Our History

History

Washingtonville Sunday School Association  

Our Church had its origin more than 160 years ago in a Sunday School organized for Watchung Hills residents by the Rev. George Taylor, a retired minister. With more than 50 students attending, a formal organization, the Washingtonville Sunday School Association, was formed and the group moved to a local schoolhouse.

Mary E. Wilson Memorial Chapel

In 1886, a drive was initiated for a permanent home for the Sunday School Association. An initial $2,000 was raised for the land and the chapel. It was enough to get started. The young men of the Sunday School dug the foundation by moonlight and lantern light. The whole community joined in hauling the stones from the first and second Watchung Mountains to lay the initial foundation. The workers attracted the attention of Colonel J.F. Wilson, a frequent visitor and a Plainfield newspaper editor. His wife, Mary E. Wilson, had, prior to her death, been especially interested in the young people here. He offered a substantial donation of $3,500 needed to complete the construction. In 1897, the Sunday School Association had a new debt free home. It was named the Mary E. Wilson Memorial Chapel, in honor of Col. Wilson's wife Mary.

Mary E. Wilson Memorial Union Church

As the local area population increased farms were being converted to dwellings. A Protestant church was needed by the residents, but they were of varied denominational backgrounds. A proposal to organize a inter-denominational, unaffiliated Church was enthusiastically supported by several ministers in the Plainfield area. The Washingtonville Sunday School Association offered its facility. The Mary E. Wilson Memorial Union Church was dedicated February 22, 1914.

The Growing Church

To support a growing church, building expansion was necessary. Volunteers dug a basement area for a small kitchen and a meeting room under the Chapel building. Then, Blackburn Hall, named to honor Casper Blackburn, a long time Church leader, was added and later expanded by a two story classroom addition. Our active membership expanded threefold, overwhelming our 125 seat Chapel. We again needed to build, but we desired to retain the friendliness of our compact lovely chapel. Many architectural designs were studied. The design chosen accommodates our membership in comfort, with only 10 rows extending from pulpit to Church rear, fewer than in our cozy Chapel. Associated with the new sanctuary there is an office wing, music room, the newly constructed Stockton Fisher Hall and, outside, a Memorial Garden for members and friends who have died. Thus, we are prepared to offer a full religious program, including an active Church School, meaningful evening programs, and to support community activities.

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