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A Brief History of the Church


Hilltop Presbyterian Church was founded in 1738, by Ebenezer Byram. The church was first located in a log cabin at the crest of the Ralston section of Mendham Township.

In 1745, Ebenezer Byram and John Cary led in the relocation and construction of the first house of worship on the present site.  This edifice was the meeting place for the congregation until 1816.

In October of 1776, when the British were in possession of New York and Long Island, the Presbytery of New York met in Hilltop sanctuary.  In the winter of 1777, with Washington's Revolutionary Army encamped at Jockey Hollow, the church was pressed into service as a smallpox hospital.  Twenty-seven soldiers died here, and are buried in a common grave in the cemetery behind the church.

In 1814, the congregation voted to raise the sum of $6000 for the construction of a new house of worship, which was dedicated in the year 1817.  On a cold winter's night, February 17, 1835, this second sanctuary was destroyed by fire.   A third house of worship was built.

The time prior to and throughout the Civil War were times of crisis for Hilltop Church.  In 1856, the Reverend Theodore White was installed as Pastor.   A strong and vocal abolitionist, Mr. White split the congregation when he brought a black brother into the pulpit on Sunday morning.  On May 18, 1859, pastoral relations were severed and twenty individuals left Hilltop Church to form the Second Presbyterian Church, on the same spot on which the Bailey Funeral Home stands today.

On February 20, 1859, a bitterly cold night, the fire gong sounded the alarm.  It was 10:00 pm and the Hilltop Church was a mass of flames.  The hill was so covered with ice and snow that men had to crawl on their hands an knees to reach the summit.  Nothing could be done to save the building.  The present sanctuary was dedicated in April of 1860 and cost a grand total of $9583.

A total of 27 pastors have served Hilltop Church throughout its history.   Our sanctuary has inspired artists and writers; missionaries, preachers, college professors and university presidents have gone forth from her portals.  Around the church stand sacred memorials to early families who lived, struggled and fought to keep this country true to the ideals they held so dear.

The purpose of the First Presbyterian Church, Mendham, New Jersey is to acknowledge and proclaim the presence and power of God and to continue the work of Jesus Christ by loving God, God's world and ourselves.  We are committed to the growth of faith, the spreading of the good news, and the mission of caring for those near and far.  We fulfill these commitments through prayers, study, sharing, teaching and serving.


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