Heritage Room

The Heritage Room, created by AAA and funded by the Commemorative Fund, is located at the parish House and contains PCM's valuable historical artifacts and documents. Visitors are welcome.

A Piece of History

Many wonder what caused the split in the congregation leading to the organization of the South Street Church (which is now the Parish House). According to Rev. Oscar Walter Roberts in 1965 (250th anniversary of Morristown)...

In 1837, Orlando Kirkland was called to the pastorate of our church. At the time it was not considered serious that 13 pew holders were opposed to his installation. This small minority became quite vocal, however, and Kirkland's friends were urging him to resign, but because of his wife's serious illness, he called a congregational meeting in the hope of gaining a substantial majority of those voting, but the question was left unsettled because the core of the opposition had walked out of the meeting after being denied a secret ballot.

When it became evident that the situation would grow worse, Kirkland finally resigned early in 1841. But rather than move into another community, he and a majority of the congregation, over 200 members including the entire board of trustees, proceeded to organize the Second Presbyterian Church (later to be known as the South Street Presbyterian Church). Belated attempts at reconciliation by the penitent minority were rejected. Actually Kirkland proved an excellent pastor in his eleven years with the new church. His shortcomings seem to have been limited to his inability to deal diplomatically with divisiveness.

It is surmised that the reason we find no records of this division is because the whole congregation regretted the dispute and did not want it recorded for future generations. However, it was discovered that, at the time of the reunion of the two churches, a group from the South Street Church calling itself "The Continuing Minority" sued to block the reunion, citing that the 1st Presbyterian Church was "too modern". The case went all the way to the General Assembly, but each judicatory denied the suit. As a result, this group left our church and established Emanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which first met in a building on Maple Avenue and eventually built their present sanctuary on the corner of Whippany Road and Park Avenue. Incidentally, a member of our church, William McSweeney, was the architect for that building.

You may recall from your church history that the split occurred during the time of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. A noted preacher espousing the modernist philosophy was Harry Emerson Fosdick, the first pastor of Riverside Church in New York City.

Documents and photographs related to the split are in the Heritage Room along with other interesting documents and artifacts from our past and recent history.