190th Anniversary of
Today we celebrate the 192nd anniversary of Bethel A.M.E. Church of Pennington, N.J. Bethel was founded in the year of our Lord 1816. The Rev. Elijah Hammitt was the first pastor assigned to the Pennington Church. During this early existence, church services were held in various homes for a period of thirty one years. In 1847 a parcel of land was purchased from a Mr. Jonathan Bunn, a sympathetic friend of the charter members.
Shortly thereafter, having properly recorded all phases of this transaction, the pastor and members proceeded to build a church-thus the community had its' first temple of worship. Rev. Elijah Hammit remained until the church was nearly cleared of debt. In 1863 The Rev. Archibald Campbell became the pastor. This strikes a proud note in the history of Bethel Pennington because Rev. Campbell later became a bishop. In 1865 the church was used as a Day School for colored children. Mr. William Boyer a veteran of the civil war was the school master. Mrs. Margaret Johnson, the mother of church historian Sarah Hoagland the writer of the early history of Bethel clearly remembered her days as a student at the church school. In 1867 the church was rebuilt and enlarged, the high backed seats were removed and remained the same until renovation was started in L949 and completed in 1950 under the leadership of Rev. Frederick O. Kelly. The two collection boxes from the original church are still prized possessions.
In 1887, The Rev. Amos H. Brown became the pastor at Bethel. Near the close of the conference year an interesting petition requesting the return of Rev. Brown was prepared and presented to the A.M.E. Conference then convening in Trenton, New Jersey. The Rev. Bishop D.N. Payne presiding. The petition was supported not only by church members, but by several prominent citizens of the community. Their names are as follows:
Thomas O'Hanley D.D., President of the Pennington Seminary
A.P. Lasher, Principal of the Pennington Institute
Daniel R. Foster, Pastor of the Pennington Presbyterian Church
W. G. McCullough, M.D.
Israel Hart, M.D.
H.P. Welling, M.D.
E.L. Welling, M.D.