Journey of Faith IX: Rev. McAnney and Eddie Durrell

Sunday School Classroom in the basement



‘Unheralded’ Reverend Charles H. McAnney, proves to be an ‘evangelistic preacher of great power,’ serving 1885-1888 when Eddie Durrell was a university student, (Eddie was later commemorated by the Tiffany St. George window)

This is the ninth 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.

(Part 9 of “A Journey of Faith for 150 years” by Ruth L. Woodward)

The Reverend Joseph G. Reed came to Princeton in the spring of 1881 and left within a year because of illness. He was replaced by Samuel F. Gaskill who, according to an undated resolution in the church archives, was unable to meet the needs of the church.

Resolved, That the members of the Princeton Quarterly Conference feel it incumbent upon them to declare, in view of the approaching annual conference, that during the past year our Church has suffered in a very marked degree by the sickness and consequent withdrawal of the Pastor appointed by the last annual conference: -We also acknowledge that the selection of Bro. S. F. Gaskell [sic] to fill the vacancy thus created was probably the best that could have been done under the circumstances, and we further bear testimony that both he and his estimable wife have done everything it was possible for them to do to revive the drooping interests of the church: -they have been earnest, devoted, and self-sacrificing -yet, we must confess, their devotion and labor have availed but little in overcoming the unfavorable circumstances surrounding them: We feel therefore that in justice to them, they ought not to be subject to another year of similar trial and forbearance in this charge.

And further, in view of our weakened condition, we most respectfully and yet earnestly ask for the appointment of a single man for the coming year.

Gaskill was followed in 1883 by John S. Parker, who had been married for three years. The appointment may have been at Parker’s request. While serving in Princeton he matriculated at the College of New Jersey, receiving his degree in 1886 while pastor of the church in nearby Windsor.

He was granted the A.M. degree in 1889. His successor in 1885, the Reverend Charles H. McAnney, was said to be an evangelistic preacher of great power. At the end of his tenure, in March 1888, the Official had a resolution of approbation added to the minutes of the Quarterly Conference.

Resolved, That the members of the Quarterly Conference of the Princeton Methodist Episcopal Church, in Conference assembled, cannot let this opportunity pass, without giving expression to their opinion of the Pastorate of Rev. Charles H. McAnney for the 3 years now about to end, and to express their cordial approbation of most of the methods adopted by him during his entire term. He came to us unheralded and unknown, and by the force of his wonderful ability in the pulpit, his boldness and sincerity in dealing with sinners whether in or outside the church, and his enthusiasm for the cause of Methodism which was not abated or affected by the staid conservatism of his surroundings, he has raised up the Princeton Methodist Church to a position never before attained by the labors of any of his predecessors. And while we are conscious that at time errors have been committed, because to “err is human,” yet we recognize the fact that God has blessed his labors in a most wonderful way. We also deeply regret that the policy of the Methodist Church requires his removal from us at this time and we most cordially and heartily commend him to’ his new charge as one worthy of the love, esteem and affection of good people every where.

For some time the ministers, as well as the sexton, had been paid regularly each month. However, by March 1895, when the Reverend Joseph Dilks arrived, it was deemed necessary to secure a note from the Princeton Bank in the amount of $175, $144 of which would care for the pastor’s salary for April and May. In spite of this, there must have been money in reserve, for in June it was decided to paint and paper the interior of the church, to put in new seats and carpeting, and to alter the galleries.

In September 1895 eight young men were appointed to act as ushers and take up collections. The collections were probably the basket collections received at church services, since there are many earlier references to class leaders getting collections from members, and also mention of a salaried Collector. At the beginning of 1896 it was voted to use the envelope and pledge card system, which is still being used today. ‘One member needed to be informed that his pledge of I¢ per week was unacceptable; no amount less than 5¢ per week would be allowed.

In 1897 there was some informal talk about the possibility of observing the semi-centennial of the church, but nothing seems to have come of this. Within a few years the church was involved first in the building of a new parsonage, and then in the major project of building and paying for a beautiful new building. A sense of commitment and cooperation was apparent as members worked to accomplish these goals.

A Journey of Faith III: The First Sanctuary in 1849

This is the third 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.

A local historian paid tribute to the ”tact, energy and enterprise” of Joseph Ashbrook as he set about his daunting task of building both a congregation and a church structure. His congregation was small and certainly not wealthy. Most lived within walking distance of the plot where the new church was to be built, with some members driving wagons or buggies from outlying farms. For many years the membership was comprised mainly of small businessmen or artisans, with the addition of a few professional men and a small number of farmers. With the exception of some teachers, the women remained at home to care for households and children.

Joseph Ashbrook took advantage of a unique opportunity to establish rapport with members of the college administration. In October of 1846 the College of New Jersey had been established for one hundred years; however the actual anniversary would have conflicted with sessions of the Presbyterian synods. The Centennial was therefore celebrated at the June 29th commencement of 1847, when the members of the one hundredth Senior Class received their degrees.

Although the college had rooms large enough to hold the meetings scheduled for the special event, there was no space large enough to comfortably seat such a large crowd while serving a meal. When Ashbrook learned of this dilemma he offered to procure a large tent, actually a camp meeting tent belonging to one of the Philadelphia Methodist churches. When the tent arrived in town Ashbrook supervised the raising of the tent, and he later oversaw the men who took it down and repacked it for its return to Philadelphia. He refused any payment for this, except for the cost of transporting the tent. However, when work was started on his church Ashbrook did not hesitate to approach the members of the College’s Centennial Committee to solicit pledges for the building fund.

At the centennial celebration, dinner was served to over 700 people “under a spacious and beautiful tent, on a verdant lawn, behind the old College edifice.” Newspaper accounts of the Centennial Celebration emphasize that all of the toasts that day were drunk in either “clear, cold water” or lemonade. This was probably not so much a bow to Methodism’s strong stand on temperance, as the great popularity of temperance societies at that time. In any case, it was fortuitous that the drinks were not any stronger, since thirteen formal toasts were proposed, followed by ten informal toasts.

The new brick church building, consisting of two stories and a basement, measured 66 by 48 feet. With a gallery, it could seat about 600 people. The lecture room in the basement could seat 225, and there were two large class rooms and a library adjoining the lecture room. The total cost of construction was $6,000 and it would serve the congregation for more than half a century.

When first constructed the church had two front entrances, one step above ground level, which led into separate vestibules. From each of these there were three steps down to the lecture room, which was used for Sunday School, prayer meetings, church suppers and various types of entertainment. Winding stairs led up to the church vestibule on the main floor. These winding stairs at each end continued up to side galleries on the second floor and the choir loft in back. At a later date a flight of outdoor stairs was added, with a central door leading directly into the sanctuary vestibule. At some time the side galleries on the top floor were removed and eventually the choir loft was moved to the northwest corner of the main floor of the sanctuary, just west of the pulpit.

After the new main entrance to the church was built only the west door to the basement was used, and the vestibule on the eastern end became a storeroom. The back entrance to the basement led to a room that may have been originally intended for the library, but for a number of years this room was rented to a private day school. Horse and carriage sheds ran along the back and part of the east side of the church lot, with an outdoor storage room in the corner where the two rows of sheds met. And, of course, there was a privy in the back of the lot.

Services were held in the new structure as soon as the basement could be utilized; however, the Reverend Ashbrook was required to leave before the interior was completed. Methodist ministers at that time were not allowed more than a two-year tenure in one church, and when Conference met in the spring of 1849 Ashbrook was assigned to his next charge in Flemington. The building that his efforts had helped to raise was dedicated the following fall. A junior preacher, C. Rutherford, assisted Ashbrook during his first year, and A. K. Street, during his second. Since these men were not members of the New Jersey Conference and since seminary training was not a requirement at that time, they were probably serving an apprenticeship under Ashbrook. They would have been assigned most of the preaching in the outlying areas of the Princeton Circuit.

A Journey of Faith: 1847-1848: Methodists Weren’t Very Welcome


How Presbyterians Almost Kept Methodists from Buying Land

This is the second 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. 

….The first task facing the new minister, Rev. Ashworth, was to secure a plot of land on which to build his church.

As the home of the College of New Jersey (which became Princeton University in 1896) and the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton was dominated by Presbyterians. The entire faculty of the Seminary were Presbyterian clergymen, and the College had only a few non-ministerial members on its faculty. Tales of enthusiastic singing and noisy conversions at camp meetings gave the Methodists a reputation among the more sedate Presbyterians of being loud and lacking in dignity, perhaps verging on rowdyism. It was thought that these Methodists would certainly be a bad influence on the college and seminary students, and a subtle form of discrimination was exerted, making it difficult to secure a suitable plot of land on which to build.

The building that was both the home and medical office of Dr. Oliver Bartine occupied the land on what would later become the corner of Nassau Street and Vandeventer Avenue, although the latter street had not yet been cut through. The area of the present church building containing the Sanford Davis Room and the chapel occupies Dr. Bartine’s former lot. This property, as well as the adjoining lot which the new congregation wished to purchase, had once been part of the estate of Dr. Ebenezer Stockton, who had his home and office at Bainbridge House, the present home of the Historical Society of Princeton. All of this land had been part of the kitchen garden so necessary to homes at that time.

Stockton was the brother-in-law of the Reverend Ashbel Green, a staunch pillar of conservative Presbyterianism. During his tenure as president of the College of New Jersey, from 1812 to 1822, Green had strongly opposed any other religious groups coming into Princeton and possibly seducing his students from the straight and narrow road of Calvinism. The lot where the Methodists wished to build their church was owned by Alexander R. Boteler and his wife, Helen, descendants of Dr. Stockton, who were residing in Jefferson County, Virginia. Feeling that they might refuse to sell the land for the use of a Methodist church, they were not approached by representatives of the congregation.

Instead, Dr. Bartine purchased the property for $500 by a deed dated September 20, 1846, with the sellers probably assuming that he wished to enlarge his office. On November 30, 1848, he conveyed the property for the same price to the newly appointed Trustees of the Princeton Methodist Episcopal Church, a group which he served as president.


A Journey of Faith for 150 Years: 1786-1847

Nassau Street in the 1870s: Courtesy Howe Insurance

This is the first 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. 

This excerpt features Rev. David Bartine, the ‘spiritual godfather” of the Princeton Methodist Church (and the father of Dr. Oliver Bartine, who would procure the land for the first sanctuary), 

The earliest of the hard working, circuit riding, Methodist preachers in New Jersey covered the entire state as their circuit. They found New Jersey slow to welcome Methodism. The Society of Friends was dominant in the southern part of the state and’ northern New Jersey was largely Presbyterian, with strong pockets of Dutch Reformed communities. The central part of the state contained all three groups, and none particularly welcomed any competition.

As more Methodist ministers became available the state was divided into the East Jersey and West Jersey Circuits, roughly corresponding to our Northern and Southern New Jersey Annual Conferences today. As smaller divisions were formed the Trenton Circuit was established in 1786. It seems likely that some of the circuit riders held services in Princeton, and there are suggestions that an itinerant lay preacher visited here as early as 1791.

In 1802 the Reverend Ezekiel Cooper was the first ordained Methodist minister on record as having preached in Princeton. However, we should probably consider that the real beginnings of Methodism in Princeton coincide with the appointment of the Reverend David Bartine to the Trenton Circuit, and Bartine should certainly be honored as the spiritual godfather of the Princeton Methodist Church.

Born in Westchester County, New York, in 1767, Bartine first served as an assistant to Bishop Francis Asbury, which meant preaching at no specified salary in places where there were no churches. He later received his first appointment from Bishop Asbury, who admired his wonderful oratorical power.

Bartine spent forty-one years in the Methodist ministry, many of those years on circuits that required constant travel. During this time he held twenty-nine one-year appointments and six two-year appointments. His first assigment was to “preach, form circuits and prepare the ground for permanent congregations” in “all that part of the State of New York west of Albany and as far north as Canada.”

After this grueling assignment he was moved to New Jersey where, except for a few years across the river in Pennsylvania, he spent the remainder of his ministry. He must have had a rigorous constitution, since even when assigned to an already established Methodist church he was still expected to ride a circuit to the surrounding towns and countryside.

Bishop Asbury praised Bartine for his “splendid argumentative power in compelling the enemies of Methodism to respect her.” Bartine apparently enjoyed engaging in logical debates, in what was described as “a cold steel-like manner,” without showing anger, but cooly presenting clear and logical arguments. One of his favorite gambits was to go into a store with his Bible in hand, and force a controversy on some text with the local men gathered there. Then he would calmly assert what he believed was right. He had a prodigious memory and could probably easily outquote any of his opponents.

As minister of the Trenton Circuit, Bartine first preached in Princeton in 1810 at the home of a Captain Blue, returning at intervals after that. However, it was not until 1841 or 1842 that a Methodist class was established by the Reverend C. H. Whitecar, meeting in the home of Samuel Stephens on Canal Street, now Alexander Street, with Mr. Stephens acting as the class leader.

Bartine’s second wife was Elizabeth Hunt of Cedar Grove, a small settlement several miles from the center of Princeton. Located on the Cedar Grove Road, now the Great Road, it contained a cluster of houses and farms, a one room school and a small general store. Mrs. Bartine remained in Cedar Grove, caring for the children of Bartine’s first marriage, along with their son Oliver, freeing her husband to travel more extensive and arduous circuits. Bartine finally retired to Cedar Grove in 1835.

In 1845 the Reverend T. T. Campfield held a series of revival meetings at Cedar Grove. The conversions that resulted from these meetings created enough enthusiasm to support the building of a small chapel the following year. Located about 100 yards southwest of the Great Road, it is described as a weatherboarded building painted white. David Bartine must certainly have been an enthusiastic supporter of this project, and the following year his son, Dr. Oliver Bartine, became a leading member of the group responsible for establishing a church in Princeton.

The elder Bartine’s influence probably was also felt under the leadership of the Reverend Israel Corbit, the second minister to serve Princeton, who had formerly served under Bartine in Camden, New Jersey. George Batchelder, eighth minister of the Princeton church, was not only converted under Bartine, but later became his son-in-law.

The revival meetings at Cedar Grove gave impetus to the group of Methodists already holding class meetings in Princeton to organize their own church. The New Jersey Conference had for some time been eager to establish a Methodist society to serve not only Princeton, but the surrounding area. However, the opposition of many of the townspeople had made it impossible to find a suitable location for a church at a resaonable price. Now, at the request of the local group, the Conference established a Princeton Circuit, and in April 1847 the Reverend Joseph Ashbrook was the first minister appointed to the new church, with the small congregation still meeting in members’ homes. The first task facing the new minister was to secure a plot of land on which to build his church.

Ruth Woodward, Pat Hatton: Quilt for ASP


A quilt designed by the late Ruth Woodward will be featured at the dinner auction, to benefit the Appalachia Service project, on Saturday, March 14 at 6 p.m. Ruth —  a PUMC member who was committed to missions — did not finish it before she died, so Patricia H. completed and donated the quilt.

Her pasttime was quilting, but in her professional life she was an historian, author,  and editor. She wrote the history of PUMC.  She co-edited at least two volumes of a biographical dictionary and was a supporter of, and the historian for, the Women’s College Club of Princeton.

The dinner and auction, in Princeton United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall, will be hosted by youth in grades 9 to 12. The evening also includes many bargains at a silent auction. All proceeds go to the annual service trip to Appalachia, where the teens work to make homes warmer, safer, and drier. Tickets are $5.

To complete the circle, Michele TuckPonder will “call” the auction for this quilt, and she lives in the Woodward’s former house.
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