The First Presbyterian Church of Franklin began in a stone building on Oak Street. Services were conducted alternately by the Presbyterians and Methodists until the two denominations united in 1876, worshiping under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1893, the congregation affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and on April 11, 1894, the Presbytery of Newton received the Franklin Furnace Church into its fellowship. All members in good standing of the former Reformed Church of Franklin Furnace were declared members of the new church. Elders, Deacons and Trustees were elected in April and May 1894, and the Pastor, the Rev. George B. Crawford, was installed in July. Minutes of the Session meetings, beginning in 1894, remain in good readable condition and are stored in our church office. Of particular interest is the scrupulous recording of new members and the dates of their acceptance into the church.
With a fast-growing congregation, and a Sunday School membership of 225, more space became necessary. So on December 7, 1913, ground was broken for a new church building on a Main Street lot donated by the New Jersey Zinc Company. The red brick building with white wood trim was completed in record time at a cost of $25,000 and was paid for by the “generous subscription” of the congregation. It consisted of two main divisions: the Sanctuary (then known as the Auditorium) and the Sunday School room.
The interior was finished in mission style with matching furniture; a kitchen and ladies parlor were at the rear of the Sunday School room. Dedication services were held on December 14th, 1914. For many years both morning and evening services were held on the Sabbath.
The congregation continued to flourish and organizations such as the Ladies Ways and Means Society, the Men’s Brotherhood and the Young People’s Christian Endeavor were organized. A pipe organ was installed in March 1927 at the cost of $4500 and was used until an electronic organ was donated in January 1967. In 1986, a Rogers Oxford 925 Organ was purchased and a dedication was held on November 23rd of that year.
A two-story education wing-consisting of the Great Hall, a kitchen, a choir room and several Sunday School rooms-was added to the building in 1969 and was dedicated on January 18, 1970. This addition has been used not only for our church activities, but also as a meeting place for many community organizations, as schoolrooms, which were rented to the Franklin Board of Education, and later, as rooms for the Head Start Program. The large kitchen permits the congregation to host social activities and fund raising dinners. In 1990, a second story was added to the church office, providing a separate secretary’s room on the main floor and a Pastor’s office with a private entrance on the second floor.
During the past 100 years people of all ages, nationalities and races, regardless of their faith background, have been welcomed into our congregation. Two ethnic groups in particular have had an impact on our growth.
Because work was plentiful in the Zinc Company mines during the 1902’s and 30’s, no less than 75 families arrived in Franklin from Cornwall, England. Many joined our congregation and held positions such as Clerk of Session, Elders, Trustees, Sextons and Sunday School teachers. A Cornish Men’s Choir sang at Sunday evening services once each month. Four generations of Cornish people have been active in our congregation.
Early in the twentieth century, close to three hundred Hungarians lived in and around Franklin. In 1908, those of the Protestant faith formed the Hungarian Reformed Church, which in later years became the Franklin Hungarian Presbyterian Church. In 1910, a schoolhouse, with its bell, was moved to Evans Street from the town of Edison, east of Ogdensburg. For the next sixty-three years, countless Hungarian families worshipped there according to their cultural inheritance. However, toward the end of that period, their membership dwindled to seventy, and in 1973, the church dissolved. A number of its members joined our congregation and have served in many capacities to further the ministry of the church. In May 1990, we held a two-day Hungarian festival to dedicate the old bell, which had been removed from the Hungarian church and installed on our church lawn.
For nearly two decades we have united with the Franklin communities of Temple Shalom and the Immaculate Conception Church in an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service. On Thanksgiving Eve we gather together, alternating services among the three houses of worship and concluding each evening with a reception and fellowship hour.
The First Presbyterian Church of Franklin, New Jersey
In June, 1944 the Reverend Dr. Herbert J. Allsup of the First Presbyterian Church of Franklin presented his resignation to the congregation. Dr. Allsup had been with our church for 20 years, the longest-serving pastor in our history.
Dr. Allsup had been was born on April 6, 1878 in Lancastershire, England. He and his parents came to the United States in 1880 and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio where Herbert attended public schools. He graduated from the College of Wooster, Ohio (a Presbyterian College) in 1909 and Princeton Theological Seminary in 1911. Prior to his years in Franklin he served churches in Trenton, South Amboy, and Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania. The College of the Ozarks awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree in May 1931.
During his pastorate the congregation grew and, at one point, our Sunday school was the largest in Sussex County. Dr. and Mrs. Allsup were not only tireless workers for the church, but were very active in community affairs.
On April 6, 1934 a celebration service was held to commemorate Dr. Allsup’s 10th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the church. At that time, with the financial assistancy of many merchants, Dr. Alsup published a book entitled “A Brief History of Church Life in Franklin, New Jersey”. The book outlines the history, not only of our church, but also of the many faiths of the people of Franklin.
Upon his retirement, Dr. and Mrs. Allsup went to live with their son, Reverend Frederick James Allsup (better known to our congregation as “Tommy”) and his wife Margaret. At that time Tommy was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Chester, N.Y.
*Sylvia Hadowanetz, Church Historian, researched this article from a 60-year old newspaper clipping, probably from the Herald part of the collection of Mrs. Mabel Rowe, a deceased member of our church. Her granddaughter, Terry Ingler Clabbers sent it to us.