDHAM mean's in old English (bend in the river .or river bank bend.
Marie Mikolich
17 Apr 2011, 14:47
Hello: I am hoping to find information regarding the family of Levi Lewis. A potential ancestor of mine, Rhoda Dawdey (daughter of James Dawdey) of NJ was said to have been sent to live with Levi Lewis at age 4...about 1757.James was involved in the French Indian Wars at that time. Rhoda mentions that she lived with Levi Lewis until age 20 at which time she left to work for others until her marriage to John Curry(which took place in Washington Twp, Morris Co). If anyone can help me with Levi Lewis, I would greatly appreciate it. Best Regards, Marie Mikolich, Ontario, Canada
Sandra Forgione
14 Jan 2011, 21:22
Hi,\r\n\r\nCan you help me with finding out more history on Lane Night Church near Hopewell. My great-grandparents married there, Howard and Carrie Goddard, 1891. Thank you.
Jack Mc Closkey
28 Sep 2010, 06:25
I am doing a family tree of the Millham's of Newton,NJ in the 1700-1800 timeframe.\r\nWould anyone have any information or can give me some direction to search?\r\n\r\nAny help would be appreciated.
Mrs. Susan Perry-Graham
01 Mar 2010, 11:02
March 1, 2010\r\n\r\nHave discovered the location of the "Anniversary Sermon of Mt. Olive Presbyterian Church - January 1884" by Rev. David James, where Dolly Landon-Stephens (1742-1839)made a polictic comment/speech at Church. The Sermon can be located in the book "Early Germans of New Jersey Their History, Churches & Genealogies, By Theodore Frelinghuysen Chambers, (Dover, NJ 1895). It is located in Appendix III. Mount Olive Churches [pp. 612-618 (seq. 736-746)]. On page 613, Rev. David James states the story: "....Among the first ministers who preached in the log house for the Baptists, was the Rev. Mr. Reune Runion, who served some of the time during the Revoultionary War. It is related of him that on a certain Sabbath, in the winter 1777, there was a meeting in the log church, when he preached, being favorably disposed toward the British, and as they had been successful in most of the recent battles, he took occasion in his prayer to thank the Lord that the Americans had been over come and that an end of the war would soon follow. This was very pleasing to those who agreed with him, but very displeasing to many who did not. During the intermission (for it was the custom then to have an intermission of forty or fifty minutes, and then a second service), those who favored the sentiment expressed in the prayer were rejoicing over it, when DOLLY (LANDON) STEPHENS (ca 1742-1839)the wife of RICHARD STEPHENS(1732-1792), who was in the Army, remarked, "THERE IS GREAT REJOICING AMONG THE TORIES TO-DAY, BUT I TRUST IN THE LORD, THAT THEIR TURN WILL BE TURNED BEFORE THIS DAY WEEK". And true it was, for that week the Battle of Princeton was fought, January 3, 1777 and the British were routed."\r\n\r\nOn Page 612, the Rev. David James who gave the historical address in Jan. 1884 speaks of the family of Captain Peter Salmon (1740-1825) and Richard Stephens. Rev. James recalls a story that use to be "related with delight" by Dolly Landon-Stephens, daughter Priscilla Stephens-Salmon (who married Peter Salmon, Jr.). "When (Priscilla) was about four years old her father, Richard Stephens ENTERED THE ARMY OF WASHINGTON, then quartered at Morristown. He left his wife and seven little children in that log house (that was just down the road from the Church) and joined the troops. One morning, it must have been in the Winter of 1779, her mother was standing on the stone step in front of the house, when she heard the dying echoes of the roard of a cannon over the hills. The tears dropped from her eyes and as she wiped them away with her apron, the little children came about her and inquired why she was crying. She replied, "your father will never come home again," supposing that he would fall in the battle. But he did return alive and well, and lived many years to enjoy the blessings of that liberty which he fought to obtain."\r\nAlso noted in this book in Chapter XXIII. Settlers from Southold and Southampton, Long Island [pp. 199-205 seq. pp ?)] This book can be located at the Morris County, NJ Library-Germany Genealogical Sources (NJ 929.3 Cha).\r\nNOTE: In the old Mt. Olive Baptist Churchyard, there is 2 tombstones for Dolly. I assume the 2nd one relates her comment at Church in early January 1777.\r\nMrs. Susan Perry-Graham\r\ \r\nSusan Perry-Graham\r\
Kathy Guinn
26 Apr 2009, 13:01\r\n\r\nTry the above web address. It has the complete article by Gardner.\r\n\r\n
23 Jul 2008, 08:05
I am looking for any and all information anyone can help me with concerning my 5th great grandparents, Richard Stephens and Dorothy Landon. Both were born in the late 1700's and lived in Morris County, N.J. I especially am trying to find information about thier eldest son Samuel, Richard's parents, and any family history.\r\n thank you, Jim German\r\n\r\n Sebastopol, California \r\n
Sherry Vecellio
20 May 2008, 20:49
Is there anyway i can get a copy of death certificate oe a pickture of where\r\nJoseph Allen Born 1697 NJ died 3 27 1760 Woolwich Township,Monmouth Co, NJ\r\nThank You\r\nSherry
Betty Moldenhauer Eckert
15 May 2008, 18:32
Am seeking info on my great-grandfather Lewis J.(Jerome ?) Gardner. Born Sept. 30. 1839, Newton, Sussex Co., N.J. and died on Mar. 3,1921 in Gillespie Co., Tx. Supposedly parents are Amos and Susanna (Dickerson) Gardner from the Newton/Morristown area. Had a niece named Eva C. Laing who supposedly md. into the Laing fam. from the Scotch Plains area of New Jersey. My e-mail is Thank-you very much!!
Sherry Vecellio
07 May 2008, 19:31
I am looking for the Birth certicate of Joseph Allen Born 4 1 1697 Freehold,Monmouthh Co, NJ\r\nAnd death certicate also,died 3 27 1766 in Woolwich,Gloucester,NJ?\r\nSherry
Mary Stephens Sabor
14 Apr 2008, 08:22
To Susan Perry,\r\n\r\nI am in New Jersey. Would you like a photo of the headstone? I don't know how to find the speach.\r\n\r\nRespond on this page please because your email did not work.\r\n\r\nalso, I am 6th ggd of R Stephens and D Landon.\r\n\r\nMary
Susan Perry
16 Mar 2008, 23:28
Hello,\r\nWhere might I locate a polictic speech that supposedly was made by Dorothy "Dolly" (Landon) Stephens during the Rev. War. This speech may have been made at Church. Dolly was born abt. 1743, died Oct. 1, 1839. Buried at Mt. Olive Baptist Churchyard(Morris Co., NJ). Married to Capt. Richard Stephens (1732-1792).\r\n\r\nIn addition, where might I locate the "Anniversary Sermon of Mt. Olive Pres. Church 1884". This sermon may have mentioned Dolly's polictic speech/ I read in the "The Genealogical Magazine of NJ - October 1935 - The Landon Family of New Jersey; by Charles Carroll Gardner" states on page 5 "Dolly....Buried at Mt. Olive. (Anniversary Sermon of Mt. Olive Pres. Church 1884, and inscription on tombstone."\r\n\r\nI have viewed the list of names (online)in the churchyard, however there was no note regarding an inscription on her tombstone.\r\n\r\nAny assistance is most appreciated.\r\n\r\nThank you,\r\nSusan Perry;\r\nCornelius, NC\r\n(6th ggd of Dolly Landon)
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