For many local residents, Stanhope United Methodist Church, at #2 Route 183.Netcong holds a place in their family history. Baptisms, weddings, and memorial services have been held there. Now the church, also known as the “Church in the Glen” has a place in New Jersey history. “The Church in the Glen” has been entered into the National Register of Historic Places and the New Jersey Register of historic places. It received that designation from The County of Morris Heritage Commission and the New Jersey State Preservation Commission. Recently, a marker was put on the church’s front lawn proclaiming its historic significance.
Those involved in getting the church this recognition were Amanda Rush, president of the church’s Board of Trustees and Leigh Ann Pietz, a member of the church. Both are Netcong residents.
“[The designation] shows the community who we are and where we came from. It also allows us to apply for other grants for work on the church inside and out. The building and surroundings (land), are safeguarded by from town, county or state encroachments,” shared Rush. The church has already received some grant monies for restoration work on the church.
As part of the process of getting its historic recognition, a summary history of the church was put together using many sources. It shares the church’s beginnings and answers a question that many have asked, “why does a church located in Netcong have ‘Stanhope’ in the name.” The congregation was formed in 1834, then, as the history summary shows:
“Prior to the location of the church in Netcong, the Methodist Episcopal Church at Lockwood was built in 1835. It was located at the current location of the Lockwood Cemetery on Route 206 in Byram. The church was a large frame building with galleries. As the congregation grew, the house was filled and overflowing during services and ceremonies. In addition, the building was deteriorating due to sustained damage. The Lockwood Church, then considered the center of the community, served area residents for eight years. During this time, Methodist Bible classes were taught in a plaster mill along the Morris Canal. The plaster mill was used from 1835-1843.
In 1844, the congregation moved to a location on Linden Avenue in Stanhope. John McGowan and Joseph Crane built the church building. The church was a tall, frame building with a steeple and remained in use until 1920.”
With the growth of the community in the 1900s, it became evident that a new church needed to be built to meet the congregation’s needs. In 1915, the church’s trustees began asking for donations. Abram J. Drake, one of Netcong’s founders and its first mayor, offered a parcel of land at the dividing line between Stanhope and Netcong (the current location). However, it was decided that the name of the church would not change as it reflected the church’s membership in both towns. The cornerstone was laid in July 1917 and the building constructed by the Gallo Brothers of Netcong, using local stone. It was finished in October 1920. A weeklong celebration marked the event. Today the church is home to a variety of groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the scouts) and continues to be a part of many residents’ family history.
Reflecting on how she feels about the church earning its historic recognition, Rush noted her personal connection to it as being the third generation to worship there. Her parents (Rush) and grandparents (O’Briens) also attended that church.. “As for me and being there all my life, I feel it’s a sense of honor, to honor my family members,” she said.