Our Roots

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By Barbara Thompson Howell


Until 1718, there was no church in Whippany.  Most villagers gathered for services in barns or in homes large enough to accommodate them. A  schoolmaster changed that. In 1718, Schoolmaster John Richards deeded three  and one half acres of land adjoining the Whippanong River to erect “a Suitable Meeting House for the Public Worship of God,” a burying yard, school house  and a training field. He died three months after making this generous donation to the village. The church  Richards’ deed made possible, which was the  first  church in the area, was built within the burying yard. Presbyterian in name, parishioners came from areas we now know as Chatham, Hanover, Madison, Morristown, Parsippany, and Whippany.

Anxious for a place to worship, the church was a simple wooden structure, hastily constructed. Its first pastor was Reverend Nathaniel Hubbell who served for twelve years, until 1730. During the pastorate of the Reverend John Nutman, the second pastor, it was determined that  the church was unfit and a new church was needed. Since the parishioners could not agree on a location for the new church, the issue was resolved by the Scriptural process of  “casting the lot.”   The outcome was a decsion to build the new church in the same Whippany  location. The parishioners from Morristown refused to abide by the decision and withdrew from the Whippany church to form the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown.