New Proviterians

Yup that is a Presbyterian church all right.

I’ve been holding off on posting anything about New Providence’s Presbyterian Church because it’s daunting. This church is the namesake of the town; it was largely the reason that New Providence is a town at all.

The Society of Presbyterians built their first temporary meetinghouse right here in 1737 (17 years after the first settlers settled), and they built their first permanent church in 1739.

According to Frank Orleans (1977),

Our village, then known as Turkey, sprang up in and adjacent to this one hundred acre plot simply because of the crossroads which were the routes of travel from Westfield to Morristown and from Springfield to Basking Ridge and because the Turkey [Presbyterian] meeting house had been established there.

Allegedly, sometime around 1759, the balcony of that old Presbyterian church collapsed. Amazingly, nobody was killed. Townspeople cried that this miracle was due to Divine Providence, so they renamed the town from “Turkey” to “New Providence.” (Mapmakers took another hundred years to figure out that they really had changed the name, and there isn’t a lot of evidence for the whole 1759 thing, but I’ll get into that some other time.)

New Providence Presbyterian Church, c. 1910

The 1739 church, despite its collapsed balcony, lasted until 1834, when it was demolished to make way for the structure you see nowadays. (In the photo above, that big ol’ fire gong was installed after the fire company was organized in 1903.)

 

References:

Gonczlik, J. & Coddington, J. (1998). Images of America: New Providence. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC.

Orleans, F.W. (1977). Church of Our Lady of Peace. Custombook, Inc.: South Hackensack, NJ.

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9 Responses to “New Proviterians”

  1. Seems as good a reason as any to name a town. Word of mouth history is one thing but after a hundred years you are left with what is written and the little that remains of that. In our own small way I think that we CDP bloggers are writing some of the history of our communities.

    • You’re right, Paul. When I look through these old history books, the old photos seem to have been taken in the same spirit I take mine in. We’re documenting life around us; maybe that’ll be amusing for someone tomorrow, and maybe it’ll be useful for someone 50 years in the future. It’s neat to think about.

  2. Is the fire gong in the last photo the same one now outside the Fire House on Floral Avenue?

    • Good question. I have no idea! I haven’t checked out the modern fire department yet. That’ll be my next excursion. 🙂

    • Updated comment: Now that I’ve seen the one on Floral Avenue… no, I don’t think they’re the same one. As far as I can tell, it’s just a random old one that New Providence found somewhere and claimed for its own about a decade ago.

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