A Church is Chartered
The parent congregation of Trenton Presbyterians was formally organized from members of the church at Hopewell/Ewing with the intent to build a center of worship nearer to the Assunpink Creek, while remaining associated with the other nearby congregations.
The plot of ground on Second (now State) Street where the church was built was deeded to several prominent Trenton citizens in 1727 for religious use. The deed from Enoch Andrus(or Andrews)to John Porterfield, Daniel Howell, Richard Scudder, Alexander Lockhart, William Yard, William Hoff, John Severns, and Joseph Yard conveyed “a certain piece or lot of land lying on the north side of Second Street [now State] that goes to the iron-works in Trenton, containing in length 150 feet and in breadth 150 feet.” Andrus had received the land from Joshua Anderson in 1722; Anderson had inherited it from Hugh Standland in 1707. Standland received the land from Mahlon Stacy, one of the original settlers of the Trenton area, in 1684. Enoch Andrus and Joshua Anderson were both active Presbyterians who were involved in the church at Maidenhead and were integral to the establishment of the Trenton church.
A church, known as “The Old Stone Church,” was erected at the southwest corner of the church property.
The building, made of native stone, stood nearly 80 years. The interior was typical of early American churches of the period: a pulpit at the north end; galleries on the front and two sides with stairs to the gallery at the front corners; pews were straight with no cushions and the woodwork was unpainted.
When it was constructed, it was also the first dedicated house of worship within Trent’s original town plan, predating those later buildings constructed by denominations whose congregations were established in the area even before the Presbyterians.
Trenton Academy established and building built on current site of the church. The building is described as being a one story brick building 30 ft. by 30 ft.
Under the petition of Rev. David Cowell, incorporation was officially made of the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Trenton in 1756 by “George the second… of Great Brittain France and Ireland King Defender of the Faith etc.” The incorporation was undertaken in order for the trustees to:
…take grants of lands and chattels, thereby to enable the petitioners to erect and repair publick buildings for the worship of God And for the maintenance of the ministry of their Church And.. .to sell and grant the same under a publick seal for the uses aforesaid; and that the same trustees may plead and be impleaded in any suit touching the premises and have perpetual succession.
Joseph Yard, the sole survivor of the previous joint tenants, conveyed the Andrus lot to the”Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Trenton, for the special uses and trust following…to be and remain forever the use of public worship and burial-place for the Presbyterian congregation of Trenton forever.”
Hessians use the building during their occupation of the city.
During the First Battle of Trenton, Colonel Johann Rahl (or Rall) was the senior commanding officer of the brigade, which included three regiments of Hessian infantry. When the Continental army attacked that morning, Rahl was mortally wounded. As Rahl’s Lieutenant, Carl Andreas Kinen, recounted, “he.. .lies buried in.. .the graveyard of the Presbyterian Church.. .the Americans will hereafter set up a stone above [his] grave with this inscription: ‘Here lies Colonel Rahl; all is over with him.'” Rahl’s grave, like many of the graves of his Hessian soldiers also buried in the cemetery, was never marked.
Future president, John Adams, comes to Trenton on September 19 in response to what proved to be a false report that the British were about to attack Philadelphia. His diary indicates that he took tea with Mrs. Spencer, the wife of the minister of the Church, Elihu Spenser.
After the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis, a celebration was held at the Church in Trenton with the governor, Assembly and many Trenton citizens in attendance.
When the Legislature of New Jersey appointed commissioners to estimate the damage caused by the war, the Presbyterian Church estimated their losses at £80 from injury to “303 feet of board fence… around the burying ground; 11 panel posts and a rail fence; 140 panes of glass; large gates, hooks and hinges; a silk damask curtain and hangings; a silver can with two handles, and large plate; damages done to the parsonage house [on Hanover Street at the rear of the lot] while a Hessian hospital; 1400 feet of board stripped off the stable; 310 feet board fence…round the parsonage garden; 2 large front gates, hooks and hinges; 1 well-curb, bucket and chain; 1 table cloth and about ten yards diaper [a kind of cloth].”
The church obtained a new charter from the New Jersey Legislature to supersede the one granted by King George II in 1756. The act of incorporation created, “The Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Trenton” and they adopted a seal showing an open bible with a burning lamp suspended over it and the motto, “Light to My Path.”
Members of the church were part of a post-Revolutionary War petition to the state legislature to abolish slavery. Signatories buried in the cemetery are Alexander Chambers, Moore Furman, Nicholas deBelleville, Ogden Woodruff, Elliot Howell, Henry Drake, John Anderson, Henry Green, John Scudder, Benjamin Yard, Abraham Hunt, Issac Smith, Isaac Collins (a Quaker), Nathaniel Furman, William Green, Daniel Scudder, and John Howell.
The record states: “the Old Stone Church is in so ruinous a state that it can no longer continue to accommodate those that wish to worship in her in a ‘comfortable manner.’”
In May 1804, a subscription drive commenced to raise funds for the construction of a replacement church, with Moore Furman and Aaron D. Woodruff, Trenton’s first and second mayors, appointed to obtain a plan for the new building.
“The Old Stone Church” was taken down to make room for its successor.