The History of Our Church

Lincoln on Methodists

– “It is no fault in others that the Methodist Church sends more soldiers to the field, more nurses to the hospitals, and more prayers to Heaven than any. God bless the Methodist Church. Bless all the churches and Blessed be God, who in this our trial, giveth us the churches.” – Source: Direct Quotes of Abraham Lincoln


– Captain Thomas Webb, a retired officer of the British Army, spent a week in Burlington during November 1768. This appears to have been his first visit to Burlington.  After that he came frequently.  According to tradition, the beginning of organized Methodism in Burlington quickly followed or was directly due to the preaching of a sermon by Captain Webb at an execution outside the jail wall on Broad Street near Library Street.  The present Church stands on the jail site.  Executions were public in those days and were attended by great crowds.  This afforded the Methodist preacher an opportunity to call these spectators to repentance.  With such an object lesson to illustrate “the wages of sin is death” it is not surprising that these early preachers brought conviction to many.



– Captain Webb formed a small class on December 14, 1770.  The Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church dates from the forming of this little Society in Burlington, giving it the honor of being the first place in New Jersey in which Methodism was permanently established.  He later appointed Joseph Toy leader of the class.  This small group met in the homes of its members.  From time to time, a minister would stop in the town and preach to the group and to the public.  These preaching services were usually held in the Court House, which stood in the center of the intersection of Broad and High Streets.
Plaque for Founding
Francis Asbury Plaque


– The first place Frances Asbury preached was Burlington.  He landed in Philadelphia on October 27, 1771.  On November 7, he came to Burlington on his way to New York and preached in the Court House to a “large, serious congregation.”  Returning from New York, he preached again in Burlington and then went over to New Mills (Pemberton), where he preached in the Baptist Meeting House and was kindly received.  He made Philadelphia his headquarters and exercised pastoral oversight over the society at Burlington.

– On July 4, 1772, Asbury attended the execution of a murderer in Burlington and preached to a large crowd under the jail wall on the words, “He heals the broken heart.”
– The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized as a denomination in this country at the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore in 1784.
– The preaching in Burlington was held in the Court House during the first years of the Church’s history, but soon after the Revolutionary War, the Court House was taken down and the court removed to Mt. Holly.  The Methodists were then compelled to meet in the house of Mr. George Smith, a faithful member.  While meeting under these conditions in about the year 1787, an offer was made by Major Joseph Bloomfield (who later became a General, then Governor of the State), to donate a lot of ground if the members would put up the “house.”  This offer was made to Mr. James Sterling.  Major Bloomfield and his wife, Mary, conveyed a lot of land 35 x 40 deep on October 2, 1788, to Bishop Francis Asbury, Bishop Thomas Coke, James Sterling, William Budd, Isaac Budd, Samuel Budd and George Smith for the sum of five shillings.

Mr. James Sterling was a prosperous merchant here in Burlington, and an earnest worker not only not only here, but in all points of the Burlington Circuit.  He often accompanied the ministers and rendered valuable assistance in establishing Methodism at other points.  His home became the home of all Methodist itinerants and his hospitality was known far and wide.  His daughter, Mrs. Rebecca Sterling Cowperthwait, was the founder of the Church School.  He, his wife and daughter are buried in the Church Cemetery on Lawrence Street.


– Methodist’s first house of worship constructed, located on Library Street facing South.  Size: 29 x 35 feet, two stories in height, built in the same architectural style as the Quaker meeting houses.  It was considered adequate and could accommodate about 80 people.  It was considered very modern, as a big, pot-bellied stove provided heat (somewhat of a rarity at that time).  This meeting house served the Methodists of the area for a period of 32 years.  The original building is still in existence, having been bought by and moved to the estate of James Logan, a Mt. Holly lawyer who resides outside of Burlington.  A picture of the 1788 church building hangs in the upstairs entrance to the sanctuary.

January 14, 1818

– Board of Trustees became a permanent part of the church to “Superintend the business of said church and their burying ground.”  The cost of the burial was free to members of the church but non-members shall pay an amount not exceeding four dollars and not less than one dollar.  Source: Board of Trustees Records, Page 2.


– The church continued to grow until in 1819 it was evident that a new church had become a necessity.  A committee consisting of William Hayes, Samuel Stockton and William S. Wright were appointed by the trustees to buy a lot.  The Court House and jail had been removed to Mt. Holly, and it was able to secure the lot for the new church in the same location where Captain Webb had preached.  William Woolman made the original survey of the lot in 1799.  This is the site of the present buildings, located at 36 East Broad Street, Burlington.  The original deed is in the care of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History, Madison, NJ (Drew University Campus).


– The continued growth of the Church made a larger building necessary.  On December 11, 1846, a committee was appointed to solicit funds for the new building, which was to be 55 feet x 70 feet.  The foundation of the new church was begun on June 17, 1847, the anniversary of the birth of John Wesley.  During the building of the new church, services were held in the Lyceum Building on High Street, the “old City Hall”.
May 14, 1847
– A committee was formed to find a place to hold Sunday school while our church was being built.  The Baptist Church allowed us to use their basement for this purpose.  Reference: Sunday School Board of Manager’s Record Book.
April 4, 1848
– “The Committee to prepare ‘Rules & Regulations for the Government of the Congregation’ reported a series of regulations which were approved and ordered to be printed and a suitable number frames framed and hung up in the church.” – Source: Direct Quote from Trustees Minutes. These copies are now hung in the vestibule of our church.
August 16, 1853
– Cornerstone of Union Street Methodist Church was laid.  A small group of Methodists withdrew from Broad Street M. E. Church and worshipped in Odd Fellows Hall until the present church was completed in March, 1854.
March 1, 1854
– Union Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated.  This church was formed by a small group from our church.  The first worship services were held in Odd Fellows Hall while the church was being built.  The cornerstone had been laid on August 16, 1853.  Source: History of Burlington, Page 124
April 21, 1861
– (Sunday morning) The Trustees met at the call of the President in Class Room #1.  The President stated that he had just learned that a Military Company… Marion Rifles, of this city, who have volunteered their services in the defense of the government under the call of the President of the United States, would be present in our congregation by invitation of the pastor for the purpose of attending Divine Worship with us.  This evening, it was on motion unanimously agreed (or resolved) that we take up a special collection on the occasion to aid the Committee of Citizens already appointed to Equip the Company for service in the United States Army, into which they are about to enter.” – Source: Board of Trustees Minutes
– Direct quote from Trustees minutes: “At a special meeting of the trustees held on April 15, 1865, to take into consideration the propriety of draping the church in mourning on account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.  On motion of Brother Coleman, it was resolved that the church be draped (in black) for thirty days.  Brothers Lowden and Lippincott were appointed on the committee to purchase the necessary goods to drape the church.”  W. S. Stiles, Secretary.
In 1866
– Samuel Stockton donated the land for the opening of a public street.  This is now West Union Street, originally called Stockton Street.  This land extended 610 feet to Wood Street and was 50 feet wide.  Mr. Stockton, a member of Broad Street UMC, perfected the first porcelain false teeth and became honored throughout the world for his work.  Source: History of Burlington, Page 118.
June 30, 1870
– Ladies Aid Society of this church was formed.  The first secretary was G. W. Myers.  It’s purpose was to “aid the stewards & trustees in raising money for all purposes where it may be necessary.”  This was revised 7/13/1875 to read, “To collect funds for the use of the church and parsonage”.  Source: Ladies Aid Minutes – Church records.
May 22, 1876
– Board of Trustees voted to purchase the “Ann Talbert” property on Lawrence Street.  This was to be rented for $12.50 per month.  This property extended from Lawrence Street to Library Street and adjoined the church. Source: Trustees Minutes – 1876, Page 34.
August 1878
– An organ was rented for use in the Infant Department at a cost of $2.00 per month.  This organ was purchased in 1880 at a cost of $73.23, including stool and freight.


– The church was completely remodeled in 1887.  Additions were built for Sunday School.  Stained glass memorial windows and the pipe organ were installed.  At this time, the choir was moved from the back gallery to its present position.
Pipe Organ
September 23, 1888
– $79.50 was donated from a collection in Sunday School to help the yellow fever sufferers in Central America.
February 4, 1906
– The following handwritten note was found in the book of Cemetery Records (1878-1918): “After death of Capt. Douglas, family had all his papers burnt up.  Among them was the chart of the old burying ground as well as accounts, deeds and valuable information.  His death been *30 years or more from date.” – William R. Schler (*1876 or prior)
Further improvement of the Church took place in 1910
. This included a new choir loft, pulpit platform, new ceiling, the installation of electric lights and a change in the gallery by the construction of additional stairways and new railings.
March 9, 1914
. A silver communion set was donated by the Willis Porter family for the use of the Pastor, Reverend Thomas Brock, on his home visits. – Source: Official Board Minutes, 1914
October 1918
– A meeting of the official board was cancelled due to the Spanish Flu Epidemic.  The Church was also closed and in November the congregation was asked to make up the deficit in plate offerings due to the closing of the church.  Source: Administrative Board Minutes – 1918
July 14, 1919
The property of the St. Mary Street chapel was transferred to the congregation and trustees of that church and was to be called the St. Mary Street Methodist Church.  Source: Official Board Minutes.
November 1920
– The plaque in the Sanctuary dedicated to the World War I Veterans was obtained.  The marble was obtained from Mr. Will Hope, the framing was done by Mr. Joseph Severns Co., and the center bronze memorial was a piece of the Battleship “Maine” obtained by Mr. Fred Cherry from the U. S. Government for this purpose.  Source: Official Board Minutes
In 1924
– The name was changed from “The Methodist Episcopal Church in the City of Burlington” to “Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church of Burlington.”
October, 1927
– Broad Street M. E. Church joined with the Presbyterian and Union Street Churches in furnishing a float for the 250th Anniversary of Burlington City.  Source: Official Board Minutes


– “The thoroughly graded and departmentalized (Sunday) school now has a membership of 800.”


– The “Young Adult Group”, (today called the Gleaners Class) sponsored a project to buy a cow to send overseas.  A letter was received in April, 1948, that this cow was received in Naples, Italy.  This project was to help the hungry of the world and Heifers were sent to many poor countries.  Source: Gleaners’ Class Minutes
Construction of the Sunday School Temple was begun on May 21, 1950
– Fifty-six members of the Church donated their labor so as to reduce the cost of construction and a total of 1600 hours was contributed. The ground on which the Temple was built was purchased from the James H. Birch estate for the small amount of $500. The addition was added to the back of the church and was called, “The Temple.” It consists of four Sunday school rooms, a kitchen, and a large gymnasium with a stage and basketball court. The total cost for the addition was $50,000, not including the labor, which was donated.
On September 11, 1955
– The illuminated Cross on the apex of our church was dedicated.  It was purchased from donations given in honor of Mr. Fred Cherry, our organist for over 50 years.  Source: Official Board Minutes, Page 302   The Cross was erected on the roof in March 1955; it was purchased from the Methodist Book Store at a cost of $495 and installed by the Tomer Electric Company during the tenure of the Rev. William Morrow.


– An elevator was installed for those who have difficulty with steps.


– A modern church office was conceived and renovated.
Dec. 25, 1967
– The Visitor’s Registration Book, located in the Sanctuary vestibule, was given in honor of Dr. Joseph Howe by the members of his Sunday School Class.
August 25, 1994
– Central air conditioning was installed in the chapel by Paris R. Minute Heating and A/C, Inc.
-The sanctuary organ was completely overhauled and a digital tuning mechanism was installed in addition to having all of the pipes removed, cleaned and replaced.
– The boiler in the basement began to leak and a new boiler was purchased to replace it.  The old boiler had lasted 50 years.
– The roof on the Sunday School Temple was replaced.