The Church of the Three Mile Run

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The Church of the Three Mile Run is located in East Jersey Old Towne

For most of its fifty year history, the Church at Three Mile Run was surrounded in controversy. What began as a gathering of settlers for religious worship, soon became part of the growing changes in attitudes and beliefs that altered religion in America.

The history of the Church at Three Mile Run is tied to the early European settlers of Dutch and French Huguenot heritage. As early as 1650, Secretary of Ne Netherlands, Cornelius Van Tienhoven, attracted settlers from New York with his descriptions of the area along the Raritan. Within thirty years, families from New York and Long Island began to settle on lands where New Brunswick now stands.

By the year 1703, they had established a church for worship opposite the residence of Abraham J. Voorhees.s Church records locate the structure about one and one half miles outside of New Brunswick.

Residents were assisted in establishing their new church by Reverend Guiliam Bertholf. Ordained around 1693, his responsibilities included travel from Church to church. His visits to the Church at Three Mile Run may have been as infrequent as twice a year. In 1703, members of the congregation petitioned church leaders in Holland for a minister of their own. Denied, they were without a resident minister for another seventeen years.

As the population grew, new congregations were established. In 1710, a church was erected at Six Mile Run and perhaps as early as 1714, another was built on the corner of Burnet and Shureman Streets in New Brunswick. At first, the four churches operated as one, with common officers. But, dissention grew and by 1717, an agreement was reached whereby the Three Mile Run and New Brunswick Churches would operate as one, and the Six and Ten Mile Run Churches would do the same.

The churches soon became part of a controversy that produced strong rifts within the Reformed Church. At the center of this controversy was the arrival of the first resident minister for the Raritan churches. Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, ordained in Holland in 1717, came to America, arriving in New York in 1720.

The Reverend Frelinghuysen turned out to be a contentious figure. The members of his congregation published a pamphlet in 1723 stating their grievances. The disagreement centered on Frelinghuysen's belief in the doctrine of new birth, or a "born again" experience for true salvation. This, in the minds of the petitioners, contradicted the teachings of predestination.

This disagreement between Frelinghuysen and church members continued bitterly for many years. In 1729, a large group attempted to bring in another minister from Holland. The plan was unsuccessful, and the church fell into disrepair. Frelinghuysen continued to serve the churches, although at times ministers from Long Island came to preach and ordain. Those who remained dissatisfied with Frelinghuysen had their children baptized by these visiting preachers.

Frelinghuysen died in 1748 after decades of holding strong to his beliefs and converting many of his flock. All five of his sons became ministers. His son John, became pastor of five Reformed churches in the Raritan area, likely preached at Three Mile Run. John died in 1754, and there is no record of other ministers serving the original Church. Most likely the Six Mile Run and New Brunswick Churches absorbed the remaining members and services were discontinued by 1754. A history of the Six Mile Run Church, published in 1910, indicates that the Church at Three Mile Run may have been destroyed by British troops as they passed through New Brunswick during the Revolutionary War.

The stone structure had a pyramid roof, in the European style familiar to its founders. The burial ground still exists near the intersection of How Lane and Route 27.

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