The History of First Lutheran Stewartsville

The town, which derived its name from the Stewart family who settled here, grew with the construction of the Morris Canal. This canal passed through Warren County and linked the Delaware and Hudson rivers, a distance of 102 miles. About this same time the Central Railroad of New Jersey was completed and the combination of these two means of transportation speeded up the growth of this community.

Residents of Stewartsville worshiped at either Greenwich Church, located about two miles south of the town or St. James Lutheran Church, about two miles toward the town of Phillipsburg. Discussions began about breaking away from these two churches. In 1850, the Presbyterians built their new church in the village of Stewartsville and in 1851 the Lutherans broke away and built this building. On November 3, 1851 the building was dedicated. The first Holy Communion was administrated in the church on March 24, 1852.

Much refurbishing was done in the ensuing years. In 1888, the first stained glass window " The Nativity was installed. In 1899, the second window "The Good Shepherd" was added. In the next twelve years two more windows were completed. Those were "Jesus the Shepherd" and "Christ in Gethsemane". In the spring of 1865 the present parsonage was built.

The church continued to grow and flourish over the years until on July 9, 1945 the area experienced a very bad storm with high winds and flooding. The church and many surrounding houses were badly damaged. The wood floors of the basement were warped beyond repair. Wind blew sections from the church tower, which fell on the roof causing holes in the roof and water damage to the interior walls and floor. Repairs were begun immediately and by April 14, 1946, a reopening day was celebrated. In 1947, two new memorial windows "The Baptism of Jesus" and "The Crucifixion of Jesus" were installed.

On November 26, 1950 a severe windstorm did severe damage over a large area that included the church and the parsonage. Both suffered significant damage to their roofs and interiors.

Over the years many projects of upkeep on the properties have been necessary to keep the buildings in good order. In 1968, two rather old houses opposite the church were purchased and razed to provide additional parking space.

On November 15, 1981, after being Pastor of First Lutheran for almost twenty-five years, The Reverend Paul W. Hartline was made Pastor Emeritus, an honor never awarded before at our church.

One notable project over the years was the restoration of our beautiful stained glass windows during the 1980's. They were repaired first and then covered with Lexan to protect them from weather and breakage.

Three young people from our congregation entered into God's service. Madeline Rush Morris received a degree in Parish Education from The Lutheran Bible Institute in Teaneck, N.J. Charles Housel who was confirmed here in 1975, but moved to Allentown with his mother and siblings, went on to earn a masters degree in Theology at Moravian Theological Seminary despite being wheelchair bound by Muscular Dystrophy. He served the Good Shepherd Home, in Allentown as assistant chaplain until his death in 1997. A son of the congregation, Pat Wirick, went on to become a pastor in the state of Pennsylvania.

What's in the future for First Lutheran? Of course we have no idea - but in His own way God will reveal all in His infinite wisdom and time and we will wait, not always patiently, as is our way. We will continue to pray for his guidance and do, as He would want.