First Presbyterian Church of the Berkshire Valley
635 Berkshire Valley Road, Wharton, NJ 07885
Pastor : Rev. Dr. Christopher Doyle
Worship on Sunday mornings at 9:00 am. All are welcome always!
In the area that we call our home, the land had originally been lands belonging to the Leni-Lenape Native American tribe, however, was then claimed by the Dutch government when they were making deep inroads into the North American continent. They used as their base New Amsterdam (later to become New York), which was only thirty miles to the east. In the area, between Dutch and then English settlers, there was an active community that survived on trapping, agriculture, timber and iron ore mining once iron ore was discovered. Although not a very well populated area, during the Revolutionary War between the English and the newly forming nation of the United States, the people of the area worked hard to create a place that they could call home.
In 1803, a group of families in the Berkshire Valley area of Rockaway Township met to discuss their need of forming a church. Having Presbyterianism as their denominational tradition, they naturally proposed that their church would be named The First Presbyterian Church of the Berkshire Valley. The following year, the township of Jefferson was formed, incorporating much of the Berkshire Valley. The area was growing with a population that was gathering resources to build an actual church building so that barns and open fields would not be their regular worship places of worship.
They did build a structure, however, after a few years it suffered from a fire and was declared a total loss. However, with the perseverance their faith taught them, they immediately began gathering resources to rebuild. In 1825, the new sanctuary was completed and has been worshipped in ever since. The interior has changed little, with the original design in place, with even the pews made from roughly cut local timber cared for but never changed.
Being that the church was seen as the heart of their community, a school house was built a couple hundred feet away, with a hotel and general store just up the established road. Berkshire Valley was an up and coming community, but then a rail road line was built going through the smaller community of Dover, which caused the growing of Dover and the shrinking of the Berkshire Valley community.
Through the Civil War, the church survived, but went from 77 to 26 members. Records do not record the reasons why the significant drop in church membership, which seems to have occurred especially during the Civil War years, however, with the conclusion of the war, the area began to repopulate and so did the congregation.
In the 1950's, after the township has closed the one room school house next to the church, the congregation purchased the building from the township and set to work turning it into a fellowship hall complete with kitchen and bathrooms, and classrooms on the lower level of the building for Religious Education.
Over the course of more than 200 years, there have been many pastors, parishioners and visitors to our church. All have been able to remark on the story of First Presbyterian Church of the Berkshire Valley, and how important it is to continue its ministry so as to serve the local and greater community.