This is the seventh in a series of excerpts from “A Journey of Faith for 150 years: A history of the Princeton United Methodist Church” by Ruth L. Woodward, Copyright 1997.
First mission to what is now Baker’s Basin, Reverend Henry Westwood leads the first ‘Every Member Visitation’
There were other problems besides money. In April 1863 the Secretary of the Official Board was directed “to inform Mrs. Cocks that the practice of throwing slops in the Alley next the Church must be discontinued.” The next month the Board resolved to “recommend earnestly to the members of this Church to attend regularly and punctually the meetings of the Thursday Night Prayer Meeting.”
However, money, or the lack of it, was a constant nagging problem. There seemed to be constant coal bills to be paid. And Brother William Leggett, the long-suffering sexton of the church, frequently threatened to leave. His salary was almost always in arrears and he received no raises, but his devotion to’ his church always persuaded him to remain. At one point he was owed $87.25 in back salary, while the church treasury showed a balance of $1.83. In June, 1864, the church was forced to borrow $275. $105.25 of this went to the sexton, so that he was considered paid in full through the previous April 1. It had been decided to rent the office attached to the parsonage, as well as a house on the rear of the property, and this brought in a small income.
In spite of the scarcity of funds there was outreach. In the spring of 1864 there is mention of the “Brethren of Princessville.” Princessville was a small settlement in Lawrence Township near the Princeton-Kingston Turnpike, now the Princeton Pike, in the area that later came to be known as Baker’s Basin. The Reverend Edmund Hance was the minister at this time and he was authorized “to procure a conveyance to Princessville every Sabbath afternoon (at the expense of this Church) until next Quarterly Conference.”
It is not clear whether this was an attempt to start a new congregation, or a method of attracting the residents of Princessville as prospective members.
The following year it was announced that there would be a basket collection at the Sunday morning and evening service13 for “the cause of missions.”
In 1865 the Trustees were still desperately trying to keep the church solvent. There was $31.00 on hand, with five months’ salary due the sexton. From collections there were receipts of $158.63 and disbursements of $158.54, leaving a balance of 9¢. Funds also came in from the Harvest Home, a Concert, the Mite Society, and the rent of the tenant house, but much of this was used for coal bills from the previous winter and. interest on indebtedness. The minister’s salary was $600 per year for 1864 and 1865, and in October of the latter year a committee was appointed ”to devise a plan to raise the Salary of the Pastor.” 1865 ended with $8.34 in the Treasury; by spring it had been depleted to $6.94.
Still, the Trustees did not let themselves become completely preoccupied with money-raising. Shortly after the arrival of the Reverend Henry Westwood as pastor they conferred with him “in regard to the manner of receiving members by certificate, so that more cordiality, and a better acquaintance may result,” and “regarding times for administering Sacraments.” And the Sexton was directed to rent a pew or pews to the students attending church, indicating that at least a few of the young men were finding their way across Nassau Street. But there was still $50 owing to poor Brother Leggett, to be paid from the first money received from any source whatever. The next year his salary was raised to $8.00 per month, but it is questionable whether he ever received it on time.
In September 1866 an early form of Every Member Canvass was devised, with the membership divided into districts and collectors assigned to each district. Each collector was furnished with a small book “arranged in tabular form” and was given instructions on how to proceed with the collections. Assessments ranged from 1 O¢ to $1.00 each month, with 98 family units represented. Having set this up, “Hoping and believing that the Lord will abundantly bless and prosper this financial effort your Committee beg leave to be discharged.”