Here are two versions of the history of the Amwell Church of the Brethren in Hunterdon County. The first was written by Jonathan M. Hoppock and published in the Democrat-Advertiser on October 17, 1901. Short and sweet. The second one, a little bit longer, was written by Egbert T. Bush and published in the Hunterdon County Democrat on March 26, 1931. Mr. Bush’s ‘history’ is truncated, and as he put it— “it is not the intent to give here anything more than the merest sketch of church history, an indispensable part in any sketch of the community.” He was always more interested in the members of a community than institutional histories, and so he spends more time on those who were buried in the three cemeteries associated with the church members.
These two were among the many histories that have been written of this church over the years. I would like to add my own to the stack, but am not quite ready to publish, so it seems fitting to begin with Messrs.’ Hoppock and Bush, with just a few comments in the Bush article.
AMWELL GERMAN BAPTIST CHURCH, 1733-1901
by Jonathan M. Hoppock
The first church of this denomination in the United States was organized at Germantown, Pa., in the Fall of the year 1719, by Rev. Peter Beckers and his followers. They had their origin among the Pietists in Germany, in the year 1708. Not being allowed the religious liberty claimed by them in the mother country, they in consequence sought and found a home in the New World.
In the year 1733, Rev. John Naas, Anthony Deerdorf, Jacob Moore, Rudolph Harley and John Peter Lawshe crossed the Delaware, with their families, from Germantown, and settled near Head Quarters, now Grover, forming the second church of this denomination in America, likewise constituting the first organized religious body that had an existence in what is now known as Delaware Township. No permanent house of worship was erected until the year 1811, when a plain frame building, less pretentious than the present one, was built. The one shown in this view was erected in 1856.
The old pioneers above named were among the first people who made permanent settlements in this part of our County, and they materially aided in opening up and developing this section of New Jersey for future settlers. Their descendants have for nearly two centuries been classified among our leading citizens. Although their growth in numbers in this locality has not been rapid, yet from time to time from the Mother Churches ministers and laymen have been sent to the West and South, and mainly through their efforts their communicants in their respective sections are numbered by the thousands.
Among the many pastors who have officiated since the church first organized, the longest in service was Rev. Israel Poulson, Sen., who served for more than fifty years, receiving no pay for his labor.
* * * * *
THE GERMAN BAPTIST CHURCH AND VICINITY
Rev. Israel Poulson Married Three Sisters in Succession
Moore Family Predominates
By Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N.J.
published in the Hunterdon County Democrat, March 26, 1931
This church is not old as church organizations run, but the community is an old one. The building stands on ground conveyed by Israel Poulson and wife, May 18, 1811, to Gideon Moore, Samuel Fauss and Henry Lawshe, Trustees of the German Baptist Church: “Beginning at a stone standing in the road in line of John Arnwine’s land and containing about 21/40 of an acre, whereon the frame for the said intended meeting house is now standing, the said lot of ground to be for the purpose of erecting or building and rebuilding a German Meeting house upon the same for worship therein.”1
The grantor in this conveyance was the widely-known “Old Israel,” affectionately so called after his son Israel began to preach. Old Israel married for his first wife a daughter of Daniel Moore. His second wife was her sister Hannah, and by this one he had several children, “young Israel” among them. The second wife died, and “Old Israel” married her sister, then Mary Moore Lawshe, the grandmother of Cyrus Van Dolah.2
It is evident that there were many people here holding to the faith of the German Baptists long before the meeting house was erected. This organization may well be said to have grown out of the spiritual demands of the community. For forty-five years the unpretentious building witnessed the weekly gatherings and simple devotions of these earnest old-time people. In 1856 the old building was demolished, and a new one was erected on its site, a building better adapted to growing needs of the congregation. This house is still standing. Instead of being neglected, as too often happens, it is well kept, attractive in appearance, and a credit to the community.3
With the passing of the old house, also passed the dear “Old Israel,” who had labored here from its erection; and not confining his unrequited labors to this immediate congregation, he also preached at stated times in the “Hemlock Church” after its erection in 1849, this congregation being an offshoot from the strong and growing “Lower Church.”4 After the death of the old pastor, Feb. 13, 1856, his son Israel followed in the work, laboring here and at the Hemlock for many years. The present congregation is served by Rev. Henry T. Horne. But it is not the intent to give here anything more than the merest sketch of church history, an indispensable part in any sketch of the community.
Long before and in the earlier days of this church organization, the community burying grounds seem to have been somewhat scattered, one being what was known as the Moore Burying Ground, three-fourths of a mile southeast of the church, near the Moore’s School. We are told that Gideon Moore offered to the congregation a plot of ground free of charge, if they would establish a cemetery near the church. The offer was accepted and interments were soon after made therein. In 1840, a substantial stone wall was built around the plot, and this wall is still standing in excellent condition. The grounds have since been extended and beautified, making them an interesting spot to visit for reflection upon the lives and activities of those now resting there.
The stone showing the earliest date discovered in this yard marks the grave of Rachel, wife of Elias Conover, who died in 1811, in the 33d year of her age. Here lies “Rhoda Moore, wife of Tunis Case, who died in 1812, aged 56 years.” Elizabeth Case died in 1822, at the age of 21. Another stone is in memory of Mary Case, who died in 1816, in her 93d year, but who she was is not noted.5
Married Three Sisters
The old-time pastor lies here, the stone saying “Israel Poulson, died Feb. 13, 1856, aged 86 years.” His wife, Hannah Moore, who died in 1832, lies near him. After the death of his wife Hannah, Israel married one of her sisters; and after the death of the second wife, he married another of Daniel Moore’s daughters, who was then Mary Moore Lawshe. This third wife was the grandmother of Cyrus Van Dolah.6
Mathias Peoplesdorf died in 1848, aged 91, and is resting here beside Rebecca Moore, his wife, who died in 1852, aged 92 years.7 Rebecca Peoplesdorf, their daughter, married Mitchel Hann, the leader of song in the Hemlock Church, and died in 1902, to sleep with her husband and her parents among the good old people there.8 Her sister, Mary Ann Peoplesdorf, married Charles Hann, and her sister Amanda married John Hann—these three husbands being brothers. This is a record in family history probably quite [as] unusual as that of Israel Poulson’s marriage to three sisters in succession.
“Daniel Moore, Sen. died May 1, 1860, aged 98 years.” But this was a later Daniel Moore. Henry Trimmer died in 1856, aged 82 years. Dinah Trimmer (probably his wife, but not so stated), died June 25, 1858, aged 90 years. James C. Green— ”Captain Green” of the Frog Tavern vicinity—died in 1865, at the age of 65 years. Mary Peoplesdorf, wife of James C. Green, died in 1891, at the age of 92. Near them lies Esther Peoplesdorf—”Hetty,” as we always knew her—sister to Mary Green and victim of dementia from early womanhood, who made her home with the Greens, and died in 1881, at the age of 85.
Hannah, wife of Jacob Lawshe, died in 1861, aged 89 years. Jacob Lawshe died in “1865 at the age of 99.” David Lawshe died in 1844, in the 27th year of his age. By his side lies his wife Elizabeth, who died 40 years later.
Daniel Moore’s Will
The will of Daniel Moore, dated April 3, 1805, and probated January 28, 1808, makes Gideon Moore and Israel Poulson his executors, provides well for his wife Elizabeth, and makes the following bequests: “To my son Gideon Moore, his heirs and assigns all that my messuage and farm situate in the township of Amwell and adjoining my home farm whereon he now resides, containing one hundred acres more or less, he paying to my executors the sum of two thousand four hundred dollars in four equal yearly payments &c.” He also gives to his sons David & Solomon, “the farm of one hundred acres, whereon I now do live, they to pay the sum at which it shall be appraised.”
He further orders that the residue of his estate shall be divided into fifteen equal shares; one to be for his wife Elizabeth, and one for each of his fourteen children. Daniel is said to have been the father of 20 children, but this will recognizes only fourteen, and explicitly says ten of these are by “my present wife,” and makes provision that if one of them died without heir, before receiving his or her share, it shall be divided among the survivors of the ten. Among these he mentions seven daughters as follows: Hannah Poulson, Mary Lawshe, Sarah Prall, Judith Tice, Rhoda Moore, Anna Moore and Agnes Moore.
The farm devised by Daniel Moore to his son Gideon, passed from Gideon to his son Asa, and by will of the said Asa to his son Gideon. At the death of Asa’s son Gideon, the property passed to his two children—Mary Whitlock and Theodore S. Moore, who conveyed it, March 23, 1911, to Albert W. Servis, the present owner and occupant.
The stone mansion house on this farm has a datestone bearing this inscription: “A. & M. M., 1842.” This means that Asa Moore and Mary, his wife, were the builders. The frame part of the house, which still glories in its exposed overhead beams, is much older. This structure was removed from its old site three or four hundred feet northward, to the far more desirable site of the new building, which commands a pleasant view to the east and southeast.
A Neglected Graveyard
Partly on this farm and partly on what is generally known as the William Moore farm adjoining it on the east is an old neglected grave yard, with many rough and unmarked stones and one slab which, despite its tumble-down condition, plainly bears this inscription: “Sacred to the Memory of Jerusha, formerly wife of Peter Taylor and late wife of James Jones, died Aug. 29, 1823, aged 72 years.” According to the best information available, this James Jones was the father of Asa Jones, Sheriff of Hunterdon County in 1833-35; grandfather of John L. Jones, Sheriff in 1862-64; and great-grandfather of Asa Jones, Esq., until recently a resident of Flemington.
To this neglected spot, Mr. Servis kindly escorted us, crossing a rolling field that offers a fine view of several interesting old places, some near at hand and some far away. Much we enjoyed the scenes, the hospitality and the privilege of standing here among the graves of unknown sleepers, many of whom were once, no doubt, useful participants in the life and activities of this fine old community. This one slab seems to mark the approach of changing conditions, and to suggest the sadness of a sudden transference to more favored grounds.
This small burial place has one peculiarity, not noticeable to the transient observer. The boundary line between the two farms from which it was taken, runs diagonally from the northeast corner to the southwest, taking a triangular half of its area from each of the adjoining farms. The Jerusha-Taylor-Jones marker lies near the southwest corner, on the Servis side of the diagonal.
The New Hearse Appears
Many traditional items of interest center about these several old burial places. Most of these must be omitted, as must many of the good old names found therein. Cyrus Van Dolah relates from memory the following: In either 1861 or 1862, a daughter of Benjamin A. Holcombe was buried in the yard near the church.9 Samuel G. Stockton, the undertaker, had just purchased a hearse with glass sides—the first of the kind ever seen in the community. Many people gathered to see this curious innovation. Various comments and criticisms were overhead. Some felt that there was greater danger. The wheels might pick up stones and break the frail contraption; and then the extravagance! It cost ten dollars extra to be borne to the grave in this unseemly conveyance!
We find that by deed dated March 4, 1843, Jacob D. Moore conveyed to Asa Moore, a farm described as, “Beginning at a post for a corner in line of formerly Samuel Green, thence (1) . . . to land of Israel Poulson thence . . . to the northeast corner of a grave yard, thence south fifty-six degrees west one chain and forty links to the southwest corner of said yard . . . excepting the part of a grave yard that Gideon Moore excepted in his testament and last will. Being part of the lands that Gideon Moore devised to the said Jacob D. Moore by his will bearing date of the fifth day of February 1840.” Here again we come across the neglected old yard, and learn the length of the diagonal.
Daniel Moore appears to have been a large holder of lands here, as well as the holder of farm property elsewhere. We find that by deed dated June 15, 1808, Gideon Moore and Israel Poulson, executors of Daniel Moore, deceased, conveyed to Daniel Schamp, a farm situate in the township of Lebanon. And that by deed dated May 9, 1810, Solomon Moore conveyed to David Moore, Solomon’s equity in the farm devised by Daniel Moore to his two sons, David and Solomon, they to pay the appraised value thereof.
A Moore Community
While it would hardly be fair to call this an old-time Moore community, or to call it by any other family name, there was a very liberal sprinkling of the Moores hereabout. Perhaps at one time a greater number of people here bore that name than any other. And certainly this central old Gideon Moore farm was surrounded by numerous Moores and a wide expanse of Moore holdings. But, like many other good old names, the name Moore is disappearing, if it has not already disappeared, from the list of landed proprietors in this vicinity. There is a large admixture of Moore blood, both here and far afield. The numerous daughters of Daniel Moore and the female descendants of his sons have widely spread the blood, but under other names. Daniel’s lineal descendants, if not quite “as the sands of the seashore,” are so numerous and so scattered that they would be almost as hard to count.
- 21/40th of an acre? What an odd measurement. I had to ponder that for awhile. It seems to come from the old way of measuring land by perches (one perch being 16.5 feet). An acre was often measured as being 4 perches wide and 40 perches long, or 66 feet wide by 660 feet long. By this I calculate that a 21/40th of an acre would be 66 ft x 346.5 ft. ↩
- Mary Moore Lawshe (1777-1846) was the widow of Henry Lawshe (1757-1831) and daughter of Daniel Moore and Elizabeth Rouzer. See A Stroll Through the Moore Cemetery. ↩
- Almost 100 years later, the church building of 1856 was destroyed by fire. The community rebuilt the church on the same footprint in a style to match the old church as closely as possible. The photograph shown with the Hoppock article is of the church before the fire. ↩
- The Hemlock Church was located about two miles northeast of Croton. ↩
- The cemetery referred to and now known as the Lower Amwell Old Yard, did not exist until Gideon Moore gave a lot to the church about 1839-40. Apparently, that two of these three women were exhumed and reburied. Rachel, wife of Elias Conover, was the daughter of Rev. Israel Poulson and Hannah Moore, born about 1808 and died on January 13, 1841, not 1811. Apparently her stone is missing because it is not listed on Find-a-Grave. ↩
- It is my understanding that Hannah Moore was the second wife, and the first was her sister Esther Moore, born Jan. 23, 1770, died childless probably a year after marrying, about 1794/95. For more on Rev. Poulson, see Glen Eppelle. ↩
- Rebecca Moore Peoplesdorf was another child of Daniel Moore, by his first wife Catharine Storts. ↩
- Oh dear, Mr. Bush missed a generation. Rebecca Peoplesdorf was the granddaughter of Mathias and Rebecca, not the daughter. Her parents were Daniel Peoplesdorf (c.1794-1842) and Lorena/Lavinia Warman (c1800-1889). ↩
- Benjamin Anderson Holcombe (1830-1904) was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Lambertville with his wife Lydia Lawshe (1834-1920). Their daughters were also buried at Mt. Hope. It was Elizabeth Lawshe’s parents, David M. Lawshe and Elizabeth Ann Hice who were buried in the Lower Amwell Old Yard. ↩