A Brief History of Blawenburg Reformed Church
In the Beginning
Blawenburg Church didn’t have an easy time getting started. The Dutch farmers who settled the area worked their farms for over 70 years without a village or church close by. They attended church, but they had to travel several miles to go to the Reformed Dutch Church at Harlingen. What is a short ride today was a much more difficult trek by horseback or horse and buggy over unpaved, unimproved roads. Most families would attend the Sunday service, but participating in church services and activities on the other days of the week was more difficult.
By 1802 before there was a village in Blawenburg, the farm families in the southern part of the township petitioned the Consistory, the governing board of the church at Harlingen, to build a church. They denied the request.
Turnpike Helps Create a Village
Things changed between 1818-22. The governing bodies of several communities between Georgetown (now Lambertville) and Franklin (Kendall Park) agreed to improve the old road that ran between the communities and open it as a turnpike. The road became known as Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike, and it would become a major road for travel between New York and Philadelphia.
William Griggs, whose wife’s family (the Covenhovens) owned much of the land that is in what would become the village of Blawenburg, saw an opportunity to build the first home in the area that was not a farmstead. He and his wife ran it as a tavern and stage coach stop. Soon afterward, Cornelius Stryker saw the need for a general store and build a house and store on the intersection of the turnpike and roads that ran to Princeton (Great Road) and Plainville (Belle Mead). Between 1830 and 1845, several more houses were built and the village emerged.
Seeing this influx of residents to the village got the people thinking about having their own church again. They had been having mid-week services in people’s homes. In 1829, they again petitioned the Reformed Dutch Church at Harlingen to build a church, and this time they were successful.
A Church is Built
Amazingly, most of the new church was built in just three days in September 1830. It was finished by the spring of 1831, opening its doors as the Second Dutch Reformed Church at Harlingen. Of course, the residents wanted their own church, a church with the name Blawenburgh on it. (Note that they spelled Blawenburg with an H on the end in the early days.) The Blawenburg Consistory worked with the Harlingen Consistory to separate and the new church became the Reformed Dutch Church at Blawenburg on March 4, 1832. Over the years, the name was changed to Blawenburg Reformed Church.
This period of time was called The Great Awakening, a time of individual piety and religious devotion that swept across America. The Reformed Dutch Church at Blawenburg membership grew quickly, and in 1860, the Consistory voted to add a 14-foot addition to the back of the church to extend its seating for the growing numbers of worshipers. The same Georgian/Federal architectural style was maintained in the addition, and it is difficult to see where the addition begins in the sanctuary.
At the same time that the addition was built, a prominent congregation member, Paul Tulane, donated a large bell that is housed in the belfry and is still rung each Sunday to signal that worship will begin soon.
At the Center of Blawenburg
The church is near the center of Blawenburg, just east of the crossroads. It was also at the center of village residents’ lives. In the beginning, the church took great interest in people's lives and held moral authority over the community.
When community members stepped out of line, they were brought before the Consistory and called to task for their wayward actions. They might be denied the right to have the communion or asked to make amends for their behavior. While the Consistory had no legal right to deal with personal matters, the mainly-Dutch village seemed to agree that they had authority to keep the community in line.
A Legacy of Service
Since its inception, Blawenburg Church, as it is commonly called now, has had a legacy of service to the community. It regularly hosts community groups, supports people in need, hosts a pre-school, provides food for the hungry, and holds worship, prayer, wedding, funeral and interfaith services. Twenty-five pastors have led the congregation through good times and bad, providing support and hope for the church members and community.
In 1988, the church and the adjacent 1853 school house, which is currently the home of Blawenburg Village School, were placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The church has been continuously active since its inception, and is recognized as a beacon in the community.
The church is showing its age and has launched a campaign to preserve its historic steeple and sanctuary. Called Project SOS, Save Our Steeple/Save Our Sanctuary, the campaign seeks to raise $300,000 to restore the church to its former glory. For more information about project, click the Project SOS button near the top of this page.
Learn more information about the history of Blawenburg and the church by visiting the Tales of Blawenburg blog at: www.blawenburgtales.com.
about the project and its goals.