History & Cemetery

20150119_115911Founded in 1737, the present building was erected in 1771.

The following includes excerpts from The Presbyterian Parish of Deerfield Street (Revised) by F. Alan Palmer.

The history of that portion of the Cohansey Precinct known as “Deerfield” begins, for our purpose, in the year of 1725 when Benjamin Davis traveled to Burleighton, the capital of West Jersey, and purchased a tract of land located more or less in the northwestern section of [John] Fenwick’s third purchase from the Indians and which at that time was a portion of Salem County…. Since the area was unsettled, there was no local place name to identify the spot other than that it lay to the east of the upper reaches of the Cohansey River. To Benjamin Davis, the first major landowner fell the honor of being permitted to call his purchase of 1,000 acres by whatever name he wished….

The pioneers who in turn settled on the land near Ben Davis found neighbors in the area. Judge L.Q.C. Elmer in his history of Cumberland County says there was a considerable tribe of Lenni Lenape Indians living near Cedar Grove (Seeley) along the Cohansey Creek…. In the old section of the Presbyterian cemetery there are said to be a number of Indian graves….

By 1732 a sufficient number of persons were living in the area to justify the erection of a log school house. The general location of the school is known to have been near the foundations of an old bridge that still remains just east of the Chapel Yard cemetery across from the church. This school was also used as a meeting house by the residents of Deerfield and it was there they conducted their first religious services. By 1737 the school became inadequate for this purpose because of the increased number of persons attending public worship and the Presbyterian Society built their first meeting house, also of logs, upon ground given them for that purpose by Abraham Garrison….

It was in this primitive Log Meeting House that the entire ministry of Andrew Hunter (1747-1760) was conducted when serving as the pastor to the combined congregations of Deerfield and Greenwich. The Greenwich congregation had eleven years earlier replaced their own log church with a brick structure said to have been the largest such building in Salem County. It was to the little “Log Church in the Forest” that Enoch Green came in 1767. Although a part of Mr. Green’s previous ministry had been in Egg Harbor and he was accustomed to rustic surroundings, he had come to Deerfield from a temporary pastorate near Princeton, and he very quickly persuaded his new congregation to give thought to the replacement of the picturesque church constructed of fragrant cedar logs….
Soon after the installation of the Rev. Enoch Green in 1767 the people began gathering stone in preparation for the new Meeting House…. On the 25th of May 1771, a tract of land, triangular in shape and containing approximately one-third of an acre, was purchased from Daniel Ogden and Azariah Moore, on which the new Meeting House was even then in the process of being built….

The church at Deerfield is constructed of a material known as “Jersey Sandstone” which is a conglomerate of sand and pebbles bound together with iron ore. This was a material particularly familiar to Enoch Green who had served as an itinerant preacher in that part of Atlantic County then known as “Egg Harbor”, where were located the active iron foundries at Batso and Weymouth which at that time produced most of the iron made in the colonies…. When the building is examined it is obvious that the large regularly formed stones were used on the side facing the road and on the south side; small irregular stones were used in the walls toward the north and the stream where they would not be visible to passersby….

There was no tower or bell on this or any other Presbyterian Church. Such extensions of worship to the Calvinists of that day represented the Church of England or even the Roman Church. Bear in mind, the Presbyterians who built their house of worship in Deerfield were stern Puritans to whom any sort of symbolism smacked of idolatry….

The third piece of property immediately adjacent to the church was acquired from Uriah Davis and his wife Sarah in the year of 1792…. This small tract of land immediately north of the church, and which crossed the road to form part of what is now the “Chapel Yard” contained a trifle more than one and a half acres for which the congregation paid the sum of eight pounds and thirteen shillings “in gold and silver money.” … In 1810 the tract of land on which the Education Building is now standing was sold to the congregation for the sum of one dollar. This lot contained three-quarters of an acre….

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20150119_115722 (3)CEMETERY
The cemetery at Deerfield Presbyterian speaks volumes to the history of this church.