1700’s: St. John’s is most likely a continuation of the pre-revolutionary St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, located in the original village of Boonetown (covered by the Jersey City Reservoir in 1903).St. Bartholomew’s was torn down in 1816, just 40 years before St. Johns was formed.
1856: Five years before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Boonton was a “company” town. The NJ Iron Company (later named Boonton Iron Works) employed hundreds of men and boys, many brought here from England, and encouraged them to be sober, church-going, responsible citizens. The underground railroad ran north through Boonton, helped along by William Lathrop, who later served as Warden of St. John’s for 15 years.
Our first Episcopal services were held by Rev. Charles Hoffman in a small building on Main Street. Later that year, Rev. Francis Canfield took over and worked with a committee of citizens to rent, renovate and repair a building at 127 Church Street. Individuals supplied gifts of carpets, chairs, curtains, chancel, and altar, and the congregation took possession on October 1, 1857.
St. Johns’ first baptism was held for Adelaide Anthony on December 8, 1856. Sadly, our first funeral was also for Adelaide just 3 months later. John Wooten and Jane Crane were married on April 21, 1857, a year in which St. John’s served 15 families and collected $65 in offerings. Just seven years later, we had grown to 50 families with $1,822 in offerings.
1859: The Parish of St. John’s Church of Boonton was incorporated.
1863: Shortly before the national depression of the 1870s, William Lathrop was the Manager of Boonton Iron Works, owned by Fuller, Lord, and Company. They donated the lot at Cornelia and Cedar Streets for our church and $1,000 towards the building fund. Plans were drawn by distinguished architect Richard Upjohn, who was known for his designs of Trinity Church and St. Thomas’ in New York City. The cornerstone of St. John’s Church of Boonton was laid on July 8 and completed three months later on a budget of $3,600.Mr. Canfield’s zeal and courage in securing funds and overseeing the project were monumental. He served St. Johns until 1868 when Rev. R. D. Stearns succeeded him.
1869: The original Rectory (now known as Wilson House and serving as the Parish Offices) was built next door to the church.
1867: The town of Boonton was incorporated.
1887: Effie Taylor and her family came to Boonton from England just before the blizzard of 1888. Effie’s father, William Taylor, had learned about Boonton Ironworks from his sister, who was living at a convent near Morristown at the time. He felt at home with the other English families in Boonton such as the Wootons and the Reynars, and so he brought his family to begin a new life here. The Taylors were Methodists in England, but our Rector, John P. Appelton assumed they belonged to the Church of England and invited them to join St. John’s. When the time was right, St. Johns’ Father Louis Howell formally introduced Effie to Harry (Henry) Higgins at church, and they were married in 1904. Nine years later, Eleanor Higgens, our most senior parishioner today, was born and then baptized at St. John’s on Easter of 1916. Eleanor grew up in our church and helped to build our community.94 years later, she still attends services and shares stories at the coffee hour of our rich traditions and sometimes very humorous history.
1893: A small Parish Hall was added and our E & GG Hook pipe organ was installed, making its debut on Easter morning.The organ was electrified in 1915, the same year that our senior parishioner Eleanor Higgens was born (see above paragraph). Recently restored, this wonderful instrument is dedicated to the memory of Eleanor Bidwell, our organist-choirmaster from 1964 through 2001.
1897: Electric lights were installed, our present altar was dedicated to Mary Thomas and our bronze eagle Lectern (symbolizing John the Apostle) was presented by Trinity Tide.
1907: The Tiffany window over the entrance gable was crafted, depicting the story of The Good Samaritan. Later, the church received two additional Tiffany windows. Jesus with Kneeling Soldier can be seen on the left wall. Jesus Raising Jairius’ Daughter from the Dead, over the altar, was dedicated to Rev. Henry B. Wilson (see below) after his death. Mr. Wilson and his wife, Teresa, believed strongly in the power of healing and even authored the book, “Does Christ Still Heal?” on the subject.
1908: Rev. Henry B. Wilson served St. John’s Church through World War I until his death on March 7th, 1923. Rev. Wilson reached out beyond our community and helped to found the Chapel of Transfiguration at Towaco and our sister Episcopal Church, St. Peters, in Mountain Lakes. He also opened St. John’s School in 1909, which went on to become The Wilson School in Mountain Lakes.
1913: The church updated the choir stalls and the pews.
1928: L. Harold Hinrichs, St. Johns’ young deacon, was ordained and became Rector on October 6th, 1928. Rev. Hinrichs’ personality and energy were largely responsible for keeping up the morale of the parish during the dark days of the depression. During this time, the Young People’s Fellowship met Sunday nights in the rectory with Mr. Hinrichs, who was known to treat the group to ice cream sundaes.
1937: Through the years of World War II, Rev. Herbert Lewis-Jones enriched our services through the poetical and musical qualities of his Welsh ancestry until 1948, when Rev. Victor Lewis was called. In the 1950s, the rectory and church interior were renovated and the remaining plain side windows were replaced with beautiful stained glass.
1956: We celebrated 100 years of serving the spiritual needs of our community.
1959: The Nathaniel Myers House next door to the Wilson House was purchased and became our Rectory. This historical octagonal house was constructed in 1854. Father Paul Deckenbach was the first to live there.
1963: The Parish Hall was expanded and the kitchen was modernized. Reverend Jack Thorn, St. John’s longest-serving Rector, began his term of 32 years. Until then, the Eucharist was given only on the first Sunday of the month. Father Thorn introduced the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to the third Sunday service and eventually, we came to celebrate Holy Communion every week.
2000: Under the leadership of the Rev. Stephanie Wethered, our first female rector, The Episcopal Diocese of Newark named St. John’s “Church of the Year” in recognition of work in support of the community. During her tenure, St. Johns founded the Community Development Corp. (CDC), our after-school program for low-income families, as well as the Saturday Luncheon Social, where we open our kitchen and our hearts each week to members of our community.
2002: The Memorial Garden was created as a final resting place for the ashes of parishioners and their loved ones.
2007: The Rev. Laurie Wurm joined us in 2007. Rev. Laurie has continued to reach out to our community through a number of new programs, such as our Finding Faith Series, Boonton Diner Bible Study group, and the “People for Peace and Justice” inter-faith initiative. Rev. Laurie left St. John’s to accept the Rector position at Grace Van Vorst Episcopal Church in Jersey City, New Jersey.
2013: The Rev. Timothy P. Carr came to St. John’s on June 1st. He has created church programs dedicated to women and children in the Boonton community and has intensified the outreach efforts of St. John’s within our legacy ministries of education, food, and children’s care.
2019: After a successful ministry Father Tim received the call to be the next Rector at All Souls' Episcopal Church, in Miami Beach. The congregation begins the search for a new priest. In the meantime, The Rev. Barry M. Signorelli joined us our supply priest.
2020: We began to partner with St. Peter's in Mountain Lakes, and The Church of the Saviour in Denville in a well-attended Lenten program. As with the rest of the world, all things stopped in March when we shut down for Covid-19. Despite struggling to figure out how to reconnect in worship we manage to stay in touch as a community. Eventually, we began Zoom services with Father Barry broadcasting from a makeshift altar in his garage. It was a challenging time, but we held strong.
2021: This still was a challenging year, with building issues and the effects of dealing with an ongoing pandemic. However, we were eventually able to worship in person with the new social distancing and mask-wearing requirements in place. In the fall, we had the choir back and it was wonderful to feel we were in full swing again. Despite the ups and downs of pandemic living we participated in the local Boonton Day fair, walked in the Fireman's Christmas parade. We collaborated with NorthStar Pet Rescue and gave out over 60 Thanksgiving baskets to the needy in town. We also participated in a "Got Faith" program with St. Peter's and Church of the Saviour. We hosted authors in the parish hall as part of Boonton's first annual book festival. In another collaboration with the Regional Ministry Network, Constance and Her Companions, Church World Service, and the International Rescue Committee we assisted in refurbishing a home for a refugee Afghan family providing temporary housing. It was the collaborations this year that kept us connected and thriving. We are grateful for the gifts of service we accomplished this year.