Bethel Church of Morristown

59 Spring Street * Morristown * NJ 07960

The Bethel Church of Morristown is the first church to be established by African Americans in Morris County. The founders were former members of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. These founding members, led by Mrs. Frances Jane Freeman Ray, withdrew their membership from the Presbyterian Church in 1840 when the church split into two congregation. Bethel was incorporated in 1843 under the jurisdiction of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination, which was founded in 1816 by Bishop Richard Allen in the City of Philadelphia. Bishop Willis Nazery was appointed as Bethel’s first pastor in 1845.

In 1850, Morris Township established legal precedent for segregation in public schools, by the passage of an act to provide for the segregated education of colored children in the township of Morris, in the county of Morris. Bethel responded by allowing the church to also serve as a school house for all children. In 1874, Bethel moved to its present location and constructed a new sanctuary with the assistance of Mr. George T. Cobb (first mayor of Morristown) and Mrs. Mary Ann Cobb. The Cobbs were also members of the United Methodist Church of Morristown (formerly the Methodist Episcopal Church). In 1970, the current sanctuary was designed by William M. Brown Jr. and constructed under the leadership of Rev. A. Lewis Williams.

 Of Special Note:

  • The exposed beams running the entire length of the church is symbolic of a ship. In the story of the Great Flood in Genesis, only those who were in Noah’s Ark were saved from death. It foreshadows the Church as an Ark that “navigates safely in this world” to bring those in it to a destination where death does not exist – which we understand as salvation.
  • In 1912, Mrs. Frances Jane Freeman Ray, Bethel’s founder, was interred at Evergreen Cemetery at the age 100.
  • In 1897, Estelle Walker, a member of Bethel, was the first African American female to graduate from Morristown High School.

 

 

 

 


Morris County, located 30 miles west of NYC, is home to some of America’s most important history and culture just waiting for you to explore. Start by walking in the footsteps of Revolutionary icons such as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, then pick apples right off the tree at one of our verdant farms and end your day having a delicious dinner; discover how to make my weekend Morris County!
6 Court St. Morristown, NJ 07960
Phone: 973-631-5151
Leslie Bensley Photo of Jane Joe Executive Director at Morris County Tourism Bureau
6 Court St. Morristown, NJ 07960
973-631-5151 [email protected]