CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY

FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH
aka
The Fourth Street Baptist Church
28 North 4th Street

 

FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

Illustration published in 1886

The following is derived from
George Reeser Prowell's
History of Camden County, New Jersey
published in 1886

THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF CAMDEN
By Rev. Isaac C. Wynn, D.D.

Early in the present century a few Baptists from Cohansey settled in Camden. They promptly united with the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, and, notwithstanding the difficulties and dangers of crossing the Delaware (with the rude facilities of the time), regularly attended its services. But provision for their own spiritual needs did not exhaust their sense of obligation. Loyalty to God and His truth, and an ardent desire for the salvation of men, demanded of them the preaching of the gospel to their own townsmen.

The Village Academy, located at Sixth and Market Streets, was their first public meeting-place. There, under the occasional ministry of Rev. Henry Halcomb, D.D., of Philadelphia, and others, began the work of the Baptist denomination in what is now the city of Camden. Soon a strong opposition revealed itself, that closed the doors of the Academy against the little band, whose only offense was faithful adherence to Scriptural teaching and practice.

Though subjected to great inconvenience by this privation, they pushed forward the work to which they believed God had called them with undaunted purpose and unabated ardor. Private houses were opened, and in them the villagers were invited to meet for prayer and conference, and to listen to the preaching of the gospel.

The first church organization was effected February 5, 1818.   Its constituents were Silvanus Sheppard, Phoebe Sheppard, Richard Johnson, Ann Johnson, Isaac Smith, Hannah Ludlam and Eleanor Sheppard. These all came by letters of dismissal from the First Church of Philadelphia. At the same time Silvanus Sheppard and Richard Johnson were elected to the deaconate and ordained. Before the close of 1818, through the self-sacrificing efforts of this heroic little band, the first modest meeting-house rose on the site now occupied by the FIRST CHURCH.

At this time the cause received valuable aid from the frequent visits and earnest labors of Rev. John Sisty, of Haddonfield. In the early years of its history the growth of the church was greatly hindered by the frequent change of pastors, and by long pastor-less periods. From. the year of its constitution (1818) to 1832 it was identified with the "New Jersey Baptist Association," and at the end of that period reported a membership of thirty-seven. The church then withdrew from the New Jersey Baptist Association and became a constituent of the Central Union Association of Pennsylvania, organized July 31,1832. In 1839 it returned to the association in New Jersey, with a membership of one hundred and fifty-eight. 

The year 1842 witnessed the completion of a two-story brick building on the site of the modest structure that for more than twenty years had been the home of the church; and the little company of seven had grown to two hundred and ten. The pastorate of Rev. Thomas E. Taylor began in 1843 and continued to 1854. It was a period of prosperity and growth to the church. Other pastorates had been efficient, considering their brevity. Mr. Taylor's incumbency was the first that was sufficiently protracted to establish wise methods of work. in the church, or to measure the pastor's personal influence upon the community.

In 1848 forty-four members were dismissed to constitute the "Second Baptist Church of Camden."

In the twelve years from 1864 to 1866 five pastorates were crowded. Notwithstanding the frequent change of leaders, the church continued to prosper. In 1859 it gave thirty-seven members to constitute the "North Baptist Church." In 1861 one hundred and fifty-five communicants withdrew to constitute the "Tabernacle Baptist Church." In 1860 the second house was razed, and the present substantial and commodious building was completed and dedicated in 1864.

In 1871 a number of communicants withdrew and constituted the "Trinity Baptist Church," perfecting their organization in 1872.

In April, 1871, negotiations began looking to the union of the First and Tabernacle Churches. The latter, under the pastorates of Rev. A. Earl, Rev. P. L. Davis and Rev. Isaac C. Wynn, had enjoyed ten years of harmonious and successful activity, and reported a membership of two hundred and seventy-nine.

Pending the final decision of an involved legal issue and necessary legislation, the two congregations worshipped together in the house, of the First Church from June 4. 1871, to April 1, 1872, when the union was consummated, under the title of the "Fourth Street Baptist Church, of Camden," with an aggregate membership of three hundred and fifty-one. On the 16th of April, 1883, the corporate title was changed to "The First Baptist Church of Camden, N. J."

The beneficent influence of this union has been felt beyond the limits of the resultant church. It has lessened necessary home expenses, and liberated funds to be applied to the mission work of the denomination. Since the union the life of the church has been healthful and vigorous. Its financial interests have been efficiently managed; $66,202.73 have been expended in the improvement of the property of the church and in the maintenance of its ministries at home, and $9696.81 have been devoted to the various forms of benevolent activity abroad.

During the period from April 1, 1872, to July 31, 1886, the accessions to the membership have been: By baptism, two hundred and sixty-seven ; by letter, two hundred and seventy-one; by experience, twenty-two; by restoration, sixteen,—total, five hundred and seventy-six.  The reductions have been: By death, ninety-eight; by letter, one hundred and sixty-nine; by erasure, thirty-four; by exclusion, sixty-six,—total, three hundred and sixty-seven. The net increase has been two hundred and nine, giving a present membership of five hundred and sixty.

The church has given special emphasis to Bible school work, and in addition to its home school has, for the last five years, sustained a flourishing mission in the southern part of the city. They have an enrollment of seventy officers and teachers, and six hundred and thirty scholars.

REGISTER OF PASTORS.

Daniel James- May, 1818, to November, 1818
John P. Cooper- December, 1818, to March, 1819
Thomas J. Kitts- December, 1819, to March, 1822
Charles J. Hopkins- March, 18'22 to July, 1824.
Robert Compton- September, 1829, to September 1832
Amasa Smith- January, 1833, to September, 1833
William S. Hall- November, 1833, to May, 1834
Thomas C. Teasdale- January, 1835, to October, 1835
Joseph Sheppard- August, 1836, to May, 1838
N. B. Tindall- August, 1838, to September, 1841
William W. Smith- December, 1841, to September, 1842.
Thomas I. Taylor- November, 1842, to January, 1854
John Duncan- May, 1851, to 1857
S. H. Mirick- December, 1857, to 1858
George R. Darrow- from 1859 to 1860
G. G. Ferguson- from 1860 to 1862
B. F. Hedden- from 1862 to 1865.
F. B. Rose- from 1866 to 1870
Isaac C. Wynn- from 1870
 

Present Officers: Pastor, Isaac C. Wynn, D.D.; Deacons, Adam Angel, David Lack, Ellwood K. Fortiner, Stacy Gaunt, Charles E. Young, E. M. Howard, M.D., Morris W. Hall; Trustees, Volney G. Bennett, E. A. Armstrong, A. S. Morton, Edward H. Bryan, S. F. Rudderow, C. K. Middleton, William C. Scudder; Clerk, Charles A. Morton ; Treasurer, Samuel G. Rudderow. .  

Philadelphia Inquirer - November 12, 1889

First Baptist Church
Rev. J.W. Lyell
Andrew Wckert
Thomas McDonough
Harrison Union Veterans
William H. Sherman
John Sargeant
David M. Spence
George E. Martin
Samuel M. Gaul
Jonas S. Miller
Dr. Thomas Wescott
Lela Wescott


Camden Daily Telegram
March 21, 1893

Russell H. Conwell

Philadelphia Inquirer
April 25, 1905

Isaac C. Toone
H. Raymond Staley
First Baptist Church
Linden Street
Rev. John W. Lywll
Florence Clayton Toone
Laura Estelle Toone
Elizabeth McCully
Bertha Pearce
Margaret Riggs
Howard G. Toone
Percy England
Charles Austermuhl
Burroughs Robertson
Eugene Haines
Henry Bullock

Philadelphia Inquirer
April 25, 1905

Isaac C. Toone
H. Raymond Staley
First Baptist Church
Linden Street
Rev. John W. Lywll
Florence Clayton Toone
Laura Estelle Toone
Elizabeth McCully
Bertha Pearce
Margaret Riggs
Howard G. Toone
Percy England
Charles Austermuhl
Burroughs Robertson
Eugene Haines
Henry Bullock

Philadelphia Inquirer - March 11, 1907

Rev. John Lyell - Rev. Dr. Wayland Hoyt

Click on Image for PDF File of Complete Article

Philadelphia Inquirer - July 19, 1915
First Baptist Church - Linden Baptist Church  
Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church
- Rev. William Grum
Trimble Lodge No. 117 F. & A.M. - William I.J. Phillips - Odd Fellows
Daughters of Pocohantas - Improved Order of Red Men
Rev. John W. Lyell - Rev. Robert Henry Middleton

 

Philadelphia Inquirer
April 23, 1917

John W. Wescott - Harry C. Kramer - First Baptist Church - First Presbyterian Church
St. John's Episcopal Church

Camden Courier-Post - February 10, 1928

Choral Group of Organ Club Has New Name
Singers Form ‘Musical Art Society’ According to Plans Made at Founding

The Choral Association of the Camden Chapter, National Association of Organists, has become a separate organization. From now on it will be known as the Musical Art Society

The group, at its start here, was sponsored by the Camden Chapter with an aim to establish it as a separate group as soon as a successful working basis was reached.

Patronage has been forthcoming which has assured the society of a place in the musical activities of the community. The plan is to develop a sound choral group, capable of producing serious choral works in artistic manner.

The society’s membership list is still open. Voices, both male and female, are needed. Singers with ability at reading are especially urged to make themselves known. Applications, under the new society’s plan, should be sent to Edna M. Llewellyn, Fourth Avenue and Kings Highway, Haddon Heights.

Rehearsal will continue at the First Baptist Church here on the first, second and third Mondays of every month.

Present patrons are Wilfred W. Fry, Mrs. Fry, Charles K. Haddon, Mrs. Walter J. Staats, Hon. E.G.C. Bleakly, Mrs. Elwood A. Harrar, Mrs. F. Morse Archer, A. Wilbur Nash, Dr. Edward M. Sullivan, J. Walter Levering, Dr. Joseph E. Roberts, William G. Moore, Mrs. Mary L. Neer, Mrs. J. Harry Knerr, Mrs. Ada M. Eckenhoff, Mrs. Charles A. Reynolds, and Joseph D. Brisby.

The former choral association will retain its officers under the new title of the Musical Art Society, with the exception of the post of secretary. Miss Llewellyn will replace Walter M. Smith temporarily.

The officers are: Henry S. Fry, director; Miss Llewellyn, treasurer; Ada M. Eckenhoff, librarian; Robert M. Haley, president; Marion V. Taylor, Evelyn Lawrence, Stanley Nelson, Harry W. Schwartz, Marjorie Riggins Seybold, F. Marie Wesbroom-Dager and Howard S. Tussey, executive board.

The society will present at least two public concerts in the spring, one in April at the North Baptist Church and the spring concert, which has been tentatively scheduled for May and will probably take place in the First Baptist Church.

Camden Courier-Post - February 19, 1936

ROTARY CLUB HEARS WASHINGTON EULOGY
Rev. Elwood A. Harrar Reviews Life of First President 

An address on the life of George Washington featured a luncheon meeting of the Camden Rotary Club at the Hotel Walt Whitman yesterday.

The speaker was Rev. Elwood A. Harrar, member of the club and pastor of the First Baptist Church of this city. 

Reverend Harrar, an authority on Washington, stressed the precepts of character of the first president which are not as well known as those exploits embraced in history books. 

The pastor spoke of Washington, the scientist; Washington, the farmer; Washington, the humanitarian and Washington, the reverent, respectful religious man alive to the will of God. 

"There were four foundation stones in George Washington's character," said the speaker. "These were humility, integrity, self-control and religion." 

Quoting many authorities, Reverend Harrar said: "Washington's word was his bond. Honesty was his principle. The good of the common man was his concern. Justice was his monitor. We are told that he had a fiery temper but that he held it in reserve. 

"Gracious toward all men, his was a quiet, modest dignity which at once demanded respect. 

"In religion, Washington was ever mindful of the will of God and the highest tributes that have been paid him have brought out his reverence, his interest and his humble submission to the God in whom he devoutly believed." 

Camden Courier-Post
February 7, 1938

First Baptist Church Begins 120th Anniversary Celebration

Congregation Organized in Camden in 1818;
Seminary Head Preaches
REUNION SERVICE TO BE HELD FRIDAY

Organized February 5, 1818, when Camden was a village of fewer than 900 residents, the First Baptist Church of Camden yesterday began celebration of its 120th anniversary. It will continue with special services and music Wednesday and Friday nights. The program was arranged by Rev. Elwood A. Harrar, pastor since 1922.

A large congregation attended the opening anniversary worship service at 10.30 a. m., in the church edifice, Fourth and Arch streets, which succeeded the first meeting house built in 1818 and the second erected in 1839.

The anniversary sermon was delivered by Rev. Dr. James H. Franklin, president of Crozier Theological

REV. ELWOOD A. HARRAR

 Seminary, Chester, Pa., of which Rev. Harrar is a trustee.

Citing the physical changes that have occurred in 120 years Dr. Franklin pointed out that the needs of man in respect. to his moral character and human relationships have not changed and that the church is as necessary today as it ever was.

"The message of the church today must deal with all phases of human relationships, social, economic and political, as well as religious," Dr. Franklin declared.         

At this service there was music by the junior and senior choirs of the church.

Celebration in the Bible School, also in the morning, was prefaced by greetings from Randolph Cramer, president of the Camden County Council of Religious Education.

Mrs. Bennett Speaks

Mrs. Harold W. Bennett, wife of City Commissioner Bennett, spoke on missionary activities and exhibited curios from the Congo, Africa, where she was born. a daughter of missionary parents, and where a sister and a brother-in-law are now engaged in mission work Rev. Chester A. Pennington was soloist and Miss Grace Hill violinist in a musical program.

The night service was a "Celebration in Music," at which Rev. Harrar spoke on the place of music in religion. The Baseler Harp Ensemble, one of Philadelphia's notable musical organizations, and the church choir provided the musical features of the celebration

On Wednesday night 'the program includes a spiritual fellowship service, reception of new members and communion service.

Reunion Service Friday

Rev. Ivan Murray Rose, D.D., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, mother church of the Camden body, will address the congregation at an anniversary reunion service Friday night. Greetings will be received from the churches which have grown out of the Camden church. These greetings will be extended by the pastors of the various churches. They are as follows:

Rev. Walter S. Dunlop, North Church; Rev. Walter L. Hunt, Tabernacle Church; Rev. Culbert G. Rutenber, Linden Church; Rev. C. W. Dannenhower, Parkside Church; Rev. Antonio Galloppi, Italian Church; Rev. Paul Bramball, Laurel Springs Church; Rev. David J. Davis, Oaklyn Church, and Rev. Gilbert L. Guffin, Merchantville Church.

Officers of the CAMDEN NJ - First Baptist Church are Atlie M. Ward, president of board of trustees; F. Y. MacCullough, president board of deacons; Frank B. Gail, treasurer; Ida M. Subers, financial secretary; Howard H. Westcott, clerk; Raymond B. Heston, organist and director of choir and J. Alpheus V. Harker, Sunday School superintendent.

Camden Courier-Post
July 26, 1941

Centenary-Tabernacle Methodist Church
Rev. Elwood A. Harrar
Rev. Carlton R. Van Hook

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