Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church
42 Main Street, Farmingdale, NJ 07727 (732) 938-2139
The History of Our Church

The Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church dates back in history to a time before the Revolutionary War, when our community was know as Marsh's Bog.

About 1815, the village became known as Upper Squankum. The name of Farmingdale was adopted in 1854. The first white settlers were of English descent. They found already established an important Indian trail where our church now stands on Main Street. Later a busy stage coach line ran through the town.

What we now fondly refer to as the Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church began quite informally as a gathering of ten persons on December 22, 1870. The "Presbyterian Meeting" was convened by the Home Missionary Committee of Monmouth Presbytery, and the Rev. A.H. Dashiell, Jr. served as Moderator. Those ten charter members brought to the meeting letters from different churches, as follows: Five Presbyterian Churches (Freehold, Muncie, Jamesburg, Cranbury, and Squan Village), a Congregational Church in Southington, Connecticut, and the Reformed Church in Peapack, New Jersey, officially dismissing them to be formed into the new church in Farmingdale.

By unanimous vote the one gentleman member was elected to serve as the first Elder, Mr. Gilbert S. Davidson.One week later, December 29, 1870, the new church was officially organized and the elder ordained. Already one additional member was admitted, with the result that eleven persons (ten by letter, and the new member on confession of faith) were constituted by a special committee of Monmouth Presbytery as the Presbyterian Church of Farmingdale, New Jersey.

During the search for pastoral leadership, the Reverend Mr. Dashiell, Jr. continued as Moderator of the rapidly growing church. In 1871 a call was extended to the Rev. D. W. Teller, but he did not accept. As early as January 5, 1872, the Rev. E.J. Pierce is recorded as Moderator and he became the first pastor.

For a time, the early meetings of our church were held in the local schoolhouse, but in October 1872 a contract was given to Mr. George C. Hulett for an edifice 36' x 55' for the sum of $3,000. It was dedicated on August 21, 1873, standing on land purchased from Mr. William Goodenough. Sometime in the 1890's, this building was destroyed by fire and torn down. A new building was dedicated in 1895.

The first pastor, Mr. Pierce, continued for twenty fruitful years until his death March 13, 1892, "having made all his preparation for preaching on the next day, which was the Sabbath". So writes the Rev. Mr. Dashiell, Jr., again appointed Moderator. After more than a year, the Rev. A.E. Weston was installed as the second pastor on July 3, 1893. Four days later, Mr. Weston and the Presbyterian Church received a list of fourteen members of the nearby Oak Glenn Church. This became their new mission responsibility, transferred from the Freehold Church and pastor, the Rev. Henry B. Smith. Mr. Weston served until 1901.

On May 13, 1902, Mr. A.S. VanOrden, Jr. was ordained a minister of the Gospel and installed as our third pastor, and the following April "it was noted with gratitude that the church was in good condition, spiritually and financially. The regular services were well attended, and the spirit of the church was good". The church continued to add members, and in March of 1906 the membership stood at 117, while the Sunday School numbered 140. In September of 1909 the Rev. Mr. VanOrden, Jr. resigned from this pastorate.

For several years the faithful Elders, together with various appointed Moderators, maintained services both in Farmingdale and in Oak Glenn under the direction of the Superintendent of Synodical Home Missions. During this period Mr. H.C. VanNote was Clerk of Session, outstanding for his long-time service.

At last, in January of 1914, the Rev. George M. Falconer was called as pastor. He served until September 1916. Again a series of Moderators and short-term pastors served the church.

It was in 1918 that one of those young pastors, Mr. Andrew K. Rule, a Princeton Seminary student, saw the Presbyterian Church edifice go down in raging flames. Next door the roof of the blacksmith shop had caught on fire from sparks scattered by the forge. Flames spread to the church on one side and the residence of the blacksmith on the other. Mr. Rule led firemen and volunteers from Farmingdale and Freehold in a heroic effort to save the church building. They saved most of the furniture, including two pianos, but finally the terrific heat had its effect and flames burst all along the entire south roof. Soon, the church and its pews and pipe organ were a total loss, leveled to the ground. The fire occurred on July 22, 1918, and from that date until the third and present church was built in 1923, services were conducted at the Firehouse.

During the decades of the 20's, 30's, and 40's and until 1953, a series of appointed Moderators and young student supply preachers maintained services and other essential phases of the life of our church.

Among the outstanding laymen of the church during this period were Mr. William D. Lutz and Elder A. Rulon Applegate. They often worked together, arranging for acquisition of new property, and making sure that the best interests of the church and its buildings were uppermost in mind. Mr. Lutz bequeathed a generous sum of money to the church and arranged that his spacious house also be given for church use.

Mr. Applegate was ordained as an Elder in 1917 and served until his death in 1960. For years he was Clerk of Session, and often represented the church at Presbytery. At one time he held several offices, including Sunday School superintendent, Clerk, and member of the Board of Trustees. He bequeathed a Trust Fund to the Pierce Memorial Presbyterian Church, with only its income available as a living symbol of his hard work and loyalty.

In 1953 Mr. Gordon Dean Johnson was called to this pastorate, and upon his ordination and installation he became the first pastor of this congregation in its role as a self-supporting church, no longer receiving aid from the Board of National Missions. Rev. Johnson served until 1957, zealous for the spiritual growth of the church and eager with new ideas and plans.

In 1958 Mr. Robert Beaman, a senior at Princeton Seminary, was called to be pastor, and was ordained and installed. Rev. Beaman served until 1964-65.

In 1966 Rev. W. Morrison Rider became the pastor and served until 1973. Rev. John C. Taylor who served this church from 1973 until 1991 followed him.

Presently our pastor is Rev. Steven J. Kengeter, who has faithfully served this church since 1992.