The Cohansey Baptist Church had its beginnings during the colonization of our land. In about 1683, Baptists from Tipperary County, Ireland, made their homes along the Cohansey Creek. They banded together for worship, meeting in their homes. The Reverend Thomas Killingsworth who had assisted in the organization of the Middletown Church in 1688 and the Piscataway Church in 1689 came to Cohansey precinct and helped organize Cohansey in 1690. Thus Cohansey became the third oldest Baptist church in what is now New Jersey. The first meeting house was built of logs on the south side of the Cohansey Creek.
In 1707 Cohansey united with Middletown, Piscataway, Pennepek (Pennsylvania), and Welsh Tract (Delaware) to form the old Philadelphia Association, believed to be the first Baptist association in the Colonies.
In 1687 Welsh Baptists with their pastor, the Reverend Timothy Brooks, came from Massachusetts to Bowentown where they built a log meeting house. In 1710 the two churches united with the Reverend Mr. Brooks in charge. Ground was purchased at Mount’s Run (Sheppard’s Mill) and a church erected there. Mr. Brooks passed away in 1716. In 1737 some members broke away and organized the Shiloh Seventh Day Baptist Church.
The Reverend William Butcher was pastor from 1721 to 1724. For five years before Mr. Butcher came and for six years after his death, the Reverend Nathaniel Jenkins, pastor of the Cape May Church, supplied the Cohansey Church. In 1730 he accepted the pastorate at Cohansey but continued to visit and preach at Cape May.
In 1741 a third meeting house was erected on the site of the second one at Sheppard’s Mill. The communion table used in this frame building has been preserved and is a prized possession in the present church. The old graveyard at Sheppard’s Mill has been transferred to the Cumberland County Historical Society. Buried there are Deborah Swinney, the first white female child born in Cohansey Precinct; Lieutenant David Mulford of the Greenwich Militia who fell in the skirmish with the Hessians at Haddonfield during the Revolutionary War; and the Reverend Robert Kelsay, a pastor for thirty-three years.
Being missionary-minded, Cohansey started preaching missions in Pittsgrove, Alloways Creek, Dividing Creek, and Great Egg Harbor. The Reverend Mr. Jenkins preached at these missions until his death at seventy-seven in 1754. While he was pastor, three young men were licensed to preach: Abraham Garrison, Job Sheppard, and Robert Kelsay. Job Sheppard went to Mill Hollow where a church now known as First Baptist of Salem was constituted in 1755. Robert Kelsay went to Pittsgrove (Daretown) where he stayed until 1756 when he returned to Cohansey as pastor. A few years later in 1771 he was privileged to see the Pittsgrove mission become a distinct church. In 1761 the Dividing Creek mission, drawing members from both Cohansey and Cape May, became a constituted church.
The Reverend Henry Smalley, who had been licensed to preach by Cohansey in 1786, took charge of the church in 1790. Soon after that, the present church ground was purchased and plans for erecting the fourth (and present) meeting house were started. The exact cost of the building is not recorded. Bricks were formed and fired in the field southeast of the meeting house.
The building was sixty-three feet across the front and forty-five feet deep with a high pulpit on the north side with an entrance door on each side of the pulpit. Galleries were on the south, east, and west sides with stairs going up along the south wall each side of the main door. There was no vestibule. The ceiling was arched from all four sides to the center.
In 1811 Cohansey joined others to form the New Jersey Baptist Association which after 1855 was known as the West New Jersey Baptist Association. In 1812 a mission church was begun in Bridgeton. Because of the War of 1812 the edifice being built on Pearl Street was not completed until 1817. For a long time the Reverend Mr. Smalley supplied this mission as well as Cohansey. When the First Baptist Church of Bridgeton was organized in 1828, this property was turned over to them. Years later the First Baptist Church resettled on Commerce Street and still later the Pearl Street site became the home of the Pearl Street Baptist Church. Another daughter church, the Canton Church, was organized in 1818.
The Reverend Mr. Smalley passed away in 1839 at the age of seventy-four in his forty-ninth year as pastor.
In 1844 a brick edifice was erected in Greenwich for a preaching mission and when that group constituted itself an independent church, the Greenwich Baptist Church, the building was turned over to them.
The Roadstown meeting house was remodeled in 1851. The pulpit was moved to the west end and lowered. The galleries and stairs were shifted to face the pulpit, the two doors in front were replaced by one in the center, a main entrance door was cut in the east end, and seats were changed to more modern ones facing the pulpit. In 1864 a pulpit recess was built and the baptistry added.
The large parsonage was completed in 1862, and the chapel was built in 1876. The contract bid for the chapel was nine hundred twelve dollars.
Raymond West was licensed to preach in 1883. Nine years later he was ordained at the Lehigh Baptist Church, Philadelphia. Cohansey aided him financially while he was preparing for the ministry. In 1915 he became the first Executive Secretary of the New Jersey Baptist Convention.
One of Cohansey’s largest baptisms followed revival services under the Reverend H. I. Stewart while the Reverend T. W. Evans was pastor. Over one hundred were baptized.
The Reverend W. A. MacKenzie was pastor from 1922 to 1944. His was Cohansey’s fourth longest pastorate. His cottage prayer meetings with the pastor, his wife, deacons, and other laymen taking charge were a strong force for the good of the church. Mr. MacKenzie also held evangelistic meetings in neighboring school houses. He retired to a home in the village but continued to serve his Lord and the church until his death in 1952.
The Reverend John E. Johnson, pastor from 1944 to 1948, was a tireless and consecrated worker. When he resigned to go to the Leonardo Baptist Church, his many friends, especially the younger ones, were reluctant to see him go.
After Mr. Johnson left, the parsonage was renovated at a cost of over eight thousand dollars: new kitchen, new wiring and plumbing throughout, insulation installed, new heating system, and complete redecorating inside and out.
The Reverend Martin BryNildsen came in the fall of 1949 and stayed until 1961.
The chapel and church received extensive repairs and redecorating before the celebration in honor of the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the erection of the edifice. Under Mr. BryNildsen’s pastorate a Loyalty Crusade was conducted to secure money for an education building.
The Reverend Thomas L. Deal came in 1961. He was much interested in the young people’s work and in pastoral visiting. During his tenure attendance made it necessary to press the galleries into use for the Sunday morning services. The debt-free education building, costing over seventy-three thousand dollars, was constructed in 1964.
Robert L. Ayars, a young deacon, was licensed to preach in 1964. When Mr. Deal resigned, Mr. Ayars (then a student at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary) assumed many responsibilities until the church called the Reverend Carl D. Spade as pastor.
Under the guidance of Reverend Spade, Cohansey continued to serve God and the community. When he left in 1967, Peter B. Mahon, a licentiate of Cohansey, supplied our pulpit.
In 1968, extensive repairs were made to our sanctuary including a new floor and heater. The interior of the church was painted later.
The Reverend Robert McGrath served as pastor from June 1968 until 1976. During his ministry the World Mission Campaign goal of $7500.00 was exceeded while the regular mission giving continued to meet previous levels. Cohansey has not forgotten the need for spreading the Gospel.
The Reverend David C. Laubach began his pastorate in July 1977. Pastor Laubach expanded youth ministries and initiated numerous Bible Studies (including Greek). During his ministry, he stressed involvement for the congregation and the church grew to have a strong family-centered program. The Lord called Reverend Laubach in June of 1986 to initiate an evangelical program with the American Baptist Churches, U. S. A.
The Reverend Dean A. Davidson served as pastor from August 1987 through July 1990. Pastor Davidson had a strong calling in the missions area, and provided the church with opportunities to learn and participate in missions work. He guided several youth on a missions trip as counselors at a rural camp to inner city youth. During Mr. Davidson’s tenure, the church began its 300th anniversary celebration with events extending throughout the year.
The Reverend Dr. Stanley Nodder came to Cohansey Baptist Church as our interim in October of 1990. With his arrival came love and warmth. In January of 1991, the church asked Dr. Nodder to stay for an indeterminate period. During his first four months of work for the Lord at our church, attendance at the morning worship service had increased by nearly 50 people. Attendance at the mid-week Bible study has also grown, sometimes exceeding 50 people. Indeed, church membership increased significantly through transfer of letter and Baptism, and many new activities and programs have been developed. Dr. Nodder retired from the active ministry on December 29, 1996.
During 1995 and 1996 the church again had renovations. The pulpit was expanded to seat additional choir members, the church was repainted and re-carpeted, and additional land was purchased for future expansion of the church and cemetery. Pastors Wade Abbott (’92) and Everett Dickinson (’93) worked part-time for the church in outreach and youth activities, respectively. Pastor Wade Abbott was called to the First Baptist Church of Sussex in 1996. Pastor Everett Dickinson was asked to increase his youth ministries duties in 1996.
Supply pastors filled our pulpit until Rev. Carroll Bickley came as interim pastor on March 2, 1997. Reverend Bickley’s ministry helped the church look at the hard questions facing Christians and helped us all look to God for our answers.
Rev. R. Bruce Johnson became our full-time pastor on July 1, 1997. Pastor Johnson was a student of the Bible and an excellent teacher. He often used stories to teach truths of the Bible. Pastor Johnson’s ministry continued with American Baptist Churches of New Jersey following his departure, and was later called to the Clifton Park Baptist Church in New York as their Pastor.
In 2002, Pastor Peter Ely came to Cohansey Baptist as in interim. He was well received and was asked to be our full-time pastor in 2003. Shortly after, he earned his D.min degree. Dr. Ely has a unique ability to remember names. It was only a matter of weeks before everyone was on a first-name basis. During his pastorate he helped us realize the gift of God in our lives and addressed issues facing Christians, encouraging each of us to talk to God in prayer before making decisions. In November of 2010 Pastor Ely stepped down as pastor and was called to Princeton Baptist Church of Penns Neck, NJ.
Supply pastors filled our pulpit until Rev. Alexander G. Houston became our interim pastor in March of 2011. Within a very short time, Pastor Houston brought a renewed hope and excitement to our congregation. In March of 2012 our congregation voted unanimously to make him our full-time pastor. His strong leadership and powerful spirit-led messages brought many to salvation. Rev. Houston stepped down in the Fall of 2015 to pastor The Christian Church in Philadelphia.
Our current pastor, Pastor Dan Baldwin was asked to be our pastor beginning in January of 2019 after a period in which interim pastors filled the pulpit. Pastor Dan was formerly associate pastor at Stewartstown Baptist Church in Stewartstown, PA. We are excited to see how God will continue to build his kingdom through our ministry here at Cohansey Baptist Church!
Surely Cohansey Baptist has much work yet to do for the Master and most surely the present membership will prove true to the task. We look to the Lord’s guidance to hold firm to the Baptist faith and principles that guided ourforebears in their search for soul salvation.
Salem, First 1755
Dividing Creek 1761
Bridgeton, First 1828
ROLL OF GRANDDAUGHTER CHURCHES
Woodstown, First 1822
Bridgeton, Pearl Street 1866
Salem, Memorial 1869
Port Norris 1881
Bridgeton, Berean 1893
1743 Abraham Garrison
1743 Job Sheppard who went to the Mill Hollow mission. The Mill Hollow mission later became constituted as Salem, First.
1743 Robert Kelsay who went to the Pittsgrove mission. It later became constituted as Daretown Baptist. Mr. Kelsay returned to Cohansey for a thirty-three year pastorate.
1786 Henry Smalley who was pastor at Cohansey for forty-nine years.
1892 Raymond West who was ordained in 1892 at the Lehigh Avenue Baptist church, Philadelphia. Later he became the first Executive Secretary of the New Jersey Baptist Convention.
1967 Peter B. Mahon
1969 Robert L. Ayars who was ordained at Cohansey in 1969.
1982 Clarence Mingin who was ordained at Cohansey in 1982.
1991 Jeffrey Dilks whose pastorates were largely in the West.
1994 Wade Abbott who was ordained at Cohansey in 1994 and in 1996 was called as pastor to the First Baptist Church of Sussex, NJ.
2004 Teresa Ely who was ordained from Cohansey Baptist was called as an interim pastor Central Baptist Church in Woodbury, NJ.
ROLL OF PASTORS
1690-1709 Thomas Killingsworth
1710-1716 Timothy Brooks
1716-1721 Nathaniel Jenkins (supply)
1721-1724 William Butcher
1724-1730 Nathaniel Jenkins (supply)
1730-1754 Nathaniel Jenkins
1754-1756 Job Sheppard and Robert Kelsay (supplies)
1756-1789 Robert Kelsay
1790 William Rogers (supply)
1790-1839 Henry Smalley
1838 Peter Simonson (Assistant to H. Smalley)
1840-1843 Isaac Moore
1843-1846 Edward D. Fendall
1846-1850 Jonathan G. Collum
1850-1852 Joseph N. Folwell
1852-1860 James Challiss
1860-1871 Thomas G. Wright
1871-1874 Dr. Thomas O. Lincoln
1874-1884 W. F. Basten
1884-1888 W. W. Pratt
1888-1890 Harry Tratt
1891-1896 Dr. Edward Fitz
1896 Dr. Frank Rogers Morse (supply)
1896-1897 T. C. Russell
1898 -1901 J. S. Teasdale
1902-1907 Eugene R. Tilton
1907-1913 George M. Owen
1914-1919 Thomas W. Evans
1919-1921 Henry Alfke
1921 George M. Owen (supply)
1922-1944 William A MacKenzie
1944-1948 John E. Johnson
1949 William A MacKenzie (supply)
1949-1961 Martin BryNildsen
1961-1965 Thomas L. Deal
1965-1967 Carl D. Spade
1967-1968 Peter B. Mahon (supply)
1968-1977 Robert McGrath
1977-1986 David C. Laubach
1986-1987 A. C. MacKenzie (supply)
1987-1990 Dean A. Davidson
1990-1996 Dr. Stanley Nodder
1992-1996 Wade Abbott (assistant to Dr. Nodder)
1997-2001 Everett Dickinson (assistant to Rev. Johnson)
1997 Carroll Bickley (supply)
1997-2002 R. Bruce Johnson
2002-2003 Peter Ely (interim)
2003-2010 Dr. Peter Ely
2011-2012 Alexander G. Houston (interim)
2012- 2015 Alexander G. Houston
2019-present Daniel S. Baldwin