In 1652, George Fox (1624-1691) had a vision on Pendle Hill in Lancashire, England of "a great people to be gathered". This was the beginning of the Quaker movement. It is also known as The Religious Society of Friends. Shrewsbury, New Jersey is the oldest rural religious congregation (1664).
The current property was purchased in 1689 and new Meeting House erected. This Friends settlement comes under the supervision of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM). An interesting highlight in 1757 is that the congregation disowns one of their members for buying a slave. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) does not recommend disownment, but does advise against participating in slavery. The Shrewsbury Meeting House acts independently of the PYM in taking this action.
A fire destroys the Meeting House in 1810 and a new one erected in 1816 on the same property. It is the first two-story double cell design in New Jersey. Double cell meaning, the women worship on one side of the church and men worship on the opposite side. Between 1830-1850 large groups of people, including the Shrewsbury Friends, move west and acquire land in Ohio, Illinois and further west. The membership here is depleted.
Jumping to the 1940's, the Meeting House is placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Friends begin holding weekly meetings anew in Shrewsbury. A fire damages part of the building and it was renovated to its present appearance. (information given by Shrewsbury Friends Meeting)
Shrewsbury Friends continue meeting regularly in this church today and contribute to the understanding of local history by participating in the annual Lantern Tour each December.
The Shrewsbury Memorial Garden was erected after 9/11 and consists of a gazebo, garden area and bricked walkway. A statue was placed at this tranquil spot in honor of two individuals from Shrewsbury who lost their lives as a result of this tragedy. It is located at our municipal complex on Sycamore Road and is the result of donations given by residents of Shrewsbury.
Many of our residents commute to Manhattan and felt a kinship to those who were lost. Each of us knew someone who was part of our family, our church, our schools or our neighborhood who perished.
Sitting a block or so down from the historic corner and on Sycamore Avenue, you'll see this quaint, white clapboard Presbyterian church.
Presbyterian activity came to this area around 1705 when John Boyd was ordained as the first minister in this county. The Shrewsbury Presbyterian church was officially founded in 1732 and a building was erected in 1735, but deteriorated through the years and had to be torn down. A new church was built in 1822 and sits at its present location on Sycamore Avenue. A bell tower was added in the 1840's. (from Shrewsbury-Images of America,Arcadia Publishing)
This church is part of the annual Shrewsbury Lantern Tour, adding some drama to the event. A costumed character portraying an early pastor of the church gives a sample of his Sunday sermon, as British soldiers surround the church forcing him to run for his life for this congregation was sympathetic to the Patriot cause. The drama is enhanced with sound effects which add to the excitement.
Shrewsbury Presbyterian has the distinction of being one of four churches that constituted the Presbyterian Church in Monmouth County to have the oldest known corporate seal of any American Presbyterian Church. The seal depicts a circle containing a bush and the words "Religious Liberty" within an eight pointed star. (information provided by The Presbyterian Church At Shrewsbury).
This magnificent church was located on the opposite corner from the Allen House.
Historic records seem to indicate that Christ Church had its origin on Christmas, 1702. The white clapboard structure at its present location at the S.E. corner of Sycamore Avenue and Broad Street was constructed in 1732.
Christ Church has a collection of artifacts such as chalices, plates and other ceremonial pieces. Some of these pieces were given by The Lord Chamberlain's office as standard issue gifts to colonial governors for presentation to the parish of the governor's choice. These are shown to the public during special occasions and the annual Shrewsbury Lantern Tour. (from Shrewsbury-Images of America, Arcadia Publishing)
A 10 foot square clock tower was constructed in 1874 by Lambert Borden, a local master carpenter. A few years ago, the community donated funds to get this clock in working order once again. It faithfully chimes out the hour each day. Atop this tower, sits a crown representing a royalist connection during the Revolution.
We learned at the Lantern Tour that Benjamin Franklin's son came to visit this church when he was Governor of New Jersey, most likely sitting beneath one of the canopy-covered pews stationed on each side of the sanctuary which were reserved for important visitors.
A fascinating feature of this little church, is that several tombstones are set into the floor from the 1700's, reminiscent of the grand cathedrals of Europe.
When we lived in Shrewsbury, the historic corner at Sycamore and Broad Streets held several sites that interested us.
The Allen house, built in the late 17th century by Judah Allen and is in the Dutch style, began life as a tavern. In the late 18th century its name was listed as The Blue Ball Tavern, owned by Josiah Halstead and accepted as the center of socializing for the town of Shrewsbury.
Through the years it was utilized as a general store, which also contained the post office; a shop where ice cream was sold or where folks could tarry over a cup of tea and once even an antique store. It was also used as a private residence. In the 1970's the Monmouth County Historical Society bought the house and restored it as a museum.
The Allen House is part of the annual Shrewsbury Lantern Tour, but is also open for tours most other days, as well. This past December, costumed characters presented a period concert, which was very entertaining!