The earliest authentic record of services held in Farmingdale, then known as Marsh's Bog, by Methodists, indicates Benjamin Abbott, while on his way to Long Branch from areas south and west of here, delivered the sermon. He was located at Long Branch and would ride the circuit to these rural areas. Gatherings for worship would take place on any day of the week, whenever the preacher arrived, and were held in homes or barns in the area or in the school house.
Thirty-four years later, 1827, the first church was erected on land donated by William
Little. It was a small modest structure, roughly finished. The church was made part of the Freehold circuit and the pulpit was served by two pastors, Rev. Levi M. Prettyman and Rev. James McLauren. This made it possible to have services on a more regular basis and to serve the community better.
Five years after this, in 1832, fifty new members were added to the church roll. The church was beginning to grow and in 1844, the first parsonage was built in this village now called Upper Squankum in the township of Howell. This gave the preacher a place to stop and spend a few days on his circuit ride. Upper Squankum was a growing community and the religious needs of the people were growing also. At this same time, 1844, the seating capacity of the church had become inadequate. Our forefathers knew a larger more modern place of worship needed to be constructed.
In 1848, a lot was purchased from Catherine Wainwright and one year later, in 1849, the corner stone was laid. In May of 1851, the new structure was completed at the site of our present church and dedicated. Among those who contributed liberally toward defraying the expense of construction was William Goodenough whose donations exceeded $300.00. At this time we were given a full time pastor, believed to be Rev. John L. Sauder.
By the year 1852, our church membership again was largely increased. In 1866, the church was enlarged. Improvements included the addition of a vestibule, class room, pulpit recess and spire. The cost of these additions were $5000.00. On January 1, 1867, renovations were completed and our church was again ready to serve it's members and the community. In 1868, through the energetic efforts of Rev. William Osborn, a new parsonage was built next to the church on Main Street at the cost of $3000.00.
For many years in our history West Farms Methodist Church and Farmingdale Methodist Church formed a circuit, sharing their pastor, growing together, celebrating their special events together and helping and supporting each other in their growth and church work. Eli Gifford served our churches from 1881 to 1883. Following several revival services the congregation membership doubled, Farmingdale increased by one hundred members and West Farms by forty-five.
In 1883, during a harsh electrical storm in June the church spire was struck by lightning and shattered. The damage seemed to be slight but the cost of repair was $75.00.
During the early 1890's, *(posted in the local newspaper on 10/25/1893) a pipe organ was purchased to enhance the worship service. Not too long after this, in 1893, a fire destroyed the church that had been built, nurtured, and loved so by the members and pastors that it served it. The cause of the fire was never exactly known, however, it was believed to have been caused by a defective flue. The building, the organ, and the hopes burned to the ground on a Sunday morning only a short time prior to the hour when services were to begin. There was no adequate means of
combating a fire of that magnitude as Farmingdale's First Hook and Ladder Company was not organized until 1903. Our church was lost but through the heroic and strenuous work of a bucket brigade, the parsonage, located only a few yards away, was saved.
This tragic event did not discourage the strength of this group of Christians. Worship services continued. For some time, members worshiped in Odd Follows Hall, a building located near the main Street crossing of the New Jersey Central Railroad. In 1894, Rev. William Wedderspoon succeeded Rev. Samuel E. Post. Immediate action was taken to replace the burned church. Rev. Wedderspoon, with the hearty cooperation of members and friends of the church, succeeded in building the house of worship we now sit in one hundred years later. The cost of the building which included the sanctuary, Sunday School room, and kitchen (our present library) was $12,000.00.
A Paper retrieved from the corner stone opened September 25, 1994 indicated the building committee was composed of three prominent church members: A. A. Yard, James Flitcroft, and Joseph Winsor. Listed also were many members and friends of the church that gave a donation towards its construction in the amount of $1.00 each.
The foundation was laid by Harry Hulsart. The bricks were from the brickyard owned by the Lippincott family on Tinton Falls Road across Route 33. The corner stone was laid in May of 1894, and the construction of the wooded frame began. The stately Victorian, Gothic structure was very difficult to construct as it had no internal supports. The frame work was nailed together on the ground and then raised into place by ropes pulled by horses and men. The south wall of the sanctuary bellows out. This is because after being raised into place it was not properly secured. During the night a heavy storm pushed it out of place and buckled the timbers. Since they were unable to restore and realign it properly they built around the bulge.
The beautiful stain glass windows were given by individuals in memory of loved ones and purchased in Philadelphia. The original pews were given to us by a church in Long Branch when they purchased new ones. The organ, a manual pipe organ was purchased from the Hook and Hustings firm of Boston, Massachusetts, definitely the pride of the congregation.
The interior donned all the nostalgia of the period including wanes coating paneling, sculptured tin ceiling, which at the up most section gave to the shape a cross, and large hanging oil lamps. Large sliding windows connected the sanctuary to the Sunday School room and when open increased the capacity of the church to near six hundred.
On the outside all could enjoy the large gables, stately spire and Victorian gingerbread finish. For the convenience of the parishioners there was a porte-cochere and carriage porch. Church goers could step right from their horse and drawn buggy onto the porch and into the sanctuary. In the bell tower was a large bell which rang on Sunday mornings calling all to come when rung and was removed not to be replaced until about four years
Thursday, September 6, 1894, through Sunday September 9, 1894, gave way to four days of celebration and dedication services of the New Farmingdale Methodist Episcopal Church. Farmingdale again had a Methodist church. A building truly to be proud of.
Written by Anne Willuweit October 1994
* Below is a PDF of the 10-25-1893 Newspaper which mentions the new Pipe Organ, 3rd sentence on Page 8.