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Head of the River Methodist Church - Estell Manor, NJ
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 39° 18.685 W 074° 49.273
18S E 515413 N 4351351
Quick Description: This NRHP church is a plain meetinghouse, with no significant detail of which to speak. This congregation was formed in 1780, while the church was built in 1792. There is also an accompanying graveyard as old as the history of the area.
Location: New Jersey, United States
Date Posted: 3/5/2009 7:34:27 AM
Waymark Code: WM5Z56
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 5

Long Description:

"Head of the River, 48 m. (L), the remains of a Colonial town, has a Methodist Church, built 1792, in the middle of a burial ground that has been in use for 150 years. it is a square, plain wooden structure, once painted white, with wide floor boards and narrow, high-backed pews. The pulpit is raised only tow steps from the floor.

Head of the River received its name as the head of the navigation on the Tuckahoe in the days when a coastwise trade was carried on in sloops and schooners. The people here were lumbermen, charcoal burners, tar boilers, and turpentine makers. Only two houses, modern structures built along the highway, can be seen within a radius of several miles. The rest is forest.

" --- New Jersey, a Guide to Its Present and Past, 1939; page 662-663

One of the plaques I found on the property reads "On 12 Oct 2003 a plaque was placed by the New Jersey Sarah Soper Chapter of the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century to recognize the historic significance of this site and its important to the community and its people."

Head of the River and its surrounding graveyard were for Methodists. Curiously enough, across the street was (for years) an abandoned graveyard for Baptists, who had to be buried separately. "One of the buried Baptists is Reverend Grooms, who lost out because of his beliefs not once, but twice. First his fellow Baptists shunned him for wanting to preach at a Methodist church, and he became an outcast because of this decision. Then, despite trying to unite with the Methodists and even being allowed to preach at their church, he still wasn't permitted to be buried among them. He wanted to join both groups but ultimately was never completely accepted by either....Also buried here are Mrs. Grooms, the Grooms' 2 children, and another Reverend, Isaac Bonnell." Source

As already stated, this church resembles many meetinghouses I have found and waymarked in western New Jersey. According to one source, this church is "a simple farmhouse with no decorative details. The shutters are simple and there is a plain lintel over the double doors. It appears to have been little altered, but superbly maintained, since then...According to old accounts, there was a small village here named Head of the River, about four miles from Tuckahoe, and the small Methodist mission was started here about 1780. When the bog iron industry declined, the population dropped. Regular services were last held in 1916." This SOURCE is very reliable and I have used it numerous times to learn about or to confirm information regarding religious edifices. It is dedicated to documenting the history of churches and meetinghouses in New Jersey. As the website boasts, we are "The authoritative source on early churches of New Jersey"

Head of the River Methodist Episcopal Church is located near Tuckahoe, Atlantic County NJ Route 49 at Aetna Drive Located on Route 49 at the junction of County Roads 66 and 49; about 4 miles from Tuckahoe.

I also found this excellent description, which is helpful since the inside was locked when I was there. "Head of River Church is a typical meetinghouse in style: it is square, with the door on one of the ?eave? walls rather than on an end or ?gable? wall. It appears similar to an 18th century farmhouse due to the fact that farmers rather than architects gathered together to construct the building. Groundbreaking began for the church in 1792 and the building was not finished until 1813.

The church is a frame building with clapboard surface, measures thirty-six feet by thirty-six feet in size, and stands one story high with a second story gallery. The interior walls, as seen in the photograph, are plaster. There is an interior brick chimney and the roof is pitched with asbestos shingles over wood. There is no running water within the church, but an outhouse was built in 1914.

Head of River Church held regular services for approximately one hundred and forty years. In the mid-1930s, however, the businesses that had worked so hard to create the church closed shop and the families employed by them moved away. As recorded, the church held annual anniversary services until 1976. Whether or not annual services are still held is unknown. In front of the church sits the Head of River cemetery, where most members of the original congregation were buried. There is also a small Baptist cemetery of about ten grave markers just across the street. (Christine Brown)


Other good sources to learn more information about this church, its architecture and its history can be found HERE and HERE (this is a federal government site).

Book: New Jersey

Page Number(s) of Excerpt: 662-663

Year Originally Published: 1939

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RDOwens visited Head of the River Methodist Church - Estell Manor, NJ 9/16/2010 RDOwens visited it
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