Greater Mt. Pisgah Church of Haddonfield, NJ

In the late 1700's there was a religious movement in Haddonfield and Jordantown (Pennsauken) uniting with those in Snowhill (Lawnside). Both races held church in homes and various other places. The basic religious training was Methodist.

The M .E. Church of Haddonfield donated a church building of very crude structure in Lawnside about 1800. One history source says the "colored people" (as they were called) of Haddonfield worshiped there only until about 1860. This is when several rich, white families in Haddonfield put their money together and built a "colored church" to keep their servants from walking so far to Mt. Pisgah Lawnside or to Sadlertown where a Methodist Church hat been built by then. Some believe this was the beginning of Mt. Pisgah, Haddonfield and that 1887 is when the church joined the A. M. E. movement.

Other history sources show that the Haddonfield members with encouragement from the Lawnside Church decided to build their own around 1885. At this time the Haddonfield group began to meet in the Grove Schoolhouse for service and to start raising funds to build their own church. The Grove Schoolhouse was donated to the village of Haddonfield by William E. Hopkins in 1809 for the purpose of a free and public school with the provision that people of any religious group or denomination would be able to use this building for worship. A monument now stands where the school was on Grove Street stating that the A. M. E. Church group met there while building on the Ellis Street lot. The church erected is still in use today. It was first known as "The African Mission" and is until this day called the "daughter church" of Mt. Pisgah Lawnside. Mr. Elzey C. Polk and Mr. Sam Jackson and Rev. C.C, Green of Lawnside officially set the church up in November of 1887. Rev. C. C. Green then became the first pastor. Some of the Haddonfield members who were considered founders were Thomas and Elizabeth Stokey; Ledd Dockins, trustee; Philip Polk, Steward; Annie Mann, first Sunday School Superintendent, and local preacher Edward Smiley and his wife, Elizabeth Smiley, who walked from Pennsauken to Haddonfield every Sunday. Mrs. Smiley was the first missionary and the society was named for her.

Other faithful members who were around in the beginning years are the Stokeley's daughter, Martha Holmes who was a Sunday School teacher and the Sunday School Treasurer and pianist for the church. Her husband was Jerome Holmes, a politician known as the Mayor of "The Point" which was what the Black section of Haddonfield was called. Their daughter, Dorothy Holmes Johnson Turner (Mrs.Gus), taught Sunday School and played the piano, also. Her sons are Lonnie and Francis Johnson.
Another daughter was Virginia Holmes Lowers. Her son is Thomas Hilton Lowers who is still a faithful supporter of the church. His aunt, Julia Lowers Arthur (Mrs. Randolph) , was a Sunday School teacher and is still living.

Mr. Pearley Hart, the pastor's Stewart for many, many years, can still be remembered sitting in his favorite, corner chair. His wife, Julia Smiley Hart, was the church organist for sixty years (without pay). Their children were Thomas, and Charles Hart, and Mary H. McMillan who along with her husband, James, gave the cross that still adorns the pulpit wall. The two cantle holders were given by Thomas Hart in memory of his parents. He also was instrumental in giving the present pulpit furniture to Mt. Pisgah from Mt. Hope Church in Camden where he was a trustee, Mrs. Florence LeCompte, the mother of Joseph and Betty, was a very faithful member. Also, Mrs. Jennie Thomas, Mrs. Sadie Kirby, Mrs. Rebecca Boyer, John and Mary Arthur, Mrs. Marguerita Johnson and her daughters, Marguerita J. Anthony, Eva J. Brewer, and Lillian Johnson. Henry Brown, a trustee, and his wife, Cora, sang in the choir. Other choir members were Mrs. Annie Ross, Rebecca Bennett, Jennie Martin, Randolph Arthur, Joe Evans, Carrie J. Hunley, her son, Bill Hunley and her daughter Eleanor Hunley Jackson. Eleanor also played for the choir in later years when she remembers two of the church's favorite songs were "The Awakening Chorus" and "Master The Tempest Is Raging".

Another choir member in later years was Bro. Irvin Mann. His wife, Gertrude, was a Sunday School teacher. Their children, Mary, Beatrice, Jeannette and Robert attended.

Brother Leonard Mann and his wife, Julia, were members with children, Alex and Dorothy.

In the early 1900's the "Household of Ruth" Lodge was mate up of many of Mt. Pisgah's members. They gave a lot of support to the church. Their meeting hall was next door to the church at 240 Ellis Street.

Two other community groups giving support and involving church members over the years were The Ever Ready Sewing Circle and the Haddonfield Chorus.

Three of our present members who were in the chorus are Sister Wiley, Sister Shorter and Sister Estelle Streater. Three ladies who gave a lot of spiritual support to Mt. Pisgah were Mrs. Eunice Jackson Smiley from Pennsauken and Evangelist Frances Johnson Goodman and Evangelist Hannah Hicks from Mt. Pisgah, Lawnside. Sister Hicks was the grandmother of our present church treasurer and Missionary President, Hannah Moreland.

In 1923 Mrs. Mary Cephas Cooper came to this area, She and her family became very active and dedicated members at Mt. Pisgah. Mrs. Cooper was a Stewardess, a missionary, treasurer of the church for eighteen years and chairlady for Women's Day for many years. One of her daughters, Frances Shorter, is Chairperson of the Trustee Board now and her daughter, Valerie, is Sunday School Superintendent.

In 1935 our present Presiding Elder, Rev. John Wesley Johnson, was given his first pastoral appointment at the then forty-eight year old Mt. Pisgah, Haddonfield. He served here for six years and vividly remembers local preacher, Rev. Steve Jackson, and his wife, Sis. Annie Jackson. Their daughter, Sis. Helen Gaines, is a shut-in member Of the church now. Rev. Jackson was a dedicated member and gave great encouragement to the younger pastors.

Sister Teressa Marvel Dansbury, a teacher in the Haddonfield School System for many years, and her daughter, Noel D. Harris, were very active members then. Mrs. Harris worked with the Sunday School and The Allen Christian Endeavor League. Some of the young people then were from the Cephas, Hunley, Mann and LeCompte Families.

Mrs. Margaret Evans worked with the Sunday School and Miss Ditha Brown was the Superintendent. Her sister, Hilda Brown Wiley sang in the choir, was the church treasurer for twelve years and is now a missionary.

The next Sunday School Superintendent was Mrs. Ethel Kirby Armstead, a very hard worker for Mt. Pisgah until she became disabled by a stroke in 1971. A benefit affair jointly given by her home church and Mt. Pisgah, Lawnside for Sister Armstead in 1971 was well attended. Her daughters, Nancy and Christine, were Sunday School students.

From 1943 to 1953 Rev. James Colson was pastor. During his time the present parsonage was built on to the church with a dining area under it. Before this the church fed company either in member's homes or next door at the U.A.P.A. Hall. Mrs. Estella James, a stewardess, gave the first 25.00 towards the parsonage fund.

Rev. Colson was returned to Mt. Pisgah in 1967. The church was saddened by his passing the following year. His widow, Mrs. Gabelle Colson, remained here and has been a most dedicated and faithful member eversince. She served as Pastor's Steward for fifteen years, and has also been a Stewardess, a Trustee and a Missionary. In 1985 Rev. Benson named her "Mother of the Church".

For many years Mt. Pisgah has held a week of services in October called "Harvest Home". Many soul stirring revivals have been held over the years, also. Dinners sold in the basement and members' homes have been successful fund raisers. The church has become known for its warm hospitality.
In1980 and 1981 the harsh winter weather took its toll on the pipes in the church and the roof of the parsonage. This made it impossible to hold service in the building. Sister Wiley opened her home and the dwindling and disheartened congregation met there. During this time there was talk that the Conference wanted to close the church at Haddonfield and sent the congregation back to Lawnside.

On top of this, in 1982 the new pastor, Rev. Samuel Singleton, became ill and after a short time passed away. Rev. James Benson had been sent from Mt. Pisgah, Lawnside to help out during Rev. Singleton's illness and was asked to remain there to try to pull the church together. With God's direction and protection and with the strong faith and hard work of the remaining members, he did just that.

During the first year a new roof was put on the parsonage. Its walls were plastered and painted and a pastor's study was set up. In the church and parsonage the plumbing was repaired and storm windows were installed, and the pulpit furniture and the altar were refurbished. New lights, new floor and new plumbing were installed in the lower level. Trees were knocked down in the back of the church for the beginning of the parking lot. To make easier access to the back of the church, a portion of ground was deeded to the church by members and neighbors, Charles and Doris Butler.

Lights were added to the altar candles by Frances Shorter, Valerie Arnold, and Barbara Briscoe & Family. A register board was given by Penelope Taylor in memory of her mother, Geneva Sharpness, and pew Bibles were given by Mary Hicks Smith, Hannah Moreland, Ellen Benson and Mother Colson in memory of loved ones. Robert Butler gave a new door light.
All of these gifts and new improvements were dedicated to the church along with the rededication of members at a special service on Dec. 11, Pastor of St. James AME Church, Newark, N.J.

The congregation was greatly encouraged by two visits by Bishop Frank C. Cummings in 1984 and 1985 showing his concern for churches with small congregations.
In 1983 The Elizabeth Smiley Missionary Society was reorganized and has become a strong organization in the church. Also, in 1983 a choir was organized. Members are all cousins - Penelope Taylor, Valerie Arnold, Robin Banks, Barbara and Monica Briscoe and Dennis Dansbury. Bethany Benson was their pianist.

The Church is now active in district, state and connectional activities. In 1984 the church honored Rev. Benson for his efforts. He is happiest about the many souls that have been saved and is constantly striving for a stronger commitment to the Body of Christ and to the Work of Christ from the membership.

In 1986 Brother Rick and Sister Sonja Stanton, new members at the time, painted the walls of the parsonage dining room, purchased all new furniture and set up a library for the church there.

Some members in these later years, not mentioned anywhere else in this account, are Terrell and Toylene Person, Elsie Glenn, Lillian Powell, Etta Banks and Catherine King. Our young people are Kefe Stanton, LaCarr Hamilton, Jimmie Taylor, Brandon Banks, Tahira Ali, and Rashone and Tahron Person. As we look back at past members, organizations and events of the one hundred years, we thank God for them all.

As we look ahead to the next one hundred years, we think of the reading on the sign in front of the church

"AND ARE WE YE ALIVE"

and we'll continue to sing each Sunday morning

"TO SEE EACH OTHER'S FACE
GLORY AND PRAISE T0 JESUS GIVE
FOR HIS REDEEMING GRACE"


Note: The Committee gives special thanks to former members who shared their time and memories with us

Mr. THOMAS HART
MRS. ELEANOR HUNLEY JACKSON
MR. A.E. (LON) JOHNSON
MR. THOMAS H. LOWERS

Pastors OF
Mt. Pisgah, Haddonfield

1887-91 …………………………………………………………… Rev. C.C. Green
1892-95 …………………………………………………………… No Record
1896-98 …………………………………………………………… Rev. W. C. Laws
1899-1904 ………………………………………………………… Rev. J. W. Thomas
1905-07 …………………………………………………………… Rev. S. L. Sturgis
1908-09 …………………………………………………………… Rev. A. H. Newton
1910-11 …………………………………………………………… Rev. M. B. Shepperd
1912-13 …………………………………………………………… Rev. W. H. B. Heath
1914-18 …………………………………………………………… Rev. J. Howard Jackson
1919 ……………………………………………………………… Rev. A. H. J. Glover
1920-22 …………………………………………………………… Rev. S. T. Boyd
1923-26 …………………………………………………………… Rev. F. J. Wolford
1927 ……………………………………………………………… Rev. Ira S. Yemmans
1928-32 …………………………………………………………… Rev. W. J. Wright
1933-34 …………………………………………………………… Rev. J. C. Frazier
1935-41 …………………………………………………………… Rev. John Wesley Johson
1942 ……………………………………………………………… Rev. McNeil Willams
1943-53 …………………………………………………………… Rev. James M. Colson
1954-55 …………………………………………………………… Rev. Scott
1956 ……………………………………………………………… Rev. Alonzo Henley
1957-61 …………………………………………………………… Rev. J. E. Lee
1962-66 …………………………………………………………… Rev. Talbert Jones
1967-68 …………………………………………………………… Rev. James M. Colson
1968-69 …………………………………………………………… Rev. P. B. Bryan
1970-71 …………………………………………………………… Rev. S. L. Kelly
1972-73 …………………………………………………………… Rev. Averhart
1974-75 …………………………………………………………… Rev. Clifford Lewis
1976-78 …………………………………………………………… Rev. James Gross
1979-81 …………………………………………………………… Rev. Elwood Bell
1982 (1/2 year) …………….………………………………………  Rev. Samuel Singleton
1982-87 …………………………………………………………… Rev. James A. Benson

NOTE: Some of the above are approximate dates. The committee wishes to thank Rev. John B. Dicks and presiding Elder John W. Johnson for their help in completing this list.


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