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Spiritual Leaders, Burlington NJ

...The exhortatory orations of God’s pulpit-pounding way-pavers...

Any list of pioneering religious figures must include George Keith, M.A., and John Talbot, M.A., two traveling ministers who in 1703 founded New Jersey’s first Episcopalian Church at Old St. Mary’s (Old St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Broad & Wood Streets, 1703, 18 on Map) for the English “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts”. Talbot became the founder of the parish and the first Bishop on American soil.

Globetrotting Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet (1773-1855)
earned the nickname “The Apostle of Burlington” when, upon reading William Penn’s “No Cross, No Crown”, he converted to Quakerism and then embarked upon a lifetime of traveling and evangelizing the state of New Jersey, the U.S., and Europe. He impressed Pope Pius VII, the King of Prussia, and Alexander I of Russia. He also figured in a Burlington Legend about the Dauphin. His final resting place: Friends Burial Ground, behind 314 High Street, 12 on Map.

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Reverend Jonathan O’Dell, of St. Mary’s, worked diligently from the pulpit to convince people that King George III was the rightful ruler of America, until his own expulsion. Mrs. Margaret Hill Morris’s diary tells a Burlington Legend - that she hid the Rev. O’Dell in a secret chamber in Green Bank, until he could be spirited from town.

British Captain C. T. Webb held the first Methodist Service in New Jersey here in the City, 1771.

In 1820 Burlington expatriate Charles McIlvaine became the Episcopal Bishop of Ohio. Earlier, when 17 years of age, Charles founded the first United Sunday School in New Jersey, while living in the McIlvaine House built by his father Joseph McIlvaine.

Bishop George Washington Doane helped found Columbia University, as well as the local St. Mary’s Hall School (now St. Mary’s Hall, Riverbank near Reed St., 31 on map) and Burlington College.

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Some of the earliest African American congregations to meet in New Jersey worshipped here. The Bethlehem African Methodist Episcopal Church (213 Pearl Boulevard, built 1855, 44 on map), organized in 1830, is Burlington’s oldest African American institution. Rev. Jeremiah H. Pierce, of the Bethlehem A.M.E. Church, 213 Pearl Street, pressed the famous “Pierce Case” of 1884, achieving the state Supreme Court’s ruling that Burlington’s white schools’ refusal to admit his four children was a violation of the New Jersey School Law of 1881.

Dr. Courtlandt Van Renssalaer, D.D., first pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Burlington, established the Van Renssalaer Seminary in 1853, raised funds for Princeton Seminary all over the country, then was raised to Secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Education. His home on the Riverbank (Stone Cottage, Talbot & Riverbank, 1835, 29 on map) is one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture, designed by architect William Strickland.

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The spirit of the past... it’s our present to you. Welcome to the City of Burlington.

Read on, for more famous Burlington People to Meet:
Spiritual Leaders
Military Masters
Political Powerhouses
Educational Pioneers
Undying Legends



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