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This volume—the fruit of laborious and careful research, yet somewhat hastily written-is respectfully presented to the Session of the First Church, under whose advice it was undertaken; to the Congregation whose indulgence has been shown to the writer in its preparation; to his many fellow-townsmen who have encouraged him in it; to the gentlemen who have aided in the collection of its materials; and to all who shall further patronize it as a worthy endeavor to preserve what is memorable in our past and passing local history.
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The historical materials here presented have been collected, during the last two years, in the midst of professional engagements which only a pastor can fully appreciate. The task of arrangement has been executed during the latter half of that period. Had all the difficulties of such a work been understood by the writer in advance, it is not at all likely he would ever have undertaken it. Yet he has felt in a degree compensated by the success of his researches. This is the only compensation expected, aside from the satisfaction of doing a service which may prove acceptable to the community among whom his lot is cast. A local history of this sort can have no general circulation through the book markets. Its value, however, is not entirely local, nor limited in time. The Christian public at large, and the Church of the future, have an interest in the preservation from oblivion of the names and deeds of those who founded our civil and sacred institutions.
He who planted His Church, and with it a purer civilization, in Canaan, "made His wonderful works to be remembered.” This was done for a time by historical monuments, as by the twelve stones taken out of Jordan, the Ebenezer set up by Samuel, the manna laid up in the ark, &c.,-memorials that served to perpetuate a traditional history. But these memorials were perishable, and traditions could not long be relied on. Hence the pens of historians were also employed.
The early Puritan Churches of America have abundance of unwritten memorials. In every piece of our grand frame-work of institutions are seen the Ebenezers which successive generations have reared. The First Church of Orange may point to its “ pile of stones,” containing the very material of a more ancient sanctuary—“our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised,” more than a hundred years ago. It has preserved, too, its ancient faith and polity. But no written history of it has ever before been attempted. The men of the past knew little of their own importance to the religious future of the country; and if they had known it better, they were so engrossed with the struggles and necessities of the hour as to have little leisure for the historian's work. If we have as little in these no less stirring times, we
have reached a position which makes it imperative that the task here undertaken be no longer delayed. The past recedes, and the obscurity that gathers over the annals of our older churches will soon be a darkness forbidding all research. This conviction led to the formation, in 1852, of the Presbyterian Historical Society, with which all ministers, elders and others are invited to “coöperate, by collecting and transmitting old sermons, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, letters, books, manuscripts, portraits, or any relics of the olden time which throw light upon our annals.99*
The existing records of our Church Session date from January 30, 1803, about a year after the settlement of Mr. Hillyer. Those which were extant when he came to the parish are said to have perished in a fire. Thus the names of the ancient officers of the Church, the record of its membership, and the account of its spiritual administration for more than eighty years, were forever lost, except as the first might be gathered from other documents and memorials which time has spåred. The oldest papers in the parish are certain deeds preserved by the trustees, which date from its beginning. The oldest volume is the private
* Any contributions of the kind may be sent to Samuel Agnew, Esq., 821 Chestnut street, Philadelphia.