Caldwell Township, formerly Horseneck, was established just 6 years earlier; Israel 'King' Crane was planning a Turnpike through the newly formed Township; Thomas Jefferson was re elected to a second term as President; Sacagawea and her 2 month old child accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition into the northwestern frontier; N.J. passed legislation to phase out slavery ; and William P. Van Ness, as Aaron Burr’s second, stood over the mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton at the dueling grounds near Weehawken N.J.
Other distantly related Van Ness’s ( David, Isaac, and Henry ) were busy in 1804 building a new Reformed Dutch Church in our Fairfield farming village. After two wooden church buildings either burned down or deteriorated, the third Church was built with much more enduring stone ( there’s a big bad wolf joke in there somewhere :- ) :- )
Long ago I wondered how our rural Congregation of about 20 families could afford the great expense of the Churches brownstone construction? After all, even our boasting Christian neighbors in Caldwell Village could not afford to build a stone church until 70 years later.
Then later I came across the answer when reading the 1954 Fairfield Reformed Churches pamphlet celebrating the 234th Anniversary of the Congregations organization, and the 150th Anniversary of the building of this “fine House of God”. The costly brownstone was a gift from the pastor Rev. John Duryea who owned a quarry in Little Falls. Even considering this, it was an enormous undertaking that has sustained 215 years, with the original wooden steeple lasting 160 years. (Rev. Duryea also led the formation of the Little Falls Reformed Church in 1823 as a mission of the Congregation of Fairfield. It’s a safe guess that he gifted the brownstone there as well).
First Reformed Church of Little Falls ( 1823 )
New Jersey Brownstone was a choice building material in the 19th century as the nearby New York and New Jersey cities grew fast and large. Brownstone quarries were found all across northern New Jersey, so the reddish ‘liver rock’ was far from scarce. Proximity to barge transportation was very important at the time. Little Falls had the benefit of the Morris Canal, but competition was brisk from quarries in Paterson, Passaic, Montclair, Nutley, Belleville, and Newark.
The Van Ness Homestead was built with local brownstone, but most of Fairfield’s other stone faced homes were destroyed because of their unfortunate locations. Route 46, Curtiss-Wright Airport, Churchill School and Passaic Avenue all claimed some.
The Van Ness Homestead on Little Falls Road. Nov. 5 1740 was etched into one of the exterior stone walls.
In today’s world of symmetry, consistency and uniformity you may think the following aspect of the Fairfield Church stonework is unusual. Notice the neatly cut stones on the Churches front and street facing walls ( below left ). Then notice the stones facing the cemetery ( below right ). Big difference, but actually this was a fairly common practice when costly stone needed to be conserved. Actually, did anyone ever notice this? ( or even care ? :- ) :- )
“There is a majesty in simplicity” Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
It made good sense for local quarries to identify the edifices that were artfully constructed with their stone. A few notable ‘Little Falls Brownstone’ buildings (pictured below ) were St. John the Baptist Cathedral Paterson 1870 (L); Old Newark Court House 1838 (C); and Trinity Church in NYC 1846 (R).
Another beautiful brownstone edifice built even closer to Fairfield was the First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell (1875). The majority of the Congregation preferred a stone church knowing this would increase overall costs by 30%. F.W. Shrump & Co. was awarded the masonry contract with the building stone coming from their own quarry on the north side of Eagle Rock Avenue in West Orange.
The First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell is a beautiful example of the Early English Gothic style
But no matter what a beautiful church exterior may symbolize, or greatness it may convey, what truly matters is what is inside. “Making Christ more real to the people, so that Jesus, the Savior, may become the Lord of Life to the souls of each succeeding generation as the forefathers so happily planned”. ---- Rev. John H. Heinrichs (1954 )
Not too many complaints about the stonework from this side of the Church :- ) :- )
Dedicated to Rev. John Duryea and the Families whose members helped build the Fairfield Reformed Church : Bush, Dey, Doremus, Kirsted ( Kirstead, Kirstede ), Parritt, Pearce, Pier, Randle, Rigs, Riker, Sandford, Speer (Spier), Stager, Vanderhoof, and Van Ness.
.............Paul Pollio January 26, 2020
If you still haven’t had enough N.J. 'BROWNSTONE at this point click here.
THE “JOHN COLE 1818” ENGRAVED STONE
This stone was passed down through three generations of the Cole Family whose homestead was on Horseneck Road. Della Martin Cole ( 1873-1936 ) was one of eight children and my Great Grandmother. The stone was then passed to her eldest son Morris E. Collerd ( generation four ). And is now at my brother Tom’s home in Roseland (generation six).