Old Bridge Township is one of the largest Townships in Middlesex County. It is located in Central New Jersey and covers an area of 42 square miles. It originally was named Madison Township but was legally changed in 1982 to it's present name. In the latter part of the 19th century, when the early settlers arrived, the population of the township was approximately 800 to 1000 people. Most of them lived on farms which were scattered throughout the Township.
Brunswick Gardens Section #1 is a parcel of land in the south western part of Madison Township that totaled 520 acres and was owned by the American Realty Company which had it's headquarters in New York City. The A.R.C. offered this land for sale in lots sizes of 1/2, 1, 2 1/2 and 5 acres.
Brunswick Gardens Section #1 consists mainly of Marlboro Road and eight streets; Maple, South, Birch, Oak, Pine, Brook, Green and Second Place. Marlboro Road, as well as all of the side streets were dirt roads with a ditch dug on one side to drain the excess rainwater away. During the cold winter months these roads would be full of nuts. Keep in mind that Henry Ford didn't begin to mass-produce Model-Ts until 1914, so the most popular means of transportation was the bicycle. The Farmers of course, all had their horses and wagons.
By 1916, there were forty to fifty families living in Brunswick Gardens #1. This growing community would gather at each others homes for Hymn singing, Sunday School and Bazaars to raise money to build a church. When they approached Frank Haussner to purchase a piece of ground on which to build the church, Mr Haussner arranged instead to donate a half-acre piece of lot 170 on which the Church was built and still stands today. The first $250 raised for the building fund from a bazaar helped to pay for cement blocks that were needed for the four walls. Quite a number of men were carpenters by trade and roughly half of the families living in B.G. #1, volunteered to help get the Church started. In September, 1917, these dedicated people saw their dreams realized when THE UNION PROTESTANT CHURCH was dedicated.
The first 25-year history taken from the Church records follows........................................
THE HISTORY OF THE FIRST TWENTY-FIVE
YEARS OF THE
THE HISTORY OF THE FIRST TWENTY-FIVE
YEARS OF THE
UNION PROTESTANT CHURCH
of Brunswick Gardens, Old Bridge, N.J.
In the house of John Zuiderhook in Brunswick Gardens #1, Old Bridge, New Jersey there gathered on the evening of August 5th, 1916 a small circle of men and women from the community for the purpose of organizing a non-sectarian Protestant Church. That evening the resolution was taken that a Church should be formed under the name of UNION PROTESTANT CHURCH of BRUNSWICK GARDENS #1. Old Bridge, NJ and Otto Wahrendorff was appointed to prepare a Charter suitable for the Association. Those present at the meeting were: Otto Wahrendorff, Sadie Gibson, Annie Zuiderhook, Grace Green, Paul Lindstrom, Anton Ginman, John A. Ginman and others not mentioned in the minutes.
On the 26th of August, 1916 the Union Protestant Church of Brunswick Gardens, Old Bridge, New Jersey was incorporated as mentioned in the Charter.
For the Purpose of Teaching, Instruction and Propagation of the Christian Religion.
To Increase knowledge, Understanding and Learning in the Tenets, Precepts and Doctrines of Said Religion.
The Erection of a Building, Wherein Followers and Believers in Said Religion May Pray and Practice Their Religion and Solemn Worship.
The number of Trustees selected was seven and the names of the Trustees for the first year were: Otto Wahrendorff, Sadie Gibson, Annie Zuiderhook, Grace Green, Paul Lindstrom, Anton Ginman and John A Ginman. All of whom signed the document in the presence of Ira C Crandall, Commissioner of Deeds.
On the 4th of September, 1916 a half acre of Lot #170 on Brunswick Gardens was donated and deeded to the Union Protestant Church by Mr F.A. Hausner, Secretary of the Vigilant Land Security Co. of New York on the agreement:
That within five (5) years from September 4, 1916 there should be erected and maintained on said property a Non-Sectarian Christian Church to be used as a place for Worship or for Public School or both.
At a meeting April 7, 1917 it was resolved to erect the Church and Construction was started in May, 1917. The members were to devote one day each week for work on the grounds and the church. Later on, a very small amount was paid to those who worked on the Church in order that the building could be finished by October 1st. In the Summer Annie Zuiderhook, having left the community, resigned as a Trustee and John Asplund was elected in her place.
On September 5, 1917 the first yearly meeting of the members of the Congregation was called and John Davenport replaced Anton Ginman as Trustee. The following were admitted to membership in the Church: Otto Wahrendorff, Paul Lindstrom, Sadie Gibson, A. Myhre, Anton Ginman, Otto Ginman, John A Ginman, Ester Ginman, John Davenport, Marie Davenport. Later in the month it was decided to assess each member .50 a month. The money to build the Church was collected in different ways by donations from members and friends, at bazaars and at Ladies Aid sales. At a Fair held on the Church grounds on August 24-25 1917, about $250 was raised. This Fair, the biggest affair held for the benefit of the Church in past years was attended by a great number of people from nearby towns. Farmers from the vicinity and friends from Brooklyn, N.Y. Rev. Willandt from Brooklyn, N.Y. and Rev. Nystrom from Gardner, Mass were also present. There was a band for entertainment, games, refreshments and donated items were sold. The Fair was a huge success. Later in September, 1917 the Church was dedicated with Rev. Luther of Old Bridge officiating.
A Sunday School had been started in 1916 after the Church was organized. Classes were held in the homes of the Zuiderhooks and the Holstroms and other members until the Church was completed. Anton Ginman led the Sunday School and Lina Ginman provided the music. Mr Vogel and Mary Yates from Old Bridge were teachers. Later, Alma Asplund took over as the Leader of the Sunday School with the help of other ladies. After Lina Gunman's tragic death from a fire in her home, her organ was donated to the Church.
Beginning October 1 1917, the Board of Education of Madison Township rented the Church for ten dollars a month for use as a school for Grades 1 thru 6. The Township was responsible for the teacher, books, pads, pencils, etc plus wood or coal for the potbellied stove. The Church used it on weekends. This went on for sic years. Before this, children of all ages had to attend the Crandall School of Old Bridge.
Grades 1-6 showing used as a School
For some children this meant more than a two mile walk in all kinds of weather. During the Fall of 1917 more members were added: J. Sprunk Sr, W. Sprunk, Henry Sprunk, Fred Alexander, H. Buttcher and Maria Lindstrom were admitted as members. A. Myhre was elected Trustee to replace John Davenport. Rev. Aug. Willandt from Brooklyn help services in the Church a few times in the last months of the year.
From the start of 1918, and as years went on, some members resigned and new members were added to the congregation, and children were baptized. Church services were help through 1918-1919 with several ministers: Rev. Willandt of Brooklyn, Rev. Nystrom of Gardner Mass and Rev. Wilson of Jersey City, NJ.
Mr F. M. Denton became the first regular preacher of our Church serving from 1920-1924. Because the roads were so bad, the Church provided Paster Denton with a new set of tires every year. In 1923, when the new 2 room school was built on Marlboro Rd at Burch Street, the use of the Church as a school was discontinued. Late in 1923, necessary repairs were made on the church and new Church benches, built by John Asplund, were added. From 1924 to 1933, the Church was only used when traveling Missionaries or Ministers were visiting members of the congregation.
Early in 1933 Rev. Fahnstrom of Jersey City and Bayonne began to hold services in the Church. At a meeting March 7th it was decided to reorganize the congregation and this was done at a meeting on April 7th. New Members joined and signed the Constitution together with those of the old members who were left. The Following signed: Otto Wahrendorff, Paul Linstrom, Alex Rasmussen, Charles Hendrickson, Otto Ginman, Anton Ginman, Hulda Hendrickson, Josephine Wahrendorff, Corneel Zuiderhook, Maria Lindstrom, Alinda Wolfe, Marta Almgren, Anna Rasmussen, Hattie Maley, Ruth Cyran, Arthur Miller, Ester Ginman, Anna Jockman, Mathilda Nystrom, Theresa Maley, Anna Partenen, Vendia Holstrom, Anna Ginman and Pualine Zaplatynski. Ruth Cryan acted as Secretary until August 4th when Hattie Maley was elected. Anton Ginman, Paul Lindstrom and Alex Rasmussen were elected deacons: Charles Hendrickson, Otto Wahrendorff and Otto Ginman were elected Trustees. Later on Anna Jockman was elected as financial secretary. On account of the depression, no set fees were asked of the members, but a collection was taken up at each service.
In the Month of June, 1933 It was decided to have an "Entertainment" on August 19th by Uncle Pete and Louise in the club house for the benefit of the church. Later in the year, with the help of the money which was earned from the affair, the Church was repaired inside and outside and electric lights were installed. The work was done free of charge by some of the church members. The organ was bought from Mrs Zuiderhook in June 1933.
In Sept 1933, Rev. Faahnstrom suggested that a Sunday School should be started again, as there were now quite a few children and young people in the community without regular religious instruction. Alex Resmussen was chosen as leader for the Sunday School and Anna Jockman, Hattie Maley and Lizi Rasmussen were elected as teachers. Rev. Faahnstrom was acting treasurer until 1934 when Anna Rasmussen was elected. As there were quite a few young people in the 14-18 age group, a confirmation class was started. Rev. Faahnstrom could only come once a month in the evening, so he recommended Rev, A.A. Wilfred of Elizabeth to help us with Pastoral guidance for our Sunday school, which had 34 members at the time.
Rev. Wilfred came here every Sunday afternoon and as time went on started to have services for the congregation after Sunday school was over. Professor Fransen of Apsala College also held a few services.
At the first yearly meeting Nov 7th 1933, "the date set in the Constitution" Rev.Faahnstrom suggested that a Ladies Aid Society be organized. Hulda Hendrickson was elected Pres, Hattie Mayley Secretary and Anna Rasmussen, Treasurer. On Dec 7th, the first meeting of the Ladies Aid Society was helo in the home of the President. There were eleven members.
On June 16, 1934 The first Confirmation took place in the Church. Those Confirmed were: Adelaide Alexander, Randolf Ginman, Woodrow Ginman, Rayman Ginman, John Holstrom, Ruth Jockman, Eleanor Mayley, Lizi Rasmussen. The following Sunday Communion was given.
In the Spring of 1934 Henning Pearson came to live in the community with his Grandmother. He was a graduate of Upsala college and later became a substitute teacher in the Township. Mr. Pearson proposed to be out organist and for a little more than two years, up to September1936, the church had its most active time. He organized a choir of fifteen members which sang at the church services held by Rev. Wilfrid. He held candlelight services here and in Plainfield and Elizabeth, led church and social meetings and arranged and held Pageants at Christmas and Easter. He wrote and directed a play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the children of the Sunday school, which was given for the first time for the benefit of the Sunday school on August 31, 1935. On October 4th, the play was held at the dunhams Corner School and profits were shared with the P.T.A.. On November 15th it was played in the Methodist Church in Milltown, both shared the profit on the recommendation of Mrs. Alma Asplund of Dunhams Corner. The money earned on those occasions was used for Sunday School Hymn Books, the Sunday School Weekly Papers and expenses for costumes etc. A play, The Country Bride given and acted by the ladies of the Ladies Aid Society in August, 1935, was also directed by Mr. Pearson. It was with regret that the community saw Mr. Pearson leave to take up studies at a Bible school in Chicago, from which he later graduated.
At the yearly meeting in 1934, seven trustees were elected according to the Charter. As the financial problem was hard to work out because of the depression and there were no means of regular income, it was decided in February, 1935 that Rev.Wilfred should only come here 20 times
a year -- twice a month for eight months, and in January, February, July and August only twice a month. Rev. Wilfred lived at first in Elizabeth and traveled from there by train to New Brunswick, from where the members in turn transported the minister by car. The driving expenses shared by the Sunday School, the Ladies Aid Society and the Congregation. The Pastor was paid a small amount quarterly. After February, 1935 Pastor Wilfred was paid from the collection plate. Later the sons of Rev. Wilfred got a car and devoted their Sunday Afternoons to driving Pastor Wilfred, Family and friends to our little Church.
On May 3 1836 the second Confirmation was performed in the Church. Those Confirmed at this time were: Lynn Wilfred and Alfa Anderson of Elizabeth, Grace Ginman, Kai and Karen Rasmussen of Brunswick Gardens. Communion was given on the same day.
Henning Pearson had departed in the fall of 1936 so once in a while Phillip Wilfred would play the organ at the services until Karen Rasmussen became our organist. She served until late 1939. As the Choir was partially discontinued after Henning Pearson left, Rev. Wilfred and his sons many a time would sing for us at the services.
Alex Rasmussen had resigned as leader of the Sunday School during the time Rev. Wilfred came every Sunday. After 1935 when the Pastor only came twice a month, Anna Jockman, one of the teachers, took up the leadership when Pastor was not here. When she resigned Hattie Haley was chosen as the Leader with the help of Grace Ginman and Karen Rasmussen as teachers.
On June 19, 1938 there was a Confirmation in the Church for the third time. Those Confirmed were: Charlotte and Robert Butthcer, Gloria Ginman, Elsie Partanen, Dorothy Wolfe and Margaret Uram. Communion was given the same day. After the class was Confirmed there was only one pupil left who attended the Sunday School regularly, and the Sunday School was discontinued. However. when Rev. Wilfred came here, he would read the Sunday School lessons with the pupil or is other children were present, with them all, before or after the Service.
Rev. Wilfred moved to Bayonne around 1937, but this long distance did not hinder the Pastor from faithfully coming here on Sundays arranged; in rain or shine, in frost and snow. He always would greet out little Congregation with a smile. The Congregation can not thank his sons enough either, because they devoted their time to bringing the Pastor the long way out here. The last Service Rev. Wilfred held here was on Christmas Day 1940. He was happy because the Church was so well filled and he was in seemingly good health. We never thought that the Christmas service would be the last time we would see the Pastor in our little Church. It was a great sorrow for the Congregation that Rev. Wilfred suddenly passed away on January 9, 1941. Let the memory of Rev. Wilfred linger in our hearts in years to come with thanks for his faithful Service and Friendship.
In the years Rev. Wilfred served our Church, there were besides the three Confirmation classes, quite a few children and adults baptized, three couples from the community married and some funerals and once or twice Communion was given.
1st CONFIRMATION CLASS
Elsie Partanen served as our organist from late 1939. On Rev. Wilfred's advice, Sunday School was started again in late 1940. Classes were held at 10 O' Clock in the morning with Kai Rasmussen as the leader and Elsie Partanen and Dorothy Wolfe as teachers. There were 10 Pupils. Late in 1940, the piano was donated by the Pearson family.
In March, 1941 arrangements were made with Rev. Benethum from Hightstown, to come here for Services every Sunday at 7 PM. Services were held regularly since then.
At the same time a check was made as to who considered themselves members of the Church and the Trustees decided to assess each member 25 cents a month in order to better the financial situation. The following were members of the church in 1941: Paul Lindstrom-Deacon Trustee and Treasurer, Alex Rasmussen-Deacon, Kai Rasmussen-Deacon and leader of the Ladies Aid, Ester Ginman-Trustee, Adelaide Alexander-Trustee, Anton Ginman, Aina Ginman, Marta Almgren Betty Rasmussen, Woodrow Ginman, Raymond Ginman, Grace Ginman, Gloria Ginman, Randolph Ginman, Elsie partanen, Dorothy Wolfe, Lizi Rasmussen and Keran Rasmussen. Of these members Easter Ginman, Paul Lindstrom and Anton Ginman have continually been member of the congregation from the start in 1916. The following have served as Sextons in the years since 1933; Paul Lindstrom, Anton Ginman, Woodrow Ginman, and Kai Rasmussen.
The Ladies Aid Society had worked ceaselessly through the years from 1933-1941 to be of help to the Church by paying mostly all current expenses. After the first year, Hulda Hendrickson resigned as President and Vendla Dolstrom was elected and served as President until her death in 1936.Anna Rasmussen was acting President until Anna Lindstrom was elected in 1937. Hattie Haely served as Secretary and Anna Rasmussen as Treasurer since 1933. The Ladies Aid Society has tried to make it's income by selling handwork made by the members and sold at bazaars, at auctions and between themselves; By serving refreshments at social gatherings and by paying a small monthly fee. The ladies Aid Society met once a month in turn at members homes. A few women outside the Congregation belonged to the Society which numbered 14 members in 1941.
Lastly, let us not forget to mention the names of those faithful members who devoted their time and effort to starting and continuing the church work in Brunswick Gardens but have passed away; Sadie Gibson, Grace Green, Otto Wahrendorff, Cornelia Zuiderhook, Fredrick Alexander, Maria Lindstrom, Chas. Hendrickson, Otto Ginman, Vendla Holstrom, Lina Ginman, Mathilda Nystrom and F. M. Denton. John Holstrom worked at the start of the Church but died before it was finished.
With the help of God and in memory of those faithful members, let us all try to do our best for the Union Protestant Church in the future, that their efforts should not have been in vain.
Submitted by Anna Rasmussen, August 26. 1941
Music by Third Day: I've Always Loved You